Front Page Titles (by Subject) SECT. I.: Why Free Governments are more changeable in their Frame, than such as are Single and Arbitrary. - The Works of Sallust (Gordon's Discourses, Cicero's Orations against Catiline)
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SECT. I.: Why Free Governments are more changeable in their Frame, than such as are Single and Arbitrary. - 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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Why Free Governments are more changeable in their Frame, than such as are Single and Arbitrary.
NOTHING which depends upon the changeable Humours and Passions of Men, can be permanent. No Species of Government can, therefore, be so. Time and Accidents, as they alter the human Face and Frame, so do they that of human Society.
Nothing is perfect at once: Government never is so, nor can be; and has been sometimes destroyed by Attempts to make it so. Human Society, like human Life, is liable to Decay; and the latter, as well as the former, is supported by Expedients. Occasional Laws are found as necessary as occasional Medicines; and both Medicines and Laws, though they sometimes help and save, do likewise sometimes hurt and destroy: Nor can the ablest Physicians and Legislators be certain, that their best Rules will always succeed, and their best Directions be salubrious, or even safe; since the best may be perverted, and then become the worst. The best Remedies, applied unseasonably, or in too great Quantities, may destroy Life: The most wholsome Laws may be perverted into Poison to a State. Laws and Physic, thus abused, are worse than none; because they do Mischief by Authority; and warrant, as well as hasten, the Dissolution of human Life, and civil Society.
In every State and Community, there will, I doubt, be found more Vicious than Virtuous, more Weak than Wise. The Cunning will be for ever deceiving the Simple; the Ambitious will be for ever finding Fools, and for ever leading them. No State or Nation was ever without such Instruments, no more than without proper Materials for such Instruments to work on; the Foolish and the Credulous always blindly following the Ambitious and the Cunning. Wherever there are Multitudes, there will be Seducers; and whilst the Many are always ready to be led, they will never want Leaders. Very mean Implements often serve the Purpose: For there are none so low, but they will see, or think they see, many still lower; and from this Superiority, real or sansied, will try to govern the rest. Indeed, many, of all Ranks, are governed by such as surpass them, not in Capacity, but only in Assurance and Deceit. I doubt not but Beggars, as much upon a Level as they seem, have such Degrees and Subordination amongst them; the Imperious, and the Meek; the Directors, and the Directed; the Credulous, and the Imposing. It is the Characteristic of Society, it is the Nature of Man, to guide, and to follow; to dictate, and to obey; to deceive, and to be deceived.
What State is likely to be quiet, where there are such constant Causes of Disquiet? or to be lasting, where there are so many Materials, so many Authors and Causes of Change? No Government is without such; and the freest Governments, which are consequently the best, abound with them more than the worst. Liberty, like many other valuable Things, carries with it the Seeds of Self-destruction: It is ever liable to be turned into Licentiousness; and thence ever in Peril. Many will abuse it, because they may: Some will encourage that Abuse, on purpose to destroy it. It protects even those who attack and undermine it; and often secures them from Punishment for the worst of all Crimes. As it subsists by certain fixt Laws, whoever can evade those Laws, may overthrow it: And where Liberty abounds most, Laws are most easily evaded.
In a free State, a Man may be a notorious Criminal against Law, yet not punishable by Law; which requires there such Evidence for Guilt, as cannot well affect the Innocent; and, therefore, the Guilty, if they be wary, often escape all Punishment. Here is Encouragement given by a free Government against itself, and often taken! It is like a Distemper arising from too much Health: No Wonder that a Disease, so continually and plentifully fed, proves mortal in time; often in a short Time.
In arbitrary Countries, a Man may be innocent, yet punished legally; because the same absolute Will which creates the Guilt, finds the Evidence. Here is an Opportunity and Temptation presented to an absolute Ruler, and too generally accepted by him, to destroy his best Subjects! It is small Surprize, that, under such a Government, one so threatening to Virtue, there are found but few great Men; or that such Men are unprosperous and short-lived.
In arbitrary Countries, it is a Maxim, ‘That it is better to destroy many innocent Persons, than that One guilty should escape:’ A Maxim which, when generally pursued, threatens swift Destruction to All: And it sometimes happens, that Numbers are sacrificed to the furious Suspicion of unbounded Power, where there was no real Guilt to provoke it. Whoever a Tyrant fears, is always guilty. A King of Siam, having lost his Daughter, and fansying that she was poisoned, put most of his Court, great and small, to Death, chiefly by the most exquisite Torture; because it appeared probable to him, that some of them had given her Poison. Thus that savage Prince massacred above Two thousand Persons, mostly of principal Rank; the great Mandarins, their Wives and Children, all first scorched with Fire, and mangled with Knives, before they were admitted to his last Favour of being thrown to the Elephants, to be by them torn or crushed to Pieces, or buried, still alive, with their Heads above-ground.
By such savage Policy, Expedients are sought for the present Safety and Gratification of such a Prince; who, having, for his chief Drift in reigning, the Ease and Security of his Person, makes it his Study and Pleasure, to cut off and destroy whoever has, or he apprehends may, hurt him, or even thwart or ruffle him. When he thinks, that, by Blood, he can establish his Throne, he will not spare to shed it; nor will he make any Difference between Suspicion and Proof; much less prolong his Fears and Danger by Forms and Examination. An Attempt upon his Person is punished not only by the Execution of the Conspirators, but often by the Massacre of their whole Family and Kindred, and the Extinction of their Race. The Vizir Kuproli, to punish the turbulent Janizaries, is thought to have destroyed above Forty thousand of that important Militia, by different Slaughters, and at different times; and thus weakened the Monarchy, for the Safety of the Monarch. The strange bloody Justice of an Indian Prince, mentioned by Monsieur D’estoille, as what he saw, is amazing! ‘That, for Two or Three Robberies, he had caused an Hundred thousand Men to be gibbetted upon Trees.’ So that this Traveller, for many Days together, passed through Regions peopled with the Dead. So readily and wantonly can a Prince, thus arbitrary, execute whoever is obnoxious to him, or suspected by him, without Form or Delay.
Against a Power thus violent, and armed with such Force and Expedients to secure itself, no Number of Persons will easily venture into a Conspiracy, or no such Conspiracy is likely to remain long undiscovered. Though One particular Hand, sufficiently desperate, may destroy the Tyrant, yet it cannot with him destroy the Tyranny. He is seldom without a Successor at Hand; one who, perhaps, employed the Assassin, and reaps the Benefit of the Assassination; though he seem not to like it, and often cuts off the Author of it. Perhaps no further Change is thought of; no Change of the Government, but only of the Governor: Few Countries will bear any other Change; nor is the Trial like to be made. What Number of able and unarmed Men are to be found, under a despotic Prince, willing to trust one another; and to meet, in order to concert a new Frame of Government, and to abolish the present? They are almost sure of being first destroyed themselves: Or, were such a Scheme concerted ever so wisely, it is hardly possible to be executed. Such Countries are hardly to be supposed to be without mercenary Armies, chiefly Strangers; and the Changes made by such Armies are always personal, from one Prince to another. It is not their Turn or Interest to settle a free State, where the Laws must dictate to the Sword. When they find, that they can make and unmake Princes, (a Lesson which they quickly learn) they will as soon learn another Lesson, even to make and unmake Laws.
Besides, no free State can be established without proper Materials; I mean a People disposed to receive and submit to it. The Wisdom of Man could not convert the Turkish Monarchy into a free State: A Parliament there would appear a Monster: Even the People, if they could have it, would not suffer it. The same People, who can bear any Act of Power done by the Sultan, or in his Name, and have no Notion of opposing any such Act, be it ever so outrageous, would not quietly bear any Act of Power, however just and necessary, from any Number of themselves; nor see, with Patience, some of their Neighbours, no better than themselves, and lately no higher, making Laws, and controuling all Things. Indeed no public Change whatsoever can be expected in that Empire, or any other like it, but by the Army; and what, other than a military Government, is to be hoped there from military Men? It is true, they have often destroyed Tyrants; but I do not remember, that they have ever destroyed Tyranny. They have frequently sacrificed Princes, for not being Tyrants, and for not devoting the State, and all in it, to the Will and Lust of the Army. They deposed Nero; but they likewise murdered Galba.
It seems, to me, impossible, for a great Monarchy, extending over many Nations, and ruling a great Empire by great Armies, to fall into a Commonwealth: But I conceive it very possible, for it to break piecemeal into several Governments; some of them, perhaps, Commonwealths. The Weakness of the Head, or a great Revolution, may occasion a Separation of the Members; and each, setting up for itself, may produce several separate Principalities, as well as some Commonwealths. The large inland Provinces will probably preserve the same Form of Government, single and military. The great maritime and trading Cities will naturally aim at governing themselves, upon the Principles of Liberty and Commerce; and be, perhaps, encouraged and supported in their free Government by the neighbouring Princes; who, if they cannot master it themselves, will defend it against one another.
To this Principle some free States, even in Europe, owe their Preservation and Independency; Geneva, the Hans Towns in Germany, and even the High and Mighty States of Holland. I say this of the States, without any Design to derogate from their own genuine and eternal Merit and Firmness, in maintaining their Liberties against that merciless and perjured Tyrant, Philip II. of Spain.