Front Page Titles (by Subject) SECT. II.: A suffering Patriot more happy than a successful Parricide: Public Oppressors always unhappy. - The Works of Sallust (Gordon's Discourses, Cicero's Orations against Catiline)
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SECT. II.: A suffering Patriot more happy than a successful Parricide: Public Oppressors always unhappy. - 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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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!