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