Front Page Titles (by Subject) SECT. III.: 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. - The Works of Sallust (Gordon's Discourses, Cicero's Orations against Catiline)
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SECT. III.: 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. - 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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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?
[(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.