Front Page Titles (by Subject) Political Discourses UPON SALLUST. - The Works of Sallust (Gordon's Discourses, Cicero's Orations against Catiline)
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Political Discourses UPON SALLUST. - Gaius Sallustius Crispus (Sallust), The Works of Sallust (Gordon’s Discourses, Cicero’s Orations against Catiline) 
The Works of Sallust, translated into English with Political Discourses upon that Author. To which is added, a translation of Cicero’s Four Orations against Catiline (London: R. Ware, 1744).
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Political Discourses UPON SALLUST.
Of Faction and Parties.
How easily the People are led into Faction, and kept in it, by their own Heat and Prejudices, and the Arts of their Leaders; how hard they are to be cured; and with what Partiality and Injustice each Side treats the other.
SALLUST observes, ‘That whoever raised Civil Dissentions in the Commonwealth, used plausible Pretences; some seeming to vindicate the Rights of the People; others to exalt the Authority of the Senate; Both Sorts to pursue the public Good; yet all only striving severally to procure Weight and Power to themselves. Neither, in these their Civil Contests, did any of them observe Moderation or Bounds: Whatever Party conquered, still used their Victory with Violence and Inhumanity.’ This, I doubt, is true of all Parties in their Pursuits and Success: I have, therefore, thought it pertinent to discourse here at large upon Faction and Parties.
The People are so apt to be drawn into Faction, and blindly to pursue the Steps of their Leaders, generally to their own special Prejudice, Loss, and Disquiet, if not to their utter Ruin, that he who would sincerely serve them, cannot do it more effectually, than by warning them against such ready and implicit Attachment to Names and Notions, however popular and plausible. From this evil Root have sprung many of the sore Calamities that, almost every-where, afflict Mankind. Without it the World had been happily ignorant of Tyranny and Slavery, the Two mighty Plagues that now haunt and devour the most and best Parts of it; together with the subordinate and introductory Miseries, of national Discord, Devastation, and Civil War.
People, as well as Princes, have been often undone by their Favourites. A great Man amongst them, perhaps, happened to be cried up for his fine Actions, or fine Qualities, both often overrated; and became presently their Idol, and they trusted him without Reserve: For their Love, like their Hate, is generally immoderate; nor from a Man who has done them, or can do them, much Good, have they any Apprehension of Evil; till some Rival for their Affection appear superior to their first Favourite in Art or Fortune; one who persuades them, that the other has abused them, and seeks their Ruin. Then, it is like, they make a sudden Turn, set up the latter against the former; and, having conceived an immoderate Opinion of Him, too, put immoderate Confidence in him; not that they are sure that the other had wronged them, or abused his Trust, but take it for granted, and punish him upon Presumption; trusting to the Arts and Accusations of their new Leader, who probably had deceived and inflamed them.
Thus Themistocles supplants Aristides, and is himself forced to yield to the superior Popularity of Cimon. Not that the People always want Judgment; for they sometimes judge truly, according to the Information which they have; but they are apt to credit Information too suddenly. Sometimes their Favourite preserves himself in their Esteem, in spight of all Rivals and Efforts; and pays them his Thanks for supporting him, by enslaving them. Thus acted Cæsar, Pisistratus, and Agathocles: Thus Alcibiades aimed at acting; and Pericles, in a good Degree, succeeded in his Aim; being a Tyrant without Arms, as one of the antient Writers calls him.
And as the People sometimes think themselves to have erred in their Choice, when they really have not, but are only seduced by false Insinuations; as in the Case of Aristides, who was certainly an upright Man: So when they have been mistaken, they often come to know it when it is too late; as in the Case of Cæsar; who, to fortify himself, had entered into a Confederacy with Pompey and Crassus, and thence formed the first Triumvirate. Upon this Occasion he suffered many popular Insults; and had the Mortification to see the Tide of popular Affection and Applause follow his warmest Opponents. But what availed it? He had carried his Point; and they came to their Senses too late(a) .
They may possibly commit themselves to the Guidance of a Man, who certainly means them well, and seeks no base Advantage to himself: But such Instances are so rare, that the Experiment is never to be tried. Men, especially Men of Ambition, who are the forwardest to grasp at such an Office, do, chiefly, and in the first Place, consider Themselves; and, whilst guided by Partiality for themselves, cannot judge indifferently. Such a Man, measureing Reason and Justice by his Interest, may think, that it is right, that the People should always be deceived, should always be kept low, and under a severe Yoke, to hinder them from judging for Themselves, and throwing off Him, and to prevent their growing wanton and ungovernable. In short, the Fact is, (almost eternally) That their Leader only finds his Account in leading them, and They never, in being led. They make him considerable; that is, throw him into the Way of Power and Profit: This is his Point and End; and, in Consideration of all this, what does do he do for them? At best, he generally leaves them where he found them. Yet this is tolerable, nay, kind, in comparison of what oftener happens: Probably he has raised Feuds and Animosities amongst them, not to end in an Hundred Years; Fuel for intestine Wars; a Spirit of Licentiousness and Rebellion, or of Folly and Slavery.
In the midst of the Heats, and Zeal, and Divisions, into which they are drawn, for This Man against That, are they ever thoroughly apprised of the Merits and Source of the Dispute? Are they Masters of the real Facts, sufficient for accusing one, or for applauding another? Scarce ever. What Information they have, they have generally from interested Men, at best, quite partial and disguised, often utterly false and forged. But the Truth is, they have generally no Information at all; but only a few Cant Words, such as will always serve to animate a Mob; ‘I am for John: He is our Friend, and very honest. I am against Thomas: He is our worst Enemy, and very wicked, and deserves to be punished.’ And so say They who have taken a Fancy to Thomas, and are prejudiced against John. When it is likely, that neither John nor Thomas have done them much Harm, or much Good; or, perhaps, both John and Thomas study to delude and enthral them. But, when Passion prevails, Reason is not heard.
There is a sort of Witchcraft in Party, and in Party Cries, strangely wild and irresistible. One Name charms and composes; another Name, not better nor worse, fires and alarms. I remember when one Party could not hear, with Decency or Temper, the Name of the late Lord Oxford: I likewise remember, when that of the late Lord Godolphin was equally disgustful to another Party. I have lived to see both these Noble Persons mentioned with Applause, at least without Rancour, by many of all Parties indifferently. If one had then told any of those Party-Men, that the Time would come, when they would certainly change their Note, and give these two Ministers very different and favourable Characters, he would not have been believed: For angry Men fansy, that they shall always retain the same angry Ideas; and probably resolve it. They do not consider, that their Blood will not always boil, nor the same Object continue always to inflame them. They would do well, therefore, to reflect, that their present Passion, be it Rancour or Fondness, will certainly, some time or other, subside; and therefore should restrain it, lest it betray them into Inconsistency, and make them say now, what they will, perhaps, contradict hereafter; for then they must allow, that they acted from Warmth and Mistake. Such a Consideration would make Men wary of running headlong into Partialities, and of condemning, or adoring, merely because it is the Cry, and the Fashion; for nothing is so deceitful, and even fleering, as these Cries and Fashions are. It is common to see a Man idolized one Winter, and forgot before the next.
I am far from intending, by what I say, to dissuade People from inquiring into the Condition they are in, or how it fares with the Public. This is a just and necessary Inquiry, and deserves all Encouragement. But let them be sure to inquire conscientiously, and upon solid Grounds, and be thoroughly informed, before they judge, or censure, or applaud. What I blame, is, their swallowing current Lyes, believing Misrepresentations, and false Characters, and thence bearing Ill-will to some, who deserve it not; or entertaining extravagant Fondness for others, who deserve it as little. There is no Reliance upon what Parties say of one another, to the Praise of their Friends, or in Detraction from their Rivals; it is all Satire, or all Praise. This is enough to shew, that it deserves no Credit; since no Party was ever composed of Men altogether good, or altogether bad; all Bodies of Men are mixt, as are the Qualities of particular Men.
It is a special Comfort to us in this Island, that we may be happy, if we will. Convulsions abroad, and restless Spirits amongst our Neighbours, may ruffle our Quiet, and put us to Expence; but, I think, can never bring Ruin, nor even Danger; and none but ourselves can destroy us. Our greatest Hazard seems to arise from the Spite and Folly of our contending Factions, which always gather Strength, by a constant Endeavour to distress and weaken one another. One Party, for Example, has recourse to more Power, to preserve itself from the other, and thence becomes unpopular and suspected, as grasping at too much; whilst the other gathers Popularity, and consequently Strength, by having opposed that invidious Increase of Power, and by being considered as under Persecution and Scorn. Hence they are encouraged, indeed enabled, to make fresh Efforts; and such Efforts furnish their Rivals with a Pretence for seeking further Strength and Security, though by it they often lose Credit, which is the best Strength. Nor does either Side usually refuse any Aid, however unjust, or any Falshood, however glaring, to mortify and vanquish their Opponents. The warm Gracchus, to carry his Point, by dint of Power and Voices, calls in Numbers from all Parts of Italy. The Consul Opimius, a zealous Chief, on the other Side, to ballance and encounter the Strength of Gracchus, went attended with a Body of Candiot Troops. Thus Violence begot and warranted Violence.
In the late Queen’s time, (to go no further back) one Party, in order to get Possession of Power, and to keep it, charged the other with encouraging Looseness, Profaneness, Blasphemy, and with all wicked and all impious Principles, and even with Designs to destroy the Monarchy and Church. A terrible Charge, but notoriously false, yet swallowed by the Vulgar, and by many who, in Condition, were above the Vulgar. From hence arose a furious Ferment, a Spirit of Division, of Hate and Hostility, such as threatened to blow up that very Government, which was pretended to be thus brought out of Danger. And upon this Occasion was revived the monstrous Impiety of Passive Obedience to Oppressors, confidently dressed up in the Style of a Christian Doctrine; a Doctrine, which makes no Difference between the eternal Rights of Englishmen, and the beastly Servitude of Turks: Together with this, became fashionable the other mighty Lye of indefeasible hereditary Right. This Falshood too, unknown to Pagans, a Disgrace to Christians, was fathered upon God and Scripture, and styled Divine. It is but Charity, and, I think, reasonable, to believe, that there were some who laughed at, or rather abhorred such popular Madness, and execrable Tenets; and yet were not so scrupulous, as not to take Advantage from them, to establish themselves, and to remove others; though I fansy, some of them found, that they had raised a Spirit, which they afterwards, when they desired to lay it, could not well lay; like Cromwell, and his Agitators.
They who were then displaced, were many of them as able Men as ever this Nation produced, many of them as honest, as disinterested Men. But, with all the Glory and Triumphs of their Administration, it was attended with an enormous Expence to support a War, which, many then believed, might have been ended much sooner. Such an Opinion, true or false, the Moment it spread, was enough to make any Ministry unpopular, if not odious; nor do I think it possible for Popularity to attend any Minister long, for Reasons which I have not room here to offer.
The Ministry that succeeded those, were, in their Turn, attacked with violent Spirit, and charged with devilish Designs; that, particularly, of bringing in the Pretender; that is to say, Popery and Slavery. For, I think, we cannot expect to have him upon other or better Terms. What some amongst them might design, I know not; perhaps no Good: It is certain there were several, even then, in the highest Stations, utterly remote from any such Views, utterly irreconcilable to such, and even zealous against such.
All Parties have their Follies, and weak Places: But the Character of one Party is rarely to be learned from the other. They make odious Pictures of each other, in their Anger (for Parties imply mutual Wrath); and both Sides are Monsters, in the Opinion of each. How little reciprocal Justice they are apt to practise, is manifest from their caressing and applauding Men, not for their moral Principles, or Integrity of Life, but for their Zeal and Attachment to the Cause. He who is a good Party-Man, is a good Man, let his Conduct be ever so vile, his Actions ever so wicked. On the contrary, let a Man be ever so unblameable, his Behaviour ever so righteous and worthy; all this Merit shall not avail him; nay, with all this Merit, it is odds but he is reviled, ridiculed, and scorned.
How many Dunces, how many Drunkards, Fellows of dirty Morals, and no Understanding, without Address, or common Breeding, or one good Quality, but with a Thousand ill ones, are to be seen of notable Weight and Esteem, for no earthly Consideration, but that of their Bigotry to their Party, and of their Party to them; whilst Men of the most amiable Turn, of the greatest Accomplishments, and finest Talents, are, perhaps, slandered and hunted down; at best, shunned and cursed; only for not being infatuated with the epidemical Madness of Party! Nay, perhaps, for humanely studying to save the Whole, to advance public Happiness in general, and to remove public Mischiefs, Oppression, and Delusion, a Man shall be condemned and undone by one Party, without being defended by the other; whilst the Authors of public Mischiefs, the Oppressors, the Deluders, shall be safe and popular: Wretches shall be adored; the Patriot, the virtuous and benevolent Man, shall be despised, perhaps persecuted.
How apt Parties are to err in the Choice of their Leaders. How little they regard Truth and Morality, when in Competition with Party. The terrible Consequences of all this; worthy Men decried and persecuted; worthless and wicked Men popular and preferred; Liberty oppressed and expiring.
IN most Countries, they who blind and enslave the People, are popular, and reverenced; they who would enlighten and free them, hated and persecuted. For an Attempt to relieve the Spaniards from the horrid Dungeons, Flames, and Tortures of the Inquisition, the Spaniards would, with Zeal and Indignation, surrender you to those very Dungeons, Flames, and Tortures. Is this Encouragement for serving, or striving to save Societies? It must be confessed, that the People, were they otherwise instructed, would act otherwise. They should thereforehear with Patience such as would shew them the Truth, and their own Interest, and never be afraid to enquire and examine, and not run after Names and Notions, which serve only to inflame and divide them, and therefore first mislead and deceive them.
It is with Measures as with Men; they are praised, or condemned, not because they are Right or Wrong, Beneficial or Hurtful, but because they come from this Party, or the other. Evil is turned into Good, and Good into Evil: Truth passes for Falshood; Falshood is dressed up in the Guise of Truth: The best Actions are decried as the worst, if they arise from one Quarter; the worst Actions adored as the best, if from the other. The Resisting of lawless Tyrants, is, at one time, Rebellion and Damnation: To rebel against the most lawful Authority, is, at another time, Duty and Glory. One Year, a Prince, who openly defies Oaths and Law, and violates every Obligation, Sacred and Civil, is still the Lord’s Anointed, still not to be opposed; a wanton Usurper has a Right to all things, the Subject, the most unoffending Subject, a Security for nothing; nor is Law and Right any Defence against Violence and Plunder. Another Year, and for a Course of Years the most solemn Oaths taken to a Government, which, in all things, acts by the Measure of Right, are not binding; and that Government is called Usurpation, though it usurp nothing, but is founded wholly upon Law, and from the Laws only derives its whole Force.
To support such Extremes, to reconcile such wild Contradictions, the Divine Word is boldly called in and misapplied, the Divine Aid promised and invoked. One Scripture is made to justify one extravagant Proposition to Day: To-morrow the same Scripture, or another Scripture, is forced to defend an opposite Proposition, and to destroy the former; and the Supreme Being is always supposed angry or pleased, just as Factions are, adopting the foolish Passions and Partialities of Parties, and shifting his Passions, as Parties shift theirs.
Party, as I have already said, always implies Anger, which is never a fair Reasoner, nor a sure Guide. When Fierceness and Ill-will possess a Man, or Body of Men, Reason has little Power left over them; Complaints grow into Invectives, Representations become Aggravations; and I doubt it is too true, that as under such a Spirit we are very ready to spy Faults, so we are glad to find them; at least prone to aggravate them, and, I fear, even to make them. When we think Men our Enemies, it is too natural to wish them every Quality proper to hate, and to find their Actions as bad as our own Resentment is severe. If, for a Shew of Impartiality, we at any time praise them, it is often either Affectation, or to make them the more guilty and inexcusable.
When we have taken a Fancy to a Man, and chuse or consider him as our Chief and Leader, we are disposed to see all Excellency and no Fault in him, to think him every way able to serve and support us, and quite uncapable of betraying or hurting us, or of ill serving us. We represent him to ourselves, just like ourselves, full of warm Zeal for Us and our Cause, without any Views to himself, or any Motives that are personal; though it is possible, that from such Motives only he became very zealous for us, and very angry at others. Thus we court, thus paint, and trust, and admire the Man who joins with us, and who espouses our Resentments and Disgusts, or seems to espouse them.
To the Man, on the contrary, who is not of our Party, but of the opposite Party, we hardly allow one good Quality, but are ready to impute every ill one. Every thing that he does, is bad and malicious, and all his Intentions are wicked; and though he be charged with doing a World of Mischief, it is odds but he is reckoned void of Parts, and a very silly Fellow. For those who follow, or are supposed to follow him, we have just the same want of common Charity and Complaisance. As all our own Friends and Champions are virtuous, and able, and amiable; all on the other Side are guilty, weak, and hateful. And, just in the same Style, those of the other Side speak and judge of us, from the same Prejudices.
Now, where are the Hopes of Union or Reconciliation, when the Rent is thus wide, and the Rancour thus implacable? Each Party think themselves innocent as Angels, and the other Party as black as Devils. Will Angels ever condescend to treat with Devils, or confederate cordially with them even for a Day? The Breach therefore, instead of healing, widens; mutual Fury and Fierceness are increased by mutual Lyes and Invectives; Reason is lost in Rage; Justice is swallowed up in Revenge, a High-way is raised to Blood and Massacre; and, neither Side expecting from the other fair Usage or Humanity, both betake themselves to Frauds and Cruelty: Both pretend the public Good, both obstruct it, and rend the Public between them. Nay, one Party will risque all, sacrifice the State, and themselves with it, rather than miss Revenge upon the other; and, to this bloody End, call in the inveterate Enemies of their common Country, Savages and Barbarians. This has often happened; and We, even We of this Generation, had like to have seen it happen.
Men, therefore, had need beware of their own Hearts, and to watch over them, as in all Pursuits, so particularly in those of Party; I speak of all Parties: For, in none yet did I ever see Justice and Candour practised between the Individuals of opposite Parties. One is charged as insatiable in his Ambition, another in his Revenge; when, perhaps, better Passions animate both, or at least the former Passions, if they have them, are not near so intense. But, on these Occasions, Men extol or condemn by the Lump, and when they are resolved to hate, must find no Reasons to extenuate their Hatred; no more than their Admiration, when bent upon admiring.
Thus I have seen Wretches the most abject, vicious and silly, idolized; and Men of the most elevated Capacity, virtuous and accomplished, exposed to the Detestation and Reproach of Fools; seen a Fellow, hardly rational, canonized by the Populace for being their Enemy, and an Incendiary; seen one of the grearest Lights of the Age, venerable for his Piety, admired for his Knowledge and Charity, threatened with the Justice of a mad Mob, or with Fire and Faggot; seen a Friend and an Ornament to human Kind, unpopular, in Disgrace and Danger; and a common Disturber, whose Zeal was Lunacy, caressed and adored. Was Mr. Locke, that great Master of Reason, that Light shining amongst Men, that Friend to Conscience and civil Liberty, ever half so popular as many little dirty Dabblers in Party, who had no other Merit than that of promoting Ignorance, Strife, and Disorder? Or, would the ablest and worthiest Man in England carry an Election, by the Strength of his Character, against a popular Fool?
This is terrible and discouraging, a huge Obstruction to all Virtue, to Truth, and Morality. Party Zeal acquires Reputation, even where common Honesty, and common Sense, are wanting; and Attachment to Party is Honesty, and all things. Strange Perversion of Order and Truth, that Men should be deemed Honest without Morality! To be Honest is, with Party, to be of it; and nothing more is required. Thus, very contemptible and very wicked Men make a Figure in Party, and are esteemed by it; since Sense and Honesty are not required, nor any thing else but Zeal; and such Zeal being generally blind, the less Sense, the more Zeal; and Zeal is an Atonement for the want of Morality, and every good Quality.
Party Principles are therefore substituted for moral Principles; the sure way to destroy all Morality, and to confound the Characters of Men, and even those of Good and Evil. In truth, Morality, with Sense, is the only true Standard of Popularity, and the only just Recommendation to it. A virtuous Man can never endanger Liberty, nor hurt Society; nor is a wicked Man ever to be trusted with the Support of either. Yet from this Spirit, this baneful and pestilent Spirit of Party, the ablest and best Men are often precluded from the Service of their Country; the weakest, the worst, and most contemptible, employed in its Service; and the best Men often forced from that Service, to make room for the worst.
Lucullus, one of the greatest Men in Rome, a Man of approved Ability and Honour, was berest of public Employments, though he had sustained them with great Dignity and Worth, greatly to his own Honour, greatly to the Glory and Emolument of Rome; whilst Gabinius, an Upstart, of vile Manners, venal, corrupt, and abandoned, was raised to high Dignities, and all public Lustre: But he was a Creature of Cæsar’s, who then led the People by bribing and flattering them, and thence raised and depressed whom he would. The People were then his Tools, and he afterwards made them his Slaves: They might thank themselves, and could expect no better; though this excuses not him. They believed that all his Views, all his Measures, were for their Honour and Advantage; and for him deserted all their best Friends, who failed not to warn them against the Fate, to which they were hurrying full speed and blindfold; a Race which quickly and naturally ended in Servitude.
Whilst, under this Infatuation, they were hoisting up Cæsar, and his Followers, to all public Honours and Commands, that is, sortifying Him against Themselves; so great a Patriot as Cato, so sincerely attached to their Interest, striving only for the Preservation and Stability of their State, and opposing terrible Innovations, and general Ruin, was never suffered to arrive at the Consulship: Even in gaining subordinate Offices, he met with great Difficulty and Opposition, from the same Spirit of Party and Seduction.
Cicero would not have arrived so soon (if ever) at the supreme Magistracy, had it not been for the terrible Danger then threatening Rome from the Conspiracy of Catiline; a Conjuncture when the great Abilities and Virtue of Cicero were so necessary to save it. In that Conspiracy, which aimed at a general Revolution, and, in order to it, meant to proceed by Conflagration, Massacre, and universal Desolation, some of the great Idols and Leaders of the People were engaged; though Cicero and the Senate thought it not safe to mention them, lest such potent Criminals, once rendered desperate, might have proved an Over-match for their Judges, and public Justice. Yet such Criminals continued afterwards the Idols of the People, who are too apt to credit none but such as they have ever most Reason to suspect, their own Favourites and Demagogues; nor to open their Eyes, till they open them in Chains and Torments.
The Romans, when corrupted from their original Simplicity and Innocence, split into Factions; and, being incensed and governed by ambitious Leaders, generally preferred the most furious and abandoned Candidates to the most innocent and virtuous. Thus they chose, for one of their Tribunes, the wild and bloody Saturninus, in Opposition to Aulus Numius, a Man eminent for Virtue and Integrity; nay, drove the latter first from the Assembly to his own House; then pulled him out, and butchered him(a) . Such was their Complaisance, and mad Zeal for that execrable Incendiary, the Author of such Outrages and Bloodshed.
It was a sad Presage of the Fall of Rome, when all Regard for Integrity and Virtue was gone; when wicked Men swayed all Things, and conferred all Offices; when the Worthy and Accomplished were rejected, only for being worthy and accomplished; when the Worthless and Abandoned were preferred, merely because they were worthless and abandoned; when such an excellent Person as Lucius Lentulus the Priest of Mars, was disappointed of the Consulship by such a worthless Competitor as Afranius; and when such a Wretch as Gabinius, above-mentioned, vicious and infamous as he was, obtained that important Trust. The Reason was, that Lentulus loved his Country: Afranius and Gabinius were the Tools, the abandoned Agents, of Cæsar and Pompey. Gabinius was afterwards condemned as a public Thief, in spight of all the Power and Interposition of his Masters, and banished; till Cæsar, having usurped the Power of Rome, recalled him, as one fit to be employed in his Service and Cause. Cicero reckons Lentulus happy, to have been snatched away, by Death, from being a Witness of the Destruction of his Country, which he dearly loved.
Even the pestilent Catiline had the Confidence to stand for the Consulship, and no small Hopes of carrying it. For he was exceeding popular at Rome, even whilst he was exerting all his Might and Malice to destroy the Roman State, and all the best Men in it.
There is another Consideration, which shews the Spirit of Party to be a most pernicious and lamentable Thing; namely, how much it shakes and lessens the Integrity of Men, otherwise virtuous and honest. Caius Gracchus, so remarkable for the Severity of his Manners, fond of being called the Defender of the Laws, and an avowed Enemy to all who attempted to hurt public Liberty, observed a scandalous Neutrality and Silence, upon an Inquiry into the Death of Scipio his Brother-in-law, and the most illustrious Roman of his Time, found murdered in his Bed; a Fate which Gracchus was supposed to have procured him, as an Enemy to his Schemes and Innovations.
The Athenians, animated by their Orators, who were eternally raising in that City Flames and Ferments, doomed to Execution Six of their own Commanders, even after the Merit of a noble Victory won by them; because a sudden Tempest had made it impossible for them to bury the Bodies of their Slain. This was a copious Topic for these hot Haranguers; a fine Theme for inflaming the People!—‘How! the brave Soldiers, who generously ventured their Lives, and sacrificed them for their Country; they who died conquering; by their Lives had gained Victory; by Victory had secured the State, and honoured it; to be deprived of the Rites of Funeral, the last and common Office of Humanity, often granted even by Enemies; to be denied it by their own Commanders, who, by the Blood of those public Martyrs, had purchased their own Laurels; yet suffered their Coarses, stiff and cold, to lie naked and neglected, exposed to Air, and Beasts of Prey!’—This, probably, was the Style in which they declaimed; and this was enough for the Populace, who were too much heared to hear more than one Side, with Patience; and, therefore, condemned the Innocent, as it were, unheard. For their Plea, though the best in the World, and the truest, was not regarded. They, indeed, were afterwards convinced of their Error and Injustice, and punished some of these prating Demagogues; but it was impotent Justice, and done to the Injured when they were dead. How the same People treated many of their best Citizens, particularly Socrates, the Ornament of their State, with many of their Philosophers and Heroes, all at the Instigation of their Declaimers and Factionists; how they abused the Ostracism, a good Institution in itself, intended for a Remedy against over-powerful and dangerous Subjects, but serving often as a Snare to the best; would be too tedious here to relate.
Party infers public Weakness: Its devilish Spirit, and sirange Blindness: What public Ruin it threatens: The People rarely interested in it; yet how eager and obstinate in it, and bewitched by it.
WHATEVER tends to break Union, and to create Divisions in Society, calls for early Prevention or Removal: Since Unity is Strength; Weakness attends Discord; Desolation often follows both. Indeed, where Parties prevail, the Good of the Whole is little regarded, often postponed and sacrificed; and, whilst each Side pretends to be the only Friends to the Public, both Sides are Enemies to it. Nor Pompey, nor Cæsar, nor the Followers of the Fortune of either, were Friends to Rome; for both had Aims destructive to the Liberty of Rome. The only true Friends to Rome were They who opposed the Power and ambitious Pursuits of both Pompey and Cæsar, and were for preserving their State in its original Freedom, and Independence upon particular Men.
All who follow the Leaders of Parties, are generally lost to the Whole: So that, where the Following on each Side is great, as in the Contention between Marius and Sylla, Cæsar and Pompey, the Leader whose Party prevails is Master of All: For one Party, in order to depress and vanquish the other, for the most part, raise their Chief so high, and invest him with so much Power, that he is Master of them, before they (or rather he) can master the other. They sell themselves to Slavery, that the others may be Slaves: The lower he lays his Enemies, the more Power he has over his Friends; and for having well revenged their Quarrel, founded too often on mere Chimera, or Folly, naturally becomes their Tyrant. Thus Cæsar enslaved his own Party, as well as that of Pompey; just what Pompey would have done, with equal Power and Success. Under the Reigns of the following Cæsars, did there any Distinction continue between the Party of Cæsar and that of Pompey? No: All were Slaves; and Slavery had soon put an End to the Parties themselves, even to that which had chiefly introduced Slavery. Nor could such as were obnoxious to these Tyrants, save themselves by any Merit of their Forefathers, in espousing and advancing the Interest of the first Tyrant.
So much do Parties gain, by adhering implicitly to ambitious Leaders, (as, in truth, all such Leading implies Ambition) and by pursuing Revenge towards each other. One Party cannot ruin the other, without ruining themselves. This terrible Event their own Obstinacy and Passion keeps them from seeing; or, if they see it, they venture it, and generally bring it about.
There is something devilish and horrible in the Spirit and Rage of Party; even universal Distress at home, even inevitable Destruction from abroad, cannot always cure or allay it. The Jews, during the Siege of Jerusalem by Titus Vespasian, instead of taking Warning, and uniting upon so terrible an Emergency, continued their furious Divisions to the last. They were butchering one another, when the Enemy was entering to butcher them all. They were contending, forsooth, about Priority, what Faction should be uppermost, what Leader should prevail, with the Romans at their Gates, prepared to make them all Victims or Captives. When the Turk invested Constantinople, Factions were raging in it, and raged to the last, till the grand Enemy mastered the City, and all its Factions. It is exceeding likely, that these Factions hated one another more heartily than they did the Turk, till the heavy Rod of his Tyranny taught them how foolish, how wicked, they had been, thus to hate and persecute and distress one another, and thence accelerate that Tyranny. They could then see clearly, what they could not, or rather would not, see before, that by seeking to destroy their Opponents, and exalt themselves, they invited and hastened their Own Destruction, and Universal Destruction.
It is extremely strange, and a great Reflection upon rational Beings, that the Majority in Parties seldom know the Reason why they thus hate and mortify one another. By-words, and Sounds, Names, Persons, Modes, and Colours, controul and incense them. They love John: Why? Because he hates Thomas; and they do not love Thomas, because he does not love John. Ask them, Why they thus love and hate these Men, more than other Men? the Answer is, That they are very good, or very bad Men. Ask them, How do they know? They will tell you, That they have been told so. Who told them? Their Leader, or his Creatures; that is, such who study to deceive them. Thus both Sides reason, and seldom can reason better.
Thus a Country comes to be rent into Factions; thus Factions hate one another implicitly, and shun one another like Plagues; find Nick-names for one another, then love or detest these Nick-names, and all that bear them; herd in Cabals, there chiefly to extol their own Side, and abuse the other; to adore their own Chiess as Demigods, to revile the opposite as Demons: They consider the different Party as determined Enemies, then abhor and curse them as such. For it is natural to grow Enemies to our Enemies; and, against an Enemy, every thing is lawful, all sorts of Falshood, Calumny, and Violence. The famous French League, when they had agreed, in a Consultation, to seize the King, to murder the Ministers, and to massacre all who, without regard to Parties, adhered to the public Weal, further agreed to charge the Hugonots with all this Wickedness and Butchery, and thence take Occasion to butcher them too. For whatever the Leaders and Priests gave out, the Populace greedily believed.
When Parties are thus formed, the Spirit of Strife is easily kept up, or rather hard to be extinguished: Accidents fall in to heighten it; Competition for Place and Power, Lyes and Misrepresentations all readily believed, Ignorance never to be cured, Mistakes not to be removed, with the wild Power of Carousals and strong Liquor, or of Superstition, stronger than either. Thenceforward, any mischievous and senseless Cant passes for Argument and Reason; Positions, the most wicked and absurd, for wise and wholsome Conclusions; and the grossest Stupidity, for profound Policy. Faction grows their Delight, the Burden and Subject of Conversation; and they form regular Meetings, and Clubs, to improve themselves in Faction, which becomes their grand Pursuit and Pleasure, to the Bane of Society, of Peace, and Charity.
All Men pretend to love their Country: Surely this is a preposterous Proof of it, this blowing up the Fires of Party, this animating and perpetuating Divisions, which are certainly mischievous to every Country, oftentimes fatal and destructive. They who truly love their Country, will naturally cultivate Concord, and labour to promote its Strength, by procuring its Peace. A Country divided against itself, cannot stand; nor a Country well united, fall. Has a Domestic Enemy an Ambition to usurp the Government? His surest means will be to create Strife, to raise Divisions and Animosities, daily to widen them, and to keep them from healing. These are the Measures which he will take to succeed: Thus Cæsar acted, and thus he succeeded. Does a Foreign Enemy study to invade and inslave a Nation? He will pursue the same Steps. Thus Philip of Macedon was continually embroiling, and consequently weakening, the State of Greece, in order to enthral them: He too succeeded.
How came the Romans to invade the antient Britons? Doubtless, encouraged by their many Parties continually jarring and attacking one another. Probably some of the weaker Factions amongst them, to be revenged on the stronger, invited over the common Enemy. How happened the Romans to subdue, so totally, a People so warlike and brave? Certainly by the same Means, their endless Animosities and Parties.(a) Being eternally at Variance, they never exerted the national Strength, and thus were conquered Piece-meal. In like manner the Gauls were subdued by the same Invaders; in like manner were the Germans; and in like manner will all Nations be liable to be subdued, as many (perhaps, the most) have been.
One would think it an easy Matter to persuade the People to Union and Reconciliation, from Motives of common Security and Interest. They cannot enjoy Place nor Preferment; their only reasonable Aim therefore is Liberty and Protection, with the Advantages and Blessings naturally flowing from these. It becomes them, too, to be jealous of these, and, upon Occasion, bravely to defend them. And Spirit, thus far shewn and exerted, is Zeal, not Faction. But the Misehief is, that by the Artifices and Influence of their Leaders, they are often brought into Measures pernicious to themselves, and baneful to their Liberties; as in the Instances of Cæsar, Pisistratus, and the Duke of Guise. Have we not here in England seen them adoring wretched Demagogues, who were professedly leading them into Chains, and openly haranguing in Behalf of public Bondage? Was not this infamous Blindness and Phrensy? Was it not a Renouncing of their Reason and their Eyes? A little Attention to their own Condition and Interest, a short Examination of the fashionable Opinions, would have discovered these Darlings, these revered Guides of theirs, to have been their mortal Enemies, Impostors worthier of a Gibbet than of Incense.
But the People seldom go to the Bottom and Reason of things, seldom deeper than Shell and Sound. They want Patience and Attention; yet a very Little would serve them, if they would but exercise that Little. If Men of different Parties would but meet and confer cooly, they would hardly fail to agree. But, full of Heat and Prepossession, they hate to meet; or, when they do, instead of reasoning, scold and rail; perhaps, fight. Each Partizan is sure, that he is in the right; and so remains Proof against all new Light and Information. Each protests he means well, and aims at Truth. Perhaps too he does, but misses it by concluding, that he has got it; and, each believing the other a great Knave, (for so Parties almost universally treat one another) they never can come to a candid Conference, nor compare their Thoughts and Aims, which would be found reconcilable enough, were they but mutually known, and candidly construed.
How sternly have I seen two Men, of opposite Parties, stare at one another as Monsters, when, upon the Whole, they differed very little otherwise than in Sounds and Jargon, and in mistaking one another! But the Fewd was to be kept up for the Ends of their Leaders, and they were still destined to live at a Distance, and in mutual Hate: For, were they to have met, they might have explained; and had they explained, they might have agreed. An Event terrible to Demagogues, and therefore to be avoided with Care! else the poor People might be silly enough to grow Wise and Charitable, and to want no Leaders.
Important Facts, and essential Principles, are commonly urged as the Cause of public Divisions. This is generally Grimace, and seldom true. It is certain, that these are always pretended, and thrown out as Baits. But the genuine Strife, amongst the many, is, for the most part, about Names and Men, Marius and Sylla; the Red Rose and the White. What Combustion and Faction, what Bloodshed and Battles, formerly between the Houses of York and Lancaster, each telling a plausible Tale, each claiming Right and Preference, or complaining of Injury and Expulsion? What then? All this, indeed, might affect a few Men of Ambition; but the chief Concern of the People was, Which proved a bad, or which a good King? As to their Primogeniture and Descent, these were Matters of Speculation, fit to be discussed by Lawyers and Genealogists. If the People were well protected, the People need look no further. He who proved a good King, might well be deemed a lawful King: He who declared himself above or against Law, was to be presumed void of Right. He is the Usurper, who reigns by Power against Law: He who deposes him, and squares his Power by the Law, is rightful King. They therefore are the Rebels, who adhere to a Prince, who, in a free Country, would be absolute, let his Genealogy be ever so long, his Succession ever so uninterrupted. No Man’s Race gives him a Right to commit Violence; no Man has a Title to do Injustice: No Man therefore can succeed to a Title which is not.
Are there any Bounds to the Will of Princes? If there be, is it not unjust to break these Bounds? Is it not also just to defend them, and to drive away whoever would destroy them? Are there no Bounds to the Will, and Folly, and Cruelty of a Prince? If there be not, why do we talk of Liberty and Law, of our Birthright and Constitution, or of Breaches committed upon it? A King and Parliament may indeed err; but are they more likely to err, than those Kings who would have no Parliaments, purely because they would err, and would not be controuled by Parliaments, nor have their Errors examined or mended? They who justify any of our Kings, who assumed a Power to dispense with Laws, must justify that dispensing Power, and averr, that we have no Laws but what were at his Mercy, and consequently none, nor therefore Liberty; for, with a Power to dispense with Law, Liberty is utterly inconsistent; and whoever can dispense with Laws, can annul them.
Now, how can such Men, (if there be any such) after this, ever complain, with any Consistency, of Misgovernment, and talk of Danger to Law and Liberty; when, under such a King, there was neither? Have we a Right to these Blessings? Then such a King was an Usurper, and he who deposed him a Deliverer. Have we no Right to them? Then how could we be injured, if they were taken from us? Or, had any King a Right to take them from us? How so? If they belong to us now, they belonged to us then, and always. We are told from the same Quarter, and very truly told, that a Nation deprived of Liberty, is a miserable Nation. Did not their dispensing Kings do this? Then they made, or would have made, this a miserable Nation. How then, and upon what Foot, were they to be again recommended to us? If we were to have them again, we had nothing to do with Liberty: If we claimed Liberty, we had nothing to do with them. The worst that can befal Liberty, is, To be lost. They would have taken it quite away. We have apparently a great deal left; I hope as much as ever we had: We are therefore still a great deal better than under them.
Such Men, therefore, must either give up the Cause of such Kings, or cease to talk of Liberty. They cannot maintain the Cause of both: They are Fire and Water to each other. We can easily remember when, in order to save and recal such a King, they vehemently contended for indefeasible Hereditary Right, for Passive Obedience without Reserve. Did they not then treat Liberty as a Chimera, the Doctrine of Liberty as Sedition, the Defence of Liberty as Rebellion? These were, indeed, Notions terrible to the Public, destructive of all Law, productive of all Tyranny, but truly serviceable to the Interest of that Prince; indeed the only Notions that could serve him. But to contend for Liberty, and mean a dispensing King, or his Cause, was notable Mockery, gross Deceit, and glaring Contradiction. To assert Liberty, in order to support lawless Rule, was to make Liberty unnaturally destroy itself. They must have been extremely stupid, who could not see through such apparent Absurdity.
I am of Opinion, that the People, though not yet free from Party-prejudice and Party-delusions, are yet much cooler and wiser than they were then, at least upon that Head; and would not now run mad after such pernicious Nonsense, after Maxims so pestilent to human Society. In short, none ever swallowed such, except downright Fanatics and Visionaries; none ever propagated such, but Madmen or Impostors. Another way of Thinking now prevails; and therefore the Style of that Party is altered; it is now Liberty, and the Public Good. This is not fair; I doubt it is foolish: Where Liberty is understood and valued, their Idol can never be admitted, nor followed.
Parties are so bewitched to their own Heat and Folly, that they become in Love with it; it grows their daily Theme, and the Pursuit of their Life. Both Sides talk of the Public, and think their own mutual Hate to be Zeal for the Public, whilst they are only weakening and endangering the Public by their eternal Strife. This their Spite to one another, they call Love to their Country. Thus they delude themselves, and often ruin their own private Fortunes to hazard and distress the State, which they imagine themselves to be successfully serving.
Now, when People are thus infatuated, thus drunk with Faction, delighting in Antipathy, and endless Discord, making a Merit of heightening popular Rage and Dissention, what Ear are they likely to afford to Expedients of Peace and Reconciliation? How likely to treat one who studies to calm and mediate? At best, it is a thankless Office, oftener provoking and invidious, sometimes dangerous and fatal. There is even Peril in being quiet and neutral. There is always too much Reason for blaming both Sides; yet, whoever does it, instead of reclaiming and convincing them, is more likely to incense them, to be charged, at best, with Lukewarmness, probably with Treachery and Desertion.
Such was the Situation of Cicero, who dreaded both Cæsar and Pompey; and only followed the latter, because he had some sort of Obligation to him, and believed him the less dangerous Tyrant of the two, as having, indeed, inferior Power and Talents. But though he saw the wrong Measures of Pompey, and foresaw the sad Consequences, he could not avoid following him. When the thing was gone so far, and Parties already drawn out, as it were, against each other, no Man, at least no Man of Name, was suffered to be his own Master, or Director. The Weight of others, and the Power of Faction, must then draw him headlong(a) .
Thus Men come at last to be so involved, that they are sometimes forced to wish for the very Thing which they had at first, and all along, dreaded; as Cicero, at last, wished Success to Cæsar, whom he had so much feared and opposed; for that, having left the opposite Party, he was terribly threatened by them, as were all others, against whom they had the same Objection: Nay, that Party were already sharing, amongst themselves, the Estates and Palaces of all such as joined not with them. Hence Cicero found it perilous, even to be civilly treated by Cæsar. Great, therefore, was his Perplexity, how to behave towards and between the two contending Chiefs: If he followed Pompey, ‘From that Quarter, says he, I foresee, with Horror, a mighty War, most sanguinary and ardent. What terrible Vengeance threatened against the municipal Cities! with an equal Portion against particular Men by Name; nay, against all such as followed him not! How often is he heard to repeat, Such was the Power of Sylla; shall not I shew equal Power?’ In another Place, the same great Author says, ‘Shall I, whom some call the Preserver of Rome, bring against her a Host of barbarous Getes, of Barbarians from Armenia and Colchos? Shall I bring Famine upon my Fellow-Citizens? Shall I bring Desolation upon Italy?’
Such mournful Discouragements he found on the Part of Pompey: And then from Cæsar, whom he treats as ‘an open Tyrant, raging with Ambition; as an abandoned Traitor, a notorious Parricide;’ what could he foresee, what expect, but utter Dissolution and Misrule? They both meditated to plunder and exhaust the World, thence to reward their rapacious Adherents. Cæsar particularly was attended by a dreadful Train and Conflux of Profligates, by all the Desperate and Debauched(a) .
To such a forlorn Crew, the Tumult of Parties was expedient and natural; and public Tranquillity and Concord, matter of Sorrow and Despair. But for the State, for the Body of the People, and for all the Honest, the Industrious and Substantial, a different Situation is necessary. To these, Peace and Unity are perpetual Blessings: By entertaining and encouraging a contrary Spirit, they fight against their own Interest, and are only serving the Purposes of such as deserve Gaols and Gibbets. When Liberty and Property are safe, none but the Desperate and Ambitious can find their Account in Faction, which is always hurtful to those who are neither animated by Ambition nor Despair. When Liberty and Property are attacked, all Men ought to rouse; and then it is not Faction, but Necessity, common Consent and Self-defence.
It is indeed lamentable, that Men, whose common Interest is mutual Good-will and Harmony, should divide, and quarrel, and hate one another, merely because the Leaders and Instruments of Faction find it conducing to their own Self-Ends to set them at Variance. Are not these their common Enemy? Surely they are. Yet they are treated as their Benefactors and Darlings. For, the Moment that Party-heat seizes them, they are blind; so blind, that one of them reckons not a foreign Invader half so terrible as his next Neighbour, who, perhaps, never hurt him, and has nothing terrible about him but an obnoxious Name; which Name too was given him, and derives its Terror, only from Prejudice and Opinion. Yet to grieve this supposed Enemy, and to be revenged upon him, without having been ever injured by him, he is ready to call in a real Enemy, whose Drift is to destroy both.
Are there some Men angry, because they are not in Power? What is that to the Nation, if other Men do as well there? Are some Men zealous to keep their Employments, and to disappoint their Rivals? This too is natural, and why should it offend the People, if it hurt not the Public? Let them contend together: What is all this to the People, who cannot occupy Place, nor enjoy Titles, and therefore ought not to involve themselves in the Contention, or in any Contention foreign to their own Interest and Stability?
How Virtue and Vice, public Services, and public Crimes, may be said to bring their own Rewards.
IN the History of Sallust, and in other Roman Histories, as we are shocked to find so many Parricides, Enemies to their Country, it is a sensible Pleasure to find some, I wish I could say so many, Patriots. I therefore bestow the following Discourse upon these opposite Characters.
Men are so prone to comply with every Temptation to Evil, that the surest Way to escape the latter, is to avoid the former; and rather to distrust their own Virtue, than to stand the Trial. It is certainly safer to fly, than to be overcome. But, as a Man, who would shun all the Baits and Allurements of Vice and Evil, must utterly leave the World, which abounds in little else, he who would secure himself against Corruption, must arm himself with Self-denial, must consider his Innocence above all Price, his Virtue as the highest Acquisition of his Life, the Source of all true Glory, and the surest Pledge of lasting Pleasure and Fame. When all other Pleasures fail, this one is more than an Equivalent for the Loss of the rest; and it is often the Want of this, which creates such an eager Pursuit after other Pleasures, if there can be any, where this is not. These Amusements must surely be, at least, very impotent and defective, which only serve to make Men forget for awhile, that they are not Innocent, nor consequently Happy. In spight of all their Amusements, of all their Efforts to beguile themselves, they have a sore Place about them, which will be continually reviving their Memory, or their Memory the sore Place. What Recompence, what Place, or Wealth, or Power, is equal to this, or can atone for it; atone for perpetual Anguish and Self condemnation?
It will, perhaps, be alleged, that Men grow hardened, and their Hearts callous, and then feel no pungent Horrors, nor any Horror, for Iniquity and Baseness. I doubt this is not their Case. Habit may sear and deprave them in some measure, probably in a great measure; but, I believe, never beyond Feeling. I never knew a Man, nor heard of a Man, quite so abandoned, as to speak ill of Honour and Honesty; even the worst Men pretend to some Degree of it, and sometimes exercise it: All of them would be proud of a good Reputation; nor can any of them be absolutely indifferent what all others say of them. I have known Men, notoriously abandoned and decried, make great Court to Men of opposite and approved Characters, when by such Court they could propose no Advantage, but that of gaining some Esteem, by conversing with such as had a great deal.
Men therefore, the most hardened and corrupt Men, would rather be thought virtuous than wicked, honest than unjust; and, perhaps, wish themselves so; would rather chuse to hide their evil Doings than have them exposed, even where the Discovery is attended with no other Penalty than that of Censure and Dispraise. Even Nero and Tiberius had such Reserves, were anxious to conceal their secret Guilt, and mortified when it became exposed. It is, indeed, agreeable to the Idea of God and a Providence, that wicked Men should be haunted with the Terrors of their Enormities, and never taste of Happiness, though ever hunting after it; and that Innocence, however persecuted or threatened, should be attended with Pleasure(a) .
That Men become hardened and insensible to a certain Degree, is undoubtedly true; else, after the first Compunction, which, I believe, naturally follows Crimes, they would not, at least wantonly, repeat them. But even this Insensibility is a terrible Curse and Misfortune; worse than natural Stupidity, or Lunacy. Who would chuse, or rather, who would not dread, such a Turn of Spirit, as weaned him from all Good, and the Paths of Praise, and hurried him continually after Evil and Infamy? For, Infamy will ever be the Issue and Reward of Evil; and Facts will, first or last, appear through all false Colours and Disguises.
A Man would therefore love and pursue Virtue, hate and shun Vice, for his own Sake, since he is sure of a Reward, such a Reward as all the Powers, all the Acquisitions of the World, cannot bestow, even Consciousness of Innocence, and an Heart upright and easy: And the more extensive his Virtue, the more extensive his Happiness. Does he hurt none, and help some? He is a good Man, and happy. Does he assist many, and still injure none? He is more happy. Is he just to Particulars, and also serviceable to All? Does he love his Country, and pursue its Welfare, with all his Might and Zeal? Who can be more happy? He is happy, though he should miscarry; for, having done his best, and faithfully discharged his Duty, he has the Approbation of his own Conscience, with the Applause of all worthy Men. Is any Reward equal to this Reward?
I have therefore always admired, as well as reverenced, the Characters of Patriots; Men of great and good Minds, Friends to Society and to human Kind, Lovers of Liberty and their Country, Enemies to Oppressors and Oppression, and Guardians of public Virtue, and the public Weal. These are the Men who have an unquestionable Title to the Favours and Blessings of the whole Race; nor can there be a greater Reproach upon the World, than that such Men have not been always well used in it. He who loves, and studies to serve All, merits that All should love and serve him. But, as we often see Men oppose their own Good, and flight and abuse their Benefactors, the Patriot has seldom competent Encouragement or Success. Such as have different Hearts and Views, will hate and decry him; and it is likely there will be many such. These, following their natural Bent of Malignity and Falshood, and pursuing a wicked End, will not spare wicked Arts and Means to obtain it. By such Arts and Industry, they will gain Belief and Followers. Malice is more active than Innocence; the latter is apt to confide in itself, which ought, indeed, to be a sure Guard, but is not always so; whilst the former seeks all Supports, and employs every base Artifice. Hence Virtue comes to suffer, being first misrepresented, then persecuted, at last oppressed. Hence it is, that the false Patriot is often more successful and popular than the true, and often triumphs over him.
Still this hinders not, but that Virtue is ever the best Choice. Who would not rather be a Cicero, even in Exile, than a Clodius his Enemy, though triumphing over that virtuous Roman? An Algernoon Sydney, sentenced to die for the everlasting Principles of Truth and Liberty, than a Jefferies, infamously exalted to the Tribunal of Justice, and pronouncing that wicked Sentence?
A suffering Patriot more happy than a successful Parricide: Public Oppressors always unhappy.
MODERN History hardly knows a more venerable Name than that of John Barnevelt, that good Dutchman and Patriot, to whom his Country owed so much. Yet, notwithstanding his great Virtues, his great Services, and his great Age, he had his venerable Head severed from his Body, by a prevailing Faction, who confidently charged him with a Design to betray his Country; when it was apparent, that his great, indeed his only Crime, was, that of serving it too well, and for opposing a wicked Scheme to enslave it.
As he had acted righteously, and died innocent, his End was glorious; and, though his Death was tragical, he was, in one Sense, much less to be lamented, than the venal and guilty Parricides, who murdered him, under the Name of Law, and sacrificed him, and their Consciences, to their own corrupt Ends, and to the Ambition of Prince Maurice: That Prince, who was openly aspiring to enthrall those free Provinces, must needs destroy Barnevelt, his old faithful Friend and Counsellor, as his great Obstacle. Never was honester or wiser Advice, than that good Patriot gave the Prince upon that Occasion: But Ambition had blinded him to all Truth, Reason, and Gratitude, and even to his own Happiness and Interest. Thinking, therefore, that he had sufficiently strengthened himself with a Party of Men fit for such a Trust; that is to say, with Men abundantly profligate and abandoned, he deceived Barnevelt, caressed him, and destroyed him: For Ambition had taught him Falshood, as well as Ingratitude and Cruelty; nor could there be blacker Ingratitude.
Barnevelt was, indeed, the Author and Instrument of his Elevation and Power; and had been the constant Friend and Counsellor of Prince William his Father. Upon the Assassination of this great Prince, when Men were seized with a general Panic, and, seeing themselves bereft of their great Protector and Support, were even deliberating about accepting the Amnesty offered them by their old Enemy the King of Spain, Barnevelt animated them, and recalled their Courage: He told them, that he knew one fit to fill and sustain the Place of the late Prince; and recommended to them Prince Maurice his Son, then studying at Leyden. Thus, by the Counsel and Friendship of this worthy Man, he was taken from a College, and put at the Head of a State, and of Armies.
Had he not Cause to treat him as his Father and Benefactor? He did so for a while, till Ambition changed and mastered him. He afterwards hated Barnevelt, because Barnevelt would not compliment him with the Liberty of his Country. He was so drunk and enchanted with this Passion, to rule without Controul, that he, at last, seemed to think all Art and Dissimulation needless; and went openly from City to City, attended by armed Men, changing their Magistrates by plain Force; by Force abolishing their antient Institutions; and setting up Creatures and Ordinances of his own.
Now what was the Issue to Prince Maurice? What did he gain by all this Violence and Injustice; by destroying or displacing the best Men, and employing the worst, in order to enslave all? He missed his great Point; he suffered the Shame of being defeated in his evil Purpose; he had a thousand Acts of Injustice to reproach his own Heart withal; he had dispatched, removed, and provoked, all his old Friends, and was thwarted and disappointed by his new; he lost that Popularity which had always followed the House of Orange, and had been personal to himself, whilst he was only serving and protecting his Country; and he was now become the Object of popular Jealousy and Hate: He found an universal Coldness; and, instead of being followed by Crouds, as formerly, with kind Looks and Praises, saw himself shunned with all the Marks of Neglect, Resentment, Distrust, and Scorn.
The Tide of popular Passion, whether it be Love or Hate, is apt suddenly to turn upon any great Instance of Cruelty or Mercy. Prince Maurice, from being greatly beloved and applauded, lost at once the Hearts of his Countrymen, by the unjust Doom of Barnevelt, and by his other arbitrary Proccedings. Whilst the late King James was yet beloved, at least not disliked, and whilst the Nation still manifested great Loyalty to his Person, and was really averse to Rebellion; the brutal and sanguinary Behaviour of Jefferies in the West, and his Barbarities to the Followers of Monmouth, made a sudden and terrible Change in the Affections of the People. They began to pity the Sufferers; and, from Pitying to Approving, the Transition is sometimes very quick, especially, amongst the Populace. Besides, in proportion to such Pity was their Aversion; first to the Judge, at last to the King.
Such is the natural Effect of using Power wantonly, and of grasping at too much. There could not be wilder Infatuation, than of Prince Maurice: In labouring to seize the Sovereignty, he laboured to make himself unhappy; to destroy his present Credit, Popularity, and Ease; and so far his Labours were successful. He was, in effect, Sovereign already: He was Captain General: He was Admiral General; that is, Commander in chief by Sea and Land: He created all Governors; he distributed all military Charges: Even in creating Civil Magistrates, he had the last Choice; and, out of Three Candidates, who were presented to him, selected one: He enjoyed all the Power and Privileges that ever the antient Counts of Holland enjoyed, all that the Dukes of Burgundy, nay, all that Charles the Emperor enjoyed: He pardoned all Crimes, and was chargeable with no Punishment.
All this Power, with the intire Affections of the People, was not enough for this Prince; though full as much as mortal Man can discharge or enjoy. For the fantastical and false Splendor of a Name, he forfeited the public Affection, and entailed Unhappiness, and popular Hate, upon his remaining Years. The same Madness has possessed many other Princes, and the same Misery followed it.
Prince Maurice had the Mortification to see even his own Cabal, Fellows whom he had picked out as fit to betray their Country, and sell it to Slavery, disappoint and oppose him. These, when they saw themselves uppermost, and possessed of Places, by the Murder and Removal of their Antagonists, began to adhere to the Constitution. They were then for securing That which would best secure Themselves; and, as they had been wicked Traitors for him, became just Traitors to him. May it ever fare so, with such Men, and such Designs!
It is natural, indeed too natural, for Men to grasp at enormous Power. Is it not as natural for other Men, who would suffer by it, to oppose it? What is the true, the reasonable Purpose and Use of Power, but the Good and Protection of Men? They who only aimed to protect, would seek no more than is necessary for Protection; nor would they care how much they were limited from hutting; nay, would desire to be so limited: But the Truth is, that, in the Pursuit of Power, Men generally consider Themselves only: Should not They, over whom that Power is sought, consider Themselves, too? They ought, indeed, to beware of all aspiring Men: It is seldom for their sakes that such Men aspire; especially, if such a Man will be seeking such Power, as evidently tends to injure, to oppress, and destroy them, they ought to believe that he means it; and, from that Moment, look upon him as an Enemy.
He will, no doubt, disavow any such Design: And who is it that ever does avow any such, even when it is most apparent? All Traitors and Usurpers make fair Professions, and labour to hide their wicked Views; and they who would oppress, will certainly deceive. Even Catiline pretended to love, nay, to serve his Country, when he was going to destroy it. Spurius Melius, by bestowing on the Roman People great Quantities of Corn, in a Time of great Scarcity, was far enough from confessing to them, that he was thus purchasing Dominion over them; though this was manifestly his Drift; and he therefore became their Benefactor, that he might be their Tyrant. Cromwell, that mighty Champion against Monarchy, assumed more Power, than any of our Kings ever had enjoyed, purely to keep us from the terrible Power of Kings. He, good Man! aimed at none, but just what was necessary to preserve public Peace; that is, just as much as he pleased and wanted, enough to put Chains upon Three Kingdoms.
This Reasoning of Cromwell’s was as solid, and full as modest, as that of the Court, after the Restoration; when unlimited Power was claimed to the King, as necessary to save the Nation from relapsing into a Commonwealth, or falling under another Usurper. As if the greatest Curse that could possibly have befallen the Public, had been preferable to one that could not possibly be greater: I will go further, and venture to say, that if such a Calamity had been inevitable, and either King Charles or Oliver must sway the Sceptre uncontrouled, Oliver had been infinitely the better and wiser Choice, as a superior Genius, endowed with more Virtues, and better Principles. An Usurper is not the less one, for haveing been once a lawful King; for every lawful King grows an Usurper, when he assumes what is none of His.
Men often find, even in this Life, a proper, though not a complete Retribution for their Actions; besides that which arises from their own Conscience, which is the strongest and most sensible of all. Prince Maurice had served his Country with great Bravery and Success; and his Recompence was noble: He reaped great Glory and Fame, with public Applause, and all the most glaring and substantial Dignities of the State; nor, with Safety to their Liberties, which that People had so dearly purchased, could they give him more: And was not all that they could give him, Reward enough for doing his Duty? He thought not; but, it had been better for him that he had. If he had gained his Ends, he would have been miserable, because his Ends were wicked; nor could he have expected any thing from this Success but Vexation and Sorrow. But he miscarried; and, from thence, reaped Vexation and Sorrow, in such Abundance, as consumed his Life, as well as his Peace, and embittered and shortened his Days. Different and better was the End of Barnevelt: And, again I repeat it, he died gloriously, because he died for his Country.
To save and serve their Country, is the Duty of all Men. Or if it be just to reward Men who do so, as it certainly is; yet, surely, they must not be left to measure their own Reward: If they be, the Experience of all Times will shew, that Men, upon such Occasions, are not very modest. Some have thought the whole Country no more than a proper Recompence for their Services to it; and, to prove what faithful Servants they have been, and are, to the Public, have made themselves Masters of it.
There have never, in truth, been greater Pests and Felons to their Country, than such as it had most distinguished and ennobled with its highest Dignities. How could such Men afterwards have the Face to complain of Ingratitude, or even of Conspiracies against them, when they had proved the most ungrateful of all Men, and Conspirators against all Men? How could they bear any poor Criminal, who had transgressed for Bread, to suffer, without Shame and Sympathy? Is not a Fellow who robs and binds particular Persons, through Indigence, more intitled to Pity, and Excuses, and Pardon, than one who is already possessed of Preferments and Plenty, yet plunders and oppresses a Nation; that very Nation, to whom he owes his Exaltation, and all Things; yet, from being its Servant, would make himself its Master?
Such a Servant to his Country was Prince Maurice. It is very probable he had no such Design at first: But Power is apt to turn the Head; nor can the Man who has it, trust his own Heart; much less ought the People to trust him; I mean, implicitly. The Passions of Men are progressive; and Ambition was never reckoned the tamest and most moderate Passion. That Prince had, at first, full as much as he could hope for, and, perhaps, for a while, wished for no more; but, finding the States a Check upon him, he grew uneasy under that Check; then wanted to get rid of it. The People, long oppressed and exhausted by War, wanted Peace, which was offered them: He wanted perpetual War and Armies, at their Expence, to support his Grandeur and Eclat. He was, therefore, fierce for continuing the War, and implacable to all who opposed him. Hence he meditated the Death of honest Barnevelt, and the Bondage of all.
Barnevelt was, of all Men, the least qualified to comply with Measures so destructive to his Country; a Man who had done so much to make it independent and free, and so long and successfully served it, in so many Negotiations and Employments. He was Keeper of the Seals and Archives, had been trusted with Six important Embassies to several Courts, and near Forty times with Powers to confer with the Generals of the States, and to concert with them the Operations of War; had procured Succours from our Queen Elizabeth to his distressed Country, and brought several great Potentates, England, Denmark, and France, to own the United Provinces for a Free State. He was, indeed, the ablest Dutchman, and the most trusted. His last Words were; ‘I have been, all my Life, my dear Countrymen, your faithful Fellow-Citizen. Do not believe, I beseech you, that I die a Traitor. I die, only for endeavouring to preserve the Liberty of our common Country.’—What a Dagger must such a Speech, from such a Man, on such an Occasion, have been in the Heart of his Enemies? As cruel as they were, methinks, I pity them as miserable Men; and rejoice over the venerable old Martyr and Patriot, perishing for the Cause of Liberty and Virtue!
Cautions against the Arts and Encroachments of Ambition. The Character of a Patriot, and that of a Parricide. How much it is the Duty, how much the Interest, of all Governors to be Patriots.
WHAT a Fund of Evil and Malice lurks in the Heart of Man, when, to the Gratification of his own Vanity, foolish and pernicious Vanity, he can vow and resolve general Havock, and intail the Plague of Servitude upon Generations to come! Such Things Men have actually done to gain Power, nor will they do less to keep it. Yet some of these Men are said to have been merciful and generous: What Mercy have they shewn? Perhaps to a few Parriculars, when they were, at the same time, slaughtering and oppressing Nations. What Generosity? Profuse, it may be, they were to Favourites; whilst, all the while, they were plundering the World.
These are Considerations abundantly strong, to warn Mankind to watch the Movements of Ambition, and, where-ever they grant Power, to grant it with Reserves. No Man who intends only the Good of others, will desire more than is necessary to procure that Good. Power without Bounds has, ever since the Creation, proved the Misery and Bane of human Society, and of human Race. It is, indeed, utterly repugnant and irreconcilable to social Happiness. This is so true, that whoever knows it not, is a Stranger to the past and present State of the World. He, therefore, who loves and pursues it, must have a very weak Head, or a very wicked Heart. The Patriot flies and abhors it. He sees what horrible Ravages it commits; that it subsists upon the Misery and Depression of Men; that it dreads and destroys whatever is amiable, noble, virtuous, and free in the World; that it courts and employs whatever is wicked, mean, deformed, and ruinous; that it has reduced the loveliest Regions of the Earth to Graves and Desarts, and that it has universally the same swift Tendency to lay desolate and destroy.
Is it not just, is it not amiable and glorious, to prevent or remove a Curse so direful and consuming, with such a shocking Complication of Woes? Is it not wicked and execrable, to continue or introduce that Curse, and those Woes? This is the Work and Character of a Parricide; That, of a Patriot; the one, a Friend and Benefactor to his Species; the other, an Enemy and a Deserter; here, an Ornament and Support of human Nature; there, its Disgrace and Betrayer!
Behold Cicero labouring to save the State, excited by universal Benevolence to his Country; emboldened by the Goodness of his Cause, and the Approbation of his Conscience; supporting the Interest of public Liberty, and supported by it; all good Men his Friends and Assistants, and the worst Lot that could befal him, that of suffering, or dying for his Country; either of them a very glorious Lot, far preferable to that of rising or flourishing by its Detriment or Ruin! Is not this a glorious Situation, a virtuous Spirit, a divine Occupation, worthy and secure of immortal Renown?
See Catiline, on the other Side, meditating the Destruction and Slavery of his native City; conscious of his own hideous Guilt, worried by it, restless and desperate; not an honest, not a humane Sentiment in his Heart; his Soul possessed and gnawed by Revenge, and by every depraved and beastly Passion; an Object of Detestation and Hate; abhorred by every virtuous Citizen; followed by none but the Debauched, the Impious and Abandoned, by the Refuse and Dishonour of Rome; nothing before him but a guilty Death, or more guilty Success, with infamy living, and dying, and dead!
The Patriot has always a good Cause, the Cause of his Country and of Mankind, of all others the most important and interesting. His Aim is virtuous, his Ends noble, and therefore all his Pursuits pleasing. The Integrity and laudable Thoughts of his Heart, are a continual Cordial and Support. A Passion for the Public, and the Welfare of Mankind, animates him; the Sense of his Duty fortifies him. He has the Wishes, the Concurrence and Praises of all worthy Men: Opposition from the Vicious and Unworthy, proves a Justification to him, and inspires him with fresh Vigour. His Views are great, benevolent, elevated, even to promote and defend whatever is lovely, righteous, desirable, and praise-worthy in the World; for, the Root of all this is Liberty: Even to oppose and destroy whatever is baneful, odious, wicked, and afflicting amongst Men; for, the certain Cause of all this is Slavery. In such a Cause, it is glorious to succeed; for such a Cause, it is glorious to die. However, therefore, he may be unfortunate, he can never be unhappy.
Opposite to this, and consequently painful and miserable, is the Cause of the Parricide; terrible and loathsome to all good Men, and to himself a continual Source of Fear and Remorse. His Life is a Course of Falshood and Constraint, and therefore of Pain and Care. He must hide his Heart, because its Devices are evil; and for this his Heart must cruelly reproach him. As he hurts, or intends to hurt, all Men, he has Reason to dread all, and to apprehend Destruction from such as he would destroy. Virtuous Men will detest him; innocent Men will not assist him; he cannot trust to the Aid of wicked Men; and such Aid, when he has it, is infamous. Whatever Opposition is made to him, whatever Attempts are made upon him, he cannot complain, be the same ever so subdolous and violent; because all his own Proceedings are violent and deceitful; and whoever unjustly arms himself against Mankind, does but call all Mankind to arm justly against him.
Can such a Man be Happy? Can he have inward Peace, withour which there is no Happiness? Can that Man have Peace, who would ruin his Country, who would destroy Liberty, and, with it, Truth and Virtue? That Man who would establish Thraldom, and, with It, Vileness and Misery? His Ambition does not extinguish his other Passions which thwart it; it only proves his strongest Passion: But still from the rest, though they prevail not, he must find very painful Resistance. Shame, Compunction, and Fear, are all Emotions natural to the human Soul, and have Force enough to shake and rend it; and the Ambitious and Guilty feel them most. If Pleasure naturally attend Acts of Virtue and Benevolence; and if that Pleasure arise in proportion to the Good which is done, or endeavoured; it must be equally natural for Anguish and Bitterness of Soul to follow Deeds of Injustice and Violence; and the more Iniquity, the more Remorse.
Is it Amiable and Praiseworthy to be friendly and kind to Particulars? How much more so is it to be generous to All, to love our Country and Mankind, and to endeavour their Prosperity? Is it Odious and Hard-hearted, to have Pity upon no Man, to assist and relieve none? How much more base and barbarous is it to distress and oppress our Country and all Men, for selfish and wicked Ends of our own; for one Man to reduce all the rest to Chains and Misery, that he may domineer and riot?
Bulion, Treasurer to Lewis XIII. told his Master, who expressed some Tenderness for the poor People, loaded with Taxes, and devoured by Tax-Masters, ‘That they were not yet reduced to cat Grass.’ Certainly Grass, and common Air, was too good for such a venomous Parricide. Was a Creature, with so black a Heart, and so much Malice, fit to be employed by the supreme Governor and Protector of a Nation? For, he who is not the latter, is unworthy to be the former. I do not find, tht he lost his Employment or Favour for this execrable Declaration; whence may be concluded, that a hard Heart was no ill Qualification then in a French Minister of State.
Let a People be used ever so coarsly, and even unmercifully, by their Governors, yet their Governors always expect from the People signal Loyalty and Affection. They must be thankful under Oppression, be pleased with heavy Chains, and kiss the Iron Rod, which, perhaps, is reckoned Sacred and Adorable; whilst it is only employed to terrify, afflict, and kill. I have known Subjects so wretched, so oppressed and squeezed, so pale, starved and naked, that, as their Existence seemed a Burden and a Curse to them, Death would have appeared a Blessing and Relief: Yet their Prince talked much, and gravely, of his Glory, and of the Zeal and Duty of his Subjects: Duty! For what? For making them as miserable as all the Arts and Malice of Blood-suckers could make them? They were, indeed, tame, and stupid, and patient by Force. But Abjectness and Despair deserves not the Name of Duty. Duty ought to be a rational and voluntary Thing, the Effect of Ease, and fatherly Protection. No Man has a Right to expect Tenderness or Regard from me, if he use me cruelly and contemptuously. Governors who treat not their Subjects like Children, cannot expect to be treated by their Subjects as Fathers.
All Governors ought to be Patriots, the best Patriots, and to set a continual Example of Patriotism to others, and to all Men. Without studying the Happiness of others, they cannot hope for any Glory to themselves; and whoever rules without Glory, is not like to escape Infamy. Their highest and purest Glory is the Freedom and Felicity of their People. To procure this, as it is their Duty and best Ambition, ought to be the Study and Business of their Lives. This is their great Point, and, for their own Sakes, they ought to labour it. What else can concern them so much, and so nearly? No Power is otherwise laudable, than from the Good which it does. Where it does none, it is contemptible; where it does Evil, it is detestable; and is then only lovely, when it blesses, protects, and saves. It is like Fire and Water, two great Benefits to the World, when properly applied, and confined; but equally terrible and pernicious, when they rise to Inundations and devouring Flames.
I am charmed with the Saying and Behaviour of the Chinese Emperor Tai Zung, who carrying the Prince his Son into the Fields, and shewing him the Husbandmen busy at their Labour, ‘See, said he to him, what Pains these poor Men take, all the Year round, to maintain You and Me. I have therefore ever been careful to case and protect these poor People: Without their Labour and Sweat, You and I should have no Kingdom.’ These were Sentiments worthy of a King, who, when he is indeed the Father of his People, and loves and treats them tenderly, is then truly King; and, when he acts not like a Father, is then, in effect, something else, and worse.
These are Sentiments which ought to possess every Man who administers, or has any Share in administring a State; and without such Sentiments as these, no other Qualifications are availing, or to be trusted. The Head generally is led by the Heart, and, if he love any Interest of his own better than that of the State, he will be apt, instead of sacrificing private Interest to that of the Public, to sacrifice the State to his private Interest. This, indeed, is poor Policy, and a narrow View, as well as very wicked; it is Pity it were not more singular.
An Emperor of Turkey, when he was told how much the poor People were harrassed, and how many of them destroyed, by the Hardships which they suffered, in preparing Sport for him daily, and daily attending him in it, was so far from relenting, or feeling Pity, for Wretches thus suffering and perishing for his Diversions, that he answered, with great Scorn, to the merciful Man who gave him this honest Information; ‘Take care of the Dogs; be sure they be well used, and fed.’ Was this poor, great, miserable, lofty, hard-hearted Wretch, a Governor? This Destroyer of Men, a supreme Magistrate? This incarnate Dæmon, God’s Ordinance?
O with how much Nonsense, with how much Wickedness and Misery, this strange World abounds! And how fast and naturally they beget one another! It would be a great Blessing and Advantage gained to Mankind, under such Governments, if they could but compound with their Governors, to forbear doing them Mischief; and, upon that Consideration, chearfully give up all Hopes and Expectancy of any Good or Advantage from them whatsoever. It would, in truth, be a glorious Bargain, and mend the Condition of the World prodigiously; considering at what a sad and barbarous Rate the Government of the World is conducted in most Countries. For it is melancholy to consider, but too true, that generally they who sway the State, are its greatest Enemies: It is therefore no Wonder, that they treat as Traitors, and often destroy, its best Friends.
I have often wondered, how the Governors of a Nation oppressed and poor, could enjoy any Pleasure; how relish Pomp and Luxury, when by it they brought Wretchedness upon Millions! One would think, that, as they are Men, they must find much Bitterness in their Cup, and many anxious Reflections. Can they always avoid remembring, that Despair may produce Outrage and Revolt; and that their Subjects, having been treated without Mercy, may shew none? Or, supposing them ever so Tame, yet, if they are Miserable, is not this a melancholy Consideration to those who make them so? Can all the Pomp, and Luxury, and Flattery in the World, atone for so painful a Thought? What can be more dishonourable and unjust, and therefore more affecting, than to starve and afflict Multitudes, that we may riot and flutter? Multitudes too, whom it is our Duty to love, and assist, and cherish? Is there a real Delight in doing Good, as surely there is? Then equal is, or ought to be, the Pain of being the Cause of Evil; and that Pain must be still greater, and more pungent, if the Evil be done to such as depend upon us, to such as are trusted to our Care and Protection.
It is impossible not to love a Patriot. It is only loving those who love us. Is not this a desirable Character and Reward? It is impossible not to hate a Parricide, because he hates us, and is our Enemy. Who would not dread and avoid such a Situation? Indeed, Patriotism is no more than good Policy; it is the safest and best Choice, as well as the most virtuous and just. The whole State of Venice became, at one time, a State of Patriots, and found their Account gloriously in it.
As they were pressed by the powerful League of Cambray, and convinced, how much it availed them to preserve the Affections of their Subjects, they did a Thing, says the Historian, unexampled in the latter Ages. They published a Decree, by which they engaged to indemnify them for all their Losses, past and to come, during the War, out of the public Treasury. Those who trusted them had no Cause to repent. That State kept their Word religiously with every Particular, and found the good Effects of it; for never did People manifest greater Zeal and Fidelity, under all the Afflictions and Hardships of that terrible and unequal War. In spight of all Dangers, of all the Rage of a foreign Soldiery, and even of Death, that People persisted in their Affections to their State, ran all Risques for it, and even voluntarily served it as Spies. Such had been their merciful and paternal Usage from their Governors, and so generously and affectionately did they return it.
We see by this, that Governments can find Ways to make the People grateful, and even generous, as also what Ways these are. Had that wise State always acted thus wisely, and used their Subjects with equal Justice and Tenderness, they might, in all Likelihood, have been still Sovereigns of the Morea.
The Instance of the Saguntines is famous: They, rather than surrender themselves to the Enemies of Rome, burnt themselves and their City. There was something very remarkable and great in the Spirit and Behaviour of the Corsicans, during their late Revolt; which, I dare say, was not without Provocation: Few Revolts are. Not a Man of them would continue in foreign Service, however good his Appointments were there, when the Cause of his Country called him Home: Not a Man in the Island, not a Frier, was to be found, at any Price, to give Intelligence to the Enemy; and many of them chose to bear Racks, and Torture, and Death in the most terrible Shapes, rather than turn Spies and Traitors to their Country. This was Patriotism, an invincible Love to their native Country, above all Temptation and Terror, above all Price and Corruption.
This firm and generous Conduct of the Corsicans brings into my Mind the fine Answer of the Lacedæmonians to King Philip of Macedon, who, in his Letters to them, threatened, that, ‘He would prevent all their Measures!’ Will he prevent us from dying? replied those brave old Spartans.
Donato Gianotti, Secretary to the State of Florence, whilst it was yet free, could not bear even to live in it, when changed into a despotic Principality, and subjected to the House of Medicis, though he was offered, by the Great Duke, high Dignities and Advantages; all which he utterly rejected, and retired to Venice, to live and die in a free City. He scorned to countenance Tyranny and Usurpation; nor would he stay to see the sad Consequences of so terrible a Change, the best Citizens exiled, or imprisoned, or martyred; at best, awed, neglected, and unpreferred; the worst, caressed and promoted for being so, for their Insensibility of public Servitude, and for their Promptness to bear it; Men of Merit and Figure, lost in Oblivion and Solitude, Objects of Jealousy, and useless to the Public; Pimps and Betrayers, in high Favour, and covered with the Marks of it. He could not bear to see the Laws, and Liberty, and Welfare of his Country, all swallowed up in the Will, and Pride, and Convenience of a late Citizen, and a private Family; nor his Countrymen the Florentines, for so many Ages free, and brave, and impatient of any Yoke, a People who had been their own Masters so late and so long, now reduced to Impotence and Vassalage, cowed and enslaved. This was Proof of a good Spirit in Gianotti, and he made a better Choice. The meanest Retirement is far beyond any Share in Tyranny, beyond all the guilty Glare and Spoils which it can bestow.
Philip Strozzi, that illustrious and wealthy Citizen, of the same City, (one of the richest Subjects in Europe) was so passionate a Lover of public Liberty, and had such an Antipathy to Slavery, that, having tried all Ways of restoring the Freedom of his Country, without Success, he ordered his Children, by his last Will, to remove his Bones from his Grave in Florence, and, carrying them to Venice, interr them there; ‘To the End, says he, that since I had not the Felicity to die in a free State, I may enjoy that Favour after my Death, and my Ashes rest in Peace, out of the Reach and Domination of the Conqueror.’ Strozzi had attempted to restore the Republic, but failed, and was put in Prison; where, apprehending the Application of the Rack, that he might not, by Torture, be brought to betray his Friends, he slew himself. The Motive was noble, if the Act could be justified.
How apt the World is to be deceived with Glare and Outside, to admire prosperous Iniquity, and to slight Merit in Disgrace. Public Spirit the Duty of all Men. The Evils and Folly attending the Want of it.
IT is remarkable enough, and little to the Credit of the Judgment of the World, that Iniquity, if it be but very great and glaring, justifies itself; or rather, it is often justified by the strange Consent of the Gross of Mankind; and what should blacken and blast it, purifies and ennobles it. Can the Earth produce a more pestilent and guilty Creature, than one who enslaves any Part of it? In that one Act of Wickedness is implied every wicked Act whatsoever, Robbery, Murder, Treachery, Inhumanity, the Ravages of Lust and Malice, of Cruelty and Oppression, the Persecution and Exile of Virtue, the Abasement of Justice, and the Introduction to all Sorrow, gross Ignorance, and Bestiality. Yet, whoever passes through this frightful Train of Sin and Villainy with Success, shall have the unaccountable Honour to be admired and courted: He, who would have adorned a Gibbet, with universal Approbation, for attempting any one of them, grows renowned for perpetrating them all; and thenceforth Gibbets and Halters become the Portion and Reward of the Righteous and Innocent, of the Patriot, and the Friend to Virtue. Are not poor Thieves, are not humble Rogues, and small Robbers, notably injured by such partial Judgment, and such an unequal Lot? Ille crucem pretium sceleris tulit, hic diadema.
Man seems to be a Creature formed to be imposed upon, and misled; else the greatest Villain would always be the most decried and unhappy, and the most righteous and benevolent Man would flourish most, be best supported, most adored and applauded. To the Dishonour of our Species, and Misfortune of the World, the Reverse of all this is true. They who ought to rejoice, often weep; they who deserve to weep, often rejoice: The Innocent are generally oppressed, the Well-meaning misled: They who do this, are exalted and revered by those who suffer it; and the miserable Dupes, the Sufferers, often account these their Enemies and Seducers to be their special Friends; nay, are at great Pains and Expence to perpetuate their Misfortunes, under the Name and Notion of notable Advantages: They sometimes reckon him their worst Foe, who would enlighten and relieve them.
This is the Creature who boasts of being Rational! It must be owned, that he is capable of Instruction, as well as of sometimes abusing it: But the Truth is, Instruction is little else but Abuse in most Countries, little else but propagating Falshoods, and wonderful Nonsense, with Antipathy to Truth, to Reason, and to Liberty; a Fondness for Ignorance, which passes for divine Knowlege, and for Bondage, which is styled Obedience. Hence Popes and Tyrants are idolized; hence such as oppose these sacred Parricides, these supreme Curses upon Earth, are reproached, traduced, and mentioned with Horror; and hence, the greatest of all Rebels, he who enslaves his Country, when he has done it, is called Ruler, or some other fine Name; and treats, as Rebels, all who are loyal to their Country, against his Disloyalty and Rebellion.
Such is the ridiculous Force and Witchcraft attending Names, and proceeding from preposterous Education. Much more honourable to me, much more happy, seems the Family of Medicis, whilst yet private Men, and opulent Citizens of a free City, than when raised by Faction, by Force, and by the dirty and corrupted Populace, to be Lords of Injustice over their native State. Nay, I know not whether they were not richer when Subjects, than when Princes; more innocent I am sure they were, as well as more secure. Yet, such is the deceitful Force of a big Word, that they were no sooner called Princes, a Title ill-gotten, and therefore usurped, but great Monarchs intermarried with them. Whilst they were good Citizens and Merchants, these Monarchs, probably, would have despised such an Alliance. Strange Blindness and Injustice! A Merchant may be an honest Man, a Patriot, and a Friend to Mankind; a useful Member of Society he certainly is. Can a Usurper, one who brings Chains and Calamity upon his Country, claim any of these Characters and Commendations?
I see more Glory (and there is more) in being a just and useful Magistrate, in a free Country, even a Burgess in Swisserland, than in exercising the Iron Rod of a Tyrant, with a Title ever so sounding, over a Country ever so charming. Liberty produces Comfort, nay, Plenty and Prosperity, even amongst Rocks; and smileth in the sternest Regions; she blesses in spight of Nature; and, in spight of Nature, Tyranny brings Curses. In Climes, which, for Beauty and Fertility, look like the Pride and Masterpiece of the Creation, Rags and Famine, Nastiness, ghastly Looks, and Misery in all Shapes, are seen to abound; and the forlorn Condition of the wretched People seems to belye and disgrace the Soil. Such, in fact, is the Difference between the Condition of the Swiss Cantons, cold, bleak, and mountainous as they are, and that of some of the finest Regions under the Sun, not far from them.
Can they, who consider this, and are at all solicitous about the State of their Country, ever sufficiently value Liberty, and defend it? Can they prize Patriots, and hate Parricides, too much? Can they too much dread Tyranny, too much detest Slavery? Can they think any Subject upon Earth so worthy of being handled and opened, recommended and enforced? It is the great Theme, the first and principal Concern of Society. What can concern Men so much, as, whether they shall be Happy, or Miserable; Free, or in Chains? Whether they shall enjoy the highest Blessing, or bear the most bitter Curse and Calamity, that this World affords? Cicero esteemed Death and Exile to be Evils far short of Slavery: Mortem & ejectionem quasi majora timemus; quæ multo sunt minora.
Here, therefore, is the Test of the Patriot and the Parricide, and their different Characters. He who has a virtuous and tender Regard for the Public; he who wishes and pursues its Welfare; he who rejoices in its Prosperity, and feels its Misfortunes, and is zealous to remove them; he who is jealous of public Liberty as the great Root of all social Felicity; he who dreads and abhors arbitrary Dominion as the most devouring Plague; He, This is the Patriot, the Friend of his Country, and deserving its Friendship.
Yet all this is no more than one’s Duty, a Duty, which every Man owes to the Public. But it is too true, that such Duties as Virtue alone injoins, are seldom performed, or even considered as such. Men think, that, if they can but escape Censure and Penalties, they do their Duty; and bestow that good Name upon Sordidness and Fear. Such narrow Minds hardly deserve the Care of those who have larger. Besides, Wretches who are destitute themselves of public Spirit, cannot prize it in others, nor be grateful to those who have it. This Insensibility, I doubt, goes often further than the Vulgar, and above them. But where-ever it is found, it is excessively foolish, as well as shocking and criminal: For, as public Spirit is a Duty, from every Man to all the rest, enforced by the eternal Authority of the Law of Nature, whoever obeys it not, is an Offender, a greater Offender than some who are condemned by positive Laws; since he who hurts only one Man, or Particulars, cannot be so guilty as he who offends against all.
The Nature of Society implies the Necessity, and consequently the Duty, of mutual Help and Benevolence; and whatever of this Kind a Man claims from others, others may claim from him. The Right is reciprocal, and therefore so is the Duty. So that he who is indifferent about the Whole, about the general Interest of the Society, makes himself an Alien, and, in fact, forfeits the Favour and Protection of the Whole. He who has this Turn, this strange unfeeling Heart, is a contemptible Being, as well as foolish and short-sighted. When the Society is oppressed, or enslaved, He must be oppressed and enslaved too. For, I speak not now of any great Parricide, who has the Misfortune to be successful, and to subdue all.
When this Spirit of Indifference about the Condition of the Public, becomes general, it is, indeed, terrible; as it is an Encouragement and Opportunity given to Parricides, so to strengthen and exalt themselves, that even the Revival of public Spirit shall have no other Effect, than to furnish Victims to Their Power and Revenge; and the public Bondage, which might have been prevented, only by a little Care and Vigilance, is, perhaps, so fixed, as not to be removed, even by strenuous Resistance, and an Effusion of Blood.
This Sort of Stupor possessed the People of Italy, during the Attempts of Cæsar; even whilst he was already in their Country, openly armed against the Commonwealth. Poor and narrow were the Considerations that swayed them; and they looked no further than just to preserve their Seats and Farms, their Money and Rents. Nihil prorsus aliud curant, nisi agros, nisi viliulas, nisi nummulos, says Cicero.—He adds, in another Letter, Hujus insidiosa clementia delectantur: That artful Clemency of his, which was only a Snare laid for them, delighted them, and laid them asleep. Poor deluded Men! They did not consider, that he was going to have it in his Power to seize for himself, or to surrender to some of his needy Followers, (who only followed him for Rapine) these very darling Seats, and Lands, and Treasures of theirs, whenever he pleased, with Impunity; or that, if He spared them, some of his Successors might take their Fortunes, and their Lives too; as, indeed, they did, without any Ceremony or Mercy.
It is, indeed, amazing, that any Man, who thinks at all of the Public, should be indifferent about it; it is more amazing, that any Man, who has a Stake in it, can avoid thinking of it, or be without Zeal for it: But it is most amazing, that great Men, Men of Dignity and Fortune, of Splendor and Title, all which can only be secure whilst the Public is so, should not always, and in all Countries, be upon perpetual Guard against their own Ruin and Debasement, and continually studying to support public Liberty, which must support them.
Lukewarmness, from such Men, would seem incredible, if it had never happened; and is infamous whenever it happens, as well as the Effect of the most gross Blindness and Infatuation. Yet thus lukewarm were many of the Great Romans, even when they saw Cæsar’s Sword already waving dreadfully over them. Well might Cicero say of them, as he does, with just Severity and Contempt, Ita stulti sunt, ut, amissa republica, piscinas suas salvas fore videntur: ‘They were such Fools to conclude, that, though the Republic were lost, their Fish-ponds would remain secure.’
Fools indeed! When Liberty was gone, no Man could be secure, nor any Man’s Possessions. This Discovery, which a Child might have made at first, they made afterwards; when their not having made it sooner, only served to upbraid and torment them. They, indeed, felt it, and felt it with a Vengeance, under the Triumvirate, when a Price was set upon their Heads, and their Possessions, and darling Fish-ponds, seized by the Tyrants who succeeded their Friend Cæsar, whose Clemency was not perpetuated with his Usurpation. This, too, was very easy to have been foreseen; as also the future State of their Families, which were all persecuted; most of them cut off by the following Tyrants, without any Exception, or Favour to the Descendants of such as had helped to establish the Tyranny.
Here is a Lesson and Warning to all Nations, especially to Men of Name and Figure amongst them, how dearly they ought to prize public Spirit and Patriots; how much it becomes and behoves them to possess and cherish that Spirit; and how nearly it imports all Men to love their Country. It is only Self-love generously applied; and he who loves himself judiciously, will certainly love the Public and Liberty. It is, moreover, virtuous and honourable; and is intitled to solid Fame, to the Affections and Praises of all Men. What other Motive needs there? He who has not this Spirit, may, perhaps, be a harmless Man; but he is a very bad Citizen: He who dislikes or despises it, is an Enemy to his Fellow-Citizens; and must expect a natural Return, that of Hate and Infamy. Is Life, or any thing in Life, worth enjoying upon such melancholy Terms? A virtuous Man may bear Dislike and Obloquy, because he knows that he deserves it not: But Detestation abroad, accompanied with Guilt within, and occasioned by it, is a heavy and a doleful Lot! What does the World produce to atone for it? Guilty Greatness is, at best, but a great Burden and Reproach.
The Love of our Country is such an amiable Quality, indeed such an important Duty, attended with so many Recommendations to enforce it, that it is a Pity, as well as a Wonder, it should not be common. How natural it is, to love and respect a Man of this Spirit! It melts me into Compassion and Sympathy, and fills me with Reverence and Esteem, when I find, in my Reading, such a Character as that of the Sieur Baptist du Mesnil, Advocate General in France, in the time of that Monster in a Diadem Catharine de Medicis. He loved his Country so passionately, that it broke his Heart to see its Misfortunes. This Testimony he has from Monsieur De Thou, that great Historian and Patriot; and this Testimony is a glorious Reward for so virtuous a Mind, for a Grief so pious, and so honest an End.
Cicero used to ask himself, What Men would say of him when he was gone? And was more afraid of the Judgment of future Historians, than of all the common Prate and Censure of the present Time. This was agreeable to the good Sense of Cicero. A Man who loves Fame, will labour to deserve it: If he be indifferent about it, it is a shrewd Presumption, that he is equally indifferent about his Morals: If he utterly despise it, he does as surely despise the Means of acquiring it, even Virtue and worthy Actions. Fame is always the sure Portion of the Patriot, first or last (for sometimes he is eclipsed for awhile); and a glorious Portion it is. Flatterers and Parricides, with the great and small Vulgar, may traduce him; but this only confirms his Merit, and adds to his Renown. The best Lot that can befal the Parricide, is to be forgot: A very comfortless Lot! especially to a Man who has Cause to wish for it. It was a laudable Passion for Glory in Cicero, when he grew jealous, lest the Services done by Pompey to the Republic, might seem, to Posterity, to surpass His.
It is but reasonable, that Men who are employed, and trusted, and paid, by the Public, should study its Interest and Welfare before all Things: If they do not, they dishonour their Employments, and break their Trust. Wretched, and even impious, was the Evasion and Excuse of the Cardinal de Biragues, Chancellor of France, for his abject Compliances with all the vile Devices, Frauds, and Enormities of the Court, in the scandalous Reign of Henry the Third: He said, ‘That he was not Chancellor of France, but Chancellor to the King of France.’ It was an absurd Distinction, as well as false and wicked. If the arbitrary Humour of that Prince had been checked, if his Ministers, instead of basely complying with his rash Will and Caprice, had taught him, as they ought, to measure his Power by the Laws, and to seek his Glory in the Prosperity of his People, he might have died gloriously and lamented. By serving only his Passions, they ruined his Honour and Reputation, and blasted his Reign: He became, first, the Dread; next, the Aversion; at last, the Scorn of his own People, and an Object of Pity or Contempt to Christendom.
This was the blessed Effect of complaisant Counsellors; who made it a great Merit, and Point of Flattery, that they were the King’s Ministers, and not the Ministers of the Kingdom: God knows, they were not; the Kingdom soon discovered it: Whence, too, another Discovery quickly followed, that, neither, was he King of his People, whom he cruelly oppressed, but only of his Favourites, whom, at the Expence of his Subjects, he extravagantly raised and enriched. When he had, by such Ministers and Measures, incensed his People, did these his Favourites retrieve for him the popular Affection? No; they were a dead Weight upon Him, as they were one principal Cause of the public Hate. When the People had revolted, did his Favourites prove his Support? No; he was forced to have recourse for Aid to the poor Protestants, whom he had been constantly butchering, persecuting, and using treacherously. How happy and beloved, and, therefore, how powerful and glorious, might this unfortunate Prince have been, only by following the easiest and honestest Methods of Government; which are always the most honourable and safe! But his Mother, his Monks, and his Minions, all seeking their own particular and base Ends, corrupted his Heart, youthful and voluptuous, by pernicious Maxims and Flattery; and thence brought upon him Ruin and Reproach.
‘It was not the Name of Kings, that created such Aversion in our Forefathers to Monarchy,’ said Tiberius Gracchus to the Roman People: No; ‘It was their Partiality, their profuse and boundless Favours to Particulars; whilst others, of superior Merit, remained in Want and Poverty.’ This was, indeed, unpopular and provoking; an Indication of what they had most at Heart; not the Service or Honour of the Public, but the Gratification of their own Caprice. Nor can any People, even the most stupid, be pleased, to see contemptible Men in Favour; such as Pimps, Barbers, and Buffoons; whilst Men of Merit, Ability, and Virtue, are neglected, discountenanced, and brow-beaten. Where Patriots, or the Spirit of Patriotism governs, that Government can hardly be shaken: And it is only for want of such Governors, and such a Spirit, that most, if not all Governments come to decay and perish: Nor can it be otherwise, when the public Interest is neglected by public Men, or sacrificed to little private Interests of their own. It is very true, that these separate Interests are always ill-judged; and, as they certainly hurt the State, they will, in the End, disappoint, and injure, and dishonour the Man who pursues them at the Expence of the State; upon the Prosperity of which, that of Individuals must always depend: Of which I have already given Instances, and many more might be given.
Considerations upon Two distinguished Romans, Cato and Cæsar; one in the Interest of his Country, the other in his own Interest: With the Fate and Issue of Cæsar’s Ambition, to himself and his Race.
I SHALL finish this Discourse with some Observations upon Two famous Romans, Cato and Cæsar; the first falling by his own Hands, rather than suffer or see the public Bondage; the second by the Hands of others, for having introduced it. Their Characters are drawn ingeniously by Sallust; but not fully. He owns, that, in their Age, Lineage, and Eloquence, there was a near Resemblance; that they possessed equal Greatness of Mind, and gained equal Glory: But he considers them only as Two great Subjects of a free State, serving it, and thence acquiring Fame by different Ways and Qualities; and omits the grand Difference of all, that the one made it the great Study and Labour of his Life, to save and purify the State; whilst the other strove, with all his Might and Art, to corrupt and overthrow it. Cato contended for public Liberty and Virtue; Cæsar for his own Power; and thence promoted all public Abuses and Corruption. In Cato, all virtuous Men, and every righteous Cause, found a sure Patron and Sanctuary: By Cæsar, the Profligate, the Depraved, and Desperate, with every Traitor, and all traiterous Practices, were protected and cherished. Cato endeavoured to recall antient Probity and Innocence; to reclaim or punish Evil-doers; to secure the Public, by upright Measures; and to transmit Liberty and good Government to Generations to come: Cæsar promoted Dissoluteness and Venality; encouraged public Criminals; embroiled, and debauched, and oppressed the State. Cato loved his Country, sought for it, and died for it; and thence left to it an illustrious and affecting Example, of Virtue incorruptible, and of primitive Zeal: Cæsar loved Himself beyond his Country, fought for Himself against his Country, and to Himself enslaved his Country: He intailed Bondage upon That and succeeding Ages; and left a Race of Successors truly worthy of the Inheritance of Tyranny; a Race who were the Scourge and Shame of human Nature, the Pests and Butchers of the Romans, and of all Men.
Such, literally, were the Doings and Character of thy boasted Cæsar, O Rome; these his Atchievments, this his Legacy! If all this make him not a Parricide, the highest Parricide, the Meaning of Words is inverted, Truth and Reason have lost their Course, and Guilt and Innocence are no more. Did he not fill thee, Rome, and all thy wide Regions, with Blood, and Woe, and Chains? He spoke well, he fought well; but for whose sake? and who reaped the Benefit? Was not the Benefit His; the Expence, the Pain, and Sorrow, Thine? Over Thee and thy Liberties was his last Triumph.
Rather boast a Patriot; thy Patriot Cato; one who was a Foe to Thy Foes, thy best Champion, thy true Prophet; one who forewarned thee of all thy impending Calamities; struggled to avert them; and perished, rather than behold them(a) . This is Fame indeed; genuine Fame; great, immortal, and unallayed. Whatever Exploits Cæsar did, whatever fine Qualities he had, still he enslaved his Country; a Consideration that tarnishes and frustrates all his Praise. Cicero treats him as a Madman, and a wretched Being, who had never the least Notion of genuine Glory. Amentem & miserum, qui ne umbram quidem unquam τȣ͂ ϰαλȣ͂ viderit. ‘Does he (says Cicero) do all these Things for the sake of his Honour? Where is his Honour; where his Virtue and Justice? To hold an Army from the Public against the Public? To seize the municipal Cities, in order to usurp Rome itself, and enslave his Country? To cancel all Debts; to pardon all Criminals; to commit a thousand Outrages; all to arrive at Tyranny, which is his highest Deity?’ All this, in the Opinion of that great Roman Patriot and Luminary, was to be most miserable, as well as most wicked; and his great Success was but great Guilt.
Nothing was ever more shameless than his Demands, in order to an Accommodation; in which, however, he was never sincere. I must again borrow the Reasoning of Cicero. ‘How? Grant him what he asks with such enormous Impudence! For, what is more impudent, O Cæsar! Thou hast holden the Province Ten Years; a Term not given thee by the Senate, but given thee by Thyself, and the Force of Faction. Even this Term, one measured not by the Law, but thy own Lust, is elapsed. But grant it to be legitimate: The Senate have decreed thee a Successor. This thou opposest, and criest, Let some Consideration be had for Me. I say, Do Thou have some Consideration for Us. Dost thou keep an Army longer than the Roman People ordained, keep it in Defiance of the Authority of the Senate? There is therefore now no Choice, but either to fight, or to submit.’ In another Letter to Atticus, taking Notice of some plausible Promises from Cæsar, ‘Does Cæsar pretend, says Cicero, to bring good Tidings to all worthy Romans? Where will he find such, unless he hang himself, and go to the other World for them?’
The Clemency of Cæsar is much extolled. In truth, it was absolutely necessary, that he should appear full of Clemency; and therefore it was Policy to proceed by the Ways of Clemency, as long as Clemency would do. He had seen Marius and Sylla detested for their personal Cruelties. But, if mild Methods had failed, will any one say, that a Man, mad with Ambition, would have forgone all his fine Schemes, and ambitious Views, rather than pursue them by Acts of Vengeance and Blood? What Cruelty is so great, as that of making War upon one’s Country, and enslaving it? Did he not do this? Must he not do every thing necessary to such an impious End, even kill and destroy, till he gained it, or was himself destroyed? Would he, who exposed Men to Death and Slaughter by Myriads, have scrupled the Death of Particulars? Did he not tell Cicero roundly, that, if he could not obtain the Concurrence of Cicero and his Friends, he would embrace any Assistance, from whatever Quarter it came, and betake himself to all Courses whatsoever—ad omnia esse descensurum? Did not Curio, his Friend and Adherent, declare of him, that ‘He was not, in his own Nature and Inclination, unpossessed with a Spirit of Cruelty; but thought Clemency a popular Quality; yet, if the Favour of the People failed him, he would certainly prove cruel.’ Cœlius too, the Orator, and a Partizan of Cæsar’s, freely says of him, in a Letter to Cicero, that ‘He meditated nothing but what was Violent and Tragical, nor even spoke in any other Strain.’ Cicero charges him expresly, with a long and constant Design to murder Pompey.
Phalaris, the Tyrant of Agrigentum, whose Name is become proverbial for Cruelty, began his Usurpation with great Mildness, and proceeded in it long: He even manifested great Patience and Forgiveness upon the Discovery of several Attempts and Conspiracies against his Life; but, from the Frequency of such Attempts, he became Vindictive and Bloody, and continued so. He pleaded, ‘That, without being cruel to others, he could not be safe himself.’ A terrible Expedient for Safety, very precarious, and often producing a contrary Effect. Cæsar, in all Probability, must have acted as Phalaris had acted.
Take away Cæsar’s fine Qualities, which, of themselves, merit no Commendation, as he applied them to such evil Purposes, and consider only his Views and Pursuits, which were continually Evil, what a Monster must he appear? Nay, his Crimes are the worse for his fine Qualities. Without doubt, he was a Thousand times worse than Nero, as he did a Thousand times more Mischief to the World. Such Difference does Art, or the Want of it, make in the Characters of Men. Nero wanted Address, to appear a pleasing Devil. Cæsar had it. Besides, it was he, who, by enslaving the Romans, enabled Nero to butcher them.
I shall conclude, with considering the Advantages which this famous Usurper, Cæsar, drew from his Usurpation. It, indeed, cost him very dear: After a troublesome Life, a world of Guilt and Bloodshed, many Perils, and endless Disquiets, he was cut off as a Traitor and a Tyrant. As to Fame and Posterity, he, like all other Usurpers, judged ill about them. From good and wise Men, he, who did such execrable things, in order to the most execrable of All, even the destroying public Liberty, and enslaving his Country, could reap no Fame at all, but eternal Aversion and Reproach: And who would court Fame from the dirty and obscene Rabble?
It fared as ill with his Posterity, as with his Fame. He might, indeed, have left them possessed of great Glory, and a lasting Establishment, by reforming and restoring the State, and thence entailing upon them, and upon all Men, the great Blessing of their antient Liberty. Then, too, his Renown would have been permanent and noble, like that of the first Brutus, and his Descendants, ever dear to the Romans, and ever revered.
This would have been just Ambition, like that recommended by Machiavel, who would have ‘A Prince, or great Man, who aims at Praise and Immortality, to chuse, for the Scene of his Government and Glory, a State which is corrupt and decaying, as one proper for him to rectify and restore.’ This is a Design truly great and princely, benevolent and honourable. Whereas to vitiate and enthral a State, is barbarous, little, and base. Cæsar took not the former virtuous Course; but chose the latter Course, which was altogether impious and destructive, and thence forfeited all just Fame; and, having put Chains upon his Country, left thence a Curse upon his Posterity.
His immediate Successor descended not from him, but from his Sister: He that followed was not of his Family, but left the Empire to one of the Race, where it, however, continued not long. The whole Line, for the most part, proved beastly, bloody, and detested Monsters. Could such contribute to preserve or perpetuate his Fame? They died too, like him, violent Deaths. So little did His or Their overgrown Power serve to secure Him or Them! It, indeed, caused and quickened their tragical Fall. In a few Reigns, all bloody, unfortunate, and accursed, or rather, in a few Years, the Imperial Diadem was rent from his Family for ever. That horrible Cannibal Nero, was the last of it. Augustus, more bloody than he, was the first; I mean, after Julius. The Three who intervened, worthy Depositaries of the Name and Power of Cæsar, were, like the last, the Curse, the Scandal, and the Executioners of human Kind.
But, besides the bloody Fate, regularly overtaking every one of his Family, who wore the Purple, the rest, and the unreigning Branches, were continual Objects of the Jealousy and Cruelty of Him that reigned, who was ever constantly cutting off all of the same Stock, who were conspicuous for Parts, or Person, or Wealth, or any other Advantages, personal or accidental; nay, often only for being of that Stock.
This therefore is the mighty Issue of the mighty Cæsar’s Ambition. To his Country he procured Bondage, and utter Ruin; to Himself, and his Race, a Series of Slaughters, till they had all finally perished, together with the Curses, and universal Hate, of human Kind. These were the Doings, this the Merit of the great Cæsar, one so extolled for his Conduct, for the Wariness of his Measures, and his great Success! He was, indeed, very Artful, as well as very Brave and Successful, in bringing certain Destruction upon Himself, his Country, and his Lineage. For, in short, this was the real Result of all his Policy, of all his Plots, and Eloquence, and Heroism. Was This to be Amiable, This to be Fortunate and Wise?
Is it not natural to ask, How could such a Character be admired? How such a Man be popular? Yet Cæsar was popular; He gained all his Power by his Popularity; he gained all his Popularity by acting the Patriot; and usurped Patriotism on purpose to usurp the Empire: Nor was this Proceeding peculiar to Cæsar: It was the constant Art and Armour of all preceding Parricides, and by it they covered and recommended themselves, always with too much Success, to the credulous Many. In truth, the Efforts, and Frauds, and Management of such Parricides, (for many such there were) make a great Part of the Roman History, from the Foundation of the Republic, to the last Period of Roman Liberty. Cæsar had Parts equal to any of them, though not superior to some of them, with greater Opportunities, and more Success. They had all pretended to be public Benefactors, warm Advocates for the People, zealous Patrons of Liberty. Their fair Professions, false Bounties, and boasted Patriotism, were echoed, with their Names, loudly amongst the Populace: Then followed their popular Direction and Sway, deceitful Speeches, inflammatory Invectives, pleasing and pernicious Laws, with all Attempts to improve popular Phrensy, and, by the Cry of Liberty, to establish Tyranny. Catiline followed the same Road, and perished in it: Cæsar got to the End of it, and perished afterwards. By the Cry and Assistance of the People, he baffled Pompey and the Senate: By an Army, procured for him by the People from the State, he enslaved the People, and usurped the State. He made them giddy with the Sound of Liberty; and, whilst they were under that Infatuation, snatched away the Substance. This had been ever found the safest Way of undermining Liberty; the surest, the most concealed, and most successful Way. Cæsar, that pretended Patriot, that real Parricide, thought it so, and found it so(a) .
Of the Resignation of SYLLA.
His Policy in Resigning; his Motives and Encouragement to resign.
THE Name of Sylla occurs so often in Sallust, his Usurpation is so frequently referred to, and his Abdication has been so long considered as a profound Mystery in Politics, that I shall here bestow some Thoughts upon it. His Resignation hath been reckoned a surprising Step, very hard to be explained. I cannot help differing from such as think it so, since I can account for it from obvious and probable Causes. But they who seek only for deep and abstruse Reasons, will always overlook or despise plain ones. It was surely the greatest, as well as the wisest of all the Actions of his Life, and had as much Sense as Boldness in it. Had Cæsar followed his Example, he too might have avoided a tragical End; as Sylla, had he not resigned, might have met with Cæsar’s Fate.
The People are naturally Forgiving, as well as naturally Violent; and the Restoring of public Liberty, was, to the Romans, who ardently loved it, such an Act of Benignity, as gained their Hearts in general. His assuming the Dictatorship admitted of an Excuse from the Struggle of Parties, as a Measure of Self-defence, necessary to secure him, and the Nobility, against the Violence of Marius, and his Associates, at the Head of the Commons. This Consideration served to justify, at least to palliate, many Acts of Cruelty and Power; and his Abdication passed, with the Public, for a Compensation for all. His Usurpation was then ascribed to Necessity; his Resignation appeared to flow from Benignity and popular Spirit.
If Sylla, therefore, resigned only in order to be quiet and safe, it fully answered his Ends. Or, if he was supposed to have done it from Greatness of Mind; such an Opinion was sufficient to procure him high Applause, as one animated by something more noble than Ambition, or, at least, governed by the best Ambition; such Ambition, as made him prefer the public Interest and Welfare, to all the Glare and Charms of absolute Power, and seek personal Glory from the general Good, the only just and genuine Glory! All other Glory is falsly so called, groveling, selfish, and contemptible. Does the debasing and enslaving of all Men, that One may swagger, and, by tyrannizing over all, hurt all, entitle that Man to any Share of Glory? No: Whoever introduces universal Infamy, is universally infamous. He may pretend to Glory, because none dare contradict him; but none will support that Pretence but such as dread him, and court him, or are misled by them that do so.
Besides, Sylla had Proofs, and Warnings, that his absolute Power, even his Dictatorship, did not render him absolutely secure, nor procure him absolute Submission. His Friend Pompey, and some other young Patricians, who were become popular by their Address, and gallant Actions, had gained such Credit at Rome, that they were become powerful enough to thwart and disappoint him upon very important Occasions, so as to carry popular Elections against him. For he did not, I believe he durst nor, carry even the dictatorial Power so far as to abolish annual Magistracies. Cæsar did not carry it so far: He only controuled them by his Influence.
Sylla judged well, in not provoking all Men, especially such Men who had Courage and Interest to make a terrible Party against him; Men who were already grown too strong for him, and Men who might have been soon able to have forced him to resign. A voluntary Resignation was far preferable, as it was more safe. Had they gone so far, as to have forced him to resign, they would, perhaps, have found it necessary to have gone farther, and to have taken away his Life, for the Security of their own. A voluntary Resignation neither prompted Him to meditate Vengeance against Them, nor Them to use Precautions against Vengeance from Him.
It is likewise reasonable to believe, that Pompey, and other great Men, glad to get rid of him, in order to share at least in that Power which he possessed intire, had either explicitly engaged to him for the future Security of his Person, or were understood by him to have been so engaged, from Reasons of State. By an Ordinance already made, all his Acts and Regulations, many of them very tyrannical and barbarous, but many of them conducing to public Peace and Order, and most of them in Favour of the Nobility, against the Power of the People, and their Tribunes, were declared Legal, and made the standing Laws of the Commonwealth: They were even preserved and obeyed, not only after his Resignation, but after his Death.
As he therefore well knew the Situation of Things, and the Interest and Views of the leading Men, his Resignation was not altogether the Effect of Magnanimity. All this will account for the Tranquillity of his Mind, and for his bold and unconcerned Behaviour, after he had resigned; for his walking securely in the Forum; for his Forwardness in meddling still with public Affairs; and, for his causing a Man to be put to Death, in his Presence, for railing at him, when he was no longer Dictator. So that, whatever he might declare in resigning his Power, he trusted not altogether to his Genius, and the Felicity of his Fortune.
What Measures, and Precautions, he had taken for his Security, after his Resignation.
SYLLA could not, in the full Possession of all his tremendous Power, defend himself against the Attempts of any single desperate Man: No Monarch can. What Security he wanted, was, against the Violence of the People, against public Prosecution, and being made accountable to the Republic, for what he had done against the Republic, especially against the popular Part of it. This Security he had procured to himself, from the Condition in which he left the Republic, the People depressed, the Patricians in full Sway, and his own Friends, at least such as from Policy would not see him hurt, at the Head of Affairs.
He had got rid of all his most formidable Enemies; first, by conquering them, then by destroying them; nor had he spared any Measure or Manner of Cruelty; insomuch that, by the Sword, Proscription, Banishment, and Confiscation, he doomed a Hundred Thousand Roman Citizens to perish, with near a Hundred Senators, and almost Three Thousand Roman Knights. Such Enemies as remained alive, especially all the Children of the Proscribed, continued disabled, by the Law, from being restored; a Law, which continued in Force after Sylla was dead, for a Reason which will be found in these Discourses.
It must be owned, that many of his Regulations were wholsome and necessary: Many of them, too, contributed largely to the Safety of his Retreat; as I shall here shew in several Instances.
He had bestowed all the best Colonies, and great municipal Towns in Italy, which had taken Part against him, upon his faithful legionary Soldiers. So that in them he had a great and experienced Army, which cost him nothing, ready, at all Events, to espouse his Quarrel, and fight for him.
At Rome he had complimented Ten Thousand Slaves (such as had belonged to those whom he had proscribed) with their Freedom, on Pretence of supplying the City with a Body of Freemen, after so many destroyed in the Civil War. Here was a Band of Men, all his own Creatures, thoroughly engaged to him, distinguished by him with the Title of Cornelians, after his own Name, and answering the Purpose of a Body-guard to him at Rome.
As he had seized immense Wealth, from all whom he disliked or suspected, he distributed it so as to make by it many powerful Friends; and, by preferring his own Creatures to all Places of Power and Trust in the Provinces, he had made himself strong there.
He had secured himself from all popular Attacks, by retrenching, and, indeed, sinking the Power of the popular Tribunes, those formidable Officers, who had so lately and so long awed the Senate, swayed the People, and acted as Masters in Rome. By an Ordinance of his, none but Patricians could be Tribunes of the People; nor could they, after that Office, rise to any of the great Offices of the State, that of Consul, or of Prætor. They were likewise restrained from inflaming and haranguing the People, and from arguing before them, as usual, for, or against, any new Law. He had, moreover, taken the Administration of the Tribunals, that is, the Execution of all legal Justice, both Civil and Criminal, out of the Hands of the Roman Knights, and committed it wholly to the Patricians: A Change of high Moment to Him, as well as to Them!
He had done many great and popular Actions, highly to the Honour and Advantage of Rome; new conquered Greece, recovered Macedonia, subdued Thrace, vanquished Mithridates, that terrible and inveterate Enemy to the Romans, and rescued, from his Tyranny, the Cities and Coast of Asia.
He was brave, prosperous, handsome, and eloquent; all popular Qualities! He brought great Wealth, as well as great Honour, to Rome. His Triumph was splendid and dazling, over foreign Enemies only, not over any of the Roman Chiefs, his Rivals, nor for his Success in the Civil War; and he always modestly ascribed all his prosperous Events to good Fortune.
He entertained the People with magnificent Shews and Diversions, made them grand Feasts, gave them great Largesses; all mighty Engines of Popularity! His last great popular Action was his Resignation, the most popular of all; indeed, the most noble and virtuous: For which he was highly celebrated at Rome to the End of his Life, and his Death followed with the highest popular Honours.
Of the Pride and ill Conduct of the Patricians, after the Expulsion of Kings.
The Roman Commonwealth unequally balanced. The Kingly Power, upon the Expulsion of Tarquin, engrossed, and imperiously exercised, by the Patricians. The ill Policy of this to Themselves, the Injustice of it to the Plebeians.
AS the principal Dissentions and Revolutions in the Roman State, are imputed, by Sallust, to the Abuse of Power, either by the Patricians, or Plebeians, after they had reciprocally gained it, or to their mutual Struggle to gain it; I shall here explain the Mistakes of both, and first, those of the Patricians.
In every Government, where constant Dissentions reign, there must be a great Defect, either in the Institution of it, or in the Administration. Rome, under Kings, seems, to me, to have been better secured against intestine Discord, than it was after their Expulsion; had the last Tarquin, like his best Predecessors, observed the original Laws of the State. As they were trusted with the Administration of the State; as they were chief Commanders in War, and supreme Civil Magistrates, and had the Execution of Justice and Law; they had Power sufficient to check and oblige the Populace; to distinguish, as well as to awe, the Nobility; and to secure their own Station and Dignity. But all this Power and Prerogative not satisfying the mad Ambition of Tarquin, he scorned to possess the Power of Protecting, though this be the only End, and therefore the only Glory, of Reigning, unless he had also the Power of Enthralling and Destroying.
He therefore set up a Model of Government, as frightful as it was new, to that free and brave Nation; and, without consulting People or Senate, Two of the Three Estates, He, who was only the Third, would needs rule alone, according to his Lust. As he had usurped the Throne by the most barbarous Parricide, he tried to maintain himself in it by the most arrogant Tyranny. Hence, not only He, but the Throne itself, became odious and unpopular, and both were degraded and abolished together for ever(a) .
But, though the King was gone, the legal Part of Kingship remained; and the two Consuls could do whatever the Kings could do. They called together the Senate, and presided in it; as they did in the Assemblies of the People, whom they likewise summoned: They bore the chief Magistracy in Rome, and chief Command in War. These, which were the principal Prerogatives and Emoluments of Royalty, became the Portion of these Two Magistrates, and were, consequently, confined to the Senate, from whence they were chosen. It is true, the People chose them Annually, (as they had formerly the Kings for Life) but still the Choice was restrained to Senators.
This Accession of Dignity, and therefore of Pride, to the Nobility, awed now by no Superior, and possessed of all the Authority and Trappings of the State, had its usual Effect upon the Minds of Men, naturally frail and vain, and inspired them with high Conceit of their Blood and Character, both which they accounted Sacred, as they did all beneath them Profane; though most of them sprang originally from the lowest Plebeians, such as they now despised; and they owed their Supremacy at Rome, to nothing but the Tyranny and Expulsion of Tarquin. Such is the Insolence of Man, ever fond of being thought more than Human, and of making himself, what God never made him, of a Texture more Divine than the rest of his Species. I wish that Heathens only were thus apt to exalt themselves, and belye the Godhead, by boldly pretending to a Share of it; a sure Symptom of Imposture, as well as of Insolence, when Men make the worst Qualities cleaving to Humanity, Marks of their Divinity; namely, their Pride, and Passion; their Frauds, and selfish Designs.
Such Use has been made, in all Ages, of the Name of Heaven, by Men who meant to engross and controul this Earth. Thus Emperors and Popes came to be deified; and thus, numberless Fanatics of all Sorts, some Pagan, others falsly called Christian, have roundly claimed an Alliance with the Deity, or Commissions and Immunities from Him; for no other apparent Reason, than that they differed from the rest of the World in Craziness and Conceit, or in the Quaintness of their Titles and Apparel, or in some senseless Forms and Grimaces, pompously practised to promote Superstition, and dignify Folly and Fraud; as if the confident Pretence of One, or a Few, to celestial Attributes and Authority, were sufficient to enforce the Belief and Obedience of all the rest; or, as if certain religious Terms and Fashions, invented by Men, inferred any real Warrant or Power from God to some Men, to guide and govern other Men endowed with equal Faculties, and equally capable of undergoing, or of performing, the same Solemnity; a Task which required no other Ability than that of Voice and Motion, and, perhaps, a demure Look.
Yet this Solemnity, this Exercise of the Auspices, hitherto confined to the Patricians, exclusive of the Plebeians, was one of the best Arguments for excluding the Plebeians from it for ever, and consequently from every considerable Office and Dignity in the State; since, without the Solemnity of the Auspices, no considerable Office could be exercised. This Reasoning in the Nobility was now very strange and unjust, upon several Accounts. For though, during the Monarchy, they enjoyed this exclusive Privilege, which was Part of the Constitution settled under Romulus; yet, when the Monarchy was abolished, the People, by whose Assistance the Change was effected, were intitled to new Advantages and Prerogatives, as well as the Patricians, who, having suffered more than the People in the Tyranny of Tarquin, had not only revenged and secured themselves by his Expulsion, which had been therefore concerted by them, but had gained from it all the Power and Pre-eminence of Royalty intirely to their own Body, as before I have observed. They were therefore become, by the Conjunction of Monarchy and Nobility, more than twice as great and strong as they had Both been whilst they were separate; as there could be no longer any Jarrings or Jealousy between the Claims and Prerogatives of King and Patricians, since the Patricians possessed both.
So that the People, instead of any Profit or Relief (unless such as was altogether precarious and momentary) from this Revolution, which they had readily helped to accomplish, were really in a worse State than before, by being subservient to a higher and more awful Power. Nor could Things last long upon this strange Foot of Inequality in a free City. How, or why, was Tarquin to be kept out by the People, if the People were still to be greater Slaves than they had been under Tarquin? Yet the Nobility had no other Way to keep up the Spirit of the People against Tarquin, and all Kings, but by the constant Cry of popular Liberty, and of the Tyranny of Kingship. Nor had the People much Cause to complain of Contempt, or hard Usage, whilst Tarquin was making constant Efforts to be restored, and forming continual Confederacies, amongst the neighbouring States, against Rome. But when all his Attempts, and those of his Allies, were defeated, as well by the Bravery of the Roman Soldiers, (that is to say, the Roman People) as by the good Conduct of the Patricians, and he and his Family were extinct, the Patricians began to shew, as all Men, and Bodies of Men, almost always do, that Power uncontrouled and enormous will, first or last, be enormously exerted(a) .
The People, whom the Patricians, out of Fear of Tarquin, had persuaded, that they were never free before, and had taught to love Liberty in Hatred to Tyranny, could not but be provoked, to find such, as seemed, hitherto, no more than their Counsellors and Coadjutors in the common Cause, acting, on a sudden, as their Masters; Men, who had lately been the great Orators and Champions for Liberty, setting up and practising Tyranny. The People, who had done more than They, in Defence of public Freedom, thought they had as good a Right to be free Themselves. What was this boasted Revolution to Them, if they derived no Benefit from it? It was exceeding hard, and even barbarous, that They, who exerted so much Bravery, and ventured their Lives, to accomplish it, should still be in a worse Condition than before; possessed of less Liberty; exposed to more Severity and Insults; nay, enthralled by those whom they had rescued from Thraldom. It was, indeed, very ungrateful in the Patricians towards their Deliverers: For what could They have done without the People? It was also unjust; because they imposed upon the People, what they would not suffer the King to impose upon Themselves: And was ill-judged; since how could they expect, that the People, who held in their Hands the Elements of Power; who created all Magistrates, and gave Sanction to all Laws; who were born to Liberty; and, having now redeemed it, expected to enjoy more than ever; who were armed, and brave; all bred Soldiers; and daily fighting for their Rights, Possessions, and Independency; would, all at once, bear Servitude, from such as they had just saved from Servitude; and be oppressed by those who were bound to protect them(a) ?
They bore it, in truth, for some time, with great Tameness: But it was ill Policy to think, that what they suffered for awhile, they would suffer always; and submit to any Degree of Hardship, because they had submitted to many Degrees. Sometimes the Transition is hardly perceiveable, from abused Patience to violent Resentment. It was manifest, from the Change of Behaviour in the Patricians, upon the Death of Tarquin, that their late popular Conduct had been only the Acting of a Part; and their Cry for public Liberty, no more than Cant and Grimace; whilst they were securing and engrossing to Themselves the same Domination which He had lost; but which, whilst He lived, They durst not avow.
When, therefore, they had Him no longer to fear, they no longer used the People with the same Respect and Tenderness; but, as if every Patrician had been a Tarquin, began to treat the People like Slaves, and subject them to Whips and Chains, according to the Extremity of the Law; a Law utterly inconsistent with the Genius of a free and brave People, and fit to have been abolished with the Tyranny of Tarquin, had Tyranny been abolished with the Tyrant. But the reasonable Claims and Redress of the People squared not with the domineering Views of the Nobles; who, bearing all the Names, Ensigns, and Offices of Power, treated the Plebeians as their Vassals, born to bear and obey.
The Plebeians, long oppressed, obtain a Remedy by Force; but a Remedy dangerous to the State.
THE Plebeians, who would have still submitted to the Patricians as their Magistrates, would not tamely suffer them as Oppressors: And, since they had such Heads, who thus unnaturally used and tortured the Limbs, they were advised and resolved to find other Heads, or, which is the same thing, Protectors, who were more nearly interested in the Preservation of the Body.
This will ever be the Case and Event, whilst Men are Men; all who are oppressed, will, where they can, relieve themselves from Oppression. If Magistrates will not be content with their proper Character, the Office of Protecting, but stretch that Office into Rigour and Violence, they who feel it will seek a Remedy, and, perhaps, find and apply one stronger than the Disease; and so cure a great Evil by one as great or greater. This is the natural Progress and Consequence of popular Reformations. The People seldom think of any, till they are quite inflamed; and then they are not fit to make any. The Roman Populace, with all the Merit that any People could have, had suffered as much as People could suffer, before they retired, and held a common Consultation, how to redress themselves. Every body knows the Story of their proposing and carrying the Establishment of Magistrates of their own, Tribunes of the People; Officers who avenged them, indeed, amply upon the Patricians, but who were likewise almost continually misleading them, violating the public Tranquillity; and who, though they helped to aggrandize, yet ruined the State.
This Reward had the Nobles, for their extravagant Pride and Contempt; for their engrossing all Power to Themselves, and exerting it without Bounds over the Commons. It was a strange Error in the Nobles, to think, that the Roman People, who made Laws and Magistrates, would not only remain without any Share in the Execution of the Laws, and any Lot or Advantage in their Choice of Magistrates, but even tamely bear the violent Abuse of Law, from Magistrates of their own Creation. Was it likely, that They, who had the legislative Power, would be content with an intire Exclusion from the Administration; and be Slaves to Officers created by Themselves? Upon the Expulsion of Tarquin, as it was a new State, new and proper Regulations should have been made; and an equal Administration settled, equally interesting to the whole Community; with a Set of Magistrates alike concerned for Nobles and Commons, without exclusive Views and Qualifications, and Names and Offices of Strife; such as the Tribunes of the People proved, extraordinary Officers, vested with the whole Authority of the People, and set up professedly to oppose and controul the whole Administration; which, at last, by this Authority, at first intirely negative, they usurped and swayed.
From hence it appears, that Governments are seldom equally balanced and perfect: They are, for the most part, Patch-work, seldom formed at once upon an honest, universal, and rational Scheme; but, generally, so established, at first, as to answer the ambitious Views of One, or a Few; or altered afterwards, according to present Necessity, and by extemporary Remedies; such as rather serve to give momentary Ease, and remove some glaring Symptoms, than to eradicate the Disease. The People, with whom instant Relief generally passes for a complete Cure, are apt to trust implicitly to the Skill and Management of the State-Physicians of the Time; whilst these Physicians contrive how to make the best Advantage of their Patients, and the Distemper; and, by flattering Medicines, and magnificent Promises, get the intire Direction of their Persons and Purses.
This may, indeed, at last, provoke the People to look out for other Doctors, and other Remedies, when they find themselves still sick and disordered, and, perhaps, worse, rather than better. But, as, where-ever they turn and apply, they must trust Somebody, they are not sure of being better used, or more effectually cured, by their new Physicians and Patrons; who, in order to serve them, must be trusted by them; and will thence have an Opportunity (which they seldom will neglect) of serving themselves at the Expence of such as employ them.
For the People are, generally, gained by the same Snares and Professions; and let them be ever so angry at one Man, or Party of Men, for abusing the Trust which they had reposed in them without Reserve, they are still ready to commit the same Trust, with equal Blindness, to their new Favourites; who, perhaps, have acquired their Confidence by deceiving them, and, in Requital for having acquired it, are determined to deceive them still more.
Thus the Roman People, finding themselves oppressed by Tarquin, heartily concurred with the Patricians in dethroning and expelling him, without taking any due Precautions against Oppression from the Patricians, in whose Hands the Kingly Power still continued. The poor Populace saw no farther than the Name, and the Man; and, both these being gone, they perceived nothing to hurt them, and, therefore, nothing to fear. But, as Power and Ambition seldom sleep, what they perceived not at first, they amply felt afterwards. The Patricians, delivered from the Tyranny of Tarquin, forgetting how insupportable they had found Tyranny to Themselves, as also, by whose Aid and Courage they had shaken it off, began to exercise it over the Plebeians without Mercy or Bounds. The Plebeians, finding, at length, that they had only changed One severe Master for Many, roused by ill Usage, and listening to their own Demagogues, sought Redress and Protection from the Creation of Plebeian Officers; who, afterwards, abused their Power, and, consequently, The People, as much as ever the Patricians had done; as will fully appear, when I come to discourse of the popular Tribunes.
This, however, excuses not the Patricians; who might easily have foreseen what their rigorous Rule would produce, amongst a People so magnanimous and determined. Their bearing it, in many Instances, and for some Time, proved not, that they would always bear it; but only, that they were not yet desperate. They, indeed, wanted but One Spark to set so many inflamed Spirits on a Blaze: This Spark was administered by Volero; and one more effectual could not have happened.
It might have seemed reasonable, that the Roman Soldiers, that is to say, the Commonalty of Rome, who were daily venturing their Lives against the public Enemies, and bringing home continual Victories, should have shared in the good Fortune of the State; and that they, who were the Authors and Instruments of public Safety, and public Honour, should have enjoyed Ease and Esteem at home. But they found a very different Lot and Recompence; and, in Return for Triumphs and Laurels, won by them for the Commonwealth, and as a Reward for Inlargement of her Territory, and Revenue, and Strength, they were treated with Whips and Gaols, and found themselves Slaves, for having, by the Price of their Blood, preserved their Country free. Such just Cause had they to ask as they did, ‘Were we in the Power of our Enemies, whom we have so often vanquished, could They treat us worse than these our Fellow-Citizens treat us?’
In the midst of such bitter Usage on one Side, and of such grievous Complaints on the other, the sad Sight, and mournful Tale, of a miserable Man, in the public Place, whither he had just broke from Chains and Stripes, drew the whole Body of Plebeians thither, and filled up the Measure of their Resentment and Horror: He was an antient Man, covered with all the Marks of Wretchedness, and barbarous Usage; his Apparel old and nasty; his Body emaciated; his Countenance wan and meagre; his Eyes hollow; his Hair matted and staring; all together a Figure frightful and shocking. The doleful Impressions which his Appearance made, were greatly heightened by what he said; ‘That, whilst he was serving his Country, in the War against the Sabines, his Grounds were utterly wasted and ruined by the Enemy, and produced him no Harvest; his Farm itself was burned; all his Goods plundered; and his Stock of Cattle carried off: Besides, having the public Assessment to pay, he had been forced to borrow: To discharge this Debt, increased by monstrous Usury, he had parted, first, with the Estate left him by his Ancestors; then, with what other Effects he had; at last, to complete his Calamity, had surrendered up his Body: That his Creditors, not satisfied with holding him in Servitude, had doomed him to Irons and Torture.’ Next, he made his Back bare, and there shew’d the recent Gashes and Impressions of the Lash; whilst upon his Breast there appeared large Sears of Wounds from the public Enemy, all thus honourable received before. Add, that he was well known by some of the Spectators; who said, that they had seen him bravely engaged as an Officer at the Head of his Men, and distinguished for his noble Exploits in War. Such were the Merits, such the Sufferings, of Volero.
What needed there more to blow up general Discontent into a Flame? Nothing was seen in Rome, but Dissention and Uproar. Yet the Plebeians were quieted, for the present, by some reasonable Condescensions, which were very little observed, and by fair Promises, never made good: So that the old Grievances, returning or continuing, revived the old Complaints and Disaffection; and the People, who would have been satisfied with very moderate Concessions honestly fulfilled, quite weary of trusting to Words, and utterly provoked by false Dealings, insisted upon, and obtained the Creation of such a new Power in the Commonwealth, as, by altering the old Balance, formed as it were another and a new Commonwealth, and terribly diminished the Authority of the Patricians, as well as mortified their Pride. It was but the Course of Things: They who domineer when they are uppermost, cannot be surprised, nor ought to complain, when they are undermost, to find Others domineer over Them. Every Man has a like Right to injure another; that is, no Right at all: But whoever begins the Exercise of Injustice, has the least Right or Pretence to cry out when he suffers it.
Of the Institution and Power of the popular Tribunes.
The blind Confidence of the People in the Tribunes: The Ambition, and violent Attempts, of those popular Leaders.
THE Roman People, who had hitherto suffered too much, seem now to have gained too much. For, though these their Tribunes were vested with a negative Power only, yet, as they exerted and applied it, (as it was easy to foresee they would) it was the Exercise of Government over the Government; since, whenever they pleased, they could (at least they did) by one short Word, suspend and interdict the whole Administration; command the great Council of the State to stand still, and not only oppose, but imprison the supreme Magistrates, alter their Titles and Number, dictate to the Grandees of the State, and even force the greatest of them, the Dictator himself, to abdicate his Charge. It was, indeed, owing to Accident, to the Stratagems, Reputation, and Spirit of the Nobility; to their superior Address, and Temporizing, and to the inveterate Reverence of the People towards the Patricians, that these popular Tribunes did not very early quite abolish the old Government, and set up another. At best, there was thenceforward but little, or short-lived Concord at Rome; much Strife, or the Seeds of Strife, continually subsisting: And as the Nobles, by wronging and oppressing the Plebeians, had driven them to Extremities, and unwisely put them upon trying their own Strength; the Plebeians made the Patricians soon feel that Strength, and with it that Resentment, which they had too long despised. It is the Consequence of Justice long delayed, and of Misery forced to seek its own Relief. They who are ill used, and denied just Relief, when thus driven upon finding it themselves, may likewise find the Means of returning it, perhaps twofold; nor is it to be wondered at, if they make that Return; neither are they to be blamed for it, any further than when, in doing it, they hurt Themselves in order to mortify Others, and enable the Instruments of their Vengeance to become the Instruments of their Oppression.
It is very true, that these many Feuds, and the continual Efforts of the popular Tribunes, occasioned many Wars and Conquests, and thence contributed to the Grandeur of Rome, as well as to furnish out many able Commanders and Statesmen. But this was an accidental Advantage, arising out of a real Evil; such as might have produced, and was often near producing, and did at last produce, utter Ruin and Dissolution. For a long while, neither Side could quite subdue the other, though engaged in a continual Struggle: And as soon as one came to be enslaved, it was by such means as enslaved the other too. Sylla, at the Head of the Nobility, mastered the Plebeian Party with Marius at their Head, but was also full as much Master of the Nobles. Cæsar, the Idol of the Commonalty, subdued Pompey and the Senate, but equally subdued the Commonalty too.
Parties are too angry, and consequently too blind, (for surely nothing is more blinding than Rage) to see any Designs in their Leader to their Disadvantage. It is only public Spirit that prompts him, and their Interest alone is the Measure of his Conduct. All his Professions are sincere, all his Harangues convincing, his Steps disinterested, and his Lyes and Flatteries so many Marks of Love and Truth. Thus they dance after their Demagogues to Bondage, and all the while cry Liberty, repeating it after Him, till He has carried Them (perhaps for ever) out of the Reach of Liberty, and made use of the Sound utterly to destroy the Substance. Spurius Melius, Marcus Manlius Capitolinus, and Spurius Cassius, all driving at Tyranny by the Cry of Liberty, were all popular, all beloved, and believed. Catiline had Liberty, Roman Liberty, in his Mouth, whilst his traiterous Heart was panting after Tyranny and Massacre, and the utter Extinction of the Roman State. And Cæsar, out of Fear and Tenderness for public Liberty, was zealous to save the bloody Accomplices of Catiline, even after the fullest Conviction, such as even the Arts and Eloquence of Cæsar could not baffle nor evade. That Catiline was popular, Sallust shews; and how popular Cæsar was, the World knows, as the Roman Commonwealth did, to her Sorrow and Subversion.
The Tribunes applied themselves early to the same Arts, with great Popularity and Success, cheating the People almost continually with deceitful Baits, inflaming them by seditious Harangues, and keeping them ever idle and turbulent. In truth, considering the ambitious Attempts and Views of the Tribunes, with their great Boldness in misleading and inflaming the People, and the great Credulity of the People, and their Proneness to be misled and inflamed; I cannot see, but that some extraordinary Revolution must have soon ensued, if, out of their own Number, a Remedy had not been found for their Fury, by gaining One, which it was not always hard to do out of Ten, to oppose, and consequently frustrate, the extravagant Projects of the rest. Though this Remedy was once afterwards taken away, in an extraordinary and violent Manner, by one of the famous Gracchi.
Reflections on the plausible Professions, and dangerous Conduct, of the Gracchi. Public Reformations, how cautiously to be attempted.
HAD these two illustrious Brothers, the Gracchi, proceeded much further, however virtuous at first their Motives may have been, and however crying the Injustice of the Nobles, I think the State must have been turned upside down, and some sudden Tyranny must have been the Lot of Rome; or, which is generally introductive of Tyranny, a cruel Civil War, with Invasion, and probably Conquest, from so many warlike Nations, exasperated against the Romans, for having been vanquished by them. It is certain, that the Spirits of Men, on both Sides, were furiously heated, and disposed to think no Measures, which promised Success or Assistance, unjust, or too sanguinary. When Things go this Length, as both Parties will always like their own Cause best, they will judge all Means lawful to support it; and, as Fury and Madness will be called Zeal, Calumny and Lyes will obtain Credit; Violence and Outrage will pass for Self-defence; Bloodshed and Massacre will bear the Title of Punishment; and all Wickedness and Barbarity will be done under the softest Names, and for the best Ends: As I have more fully explained in my Discourse upon Civil Wars.
Suppose the two Gracchi, whose Virtues and great Talents I honour, whose tragical Ends I lament and abhor, but whose Conduct seems to me to have had a very terrible Aspect and Tendency; I say, suppose them to have had the best Intentions upon Earth; it is most certain, that their Measures were such, as rendered each of them successively absolute Master of the Republic; a Situation, than which nothing can be more terrible to a free State; for it was then at his Mercy, whether it should be a State, or no; a plain Proof, that it was not free! Besides, they gave such alarming Proofs of their violent Spirit, as well as of their tremendous Power, that they seemed as little Masters of their own Temper and Ambition, as the State was of its own Authority. It is a dreadful Medicine, which is as likely to kill as to cure; and if there be certain Disorders incident to the Body, which cannot be extirpated without the Extirpation of Life, and are therefore to be endured; is it not more eligible to suffer certain Diseases in the Body Politic, even certain great Diseases, than attempt to remove them, by an Expedient much more likely to destroy than to reform it; or which, if it reform one Abuse, yet tends to introduce the most horrible of all Evils and Abuses, even Tyranny and Servitude?
Now, what is it that introduces this greatest of all Corruptions and Calamities, but the Power of one Man to do what he pleases? And was not Tiberius Gracchus that Man? Was not his Brother Caius, after him, such another Man? Their Professions were plausible; and the open and daring Abuses of the Nobility furnished them with fair Pretences. But who knows their Intentions, the Intentions of two very able and very powerful Men, animated by Vengeance, as well as by Justice, and aiming avowedly at the Abasement, probably at the Destruction, of the Senate, as well as at the Relief of the poor Plebeians? Were they, or could they be, Masters of their own Intentions? As they could not foresee all Difficulties, neither could they foresee what Expedients they must be forced upon to overcome them. For they seemed determined to carry their Point at all Adventures, and therefore to try every Means proper for such a Purpose.
Now, suppose nothing less than the Power of Sylla, and of Cæsar, would have been found sufficient, namely, Power absolute and continued, that is, downright Tyranny; would they have submitted, and dropped their Point? I cannot see, from their obstinate Behaviour, and violent Measures, that they would. Or, if they had openly assumed the supreme Power in Form, as they did in Effect, they would have said, (and perhaps then might have meant what they said) that there was no other Way of humbling the Nobles, and restoring the Commons; and that when they had accomplished this End, they would lay it down: And yet would have found afterwards, full as good Reasons for prolonging it, even for their own Ambition and Security, and that of their new Establishments; that is to say, for ever. It was the Plea and Practice of Cromwell. He made Reformation a Stale for Usurpation: When he had mounted the Throne, he found it unsafe, as well as unpleasant, to descend; never pretended to hold his Power always, but only till a Godly thorough Settlement was made; how soon, or how late, He only was to judge; and in the mean time, retained his sovereign Authority to keep the Peace, and carry on the Work of Reformation.
I dread all such Reformations, as are only to be effected by the arbitrary Will, and unaccountable Humour, of one Man, by a Power too nor delegated, but taken. I would rather see many Abuses subsist, than a Cromwell, a Pisistratus, a Cæsar, or (it you will) a Gracchus, assuming lawless Power to redress them. Indeed, in all Revolutions, the most necessary and best, there are Evils and Inconveniencies more than enow(a) .
The Provocation given by the Nobles was, indeed, very great, and their Oppressions shocking; as They were, in the Face and Defiance of all Law and Compassion, possessed of all that Portion of the conquered Lands, which was appointed for the Subsistence of the poor Plebeians, who had carned them with their Swords. The Usurpers were rioting in overgrown Wealth, Pomp, and Luxury; whilst the poor Romans, who daily exposed their Lives for the Safety and Aggrandizing of these their Oppressors, by being deprived of their Property, wanted Bread. There could therefore be nothing more just, nothing more equitable, or more conducing to mutual Peace amongst Fellow-Citizens, and to the Equality so necessary in a free State, where the overgrown Riches, and consequently Power, of One, or a Few, tend directly to the Enthralling of All, than the Ascertaining the Agrarian Law, and Restoring the usurped Lands to the injured and necessitous Proprietors.
But the Evil was inveterate, and far spread; all the great Men in the Commonwealth were engaged in Pride and Interest to support it, and to oppose every Remedy: Since whatever removed That, must reduce Them; and terribly shorten their Property, their Figure, and Authority.
Lælius, that accomplished Roman, the celebrated Friend of the great Scipio Africanus, as virtuous and public-spirited a Man as either of the Gracchi, and, I think, more wise, was sensibly touched with the same Grievances, which so much piqued Them, and, whilst he was Tribune of the People, conceived a Design to cure them; but gave it over, upon a View of its extreme Difficulty and Peril. Had he seen any Prospect of succeeding, by Methods that were not desperate, and threatening to the Commonwealth, it is likely he would have pursued his Intention. Surely the Temptation was great to an honest and humane Mind, to make the Rich and Wanton restore the Bread, which they had robbed from the Poor and Innocent, to cut up daring Oppression by the Roots, to restore the baffled Laws to their former Force, and to establish a just and equal Administration in a free Commonwealth. But he would not attempt what he foresaw no Man could accomplish, without making himself Master of all the rest; and particular Acts of Injustice, perhaps, seemed to him more tolerable than the Tyranny, that is, the Power, of One over All. The Gracchi actually assumed and exercised that Power, which, had not They been destroyed, would, in all Likelihood, have destroyed the Republic. Machiavel observes, that whenever the People are brought to admire and extol a Man, only because he has Power to punish their Enemies; if he prove but selfish and able, their Liberty is lost, and he may usurp the supreme Power when he pleases. For, by the Assistance of the People, he may master the Nobility; and, when the Nobility are depressed, it will not be difficult to him to enslave the People; who will then have no Resource of Succour or Support.
The Gracchi breathed the true Spirit of the Tribunitial Power, ever turbulent and aspiring, ever producing popular Tyrants. It was a Power which seemed very small at first, since they who had it appeared lower than the lowest Magistrates, and were, indeed, without any Mark or Name of Magistracy, without Jurisdiction over their Fellow-Citizens, and without any Tribunal, or particular Habit, or the Power of calling Assemblies. They were dressed like common Men, sat without the Senate, attended by one Serjeant; and their sole Business and Authority was, to observe, that nothing passed there contrary to the Interest of the Plebeians. So that their whole Power was Negative, and comprised in one short Word, I forbid; a Word capable of being terribly extended; as, indeed, it soon, and always was.
The boundless Power assumed by the Tribunes: With what Boldness and Iniquity they exercise it. The People still their Dupes.
THE Power of the Tribunes grew so enormous, that, under that Title, the Emperors, afterwards, held and maintained their Usurpation, which they chose to call by the Name of the Tribunitial Power, as the greatest Power known to the free State, and moreover familiar, and even acceptable, to the People. This was one of the Arts of Augustus, and practised, by all his Successors, down to Constantine. The Title of King, and that of Dictator, were odious: That therefore of the Tribuneship, comprehending full as much Power, was adjudged more safe; besides that, it was declared, from the Beginning; sacred and inviolable. This shews to what a Height and Immensity this Office must have grown, when Princes, usurping and arbitrary Princes, entertained so high a Conceit of it, and esteemed it sufficient to denote and support their lawless Power.
The Tribunes began early to manifest what copious Authority they meant to draw from their short Commission. They assembled the People, harangued, governed, and inflamed them; commanded the Senate to meet, controuled, interrupted, and insulted it; arraigned the highest Patricians, and ordered the Consuls (the supreme Magistrates of the State) into Custody. All this oppressive, and indeed destructive Power, they found in an Office instituted only to prevent Oppression. They would mend the Government by Misrule, protect the Plebeians by oppressing the Nobility, and lead the People by misguiding and oppressing them(a) . Their greatest Credit consisted in fomenting continual Misunderstanding between the People and Senate; and, as the People would scarce ever receive Information but from their Tribunes; the Tribunes seldom gave them any Information that was true, and thus became their Favourites for deceiving them. A Case by no means new in the World, nor likely to grow old.
They seemed to think themselves created to crush and persecute the Patricians, whom they were only to check and balance; and to alarm and deceive the Commons, whose great Interest it was to be quiet and free. The Senate, the great Council, and one of the two Limbs of the State, was to be lopped off, or laid aside, or rendered intirely useless, and the State itself to be disabled and mutilated, and consequently the Constitution changed, to make Way, not for a popular Government, but for the furious and unnatural Sway of a few Demagogues, naturally and necessarily ending in the Tyranny of One. The unrepresented Multitude never can govern; and a few Individuals, representing and governing the Multitude, generally govern for Themselves, against the Interest of the Whole, and cannot hold long; but must either be all removed, or will soon remove each other, and leave the Whole in the Hands of One; and then the Multitude, who at first were Principals, and gave all the Power, will be Slaves to the Power of One.
Popular Sovereignty (I mean the Populace not duly represented) is popular Licentiousness, which is destructive of regular Liberty; and tends directly to what it seems, at least sounds, least like, the lawless Sovereignty of a single Man. So that he, who, with this View, takes off all Bonds and Restraints from the People, will soon have an Opportunity to bring them under the most severe and strongest of all, even the Bonds of Servitude. Anarchy can never last long any-where, and is always more likely to end in the Government of Will than that of Laws. During such a State, the People are too mad to be well advised, and are therefore fit to be mastered. Though the Many have no Art, some Few amongst them may have a great deal; and amongst these Few, One may have more Cunning, or more Success, than the Rest. Now, as Anarchy generally ends in Tyranny, great Licentiousness produces Anarchy.
How could popular Tranquillity, and consequently civil Liberty, which delights in Quiet, be secured at Rome where these popular Leaders were, for their own Ends and Importance, continually transporting and affrighting the People? Soon after their Creation, two of them, Brutus and Sicinius, took Occasion from a public Calamity, (a proper Conjuncture for raising popular Tumults) to publish a mischievous Lye, ‘That the Patricians, by keeping their Granaries full, had caused the Dearth, and consequently the Famine, that prevailed, as it furnished them with an Opportunity of selling Corn at an exorbitant Price.’ For this, they represented the Patricians as Extortioners, and hard-hearted Tyrants, who thus aimed at swallowing up what small Portions yet remained of Land and Substance to the poor Plebeians, or at starving all the Plebeians in general. For this Famine there was an obvious Cause, as the Tribunes well knew, even the wilful Idleness and Neglect of the People themselves, who, when they retired from Rome with an Intention to settle elsewhere, had left their Fields uncultivated, and occasioned their own want of Bread. But the Tribunes were sensible, that any Falshood, however gross, would pass with the Multitude, who were starving and credulous. These Sons of Sedition traduced and decried the Government with one only View, even that they themselves might come to be Governors.
Indeed, these Tribunes carried most of their Points by downright Impudence, and by Lyes, confidently spread to terrify the People, and incense them against the Senate. The Tribune Volscius procured Cæso, Son of the famous Quintus Cincinnatus, that brave old Captain, and frequent Deliverer of his Country, to be condemned for a Fact which he never committed; as was afterwards fully proved, when the vile Falsifier was punished with perpetual Exile for having forged it. This lying Accuser charged Cæso, before the People, with having killed a Brother of his. For this the credulous People, deceived and exasperated by their Tribune, doomed Cæso to Banishment, and a Fine; and to pay this Fine, the venerable old Patriot, so often Consul and Dictator, sold the best Part of his Estate, and was forced to retire to a poor Hovel beyond the Tiber, and there cultivate, with his own Hands, Five Acres of Ground for his Subsistence.
When the Tribunes found, that the blind Croud swallowed greedily every Lye against the Senate, they contrived a Plot to destroy the greatest Part of that venerable Body at once, by accusing them of a sham Conspiracy to destroy a great Part of the People. This pretended Plot of the Senate against the People, and their Magistrates the Tribunes, was carefully imparted to the Populace, who believed it all, though it was all a most mischievous Fiction. Nay, the Tribunes had the Assurance to repair to the Senate, and, in a formal and pathetic Speech, to represent it to the Fathers. But both in the Senate, and before an Assembly of the People, the pretended Conspiracy was finely and successfully exposed, and the Absurdity and Improbability of it so fully demonstrated, that it turned highly to the Disgrace of the Framers. But, though all People of Sense and Condition were abundantly convinced, the Rabble, ever stupid and deluded, persisted in believing it, without once suspecting it to be, what it really was, a shocking Device of these their Idols, to increase and confirm their Dominion over them. So that they were not Magistrates, but eternal Fomenters of Discord; a Character which destroys that of a Magistrate.
It was evident, that their noisy Zeal for the People, and the Liberties of the People, was Grimace; when they were doing what was ruinous to popular Liberty, by raising continual Seditions, and attempting, as they often did, sometimes avowedly, to perpetuate themselves in their Office. But still the Multitude were convinced, that all these pestilent Doings and Designs were for their Benefit. If the Tribune Sextius had not known them to be the grossest Dupes in Nature, he could not have treated them with such egregious Insult and Scorn as he did, by declaring to their Faces, when, having been once disappointed of the Consulship, he sued for it a second time; ‘If We, the Tribunes, obtain not the Consulship by your Help, you shall never obtain the Division of the Lands, nor the Discharge of your Debts, by ours.’ But even this selfish Declaration cured not the People of their wild Partiality for Sextius; though by it he forfeited all Title to Modesty and public Spirit, and all just Pretence to Popularity.
It may not, perhaps, be impertinent to observe here, that these Declaimers, who filled Rome with their Assemblies, their Swaggering, and their Harangues, Men, so bold at the Head of a Multitude, and professing such Vigilance for the public Weal, never once shewed their Faces, nor were their Names mentioned, when the brave Coriolanus, driven from Rome by their Invectives, was returned thither at the Head of an Army, to take Vengeance on them. It was much safer to abuse him in the Forum, than to meet him in the Field; and whilst he was pursuing, and might have effected, the Destruction of the Republic, the Tribunes, whose Tongues could not then avail them, yet had now recourse to no better Weapon; that is to say, To none; and expected the Event with Submission and Silence. When they had escaped that terrible Blow, not by any Address or Prowess of theirs, instead of blushing for their late Behaviour, and retiring till it might be forgot, they soon resumed their old Strains and Practice of Pertness and Sedition. Indeed, they proposed some things that were reasonable and just; as the worst Tyrants have sometimes made good Laws, whilst their Conduct upon the Whole was lawless and violent.
Nor did the Tribunes lose any Opportunity of boasting their popular Services, and heightening their own Merit. They likewise took all Occasions, to depreciate and revile the Senate and Magistracy, to represent them in constant Combination against the Commonalty, and themselves as their great Protectors. So that the People were kept by them in an everlasting Ferment, in a Flame of various Passions, Partiality, Aversion, Fear, and Jealousy. Neither is it to the Reputation of these Tribunes with Posterity, that they were assiduous to procure Information of the Transactions and Passages in private Families, (the sure Sign of a mean and spiteful Spirit!) whence to raise and aggravate ill-natured Reports; all to make the Patricians odious, or contemptible.
Was Rome, thus constituted, thus agitated and tumultuous, a well composed State, properly balanced and secure?
OfPublic Corruption;particularly that of the Romans.
The Interest of Virtue, and of the Public, every Man’s Interest.
THERE are, in Sallust, so many Reflections about public Corruption, such strong Instances of it at Rome, not only in the People, but amongst the great Men, who ought to have been the soundest of all, and Patterns of Probity to the rest of the Commonwealth; especially of their Venality, during the Jugurthine War; and public Corruption is in itself of such fatal Effect; that I shall take it into large Consideration in the following Discourse.
Whoever would cure public Evils and Corruption, can never do it so effectually, as by convincing such who promote them, that whatever is injurious to their Country is likewise prejudicial to Themselves; whether they consider their Innocence, or their Fame, or the Permanence and Stability of their Family and Fortune. This seems, to me, so true, that I cannot, in all History, recollect an Instance which does not confirm it. That no Man can be called happy, who betrays public Trust, or enslaves his Country, is as certain, as that there is such a Thing as Happiness or Unhappiness, such a Thing as Honour or Dishonour, in the World: Where there is no Virtue, there can be no Merit nor Praise; neither can there be any Breach of Trust, or Failure of Duty, without Reproach and Infamy: Besides that, it is often accompanied, as it ought to be, with personal Peril and Ruin: But this Peril is not the greatest Peril; that of losing Honour and Reputation, and inward Peace, is by much the most terrible. Virtue, and a good Name, is the best Wealth: It is Wealth which cannot perish; and he who is rich in Virtue, can never be poor: Whereas the Man who is rich without it, still labours under the worst of all Poverty, and is liable withal to lose his Treasures and Revenues; and, when these are gone, what remains to comfort or support him? In his highest Pomp and Prosperity; all Men of Sense and Probity despise him; and, when deserted by Fortune, even the Vulgar ridicule and scorn him. This was the Fate of that miserable Voluptuary the Emperor Vitellius; who had earned such Infamy by the Vileness of his Life, that the Manner of his Death, though very sad and tragical, procured him no Compassion. So true is that Maxim of the Philosopher’s, ‘That only is miserable, which is base and dishonest.’
The good, the upright Man, he whose Heart is pure, whose Hands are clean, has a continual Resource in himself, out of the Reach of Power or Fortune. The Man who keeps his Integrity, and does his Duty, is always sure of one Reward, even when he is oppressed, persecuted, and ungratefully used. To be conscious of having acted virtuously, is a Reward for Virtue; such a Reward as the Power and Malice of Men cannot obstruct nor diminish. And where this Recompence is wanting, any other Recompence, however splendid and sounding, is but Farce and Mockery, Satire and Reproach: It is like melted Gold poured down the Throat of a Miser; it is like loading a Traitor with Bags of Money, till he expire under the Wages of his Treason.
There have been Men distinguished with very high Titles and Preferments, for Actions which merited Gibbets and Dungeons: But what Man of Sense or Honour would have chosen their miserable Lot? Their unnatural Exaltation only added to the former Detestation of their Persons and Crimes; and they were considered as double Criminals, for having usurped and defiled the Rewards only due to Merit, to cover their Deformity, and adorn their Guilt. Had they any Pleasure in such bloated Greatness? Then they were stupid, and in the Condition of the lowest and most unperceiving Quadrupeds; a Situation not to be envied; indeed, to a reasonable Being, worse, and more wretched, than Non-existence. At best, they were seared, and had hardened their Hearts with such a continual Bent to Vice, to depraved Habits, and the Repetition of Crimes, as to be insensible, that Wickedness was wicked, and that Crimes were criminal.
Can a higher, or more shocking Curse than this befall a Man, to become an habitual Enemy to Virtue, and, consequently, to Men, and human Society; and to be continually abandoned to a Passion for Evil and Mischief? This is the Character and Curse of a Dæmon; yet it is a Character which is too often found amongst the Sons of Men: And if they find no Delight at all in these their unsuitable Trappings, but still feel their own pungent Guilt, in the midst of all that Glare intended to hide it from others, then are these Trappings only fresh Burdens; which, by being wickedly obtained, do but bring new Guilt and Pain; and their Dignities and Distinctions are so many importunate Monitors and Remembrances, how little they deserve them, and how much they deserve another and an opposite Lot.
Prosperity, Wealth, and Power, cast a false Lustre upon Characters, and disguise Crimes and Defects, especially from the Eyes of the Rabble: But when that faise Lustre is lost in the Loss of what caused it; that is to say, when the Prosperity of the Guilty ceases; such Crimes and Defects become apparent, exposed, and hated. All Men then see, what wise Men always saw, that where there was no real Merit, there could be no real Honour or Fame. Imagine any Two Men, one vicious and criminal, but continually prosperous; the other virtuous and innocent, but always unfortunate, or rather unsuccessful; which of these Two Characters would appear the more eligible to a wise Man? Undoubtedly the latter, at first Sight; for Vice and Wickedness are the highest Misfortune; and Virtue brings Felicity, even in Distress.
The fatal Tendency of public Corruption. The Public sometimes served by encouraging private Corruption. Other Means of Corruption, beside that of Money. Corruption sometimes practised by such who rail at it; in some Instances, by good Men, who hate it.
BY all that I have said in the foregoing Section, I mean only to introduce a Discourse upon Corruption, which is the Subject I purpose to pursue; an interesting Subject, since, by Corruption, every thing is changed, and, at last, consumed. Even War and Violence do not bring Ruin with more Certainty, nor, indeed, with so much Certainty: For Violence may be resisted and bassled; but Corruption, by continually wasting and weakening the Parts, must, without a Cure, infallibly, at last, destroy the Whole. Corruption, moreover, invites Violence; since such is the Nature of Man, that there are ever too many ready to seize and usurp whatever is destitute of Defence; and thus tempts their Ambition, or Avarice, with a Prospect of Success. This World, which has been so full of Revolutions ever since the Beginning of it, at least, since the Beginning of Records, would, perhaps, have afforded very few, had the several States in it been administered with constant Virtue and Probity, had the Magistrates done their Duty with Capacity, Vigilance, and Vigour.
This is the Method, these the Qualifications, for rendering a State prosperous and secure: And where these are wanting in any State, that State will certainly grow impotent and contemptible; and thence the Prey of some bold domestic Traitor, or of some foreign Invader. Nations the most populous and rich, when debased by Corruption, have never proved a Match for a People, however small and poor a People, who still possessed their primirive Integrity and Spirit. Happy is that Nation, where the Government is so formed, as to admit no Corruption! A Happiness, I doubt, not be hoped for; and, therefore, happy is that People, who, though they be in a good measure corrupt, yet preserve their civil Liberties long, as some such People have done; those of Athens, and some others: Yet, even there, Liberty was daily declining, according to the Progress of Corruption, and always sure to be utterly lost at last.
No doubt, there is great Analogy between private Morals and the Morals of a State; and, consequently, between public and private Corruption; yet they are far from being universally the same; since sometimes the Public is helped, and even saved, by encouraging private Acts of Dishonesty; such as bribing secret or public Enemies with Money, or (which is the same thing) with Promises, to betray their Trust, and to discover the Secrets of their Country or Party, contrary to their Honour, and, perhaps, their Oath. If this be a great Breach upon private Conscience, and private Morals, to encourage Perjury and Falshood, it would be a greater Breach of public Conscience and Morals, to risque the State, or any great public Advantage, for want of it; and, in the Casuistry of a State, the greater Good cancels the smaller Evil: Nor does he who practises it, sin, though he make others sin. It is immoral and cruel, causlesly to take away the Life of a single Citizen; but it is justifiable, to expose many thousand Lives for the Defence of the Public, and the Whole; because the Care of the Whole, which is better than a Part, is the Business and Duty of Governors, who would be unworthy of that Character, if, out of a false Tenderness for Blood, they should venture All, rather than Some. It is the same with Ministers who hire Spies; that is, People to lye and cheat for them, and bribe foreign Ministers and Generals to betray Counsels and Armies to them. Without such Practices they could not serve their Country as they ought; and what is their Duty cannot be a Crime, nor omitted without a Crime.
The same Reasoning holds, when applied to the secret and subdolous means of frustrating domestic Traitors and Treason; namely, the Hiring some to betray the rest, and misleading them all, by fair Speeches, and false Appearances: How, else, are any hostile Designs from Abroad, or any close Conspiracy at Home, to be detected and prevented? What other Part had Cicero to take with the dreadful Conspiracy of Catiline? Was he ever blamed by any Man of Candour or Honesty, for gaining over one of the Conspirators, by great Promises, and great Sums of Money, to betray the rest; or for persuading the Allobrogian Deputies to express a violent Passion for the Conspiracy, and to promise copiously to the Conspirators? Or was he ever censured for bribing Antonius, his Collegue, with a Government better than that which he kept to Himself, in order to secure to the State a Man very corrupt, and otherwise wavering, or rather inclining to dangerous Courses? For this, too, is the Duty of Governors, when public Men will not do their Duty to the Public, or are, perhaps, disposed to betray their Trust, and the Public too, and yet cannot be removed or secured, to apply even to their worst Passions, and hire them to be honest, since they value not Honesty, and love Hire.
Whatever tends to save or secure the Public, or to mend its Condition, is not Corruption; even though it may be effected by the Assistance of corrupt Men, and by Means that are called corrupt, and may be so in Him to whom they are applied, but cannot be so in Him that thus profitably applies them; because, by such Men, and such Means, he serves, nay, often saves, the State. It is Corruption, true and terrible Corruption, whatever is practised to save the Guilty and the Corrupt, (except where they have been the Instruments of public Good) to set some above the Law, to deprive others of its Protection, and to destroy the Force of the Laws. But it cannot be Corruption in a just Man, to hire a venal Man to do his Duty, and serve the Public, if nothing but Hire will induce him. If corrupt Men will not save nor serve their Country, without corrupt Motives, the just Ministers of the Public are not corrupt, but still just, in furnishing them with such Motives. He to whom they apply them is, indeed, corrupt; but though they hate Corruption, and corrupt Men, ever so much, yet, in Justice to their Country, they must procure Men to serve it how they can. It is great Pity, that this should ever be the Case; but I fear it is often so.
In all Events, none but virtuous, none but public-spirited Men are to be vested with such a tender Trust. A corrupt Man, employed in corrupt Measures, is more likely to apply them to hurt the State, than to save it; and what is continually hutting it, will, at last, destroy it. It is, indeed, a terrible Sign, when Men, especially public Men, refuse to serve or assist the State without private Considerations, which, upon such Occasions, are always sordid Considerations. Whoever will not act for the Public, when his Duty calls him to it, without a Reward, will be presumed ready to act against the Public for a Reward: And he who has the Distribution of such Rewards, is Master of all such venal Spirits, and consequently of the Public. Though even these venal Men may not at first mean to distress, much less to ruin their Country, yet an able Man, who has gained their Confidence; and purchased their Affections, may so far blind and engage them, that they will, they must, go all and the worst Lengths. Many of Cæsar’s Creatures, many of Cromwell’s, never dreamed of seeing the one Protector, or the other perpetual Dictator.
Corruption in a State is a Deviation from our Duty to the Public, upon private Motives. Nor are such Motives confined to Money, or Place, or Favour. Whoever prefers his Anger, or his Ambition, or his Hopes, or his Popularity, to his Duty to the Public, is as corrupt as he who postpones the Public to Gain; and Avarice, as distasteful and sordid a Passion as it is, does not more Hurt than other Passions with more pleasing Names, such as Liberality, Clemency, and the Love of Applause. Cæsar was not reckoned avaricious; Crassus was. But Cæsar corrupted Rome more by his Liberality, than Crassus did, or could, by Avarice; since Avarice only corrupts the Heart that entertains it, and therefore avaricious Men cannot be terrible to a State, otherwise than by plundering it, which they seldom have Credit enough to do. But, as Liberality is popular, the liberal Man is the most likely Man to rob his Country, as Cæsar actually did.
Sometimes Corruption is boldly charged upon others, by those who are themselves exceedingly corrupt. Thus Marius grew popular at Rome, by accusing the Patricians as corrupt, which, indeed, was true; and by railing at Corruption, for which there was ample Cause. But it ill suited his Mouth; for he himself proved as corrupt a Knave, as he did a bloody and a revengeful Savage, false, ungrateful, and void of Faith. He first railed at Bribery, and afterwards procured the Consulship, especially his latter Consulships, by Bribes; and, by Force of Bribing, kept Metellus, that excellent Person, Patriot, and Commander, from being Consul.
Catiline complained of Corruption in the Administration, at the very Time when he was corrupting all the Youth at Rome, with all his debauched and deluded Followers there, to destroy the Roman State. Indeed, most of the Traitors, and the greatest Incendiaries in Rome, professed Zeal and Concern for their Country, and charged the best Friends to it with Corruption, whilst they themselves were meditating Destruction to their Country, and all its best Friends. Nay, some of them, such as Titus Manlius, Spurius Cassius, and Spurius Mælius, even when they were doomed to die, as Enemies to their Country, appealed to the People, with notable Confidence, in the Style of their Patrons and Friends; as if they had been Victims only for the Sake of the Multitude, for whom they were preparing the Bitterest of all Calamities to a Roman, even Bondage!
Some Corruptions in the State to be borne, rather than removed by the Introduction of greater.
THE Transactions of this World, especially Transactions of State, are more Problematical than is generally thought or considered; and the truest Virtue may, at some Conjunctures, be exerted preposterously. No Man ever questioned that of Cato; his Virtue is become Proverbial. Yet, by carrying it further than the Times would bear, he sometimes hurt what he loved beyond his Life, even Liberty, and his Country. By this means, at one time, he lost to the Public the Body of the Roman Knights; a very powerful Body, and, till then, well disposed to assist against the exorbitant Power of Pompey and Cæsar. This was a great Consideration, superior to all others. But Cato gave is up, rather than allow them some Mitigation in a Bargain, for a Part of the Public Revenue. I forget whether he gained this small Point; sure I am, that, by insisting upon it, he lost a much greater. That great Body, thus piqued, fell instantly into the Arms of the first Triumvirate, who knew how to humour and prize them. So truly might Cicero say of Cato—optimo animo utens & summa fide, nocet interdum Reipub. dicit enim tanquam in πολιτείᾳ Platonis sententiam.
Cato hated all Corruption, Public and Private, and could not bear to see the Commonwealth wronged by the Farmers of her Revenue; nor the Roman Knights, who were such, grow rich at her Expence, and commit notorious Abuse and Oppressions, as they often did, as well as often refuse to comply with the Terms of their own Bargain. It was, in truth, melancholy and affecting, to consider how mercilesly these public Farmers squeezed and devoured the People in the Provinces, and to what cruel Extremities they drove them, even to sell their Children to satisfy the Tax-gatherers. Lucullus therefore deserved immortal Praise, for causing these poor People to be redressed; the more for the powerful Enmity which he incurred for such Mercy and Beneficence. It incensed the whole Equestrian Order, who thenceforward laboured his Downfal. For, Men who gain by Injustice, always think it unjust to be restrained from it. Such Injustice and Baseness in the public Farmers provoked the honest Mind of Cato. But he carried his Honesty further than the Times would bear, and, with an upright Design to assist the State, hastened its Fall.
Just so acted Appius the Censor. He, indeed, exercised that high Office with strict and severe Justice. But, whilst he attended to Justice only, he overlooked Reasons of State, which are often just, though they quadrate not with the simple and exact Ideas of Justice. For, by degrading many Senators of Distinction, though it was what in Strictness they deserved, he notably weakened the Republican Party; that is to say, his own Party, for which he was sincerely zealous; and consequently strengthened that of Cæsar, which he equally hated and opposed. Appius set cordially about the Cure of Corruption; and, by doing it, contributed to bring in universal Corruption, even the Domination of Cæsar, and Perdition to the Commonwealth.
Sylla, to secure himself from future Vengeance, for his present Cruelties and Oppression, made a Law, which excluded from all public Offices, the Children of all such Romans as he had proscribed. What was this but adding one Wickedness to another, and perpetuating his Cruelty? Could there be more apparent Justice, than to abolish that unrighteous and barbarous Law? Yet, when Sylla was dead, the Repeal of it was opposed by such as hated Sylla and his Power, even by the best and wisest Men in Rome; and for wise and just Reasons. For, had the Children of the Proscribed been restored to a Capacity for Employments, they might have been led, by their Resentment, to have cancelled all other Laws, all the useful Laws passed under Sylla, and thence brought great Disorder into the State.
The Abuse of Liberty, by turning it into Licentiousness, is Corruption, such Corruption as threatens, because it often brings, public Ruin; and therefore it is wise and just to cure it, in any Way consistent with Liberty. But it would be a much greater Corruption, to cure popular Licence by establishing Tyranny; that is, by giving absolute Power to one Man to prevent the Abuse of Liberty in many.
Whatever weakens the Power of a State, is Corruption, however righteous and plausible it may appear: Whatever preserves or increases its internal Strength, cannot be Corruption, though it may appear harsh and immoral. It is just to cut off a Limb to save the whole Body; as it would be unjust to expose the Body, to perish for the Sake of saving the Limb. When Spurius Mælius, who attempted to make himself Tyrant of Rome, could not be brought to Justice in the ordinary Way, whilst he was protected by the Multitude, whom he had bought and cheated by deceitful Acts of Liberality; it was necessary, and therefore just, to take away his Life by an extraordinary Power. Yet it was also just, because necessary, to forbear all Inquiry after his Adherents; because they were supposed to be very many; and it was judged rash, to make very many Citizens desperate.
The Rule and Art is, to make the Remedy strong enough for the Disease, without being too strong for the Patient. Cæsar and Crassus were engaged in the Conspiracy of Catiline, and it was just to have arraigned them for it; but it was not expedient, because not safe; for then the Criminals, many and powerful as they were, might have been too strong for the Prosecutors and the State. It was therefore just to spare them, however guilty. Yet it would have sounded well Abroad, and been a notable Topic for railing at Cicero, and charging him with Partiality and Corruption, in having passed by, or rather protected, the most Mighty of all the Traitors, and therefore the most Dangerous. But Cicero, who aimed only at saving his Country, was constrained to connive at some who were leagued to destroy it.
Caius Piso was one of the worst Men in Rome, a powerful and a desperate Incendiary, an Accomplice of Catiline, ready for all public Mischief, and more worthy of a Dungeon than Preferment; yet, was sent into Spain with supreme Command. This must surely seem very wrong and unjustifiable. There were, however, many worthy Citizens, and even Patriots, who approved it, and were pleased with it, for a powerful political Reason; namely, that he was a Man, who, from his Figure, Spirit, and Character, might serve to balance and check the overgrown Power of Pompey, become now altogether formidable.
The purchasing Votes at Rome, for public Employments, was justly restrained by strong and severe Laws; as what had a direct Tendency to ruin any State. Yet that Practice, wicked in most Circumstances, became necessary in some, and countenanced by the most virtuous Romans. Thus, when Cæsar, who had already given so many Proofs of a Genius utterly lawless and aspiring, was suing for the Consulship by Money, and all Methods of Corruption, such as wished well to the Public, and opposed him, thought it no Corruption to oppose him by the like Means, and, by a Contribution of Money, to assist Bibulus his Competitor. Even Cato owned, that bribing the Centuries against him conduced to the Security and Interest of the Commonwealth.
I am far from making, or intending by what I have said, any Apology for Corruption. I hate Corruption as much as I love what it tends to destroy, Liberty, Peace, and Justice. I mean only to shew, that what sounds like Corruption, may not be Corruption; and that it is not so much the Act, as the Characters and Designs of Men, that constitute it. I have owned every such Act to be Corruption in him to whom it is applied; but contend, that it may be otherwise in him who honestly and usefully applies it.
It was Corruption in Catiline, to bribe Men to promote his Interest against the Interest of the State: But it was public Spirit in Cicero, to gain Men by Money to serve the State against the treasonable Designs of Catiline.
How hard to prevent Corruption, where the Means of Corruption are found.
SUCH is the Nature of Man, and of Society, that where-ever the Means of Corruption are found, the Exercise of it will soon follow. Rome was at first Virtuous from Necessity, very Poor, almost always in War and Danger. Poverty, and Equality, (which is often the Effect of Poverty, especially in new Establishments, before the Pride of Blood and Lineage begins) proved her Defence for some time against Ambition. She had no Trade, no Money, no Room or Materials for Luxury. Temperance and Frugality naturally followed Necessity. Iron, the best Instrument in forming and preserving their State, was more esteemed than Gold, which Men seldom love, till it has hurt them; that is, taught them by Use to desire more than they want. They had no slavish Dependents; for the Relation of Patron and Client implied no more than a kind Intercourse of Protection and Duty. Each supported Himself; for none were able then to support Many, and thence to draw numerous Dependencies. Liberty was their great Passion; Virtue had all Opportunities of shining, none of being debauched and enervated. But their Habits changed with their Condition; they first grew less Virtuous, then Vicious, at length Abandoned. It is the Course and Fate not of Romans only, but of Men.
Just so it fared with the Saracens, at first Poor, Virtuous, and Self-denying; afterwards, very Voluptuous, from being very Rich. Omar, the second Caliph, was such an Admirer of their former Condition of Meanness in Equipage, Living, and Dress, that in his Progress to the Camp at Jerusalem, besieged by his Army, the same Camel carried him and his Provisions, a Couple of Sacks, one holding Grain, the other Fruits; before him, a great Leathern Bottle of Water; behind him, a large wooden Platter. Thus he travelled more like what he had been, than what he was; a Farmer, than a Prince; and, perceiving some Saracens dressed in rich Silks, the Plunder of Christians, he sorely chastised their Pride, ordered them to be dragged through the Dirt with their Faces downward, and their fine Attire to be rent in Pieces. And though, like all Conquerors, he was cruel to human Race; he was, like some other Conquerors, just and humane to Particulars. He said, to certain of his People, who were punishing a poor Man for not paying, what he was not able to pay, his Tribute; he said, and quoted Mahomet for it, ‘Do not afflict Men; for those who afflict Men, God will afflict, and punish them in Hell-fire on the Day of Judgment.’ Enthusiasm hindered him, as Ambition does others, from seeing how much he himself was afflicting the World, by the Violence of War, in making Conquests, and settling Mahometism.
Such were the first Saracens in Plainness and Frugality; nay, most of the Spoil taken in War, and of the Tribute paid by the conquered Nations, was appropriated to the Use of the Public, untouched by their Princes, who took hardly any Part to themselves, as I have elsewhere observed. But after they had been some time accustomed to Wealth, they found out all its Allurements and worst Uses, and became a most interested and voluptuous Race, both Prince and People. The Ottomans too, who conquered the Saracens, began like them, and ended like them; in the Beginning, Plain and Temperate; at last, Luxurious, Avaricious, and Splendid. The Ottoman Princes, for a long while, like the Saracen Princes, did not appropriate any of the Public Revenue to their own Personal Expence. Afterwards, the Public Revenue scarce sufficed some of their Successors for their Personal Waste and Luxury.
In truth, where-ever Riches come, they never fail to bring along with them their Abuse, as well as Use; and are, next to Superstition, the great and successful Instrument of corrupting human Society. For, as Men are chiefly led by a Passion for Ease and Pleasure, whatever most readily purchases these, will be proportionably esteemed; and, as Riches procure all worldly Things, they will be prized above all such Things. Even Virtue, fine Qualities and Acquirements, will be less valued than Wealth, because Wealth, which can do more than they, will be consequently more popular and potent. When Money, and not Worth, comes to be the Standard of Respect, the most Rich, however Sordid and Vicious, come to be preferred before the most Able and Virtuous; and Profuseness, which is Folly, baffles Merit and Wisdom, upon any Competition for popular Favour.
This is one of the ill Consequences of Riches: They bring Weight and Esteem to the Possessor, though he be otherwise empty, silly, and immoral. Hence Scorn follows Virtue in Poverty; and the great Strife comes to be that of excelling in Wealth, which thus becomes an Equivalent for all Merit, and conceals all want of it. Great Talents are not to be acquired, great Opulence may; and then it stands for Talents, Virtue, and All things. Thus Men come to contend, not for Superiority in Merit, but in Money, which is often the Portion of the Fool, and the Profligate.
Does Money adorn any Man’s Mind? Does it improve the Head, or mend the Heart? What is valuable in a Man, but his Disposition and his Faculties? Is it not They chiefly that set him above Brutes, which, for Symmetry and Strength, often surpass him? Riches make him not less a Beast, where, in his Habits and Propensities, he is one. A Wolf, or a Tyger, lying in Dens full of Gold and Diamonds, would be still a Wolf, or a Tyger; and a worthy Man not less worthy, though he possess neither Diamonds nor Gold. No Man has any Advantages, for which his Person ought to be valued, but what are Personal. Neither Wealth nor Power is so. A Man therefore may be a Wretch, though very rich and powerful.
All Order and Justice comes to be inverted, when Riches bear Sway, or are made the Means of it. This is true Corruption, which then taints and pervades all Things, and grows the Beginning, the Middle, and the End. A Man then, instead of pleading his Services to his Country, or having shewn his Capacity to serve it, need only produce his Money, and shew, That he is rich. It was so at Rome. The worst Men carried popular Elections from the best, by being richer, or by employing their Riches to bribe the People. And, as they gave them Money, they made Money of them: Such giving and receiving Money for Votes, and Votes for Money, was an obvious Bargain, plain Traffick, buying in order to sell. The People see it not at first, nor its Tendency. They conclude, that he who pays them best, can serve them best; or, that he is their best Friend, without once thinking of his Services and Trust: Nor can they believe, that one who is so generous to them, and one to whom they are so kind, can mean them any harm, or would raise himself higher at the Expence of his good Friends, who thus raised him so high. They that are shy in the Beginning, grow less so, as the Thing becomes more common; and become reconciled, by Degrees, to that which had once shocked them. Some, who never approve it, come in the End to practise it, when they judge, that their single Integrity cannot possibly resist a general Contagion; at least, they find this Excuse for what their Integrity cannot but condemn.
Immense were the Sums which it cost the Roman Candidates for Places and Preferments, in bribing and entertaining the People. It is easy to guess, if it were not known, as it notoriously is, what Frauds and Rapine must follow such Prodigality, and what Impunity such Rapine. The Magistrates, who had paid so dear for their Promotion, thought themselves intitled to make Reprizals, and to reimburse themselves, besides making the best of their Employments. Besides, it was but prudent to levy and reserve a good Sum, to convince the Tribunals of their Innocence, and just Administration, in case any clamorous Complainers, whom they had, perhaps, oppressed no more than the rest, should force them to defend themselves there.
Cæsar, besides wasting all his own Substance, ran in Debt near Two Millions of our Money, by bribing the People, and their Tribunes; with what View is apparent. For it is natural to Ambition to make its Advantage, and a Tool, of Avarice. Cæsar did by Bribes what his Sword, without them, never could have done, oppressed the Liberty of his Country. Perhaps he considered the Roman People, as his Property, and that, because he had bought them, he might take them. Neither could they, or any other People who do so, complain, with Decency, of any ill Usage from such as they suffer to purchase them.
Venal Men, with what ill Grace they complain of any ill Conduct, or Corruption, in him who bought them: People once corrupted, how abandoned to all Corruption.
THOSE who have sold themselves, ought no longer to consider themselves as their Own: No; they are His who bought them. What is it that gives us Property in a Bondman, but paying the Price for him; and then he is ours, whether he consents to be so, or no? When People set themselves to Sale, the Title will be presumed still clearer, as Consent at least strengthens Property. For what do they take Money? Is it for their Votes? Then, he who has bought them, means to make the best of his Bargain; since for this End only he made it. They may mean what they please; but thus, generally, the Purchaser will reason, and thus act. He will not reckon himself beholden to Them, but to his Money; he will not consider himself entering upon a Trust, but taking Possession of a Purchace; and that, if He had not made it, Another would. He who commits a Trust, parts only with the Administration, and is intitled to a just Account how it is administred. But he who sells a Trust, parts with it intire, and for ever; at least, he is at the Mercy of the Buyer, and leaves him Power to raise his Money again how he can, and with whatever Improvements he pleases. He who hath got Possession, is the strongest Man; and it is odds but he will argue and behave like the strongest.
Others, indeed, such as are uncorrupt, may justly blame and reproach him, for taking such dishonest Advantages even of venal Men: But they, whose Venality have enabled him to oppress them, cannot well wonder at It, nor upbraid Him for it. What was the Multitude to Him? Perhaps he knew not One in a Thousand amongst them: He wanted only their Votes, for which they took his Money; and, as They applied That to their own Use, so did He Those to his. It was not in his Thoughts, to impoverish Himself merely to enrich Them; nor yet to purchase Leave, at a great Price, to drudge in carrying on their Interest and Affairs, or to be continually annoyed with their Noise and Folly: No; he bought their Voices, in order to ride upon their Necks; to make them the Instruments of his Fortune, and to set him above wanting them any more.
Caius Pontius the Samnite was so sensible, that a State of Corruption was a State of Decay, and saw it so evidently in the Roman Commonwealth, that he wished, ‘That Fortune had appointed him his Time of Life in those Days when the Roman People began first to take Gifts and Bribes: For then, said he, I would have borne their Empire no longer.’ He seems to have judged soundly; for, as they were longer in subduing the Little free State of the Samnites, than in conquering all the Great Kings in Europe, Asia, and Africa, it is almost demonstrable, that, had their Love to their Country, and, consequently, their Bravery in fighting for it, been weakened by Venality, the Samnites must have vanquished them.
‘I ask, (says Cicero) whether they who left us this Commonwealth so gloriously established, seem to have had one Thought towards feeding Avarice, by the Gratifications of Gold and Silver; or Vanity, by splendid Furniture; or Voluptuousness, by delicious Banquets; or a Passion for Pleasure, by Indulgence and Luxury?’ But the Vices of the Romans were then as glaring and common, as the Virtues of their Ancestors formerly had been; and they were not ashamed to be boasting of their Ancestors, and quoting the Examples of their Forefathers, whilst they were doing every thing unworthy of their Forefathers, and disgraceful and ruinous to themselves: Nor were they ever louder in their Cries for Liberty, than when they were following Those, selling themselves to Those, who purposed to enthrall them, and to destroy their boasted Liberty: Nay, such as meditated nothing but absolutely to rule them, and, consequently, to enslave them, were always most popular with them. Whoever fed them with Money, or Provision, or Flattery, was their Darling; though, by all his Bounty, and Soothing, and Noise for Liberty, he aimed only at being their Tyrant. Even the detestable Catiline was popular, and considered by them as a great Champion for Liberty, because he talked loudly about it, and was a known Enemy to those who were then uppermost in the State; Men who, whatever Faults they had, were, in comparison with him, virtuous and unblameable.
Even whilst Cicero was Consul, one of the ablest and most upright Magistrates that ever honoured or protected any Government; and whilst that Parricide continued to pursue his inhuman Conspiracy against Rome, and all that was valuable and sacred in it; the People, tho’ they could have no Objection to Cicero, but that he was in the Interest of the Senate, that is, was for preserving the Senate, and his Country, yet still admired and followed Catiline, till, by the Discovery of his Plot and Designs, it appeared that he was about to have extirpated, by the universal Rage of Fire and Sword, the very Being of their City and Commonwealth. Then, indeed, they were shocked, and cried, Horror! They had all along imagined, that he only meant to have changed the Magistrates, whom they disliked; or, at worst, to have begun a Civil War, in which they had little to lose, and a Chance to get (which Chance was dearer to them, than public Tranquillity, and their Country): But, in the Burning and Destruction of Rome, they would have met their own Destruction; and so far they detested the Views of Catiline.
That the Roman Populace were governed, upon this Occasion, by a Spirit of Corruption and Blindness, (two Qualities generally following one another) and not by Judgment or Honesty, appears from hence; that Catiline, whom they applauded, and from whom they hoped so much, was, and ever had been, a notorious Profligate, black with all Crimes, detestable in his private Life, abandoned, corrupt, and lawless, in Office: So that, if they expected from him nothing but public Disorders and Revolutions, (as what else could they expect?) they were corrupt, utterly corrupt, and lost to all Public Spirit, to all Sense of Honour and Virtue: If they depended upon him for any public Good or Reformation, they were blind. It is, in truth, evident, that they considered him as a public Plague, as a ready Instrument of general Confusion and War; and, as such, warmly espoused and encouraged him. Sallust declares it explicitly: Omnino cuncta plebes, novarum rerum studio, Catilinæ incepta probabat. Id adeo, &c.
‘The Commonalty, in a Body, from a Passion for public Changes, approved the Pursuits of Catiline; and, in doing so, seemed but to follow their usual Bent: For, in this our City, all they who are destitute of Place and Substance, ever repine at the Enjoyments and Distinction of virtuous Men; ever extol the Vicious; hate the old Ways; long for Noveltics and Change; and, from Disgust to their own Condition, labour to introduce universal Confusion. In popular Commotions and Discord, they find their Subsistence without Pains and Care; since Poverty, which never has any thing to lose, is, upon such Occasions, readily supported.’
Now such Fondness for Civil Disorders, and for the wicked Authors of such, is, by this Account, intirely derived from the depraved Spirit and Disposition of the People; and not imputable to the Misconduct of the Magistrates, however faulty they might be: Nay, the best, the most strict and steady Administration must have been the most disliked and unpopular, when the People were passionate for the worst Calamities, such as Civil Dissentions and War; and for the wickedest Men, such as promoted those Calamities, and because they promoted them; even for Catiline, Cethegus, and every great Traitor and Incendiary.
Could there be a more tempting Opportunity than this, offered to the Ambition of Cæsar, for pursiting the great Aim of his Life, that of usurping the Government of Rome? And, perhaps, it is the most plausible Defence that can be made for him, (for no solid Defence will his Crimes bear) that, seeing them the Dupes and blind Followers of every audacious and desperate Demagogue, He, who was a more powerful and able, at least a more fortunate Demagogue, than all the rest, judged it politic to enslave them Himself, rather than let any other enslave Them and Him too; though the more honourable Task would have been, what was also his Duty, to have rescued and reformed them, and to have struggled against their extravagant Corruption and Folly: This would have been an Undertaking worthy of his great Abilities, and indefatigable Spirit, had his Heart been as good as his Head: But he found them bad, and made them worse, in order to make them his own.
Amongst a corrupt People, the most debauched and desperate Leaders are the most popular.
IF only bad Government had displeased the Roman People, the excellent Government of Cicero, one so wise, fatherly, uncorrupt, and meritorious, a Government which saved them and their State, would have removed their Displeasure, and reconciled them to the State, and their own ‘Safety under it.’ But it had not that Effect; at least till they saw, that Catiline’s Designs threatened Themselves with immediate Destruction. Till then, they continued to love and follow him, as one that was to present them with, what they earnestly wished, public Uproar, Civil War, and Rapine; all which implied an Overthrow of the Government, which they foresaw, and rejoiced in; and, therefore, could see no Merit in Cicero, as a general Preserver of the State; but must have sound great Fault with him for disappointing Catiline, and their best Views, had not the Discovery produced more than they expected.
Was this a People worthy of Liberty? or was public Liberty, in such keeping, likely to last long? Long before this, indeed very early, the Roman People were prone to Corruption, and zealously attached to such as corrupted them, by whatever Means it was attempted; whether by false Munificence, or by Faction, or by the never-failing Bait and Cry of Liberty. So that they were always corrupted, and consequently most abused, by their greatest Champions and Favourites; that is, by their real and worst Enemies; as the false Friend is ever the most dangerous Foe.
Spurius Mælius, whilst he cheated them with false Bounties and fair Speeches, was extremely popular, and even their Idol, though he only fed them, and flattered them, in order to enslave them. But the Character and Appearance of a Benefactor covered and recommended the Traitor; and the People, like other Animals, not seeing the Hook, greedily swallowed the Bait. Nor would they have ever discovered his horrid Designs, till they had been accomplished, had not others, even such as they suspected and disliked, discovered and exposed them. For, their daily Watchmen and Orators, in whose Zeal and Sagacity they generally put blind Trust, had sold themselves, and their Trust; that is, sold the People to Mælius; so that whilst he was pursuing Kingship, they were silent and assisting. When the Traitor was put to Death, they expressed much Regret for his Fate, and their Loss of him, remembring his perfidious Courtship and Liberality, and forgetting or disbelieving his Treason.
Just such another Deceiver, false Friend, and real Enemy, they had in Marcus Manlius Capitolinus. For the People are ever the servile Tools of such as know how to blind them with false Tales and Appearances. He was, indeed, a brave Soldier, had nobly defended the Capitol against the Gauls, and done many signal Exploits in War; but, full of Ambition, and envying the famous Camillus, attempted Royalty by the Means of Popularity; and, in order to gain the People, took such Measures as will ever gain them: He deceived them with magnificent Professions and Undertakings, and corrupted them by bribing them; and as he was profuse in his Gifts and Caresses, they were equally extravagant in their Zeal and Adoration. Whilst he was giving Money to many, or paying their Debts; becoming Security for some, and even assisting and rescuing others by downright Violence; whilst he was continually proposing popular Schemes, popular Projects, and popular Largesses; it never entered into their credulous Heads, that a Benefactor, so infinitely liberal and zealous, could possibly intend them any Harm, much less Misery and Chains. Yet it was obvious to common Sense, that either Manlius, or the Government, must fall; especially when he came to be constantly guarded by the Croud, and to bid Defiance to the Magistrates. But the People, corrupted even to Blindness, either saw no Danger to the State, or regarded Manlius more than the State, or perhaps as the best Friend to the State; and much Difficulty there was in securing the State against him, by depriving him of Life. His Friends, the Multitude, who strove to rescue him from Justice, loudly lamented him for having suffered it; and, as the Plague happened soon after, they said, that it was a Judgment, sent by Jupiter, to avenge the innocent Blood of Manlius, the Defender of his Temple the Capitol. For, as they were perpetually infatuated by the Projects and Harangues of their Tribunes and Demagogues, they were always sauntering in the Forum, and reasoning about Matters of Government. Thus they neglected their Labour, and the Manuring of their Lands; and, when Famine followed, which was very natural, they railed at their Governors.
The extraordinary Conflux of People from all Parts of Italy to Rome, upon the Return of Cicero from Banishment, raised the Price of Provisions. This public Inconvenience furnished a Colour to the Tribune Clodius, his implacable Enemy, for traducing him to the Rabble, as the Cause of it; and for charging him with it, as a Crime. The Rabble gave full Credit to their Oracle the Tribune, and called licentiously upon Cicero for Bread; nay, taught their Children the same seditious Cry. In their Fury they insulted and scared away the Audience at the Theatre, attacked the House of the Prætor, who presided at the public Plays; besieged the Senate in the Temple of Concord; fell upon one of the Consuls with Stones, and wounded him. In the Mouth of this Rabble, animated by the most abandoned of all Profligates, and led by two notorious Criminals, one an Assassin, another a Creature and Instrument of Catiline’s, the Name of Cicero, so justly dear to the Romans, was a Name of Reproach.
What could argue higher Corruption than such raging Licentiousness, and such desperate Acts of Sedition, as well as such a blind Propensity to follow and obey the most debauched and lawless Leaders, to defy all Law and Restraint, and to assault the Government itself? When the giddy Populace, or, which is the same thing, when such as lead them, (for the Populace will ever be led) can controul all Things, the Government is, in effect, dissolved, or near its Dissolution, and must either be utterly lost in Anarchy, a Case which hardly can happen; or, which is more likely, be seized by a foreign Invader; or, which is most likely, by a domestic Usurper. This was the Condition and the Fate of Rome; a Fate which often threatened her, a Fate which she several times felt, and a Fate which at last thoroughly mastered her, and mastered her for ever.
Her warlike Spirit and Atchievements, the Dignity and Freedom of her Government, her Laws and Magistrates, all of her own creating, with the boasted Rights of Roman Citizens, and their many Immunities; her numerous Conquests, her universal Sway and Command, Laurels about her Head, the Globe under her Feet; I say, Rome, thus exhibited and arrayed, made a splendid Appearance, full of Majesty, full of Strength; and, in this Light, one is apt to wonder, as well as to gtieve, that ever she should perish, or even shrink and fade. But upon a nearer View of her Frame, of the Materials that composed it, and the Machines that conducted it, we may cease to wonder at her Decay and Overthrow; when we see a numerous and swarming People forming a Legislature, not by Representatives chosen from amongst them, but every Man, in a vast Nation, a Legislator, and possessing a deliberative Voice; and the Whole of them swayed and controuled by a few bold or crafty Men, perhaps by one, who could well harangue them, or deceive them, or feast them, or buy them; here, a popular Sycophant winning them with Flattery; there, an artful Speaker, charming them by Eloquence; a bold Lyar, imposing upon their Credulity; an Incendiary, terrifying them with groundless Jealousies; a Merchant, bribing them into Slavery by Doles of Corn; a Bully, with the same View, rescuing them from their Creditors, and both likely to succeed: When, in short, we see them passionate for Schemes calculated to undo them, for Laws destructive of the State, and for Men who were their worst Enemies, for Catiline and Clodius!
The latter was their Darling a great while, though one of the worst Men that ever infested Society; implacable, unjust, mercenary, impious, and lawless; a Pathic, Incestuous; a Fire-brand in the Army, a Fury in the State, a Tyrant in Office; plundering the Public and Particulars; selling Places and Provinces, and the Friendship of the Roman People; forging Wills, suborning Witnesses, and oppressing Right by Violence. But his Laws, however wicked, and even pernicious, were popular and pleasing, as particularly that for distributing Corn gratis to the Populace; by which Law a Fifth of the Public Revenue was cut off, and consequently so much of the public Strength and Security. For this and the like Extravagances, fatal to the Republic, and destructive to its best Members, this Madman was adored and followed as a public Benefactor, and went guarded by the Rabble, and a Band of Profligates, who never failed to insult and abuse every Man not in his Favour; that is to say, every worthy Roman. They particularly fell upon so great a Man as Hortensius, and had well nigh murdered that great Orator, because he appeared for Cicero. Such as remained of the desperate Followers of Catiline, were now very naturally Followers of Clodius.
When the People are thoroughly corrupt, all true Sense of Liberty is lost. Outrage and Debauchery then pass for Liberty, Defiance of Law for public Spirit, and Incendiaries for Patriots.
COULD there be more glaring Mockery, than the Sound of Liberty from the Mouth of Clodius? Yet he declared for Liberty, and the Croud believed him; though they heard him, with the same Breath, threaten, what he continually practised, all Acts of Violence, and the Decision of the Sword. Nay, when this wild Tyrant had pulled down Cicero’s House, he erected a Fabric in its room, and consecrated it to Liberty: As if that excellent Roman, who had defeated the bloody Conspiracy of Catiline, which struck at the very Foundation of Liberty and of Rome, had been an Enemy to Liberty; and he, Clodius, acting like another Catiline, its Restorer! Whilst, at the same time, he was marching like a foreign Enemy in a City just taken by Storm, at the Head of his outrageous Cabal, with Fire-brands in their Hands, and in open Day setting Fire to the Houses of all such as had furnished him with Cause of Offence; namely, all such as opposed or disapproved his wild Doings. When these his bloody Followers had fallen upon a Tribune in the Interest of Cicero, and having wounded him in more than Twenty Places, left him for dead; as this Action might displease the People, who accounted their Tribunes sacred, these Blood-hounds resolved to murder a Tribune of their own Faction, that the Guilt might seem equal; as it would then appear done in a sudden Encounter between both Sides. Nay, these Ruffians had a Commission from him to plunder, burn, and kill, at Discretion. Thus was Rome, the Mistress of the World, insulted, and her Laws set aside, or defied, by one detestable Tribune, supported by the Multitude, who always supported the Worst and most Mischievous; insomuch that, for almost half a Year together, she was deprived of the Exercise of Justice, and, as it were, of Government, by the Fury of a popular Incendiary.
In short, all his Doings tended directly to overturn the State, and to introduce Tyranny; but passed with the Commonalty for Measures to increase and confirm Civil Liberty. There was good Policy in the Institution of observing the Heavens by the Augurs, or other Magistrates, during the Assemblies of the People, in order to prevent any wild Result from such Assemblies; since the Appearance of any ill Omen, declared by such Augur, or Magistrate, effectually dissolved them. This good Usage, so necessary at Rome, Clodius abolished by the Authority, and with the Applause, of the People. Of the same Tendency was his abridging the Power of the Censors, who could brand any Senator, or Roman Knight; and, indeed, degrade either: Nay, One of them could do all this; till, by a Law of the execrable Clodius, they were restrained from branding or degrading any, unless first accused before their own Order, and punished by their Concurrence. What was this but an Invitation to open Dissolution of Manners, and bidding Crimes and Debauchery prosper?
Could Madness and Corruption rise possibly higher in Magistrate, or People? And was such a State likely to subsist, such a People to continue free? Their Fondness generally followed the most vicious Men, such as meant to enslave them; and, in order to it, corrupted their Hearts, and humoured their Follies. They were therefore scarce ever under the Direction of wise and worthy Men, Men who would not cheat nor flatter them, not encourage their Idleness, and dissolute Manners. Blinded and bewitched with Cæsar’s Bounty and Complaisance, from his Almsmen they became, naturally enough, his Bondmen. He fed, and charmed, and enslaved them. Were they wiser after the Death of Cæsar, and after the Use which they had seen him make of their Corruption and Folly? No: They must still have some lewd Favourite to abuse and master them, and therefore trust him with their Liberties. Still corrupt and craving, and struck with Cæsar’s Legacy, they went eagerly into the Measures of Antony, who acquainted them with it, and who, under Pretence of avenging the Death of Cæsar, aimed at succeeding him. They therefore desert, nay, turn their Fury against, their true Friends the Tyrannicides, and strengthen the Hands of Antony, though his Success was to be attended with their Bondage, and must necessarily produce it.
Antony, thus set up and espoused by the deluded and ill-judging People, failed not to improve his Fortune with notable Activity and Boldness. The Tyrannicides, through Love of Peace, and Fear of the Army, had agreed with Cæsar’s Friends, that all his Acts and Regulations should remain in full Force(a) : So that he had really more Power now he was dead, than when he was alive. Such was the Oversight of the Tyrannicides, in not improving the first Heat and Spirit, whilst the People were yet with them, as at first they were; and whilst the Creatures and Supports of the late Tyranny were yet terrified and lurking. They might, at least, have confined Antony, and some other Chiefs, and Officers, either at Rome, or conveyed them away instantly to some distant Confinement. But, as they left him (I think weakly, I am sure very unhappily) at Liberty, and in Rome, he soon gained the poor fickle People, and then made the most of the late Stipulations. Amongst Cæsar’s Minutes and Regulations, he inserted and forged whatever he had a Mind to carry, and called it the Appointment of Cæsar. Even without such Pains and Ceremony, he often said, that this, or that, was Cæsar’s Design, and confidently put it in Execution. Thus there often passed, in his Name, such monstrous and daring Things, as, had he been alive, he would not have passed, nor suffered. By Antony’s enormous Demands and Donations from the Treasury, under colour of Cæsar’s Orders, most Part of the mighty Treasure, amassed by Cæsar for the War against Parthia, was exhausted.
So that Antony was first enabled by the People, and then enabled himself, to be a greater Tyrant, in Cæsar’s Name, than Cæsar himself was. By the Money, which he said was thus granted by Cæsar, he influenced the mercenary Spirit of Cæsar’s Army, and gained just as many as he was able to bribe; but, not having enough to bribe all, the rest devoted themselves to Octavius, upon the like sordid Consideration. For, the Roman Armies were become as corrupt as the Roman People. After so many Forgeries in the Name of Cæsar, it was the less Wonder, that Antony impudently forged Decrees in the Name of the Senate. This bold Villainy had been often practised by Cæsar.
Perhaps it may not be improper to take notice here, as a further Instance of the Fickleness and Folly of the Multitude at this very time, that, amongst the public Plays exhibited to the Romans, in the Name of Brutus, as Prætor, after the Death of Cæsar, was the Tragedy of Tereus, which, for the many severe Strokes in it against Tyranny, was extremely applauded by the People. Cicero justly laments, that they thus employed their Hands, not in defending their Liberties, but only in clapping at the Theatre. What I would observe from it, is, that they are naturally fond of Liberty, but generally judge ill about the Means of keeping it; that their Meaning is good, even when their Judgment is wrong; yet they oftener err in following the Sentiments of others, than in following their own.
The swift Progress of Corruption in the Roman Republic. Its final Triumph in the Dissolution of the State.
CAN it seem at all strange, that, when the Roman People were become so debauched, so idle, credulous, venal, and corrupt, their popular Meetings should prove, as they did, rather Tumults than regular Assemblies? They met, not to make equal and just Laws, or to prefer able and worthy Men; but to sell themselves, to form Factions, often to exalt the most wicked and dangerous of all Men, often to depress, or to disappoint, the most virtuous Patriots. Their Assemblies were no longer formed with Deliberation, according to the Laws, but in a Heat and Hurry; insomuch that popular Decrees, which had never passed, came to be forged: Several such were made, when only a few of the People, the Simplest, and the Worst, were present; some only by the lowest and vilest Rabble, where not a Man of Sense, or Honour, or Weight, was present. Nay, popular Decrees, of the highest Moment, then passed, such as conferred Legions, public Treasure, nay, the Government of Provinces, and the Command of Armies; vacuo non solum a bonis, sed etiam a liberis, atque inani foro, ignaro populo Rom. quid ageretur. The Candidates for public Employments came at last, in spight of all the penal Laws, to bribe openly, and were chosen sometimes by Arms, as well as Money.
In the Senate, things were not always carried much better, sometimes Decrees of great Consequence were made, when very few Senators were there, and sometimes such Decrees were forged; as I have lately observed. Sometimes the Leaders of the People, and those of the Senate, agreed, (when it suited their particular Interests) the former, to publish fictitious Ordinances of the People; the latter, to frame false Decrees of Senate.
Could there be more crying Corruption than this, blacker Imposture, or a more terrible Prospect? When Laws were made, not by the Legislature, but by private Knaves, in a Corner, for dirty Self-ends, yet binding all Men, and changing, or perverting, the Course of the Government? Who now can wonder at the Fall of Rome? Enfeebled by continual Faction and Corruption, (Two potent Engines to destroy a State!) and thence ripe for an absolute Master, she fell into the Hands of many Masters, Marius, Sylla, Saturninus, Cinna, Clodius, and many others, all occasional Tyrants; that is, sovereign Controllers of the Multitude, and the Laws; till, at last, Cæsar seized her; and, after he was slain, when she might have re-assumed her Liberty, at least, for some time, (And surely, as Cato expresses it in the Tragedy,
she refused the invaluable Blessing, joined with his Friends, that is, her Enemies; and thus transferred herself to a Series of Tyrants for ever.
The Balance was never properly nor equally fixed between the Patricians and People; and it was the constant Pursuit of each to destroy all Balance; not to govern in Conjunction, but of one to govern the other. The Senate, which had the most Power at first, exercised it too rigorously; and, upon all Occasions, manifested great Contempt, and often great Bitterness, towards the People; and forced them to seek a Remedy in the Institution of popular Tribunes, who, under the Mask of protecting the People, sought and acquired enormous Power to themselves. For the People will be ever the Tools and Dupes of their false Friends, and pretended Patrons. These Tribunes fed them with continual Jealousies, dressed up the Senate as a Bugbear of Tyranny, and still wanted new Authority to themselves, all for the Benefit of the People against the Patricians. The Patricians too, studying their own Defence, sometimes used unrighteous Means to defeat unrighteous Designs. The Struggle, going still on, produced some temporary Tyrannies; whilst single Men, usurping and abusing the Authority of Magistrates, enslaved both Parties, to be avenged of one. At last, in a few Years, the Tyranny became lasting and settled. Then the two Factions had Leisure to look back upon their own blind Phrensy; when, by struggling who should be Masters, they were both become Slaves: Nor did they seem to have reflected upon the Tendency of their pernicious Corruption, of their mad and fatal Feuds, till such Reflection could only serve to reproach and distract them.
It were well, that all Parties, all People, would grow wise by the Example of those at Rome, nor suffer a Passion for Party, or for Money, to drive them on to such Mistakes, and hasty Measures, as Reason cannot afterwards retract or cure. Party is Corruption, as well as it is Folly. The Revenge which they seek, often falls as heavy, sometimes heaviest, upon themselves; and what they call Redress proves Destruction. But Rage considers nothing but present Gratification. The Plebeians, piqued at the Patricians, who had used them ill, set up, for their Head, the savage Marius; at first, against Rules; afterwards, in Defiance of Law. The Patricians, to stem the Fury of the bloody Marius, exalt Sylla, or enable him to exalt himself, as their Patron and Champion, a Man no less bloody. Both Marius and Sylla play the Tyrant in their Turn, and both Parties are, by one or the other, enslaved and slaughtered by turns.
Of the Corruption in the Roman Seats of Justice, and the Oppression in the Provinces.
Of the extreme Difficulty in procuring Justice at Rome, against any considerable Criminal.
IN a State where Corruption so exceedingly prevailed, both by Faction and Bribery, (for Party corrupts as powerfully as Money) it is no Wonder, to find the Parts resembling the Whole, all tainted by the general Contagion; the People sordid, as well as seditious; the Senators rapacious, as well as profuse; Justice sold, because the Seats of Justice were bought; the Provinces, having cost their Governors great Sums to purchase them, plundered and scraped to the Bone, that the Purchasers might repay themselves Tensold; Oppressors safe; since, having payed a Price for oppressing, they claimed a Right to oppress; and the greatest Criminal never found so, till he was found, first, poor.
Did a distressed Prince or State, even such as were under the Protection of the Roman Commonwealth, apply to the Roman Senate for Relief? It availed little, if the Offender could but prove his Innocence by large Bribes. At best, an Admonition is sent to him to forbear; that is, in Effect, an Order to send fresh Fees to his Judges; and not to forget their Deputies, that these may make a favourable Report. Perhaps, after repeated Complaints and Representations of his barbarous Outrages, and Acts of Tyranny, he is summoned to appear in Person, and to answer the Charge: Still he may deny all, and be believed, (for, why should a Man be condemned upon the Accusation of his Enemies?) if he do but confirm his Denial by more Treasure. Though his Deeds be black as Hell, his Guilt as apparent as the Day, the Suit may depend, and he be safe, for many Years, provided he has large Presents to urge in his Defence.
Whose Crimes were or could be more black, manifest, unprovoked, and crying, than those of Jugurtha? Yet he wanted not many Advocates in the Senate, who, for ready Money, or the Hopes of it, boldly denied them to have been done; or defended them, as done in his own Defence. Such, whom he had traiterously murdered, or whose Murder he was openly pursuing, were said to have laid Plots to murder Him; and, whilst at the Head of a great Army, in the Face of the Sun, he was usurping and ravaging the Dominions of a poor weak Prince, who only fled before him; nay, when he had already usurped those Dominions, still the poor suffering Prince was the Aggressor, and the bloody Jugurtha was vindicated, as forced to Arms, for his own Security against the terrible Attempts of his persecuted, desolate, and forlorn Enemy; whom, having stripped him of all but Life, he soon bereft of That, with all the Circumstances of savage Cruelty.
All this will be fully and finely illustrated in Sallust’s Account of the Jugurthine War.
The wonderful Guilt and Enormities of Verres in Sicily, confidently committed, from Assurance of Impunity. Cicero’s Character of the Judges: Their bold and constant Venality.
WE may be sure, where the Root was so corrupt, the Branches were not sound. If the People were mercenary, if the Senate was venal, and the Government of the Republic vicious and depraved at home, that of the Provinces must be, at least, as bad, or rather much worse. Let us take a View of the Administration of Verres in Sicily.
From the Moment he entered that Island, whither he was sent by the Republic as Governor, to protect the People in their Lives; Properties, and Laws, he applied himself, with all his Might and Malice, with all possible Arts and Violence, to seize their Property, in spite of their Laws; and to destroy both their Laws and Lives, in order to come at their Property. His Government was, literally, a merciless Course of Hostility and Plunder: He beggared the Rich; starved the common People; murdered such as threatened to complain; and, to shew himself an impartial Oppressor, spared neither the Public nor Individuals; but plundered even the Temples of all their Treasure, Statues, and magnificent Furniture; stripped Men of Fortune to the Skin, nay, hanged and whipped them, though Men of the first Dignity, for not consenting to all his Felonies and Plunder.
His Way of spoiling the religious Edifices was not quite so open: He sent Bands of Villains, by Night, to break into them, and carry off their Gold, their Images, and all their curious Ornaments. I forget whether the Statue of Hercules escaped; a Statue so adored in his Temple at Agrigentum, that his Mouth and Beard were worn away with the devout Kisses of his Worshippers: Probably it did not; since it was charged against him, (nor do I remember the Charge to have been denied) that, in all Sicily, an Island so rich, so large, so populous, so abounding in all Curiosities, wonderful Works of Art, and in all sorts of Luxury, he left not one Vase of Silver, or Corinthian Metal; not a Pearl, or Precious-stone; not a single Piece curiously wrought, either in Gold or Ivory; not a Statue of Brass or Marble; not a fine Picture, either painted, or in Tapestry; not a Piece of nice or antique Armour.
When a Pitate-Ship was seized upon the Coasts, Verres, instead of executing the Crew, as by Law and Justice he ought, claudestinely sold and disposed of all that were well-favoured, and all that were Artists among them; them executed, in their room, so many innocent Men, no Matter whom, as if They had been the Pirates.
By such hideous Oppression, this Governor Verres desolated and wasted Sicily, more than any soreign and hostile Army ever had done; more than ever Asdrubal had done, with all his fierce Africans and Mercenaries; more than ever Athenion had done, with all his cruel Host of Vagabonds and Banditti; and the Oppression of Verres proved more consuming than foreign Arms; drove away and destroyed more of the People; nay, utterly discouraged such as remained, from cultivating the Ground; since not they themselves, but a barbarous Magistrate, and his Blood-suckers, were to reap the Harvest. Nay, when the Government of Verres, or, more properly, his Period of plundering, was over, and he gone, it was a hard Task, to engage the poor broken-hearted Sicilians to manure their Fields any more: Indeed, many of them were fled, and could hardly be brought back again: Several, made desperate by his Violence, and the Rapine of his Harpies, to escape Him and Them, laid violent Hands upon themselves; and preferred the Rope, and the Dagger, to the Mercy and Justice of their Governor.
If any Man, under this insupportable Tyranny, dared to appeal to the Law, Verres, who still had the matchless Assurance to talk of Law and Justice, was provided with a Set of proper Judges; all his own Domestics and Freedmen; such as his Physician, his Augur, his Painter, and his Crier. He had the Impudence to declare to some, who seemed determined to stand a Trial, that, if they were condemned, (as he was sure and resolved they should be, by his faithful Knaves the Judges) they should be scourged till they perished under the Lash.
There is no such thing, as a Governor acting the Oppressor and Plunderer, without the Assistance of trusty Knaves and Confidents; such as those of Verres; his Apronius, his Arthemedorus, and many others. Apronius, particularly, a useful Implement, and in proportionable Favour, had always some of the Pillage for himself, for procuring all the rest to his Master. This is a Condition always understood, though not always stipulated, between the Great Thief and his Subaltern Thieves; who sometimes cheat him, if not always; and get as much, perhaps more than He. Nor is there, I believe, an Instance of any ravening Magistrate who was not the Dupe, if not the Property and Slave, of some Creature and Slave of his own: Nor doth it avail, that he is; but it is melancholy and unnatural, to see a great Magistrate, extremely honest and well-meaning, surrounded with dirty Fellows, and governed by them; sometimes very silly Fellows. This often happens, though he knows it not, when all others do; and seldom fails to be the Misfortune of all who possess great Power, together with great Credulity, and great Indolence; since it is a Misfortune, which, I doubt not, will, in some degree, attend the most active and most vigilant great Man. I could name a great and able Minister, famous for sound Judgment, and clean Hands; yet ingrossed, at his Leisure-hours, by Harpy Gamesters, and Jockies of the same Spirit, and miserable Morals; but for the high Honour I have for his Memory.
Verres, amongst his other bad Instruments, entertained Two Artists and Connoisseurs, and employed them to find out Prey for him. They were two Brothers, Tlepolimus and Hiero, Rogues who had fled from their Country for public Robbery; and proved such active Agents for Verres, that no other Way was found of saving any thing valuable from them, but that of bribeing them to dispraise it to their Master.
Verres was not such a Changeling, not to know what he did.----He was well apprised, that it was all against Law and Trust; and played the Tyrant with his Eyes open. What he depended upon was, either to escape Accusation, (for All guilty Magistrates were not tried, though Some were) or to escape Punishment by corrupting his Judges. The Truth is, the Tribunals of Justice were then become infamous: For, by the Power of Sylla, they had been taken from the Roman Knights, who had administered them for Fifty Years without Reproach; and committed to Senators, who were altogether venal. This gave Hopes to Verres; who, being Three Years Prætor or chief Governor of Sicily, proposed to keep the First Year’s Rapine to Himself; to employ that of the Second amongst his Patrons and Defenders; and that of the Third to bribe his Judges.
Was it not glorious Merit, to implead and pursue such a dareing Parricide, and to patronize such as he had oppressed; especially as he was furnished with powerful Advocates, and appeared to have mighty Interest? Yes, such a shocking Parricide, so glareing a Criminal as Verres, one of the blackest that ever lived, had Protectors, many, and able, and potent Protectors: Nor was it any longer a Wonder, when that bloody Usurper Jugurtha, one of the guiltiest Men that ever the World saw, had, by the Force of Gold, engaged so many Grandees; and thence eluded Chastisement for so many Years. Even the famous Orator Hortensius, otherwise a worthy Roman, was not ashamed to plead for Verres; though, according to Cicero, neither Crassus nor Antonius, nor any of the antient Orators, would have appeared in Behalf of such a notorious Profligate. So corrupt were the Romans then grown, particularly the Senators, that it was difficult, indeed scarce possible, to procure common Justice against a Plunderer of their Order, or of any Order, if he had Money enough. Upon this Verres relied; but the Attack of Cicero was so strong, the Charge so heinous, so horrible, and so well proved, that the People took Fire, and his Judges durst not save him.
Justly, therefore, might that great Orator, and invaluable Citizen, say, in his first Discourse against Verres; ‘How can I, at this Conjuncture, become more useful to the State? What can be more acceptable to the People of Rome; what more to the Wishes of our Allies, and even of strange Nations? What more suitable to human Society, and the Felicity of all Men? The Provinces are ravaged, distressed, nay, totally ruined: The confederate, the tributary Countries are squeezed, harrassed, and reduced to Misery, without Hopes of Deliverance; and only hope for some Ease in this their Desolation.’
He deals honestly and frankly with the Judges; and tells them, ‘There is no longer any Integrity, no longer any Conscience, in our Judgments. We (Senators) are considered as nothing: The Roman People scorn and contemn us; and we have been long decried.’ And, as the blackest Parricides were daily acquitted, he exhorts them, ‘To redeem their Order from that Infamy, that public Indignation and Shame, which they had thus drawn upon themselves.’ He adds, that, ‘When Pompey, upon being designed Consul, began, in his Speech to the People, to declare, that he would restore the Tribunals of Justice to their primitive Credit, he was heard with a pleasing Murmur of Applause: But, when he proceeded to complain, that the Provinces were ravaged and undone, the Decisions of the Judges unjust and scandalous; and that, by his Consular Authority, he would remedy these Evils; it was no longer in a low Murmur, but with loud Acclamations, that all the People of Rome expressed their Sentiments and Joy.
‘In this Accusation, and the Result of it, You (says Cicero to them) will judge Verres; but the Roman People will judge You: And Verres will serve for an Example, whether a Man who is extremely guilty, but extremely rich, can be condemned, when Senators are his Judges. So that, if he be acquitted, no Reasons will be found for it, but such as are most infamous and reproachful.’ He adds, that ‘They had now an Opportunity of obliterating that Blemish and Odium, with which, for several Years, the Order of Senators had been branded.’
The Friends of Verres seem to have judged him in no Danger, notwithstanding all his infinite Guilt and Excesses. Timarchides, directing his Brother Freedman Apronius how to act, namely, so as to save their common Master Verres, advised him to offer to All whatever was found expedient; and declares his Opinion, that, to succeed, he need only be liberal.
It appears from hence, how prevalent such Practices then were; and that a corrupt Man thinks no Man incorruptible; though, surely, there are always some such. Worthy was the Answer of Epaminondas to Diomedon of Cyzicus; who had undertaken, to Artaxerxes, to gain over that extraordinary Theban Magistrate and Commander by the Force of Money; and, for that Purpose, came to Thebes with a mighty Sum: ‘There is no need of Money (said Epaminondas): If the King of Persia aim at such Measures as are for the Interest of the Thebans, I am ready to comply with them, without any Reward: If he aim at contrary Measures, All his Wealth suffices not: Nor will I, for the Riches of the Universe, forego my Affection to my Country. At thy Offer I wonder not: Thou hast tried me, because thou didst not know me, and thoughtest me like Thyself. Hasten, however, from hence, lest thou corrupt Others, though thou didst fail in thy Attempt upon Me.’
It might have been easily foreseen, with what Equity Verres was like to govern Sicily, from his Conduct at Rome, during his Prætorship there. In it he sold All things, as well as Justice and Decrees; every Place, every Charge; even Rank, and Order, and Speech; for he exacted great Sums for Liberty of Pleading. He robbed whatever he could reach, not only Silver and Gold, but Ivory and Stone, Pictures, Statues, Cabinets, Furniture, Stuffs, Cloths, Corn, &c. Even Hyrondilla, his Mistress, (a Bond-woman) was then absolute at Rome. To her, Men of the greatest Worth and Quality were forced to make Application, and Presents: Insomuch that, at her House, a great Court was kept, for the Buying of Business, and the Purchase of Pardons and Injustice. Here, says Cicero, new Decrees were daily solicited, with new Laws, and new Judgments. ‘I come, says one, to have Possession granted me. I beg, says another, that Possession may not be taken from me. I, adds a Third, pray, that Process be not issued out against me. And my Suit, says the next, is, that my Effects may be adjudged to me.’ Thus they severally addressed and petitioned. Some payed ready Money; others signed Notes; and her House was crouded with such a Number of Suitors, that it appeared rather like an Exchange, than the Lodgings of a Courtezan.
The Virtue of the old Romans, in the Administration of Justice, and Government of Provinces. Their Posterity, and Successors, how unlike them. The wise and righteous Administration of Cicero, with that of the Provincial Governors in China.
GREAT Wealth had introduced into Rome, what it everywhere introduces, a blind Passion for Wealth, and endless Corruption. It is a Pleasure to look back to better Times and Men, in that mighty Republic; to review the Characters and Conduct of Scipio Africanus, of Lucius Scipio, of Marcus Marcellus, Titus Flaminius, Paulus Æmilius, and Lucius Mummius, Conquerors of great Kingdoms, their clear Hands at Home and Abroad, and their Benevolence to all Men. When we read their Story, how must we detest Verres, and all Oppressors! When we read the Story of Verres, how we must love the above amiable Names, and all who resemble them!
Lucius Mummius having, when Consul, vanquished and taken Corinth, of all the immense Wealth in that famous City, reserved nothing to himself; and died so poor, as to leave his Daughter, and only Child, without a Fortune. Lucius Scipio was so scrupulous, that, when he had broken his Ring, he ordered the Gold for another to be weighed out publickly to the Goldsmith, that there might be no room to cheat the Treasury which furnished it. Quintus Mutius governed Asia with such Integrity and Beneficence, that the Greeks there, upon his Departure, instituted an annual Festival to his Honour, called the Feast of Mutius.
There were found, to the last, some good Governors of the Roman Provinces; but generally they were very bad. The Julian Law, which obliged the Provincial Towns to supply such as travelled through them, under a public Character, with Hay, Salt, and Wood, was terribly stretched and abused. These Commodities were not only demanded from the Towns in which they lay, but from every Town through which they passed; and for these Advantages, which they wanted not, they took an Equivalent in Money, called perhaps a Perquisite, and, by the Force of a dishonest Word, reckoned lawful, though against Law, at least, the reasonable Meaning of Law.
These Governors found infinite Gain, in another Source of notorious Corruption, by levying great Sums from the several Cities and Districts, for excusing them from furnishing Winter Quarters to the Soldiers. Cyprus alone paid to the Governor of Cilicia, to which that Island was annexed, Two Hundred Attic Talents, computed at near Forty Thousand Pounds Sterling. Doubtless, nothing but the Dread of terrible Vengeance, for refusing so barbarous a Demand, could have brought the Cypriots to submit to it. Nor was the Governor the only Oppressor; his Lieutenants, and all his Officers and Followers, were Oppressors too. Nay, Stripes, with cruel Insults and Contumelies, exercised upon the Persons of the Plundered, never failed to accompany the Plunder. Scaptius, an Officer and Creature of the Governor of Cilicia, beset the Senate of Salamine, in the same Island, with a Body of Horse, and confined them so long together, that Five of them died of Hunger; I suppose, in order to force them into some lusty Boon, as well as into the Payment of a Debt due at Rome, which was the avowed Pretence.
It was not enough, that the Public provided Shipping, and Money, and whatever else was necessary, for the Journey of the Governors of Provinces, to prevent all Pretence of any Demand upon the poor People, sufficiently burdened with public Impositions. The Lust of Gain, and unbridled Rule, proved too hard for Law, and every other Consideration. Nay, what is most remarkable of all, the wretched Asiatics, so much oppressed by that very Governor of Cilicia, were prevailed with to send a solemn Deputation to Rome, at a vast Expence, to thank him publicly there. This extraordinary Practice was, however, not singular: The People of Messina, a great City in Sicily, dispatched the like Deputation to Rome, there publicly to praise that Monster Verres for his good Administration. We may guess how such Deputations were procured.
Cicero was the succeeding Governor in Cilicia; a blessed Change for the People! a public Saviour for a public Plunderer! He found them utterly unable to pay their Taxes: All their Revenues were mortgaged; nothing but Poverty, Groans, and Wailings, with all the Traces of a Government, not exercised by a human Creature over those of his own Kind, but by a wild Beast of Prey, ravaging human Society. No Wonder that they were charmed with the mild and virtuous Administration of Cicero. Yet, his Predecessor, far from being punished for his furious Misrule, was chosen into the most awful Office of the State, and created Censor. He was a Man, indeed, of high Quality, and high Spirit, and, which may seem wonderful, filled that sublime Station with great Integrity, as well as Vigour; indeed more strictly than was expedient for that critical Conjuncture, as I have already elsewhere observed.
From this his very opposite Administration of different Offices, I am inclinable to think, that, when Censor, he acted in his own Person; when Governor, left his Authority in the Hands of his Officers and Followers; as it often happens, that the best Men make the worst Governors, since they exert not their best Qualities, and, bearing only the Name, blindly trust others with the Discharge of their Duty. For, though the Spirit and Behaviour of Men be strangely various, yet it is not usually wont to change so suddenly and intirely, from a constant Course of Violence and Injustice, to a constant Course of invincible Probity and Justice.
Cicero, in his Journey to his Government, travelled wholly at his own Expence, and proved burdensome to none. He would not accept even the Benefit of the Julian Law. All his Retinue observed the same Moderation. He considered himself as employed to procure the Good of Mankind, with the Blessings and Praises of all such as he protected, and even of all whom he oppressed not, nor suffered to be oppressed. Such Virtue was then too rare, but thence the more glorious to him. Like other great and worthy Minds, he scorned to take every base Advantage from his Place. As he behaved himself, so did those about him; observing his Conduct, consulting his Honour, and following his Example. About a corrupt Man, every thing will be corrupt. Cicero was too quick, and attentive, to suffer his Administration to be stained by the Venality, or Oppression, of his Creatures, whilst his own Hands and Heart, and whole Conduct, were so clear, and so virtuously exercised, to procure the Ease and Felicity of the Province. It was therefore a just and honourable Testimony given of him by the famous Cato, ‘That the Excellency of his Government deserved high Praise; and, if public Honours were bestowed upon Virtue, as well as upon Victory, Cicero could never have too many.’
Cicero believed that it was the Duty of all Generals, and Governors of Provinces, to be content with the Glory of a righteous Administration, without any other Advantage. Nihil enim prætor laudem bonis atque innocentibus, neque ex hostibus, neque a sociis repetendum. The Conquests of Marcus Marcellus, in Sicily, were not more glorious to himself and the Commonwealth, than his Faith, and Disinterestedness, and Humanity, towards the Conquered. Such an Administration, brought not only high Glory to Rome, and her Magistrates, but equal Security and Strength. But such good Rule was far from being constant or universal. It grew common for the Roman Rulers, sent to rescue the Provinces from a foreign Enemy, to oppress and plunder them afterwards, with equal Violence, and continue it longer, and turn a small and temporary Deliverance into a severe and lasting Tyranny. A dreadful Circumstance to the Provinces, when they durst neither submit to Invaders, nor apply for Succours against them, nor forbear to apply. Thus the Roman Armies became more terrible than an Enemy’s Army. The Countries suffered less from a merciful Conqueror, than from their Governors afterwards, when they were intitled to Law and Protection. The natural Consequence was, that, when Rome lost her Liberty, the Provinces, long oppressed by her Citizens, readily complied with the Change, and submitted to the Government of the Cæsars.
Rare then were such good Governors from Rome as Cicero proved, and rare the Punishment of bad there. Almost all the great Men were corrupt, and, as in a common Cause, stood by one another. They who were to judge the Criminal, had been either Criminals, or expected to be; and therefore were little disposed to punish him for what they had practised, or were determined to practise, themselves. The lawful Gain of such Governments seemed small, without oppressing for more; and thus most of them undertook them purposely to oppress; for they were generally indigent, or rapacious, or both; and, as they were always Men of great Quality, who are not always the most virtuous, they ever depended upon powerful Protection at home.
Caius Macer, Governor of Asia, when accused for his lawless Administration there, before Cicero, then Prætor, though notoriously guilty, yet trusted so strongly to the Credit and Intercession of the renowned Marcus Crassus, his Kinsman, as boldly to put off his mourning Habit, which Men under Arraignment always wore; nor would he have been condemned by his Judges, notwithstanding all his Guilt, had it not been by the Power and Management of Cicero.
The famous Catiline was roundly acquitted of the like Charge, brought against him by the People of Africa, where he had been Governor; though his Guilt was as glaring as the Sun at Noonday: Nay, he impudently stood Candidate for the supreme Office of the Commonwealth, that of Consul, whilst he was yet under Arraignment.
When the Judges, appointed to try the wild and abandoned Clodius, desired a Guard for their Security; Catulus, who knew that they had been corrupted, asked them, If it was through Fear that the Money, with which they had been bribed, should be taken from them?
Lentulus, he who afterwards conspired with Catiline, having bribed his Judges, and being acquitted by a Majority of Two, declared publicly, that he regretted the Money given to one of them.
Had not, therefore, Caius Gracchus good Grounds to press the People of Rome, to transfer the Tribunals from the Senators to the Equestrian Order, when he urged, with so much Truth, that the Plebeians must never expect Justice, in any Dispute with the Nobility, when the Criminals themselves, or their Friends and Relations, sat as Judges? He alleged two recent Examples, of Cornelius Cotta, and Marcus Acilius, two principal Senators, guilty of scandalous Extortion undeniably proved, but suffered to escape Punishment, through the Corruption and Pattiality of their Judges.
Du Vignau relates a remarkable Instance of Avarice, Corruption, and Oppression, in the prime Vizier Cara Mustapha; that as he took the Tribute of Moldavia in Cattle, chiefly in Goats, such numerous Flocks were driven from thence to Constantinople, that, to make the most of them, he forced that great City to eat no other Meat but Goats Flesh for several Days together, till the Whole was consumed. Nuuman Bashaw, of the famous Family of Kuproli, Grand Vizier to the late deposed Sultan Achmet, had a more merciful Spirit. When that Prince, who was extremely covetous, and void of all Tenderness for his Subjects, had determined to break the Truce with the Czar of Muscovy, as the War could not be carried on without laying new and heavier Taxes upon the People, he ordered such to be forthwith raised. The Vizier first represented, that it was impossible; for that nothing ought to be levied upon the Subjects but what the Law and their Prophet prescribed: Then, perceiving such merciful Counsel to be displeasing to Achmet, he added, boldly, that, if he liked it nor, he must chuse another Vizier better skilled in the Arts of Oppression, like some that he had had not long before.
However great the Power be of the Provincial Mandarins in China, it is not sufficient to support them in the Exercise of their Charge, unless they act with such Benevolence, and public Spirit, as to be reputed the Fathers, as well as Governors, of the People. They therefore strive to enrich their Provinces, and employ the People profitably: They even extend their Cares to all Quarters and Persons. One of the Occupations of these great Mandarins is likewise to instruct the People, which they do with great Assiduity and Gravity twice a Month, upon important moral Subjects, upon all public and private Duties, in a plain Style, by Arguments obvious to their Understandings; without any Terms of Ambiguity and Strife, or distracting the Heads of the poor People with Chimeras, Subtleties, and egregious Nonsense.
The Mandarins are supposed, by such frequent Instructions, so to form the Minds and Morals of the People, as to prevent the Commission of all notable Crimes; and, when such Crimes happen, the Mandarin is answerable for them, or obliged, at least, to find out and punish the Criminals: Nay, he is sometimes turned out of the Government, where such Crimes prevail, merely because they prevail; for that they are supposed to proceed from his little Care in instructing the People.
It is from such Institutions as these, that the Chinese Provinces surpass all the Nations of the Earth in Numbers, as that Government, in general, does in good Policy, and consequently in Felicity; insomuch that, in Compation with the Antiquity and Stability of the Government of China, all the Governments of the Earth besides are but of Yesterday.
Who the first Authors of Civil War: What inslames it most, and why it is so hard to be checked.
SALLUST, in recounting the many Causes operating at Rome towards Civil War, mentions the Spirit of Disaffection, like a Contagion, seizing the Minds of Men; some out of Place, eager to be in; others, ill using their Power; many, desperate in their Affairs, and hoping to mend them by the Calamities of the State: The Poverty of the Vulgar, who had Hopes to Win, without Danger of Losing; all Criminals, all vicious, prodigal, and desperate Men, flocking from all Quarters to Rome; Numbers admiring the Times and Usurpation of Sylla, whence common Soldiers were raised to the Dignity of Senators, and to the Riches of Kings; all the Descendents of such whose Estates were then forfeited; all Parties who were angry at the Senate, and would rather see the State in Confusion, than themselves deprived of Sway.
How well the Effects agree with such powerful and discouraging Causes, I hope the following Discourse will shew.
As Faction proves often the Beginning and Cause of Civil War, Civil War, which is the last and highest Effort of Faction, has but one certain Way of curing Faction; that is, by the Extinction of Law and Liberty; of that very Liberty, which, being wantonly stretched and abused, ends in destroying itself. Thus they, who having too much Liberty, and yet still contended for more, as if they that could bear none had not enough, became Slaves in their Pursuit of Freedom. Neither is there a more certain Sign, or more effectual Cause, of Slavery, than Liberty pushed to Licentiousness, which, by making all Men Masters, must soon reduce all Masters to one. So that Anarchy, which is Power assumed by All; and Tyranny, which is all Power exercised by One; though very distant in Sound, are nearer to each other in Effect, than many things that have greater Conformity of Names.
And as they, who under the Pretence of vindicating or supporting Liberty when it is not hurt, nor lessened, nor attacked, incense the People against their lawful Rulers, or disable their lawful Rulers from well governing the People, are the Authors of Faction, and Promoters of a Civil War; so they who are possessed of lawful Power, and abuse it by using it unlawfully, or assume more than they have, and from Magistrates turn Oppressors, are accountable for all the Mischief that follows such public Provocation and Insolence; especially when they persevere in their arbitrary Doings, after all Remonstrances, and in spight of all Warnings; and, by so doing, manifest a settled Intention and Rancour against the People, and their Liberties. For the People, for their own Sakes, ought to try all Expedients with Patience, before they try the Sword, which may serve to cut them off, as well as to save them; and therefore never to trust to it, (for Civil War is a terrible Lottery) till they have full Proof, that they have nothing else to trust to; and then, Woe be to the Aggressors! Let the Merit and Result of all Civil Wars, as also the Pretensions of all Princes, and all People, who have engaged in them, be tried by this Rule.
Power unrestrained, and Liberty uncontrouled, are both apt to make Men wanton and insolent; Magistrates to despise and oppress their People; the People to defy and insult their Magistrates; and therefore both have a direct Tendency to produce Civil Wars. The Magistrate will strive to maintain, and consequently to extend, his Power; as will the People, to secure and increase their Liberty and Independence. He pleads his Authority, they their Rights; both deny each others Claims: He prepares to use Force, they to resist it. Thenceforward he treats them as Rebels; they him as an Usurper: That is, they commence on both Sides open Enemies, and bring the Contest to the Decision of the Sword; which, when it is once drawn, measures Right and Reason only by Success; maintains Justice and Protection by killing and destroying; settles Property by seizing it; and, whoever has the sharpest Weapon, has the best Cause.
Whoever would kindle a Civil War, for whatever Ends, good or bad, needs only set it on Foot; that is, bring the opposite Sides to shed one another’s Blood; and then it will go on of itself but too naturally and freely. Mutual Hatred, which may subsist, at least awhile, without Violence, becomes then mutual Vengeance, ravening after Sacrifices, and human Slaughters; and both Parties, having the same Provocation, and the same furious Pursuit, must needs act implacably, and delight in afflicting, distressing, and butchering one another(a) .
In Wars between Nation and Nation, the Individuals of each, not knowing one another, can have no reciprocal Aversion, or Bitterness, from personal Causes and Distaste; so that the Rage of the Commonalty is chiefly Personal to the opposite Chief; as the English hated Lewis XIV. and the French hated King William III. At least such personal Hate extended no further than a few remarkable Officers in both Armies, such as had distinguished themselves by their Bravery and Success, or, perhaps, by their Cruelty. The Bulk of both Armies were animated towards each other, only by a general Enmity, which has nothing of the Rancour arising from particular Enmities of one Man towards another.
Thus Civil War comes to be more fierce and outrageous than other Wars. In other Wars, the Particulars fight for Pay, or Plunder; but here, Family Animosities are superadded, with the Emulation of Neighbours; and the Dispute is not only between Men and Men, for Rule and Command, which can fall into the Hands of but One, or a Few; but it is a Conflict between Individuals, between Subject and Subject, Thomas and Peter, upon private Antipathy, and for personal Injuries. And whereas Quarrels between Nation and Nation, as they arise upon certain Points, easily known, and not many in Number, may be adjusted by settling, or giving up, these Points; and it is generally in the Power and Option of one Man, or a few of each Nation, so to adjust them; since each Nation leaves it to their Civil Governors, as to begin such Wars, so to end them; it is quite otherwise in Civil Wars: For then the Civil Government is not known, at least not owned, by both the contending Parties; and the Points of Contention are as infinite, as the Caprices, Animosities, Pursuits and Sufferings of particular Men.
The chief Power in a Civil War, vested in the Generals, yet little reverenced by the Soldiers. Both Soldiers and People grow hardened and ungovernable.
IT is not in the Power of any General (for they own no other than that of their General) to satisfy, nor consequently to controul, the Demands of the Subalterns and Soldiers, who, in Civil Wars, have often more Authority than their Commander. For, though his Power, in its Nature, be absolute; yet, as he can exercise none without their Leave and Assistance, they seldom leave him more than squares with their own good Liking. Sylla, as cruel and ambitious as he was, endeavoured to end the Civil War by an Offer of fair Terms: But no Peace could please such as had engaged in it, upon Views altogether immoderate and pernicious.
‘The Generals of the Party, (says Tacitus, speaking of that of Vespasian) Men so vigorous and puissant in kindling the Civil War, were found insufficient to controul the Spirit of Victory.’ When they had conqueted all their Enemies, they could not controul their own Men. The Reason which he assigns, is very just: ‘In exciting public Tumults, even the worst Men have the greatest Sway: But to uphold Peace, righteous Measures, and virtuous Management, are required.’ He had been just recounting the miserable State of Rome, immediately after that Victory; that ‘The Streets were filled with Carnage, and mangled Coarses; the Temples, and Places of public Resort, were dyed and streaming with Blood; and all were butchered, who presented themselves to the destroying Sword. Anon, private Houses were searched, and such as lay hid there were dragged out; and every-where the Tall and Youthful were murdered without Mercy or Exception. This Cruelty, when glutted with Blood and Killing, was strait changed to Rapaciousness; all Places were broken and plundered, and Murder always attended Opposition. The indigent Populace were as busy as cruel, and as rapacious as the Soldiers. Slaves betrayed their Lords; as did one Friend another:—On all Sides Wailing, and the Voice of Anguish, with the miserable Spectacle of a City stormed and sacked; yet they who caused the Calamity, could bring no Relief.’
The Prince, or the General of an Army, may, perhaps, have Authority enough to order any egregious Mischief to be done; such as burning or plundering a City, or putting worthy Men, and innocent People, to the Sword; but have no Power to prevent any, especially the worst Mischiefs from being done; as was the Case of Otho; and the same may be observed of almost all Generals, in all Civil Wars.
It was so even with Cæsar, the most able and most successful Commander in Rome; it was so with Augustus, a Prince, fortunate beyond most that ever reigned; both forced to wink at Sallies of Rage and Excesses in their Officers, which, sometimes at least, they would gladly have prevented: It was the Case of Cromwell, whose Agitators, a Faction raised in the Army by himself, and encouraged by him for Purposes of his own, to represent and assert the Interest of the Soldiery, became at last so formidable to him, that he was forced to venture a bold Stroke, and even his Life, to quell them.
It was also the Case of the Duke of Mayenne with the Junto of Sixteen at Paris, Men selected from the several Quarters of that City, as the ablest and most determined Demagogues, to oppose the Parliament, to inflame the People, and keep up the furious Spirit of the Ligue; and, at first, they did him notable Service, as the Agitators did Cromwell; but as soon as they found their own Strength and Influence, they began to assume sovereign Power, to act for Themselves, and not for Him; committing the most barbarous Injustice and Cruelties upon all Sorts of Men, and dooming Magistrates of the most venerable Character and Rank to the Gallows, and the like ignominious Punishment; amongst others the President Brisson, the great Light of the Law, and of public Justice: Insomuch that the Duke de Mayenne was obliged to have recourse to Violence on His Side too; and executed several of these his own Instruments, and subordinate Leaders.
These Demagogues had even a Chance for continuing their Authority without him, and in spite of him; as, probably, they would, at least for a time, if they and the Army had but agreed to have supported each other; as sometimes, in Civil Dissentions, the People and the Soldiers, that is, the Incendiaries who influence both, agree in Measures of Anarchy and Fury, though seldom in those of equal Righteousness, and common Good. Thus, at Constantinople, the Populace and the Janizaries frequently go Hand in Hand to pull down and butcher their Rulers, both supreme and subordinate, and to set up others; but never once propose, much less concert, any Scheme to secure themselves, and all Men, against the Excesses of their future Rulers; Excesses arising naturally and necessarily from the Frame of their Government, of which they are very fond, and see no Fault in it; nay, despise all other Governments, such, especially, as provide best for public Security, by limiting the Power of the Governors. The Turks daily feel and rue the dreadful Rigour of their own brutal Sovereignty; but see no further than the Men who administer it; and, therefore, aim only at Them, like a Dog that bites the Stone which is thrown at him. They murder and dethrone, without mending their Condition; and satiate their Vengeance, without finding Amends or Restitution.
In former Ages, too, during the Reign of the Greek Emperors, in all the frequent Insurrections, and dethroning of Princes, the common People were as forward as the Soldiers; and no Imperial City was ever more fertile in Revolutions even then: For the Emperors, though the State abounded in Laws, and they professed to rule by Law, yet generally ruled without and against Law; and, supporting unjust Power by Violence, exposed themselves to be used violently; and thence furnished an eternal Source of Revolts, Massacres, and Civil Wars.
Hence, too, from the Frequency of the Evil (and Civil War, which infers all Evils, is, consequently the greatest of all) People grow hardened, lose all Horror of public Calamities and Confusion, and become disposed, if not to encourage, at least not to oppose, what they would otherwise have considered with Dread and Abhorrence, and ventured their Lives to prevent.
In the last Struggle between the Armies of Vitellius and Vespasian, even in the Streets of Rome, the People, instead of being doleful and affrighted Witnesses, instead of bewailing the public Lot, and the Curse of Civil Arms, and of feeling Anguish for their native City, the Pride and Mistress of the Earth, now wallowing and defiled with the Blood of Romans, as well as of Barbarians; instead of Concern for her Property, and the Lives of her Citizens, for her Beauty and Buildings, and even for her Being, all at the Mercy of the Sword and Flames, were so little affected with such Sympathy, and tender Concern, that, ‘They were gathered as curious Spectators about the Combatants; and, as if they had been only attending the Representation of a Sight exhibited for public Amusement and Sport, they favoured and espoused now These, anon Those, with theatrical Shouts and Clappings: Nay, as often as either Side recoiled, and Particulars had fled into Houses, or lay hid in Shops, they insisted upon their being dragged out and slain; and thus came Themselves to enjoy the largest Part of the Prey: For, whilst the Soldiers were only pursuing Blood and Slaughter, the Spoil fell to the Possession of the Commonalty. Tragical and ghastly was the Face of the whole City: In one Place deadly Conflicts, and bleeding Wounds; in another luxurious Bathings, and Feats of Riot; everywhere Blood in Streams, and Carcases in Piles; yet just at Hand wanton Harlots, or such as resembled Harlots; Acts of Debauchery and Voluptuousness, as extravagant as ever were practised during a Season of Luxury and Repose; with all the Barbarities attending the most merciless Captivity: Insomuch that you would have thought the same City, at once, transported with brutal Outrage, and abandoned to sensual Revellings. Rome had before seen contending Armies in her Streets; where Sylla twice remained Conqueror, and once Cinna; nor was there then less Cruelty exercised: But now, amongst Men, there prevailed an Unconcern and Security perfectly inhuman; nor, for a single Moment, were their Pursuits of Pleasure postponed: Nay, as if this Confusion and Carnage had seasonably intervened to heighten the Gaiety of their festival Days, they exulted, they pampered and indulged, to both Parties utterly indifferent, and triumphing in public Miseries.’ This Account we have from Tacitus.
The shocking Corruption, and dissolute Manners, produced by Civil War; with the dreadful Barbarities and Devastations attending it.
AS Civil War hardens the Heart, it likewise debauches all Degrees of Men. It furnishes Men of Ambition with a Prospect of raising themselves to Power; and animates the Avaricious and Indigent with Hopes of Plunder: It enures People to Sights and Acts of Cruelty; and thence banishes or lessens their natural Tenderness and Humanity, and teaches them to despise the Laws, and, consequently, Right and Wrong, by perceiving all these daily trampled under Foot: Insomuch that, at the End of one Civil War, there are always Numbers who wish for another; and always forward to begin it, as a ready way to grow considerable, if they be low; to grow rich, without much Labour, if they be poor and rapacious; to be revenged on their Enemies, if they be vindictive; to live without Restraint, if they be debauched and licentious; and without Fear, if they be obnoxious to Punishment and Restraint, for Debt, and Disorder, and Crimes(a) .
All Revolutions are Seasons of wonderful Latitude and Licence, as well as of strange Vicissitudes, and sudden Turns, where the Wicked are often rewarded, at least saved, and the Harmless punished. Cornelius Aquinas and Fabius Valens, having sollicited Fonteius Capito to rebel against Galba, and Capito (though otherwise a Man far from virtuous) having rejected their Sollicitations, they charged him with the very Treason which he refused to commit, and slew him as a Traitor. The Murderers of Galba boasted of being so, and even craved a Reward; many at once assuming that horrible Merit.
The Evils which any Civil War, however short, produces, are so many and shocking, as to deter every honest and humane Mind from every Step that tends to raise one; as in it neither Life nor Property is secure, but even exposed to continual Peril and Violence: When Innocence is a Snare, and the Laws no longer protect; when Men follow only the Bent of their worst Passions; when the Ties of Morality are dissolved, with those of Society; and even those of Consanguinity and Nature are disregarded; when blind Force dictates, and the Weak and Unoffending must bleed or obey; when the Lowest and Worst Men are daily prospering and rising, merely, perhaps, for being the worst; and the Greatest and Worthiest are destroyed or depressed, probably for that Reason only; when the vilest Instruments are encouraged and supported, and Wealth and Virtue subject to their Malice and Rapine, without Protection or Appeal; when the Magistrate’s Authority is defied by the Officer, that of the Officer by his Men; when the common Soldiers are Masters, and the licentious Rabble fear no Restraint; when the Works and Monuments of Ages, with the noblest Efforts of human Genius, are destroyed in an Hour; and Cities, which gloried in Opulence and Antiquity, reduced at once to Ashes by a few Incendiaries, perhaps in a Whim, or from Mistake, or in a drunken Fit; all their numerous and wealthy Inhabitants either burnt, or begging, or sold to Slavery, or murdered, for Want of Money to redeem them; the old Men dragged about in Derision, then butchered, as useless; the young Men committed to Bonds; the young and virtuous Women forced to bear the Embraces of Brutes yet reeking with the Blood of their Mothers and Fathers and Brothers, shed in their Sight, for endeavouring to save these their dear Children, or Sisters, or Wives, from Brutality and Dishonour; a Lot worse than Death.
It was the Design of the Soldiery, after they had murdered Galba, (for which Murder they had no Pretence, but their own vile Avarice, and his ill-timed Frugality) to have their Hands let loose to general Pillage and Massacte, and to bring to Destruction every able and every worthy Man in the Roman State. Thus they vehemently pressed the Death of Marius Celsus for his Abilities and Virtues; which they dreaded and abhorred as dangerous Crimes.
Guilty Men are always disposed to revolt, like the Soldiers of Nymphidius, Captain of the Prætorian Guards to Nero; like the Soldiers of Vindex in Gaul, and the Armies in Germany. They had all been engaged in treasonable Designs; and, being conscious of such Engagements, continued prone to every Act of Treason. The Soldiery then, having been long accustomed to the base Reign of Nero, came to admire the Vileness and Vices of their Princes, as much as the Armies of old had adored their Virtues; as Tacitus observes. It was, therefore, no Wonder, what otherwise would seem very wonderful, that Two common Soldiers should undertake to transfer the great Roman Empire from one Prince to another; and actually so transferred it, as the Minds of all the rest were before foured and prepared.
In a Civil War, as both Parties are generally implacable, and determined to carry their Point, general Cruelty and Devastation, and even general Destruction, must ensue, till it is ended by a general Victory; which can hardly happen, till after infinite Havock and Misery. Cicero says, ‘The Civil Dissentions between popular and powerful Men (he means the Heads of Parties) never used to have any other Issue than universal Desolation, with the Domination of the Conqueror, and settled Tyranny. Sylla, when Consul, in his Descent very noble, in his Person very brave, had a Contest with the celebrated Marius; each of these was vanquished and sell, yet so that each again became Conqueror, and exercised sovereign Sway. Between the Consul Octavius, and his Collegue Cinna, Discord arose; to both these Fortune, proving propitious, presented absolute Rule; and upon both these Fortune, turning cross, brought their mortal Doom.’
Even during the Peace ensuing these Civil Wars, the Sword continued drawn(a) , and was employed against such as had quietly surrendered. Sylla, for Example, not satisfied with the Slaughter of above Seventy thousand Men at his Entrance into Rome, commanded several Thousand Roman Citizens, submitting to his Power, and unarmed, to be openly massacred in the midst of Rome; besides the Carnage committed every-where by his Men, at their Pleasure; till Furfidius advised them, for their own Sake, to let some live, else they would have none to rule, or rather to domineer over. Then followed the bloody Proscription, the most daring and dreadful Butchery of all, that of Two thousand distinguished Romans, selected from the Senate and Equestrian Order. Nay, shedding their Blood was not enough: Some illustrious Men were torn leisurely Limb from Limb, their Eyes pulled out, their Legs and Arms rent from their Trunks, still breathing, and thus exposed as a Shew. The Destruction of Communities succeeded that of Men, and the most illustrious free Cities in Italy were confiscated, and even sold by Auction, such as Florence, Præneste, Spoletum, &c.
When Fortune had declared for Vitellius, Italy suffered Calamities more oppressive and barbarous than she had during the War. The Soldiers, quartered in the great Towns, let themselves loose to Spoil and Ravage, to Cruelty and Pollution; following Rapine, or compounding at a Price to forbear; sparing neither things Sacred nor Profane. Some assumed the Garb of Soldiers, thus safely to kill their particular Enemies. The Soldiers themselves, marking out for Plunder all the rich Farms, where they met Resistance, devoted both these, and the Owners, to Fire and Sword.—Nor dared their Generals to restrain them, being themselves guilty, and quite awed by their Men. For,
To engage them thoroughly in the Civil War, general Licentiousness was one of the great Baits offered and allowed them by the contending Chiefs: Insomuch that not only the Butchering of all their own Centurions, remarkable for Discipline, was connived at; but they were allowed to chuse others in their Places, and then they always chose the least qualified, and the most seditious. So that it was no Wonder to see the Soldiers no longer under the Controul of their Leaders, nor the Leaders forced headlong by the Fury of the Soldiers(a) .
It is to be observed too, that the less regular and brave Soldiers are, the more licentious, and disobedient, and merciless they are. Tacitus says, that, ‘As, amongst the Soldiers of old, to surpass each other in Modesty, and Feats of Valour, was their only Contention, they at this time (that is, during the Civil War) vied in Impudence and Mutinies.’ Hence they were continually destroying, or demanding the Destruction of, their Commanders. When they themselves had been guilty of any remarkable Violence, or Cowardice, they were sure to punish their Officers, especially the Brave and Innocent: And, if sometimes they became ashamed of their Madness, their wild Fears, and Mistakes, and for a little while relented, their former Fury and Folly soon returned. As, these Outrages were common to whole Legions, one Legion encouraged another in them; and as some Legions thought, that, by the Sedition of others, their own was obliterated, they all rejoiced in repeating their Guilt. Sometimes they were animated to these Acts of Sedition and Blood by one Commander, in order to get rid of others, that the whole Sway and Praise might remain with himself. But whatever was the Cause of such repeated Guilt, they were almost eternally guilty. When they were not doing Mischief in a Body, they crept singly into private Houses, in disguised Habits, as Spies, watching for Matter of Accusation and Ruin, against Men of Wealth and Eminence: So that as no Man was safe at Home, every Man lived in Fear there.
Neither was it against the Insufficiency, or Infidelity, of their Leaders, that they were apt thus to rage. They were often, on the contrary, ready to prompt and encourage such Infidelity. Who was a more able, who a more unblameable, and even admired Commander than Germanicus? Yet, with what Outrage did they use him; drag him from his Bed, and threaten his Life, scorning his Authority, and proceeding to general Mutiny, and Acts of Blood, before his Face; after they had tempted him, in vain, to usurp the Empire himself? Where was there a more loathsome and contemptible Character than that of Vitellius, a Glutton, more resembling a Swine than a Man; yet, in such high Estimation with the Soldiers, that hardly had any Man ever gained such an Interest in their Hearts by worthy Methods, as he had by mere Impotence, Gluttony, and Sloth? We have this Account of him, and them, upon the Authority of Tacitus. All the military Virtues and grand Capacity of that mighty Captain, the great Marshal de Turenne, could not secure to him the Attachment of his Army, when he had declared for the Party of the Slingers, in the Minority of Lewis XIV. against the base Administration of Mazarine. The Cardinal’s Money bribed them all from him in the Space of a Night.
Otho too was the Favourite of the Soldiers, in a very high Degree, by the Force of much Flattery, and profuse Bounty; yet neither Otho nor Vitellius could prevent their Fury and Excesses. In Sight of Vitellius, and in Spight of him, they first besieged, and then burnt, the Capitol, the Glory, and Strength, and Boast of Rome. In spight of Otho, upon a foolish Suspicion and Mistake, some of them drunk, all of them mad for Plunder, they murdered their Officers, and entered Rome like a hostile Army, breathing Destruction to all Men; but especially to the Senate, whom, in express Terms, they professed to butcher. They even burst open the Palace-Doors, to his own great Dread, as well as of all about him; neither could he effectually quell their Fury, even by unmanly Sobs, and Tears, and servile Supplications, till to these he added, what was of more Force, indeed the only Means of Safety and Peace, a Donative. During this dreadful Uproar, Persons of the first Rank in Rome fled by Night for their Lives; Magistrates without their Ensigns and Train; tender Ladies, and antient Noblemen, roaming hither and thither in the Dark, few returning to their own Homes; most seeking lurking Holes amongst the Lowest of their Dependents.
The Soldiery, in a Civil War, only consider themselves: What low Instruments and Causes serve to begin and continue it.
THE Soldiery, in all Civil Wars, generally consider neither the Cause, nor the Commander; but only Themselves, and Licentiousness, and Rapine. When News were brought to the Army in Gaul, that Galba was murdered, and the Sovereignty devolved upon Otho, such News moved not the Spirit of the Soldiery, either with Grief, or Joy; for their Spirit was only intent upon War, without regarding for whom, or for what. Sometimes they committed the most horrid Mischiefs and Cruelties, even without View to Plunder, or any Provocation, or any Passion for Spoil, but from sudden Rage and Madness, and Causes unknown, and thence the harder to be remedied. At Dividurum, a City of Gaul, the Soldiers under Fabius Valens, General to Vitellius, though they were received into it with every Degree of Frankness and Complaisance, were seized with a causeless Frensy, and instantly grasped their Swords to massacre the unoffending Citizens; and, before they could be appeased, slaughtered Four Thousand.
It is always too easy to inflame a Croud; for, whether armed or unarmed, they are alike liable to be deceived, and consequently to commit Acts of Rage; as they are alike apt to listen more to Passion and Lyes, both soon raised, than to Truth and Reason, which, to be successful, require Time, and Temper, and Attention. Any miserable Knave, that can Speak loud, and Lye lustily, or even Whisper craftily, is capable of raising such Mutinies and Insurrections, (especially in Civil Wars) as the best Capacity, and highest Authority, cannot quell; whether he affrighten them with Apprehensions of severer Discipline, or the Want or Reduction of their Pay, or of harder Quarters, or of Stripes or Dismission, or that they are never to be dismissed, or that some of their Brethren, for being just to the Body, have been privately dispatched by the General, or with any other Grievance, however false and improbable, (for, to the Multitude, the most monstrous Absurdities, strongly asserted, appear true, as do the greatest Follies important) they will credit his Forgeries, because they think him their Friend, though he be indeed their worst Enemy, sooner than Truth from an honest Man, whom they are taught to esteem their Enemy, though in reality their Friend.
Any counterfeit Knave, who boldly personates any Prince, or Leader, slain or dead, finds presently Followers; these Followers daily increase; and, more zealous for Deceit than for true Information, will consequently be more eager to restore him, than to forsake him: And thus, for a miserable Lye, Civil Wars have begun, and been carried on with infinite Obstinacy and Blood. This Country, and many others, afford Instances of this Sort.
There can hardly be a greater Example, how easily, and from what small Causes, Civil Wars rise, even to the greatest Height, than the great Revolution which produced the dethroning of Edward IV. and the Restoration of Henry VI. It began from a little Story, in a remote Part of the Kingdom, about defrauding an Hospital of some Corn. The Populace, hearing this Story told, (perhaps maliciously, though truly) fell tumultuously upon the Officers employed to collect it; and their Resentment was so well improved, that what was at first a Riot, from private Passion, whether of Charity or Avarice, became an Insurrection against the State, and overturned it. The great Revolution in China, which brought that mighty State, in 1644 under the Dominion of the Tartars, where it has ever since remained, was so suddenly accomplished, that the capital City was taken, and even the outward Court of the Palace, before the Emperor knew a Word of his own Danger. Matters, indeed, and the Minds of Men, were well prepared by his oppressive Reign, which naturally produced sore Discontents, as these did strong Factions, and Factions did Revolts. An Incident, not great in itself, being altogether of a private Nature, contributed greatly to the first Triumvirate, so fatal to the Roman State. Cæsar intrigued with Mutia, Pompey’s Wife, whom therefore Pompey divorced. This so affronted her Brother Metellus Celer, the Consul, that he opposed all Pompey’s Views, especially of ratifying his Conduct in the War against Mithridates, and of obtaining Lands for his Soldiers. Under this Difficulty he fell into the ruinous League with Cæsar and Crassus.
Old Villeroy says, in his Memoirs, that one of the great Causes of the Mischiefs which befel Henry III. and France under him, his tragical End, the fierce Ligue, and the bloody Civil War, was his changing the Form of expediting Royal Grants and Donations, subject, before that, to be controuled by proper Officers, who could not pass them when not agreeable to old Forms and Regulations, which were an excellent Guard to the Crown, and a Security against the King’s being surprised into extravagant Concessions, to their own great Hurt and Impoverishing, as well as that of their Subjects, and against the Influence and sudden Rise of worthless Favourites and Flatterers. Yet these Favourites and Flatterers had too much Success with a young King, naturally generous, and fond of Rule without Restraint, when they told him, ‘It was beneath a Monarch, to have his Will and Commands controuled by his Subjects.’ The Consequence was, his Profuseness made him poor; his Poverty made him oppress his People: They grew uneasy and discontented. This encouraged ambitious Men, and Demagogues, to incite, and even begin, a Civil War.
Whatever alarms the Populace, and causes Insurrections, be it ever so absurd, or even impossible, such Alarms and Insurrections will rarely want busy Heads to foment, and able Hands to strengthen them. Wretches, too, who pretend to Intelligence from the Stars, or beyond the Stars, Dealers in the Nonsense of Astrology, and false Prophecy, are always of notable Influence, and prove successful Incendiaries, upon such Occasions; belying Heaven, and abusing and inflaming Men. As if the Divinity communicated himself only to Mischief-makers, and only for the Sake of Mischief. Yet, such as belye God, have often the greatest Credit with Men.
Mankind are always prone to Delusion, but most so upon great public Shocks, general Distress, and Changes, when their Hopes and Fears are greatly agitated, and thence continually disposed to gratify these Passions with false Objects; as they always are at the Beginning, and during the Progress, of a Civil War. This therefore is a rare Season for Monks, Astrologers, and all Spiritual Mountebanks and Fanatics, to thrive and multiply in, and to promote, and even perpetuate, Civil Rage. When they have once persuaded their Dupes, that such an Event will happen, it is easy to put them upon Expedients to bring it to pass; and in doing it, such as believe it to be God’s Decree, will thence be notably animated to fulfil it; nay, be proud of being his Instruments. Otho, when he was assured, that he should reign, found no Objection against murdering the reigning Prince. When the Almighty is thought to direct and to sanctify the End, the Means will always be sanctified too, by such as employ them.
How hard to put an End to a Civil War. The Tendency of One, to produce More. How it sharpens the Spirits of Men, shocks the Civil Constitution, and produces Tyranny.
WHILST Civil War subsists, it must be conducted by Soldiers; and then, not the Laws, but the Soldiers govern, often against the Authority of their General, and the Laws of War, almost always against the Laws of the Land: And, when the Civil War ends, it must be ended too by the Soldiers, by their Power and Consent; and they, continuing the principal Power, as they must be, if they are not dismissed, will govern even in Peace, or suffer their Leader to govern, who must govern to their good Liking, or not at all: And then it is at their Option, whether Peace, or at least the Effects of Peace, shall continue or no. ‘Such, says Cicero, has been the constant Issue of our Civil Wars, that not only the Pleasure of the Conqueror was always complied with, but many Concessions were likewise made to those by whose Aid he conquered.’
If the Soldiery, or any great Number of them, be discharged, a Rebellion is to be feared, and thence a Renewal of the War. New Pretences, and new Leaders, will never be wanting. Thus the Prætorian Cohorts, dismissed by Vitellius, betook themselves again to Arms, joined themselves to Vespasian, and proved the Bulwark of his Party. Nay, not satisfied with being still employed, upon the bare Apprehensions of being neglected, or even suffering themselves to be tempted by a vile Price, the Roman Army warring under that brave Captain Vocula, against public Enemies, Foreigners, and Rebels, bargained to renounce their Allegiance to Rome, to swear Fealty to the Gauls, a Nation so often beaten and conquered by them; nay, to give earnest of an Iniquity so huge and flagrant, by shedding the Blood of their General Officers, or by delivering them up under Chains.
But suppose a Civil War totally concluded, the Army disbanded without Mutiny, or retained without Acts of Violence, (which are large Suppositions) with all the Appearances of general Peace; still it is a Miracle but the Constitution has suffered a violent Shock, such as a long Tract of Time is necessary to cure, if it be ever cured. A People, for some time inured to a Life of Licenciousness, to revenge their own Quarrels, to rob and kill one another, will not cordially submit to live in Peace, and under equal Law. Those who have gained Wealth by the War, will be afraid of having it resumed by the first Owners; as the latter will be sollicitous to have it restored. So that between the Plunderers and the Plundered, there must be constant Rancour, and a Bone of Contention. A Man, once of great Fortune, finds himself a Beggar, made so by one who was a Beggar before; but is now enriched, and swaggering in his Spoils. The first is enraged because he is ruined, and abhors the upstart Author of his Ruin: The other hates the Man whom he has ruined, whose Resentment he fears, and whose Scorn provokes him.
Men newly raised, will strive to have the Government modelled to their own Security and good Liking; and, being uppermost, will probably succeed, or try all Expedients, even the most desperate, to do so; and then insult and oppress, in proportion to their Power, or Indignation, or Wantonness. They will still see, or pretend to see, the same old Spirit of Malevolence, or Contumacy, or Resistance, (or whatever else they chuse to call it) in the subdued Party; and still want new Powers to curb and restrain them, perhaps to imprison, enslave, or even to cut them off; and thus prove Tyrants themselves, and oppress all others, for public Good and Tranquillity. Besides their own Strength and Security, and the Gratification of Revenge, they will be apt to relish the Sweets of Fines, Compositions, and Confiscations; and therefore carefully promote them. It will be easy to find Accusations.
If it be in a Commonwealth, they will be said to affect Monarchy. John Barnevelt was accused of a Design to restore the Spanish Government; that is, the best Protestant, and best Commonwealth’s-Man upon Earth, was meditating how to introduce, and live under, Spanish Revenge and Tyranny, and the horrible Cruelties of the Inquisition. Thus the Oliverians charged all whom they disliked, with a Passion for the Government of the Stuarts; that is, as they meant it, Government without Law, and against Law, though that of their Master Oliver was as absolute as his own Will and Passions could make it. Thus again, after the Restoration, all who displeased the hot-headed Cavaliers, were Oliverians; though these Cavaliers wanted to compliment the King with the same boundless Power, which Oliver, with much more Capacity and Attention, had possessed.
Thus the new prevailing Party will rule, or attempt to rule, after a Civil War, by new Laws, or rather by Violence forbidden by the old Laws; and whatever Power they like, will be found necessary. The Party vanquished, groaning under new Burdens, and berest of Protection, will look back with Regret to the old Laws, (which perhaps they too had violated in their turn) would be glad to see them restored, and even ready, perhaps, to lend Assistance towards restoring them. This is Treason, in the Eye of their lofty Rulers, who, construing their own Oppression to be just, as all Oppressors do, judge the Oppressed to be Rebels, because they complain, as all the Oppressed will; and therefore, by the Name of Law, doom them to Whips, and Chains, and Forfeiture, against Law. All this being fresh Oppression, will naturally beget Schemes and Efforts to destroy it, such as, if they are discovered, (for sometimes they presently succeed) will be encountered with other furious Efforts to defeat them; and then, if neither Party be at once disabled and ruined, the Civil War is rekindled.
As Faction implies Contention and Hate, Civil War infers Destruction and Revenge. Both Sides will do their best to prevail, and the prevailing Side to be fully avenged; and as Men in Prosperity are more apt to be wanton than cautious, and to provoke many of their own Party, and thence divide and weaken it, as well as to oppress the undermost, and thence unite and strengthen it, (for common Distress is an admirable Cement and Reconciler) the Weaker will be gaining from the Stronger; even their Sufferings will procure them Pity and Friends; Dissention amongst their Adversaries will increase their Numbers; Leaders, and Orators, and Motives, will soon be found to rouse them to attempt a Deliverance; which, if it succeed, will probably tempt them, in their turn, to the same Insolence, Oppression, Follies, Desertion, and Weakness, which gave them their present Superiority.
In these Struggles and Changes, both Parties proceed without Mercy or Sense, till one or both find, that, for one to get the intire Mastery of the other, it is absolutely necessary to raise up some one Leader to absolute Power, and thus become Slaves themselves to make their Opponents Slaves; as was exemplified in the Roman People, and their Darling Cæsar, to whom we may join Pompey and Crassus, two other Favourites of the Multitude. The Roman People meant not to exalt either of them into Tyrants, but, in the Heat of Faction and Opposition to the Senate, did it effectually; since from this popular Heat and Madness the first Triumvirate arose; a wicked and terrible Combination of Three Men to engross the Roman Power, and enslave the Roman World.
The Roman People, like other People, first blinded with Party-Animosities, then opening their Eyes, when their Sight served but to torment them, perceived into what infamous Bondage they had plunged themselves, and abhorred it. At the public Shews, Pompey was insulted, Cæsar affronted, and Curio, who then opposed both, received with a Thunder-clap of Applause. All Rome resounded with Murmuring, with loud Complaints, and even with bitter Reproaches upon the Administration. Cæsar was hated, his great Opponent Bibulus was adored: Nothing was ever so unpopular as these Three once popular Men. Yet all their Measures, however pestilent and detested, prevailed; nor could Cicero foresee how they could be opposed without risquing a general Massacre. For the Three grand Conspirators had introduced into the City, particularly Cæsar, from his Government of Narbon Gaul, great Numbers of Soldiers, thence to prevent, or conquer, all Opposition: Insomuch that Cæsar, I know not whether with more Impudence or Violence, ordered the great and virtuous Cato, though invested with the sacred Office of Tribune of the People, to be carried to Prison, for discharging the Duty of his Place, and that of a worthy Patriot, by opposing the Law of Vatinius, for continuing that terrible Man in his great Government now inlarged, at the Head of a great Army in the Neighbourhood of Rome, for Five Years longer.
The wretched People might now see Themselves, their Liberties, and their best Citizens, thus scorned, and despitefully used, and grieve, as they did, for it. They themselves had enabled him to do all this; and, having raised him so high, could not pull him down, even whilst he spurned them, and trod upon their Necks.
Thus Cromwell came by his Power; and, having by it got his Masters, who gave it, under his Feet, he kept them there. Their struggling in Chains served only to make their Chains sharper and heavier.
The Evils, and sudden Changes, brought by Civil War upon particular Families, and upon a Country in general; with the fierce Discontents, and Animosities, and ill Morals, which it entails.
AS Violence generally precedes, and begets, and accompanies, a Civil War, so a Civil War generally ends in Violence, in furious Measures, Confiscations, and Executions; that is to say, in such Measures as tend directly to produce a Succession of Civil Wars. Men fight naturally to defend their Lives, and Estates, and Families, where they are attacked, and manifestly threatened; and to recover their Estates, when taken away. If some are fond of Civil War, from a Passion for Prey and Forfeitures; others are so from a Passion as strong, even to retrieve their Losses and Inheritance: And if mean Men be apt to promote public Confusion for the Sake of Titles, and Fortunes, and Dignities; great Men, reduced to Meanness by such a Vicissitude, will be as eager to risque fresh Confusion, in order to divest their Supplanters, and reinstate themselves. He who is a Lord To-day, and abounds in Wealth, will not, if he can help it, bear to be a Slave, or to beg, To-morrow; no more than any turbulent Slave will stand at any Means to soar above Slavery, and to mend his Character and Condition.
What more abetted the many Civil Wars in England formerly, (I still except Oppression, and lawless Rule) than the Bait and Temptation of Forfeitures, whence great Acquisitions were probably to be had, and great Fortunes to be suddenly made or mended, and a continual Propensity in such as were stripped and undone, to be revenged and restored? One got half a County by crowning an Edward; another hoped to recover it with Additions, by re-establishing a Henry. Here was a perpetual Source of Civil Broils and Bloodshed, even where there was no other.
The Truth is, says Cicero, ‘The Seeds and Source of Civil Wars will never be lost or extinguished, so long as desperate and abandoned Men are always remembring, and hoping to see revived, the former barbarous Scenes of Confiscations, such as were displayed under Sylla the Dictator, by his Kinsman Publius; nay, Six-and-thirty Years after, by the same Instrument, then much exalted in his Station, at first a common Notary, afterwards City-Prætor, or Grand Justiciary of Rome, yet pursuing the same horrid Trade of Confiscations, in a Manner still more extensive and merciless. Nor is it possible, that Civil Wars should ever cease, when such mighty Forfeitures and Rewards are always in View to rouse them.’ Cicero de Offic. L. II. He likewise says, in one of his Philippics, that, ‘The Forfeitures made under Cæsar had furnished many wicked Men with Hopes and Confidence; for that they saw Numbers, lately abject and poor, on a sudden wallowing in Wealth: So that all, who with a malignant Eye behold our Estates, (he is speaking to the Senate) are ever longing for such Days of Forfeitures.’
Civil Wars do in the Civil and Moral World, what Earthquakes do in the Natural, confound all things; sink and exalt; change high and low, and unite Extremes; raze down old Piles, which seemed to defy Time, and prop the Sky; and scatter such as possessed them, as effectually, as if neither had ever been; or just leave Ruins enow to indicate their former Grandeur, and the Opulence of the Owners, with the Wretchedness of their Posterity, if any remain; lift new Fabrics, and new Men, both out of the Dust; extinguish Titles; abolish and debase Dignities, perhaps for ever, or transfer them to Grooms and Lacqueys, or to sold Slaves, born to Nakedness and Chains; expose venerable Senators to want and to beg, whilst common Soldiers assume the Rank of Senators; prefer condemned Felons to conduct Armies and possess Countries, while those who doomed them to die, suffer Death by their Command; set Bond men to rule over their late Rulers; and, being now Lords of Life and Death, to award Freemen and Grandees to Prison, and Execution, at Pleasure, or, which is perhaps more shocking, to treat them with Pity; shew a Minion, such as Chrysogonus, once a base Slave, exercised in the lowest and vilest Offices of Life, then the Favourite of an Usurper, living and rioting in the Profusion and Magnificence of an Eastern King, supported in it by the Estates of many illustrious Romans, accumulated upon him by Grants, or feigned Purchases, and the noble Owners butchered, or banished, Vagabonds, and starving; Men who had no Guilt, besides their Estates, executed for their Estates, or punished with Life void of Support.
It sometimes happens, that Men, thus suddenly and wickedly enriched, become, through Waste, and Vanity, and Riot, soon poor again, and then want recourse to the same Means to renew their Fortune. They who lost their Fortunes to the former, have the same Aim and Pursuit: To such, add all that are vicious, and criminal, and indigent, in dread of Gaols and Gibbets, of Creditors, and Want; all that are voluptuous without Property, daring without Honesty, oppressed without Redress, vindictive, but disappointed of Vengeance; all who have Much to hope, and Nothing to lose; all who have great Ambition, and no public Spirit, with whoever thinks a Civil War either necessary or unavoidable, and resolves to follow Fortune, and make the best of it; Officers out of Post, Soldiers out of Pay; every aspiring Man, who has not Preferment, or not enough; every Man void of Humanity, who feels not the public Calamities, nor the Sufferings of others; every Man who is indifferent about public Liberty, interested in general Confusion, and fears no Consequences; together with the needy Rabble, always unsteady and thoughtless, for the most part venal and debauched, generally passionate for Innovations, from whatever Hand or Quarter they come.
When the Civil War is over, its Effects, and even its Spirit, remain, sometimes for Generations; it entails ill Morals upon a Country, as well as Distress and Calamities upon particular Families, and leaves the Laws under Weakness and Scorn.
As a Conclusion of this Discourse, I shall subjoin a summary Account of the Civil Feuds and Outrages that happened at Corsetra, now Corfu, during the War of Peloponnesus, as the same are related at large by Thucydides.
A View of the affecting Horrors, and Calamities, produced by Civil War; taken from the History of Greece.
THE People, who could not live without Submission to Superiors, yet cared not to submit, or were easily persuaded that they ought not, after long and violent Distrust, attack the Senate, and murder most of the Senators, as Enemies to popular Government. The Senate, in Revenge, fall upon the People, as Enemies to all Government, and Rebels to their own: They prevail, and rout the Multitude. The People rally, aided even by the Women, and by the Slaves, now purposely declared Free, and thus put into a Condition to master their late Masters, who, in their Fury, rather risque Tyranny from their Bond-men, than bear Subjection to their legal and natural Rulers. They now vanquish the Senators. The Senators make fresh Efforts: So do the Populace: The Conflict goes on, and dreadful Havock follows it, incessant Cruelty and Devastation, Houses fired, Citizens murdered, public and private Wealth destroyed, and the whole City threatened with Conflagration.
A Reconciliation is patched up, but does not cure mutual Enmity, as it cannot cancel the Memory of mutual Injuries and Provocations. Piques and Suspicions still subsist, and produce fresh Insults: These are returned and multiplied, portending and hastening another Massacre. The People think themselves, and their Liberty, still in Danger, whilst any Senators are left; and therefore butcher all that are to be found. Nor can their own Leaders and Partizans escape their Rage. Whoever is a Friend to Peace, they judge to be a Foe to Them. Their Rage continues and increases, and, besides all that they murder, they frighten Numbers to murder themselves. Their constant Charge against all these Victims was, that they were Enemies to Liberty, to the Interest of the People, and to popular Government, which, by such a Torrent of Phrensy, of Rage, and Barbarity, they thus rescue, and thus recommend.
It may be easily guessed, how fast Slander and Lyes prevailed at this horrid Conjuncture, and how busy and fashionable were all public Incendiaries, and personal Revilers. All Sorts of Immorality prospered; Acts of Treachery and Fraud went Hand in Hand with Acts of Violence. Some committed Murder out of private Revenge: Some discharged their Debts by murdering their Creditors: But it was still Zeal for the People that prompted Murderers, and justified Murder; and whilst Death was seen in all Shapes, and inflicted upon all mean Occasions and Provocations, the same infamous Plea served for all. Many, who thought themselves secure in the Protection of Sanctuaries, were dragged from them, and butchered near them: Many were immured, and perished in them.
Such was the Blindness, as well as Fury, of this Civil Rage, that Good and Evil lost their Names and Application. Good was Evil, Evil was Good; just as Men, in seeing or doing either, were inspired by their Passions: Whatever gratified the worst Passions, was best: The Author of the most Mischief was the greatest Hero. Party-Spirit was the great and uncontroulable Adviser and Defender of all things: Its grossest Misrepresentations were readily believed; its most furious Dictates most chearfully obeyed. Party-Merit outweighed all Regard to Kindred, cancelled all Friendship, extinguished all Gratitude, covered all Crimes, sanctified all Enormities. Law and Obligations, whether Divine or Human, where-ever they interfered with Party, were spurned and trod upon by Party: For, Patty was the Public; and all things must give Way to the Public. It was Mean to Forgive: It was Cowardice not to seek Revenge. Oaths were taken, not to be kept, but to deceive and ensnare: The more Treachery, the more Art and Policy: The higher Cruelty, the higher Heroism. To excel in Fraud, was the highest Excellency. Honesty was Weakness: Deceit and Knavery were Proofs of Ability. A Passion to bear Rule, to gratify Ambition by Avarice, and Avarice by Ambition, was the great and laudable Passion. A selfish Spirit was public Spirit, which it contradicted and destroyed.
All specious Pretences were offered, every plausible Name was assumed, by both Sides. Here the natural Equality and Power of the People were urged and maintained, as the only Source of Justice, and public Liberty, against the Authority of Some over All. There, a steady Government of Chiefs and Representatives, was contended for over the giddy Multitude. Both Parties alleged the Public Good; both Parties obstructed and banished it. Both committed horrible Outrages upon each other; both destroyed Men of moderate Spirits, and reconciling Principles. Fools, by observing no Rule, had the Advantage of Men of Sense, who observed the Rule of Wisdom. Villains were an Overmatch for such as adhered to the Measures of Justice.
I must inform my unlearned Readers, that as the Reign of the Multitude could not be long, popular Fury was at last subdued: The Nobles who escaped, about Six hundred in Number, uniting and returning, soon brought Distress and Misery upon the Populace, burnt their Shipping, robbed the Island, and thus caused a Famine; then raised a Fort above the City, and soon became Masters of the Island itself.
To His GraceARCHIBALD, Duke of Argyll. Of the Mutability of Government.
Why Free Governments are more changeable in their Frame, than such as are Single and Arbitrary.
NOTHING which depends upon the changeable Humours and Passions of Men, can be permanent. No Species of Government can, therefore, be so. Time and Accidents, as they alter the human Face and Frame, so do they that of human Society.
Nothing is perfect at once: Government never is so, nor can be; and has been sometimes destroyed by Attempts to make it so. Human Society, like human Life, is liable to Decay; and the latter, as well as the former, is supported by Expedients. Occasional Laws are found as necessary as occasional Medicines; and both Medicines and Laws, though they sometimes help and save, do likewise sometimes hurt and destroy: Nor can the ablest Physicians and Legislators be certain, that their best Rules will always succeed, and their best Directions be salubrious, or even safe; since the best may be perverted, and then become the worst. The best Remedies, applied unseasonably, or in too great Quantities, may destroy Life: The most wholsome Laws may be perverted into Poison to a State. Laws and Physic, thus abused, are worse than none; because they do Mischief by Authority; and warrant, as well as hasten, the Dissolution of human Life, and civil Society.
In every State and Community, there will, I doubt, be found more Vicious than Virtuous, more Weak than Wise. The Cunning will be for ever deceiving the Simple; the Ambitious will be for ever finding Fools, and for ever leading them. No State or Nation was ever without such Instruments, no more than without proper Materials for such Instruments to work on; the Foolish and the Credulous always blindly following the Ambitious and the Cunning. Wherever there are Multitudes, there will be Seducers; and whilst the Many are always ready to be led, they will never want Leaders. Very mean Implements often serve the Purpose: For there are none so low, but they will see, or think they see, many still lower; and from this Superiority, real or sansied, will try to govern the rest. Indeed, many, of all Ranks, are governed by such as surpass them, not in Capacity, but only in Assurance and Deceit. I doubt not but Beggars, as much upon a Level as they seem, have such Degrees and Subordination amongst them; the Imperious, and the Meek; the Directors, and the Directed; the Credulous, and the Imposing. It is the Characteristic of Society, it is the Nature of Man, to guide, and to follow; to dictate, and to obey; to deceive, and to be deceived.
What State is likely to be quiet, where there are such constant Causes of Disquiet? or to be lasting, where there are so many Materials, so many Authors and Causes of Change? No Government is without such; and the freest Governments, which are consequently the best, abound with them more than the worst. Liberty, like many other valuable Things, carries with it the Seeds of Self-destruction: It is ever liable to be turned into Licentiousness; and thence ever in Peril. Many will abuse it, because they may: Some will encourage that Abuse, on purpose to destroy it. It protects even those who attack and undermine it; and often secures them from Punishment for the worst of all Crimes. As it subsists by certain fixt Laws, whoever can evade those Laws, may overthrow it: And where Liberty abounds most, Laws are most easily evaded.
In a free State, a Man may be a notorious Criminal against Law, yet not punishable by Law; which requires there such Evidence for Guilt, as cannot well affect the Innocent; and, therefore, the Guilty, if they be wary, often escape all Punishment. Here is Encouragement given by a free Government against itself, and often taken! It is like a Distemper arising from too much Health: No Wonder that a Disease, so continually and plentifully fed, proves mortal in time; often in a short Time.
In arbitrary Countries, a Man may be innocent, yet punished legally; because the same absolute Will which creates the Guilt, finds the Evidence. Here is an Opportunity and Temptation presented to an absolute Ruler, and too generally accepted by him, to destroy his best Subjects! It is small Surprize, that, under such a Government, one so threatening to Virtue, there are found but few great Men; or that such Men are unprosperous and short-lived.
In arbitrary Countries, it is a Maxim, ‘That it is better to destroy many innocent Persons, than that One guilty should escape:’ A Maxim which, when generally pursued, threatens swift Destruction to All: And it sometimes happens, that Numbers are sacrificed to the furious Suspicion of unbounded Power, where there was no real Guilt to provoke it. Whoever a Tyrant fears, is always guilty. A King of Siam, having lost his Daughter, and fansying that she was poisoned, put most of his Court, great and small, to Death, chiefly by the most exquisite Torture; because it appeared probable to him, that some of them had given her Poison. Thus that savage Prince massacred above Two thousand Persons, mostly of principal Rank; the great Mandarins, their Wives and Children, all first scorched with Fire, and mangled with Knives, before they were admitted to his last Favour of being thrown to the Elephants, to be by them torn or crushed to Pieces, or buried, still alive, with their Heads above-ground.
By such savage Policy, Expedients are sought for the present Safety and Gratification of such a Prince; who, having, for his chief Drift in reigning, the Ease and Security of his Person, makes it his Study and Pleasure, to cut off and destroy whoever has, or he apprehends may, hurt him, or even thwart or ruffle him. When he thinks, that, by Blood, he can establish his Throne, he will not spare to shed it; nor will he make any Difference between Suspicion and Proof; much less prolong his Fears and Danger by Forms and Examination. An Attempt upon his Person is punished not only by the Execution of the Conspirators, but often by the Massacre of their whole Family and Kindred, and the Extinction of their Race. The Vizir Kuproli, to punish the turbulent Janizaries, is thought to have destroyed above Forty thousand of that important Militia, by different Slaughters, and at different times; and thus weakened the Monarchy, for the Safety of the Monarch. The strange bloody Justice of an Indian Prince, mentioned by Monsieur D’estoille, as what he saw, is amazing! ‘That, for Two or Three Robberies, he had caused an Hundred thousand Men to be gibbetted upon Trees.’ So that this Traveller, for many Days together, passed through Regions peopled with the Dead. So readily and wantonly can a Prince, thus arbitrary, execute whoever is obnoxious to him, or suspected by him, without Form or Delay.
Against a Power thus violent, and armed with such Force and Expedients to secure itself, no Number of Persons will easily venture into a Conspiracy, or no such Conspiracy is likely to remain long undiscovered. Though One particular Hand, sufficiently desperate, may destroy the Tyrant, yet it cannot with him destroy the Tyranny. He is seldom without a Successor at Hand; one who, perhaps, employed the Assassin, and reaps the Benefit of the Assassination; though he seem not to like it, and often cuts off the Author of it. Perhaps no further Change is thought of; no Change of the Government, but only of the Governor: Few Countries will bear any other Change; nor is the Trial like to be made. What Number of able and unarmed Men are to be found, under a despotic Prince, willing to trust one another; and to meet, in order to concert a new Frame of Government, and to abolish the present? They are almost sure of being first destroyed themselves: Or, were such a Scheme concerted ever so wisely, it is hardly possible to be executed. Such Countries are hardly to be supposed to be without mercenary Armies, chiefly Strangers; and the Changes made by such Armies are always personal, from one Prince to another. It is not their Turn or Interest to settle a free State, where the Laws must dictate to the Sword. When they find, that they can make and unmake Princes, (a Lesson which they quickly learn) they will as soon learn another Lesson, even to make and unmake Laws.
Besides, no free State can be established without proper Materials; I mean a People disposed to receive and submit to it. The Wisdom of Man could not convert the Turkish Monarchy into a free State: A Parliament there would appear a Monster: Even the People, if they could have it, would not suffer it. The same People, who can bear any Act of Power done by the Sultan, or in his Name, and have no Notion of opposing any such Act, be it ever so outrageous, would not quietly bear any Act of Power, however just and necessary, from any Number of themselves; nor see, with Patience, some of their Neighbours, no better than themselves, and lately no higher, making Laws, and controuling all Things. Indeed no public Change whatsoever can be expected in that Empire, or any other like it, but by the Army; and what, other than a military Government, is to be hoped there from military Men? It is true, they have often destroyed Tyrants; but I do not remember, that they have ever destroyed Tyranny. They have frequently sacrificed Princes, for not being Tyrants, and for not devoting the State, and all in it, to the Will and Lust of the Army. They deposed Nero; but they likewise murdered Galba.
It seems, to me, impossible, for a great Monarchy, extending over many Nations, and ruling a great Empire by great Armies, to fall into a Commonwealth: But I conceive it very possible, for it to break piecemeal into several Governments; some of them, perhaps, Commonwealths. The Weakness of the Head, or a great Revolution, may occasion a Separation of the Members; and each, setting up for itself, may produce several separate Principalities, as well as some Commonwealths. The large inland Provinces will probably preserve the same Form of Government, single and military. The great maritime and trading Cities will naturally aim at governing themselves, upon the Principles of Liberty and Commerce; and be, perhaps, encouraged and supported in their free Government by the neighbouring Princes; who, if they cannot master it themselves, will defend it against one another.
To this Principle some free States, even in Europe, owe their Preservation and Independency; Geneva, the Hans Towns in Germany, and even the High and Mighty States of Holland. I say this of the States, without any Design to derogate from their own genuine and eternal Merit and Firmness, in maintaining their Liberties against that merciless and perjured Tyrant, Philip II. of Spain.
The Danger to Free Government from popular Maxims, and popular Men; with the Advantages it furnishes against itself.
IN free Countries it is a Maxim, That it is better to letseveral guilty Persons escape, than to punish one who is innocent: A benevolent Maxim, but full of Encouragement to Factionists, Traitors, and other Criminals; since all the Laws, and Proceedings of the State, are to be framed and softened agreeably to that Maxim. The Trial of a State Criminal must be slow and solemn; his Character, the Credibility of the Witnesses, Laws and Precedents, must be all coolly and carefully examined. Possibly his great Power and Popularity, and the Tenderness of the Laws, and of those who administer them, make it dangerous to seize him, and difficult to confine him: So that an able Traitor may execute his Treason, before it can be proved that he designed any; and he may still enjoy his own Liberty, whilst he is contriving the Destruction of public Liberty: He may even make himself popular, whilst he is pursuing popular Mischief, and Measures destructive to the People. For as Liberty, amongst its many Advantages, furnisheth great Men, so, amongst its other Disadvantages, it is often weakened, sometimes extinguished, by Heroes of its own forming: It produces false Patriots, as well as true; and the former are frequently too hard for the latter.
It was a strange Declaration to come from a Roman, ‘That Men were mistaken, to think that the Senate (the Roman Senate) had any Power in the Roman Republic.’ It was still more strange from the Mouth of a Senator, and a Consul: Yet the Consul Gabinius was not ashamed to make that strange Declaration in Public. The Truth is, he was the Creature of Cæsar, and the Associate of Clodius, who had purchased him into a League against his Country, by the Bait of a great Government. After this, it can be no Wonder to hear, that the same Gabinius, still in his Consulship, used to celebrate, in his Cups, with Piso his Brother Consul, (no better than himself) the Names, and Memory, and brave Attempts, of Catiline, Cethegus, and the other Conspirators, all executed for Treason.
In a free State, as well as in one not free, whoever has Power to serve it, has Power to hurt it. They who administer it, will often weaken the Power of the State, to keep or increase their own; and will sometimes rather destroy it, than lose their Power in it. The Decemvirate, or College of Ten at Rome, established for a Time limited, with absolute Power, to settle a Body of Laws, attempted to turn that temporary Trust into perpetual Tyranny. The annual Tribunes often made the same Attempts. The Nobles, for a great while, engrossed all Power, and abused it; acted like Masters, and treated the Plebeians like Slaves: The Plebeians, in their turn, seized the Power of the Commonwealth, and exercised it licentiously. Nor was it likely to be otherwise. In popular Governments, such as admit of Appeals to the People, there can be no certain Stability; because the People are always unstable; always subject to be led, and deceived, and inflamed, by Demagogues; such as are never wanting in that sort of Government.
In Rome, for a great while, no Ordinance of the People could pass, without the Authority and Sanction of the Senate; a most reasonable Restraint, to keep popular Passion and Folly from gaining the Force and Terror of Law. Afterwards, by the Violence of popular Faction, this wise Precaution was lost; and the People could make Laws, without the Senate; but the Senate none, without the Consent of the People. Thenceforward, whoever could alarm and mislead the People, governed or misgoverned the State.
Laws extending throughout the Empire, and binding to the whole Roman People, were sometimes passed by a wild Rabble; such was that for the Banishment of Cicero: The Title of the Law was taken from a ragged Profligate, who wanted a Habitation, and a Bed. By the like Rabble, Armies, Treasure, and Provinces, were allotted to their own Favourites; that is, whomsoever any turbulent Tribune recommended to their Choice. All sober and substantial Citizens were, upon such Occasions, kept off by Violence and Arms.
The Government of Carthage was firm and good, till it fell into the Hands of the People: From that Moment it proved violent, fluctuating, and perishing. The Senate was despised; and then, what Anacharsis observed to be the Case in all popular Governments, was the Case there; ‘Wise Men proposed, but Fools disposed.’ The Answer of Lycurgus was lively and sound, to a Fellow-Citizen, who proposed a popular Government for Sparta. ‘Try it, says Lycurgus, in your own House.’ As that great Man judged very wisely upon this Subject, how to reform his native State, fallen, through popular Licentiousness, into Impotence and Decay, he had the Policy to procure a Judgment from the Oracle of Delphos, allowing the Spartans ‘to vote, but not to debate.’ He knew how unfit the Populace were to make Laws; how unfit to propose; how unfit to abrogate. By this wise Negative upon the People, the State of Sparta continued long firm and glorious: For want of it, that of Athens was always tumultuous and unsettled. Lycurgus took Warning from the tragical Fate of the King his Father, murdered by his own Subjects in a Riot, for attempting to quell it. The Spartans had been long used to defy the Government, and been countenanced in it, or, which is the same thing, not checked and discouraged, by their former Kings. ‘The People, says Plutarch, were so far from growing more tractable by such Indulgence, and false Courtesy, (as these Princes hoped they would) that the Government fell under popular Contempt.’ The great Task, and great Merit, of Lycurgus, was to recover its lost Authority; since every Government without Authority must be lost.
It is with the People as with Princes; whatever they have gained upon one another, they both still want to gain more. They both strive to acquire more (call it Liberty, or call it Power) than they can manage or keep; and they lose by seeming to get. Monarchy sometimes produces Tyranny; Tyranny often produces the Destruction of the Tyrant. Popular Government is apt to beget Licentiousness; Licentiousness destroys popular Government. All Power, breaks when stretched too high; and finally sinks, when let down too low.
In the most complete Governments there will be always something to mend, and many to pretend, that many things want mending, even when they do not; or, which is the same thing, cannot be mended, at least with Safety, and without risquing the Whole. Even such State-Physicians as mean well, may be unskilful in the Choice, or in the Application, of the Remedy. Free States particularly are liable to be undone, and have been undone, by Attempts to reform them, at least covered and carried on under that Pretence. Such Attempts too, as they are generally popular, and thence judged to be safe to those who make them, will therefore be often made and repeated. Even the Miscarriage of some, does not always discourage others, but only serves to suggest different and more wary Measures. The Romans, who were frequently making Changes in their Constitution, proceeded at last to one fatal to it, and lost their Liberty by false Measures taken to increase it; Measures chiefly proposed and promoted by the most popular Romans.
Such are the Advantages which a free State furnisheth against itself. In an arbitrary State, every Attempt to mend it is high Treason; and it is secured by continual Jealousy, and sudden Executions; as I have already observed.
It is better to bear some Inconveniences, and even very palpable Faults, than to introduce worse, by endeavouring to remove them. Most Reformations as certainly imply future Danger, as they infer present Defects and Depravity. Whoever has Power to mend a State, hath Power to hurt it, and may do so without designing it. The Populace, particularly, are very insufficient, very rash Reformers; nor can any State be steady or tolerable, where the Populace can sway the State: For, besides their own rapid and incompetent Judgment, they are eternally liable to be charmed, and roused, and seduced, by some dangerous and selfish Prompter, who loudly professes their Interest, and sincerely means his own, though it be ever so irreconcilable to, ever so destructive of, theirs.
In truth, considering the Frailty, and Folly, and Selfishness, of Men, the Arts of some, and the Stupidity of others, it is a Wonder how any good Government should have any Duration. There can be but one effectual Way to secure it; that is, by making it evident to every Man, that it is more the Interest of all Men to preserve it, than to hurt and destroy it; a Felicity, I doubt, never to be attained by any Government. No Government can so convince, and so gratify, all Men; and all Men, disappointed by the best Government, will be apt to see many Faults in it.
Whenever any State judges as favourably of all its Subjects, as each of its Subjects does of himself, and rewards all so, as all think they ought to be rewarded, we may then expect to see what has never yet been seen, a State without Flaw or Complaints. Every State will want reforming, in the Eyes, at least in the Language, of those who are dissatisfied with the State. Even such as seek to destroy it, will pretend to reform it: Such was the horrible Purpose, yet such the plausible Professions, of Catiline.
Whoever can best deceive the People, is the most popular Man, and has most Influence over them. The false Patriots are often louder, often better heard, than the true. In a Competition for the great popular Offices at Rome, the worst Romans frequently carried them from the best. In all popular Projects, in all public Commotions, some one Person will be trusted more than the rest, and than all; and then he may make his own Interest the Measure of the Public Weal; a Consideration of infinite Force (if there were no other) against a Civil War, and whatever tends to produce it, as it naturally throws all into the Hands of a single Person, Marius, Sylla, Cromwell, Cæsar.
I question whether any Civil Government was originally framed upon any well-concerted Scheme, or upon any wise Plan, laid down by competent and disinterested Judges, but rather formed upon Exigences, mended and improved by Accident, as well as always liable to be altered and undone by Accidents. Even those of Theseus and Romulus were adapted to the Genius of the Rustics, their Followers, whose Humours were consulted, and their Habits preserved; else they would not probably have parted with their boundless Freedom, and complied with the Council, or submitted to the Institutions of these, or of any Law-givers. Neither are these Law-givers to be supposed to have been exempt from Ambition, and Views of their own, but to have found their Gratification in leading, as well as in civilizing, the People. They were Men, and they were Heroes, who are not always the most disinterested Men, or the most tender of their Species.
Men like best what they have been accustomed to, and care not to part with what they have long reverenced. The Turks love absolute Monarchy, because they were bred under it: They love the Mahometan Religion, because they were bred in it. It is thus with most Men, at least with all Men brought up in false Religions, and with many who profess the true. In the Settling of Colonies, in the Transmigration of Nations, People carry with them their Customs and Usages, both Domestic and Public. The new State is generally set up upon the Model of that at Home. The Athenian Communities in Asia were popular, like the Mother Community. Those from Sparta were settled upon the Spartan Foot. The Tyrians, who founded Carthage, set up the Government of Tyre. And the many Settlements of the Goths were all Gothic.
Absolute Monarchy, being always the same, and unchanging in its Frame, does, by such Constancy, produce a Constancy in the People towards it. Free States are more subject to vary, and to be altering at least something in their Plan. As there is nothing perfect at once, nor, I doubt, ever can be amongst Men, new Laws will be frequently wanting: Every new Law is, or will be thought, an Alteration in the State: And the Affections of the People are not likely to be fixed to that which is, at least seems to them to be, unfixed. Besides, they may be taught to believe, that the best Laws, and the wisest Changes, are hurtful, and even pernicious, and to clamour for some which literally are so; and thus come to destroy their precious Liberty, by wrong Measures taken to improve and secure it, or by opposing and defeating Measures which are necessary and wholsome.
The signal Power of Enthusiasm, and pious Imposture, in settling, changing, or perpetuating Government.
THE most effectual Way to change Men intirely, and consequently to settle a Government absolutely new, seems to be by religious Imposture. Whoever can mould the Conscience of a Man, can mould the Man. This was the Course taken by Mahomet; by this Course he succeeded, and, from driving Camels, founded an Empire. What can resist armed Enthusiasm, when the Enthusiast thinks himself intitled to both Worlds, and, by being secure of Paradise, claims a Right from Heaven to govern the Earth? He who wields the Sword, both of the Lord and of Gideon, is much more than a Match for those who carry no such awful Weapons. The Saracens were therefore invincible: So were the Round-Heads, who attacked the Cavaliers as impetuously with the Tune of a Psalm, as the Arabs did the Greeks and Asiatics with the Sound of Allah and his Prophet; and as stern a Spirit, though not so extensive, appeared for a Fifth Monarchy, as ever there did for the Monarchy of Mahomet. What this Impostor gained at first by the Force of Delusion, be retained and increased by the Force of Arms; and the finest and richest Parts of the old World, Asia, India, Egypt, and the Coasts of Africa, to the Pillars of Hercules, with the fairest Provinces in Europe, are still darkened and subdued by his gross, but popular and prevailing, Imposture.
Error is not the less forcible for being extremely gross, but rather the more successful for that very Reason. Small and moderate Error, as it is not far removed from Reason, is in Danger of being cured by Reason; but when it is extravagant, and quite monstrous, it is above and out of the Reach of Reason, and thence safe and thriving: The more wonderful it is, the more it is reverenced; and firmly believed, because it is incredible. An Impostor carries his Followers out of the Regions of Nature, and leads and governs them in the Clouds, by Visions too glorious for Eyes which have no more Light than their own, and by Documents too refined for Philosophy and Sense. Thus he forms them his true and devoted Bubbles: They find high Transports in being such, and scorn to change their Happiness and Blindness, for Light and Conviction. Whoever would make them wiser and free, is their mortal Foe, an Enemy to God and his Elect, and They are Enemies to Him.
A Government thus founded, the most disgraceful, as well as the most pestilent of all others, to human Race, is yet the most powerful and permanent of all Governments, if the same Influence do but continue; especially if Force be joined to Fraud, and Heaven and Earth be supposed to combine to support the same Cause. For the Cause of Enthusiasm, with all its celestial Views, and Scorn of worldly Things, has never enough of worldly Succours, not, indeed, of the World itself, all for heavenly Purposes. How many Millions of Men have been Slaves in their Persons, as well as in their Faculties, to an Impostor, only for his good Word to the Deity in their Behalf! and yielded up their whole Property to a Cheat, purely for teaching them to despise it! In truth, whoever can effectually awe Men by the Dread of eternal Torture, or charm them with Assurance of eternal Bliss, will be Omnipotent amongst Men, and controul and engross this World, by being thought Master of the World to come. It will then be very easy for him to introduce that never-failing Maxim, amongst all worldly Saints, (that is, Men more holy than other Men, and therefore striving to govern all Men) ‘That Dominion is founded in Grace;’ a Maxim of more Force than any in Politics, and always adopted by every able pious Impostor.
It is indeed equally true, that whenever common Sense takes Place, there is an End of all his fairy Influence, and mock Terrors, though perhaps not of his present and temporal Dread. But, alas! common Sense, which is treated as his common Enemy, and depressed by all the Engines of Art and Fury, may be persecured, banished, and extinct, for many Ages together. Who has dared, in Turkey, to dispute Mahomet’s divine Mission, or his lewd and voluptuous Paradise, during a Thousand Years past? Who has ventured (at least without incurring a terrible Doom) to question the Pope’s fanatic Supremacy over Heaven and Earth; or his wealthy Heirship to the poor Apostles; or the Kindred of a miserable Frier to the Deity; or his Power of damning and saving Souls for Money, or for want of it; or of drawing Holiness, and Miracles, and Treasures, out of dead Dust, and rotten Bones; or his Title to the Keys of St. Peter; or his Right to a tributary Purgatory, or to his Toll from Souls released from it by his Command; or to his Lease of Provinces from the Emperor Constantine, who gave him none? Yet all these shocking Forgeries, all these blasphemous Impieties, were, for many Centuries, Sacred throughout Christendom, and still are so in Italy, Spain, and other Countries, cowed by Superstition, and blind with Bigotry.
This Sort of Government therefore is as lasting, as it is dreadful and infamous. Enthusiasm is perfectly satisfied with itself, and its Situation; nor will Enthusiasts venture their Soul by venturing upon a Change, or upon inquiring whether a Change be expedient. Great is the Charm of being deceived; great the Pleasure, as well as the Profit, of deceiving! Few good Governments have lasted like that of Mahomet, and of Popery; both founded upon the Delusion, upon the Misery and Affliction of Men, all with the Consent of Men, enslaving and destroying them with their own Assistance.
So that the Means of annoying the best Governments are much more successful, as well as much more readily found, than those of restraining the worst.
The surprising, despotic, but pacific Government, established by the Jesuits, by the Force of Imposture, in Paraguay.
THE Settlement made by the Jesuits, upon the River Paraguay in America, is extremely remarkable. These good Fathers, every-where indefatigable in improving their apostolic Talents, and turning Souls into ecclesiastical Traffick and Power, began there, by drawing together, into one fixed Habitation, about Fifty Families of wandering Indians, whom they had persuaded to take their Word implicitly for whatever they told them: For, this is what they call Conversion; and is, indeed, the true Art of making Catholics, who have no other Ground for their Faith, but the Assertions of their Priests.
From this Beginning, and such Encouragement, the assiduous Fathers, ranging the Country, and dazling the stupid Savages with their shining Beads, charming them with their pious Tales and Grimaces, their tuneful Devotions, and high Professions, made such a Harvest of Converts, as to form a Commonwealth, or rather an Empire, of Souls. For every Convert is a Subject most blindly obedient.
The holy Fathers, not Fifty in Number, are thus Sovereigns of a noble Country, larger than some Kingdoms, and better peopled. It is divided into several large Districts, each of them governed by a single Jesuit, who is, as it were, a provincial Prince; but more powerful and revered, and better obeyed, than any European, or even any Eastern Monarch. His Word is not only a Law, but an Oracle; his Nod infers supreme Command: He is absolute Lord of Life, and Death, and Property; may inflict capital Punishment for the lightest Offence, and is more dreaded, therefore more obeyed, than the Deity. His first Ministers and Officers, Civil and Military, are doomed by him to the meanest Punishments, and whipped, not only like common Slaves, but like common Felons. Nor is this all their Punishment, at least all their Abasement, which, to a Man of Spirit, is the worst Punishment: Whilst they are yet marked and mangled with the Lash, they run, Colonels and Captains run, and kneel before their holy Sovereign; condemn themselves for having incurred his pious Displeasure; and, humbly kissing his reverend Sleeve, thank him for the fatherly Honour he has done them, in correcting them like Dogs.
So much Tameness and Vassalage is Part, and an important Article, of their Conversion. They are even pleased with their Servitude, and care not what they do and suffer here, for the mighty Treasures of Joy and Liberty which are ensured to them hereafter by the good Father, who gives them all that He has to give in the Next World, and, by way of Barter and Amends, takes all that They have in the Present.
The poor Indians cultivate the Ground; dig and plow, and reap and sow: They make Stuffs, and other Manufactures; they rear Fowls, they breed Cattle, they carry Burdens, and labour hard above Ground, as well as under it, where, in Sweat and Darkness, and in Peril of perishing, they drudge in the Mines. Yet, with all this Industry, they earn nothing; nothing for themselves: All their Earnings, all the Profit and Advantages, appertain not to them, but solely to the good Father, their spiritual Sovereign, who rewards them to the full with what costs him nothing; Blessings, and Masses, and distant Prospects. Their Grain and Manufactures are all carried into his Warehouses, their Cattle and Fowls into his Yards, their Gold and Silver into his Treasury. They dare not wear a Rag of their own Spinning, nor taste a Grain of their own Sowing, nor a Bit of Meat of their own Feeding, nor touch the Metal of their own producing, nor so much as an Egg from the Hens they rear. They themselves are fed and subsisted, from Day to Day, by a limited Allowance, furnished them by the Appointment, and at the Mercy, of their great Lord, a small Priest.
Yet, under all these Discouragements, which are none to them, who seem to have sacrificed their Feeling, as well as their Reason, to the Sorcery of Superstition, they are diligent and laborious to the last Degree, and vye with one another for the high Price and Distinction bestowed by the Father upon such as excel most in their Work and Industry; even the bewitching Honour of kissing his Sleeve. The second Commandment, in their Table of Duties, is, To fear the Jesuit, and obey him; as the two next are much akin to it, and of like Tendency, even, To study Humility, and to contemn all worldly Goods. The Precept, of fearing God, seems to be prefixed for Form, and in Policy only; since it is impossible there should be any Knowledge of God, where the Exercise of Reason is not known nor permitted: Nor can God be said to be regarded by those who use the Images of God like Beasts.
All these Stores and Warehouses, so much Grain, so many Manufactures, so much Gold and Silver, so many Commodities from so fine, so large, and so plentiful a Country; abounding in Mines, in Rivers and Meadows, full of Horses, and Sheep, and Black Cattle, of Timber and Fruit-trees, of Flax and Indigo, Hemp and Cotton, Sugar, Drugs and Medicinal Herbs; must enable these good Fathers, who have renounced all Wealth, and the World itself, to carry on an infinite and most lucrative Trade, in which, though they have vowed Poverty, they are extremely active; and consequently must make that Jesuitical Government a most Powerful one. It hath Advantages which no other Government ever had, an absolute independency upon its People, or their Purses; the whole Wealth of the Country in its present Possession; the People absolutely submissive, and resigned to its good Pleasure and all its Calls; no Factions, not a Malecontent; an Army of Sixty thousand Men, all tame and tractable, devoted to blind Obedience, commanded in chief by a Jesuit, and obstinately averse to be commanded by any other General; a vast Revenue of many Millions; no Trouble in Taxing, no Time lost in collecting Taxes.
Such a Government, whilst it proceeds upon the same Principles, is unchangeable. No wonder these Jesuits are extremely jealous and tender, not only in keeping the poor Indians Slaves to Ignorance and Bigotry, in order to keep them Slaves to themselves, but in concealing so much Empire and Wealth from all the World; especially from Spain, from whence they were sent, at the Expence of that Crown, to convert the Indians, and make them Subjects to the Spanish Monarchy. The good Fathers are so far from meaning any such thing, that they not only carefully avoid teaching them the Spanish Tongue, but press it upon them, as a Point of Conscience, not to converse with the Spaniards. If any Spaniard happen to come amongst them, a Thing which the Jesuits are so far from encouraging, that they care not to see it, he is indeed civilly used, but carefully confined within the Walls of their holy Citadel, the Presbytery; or if, by earnest Intreaty, he obtain leave to walk through the Town, he is closely guarded by the Jesuit at his Side, and sees not an Indian in the Streets. For the Indians are ordered to shut themselves up, and fasten their Doors, upon any such Occasion.
Besides, these vigilant Fathers keep Five or Six thousand Men, employed in several Detachments, (Apostolic Troops!) to watch and scour the Frontiers, in order to cut off all Intercourse with the neighbouring Countries, not yet subjected to the good Fathers. Towards one of their Frontiers particularly, lest the rich Mines in it might invite a Settlement from Abroad, they have destroyed all the Horses, in order to discourage any such Settlement. For these self-denying Friers, who are sworn to Poverty, have an ardent Zeal to secure all these wealthy Mines to themselves, for religious Uses.
These poor, rich, humble, sovereign Missionaries, as they are Masters of such immense Wealth, all consecrated to their own Use, that is, to the Use of Religion, make a proper Display of it. The Churches are spacious, magnificent in their Structure, and set off with all Pomp and Decorations; grand Porticos and Colonnades, rich Altars adorned with Bas-reliefs, Pictures in Frames of massy Gold, and Saints of solid Silver, the Foot and Sides covered with Cloth of Gold, and the Pedestals with Plates of Gold; the Tabernacle made of Gold; the Pyx (or Box for the Sacrament) of Gold, set round with Emeralds, and other Jewels; the Vessels and Candlesticks made of Gold; the Whole, when illuminated, making a Shew almost beyond Belief: A proper Bait for the Eyes of deluded Indians, who, by such fine Sights, and the pious Mountebankery attending them, are retained in due Awe and Wonder!
The Princely Person of the Poor Jesuit is suitably lodged in a spacious Palace, containing grand Apartments, furnished with many Pictures and Images, with proper Lodgings for his Train of Officers and Domestics; the Quadrangles and Gardens all in proportion; the whole Court making a Square of some Miles. Observe, that all the many opulent Warchouses, belonging to the Holy Disinterested Man, are contained in it!
Such is the Situation, such the State, and inimitable Authority, of every Jesuit in Paraguay. There are but Forty odd of these Monks in all that great Tract of Country; and in it they have above a Million of Souls, not only to obey them, but to worship them: Nor do these their sightless and abject Slaves know any other God: For where the true God is ever so little known, no Man will worship Friers; who always paint Him as like Themselves, as They themselves are, in Reality, unlike Him.
The inevitable Danger of trusting Ecclesiastical Persons with any Worldly Power, or any Share in Government.
THIS Government of the Jesuits in America, the most monstrous, and the most tyrannical, that ever the World saw, is yet the most quiet. It owes its Security to the same Principles, to which it owes its Foundation; Two very short, and very simple Principles: First, that the Jesuits come commissioned from God, to declare His Will to the Indians; then, that the Indians are to submit in All Things, and to give up All Things, to the Jesuits: And these Two Principles are sufficient, nay, necessarily tend, to introduce and perpetuate the most complete Tyranny; a Consideration which ought to be an eternal Warning to all Nations, and all Governments, never to suffer any Man, or Body of Men, to make Religion a Stalking-Horse to Power or Property; since, thenceforward, all the Property and Power of the World will be found too little for any Man, or Body of Men, who pretend to preside and dictate in religious Matters: Witness the Pope, and Mahomet, and the Jesuits in Paraguay.
It seemed to be a pertinent and prophetic Conjecture in the Abyssinians, concerning the Churches erected amongst them by the Romish Missionaries, ‘That they were Forts, raised to master and bridle the Country.’ The Missionaries in Japan had such Confidence in the blind Bigotry of their Converts, who believed the Fathers to be all Vice-gods, and the Will and Wisdom of the Fathers to be the Will and Wisdom of God, that they thought themselves able to form a powerful Army, of these their bewitched Tools, against their natural Lord the Emperor; to make them Traitors and Rebels, out of Zeal for Jesuitism, abusefully called Christianity; and to sacrifice their Lives, to make these Reverend Pedants Masters of the Empire. For, had they conquered, they must have assumed the sovereign Sway, or committed it to some nominal Prince to sway it for them: And then Japan must have felt the Fate of America; namely, a Course of Barbarity, Massacre, and Desolation, with whatever was afflicting and dreadful to human Nature; all to spread Darkness and Delusion over the human Soul, for the Benefit of inhuman Deceivers. The Jesuit Xavier, who is sainted, and called, The Apostle of the Indies, made a Declaration, worthy, indeed, of his Order, but nothing savouring of an Apostle, that Missionaries without Musquets were never successful in making Converts. What a Romish Missionary in Japan owned to that Emperor, was enough to alarm him. The Emperor asked him, How the King of Spain came by such vast Territories in America? The Father replied, in the Simplicity of his Heart, ‘That the Catholic King sent over Missionaries to convert the Americans, and then Troops to master them.’
It cannot be forgot, how precariously Princes reigned formerly in Christendom, whilst the Pope presumed to guide and command; nay, to curse and depose Princes. Doubtless he was then the Monarch of Christendom; and those who were called Christian Monarchs, were, under that mock Name, no other than his Vassals and Tributaries. He published Laws binding to Prince and People, taxed their Subjects, levied Money upon them, armed them against their Sovereign, and often dethroned their Sovereign. Were not all these Demonstrations, that he was Sovereign over them All? His magic Monarchy was therefore not only the most impious, and most complete Tyranny, but the most formed for Continuance, as long as Imposture was swallowed and revered for Religion.
Dominion, founded thus in the Soul, is absolute, and ought to teach all Princes, and States, never to suffer those who profess to direct in Religion, to possess Power; since, where-ever these two are blended together, one of them must perish. It is easy to guess, because it has been always seen, which of the Two will prevail; and then worldly Ambition, covered and recommended by a holy Name, animated by the worst Passions, acting from the worst Motives, and pursuing the worst Ends, will monopolize, or taint and confound, All things, Conscience and Property, Law and Reason, sell and belye Heaven, engross and oppress the Earth. The Priests of Egypt, of old, supreme in the State, as well as in Religion, making the most of these mixt Characters, not only made and unmade Kings, not only deposed and slaughtered them, but ordered the King to slaughter himself, whenever they told him he was unfit to reign. Indeed, the more qualified he was for reigning, the less he answered their Purpose, and was the more proper Victim to holy Jealousy. It was therefore from sound and necessary Policy, that the Sophis, or Sovereigns of Persia, assumed the Headship of the Church, as well as of the State, and were as absolute in Religion as in Government. The Great Turk, without claiming the same Title, assumes the same Right, and exercises the same Authority, by making and unmaking the Mufti, or Chief Pontif, at Pleasure.
The De la Lami is not only Chief Pontif of the Eastern Tartars, but treated like a Deity, and stiled Everlasting Father. What may not an Impostor, so important, so adored, and thought to be Almighty and Immortal, undertake and accomplish? It is no Wonder, that the Tartar Princes are never crowned till they have his Blessing, which may be presumed to mean his Permission. They even eat his Dung as sanctified Dainties.
The Talapois, in the Kingdom of Lao, or Langia, in the East, are so formidable, even to the King, that when they commit the most outrageous Crimes, Robbery, Treason, Rapes, and Murder, he dare not punish them, nor suffer them to be punished. He fears, that, were he to chastise or restrain them, they would make his People, over whom they are Omnipotent, destroy him, or would destroy him themselves. He therefore excuses, or will not see, their most shocking Enormities. If they counterfeit the Coin, ‘The poor Men, says he, were in want, and found this ingenious Contrivance to relieve themselves: Besides, it was pious in them, thus to support their Temples and Convents; and their Accusers are to blame.’ Once, one of these Reverend Friers was, upon full and ocular Evidence, convicted, before the King, for having broke, by Night, into the Apartment of two Sisters, Women of Condition, and murdered them for their Jewels. The Fact was plain, the Evidence undeniable, yet the Murderer innocent. ‘An evil Spirit, says his Majesty, hath done the Murder, under the Form of a Talapoi, to bring Disgrace upon these holy Men.’ Thus that King reigns with their Leave, and they tyrannize without his.
This is, indeed, a very surprising Account; but it is still more surprising, that it comes from the European Missionaries, though it be probably very true. Have not European, Catholic Talapois opposed Princes, their natural Princes, rebelled against Princes, cursed their Princes, deposed their Princes, poisoned and stabbed their Princes? And do they not still claim to be independent of their natural Sovereign every-where, and subject only to their own Jurisdiction, and to the Sovereignty of the Pope?
The Profession of the Missionaries Abroad; how notoriously insincere, and contradictory to their Tenets and Practices at Home.
THE above strange Boldness and Inconsistency in the Missionaries lead one into many Reflections. When I think particularly of the mighty Empire of China, that, in Numbers of Inhabitants, in good Policy, and consequently in Felicity, it surpasses all the other great Empires of the Earth, past and present; when I consider, what raised it so high, what preserved it so long, as also, what would sink and ruin it for ever; I cannot but wonder at the marvelous Assurance of these Missionaries, in trying to propagate and establish their shocking System of Absurdities and Impieties there; a System, as repugnant to the Simplicity of Christianity, as to that of rational Heathens! When the Moment their History, and Conduct, and Maxims, are known, all reasonable Chineses must abhor them; abhor their History, fraught with Acts of Fraud and Sedition; abhor their Conduct, black with Persecution and Cruelty; abhor their Maxims, levelled against all Conscience and common Sense, full of Blasphemy against the Deity, full of Contradiction to Reason and Figures; all intirely selfish, framed only to exalt themselves, by cheating, impoverishing, and depressing all others.
Can any sensible Chinese, without Resentment and Scorn, hear himself persuaded to renounce his Reason, as the first Step to Happiness; to stifle that Light which certainly comes from God, and to follow what flatly contradicts that Light; to take extravagant Traditions, and Fairy Tales, and Dreams, for the Will and Word of God; to believe Impossibilities as Divine Truths; to practise wonderful Fooleries, as Duties commanded by the God of Wisdom; to esteem the God of the Universe addicted to personal Fondnesses and Favourites; influenced, or rather governed, by a Mother and Kindred; subject to Caprice and Passions; nay, shifting his Passions, and even his Purposes and Decrees, upon every Request and Whim of his Creatures; unaccountably fond of one Sect, however little and obscure, generally Slaves and Vagabonds, and often, in spight of Him, and all his Menaces, obstinate Idolaters; yet, for their Sake, hating, or neglecting, all the rest of the World?
Can a rational Chinese think, that the Almighty and Impartial Being more readily hears a Prayer made by one Man, than the same Prayer made by another Man; that he regards Coats, or Colours, or Names, or Distinctions, or has given Power to particular Men to prevail with himself in Behalf of all the rest (just as a weak Prince does to his Mistress, or his Barber); though these particular Men can in no earthly or visible Thing shew, that they have any Power, or any Faculties, superior to those of the most ordinary Men; when the Morals of the most ordinary Men are, indeed, generally better than theirs, and when such Morals are the only Recommendation of Men in Society? For, God wants no Human Help, no more than he does Grimace and Flattery.
If the Chineses knew further, that these holy Strollers, professing at first only a Desire to be heard, only to instruct them, to pray for them, and to propose to them the meek Principles of the Gospel; contending for no Power, but that of Persuasion; for no Authority, but that of blaming Vice; for no Revenue, hardly for daily Bread, would yet assume a very different Style, when they had once gained sufficient Numbers of Bigots to follow and support them; that they would then boldly claim a public Establishment, and public Rents, amounting to a large Proportion of the Public Wealth; besides all that they could procure by cheating and frightening private Consciences; that they would haughtily assert an absolute Power in Spirituals, that is, in whatever they pleased to call so; even a Power to excommunicate the whole Empire, and the Prince himself with it; that is, to dethrone him, if he submitted not blindly to them, especially in sinking his Sovereignty, or employed it not in setting them above himself, and in persecuting, burning, and exterminating his best and most conscientious Subjects; namely, such as they could not force to give up all Conscience, at the Word of Command, nor to believe Lyes, nor to reverence marvelous Folly and Inhumanity; that they would raise popular Ferments, Tumults, Bloodshed, and Civil Wars, about Bowings, and Tables, and Legerdemain; would promote continual Strife, about mere Words, and dry Names, and internal, involuntary Motions of the Mind; nay, kill and destroy, for such scandalous Considerations; or, where they were not suffered to go so far, at least make these the Subjects of everlasting Strife and Rancour, to the constant Disturbance and Ruin of Society; that they would curse, and oppress, in Defence of the most shocking Blasphemy; maintaining, that the One only God, He who made all things, He who fills all Space, and, in Power and Greatness, is utterly Incomprehensible, might be eaten and multiplied; that they could damn, and save, human Souls, and open the Gates of Heaven and Hell, though they could not, without human Means, command the smallest Leaf from a Bush, or the smallest Candle to burn, or be extinguished; and that such poor weak Creatures, who had not Power to controul the Motions of a Fly, or award the lowest Insect to a common Death, would yet most impiously presume to influence, nay, to direct and determine, the God of infinite Wisdom and Power:
I say, if any Chinese knew all these frightful Truths, concerning the Missionaries, (and Truths they are, too glaring to be denied) would he not wonder at their Boldness, pity the unhappy Countries where such pestilent Instruments bore Sway, rejoice that his own had escaped them, and study to preserve it for ever from them? Indeed, there cannot be a surer Sign, that all monkish Pretensions whatsoever, to propagate Divine Worship and Opinions, by the Aids of Wealth and Power, by Terrors and Penalties, whether Positive or Negative, are utterly repugnant to the benevolent Christian Religion, and to the merciful Will of God, the common Father of all Men, than that they are found certainly baneful to Society, certainly tending to make People ignorant and slavish, utterly uncharitable, and therefore utterly unsociable, as well as few and poor.
There could not therefore be a surer Method of reducing the mighty Numbers of People in China, with all their mighty Wealth, Trade, and Happiness, than by establishing a monkish Hierarchy there, or any such Hierarchy as considers only Itself, and All things For itself.
The Duration of Tyrannical single Governments, and the changeable Nature of such as are Popular and Free, further considered and illustrated.
WHEN Virtue and good Sense become more prevalent in the World than Vice and Folly, it will be a Wonder indeed, to see the worst Government more permanent than the best. People are generally more constant in evil Habits than in good, more persevering in Grossness and Stupidity than in the Exercise of Reason, and in useful Pursuits. In truth, the more foolish their Habits, the more wild their Tenets are, the more they are prized. The absurd Customs, and extravagant Notions, almost every-where prevailing in the World, shew this to be, in general, the Character of the World, and of most Men in it. They are rarely disposed to change for the Better; or if they be, they almost always mistake the Means: And though they did not, they will find unsurmountable Difficulties thrown in their Way, by those who have Power to do it, and Interest in doing it. Whoever is hurt by the Change, will oppose it, however advantageous it may be to the Whole; as they who gain by the worst Change, will advance the worst; and, in both Cases, the People may be sometimes either so awed as not to attempt the best Change, or so deceived as not to wish for it: At other times, they may be so managed, so seduced and inflamed, as to be hurried into a Passion for the worst.
Where such public Agitations prevail, and in the freest Governments they will always prevail most, the Government itself is constantly threatened with a Revolution, and, at length, with Dissolution, as happened to that of Rome, and had before to that of Athens; which, after all the Laws and Regulations of Solon, still continued turbulent and raging, and hastening to a Downfal. He himself owned, that the Government was bad; but said, the People would bear no better. It is a Wonder, that that of Rome held so long, under such a continual Course of Struggles, between the Leaders of the Senate, and the Leaders of the People. Sallust says expresly, ‘That they (that is, those Leaders) would rather see the State in Convulsions, than lose their superior Sway in it. The Tribunes engaged the People, nay, bribed them, and incensed them against the Senate; all to gain Influence and Popularity, and thence Power and Command, to themselves. Against the Tribunes the Nobility exerted all their Force; in Appearance, for the Authority of the Senate; in Reality, for their own Grandeur. One Side was loud for the Rights of the People; the other, for supporting the Dignity of the Senate; both pleading the Public Good, both struggling for their own particular Pre-eminence. Not was there any End, or Bounds, to this terrible Competition.’
The Faction which prevailed, must, in all good Policy, disable the defeated Faction from recovering: They would rather therefore try a new Constitution, that is, a new Government, than hazard the Re-admission of the late Governors; and risque the utter Change of the State, than lose the Rule of it.
The Romans got rid of the Tyranny of Kings, but fell under the Tyranny of Party. The History of the Commonwealth is little else but the History of Party. Even their Foreign Wars, and Conquests, arose from the continual Struggle of Parties at Home; a Struggle that early presaged the Overthrow of the Commonwealth, which fell finally under that great Party-Man, Cæsar, who, by the Force and Improvement of Party, put an End to Liberty. Sylla and Marius had shewn the Thing to be feasible: Many others had attempted it. Cæsar accomplished it; he oppressed Liberty, and oppressed it for ever.—A sad Consideration, that when Liberty is once lost, it is hardly ever to be recovered; it is the more sad, as Liberty naturally furnishes Enemies against Itself. Great Liberty always produces Faction: Faction is always dangerous, often pernicious to Liberty.
Faction, if it be not formed by some particular Head, will at least soon find a Head; or a Head will soon find the Faction. Then, as He will stick at nothing to humour Them, They will stick at nothing to exalt Him, even so as to enable Him to destroy the State, and Themselves with it. If Catiline fail, so must his Followers. They therefore desperately concur with him, in all his most desperate Measures, to destroy the Government with Fire and Sword, and, by the same dreadful Means, to set up another Government. The whole Faction were so devilishly determined, that not a Man of them, amongst so many Thousands, all desperate and poor, would betray any of the rest, though tempted to it by the Offer of Pardon, and a great Reward; as I have elsewhere observed. They even blaspheme the sacred Name of Liberty, and use it as a Stale to their savage Treason; prostitute it, yet complain of the want of it; and pretend to restore it, whilst they are extirpating it.
Indeed, by the Sound of Liberty, every enterprising Tribune could shake and endanger the State; and his most pernicious Projects were sometimes the most popular: Sicinius Dentatus proposed, upon the Conquest of the City and Territory of Veii, to divide the whole Roman People, and to send One-half of all Degrees thither: A Proposal which, had it succeeded, would have put a Period to the Roman State; yet the People, ever fond of Novelties, and popular Projects, rejoiced in the Proposal, and were hardly kept from executing it.
It was thus the worst Men made themselves popular, by offering popular Laws, and bewailing popular Grievances; Laws which were really wanted, but sometimes could not be obtained, or were attempted to be obtained in such a Way, upon such Terms, and by such Instruments, as made the Execution of them more mischievous than the Want of them; Grievances that could not be removed, without introducing worse. What seemed more reasonable, what more wanted, than the Distribution of the public Lands amongst the Roman People, who had conquered them? What more reasonable, what more just, than an Agrarian Law; limiting the monstrous Wealth of some particular Subjects, and supplying the miserable Wants of All? But, besides the great Difficulty in gaining and executing such a Law, those who were loudest and most active in pushing it, meant only their own Grandeur, and to enthrall the People with their own Consent. They knew that any popular Cry would be followed with popular Applause, with popular Confidence, and popular Authority.
Even the extravagant and enslaving Scheme of the Tribune Rullus was applauded by the People, because he declared it to be for the Benefit of the People; though nothing was ever more obviously destructive of their Liberty, and of the very Being of the State. By it, ‘He and Nine Confederates more, were to be invested, during Five Years, with absolute Power over the Commonwealth, over all its Forces and Revenues, over all the Lands and Fortunes of particular Subjects; Power to settle Colonies, to distribute the public Treasure to the People at Discretion, and to alter and transfer Property at Pleasure.’ A Scheme, which, at first View, declared these Ten to be uncontroulable Tyrants over the Republic, and All in it to be absolute Slaves to these Ten Tyrants; yet, so pleasing to the People, that it required all the Credit, all the Address and Eloquence, of Cicero, to undeceive them, and prevail with them to reject it.
There never was any human Society, which did not want something: In every Society, there will be many Men wanting many Things. These, as they will be apt to complain, will like such as pity them, and join with them in their Complaints. Such who pretend to relieve them, will be still more dear to them. The same Spirit, and the same Materials, which produce Mountebanks and false Teachers, produce false Patriots and Reformers, who, in order to gain popular Influence, must practise and promote popular Deceit; as I have already largely illustrated.
The great Unsteadiness, and, consequently, the great Insecurity, of popular Governments, as well as the sudden Gusts of Rage and Injustice, to which they are subject, is signally exemplified in the Commonwealth of the Grisons. Whenever the Peasants are heated by any malevolent Report against any Man, though it be only whispered, perhaps to be traced to no Author, or the Author never to be discovered, they flock in Crouds to the Diet, and demand a Chamber of Justice, or rather command it. For they are Masters, and this, nor any thing else, must be denied to their Fury, be their Fury ever so groundless. The Person accused, however innocent, is put upon proving himself not guilty. For the Charge is without Proof, and supported only by popular Jealousy, raised by any Incendiary, and Artizan of Falshood. Be the Person ever so guiltless, he must be tortured; and the Torture often produces Confession of false Guilt, which is followed by real Execution. Such as can stand the Rack, are indeed acquitted, but live ever afterwards bereft of their Limbs. So that here is certain Punishment, without any certain Crime, or for none: The Innocent may die by false Confession: The most Guilty may escape by making none. No Wonder, that upon such popular Alarms, such as any spiteful Slanderer may wantonly raise, the Gentry fly: For the Peasants are both Judges and Accusers; and there is no Safety, though there be no Crime. Some Sacrifices must be made, generally many are made, to asswage popular Rage, which, when it is most blind, is most carnivorous.
Here is a Republic, where, first, any Malecontent, any Incendiary, may, by any spiteful Device or Forgery, rouse the People to Insurrections and Massacre; and where, secondly, all the principal Men, who are thus least safe in it, are under a continual Temptation to abolish such popular Licentiousness, and to introduce a quieter Government, for their own Security. Besides, we have an Instance from the same Country, how easily, and readily, and madly, the People themselves are drawn to change the most popular Government, and to submit to absolute Tyranny. A Community of the Grisons, under the gentlest Yoke in the World, without any Grievance to complain of, but that their Magistrates were now-and-then of a different Religion, and that Protestants were tolerated amongst them, were such surprising Bigots, as to throw off their just and mild Governors, cut the Throats of their unoffending Neighbours, and cast themselves into the Hands of the Spaniards, the most terrible Masters in the World.
Upon the Whole, Free Governments are indeed difficult to be conquered, but subject to change; and it is scarce possible to frame, or even to conceive, one of them free from the Materials of Change, and internal Dissolution. They may conquer great Monarchies: The Roman Republic conquered many, but, at last, conquered itself, by the very Means and Instruments of its Conquests, even its own victorious Armies and Commanders. That State, like others, equally Popular and Free, produced Great Men: Those Great Men often threatened, at last effected, the Ruin of the State. They proved equally dangerous at the Head of Factions, as at the Head of Armies; and frequently came to lead Armies, by having led Factions.
Great absolute Monarchies cannot properly be called Government, because they can never be well and equally administred, even where the Monarch most sincerely intends it; a Case which seldom happens, or can be presumed. He who directs All, cannot be exactly acquainted how All is executed, and cannot answer for the Virtue and Sufficiency of all the infinite Instruments employed by him, and under him. Absolute Power is generally absolute Misrule, a Train of public Spoilers, preying upon one another, certainly upon all others; and, under the Name of Protecting, in fact, Distressing and Consuming Men.—Yet this Sort of Monarchy is generally lasting; it is subject indeed to be conquered, but is obnoxious, within itself, to no essential Change. The Monarch himself is frequently changed, and for ever liable to be so; to be dethroned, imprisoned, slain: But such Changes, however frequent, are but Personal: The Power and Policy is the same, and continues. Civil Wars and Revolutions have been frequent in India, Persia, and Turkey; but, in all of them, the Constitution remains unvaried; and the Successor of an Emperor, deposed for abusing his Power, is still at Liberty to abuse it as much.
There never was a freer, or a braver People, under the Sun, than the Cossacks. Oppression at Home from their Polish Lords, drove them to seek Shelter in the Ukrain, from their Courage, and into a League of mutual Defence. It is wonderful, what great Defeats small Bands of them have given to great Armies, and what amazing Exploits they have performed against the Turks, upon the Black Sea, where, in small open Boats, without the Help or Possibility of Ordnance, they have awed, surprised, and beaten, the Turkish Navy, and often taken and destroyed their proud Gallies, full of Men and Artillery. But their Government is too free to be steady and lasting. Their Hetman, or Chief, is elective; and a terrible Station he holds; since, upon every public Disaster and Miscarriage, which must frequently happen from their frequent and desperate Excursions, he is almost sure to be cut to pieces, however able and faultless he be. Yet this Honour, which no Wise Man would chuse, the Wisest Man dare not refuse. If he do, he is as surely cut to pieces for Not serving, as if he had served ever so Ill. So that any factions Member, may, from private Spite or Ambition, propose his Enemy, or Rival, to be their Chief, on purpose to have him staughtered. Thus daily Commotions, and continual Tragedies, are to be apprehended amongst them; and the Chief is under constant Temptations to save his Life, and consult his own Security, by conspiring against that of the Public, and by betraying the State to some powerful Neighbour, able to protect him against his own People; and many such Neighbours there are, ready to combine with and encourage him, in Moscovy, Turkey, Tartary, and Poland.
Crotona, an antient Greek City in Italy, famous for the Birth of Pythagoras, was a Commonwealth, administered by a Council of a Thousand: That of Locris had one as numerous: The Seres, a People in Scythia, had one of Five thousand. What Union, what Peace and Secrecy, could be expected in such tumultuous Councils? We may guess, and indeed find, by their History, to what Factions and Struggles, to what intestine Changes and Calamities, these popular States were subject; what Scope and Encouragement was given to Demagogues; what Danger attended their best Magistrates, what evil Constructions the best Measures; and, thence, what Temptation to these Magistrates to make themselves independent; and thus introduce a Single Tyranny, or that of a Few.
Syracuse was the proudest and most opulent of all the Greek Cities; till the People, wanton with Plenty and Prosperity, and impatient of any Restraint upon their Liberty, (though, without Restraint, no Liberty can subsist) ruined All, Themselves, their Liberty, and their State, by setting up a popular Government; which, whilst it lasted, was little better than Anarchy, and naturally produced, what, from the Beginning, it naturally tended to produce, Single Tyranny. The Multitude made War and Peace; gave and resumed Governments, and military Command; made and abolished Treaties; were Masters of Life and Death; declared and pardoned Criminals; despised real Merit, and exalted Favourites without Merit.
This popular Liberty, or rather this Madness, this wild Power in the Many, could not hold, when every loud Son of the Rabble was first heard; and, minding only his own little Interest, trusted most in those who flattered him best. All lived in a continual Intercourse of deceiving, and being deceived: He who could best deceive All, was in a Way to be Master of All. Dionysius proved to be the Man; a Man ever since renowned and detested, by the Name of the Tyrant. He cajolled the Multitude, and the Multitude adored him. For Their sake, and for his Attachment to them, he told Them, (and this was Argument enough to gain their Belief) that he went in hourly Peril of his Life; and begged them to appoint him a Guard: They readily granted him what he wanted, and he readily took what they had thus helped him to; even the Prerogative of putting Chains upon them All. He even entailed the Tyranny upon his Son. When they were released from this Second crazy and contemptible Tyrant, by the virtuous Timoleon, the People, bewitched with the Notions of unbounded Liberty, (a Thing which can never last; and, whilst it does, is in continual Combination against itself) struggling for the old popular Government, Agathocles, once a Pathic, a Haunter of Brothels, then a common Soldier, now an Officer, adopting the fashionable Cry for Liberty and the People, charmed them, cheated them, enslaved them, and then butchered them by Centuries.
Sybaris was a populous and thriving State; the City contained Three hundred thousand Inhabitants. The Government was popular and unsteady. The People, provoked and deceived by one Telys, a designing Citizen, banished Five hundred Citizens at once, the most wealthy of the Whole; Men whom He disliked, and whom he taught the Populace to hate. The Exiles were protected and patronized by the Crotonians; a War ensued; an Army of Three hundred thousand Sybarites were utterly routed and slaughtered, by a Third of the Number of Crotonians, commanded by the famous Wrestler Milo. The City itself of Sybaris was sacked, and laid desolate: It was not rebuilt for almost Sixty Years; and then again razed by the Crotonians. The fugitive Sybarites, assisted by a Colony from Athens, built another City, with another Name; and, using the New-comers insolently, lost the chief Sway to them. So much they got and lost, by their Possession of popular Liberty, and by their Faith in Telys their popular Leader.
The Populace at Argos, in one wild Sedition, destroyed most of the considerable Argives, without other Evidence, than the Insinuations and bold Calumnies of their Orators. All the Rich were accused; all the Accused were found guilty; all the Guilty were put to Death. Even the inhuman Orators were, at last, terrified with such infinite Executions, no less than 1600 in a Train; and, growing slack in their Pursuit of more, became thence suspected; Suspicion was Guilt enough; and they were themselves slaughtered; they who were the Authors of so much Slaughter!
An Aristocracy, or a Government of the Nobles, is more secure, as it is more steady, than a popular Government; and though generally very strict and severe, yet nothing so terrible as absolute Monarchy. That of Sparta lasted many Ages, after it was rescued, by the Wisdom and Courage of Lycurgus, from the Weakness and Violence of Popularity, into which it had lapsed; and was therefore hastening to Dissolution, as I have before observed. One Part of the Spartan Policy seems extremely unjust and cruel: As the genuine Spartans were not very numerous, all bred only to Arms; the Grounds were cultivated, and all servile Offices were performed, by the Helotes, their Slaves, the Natives of the Country, first conquered by the Heraclides. These Slaves were very numerous, and presumed not to be well-affected to their proud Masters; who therefore used, from time to time, to employ the most trusty Spartan Youth on secret and nightly Expeditions, to massacre quietly such of these Slaves, as were most obnoxious for Strength, Capacity, and Spirit; even Two thousand at a time.
The Venetians, with all their Experience and Refinements, their great Council, their Senate, and their College; with all their Checks, Rotations, and Ballotings; their extraordinary Maxims, and Jealousy; could not boast much Security and Permanence, but for the supreme and unaccountable Authority of the Council of Ten; the constant Terror of all turbulent Subjects, and the great Bulwark of the Commonwealth.
The Government of the Argives was, in a great measure, the same with that of Sparta; but through One Defect, I mean the Want of a Senate, like that of the Ephori there, was subject to terrible Agitations and Insurrections. Any popular Jealousy and Rage, always easily raised by any evil Instruments amongst the Populace, for want of such a Council to intercept it, discharged itself directly upon the King, and ended not, but in his Murder, or Deposition. It was therefore just Policy in one of the Kings of Sparta, to institute the Ephori; for, though that Institution checked the Royal Authority, as his Queen weakly upbraided him, it secured and prolonged it: And the Spartan Government, which lasted so long, might have lasted still longer, but for its Attempts to make Conquests; which introduced new Maxims, with the Means and Examples of Luxury; let loose the Ambition of particular Spartans, and unsettled all Things. It was admirably framed for Self-preservation, but not for Inlargement.
The Roman Government was itself enslaved by the same Spirit and Instruments, by which it enslaved so many other Nations; I mean, by popular Heroes and Armies. Thenceforwards the Roman Government could not be said to exist, even with a Roman Emperor at the Head of it. It was lost in Imperial Frolic and Fury; in the Humour, Whim, or Appetite, of a Fool, or a Madman, Claudius, or Nero. Neither could the wisest Prince alter it, much less restore it: This was, indeed, impossible; and some such were destroyed for attempting it; not could the best do more, than shew their Pity and Generosity, by particular Acts of Justice and Benevolence, which died with them. The best Reigns were only Intervals of Violence, Robbery, and Bloodshed. Yet this Tyranny, this Inversion and Suppression of Government, proved lasting. The Tyrants were frequently destroyed, but the Tyranny never.
This is the Lot and Curse of Tyrants, without bringing Relief to the People; unless, perhaps, it prove some Consolation to them, to see, that their grand Oppressor, that the proudest Ruler, holds a more precarious Life, and is hourly threatened with a more ignominious Death, than his meanest Slave. There are eternal Changes in such Government, but never of it; and the same Hands which preserve the Monarchy unchangeable, may change the Monarch every Day.
The Prætorian Bands, the Turkish Janizaries, the Russian Strelitzes, as they can make and unmake Sovereigns, are rather the Masters, than the Servants, of their Sovereigns: And a Prince, thus at the Mercy of his Soldiery, must, to save Himself, give up All to their Mercy; his Subjects, his Revenue, his Prerogative, his Ministers, and his Favourites. Sometimes, after all these Sacrifices, he is sacrificed Himself. A dreadful Situation, both for Princes and Subjects; the more dreadful, as it never, never mends. It is a Sort of Government which destroys Government, and all Things; Princes, as well as People; but is Itself never destroyed, till it hath destroyed All. It may change its Name, from Roman to Greek, from Greek to Saracen, from Saracen to Turkish, from Persian to Parthian; but its Nature doth not change: It is still military; still arbitrary and violent; perpetual, and unchangeable.
A free People may conquer an absolute Monarchy: The Romans conquered many; indeed all that they attacked. But the same Way that leads to foreign Conquest, leads to domestic Slavery; and where Slavery is so established, it is established for ever; as it was at Rome: Vestigia nulla retrorsum. It is not likely, that the Soldiers will let the Laws govern the King, when They cannot govern the Laws. With them, the Opportunity of making Princes infers the Power of doing it: Power is Right; Right is perpetual and sacred. The Roman Emperors continued to be made by them, or were deposed and destroyed by them, to the last. Where the Son succeeded the Father, he did it by their Fiat and Approbation.
In Turky, Superstition has confined the Janizaries, in the Choice of their Princes, to the Line of Othman: But they have dethroned, imprisoned, and butchered their Princes, as freely as if they had been chosen from the Army, or the Rabble. It must be owned, too, that History furnishes not such an able and brave Race of Princes, as have been found of that Line. For Three hundred Years they were all Heroes: A Wonder indeed! The greatest Wretches are commonly the Descendents of the greatest Heroes. Such, literally, were those of Cæsar, of Sesostris, of Cyrus, of Tamerlane, and Charlemagne. Yet, during the Successors of these great Princes, the Dread and Infamy of their several Reigns put no Period to their dreadful Form of Reigning, though it often did to their Lives. Sometimes the immediate Successor is only conspicuous for being unworthy of his Ancestors: Witness Edward II. the weak and unhappy Son of Edward I. Richard II. the hopeful Heir of Edward III. Also Henry VI. the wretched Son and Successor of Henry V.
This Consideration is alone sufficient to expose the horrid Nature and Claim of despotic Sway in any one Man. For, Once that it falls into the Hands of an able Prince, it may fall Ten times into the Hands of Fools; who consider the Country as their Estate, and Men as their Cattle. In this Light the Emperor Severus (one of the best, too, that the Romans knew) seems to have considered the Roman Empire, and the Romans themselves: His last Advice to his Two Sons was, To fill the Treasury; (without limiting them to any honest Methods of doing it) To feed and gratify the Soldiery; and to take no further Care or Concern for any thing else. He did not so much as name the Roman People, or Senate: He even knew, that these very Youths were likely to rend and waste the Empire; for they hated one another mortally, and were already in a State of War; and the Elder had attempted to poison, then to assassinate his Father. Soon after his Father’s Death he butchered his Brother, even in the Arms of their common Mother; proved a Tyrant, and a Butcher, to the Romans, but a liberal Slave to the Army; agreeably to the Advice of his Father. He died, however, in Blood, as became such a bloody Man. His Successor proved worse than He, and had the like Fate; which, in a long Succession, scarce any escaped.
But though the Imperial Tyrants were still falling, the Imperial Tyranny stood still firm. The Soldiers would brook no other: How should they? Whenever they murdered one Emperor, they were sure of being well paid for setting up another; and then murdered Him, too, when they had left him no more to give them. It was a fine Government to Them: From it they had the Spoils of the World.
Why did the free Romans, why did the free Greeks, hate Monarchy, and despise Monarchs, but because they were lawless, absolute Tyrants; their Subjects absolute Slaves, and their great Armies for ever defeated, by Handfuls of Men born free, and therefore brave? An Athenian valued himself more upon being the Son of an Athenian, than upon the Blood he derived, by his Mother, from the Kings of Thrace: And the Daughter of a Roman Citizen refused to be the Wife of a King.
An Inquiry, Which is the most Equal and Perfect Government: Our own proved to be so.
THE most equal and perfect Government amongst the Romans, was their First Government; that of King, Senate, and People, and it is the most perfect of all Governments.
Absolute Power, in the People, is Madness, naturally and hastily running into the Hands of One Man, where it is Madness still; but more dangerous, as it is then harder to be removed: In the Hands of a Few, it is the Tyranny of a Few. Now, what can controul either a governing Multitude, or a Cabal that governs the Multitude, or one Man who dictates to all?
Power divided between the People and the Nobility, produces Distrust, Faction, and Civil Feuds, threatening to all Government; as in Rome during the Commonwealth, which perished by them.
Power divided between King and Nobles, besides the infinite Distrust between Him and Them, as in Poland, infers absolute Slavery in the Populace; nor can there be more miserable Slaves than the Poles, who are worked and sold like Cattle, and often killed by their Lords, with as much Wantonness, and as little Ceremony; almost with equal Impunity: A Ducat compensates for the Life of a Subject: Sometimes no Inquiry is made, and consequently no Forfeiture.
Power, divided between a King and the People, produces equal or more Distrusts; and as there is no Check nor Mediator, where both are equal, he must either enslave them, or be deposed by them. The Athenians banished Theseus; and Pisistratus mastered the Athenians. I have above mentioned the defective Policy of the Argives, their Struggles against their Kings, and their barbarous Usage of them. As Power, when it is no longer limited, is no longer Government, but only the Sallies and Outrages of Passion and Folly; Liberty, when it is no longer confined, no longer exists. Both Liberty and Power are known and justified by their Bounds.
The Form of Three Estates is the most perfect Form, as it comprehends every material Interest in a Country, and balances all. Four would be too many; since a Misunderstanding is more likely to happen amongst Four than amongst Three. More would but still create more Discord, Distress, and Confusion.
A little Observation, without much Reasoning, or any Refinement, will serve to satisfy any unprejudiced Man of the Truth of what I say, and of the superior Excellency of Three Estates to any other Form whatsoever.
In all the English Reigns, from the Conquest to the Reformation, the Liberty of England was very defective, and therefore the English Government was imperfect. In all the Struggles between the King and the Barons, it was only for absolute Power to the Crown, or absolute Independency in the Barons: The People were never further considered, than as they joined one Side, or the other; the King, or the Nobles; and the chief Use that either made of them, was to draw them into their particular Quarrels, to spill their Blood, oppress their Persons, and exhaust their Property. The Commons had no Share in the Legislature, at least no equal and proportionable Share. There were only Two Estates, the King and the Nobles; no Third to balance them; and therefore frequent Struggles and Wars between these Two. Neither did it proceed from any Virtue in either the Crown or the Lords, but only from the Wealth and Strength of the Commons, that a Third Estate, that of the Commons, was established with proper Weight and Authority.
These Three Estates constitute the most free, the most equal, and the most happy Government yet known in the World, or that ever can be known. It is the Government which Tacitus mentions as the most complete, but the rarest to be found, and the hardest to be formed.—Cunctas nationes & urbes populus, aut primores, aut singuli regunt: Delecta ex his & constituta Reipub. forma, laudari facilius quam evenire; vel, si evenit, haud diuturna esse potest. ‘All Nations and Communities are governed by the People, by the Nobility, or by single Rulers: A Constitution framed of each, and comprehending all Three, is easier admired than accomplished; or, if accomplished, is not lasting.’
As this Power, in the Hands of One, makes all Men Slaves; in the Hands of a Few, it makes so many Tyrants; in the Hands of All, it confounds All: But in the joint Hands of One, of Several, and of Many, that is, in the Hands of the Populus, Primores, and Singuli; King, Lords, and Commons, all constituting one mixt Legislature; it is a complete System, including all Ranks, and salutary to All. This is our Constitution, such a one as yields more Security, both to the Governors and the Governed, than any that has yet appeared in the World, and more than any other can. In it, all the Three Parts are equally bound and interested to preserve one another, and each is only safe, where the other Two are so. Without a King, one of the Two Estates would soon swallow up, or abolish, the other: A King, without the other Two Estates, would be in Danger of abolishing himself.
The Experiment hath been tried. The Suppression of the Royal Power was followed by that of the Nobility: No King, No Lords. The King had before attempted to abolish both Lords and Commons; an Attempt against Nature and Duty, impotent and odious, subversive of his own Power, and fatal to his Person. They had as good a Right to rule without Him, as He without Them; and sad Experience taught both Him and Them, that they could not rule without One Another.
No other Scheme can be pursued in England, without pernicious Consequences to the Whole, and even to those who pursue it. No absolute Monarchy can be settled without a Civil War: And many Civil Wars would probably follow one another. If a Civil War should end in absolute Monarchy, it is not probable, that he who aimed at it, would enjoy it: If it should end in a Commonwealth, it is likely the same Instrument that set it up, would pull it down, and raise himself upon its Fall.
The only Hope and Aim therefore, amongst all reasonable, all suffering Subjects, after all the Efforts and Bloodshed of a Civil War, would be, to recover the former Government: An Event, which, howeve salutary to the Whole, would be ruinous to the Innovators. The haughty assuming Prince, who would submit to no Law, would not be again trusted to administer the Laws. Such as would not submit to a limited Monarchy, must then square their Allegiance to it, or suffer for refusing.
Can there be stronger Motives to a Prince to govern justly, or to Subjects to behave dutifully? This is the only sure Policy in both Governors and Governed; this the only certain Rule to preserve good Government.
I might inquire next, how far the Judgment of Tacitus may be prophetic, when applied to the Stability of this our Constitution: But I chuse not to enter into such an Inquiry, perhaps neither satisfactory to myself, nor to my Reader. I own there is Danger; I think I see the Causes of it, but cannot see the Cure. I doubt the greatest Danger is little known, or apprehended.
I shall end this Discourse with the same excellent Observations, with which Sir Walter Raleigh ends his History of the World; Observations worthy of that great and masterly Genius, perhaps as great as ever England, or human Nature, produced.
‘By this which we have already set down, is seen the Beginning and End of the Three First Monarchies of the World; whereof the Founders and Erectors thought, that they could never have ended. That of Rome, which made the Fourth, was also at this Time almost at the Highest(a) . We have left it flourishing in the Middle of the Field; having rooted up, or cut down, all that kept it from the Eyes and Admiration of the World. But, after some Continuance, it shall begin to lose the Beauty it had; the Storms of Ambition shall beat her great Boughs and Branches one against another; her Leaves shall fall off, her Limbs wither, and a Rabble of barbarous Nations enter the Field, and cut her down.’
‘Now, these great Kings, and conquering Nations, have been the Subject of those antient Histories, which have been preserved, and yet remain among us; and withal, of so many tragical Poets, as in the Persons of powerful Princes, and other mighty Men, have complained against Infidelity, Time, Destiny; and, most of all, against the variable Success of worldly Things, and Instability of Fortune. To these Undertakings, these great Lords of the World have been stirred up, rather by the Desire of Fame, which ploweth up the Air, and soweth in the Wind, than by the Affection of bearing Rule, which draweth after it so much Vexation, and so many Cares. And that this is true, the good Advice of Cineas to Pyrrhus proves: And, certainly, as Fame hath often been dangerous to the Living, so it is to the Dead of no Use at all, because separate from Knowledge; which, were it otherwise, and the extreme ill Bargain of buying this lasting Discourse understood by them which are dissolved, they themselves would, then, rather have wished to have stolen out of the World without Noise, than to be put in mind, that they have purchased the Report of their Actions in the World, by Rapine, Oppression, and Cruelty; by giving in Spoil the innocent and labouring Soul to the idle and insolent; and by having emptied the Cities of the World of their antient Inhabitants, and filled them again with so many and so variable Sorts of Sorrows.
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‘For the rest, if we seek a Reason of the Succession and Continuance of this boundless Ambition in mortal Men, we may add to that which hath been already said, that the Kings and Princes of the World have always laid before them the Actions, but not the Ends, of those great Ones which preceded them. They are always transported with the Glory of the one, but they never mind the Misery of the other, till they find the Experience in themselves: They neglect the Advice of God, whilst they enjoy Life, or hope it; but they follow the Counsel of Death, upon his first Approach. It is He that puts into Man all the Wisdom of the World, without speaking a Word; which God, with all the Words of his Law, Promises or Threats, doth infuse. Death, which hateth and destroyeth Man, is believed; God, which hath made him, and loves him, is always deferred. I have considered (saith Solomon) all the Works that are underthe Sun; and, behold, all is Vanity, and Vexation of Spirit. But who believes it, till Death tells it us? It was Death, which, opening the Conscience of Charles V. made him injoin his Son Philip to restore Navarre; and King Francis I. of France, to command, that Justice should be done upon the Murderers of the Protestants in Merindol and Cabrieres; which, till then, he neglected. It is, therefore, Death alone that can suddenly make Man to know himself. He tells the Proud and Insolent, that they are but Abjects, and humbles them at the Instant; makes them cry, complain, and repent; yea, even to hate their fore-past Happiness: He takes the Account of the Rich, and proves him a Beggar, a naked Beggar, which hath Interest in nothing, but the Gravel which fills his Mouth. He holds a Glass before the Eyes of the most Beautiful, and makes them see therein their Deformity and Rottenness; and they acknowlege it.
‘O eloquent, just, and mighty Death! whom None could advise, Thou hast persuaded: What None have dared, Thou hast done: And whom all the World hath flattered, Thou only hast cast out of the World, and despised: Thou hast drawn together all the far-stretched Greatness, all the Pride, Cruelty, and Ambition, of Man; and covered it all over with these Two narrow Words, Hic jacet.’
I Add what follows, for the Information of such, who entertain Notions of Liberty inconsistent with those of Government; and I do it, because I have met with many such, who were otherwise reasonable and well-meaning Men.
In every State there must be unbounded Power somewhere. The free Romans had it as much as the tyrannical Roman Emperors had it afterwards; nor can there be any Safety to a State, where the Power of the State is bounded. The Romans, whilst yet free, found it necessary, upon some Conjunctures, to invest the Magistrates with unlimited Authority, where the Roman Government did not furnish a present Remedy against present and unforeseen Danger: The Magistrates, upon such Occasions, were charged to provide, ‘that no Evil befel the Republic;’ and the Means of doing it were left to their own Discretion.
The English Government is as absolute as that of Turky; that is, it is supreme, as every Government must be. The Difference is, that, in Turky, the sole Will of the Sultan is Law: In England, the Law is the Will of King, Lords, and Commons; and the English Constitution claims the same Power over the Lives, Liberties, Persons, and Properties of the English Subjects, as that of Turky does over those of the Turks.
It is the necessary and indispensable Privilege of every independent State, to oblige every Man in it to serve it upon its own Terms; and to punish, as it pleases, such as refuse to comply. No less Power will suffice, to serve or to save a State; otherwise the Governed would be too strong for the Governors; and the Governors unable to protect the Governed: A Case which infers the Subjection of Sovereignty, and the Sovereignty of Subjects; and, consequently, the Dissolution of Government and Society.
They who execute Laws, are, indeed, limited; but the Lawmakers know no Limitation. The Power of the Three States is, therefore, unbounded; and Subjects are only so far free, as the Legislative permits. Laws are no longer Laws, when Subjects dare refuse to obey them. They are even worse than none; as they then only serve to declare, that the Power of the Subject is stronger than that of the Sovereign: Indeed Liberty doth not only imply Limitation, but can never be secure, where it is not limited. Liberty without Limits is Licentiousness, which is Popular Tyranny; as unbounded Power in the Prince is Single Tyranny.
[(a) ]Sero enim resistimus ei, quem, per annos decem, aluimus contra nos. Cic. ad Atr.
[(a) ]Ut cæde integerrimi civis facultas adipiscendi potestatis teterrimo daretur; says Val. Maximus.
[(a) ]In commune non consulunt—dum singuli pugnant, omnes vincuntur.
[(a) ]Non potuisse se, cum cupisset, sermones hominum sustinere.
[(a) ]Cave autem putes (says Cicero to Atticus) quenquam hominem in Italia turpem esse, qui hinc absit.
[(a) ]Si recludantur Tyrannorum mentes, posse adspici laniatus & ictus.
[(a) ]Ille ea quæ nunc sunt, & futura viderit; &, ne fierint, contenderit; &, facta ne viderit, vitam reliquerit.
[(a) ]I cannot but here remember, with very singular Pleasure, the Place where this Discourse was composed, many Years ago, (about Ten or a Dozen) at Mr. Bathurst’s House, in Clarendon Park; a fine Place, and a worthy Man! my amiable and accomplished Friend, with whom I have passed many instructive Hours, many pleasant Days and Weeks; a Friend, whom I shall ever highly esteem, and who deserves all Esteem, from all good Englishmen, for every desirable Quality, and every sound and virtuous Principle.
[(a) ]Postquam Regum pertæsum, leges maluerunt. Tacit.
[(a) ]Plebi, cui ad eam diem summa ope inservitum est, injuriæ a primoribus fieri sapere. Liv.
[(a) ]Fremebant, se foris pro libertate & imperio dimicantes, domi a civibus captos & oppressos esse.
[(a) ]Omnes rerum mutationes cædem, sugam, aliaque hostilia portendant.
[(a) ]Ut denique omnia quæ improbi fingebant, magis vera existimarent, quam quæ vere facta erant, & a nobis doccbantur.
[(a) ]Ut omnia facta scripta, dicta, promissa, cogitata Cæsaris, plus valerent, quam si ipse viveret.
[(a) ]Hoc inter cætera vel pessimum habet crudelitas, quod perseverandum est, nec patet ad meliora regressus. Scelera enim sceleribus tuenda sunt. Quod jam eo infelicius est, cui jam esse malo necesse est. Senec.
[(a) ]Rapere, consumere, sua parvi pendere. Sallust.
[(a) ]Bellum magis desierat, quam pax cæperat.
[(a) ]Periculosa severitas, flagitiosa largitio: seu nihil militi; seu omnia concederentur, in ancipiti republica.
[(a) ]Sir Walter ends his History with the Victory of Paulus Æmilius over Perseus King of Macedon; Anno Urbis 585.