Front Page Titles (by Subject) DISCOURSE VI.: Of Public Corruption; particularly that of the Romans. - The Works of Sallust (Gordon's Discourses, Cicero's Orations against Catiline)
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DISCOURSE VI.: Of Public Corruption; particularly that of the Romans. - 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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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.
[(a) ]Ut omnia facta scripta, dicta, promissa, cogitata Cæsaris, plus valerent, quam si ipse viveret.