Front Page Titles (by Subject) Sect. XIII.: The Excellency of a limited Monarchy, especially of our own. - The Works of Tacitus, vol. 1 - Gordon's Discourses, Annals (Books 1-3)
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Sect. XIII.: The Excellency of a limited Monarchy, especially of our own. - Publius Cornelius Tacitus, The Works of Tacitus, vol. 1 - Gordon’s Discourses, Annals (Books 1-3) [120 AD]
The Works of Tacitus. In Four Volumes. To which are prefixed, Political Discourses upon that Author by Thomas Gordon. The Second Edition, corrected. (London: T. Woodward and J. Peele, 1737). Vol. 1.
Part of: The Works of Tacitus, 4 vols.
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The Excellency of a limited Monarchy, especially of our own.
I Think it is Machiavel who observes, that two or three weak and bad Princes succeeding each other, are sufficient to ruin a State, where they govern by mere Will; but it may survive a long succession of foolish Princes limited by good Laws. Vespasian found three hundred millions (of our money) wanting to restore the Empire to a condition of subsisting. Monarchy, according to Plato, is the best Government, or the worst: to which opinion I subscribe; as I do to that of Philip De Comines, that England is the place in the world, where the Public is most equally administered, and where the people suffer the least violence. We are blessed with that form of Government which Tacitus mentions as the most perfect, and thinks the hardest to be framed; that happy ballance and mixture of interests which comprehends every interest i .
An English Monarch has one advantage which sets him above any arbitrary Monarch upon earth; he obliges his subjects by being obliged to them. As he protects them by defending their Property and Laws; so they, by supporting him, enable him to do it: while they give by choice, and not by force, they give chearfully. Princes who take all themselves, and leave nothing to their people to give, can never be beloved by their people. If it be true that we hate those whom we have hurt, it is equally true, that we are apt to love those whom we have obliged. Hence God is said, not only to love doing good, but to love the good that he does.
Arbitrary Princes would doubtless chuse to have the love and affections of their people, were the same to be acquired by furious and unaccountable Rule; but this is impossible. Hence dread of their power is all the share they can expect in the hearts of their subjects; and this is a compliment which their subjects pay to things the most hideous and vile; to Serpents; to mad and wild Beasts; to Plagues and Satan; to Pain and Poverty. But even this miserable compliment is not always paid to such princes: they are not always dreaded. When their terrors are become habitual, they cease, in a good measure, to be terrors; the people grow hardened and desperate; they themselves become scorned; and contempt, the most abject lot in life, becomes the portion of those who possess the highest. When Nero asked Subrius Flavius, one of the Conspirators against his life, from what motives he had renounced his Allegiance; “It was because I abhorred thee,” said he. The Consul Vestinius too was known to Nero, to despise his vile and unmanly spirit; and in the whole detection of that Conspiracy, and the punishment of the conspirators, nothing was so signal as the series of contempt poured upon that brutal Tyrant, in the heighth of his Power, and amidst the terrors of his Tyranny. Nothing, says Tacitus, mortified him so much. But when the Monster was deposed, he incurred such sovereign scorn, that he was doomed to be stripped naked, and scourged to death like a slave, with his head fastened in a pillory; his carcass to be cast afterwards from the Tarpeian Rock, and with a hook in his nose to be dragged to the Tiber.
Nor could the great reputation of Julius Cæsar, or that of Augustus, and all their Power, secure them from popular insults and despight. The mœchum calvum, and videsne ut cinædus orbem digito temperet; were contumelies which even their greatness could not escape. Mithridates King of Armenia, when despoiled of his Kingdom, experienced by the behaviour of his People, how much they reverenced him; they even assaulted him with reproaches and blows k . When the Emperor Vitellius was led along to the slaughter, with his hands bound behind him, his habit all torn, and himself a filthy spectacle; he found much the like usage. Numbers wounded him with reproaches; but none was found to bewail him; and the populace railed at him when dead, with the same baseness of heart, with which they had flattered him living l .
Of the general Debasement of Spirit and Adulation which accompany Power unlimited.
The motives of Flattery considered. Its vileness, and whence it begins.
I SHALL now say something of the extreme Debasement of the Romans under the Emperors. Flattery ever rises in proportion to Power and Fear. Where Law and Liberty reign, and men hold not their Property and Lives at the mercy of one or a few; this security begets in them a pride and stubbornness inconsistent with Servility and Adulation. Men do not flatter such as they dare own to be no better than themselves, or such as have no power to hurt them; nor will they pay over-much reverence to great Titles which are not accompanied with great Power, nor supported by Superstition. For Superstition enslaves as effectually as real Power, and therefore confers it; nor is Tyranny ever so complete as when the chief Magistrate is chief Pontiff, as were the Soldans of Egypt and Bagdat; or, which is the next thing, can create and depose him, as do the Turkish Emperors. But where men hold their fortunes and lives at the mere mercy of another, they will fear him as much as they love themselves, and flatter him, as much as they fear him a . If his Power be limited, their Flattery will be limited; but boundless, if his Authority be so. Thus court and sycophancy prevail less under a mixed Monarchy, than under one that is despotic; in an Aristocracy less than there; and less still in a popular State. Perfect equality quite destroys it; complete Sovereignty raises it to the highest.
The more foolish and wicked a Prince is, the more Incense he will have; it is the surest way of pleasing a Tyrant, as it sanctifies his Iniquities, and represents him to himself as worthy of all his Grandeur and equal to all the highest Offices of Empire. Tiberius, who was a Prince of great penetration, hated Flattery, because he knew it to be so; as he knew that they who paid him most, the Senate and Grandees, dreaded, and therefore hated his Power; as he, who understood perfectly the nature and blessing of Liberty, would have dreaded and hated any man in his place, had he been in theirs. He knew that Flattery and Hate often go together; so that they who possess the greatest Hate, profess the greatest Affection. It is as much as their lives are worth, to manifest any tokens of Aversion; and the stronger it is, it will require the more Art and Assiduity to hide it. Julius Cæsar was loaded with all sorts and every excess of Honours, some that were divine, with design to make him odious, while they who conferred them abhorred him, and were concerting schemes to destroy him. With the same view the like artifices were practised by the Senate towards his Successor Octavius, afterwards Augustus, concerning whom the equivocal saying of Cicero, could not but be remembered by Tiberiusb , “they should extol the Youth, and take him off.” Hence though Tiberius was irreconcileable to public Liberty, he abominated Flattery c . He saw that Flattery was the mere effect of Bondage, and suiting only with the spirit of Slaves; and though he would not part with the Sovereignty (notwithstanding he often talked of it, as well as pretended great backwardness to accept it) yet he was ashamed of the vile and slavish abjectness of the Romans d .
But neither under Tiberius was there any security in abstaining from Flattery; he was a Prince infinitely jealous, and could brook no sort of opposition, nor even independence; and it was both necessary and dangerous to flatter him; but, in my opinion, not so dangerous as necessary: I mean, to such as purely consulted their own safety, and to escape the rage of the Tyrant. It is true, he despised Flatterers; but he hurt them not; and it was natural for him to think (suspicious as he was) that such as would not flatter him, scorned him. It is certain he never forgave free speakers, never could endure men of bold spirit, but, first or last, pursued them to destruction. It was perillous, says Tacitus, to practise no Flattery, and perillous to practise too much e . L. Piso had inveighed against the corruptions of the State, particularly against the pestilent pursuits of the Impleaders, who were daily arraigning, and circumventing, and menacing all men; he even threatened to quit Rome. Tiberius bore this calmly, nay, he descended to mollify him with kind words. But in a soul like his, brooding over Vengeance, though he had suppressed the sallies of Wrath, the deep impressions remained; Piso was a good while afterwards charged with Treason, and, but for a natural death, which opportunely intervened, must have suffered the pains of Treason. Asinius Gallus incurred his rage for a motion in Senate which had really a compliment in it. Tiberius had in a Letter to the Fathers complained, that from the plots and snares of his enemies, he led a life full of dread and apprehensions. Gallus proposed to address the Prince, that he would explain his fears to the Senate, and permit them to remove the causes; this incensed him. Gallus too had piqued him before, and was suspected by him of aspiring views; and though he had notoriously flattered him, he could not by it redeem his life.
As all Corruptions in a State begin commonly from the Grandees (or rather they are beginners of all Corruption) so the Grandees are the most signal Flatterers; they are most in the eye of a Prince, they are the most obnoxious to his jealousy, and thence the most prone to flatter him f . A Prince who governs or would govern by mere Will, must countenance and employ such as ask no reasons for what he does; but commend all he does; and the more they have to get or lose, the lower they must stoop, the more they must praise g . For this vile servitude of theirs they make reprisals upon the people, and are as terrible to those below them, as fawning to those above them; for the most prostitute Slaves, are the most insolent Tyrants, and it is from the same baseness of spirit that men oppress and flatter; it was truly said of Caligula, “that there never lived a more complaisant Slave, nor a more cruel and detestable Master.” Thus Flattery is propagated, and infects all degrees of men. The Prince awes the Grandees, and by the Grandees is flattered; the Grandees oppress and terrify the people; and thence the people dread and adore the Grandees. The Bashaws are slaves to the great Turk; the people slaves to the Bashaws.
The insolence of slavish spirits is by Tacitus exemplified in Vitellius, among many other instances. He was always the foremost in Flattery; ever assaulting every worthy Patriot with reproaches, and ever struck silent when repulsed; agreeably to the genius of Sycophants, to be both insulting and cowardly. This man, however, prospered by Prostitution. He had great employments under Tiberius, he was a great Favourite in the two succeeding Reigns, he was thrice Consul and once Censor. Nor did the man want good talents and qualifications; in the Government of Provinces, says Tacitus, he exercised the integrity of a primitive Roman. But his dread of Caligula, and complaisance to Claudius, changed him into a filthy Slave, and he is handed down to posterity as a pattern of the most infamous Flattery: The just reward of his servile submission. His first and best actions were forgot; his last and worst remembered; and the excellencies of his younger years obliterated by an old age drenched in servitude and iniquity. Besides his adoring Claudius as a God, he carried one of Messalina’s sandals in his bosom continually, frequently kissed it; and amongst his houshold Gods placed golden Statues of Pallas and Narcissus, the Emperor’s freed slaves. This man was, I think, farther to Vitellius afterwards Emperor. Such men such Princes delight in; regibus boni quam mali suspectiores sunt, semperque his aliena virtus formidolosa est: says Sallust.
Men of elevated Minds irreconcileable to Arbitrary Power, and thence suspected by it. The Court paid to it always insincere, sometimes expedient, but seldom observes any bounds.
AGRIPPA told Augustus, according to Dion Cassius, that it was impossible for a man of great spirit and resolution, to be other than a lover of Liberty, and an enemy in his heart to an absolute master. Agrippa himself was that sort of man; he had courage enough to advise that Prince to resign the Sovereignty, and restore public Liberty; such in truth was his credit and bravery, that Augustus thought himself no otherwise safe, than either by killing him, or taking him for his son-in-law. The Emperor did more than give him his daughter; he assumed him partner in the Tribunitial Power, which, as that Usurper and his Successors managed it, was, in effect, the Dictatorial Power. The other great men of Rome he suspected and hated; though in vanity and for the praise of Posterity, he left them his heirs in the third degree h ; Augustus and Tiberius judged too well, to imagine that the illustrious Senators and Chiefs of Rome, men who had scorned the alliance and affinity of Kings, nay, treated Kings as their creatures and dependents, could like a blind dependence upon one of their own Citizens, who by usurpation and violence had made himself an enemy to all. Even in the Reign of Tiberius there were Romans who thought themselves as good as him; Cneius Piso, for example, scarce gave place to him, and despised his sons, as men far beneath himself. But his haughty spirit cost him his life; for though Tiberius used him as a proper instrument to thwart and overthrow Germanicus, he afterwards turned that very service to the destruction of Piso.
Affection can never accompany a submission which is forced, nor men submit willingly to a Power which they think they have themselves a right to exercise. Hence the compliments and praises of these eminent Romans towards the Emperors, are generally by Tacitus derived from Flattery; though sometimes necessary, and sometimes well intended; necessary, when used for their own preservation; and well intended, when employed to instil into the Prince virtuous lessons of Government. Marcus Terentius was perhaps justifiable, when in defence of his life, which was at stake, he made that high-flown compliment to Tiberius; “To thee the Gods have granted the supreme disposal of things, and to us have left the glory of obedience.” The Senators also did well in magnifying some popular Acts of Nero, that his youthful mind being thus incited by the Glory arising from light things, might court it in things which were greater. And Thrasea Petus was justifiable, when in his speech about Antistius the Prætor, arraigned for Treason for lampooning the Emperor, he extolled that Prince’s mercy, in order to make him merciful.
But as that which is only good in some certain degrees and exigences, seldom stops there; so this same Flattery, no wise blameable under some circumstances, grew scandalous and excessive; it kept pace with all the phrenzy and cruelties of these outrageous and inhuman Tyrants; and by it their cruelties and phrenzy were encouraged. The more mischievous and vile they were, the more they were adored. Dread of their fury had seized the souls of men; nor was any remedy sought against their fury but that of Flattery. Men of slavish minds always began the detestable rout; their example drew others after them; the lovers of liberty found it impossible to resist the many, and unsafe to distinguish themselves by opposition. Interest swayed some, example others, fear all, and at last it became a common strife who should be foremost in the race to Servitude. All public spirit, all regard to the glory and good of Rome, the inseparable characteristic of the old free Romans, was now lost and forgot; it was converted into fear and anxiety of every man for himself. This will ever be the case when a Prince, armed with sufficient Powers, sets up his own interest against that of the State; particulars having no longer any thing to do with the public, will study only to secure themselves.
The excessive Power of the Imperial freed Slaves; with the scandalous Submission and Honours paid them by the Romans.
AS Tyranny produces abject fear and anxiety in particulars for themselves, so from this selfish fear and anxiety come the beginning and progress of universal Servitude, the extinction of all Patriotism and honest zeal, the power of corruption, and the symptoms of a State hastening to ruin and desolation. All the good or evil which could befal any Roman, lay wholly in the breast and option of the Prince; and hence the study of every man to humour the Prince, or the Slaves who governed him; for governed he generally was by slaves the vilest and most pestilent; yes, the whole Empire, that Empire that contained a great share of the Globe, and terrified almost the whole, was swayed, sold, oppressed, and exhausted by slaves bought from the chain and the oar. Claudius not only declared that affairs adjudged by his Receivers should be held equally valid with those adjudged by himself, but got the same established by a solemn Decree of Senate. Now these Receivers of the Emperors were his manumized Slaves, who under that title often governed Provinces; he raised the authority of these vermin to a pitch equal with that of the Sovereign and the Laws. Felix Governor of Judea was a freed slave, the husband of three Queens, and the brother of Pallas another freed slave, who controlled the Emperor, lay with the Empress, and was master of the Empire; so that Nero said pertinently of him, when he turned him out of office, “that Pallas went to abdicate the Sovereignty.”
Behold the debasement of the great and venerable Roman Senate! It is not enough that they flatter the Emperor, and heap upon him Powers and Honours so great and manifold, that at last they have none for themselves, hardly any for him; they must likewise adore, and enrich, and exalt the fugitives and off-scourings of the earth, insects naturally doomed to the vilest offices of the kitchen, stable, and privies. The Romans, Lords of the World, must put their necks under the feet of the dregs of human race. For a contemptible project of that same Pallas, about punishing Ladies who married slaves, Bareas Soranus Consul elect, the first Magistrate in the Roman world, moved the Senate to reward him with the ornaments of Prætor, the next Civil Office in the State, and a present of near an hundred thousand pounds. To this motion it was added by Cornelius Scipio, that Pallas should have public thanks, that he who was descended from the old Kings of Arcadia, should to the service of the public thus postpone that his ancient Nobility, and deign to be reckoned amongst the Emperor’s Ministers. But Claudius averred, that Pallas would rest content with the honours of the Prætorship, and, rejecting the present, chuse to live in his usual poverty. The Decree passed, was engraved in brass, and publicly hung up; a pompous Decree, in which a fellow, lately a baresooted slave, now worth near eight millions, was magnified for observing the laudable self-denial and parcimony of the primitive ages. Observe the strange inversion of all order and sense! dignity debased; infamy exalted; how low the awful authority of the Senate descended! how vilely the function of a Consul prostituted! how ignominiously the glorious name of Scipio employed! how abominably the ornaments of Magistracy defiled! an ordinance of State, big with servitude and lies! what stupidity in the Emperor, what insolence in the slave, and what a melancholy failure of all Virtue, Truth, and Liberty amongst all degrees of men! It was, in truth, a compliment made to a slave by a body of slaves, as Pliny well observes. We may guess at the villainy and evil deeds of the man by the enormous Honours that were paid him, though we had no other rule or proof, as we have proofs enough. No such violent court was ever paid to Seneca; and Tigellinus had much more weight and authority than Burrus.
Real goodness and merit beget in all good men real friendship and affection; and real affection is never so loud nor shewy as affection assumed. Where we sincerely like and esteem, we are not afraid of suspicion in the person esteemed, nor spend much breath and ceremony to convince him. But where we are conscious of our own insincerity, our professions are pompous and wordy. It was absolutely impossible that these vile Upstarts should love the Senate, or any great men, great in blood, or fortune, or virtue; or the Senate or any great Roman could love such vile Upstarts; but we see what disguises fear and falshood can put on! Impartial posterity, which neither fears the Senate nor Pallas, can perceive nothing in the Honours by them conferred upon him, but the infamy of both perpetuated. Nor was Claudius the only Emperor who was thus led in bondage by his franchised bondmen; others submitted to the same vassalage, to the same infamous Counsellors; Plerique principes (says Pliny) libertorum erant servi; borum consiliis, borum nutu regebantur. Was not the world finely governed, and humankind completely happy; when the universal Lord was swayed by the lust and nod of creatures just redeemed from the infamy of whips and fetters? The mighty Cæsar, to whom the Romans owed all their ensuing misery and bondage, began the exaltation of such sons of earth; and, in contempt of censure, declared, that, “if he had employed Highwaymen and Assassins to support his grandeur, he would in return have honoured them with the same favour.” A true confession, but methinks not very politic; we have seen already whether his worthy Successors did not actually do so, and what were the Instrumenta regni, the bloody tools and machinery of absolute Rule. Polycletus, a manumized slave of Nero’s, when sent by his master to inspect the State of Britain, travelled with such an immense train, that he was a burden to great nations, even those of Italy and Gaul.
The excessive Flattery of the Senate, how ill judged.
THERE was no mean in the Flattery of the Senate. They might have been good Courtiers, without being so abandoned Courtiers. There are instances of their carrying questions against the spirit of the Court and the efforts of Favourites, in the worst Reigns. Thus, in spight of all the power and caballing of Agrippina, they expelled Tarquitius Priscus, a creature of hers, from the Senate, in detestation of his base attack upon the life of Statilius Taurus, in subserviency to the Empress, who yearned after the Wealth and fine Gardens of that illustrious Senator. Thus too in the case of Antistius the Prætor, who had composed some virulent Verses against Nero, and exposed them at a great entertainment; though he was impleaded of Treason by Cossutianus Capito son-in-law to that powerful minion Tigellinus, and though Junius Marullus, the Consul elect, moved that he might be doomed to die after the rigorous manner of antiquity; the Senate followed the milder motion of Thrasea Petus for confiscation and exile. Nor would they depart from the sentence even after they had received Nero’s Letter about it, though in it he manifested high indignation.
They might have made some other efforts of this kind, where they made none; on the contrary, they gave away their Liberties and Voices faster than they could have been taken. But the honest boldness of Thrasea broke the bondage which hung upon the minds of others; so much can the example of one worthy man do even in an assembly devoted to corruption and servitude! It is true, Thrasea paid a severe after-reckoning, and it was the apprehension of that which stopped the mouths of others, or opened them only to fawn. But who would not chuse the reputation, and integrity of a Patriot, that of a Thrasea, even at the expence of his fate; rather than the fortune and favour of the sycophant Vitellius, with the abjectness of his life, and infamy of his name?
The free Judgment of Posterity a powerful warning to Princes, to reign with moderation and to detest Flatterers. The Name and Memory of the Roman Tyrants how treated.
ALL men have some vanity, and thence some fondness for fame; if they would acquire it, and avoid infamy, they must square their actions to the judgment of Posterity. With Posterity, little evasions, false colourings, and chicane will not pass for reasons, though they may with our cotemporaries, who are often influenced by friendships, often engaged in parties, often warmed and misled by passion and partiality. Death and Time destroy all artifices, dissipate all mists, and unveil mysteries; the intentions of men with all their motives and pursuits are then scanned and laid open. The flights of Flattery, will not then be termed fondness for the Prince, nor the efforts of Ambition miscalled public zeal. Claudius and Pallas, Tiberius and Sejanus, Nero and Tigellinus; men so caressed, applauded and worshipped during their life and power, men who then employed all tongues in their praises, do now fill, and have long filled the mouths of all men with detestation, and their hearts with abhorrence. What avail now their craft and subornations, their power and high posts? Does the awe of purple, or the violence of the sword, do Prætorian Guards and perverted Laws, secure their memory, as they did their persons? Do I, for example, fear their charges of Treason, or the vile breath of their Informers, while I treat them as sanguinary Monsters, as the Tyrants, Pests and Oppressors of the earth, as public Curses, and Murderers in cold blood?
These Tyrants and their Flatterers, though they pushed both Tyranny and Flattery as far as they would go, have not been able, with all their Arts and Terrors, to stifle the memory of men, nor restrain the speech. They are handed down to us under their proper titles. The EmperorNero we seldom say; but the TyrantNero is in every one’s mouth; and the idea of a sycophant ever accompanies the name of Vitellius. His great credit and offices are forgot, or remembered only to his infamy. What a check must History and the Censure of Posterity be to a Prince that has any reflection! Had Tiberius, Claudius, Caligula, and other Imperial Monsters considered what frightful lights they were like to be drawn in to future times, it would have spoiled their pleasure in tyrannizing, and made them hate their Flatterers, who persuaded them that all men, at least the best men, spoke of them as they themselves spoke. With regard to Fame and Posterity it had been better for these wretches that they had never been born, as well as happy for human-kind; yet no man was ever a greater drudge for Fame than Nero;Erat illi æternitatis perpetuæque famæ cupido, sed inconsulia, says Suetonius. Witness his laborious fatigues in the Theatre and Circus, continued day after day, and often nights and days, for the reputation of a good Singer, Harper, and Coachman. Caligula aspired to the like glory, and was a notable Fencer and assiduous Dancer, as well as a Charioteer i . Laudable Ambition for a Prince, and as just and high as that of many others!
Tiberius also wished and prayed for the praises and affectionate remembrance of posterity k . How well he succeeded, we all know. He is detested as one of the most dangerous, false, and deliberate Tyrants that ever afflicted men; nay, he was no sooner known to be dead, than the people broke forth into joy and execrations; some cried, “Into the Tiber with Tiberius: others besought mother earth and the infernal Gods to allot him no mansion but amongst the damned and accursed:” others threatened to drag his body with hooks to the charnel of malefactors. And when his corps was going to be removed from Misenum to Rome, every one cried aloud, that it should rather be carried to the town of Atella, to be in the Amphitheatre there thrown into a fire, till it were half burned. Such were the marks of remembrance he had, and deserved, from the people! The other two are treated as frantic butchers, or rather as two mad dogs delighted with carnage and worrying, bent and active to kill and destroy. What is it to us that they were Princes and Emperors? Men of sense find no magic in names, but regard Monsters as Monsters, whatever titles Fortune or Flatterers gave them, or they themselves took.
It is thus Tyrants suffer the vengeance of afterages; and terrible vengeance it is to such as are tender of their Renown, and seek Immortality, as most Princes do; and indeed have it forced upon them, since they stand too high, and do too much not to be remembered. Hence they ought to be more afraid of future censure, which is generally well grounded and will certainly last, than of temporary praise, which is often false, consequently fleeting, at best to be suspected.
How lamentably Princes are debauched and misled by Flatterers.
NOW if Tyrants are abhorred, how much abhorrence is due to Flatterers, who often change Princes into Tyrants, and make Tyrants worse than they would be? Tiberius assumed the Sovereignty with great diffidence; and his natural wariness would have probably made him mild against his nature, had not the Romans so readily offered him their necks and their persons to bondage. But when he found them devoted to Slavery, he used them like Slaves, and having nothing to fear from them, he only followed the vile bent of his own spirit l .
Domitian rejoiced when he found that Agricola had left him coheir with his wife and daughter; he vainly thought it done out of judgment and choice, and in pure regard to his person. So much was he corrupted and blinded by continual Flattery, as to be utterly ignorant, that no Prince, but a bad one, was ever by a father tender of his issue and family, assumed into heirship with them, as Pliny the younger well observes.
Nero was in terrible agonies after he had murdered his Mother; he dreaded the soldiery, the Senate, and the people; but when, instead of danger and resentment, he met with flattering speeches from the Officers, flattering Decrees from the Senate, popular Processions, Applauses, public Devotions paid to all the Deities, and universal acquiescence; his native insolence became more swelled; and, from this general Servitude, assuming the pride of victory, he ascended the Capitol, offered sacrifices, and thenceforth surrendered himself to the full sway of all his exorbitant lusts. When he had caused these two noble Romans, Plautus and Sylla, to be assassinated, he wrote to the Senate without mentioning the execution, only that they were two men of turbulent spirits, and what mighty care it cost him to secure the State. Instantly the obsequious fathers degraded from the Senate these dead Senators, and ordained public Prayers and Sacrifices. Nero, upon the receiving of this Decree, and finding that all his brutal iniquities and acts of blood passed for so many feats of renown, grew emboldened to do a thing which even Nero till then durst not do, and turned away the virtuous Octavia his wife, her by whom he held the Empire m . Nay, when soon after the Imperial butcher had ordered the blood of that illustrious Innocent to be shed, thanks and oblations were again presented to the Deities, by an ordinance of Senate. A particular, says Tacitus, which with this view I recount, that whoever reads the events of those times in this or any other History, may take it for granted, that as often as the Emperors commanded acts of cruelty, banishments and assassinations, so often thanks and sacrifices were decreed to the Gods; and those Solemnities which were of old the marks and consequences of public victories and public felicity, were now so many sad marks of public slaughter and desolation n .
This was remarkably verified afterwards as well as now; when Nero, upon the discovery of Piso’s conspiracy, had spilt rivers of blood, and slain men by heaps; the fuller the city was of executions and funerals, the fuller too were the Temples of sacrifices. One had lost a son, one a brother, or kinsman, or friend in this general butchery; and the greater their loss, the more gayety they shewed, adorned their houses with Laurel, frequented Temples with Thanksgiving, embraced the knees of the Tyrant, and worried his hand with kisses. Nero took all this for so many sincere tokens of affection and joy; when, in truth, their Congratulations and Flattery were just in proportion to their severe sorrow.
The pestilent tendency of flattering Counsels, and the Glory of such as are sincere.
WHAT a poisonous thing is Flattery? By it Princes are misled into a persuasion that all their measures of Oppression, all their acts of Frenzy and Rage, are just measures of Government, that forced praise is real affection, that they themselves are popular when they are abhorred; and thus they are kept from repenting or amending, because, relying upon the assurances of Flatterers, they cannot find that they have done amiss, or see any thing to be mended. The Flatterers of Nero ridiculed Seneca, and railed at him, and persuaded that Prince he wanted no Tutors. The same did the Flatterers of Commodus in relation to the old Counsellors; which had been his father’s. Nero and Commodus followed the advice of their Flatterers, and reigned mischievously, and died tragically, and their memories are abhorred. Thus they are kept hoodwinked and secure, till the first thing they open their eyes upon, is their Throne tottering or overturned, and perhaps an executioner’s knife at their breast; and even when things are come to that extremity, there will be those to misrepresent and flatter, as in the case of Galba; a few moments before he was massacred, he was soothed with false assurances of security o .
How pernicious too is such falsification even to those that practise it; since though they mean it out of selfishness and for security, yet by sanctifying upon all occasions the Oppression and Destruction of others, they do but invite their own! Whereas were matters laid honestly before Princes, that this measure is a Grievance, that an Oppression, and that whatever is unjust to others is dangerous to themselves, they would prefer caution with safety, to humour and wilfulness accompanied with peril; they would grow into a habit of doubting, deliberateing and enquiring; of submitting their own judgment to that of others; of remembering that they are what they are for the sake of their People, and that they ought to have no Will, nor Interest, but the public Will and the public Interest.
Had Nero pursued the good Rules of Government dictated by Seneca and Burrus, and proposed by himself in his first Speech to the Senate; had he avoided the counsels of that bloody and detestable sycophant Tigellinus, and of others like him, he might have ended his reign with as much renown as he began it, and left a memory revered as much as it is now detested. And would the Confidents of Princes, instead of debasing themselves into the characters of Parasites, instead of abusing their trust, and bringing infamy upon their masters and themselves; would they, instead of this, give upright counsel, such as conduced to the good of all men, they would, besides the praise of well-doing, take the best method to secure themselves, their fortunes and families in the general security: or, should they be rewarded with disgrace, or even with death, they would have the approbation of their own Consciences, the applauses of the Living, and the praises of Posterity. But while they sooth the Prince in his jealousies and violence, and encourage him in destroying such as he, or such as they fear or dislike, they set him a lesson and example for turning the edge of his fury upon themselves, whenever he becomes prompted by his humour or caprice; a case often happening, and always to be apprehended. The Courtiers and Flatterers of the Emperor Caracalla, to humour him, concurred with him in the murder of his brother Geta; and, after that murder, though committed by his own hand, were themselves murdered for their wicked complaisance, and amongst them Letus his Favourite and Confident. Yet he was so far from remorse for shedding his brother’s blood, that he massacred every friend and adherent to his brother, to the number of twenty thousand, in a short time. Tiberius, of all his Friends, Confidents and Counsellors, scarce let one escape a violent end, unless where by a natural death they prevented it: and they who had been the Ministers of his Tyranny, hardly ever failed to fall by it. He indeed protected them from the resentment and prosecution of others; but he generally poured vengeance upon them himself p . Vescularius Atticus and Julius Marinus, were two of his most ancient intimates; they had accompanied him during his retirement at Rhodes, and never forsook him in his retreat at Capreæ; they had abetted his Tyranny, and assisted him in his cruel Counsels, nor does it appear that they had ever offended him by any good Counsel. Vescularius was his manager and inter-agent in the perfidious plot to destroy that noble Roman Libo Drusus; and by the co-operation of Marinus, Sejanus had worked the overthrow of Curtius Atticus. Was not all this merit enough, at least, to have redeemed their own lives? It was not; they fell themselves victims to his cruelty, as to satiate his cruelty they had made others fall: ad mortem aguntur: quo lætius acceptum, says Tacitus,sua exempla in consultores recidisse; their tragical end was followed with the more joy, for that upon their own heads had thus recoiled the precedents of their own traiterous devising. In truth, these instruments of cruelty are generally abhorred by the Princes that use them. Anicetus Admiral of the Gallies to Nero, conducted and perpetrated the murder of his mother Agrippina, and for a short space continued in some small favour with the Prince; but was afterwards held in greater aversion; for, says Tacitus, the Ministers of evil Counsels are by Princes beheld as men whose looks continually upbraid them q . Such too was the fate of Cleander under Commodus, who loved him, was governed by him, and cut off his head. How differently related is the fate of Burrus, suspected to have been poisoned by Neror : Mighty and lasting was the sorrow of Rome for his death, for the Romans remembered his virtues; and a little before s , While the calamities of the Public were growing daily more heavy and bitter, the resources of the Public were diminished, and Burrus died. How nobly too is the tragedy of Seneca recounted! it is too long to find room here.
I shall end this Discourse with observing, that as Flattery is the effect of dread and falshood; as the most tyrannical Princes are most flattered, and men of the falsest minds are the greatest Flatterers; this consideration should be a lesson to Princes and great men, to weigh the actions they do against the praises they receive; and if they find themselves righteous, they may conclude their panegyrics to be sincere. Let them reflect upon their acts of benevolence or oppression, and how they have used their people. They would also do well to examine what sort of men they are who praise them; whether men of virtue and honour, lovers of truth, lovers of their Country, and of human-kind; or whether they are those unlimited Sycophants, whose custom and rule it is to extol at random all the sayings and doings of Princes, worthy and unworthy t .
Of Freedom of Speech; and how reasonable it is.
TO the foregoing Discourse upon Flattery, I thought it might not be unsuitable to subjoin another upon Courts, the place where that pestilent and unmanly practice is wont chiefly to prevail.
During those Reigns which I have been describing, when Power was established in Terrors, and Subjection converted into Abasement, small was the wonder that restraint upon speech was no inconsiderable link in the public chain, and care taken that such as presumed to breathe aught but vassalage, should not breathe at all. This was wretched policy, barbarous, and impossible to be practised. The passions are not to be extinguished but with life; and to forbid people, especially a suffering people, to speak, is to forbid them to feel.
It is not indeed to be expected that men should be suffered to meet together tumultuously, in order to publish their mutual Discontents and Wrongs, and to inflame one another; but complaints uttered in their families, or dropped occasionally, or communicated to a friend, can never affect Authority. The more men express of their hate and resentment, perhaps the less they retain; and sometimes they vent the whole that way; but these passions, where they are smothered, will be apt to fester, to grow venomous, and to discharge themselves by a more dangerous organ than the mouth, even by an armed and vindictive hand. Less dangerous is a railing mouth, than a heart filled and enflamed with bitterness and curses; and more terrible to a Prince ought to be the secret execrations of his people than their open revilings, or than even the assaults of his enemies. Of all the blood spilt under Tiberius and the following Tyrants for Words (and for no greater cause a deluge was spilt) how small a part conduced to their security? none that I remember; but every drop was an indelible stain upon their persons and upon their Government; every drop derived hatred, and consequently weakness and danger, upon it. Rigorous punishment for small faults, or for such as in the common opinion pass for none, is a mark of ill politics; it makes the spirit of the Administration look hideous and dreadful, and it renders every man who finds himself liable to the like faults, a capital enemy. Surely it ought to be a maxim in Government, that errors which can have no consequences, ought to have no punishment.
Oliver Cromwell, who seems to have seen far into the heart of man, was little affected with the hard words and invectives of particulars, and as high as he carried Authority, left people to talk and rail. The same is true of the late Regent of France, one who well knew human nature, and the nature of power; it was then common to see Frenchmen swagger and storm as freely as an old Roman would have done against an unpopular Magistrate. In truth, where no liberty is allowed to speak of Governors, besides that of praising them, their praises will be little believed. Their tenderness and aversion to have their conduct examined, will be apt to prompt people to think their conduct guilty or weak, to suspect their management and designs to be worse than perhaps they are, and to become turbulent and seditious, rather than be forced to be silent. When nothing but incense and applause will be accepted or borne; all plain dealing, all honest counsel and true information, will be at an end, and banished, to make room for deceitful adorations, for pleasing and pernicious falshoods. If Princes whose memory is disliked, had allowed their subjects and co-temporaries to have spoken truth to them, or of them, probably Posterity would not have spoke so much ill, as it is probable they would not then have deserved it; and I am apt to believe, that it had been better for all of them to have permitted all that could have been said, than to have missed hearing what it imported them to have heard; better to have heard the disgusts and railings of their people, than that their people were armed against them, or revolted from them; a fate which has befallen some of them, who, having had Courtiers over-complaisant, or ears over-tender, learnt that they were dethroned before they had learnt that they were not beloved; and found scarce any interval between the acclamations of Flatterers and the strokes of an Executioner. Such is the genius of Courts, where ill tidings are generally concealed or disguised; such too often the silence and soothings of Courtiers, who tell only or chiefly what is pleasing; and such sometimes the pride and impatience of Princes, that they will suffer nothing which ruffles their passions, to approach their understanding.
The Spirit of Courtiers what; some good ones.
IT is something else than zeal for telling truth, that carries men to Court, and keeps them in it; to raise an interest, or to preserve it, is the more prevailing passion. And because whoever sets his foot there with any view to place and favour, is always sure of competitors, be his person or pretences what they will, ever so considerable or inconsiderable; his chief care will be to conquer opposers, and secure himself; and as there ever will be some opposition, real or apprehended, that care will be constant. Hence the spirit of a Court, selfish, suspicious and unfriendly; and hence the supple spirit of Courtiers, to love and hate, court and avoid, praise and persecute the same person with notable suddenness, just as he is promoted or disgraced, and can help or hurt, or is to be deprived of all capacity to do either. To be well with the subsisting Power, with him who holds the reins of Authority, and distributes, or causes to be distributed the blessings and terrors of Power, is the main pursuit; his motions are chiefly watched, his affections and aversions are studied and adopted; and thus a smile or a frown from the Throne, or from one who is next the Throne, is eagerly catched up, seizes the faces of a whole drawing-room in an instant, and is handed down, with signal uniformity, through all classes of men, from a Grandee to the lowest Clerk in an Office.
A Court is a great Exchange, where one or a few have favours to dispose of, where many resort to procure them, and where all therefore strive to outgo in the ways of pleasing every one who has the same aim, and study every method to render themselves acceptable. Hence their obsequious Countenances, Flattery, Insinuations, and Zeal, some passions concealed, some disguised, and others personated; hence too their attachment to such as can help to promote them, and their neglect of such as cannot; hence with them good fortune, however unworthily placed, always passes for merit, and abilities ever sink with power; and hence their falsehood, ingratitude and courteous behaviour.
That this is true of the herd of Courtiers, I believe will be allowed. Without doubt there are exceptions, and men of great honour, disinterestedness and friendship are often to be found there; men who scorn treachery and baseness, and would risk all, rather than do a mean thing. Such were Manius Lepidus, Seneca, and Burrus; such Cocceius Nerva and Julius Agricola, and such were the Chancellor de L’Hospital, Chancellor Hyde, and the Earl of Southampton; all these great men were Courtiers, and lived in Courts full of corruption and dangerous designs; all practised some degrees of suppleness, submitted their opinions to the necessity of the times, and, by defeating many evil measures, were the Authors of much good, though not of all that they would.
Cardinal Richelieu makes heavy complaints of the opposition which he found to his best designs from the credit and intrigues of Women, and the whispers and ill offices of malevolent Courtiers. These great men abovementioned were likewise often wronged; bad counsels which they had heartily opposed, were imputed to them; and, when they concurred with some excesses to obviate much greater, just allowances were not made, and their motives were spitefully construed. Thus the Chancellor De L’Hospital was severely censured by the Hugonots for passing the Edict of Romorantin, which bore hard upon them; though by that Edict he prevented their utter extirpation, and the misery of all France, by hindering the introduction and establishment of that monstrous and bloody Tribunal the Inquisition; in which design the Court and Parliament were already agreed, and I think the Edict for that detestable purpose was ready. For such signal and glorious service the Protestants first railed at him, and the Papists afterwards cursed him. Lord Clarendon too was reproached with the sale of Dunkirk, and for many other exorbitancies which the sincere heart of that upright Minister abhorred. Nor could the good counsels of Seneca secure him from much envy and defamation; and many great Ministers, thought to be the Authors of evil counsels, have fallen into disgrace, or perished, for daring to offer such as were benevolent and upright a .
The Arts of Courtiers; their Cautiousness, and its Causes.
PLausibleness and guises are inseparable from Courts; men must not seem to understand all that they apprehend or know, no more than they must speak all that they think or feel b . Princes often dissemble with their Subjects, their Ministers with them, and all with one another; and every one talks, as he appears, to the best advantage. Some dissimulation there, is absolutely necessary, and therefore lawful. Men are not obliged upon all occasions to speak the truth, though whatever they speak upon any occasion ought to be true. Nor ought any one to be blamed for hiding his passions and sentiments, when the discovery would only serve to hurt himself. But few people in private life can be trusted with secrets, which published would lessen one’s peace or same; and in Courts there are much fewer, perhaps none. Particular interests and passions are often shifting there; men who were once close united, become widely divided; friendships old and long, are turned into bitter and vindictive enmity; and he who would once have risqued his life for the preferment of his friend, would venture as much, upon a disgust, to bring him to a scaffold. This might be exemplified by a thousand instances in all Times and Histories. Nothing keeps the passions more awake than the pursuit of power; nothing touches the pride of man more sensibly, than neglect or disappointment in that pursuit, and nothing is more tender and suspicious than pride. Few have got so much as not to aim at more, or have had ever so much assistance but they expect further, even where the same is unreasonable or perhaps impossible; and from disappointment ensues disgust. Too rarely seen is that Gratitude which looks backward, and generously subsists upon favours past, without fresh claims and aliment; how much more common is that which must be kept up by daily benefits, and, when bereft of such food, expires? Nor is the ceasing of gratitude the worst that is to be apprehended from selfish and ungenerous men; the room of it is too often supplied by spite and revenge; and if it be natural to hate such as we have injured, this hate must be great in proportion to the injury done; and what injury can be greater than that of being barbarous to benefactors?
These considerations are sufficient to make such as frequent Courts and know men, slow and wary in confiding, and to put them under considerable reserves even where they confide most. No one cares to be at the mercy of a friend, that may be an enemy; hence, in the making of friendship any where, it ought to be one of the first considerations, whether there be any probable causes which threaten a rupture; whether the business of love, or power, or fame, or anger, or interest, be never likely to interfere, and produce the most bitter of all enmities, that of friends.
This wariness at Court extends even to words and looks. The conversing with great men and great affairs, naturally produces secresy and silence; for, since such is the folly of the world, that whatever a great man says, however light or accidental, shall be deemed deep and mysterious, if it has the least allusion to the transactions of the times, and since they who hear it will be apt, through vanity, to quote it; great men seldom say any thing upon such subjects; and even when they hear the talk and sentiments of others, they take care that neither their answers, nor their countenance, shall betray their own. Sometimes a word thoughtlessly dropped, or an unseasonable smile, or some mark of surprize, has given light into an important design, and marred it intirely. The like circumspection they observe in their discourse upon particulars, because their discourse may be easily altered and poisoned by the malice or folly of such as hear it; a practice as usual at Court, as in any country village; and many a man has been disgraced by his own words, whispered and altered by a virulent breath; nay, the very same thing reported with a different tone and action, has had the same effect; and where the alteration of the words was considerable, those of them which were forged and criminal have been believed, because the rest that were true and innocent, were well attested.
I shall illustrate this by the story of young Nero (the son of Germanicus) in the Court of Tiberius. It excellently shews the jealousies of Princes, and the spirit of Courts. That young Prince was intirely beloved of the Roman People, who had adored his father; hence the distaste and dark suspicions of the Emperor, his great uncle and grandfather by adoption. Sejanus, who had already poisoned the Emperor’s son Drusus, and was ploting the overthrow of the whole reigning House, fed the hate and apprehensions of the old Prince, by malignant reports and infusions concerning the young, now the next in Succession. This he did by the inter-agency of hollow whispers and tale-bearers, who related and blackened every thing that escaped Nero, who was also hard used and brow-beaten, on purpose to extort from him severe and unwary complaints, such as might fill up the charge against him. Moreover his domestics and retainers, impatient to see him in power that they might shine in its trappings, were continually exciting him to rouse his courage and exert himself, to meet the zeal of the people, to gratify the passionate wishes of the army; as the only expedients to daunt and repulse the insolence of Sejanus, who now despised him as a boy, and his grandfather as superannuated.
The young Prince, however naturally modest, was yet by so many instigations transported beyond the circumspection which the station that he was in, and the many eyes that were upon him, required; and thence gave vent to words, which, though they betrayed no sign of any treasonable purpose, yet, being ill-guarded and savouring of contumacy, were, by the spies purposely placed about him, carried instantly, well heightened and imbittered, to Tiberius. Nor, under all these imputations and aspersions, was he warned or admitted to vindicate himself, but beset, on the contrary, with several melancholy and boding appearances. Some of the Court carefully shunned to meet him; others just greeted him, and then instantly left him; many with whom he had begun a conversation, broke it off abruptly; while the creatures and adherents of Sejanus looked on with a malicious laugh. Tiberius too always received him sternly, or with a hollow and upbraiding smile; and, whether the youth spoke, or said nothing, there were crimes in his words, crimes in his silence. Neither did his bed-chamber and the shades of night secure him from his Enemies and Accusers, for even his restlessness and watchings, nay, his sighs and dreams, were by his wife divulged to her mother Livia, and by her to her adulterer Sejanus. Drusus also, his younger brother, was, by this wicked politician, drawn to combine against him as one who stood between himself and the Empire, and was better beloved by their common mother Agrippina; a fresh cause of emulation and prejudice. Yet at that very time was Sejanus laying a design against the life of this same Drusus, whom he knew to be of a spirit tempestuous and fiery, and thence the more obnoxious to snares. Thus he began the Tragedy of these two youths, and that of their mother; but before he had finished theirs, suffered his own, which was abundantly bloody, but abundantly just. Their brother Caligula was a better Courtier; he studied the temper and manner of Tiberius, and in all things conformed to it; but was particularly a complete scholar of his in dissimulation c . Upon the condemnation of his mother, upon the exile of his brothers, not a word, not a groan escaped him, nor any symptom of resentment or pity. The passions are no where more agitated than at Court; yet no where are the signs of perturbation more suppressed.
Of Slanderers and Tale-bearers in Courts. The Folly of Craft.
THE occupation of slander and whispering, will, like other occupations, always thrive according to the encouragement given to it, and being easily exercised, will be ever engaging fresh adventurers. What requires less labour and conscience than to find out, or frame, or invenom a story to the prejudice of another, especially when he is not to be heard in his own defence, nor suffered to confront his Accuser, nor perhaps even knows that he has one? There is an endless appetite in mankind for Intelligence and secret History; and in proportion to that appetite, they who feed it are well received and encouraged. But of all places they fare best in Courts. Great men are in the power of such people much more than they themselves imagine or mean; these assiduous shadows of theirs, who have their ear, and know their tempers, watch their unwary moments, and observe when they are gay and open, when disobliged and angry, when full of thought and business; and will be sure to improve the present temper and opportunity. They know the Characters of men; know whom their Patron loves, whom he dislikes, to whom he is altogether indifferent, with what is likely to be believed of each. They extoll some, decry others, flatter him, misrepresent all; and sooth, or alarm, or divert him, just as his humour and their drift requires. If with this they can play the droll, and make dry and malicious jests, they are accomplished in their way; but most villainous is that talent which is good for nothing but to do hurt; it is like death and poison, fit only to take away life. Vatinius was a buffoon of this pestilent cast, and, from working in a stall, taken to Court, at first for jest and diversion; but having a malicious spirit and a sarcastical turn, soon became a terror to every worthy and illustrious man; insomuch that in wealth and favour, and in power to do mischief, he grew to exceed all the other Ministers of inquity in Nero’s Court.
In all Courts there are many who rise into notice and preferment for no greater merit than that of officiousness, buffoonery and tale-bearing; and Courts are the places in the world where bad and worthless people can do the most harm; a Barber, a Porter, a Valet de Chambre, and even a Child, are all capable of doing notable mischief there. Those instruments, let them be ever so mean, will find some or other to hear them; these will find others; and a story that has run through a hundred hands, and can be traced to no original, or to a very low one, perhaps the idle Prattle of a Chambermaid, may, for all that, have no mean influence.
But whatever reason men have, upon all these accounts, to keep a guard upon their lips and behaviour at Court; there is still room for great frankness and candour, and no necessity of illusion and deceiving, though it be often necessary to let people deceive themselves, and would be often imprudent and dangerous to undeceive them. It is certain, that in the transacting of great Affairs, the rules of morality admit of some relaxation; this is to be lamented, but not to be helped. Such frequently are the exigencies of a State, and such always the crookedness and depravity of the heart of man, that were you to deal openly, to tell all that you mean, all that you know, and all that you aim at, you would expose your Country to ruin, and yourself to scorn, perhaps to the block. The most that can be done is to save appearances, and be wary of what expressions are used; for, upon these occasions, and many others, men are not to be upbraided for their silence. I know some who have gone through nice Embassies, some who have concluded intricate Negotiations, others who have administered the highest Offices, and still preserved the character of high Honour, and untainted Veracity. This shews the thing to be possible; and a promise or assurance, just given to serve a turn, and therefore not observed afterwards, does often more injury to him who made it, than the serving that turn did good. Cardinal Richelieu was not liberal of money nor promises; but he always performed more than he undertook; hence the zeal and firm adherence of all who depended upon him. Cardinal Mazarin denied nothing, performed nothing, was believed in nothing, and his ill faith was become proverbial; hence no man was ever more hated, no man in his station more despised; he could never rely upon any party, for he deceived all parties and all particulars; and nothing could support him but the blind obstinacy of the Queen Regent, and the mere weight of Royal Power armed in his defence; but in spite of the Queen and the Authority Royal, he was forced to run and sculk for his life. The Parliament set a price upon his head, and issued ordinances to the people to fall upon him as a public Enemy. Yet he had never carried Sovereign Power so high as his Predecessor, nor ever exerted it so terribly; but he had no faith nor honour, and therefore no personal friends. To this hour, Richelieu is considered as a Minister, who, though arbitrary and severe, was yet an elevated genius, and a man of veracity to particulars; Mazarin, as a man not rigorous indeed, nor vindictive, but sordid, addicted to low cunning and lyes, and with all the eclat of a great Minister unable to hide the little tricking Italian.
Craftiness is a despicable quality, and undoes itself; he who has it, and acts by it, can never disguise it long; and when it becomes apparent, it becomes impotent, arms every body against it, brings hatred or ridicule, at best is perfectly useless; and the man, even when he deals uprightly, is suspected to mean knavishly. What gained Tiberius by all his profound subtlety and wiles, but to have his best actions ill construed, and his sincerest professions to be disbelieved d ? What gained Philip the second of Spain by that strange and intricate scene of false Politics, concerted to transfer his own guilt upon the head of his Minister Antonio Perez; but to bring home the just imputation of that guilt to his own door, and to produce full proof, where before there was only suspicion? Sincerity is very consistent with human prudence, and often a part of it, considering the reputation that always attends it; and men even in Courts may be very upright, without being unguarded; nor can Courtiers ever do business with one another without some openness and candour. I have seen it asserted somewhere, that people are oftner deceived by distrust than by acts of confidence. I have observed as plain dealing in Courtiers as in any other sort of men in the world. It is ridiculous to carry reserve and deepness into every thing. I know not a more contemptible sort of men than such as mimic business and mystery; I have seen some subaltern Courtiers look as important, demure and wary, as if they had carried great matters, and even the weight of the State upon their shoulders. This affectation serves to raise their credit amongst their servants and artificers in town, and in the country amongst their tenants and neighbours, and diverts better judges. There are others who really believe themselves to be in secrets; who take shrugs and nods, mere words and shadows for real confidence and communication; and live in happy ignorance, under the conceit of high trust and intelligence. Some few too there are, who, besides despising the foppery of being thought trusted where they are not, are careful to hide it from the world when they are. ’Tis men of this turn who chiefly do credit to a Court; and whoever does it credit, does it service.
How much worthless People abound in Courts, and why.
AS in a great family, where there are numerous domestics, in spite of all the care that can be taken to examine the Characters of servants when they are admitted, or to regulate and watch their behaviour afterwards, there will be some still unworthy of their places, and a discredit to their master; how much more so must it be in a Court, where not only the officers, but even the offices are so numerous; where so many have a right to prefer or recommend, and where so many do both from strange, wretched, and selfish motives, nay, often for considerations altogether dishonourable and scandalous? It is therefore no wonder, that though the politest men are always found at Court, so likewise are always a strange rabble of creatures, ignorant, mercenary, ridiculous and disagreeable, who owe their preferment to chance, whim, money, dirty services, to names, affinities, nay, to impudence and folly; and one who has no pretences to any thing else, neither to education, nor capacity, nor honour, nor spirit, nor even to good looks and common sense, shall find pretences to a place, and probably get one. Nor is this to be remedied; since he who gives it does not chuse, but take, and has often stronger reasons to oblige the recommender, than to reject the recommended. I have known a friend, nay, a relation of a great Minister, disappointed twice of an Office which was even intended for him, but by potent intercession was bestowed elsewhere; the first time, upon one whom the Minister knew not, whom the Recommender knew not, nor whom even the Lady who spoke for him knew; but one who for a sum of money engaged a Gentleman’s Valet de Chambre to engage the Lady’s Woman whom the Valet courted, to engage her Lady whom she governed, to engage the last Recommender, who undertook it, and succeeded. He who had the first pretences was again put by upon a vacancy, and a creature put in, whom the Minister was known to despise, and almost to loath; but sacrificed his opinion, his aversion, and his friend to mediation not more honourably obtained. At so critical a juncture as that of a Rebellion, I have heard of one who by a Letter written with the same pen which he had used in corresponding with the Rebels, procured a handsome provision for his brother, who wished the Rebels as well as he, and had distinguished himself in a very public place by acts of disaffection, and disloyal healths. Nor in this instance was there any money or intrigue at all; the Recommender had only once told a hearty lye for a great man in a nice case, and sworn to it; hence his merit and influence. For an act of honour or spirit, done to serve the Public, he might perhaps have found less regard, perhaps not so much as access; as befel some who did.
It is certain, great men often prefer such as they dislike, and such as do them no credit, sometimes with their eyes open, frequently through misinformation, and in both cases through solicitation and importunity. Men of merit often want interest, often application and boldness; whereas one who has no one worthy qualification, is the more likely to have importunity and shamelessness. It has indeed been often a notable advantage to a man, that he had not sense enough to be ashamed nor baulked; nay, I have known such a negative accomplishment to be the making of his fortune. A rational man will take a rational answer, or even a trifling one, when he sees it meant for a rebuke or a refusal; or perhaps he has too much pride to press and beseech, or to ask above once; but he who has no understanding to mislead him from his interest; or to apprehend what is said to him; he who is incapable of a repulse, or to be ashamed of begging and teasing; but has an unchangeable front and unwearied nonsense, stands in a fair light to have his pretences considered. Though he cannot persuade, he can tire; and he finds the fruit and advantage of talents in the absolute want of them; he is despised and promoted; a little share of good sense and modesty, would have ruined him, and he might then have been neither disliked nor minded.
Such is the force of recommendation without reason, or against it; and such too the power of assiduity unincumbered with parts! There are strange inconsistencies in the make, and turn, and education of men. There are those who can calmly encounter death and terrors in any shape, yet shall tremble in speaking two or three words to a Secretary of State; a task which would not baulk a common Footman. Others can harangue readily and boldly before a great Assembly, yet are struck dumb in the company of Women, a place where a Page, or an ignorant Beau, can be entertaining and eloquent. Some have talents, but not the use of them. Many have capacity, but want application; many are hurt by too much application not directed by capacity; several have good sense and activity, and can apply both to serve a friend, but neither to do good to themselves. In some you find excellent parts frustrated by predominant passions; in others eminent courage and spirit drowned and depreciated by a modesty almost childish; and numbers there are who, under a notorious defect of ability, acquirements, and every amiable quality, are pushed up as high as any of these could have pushed them, perhaps much higher than all of them would. So that, in the odd assortment of human things, Fortune would seem to correspond with the caprice and wantonness of Nature.
I have already owned that it is impossible to keep many worthless people out of a Court, considering how many ways there are to get in; but owing to such is a good measure of the obloquy usually thrown upon Courts and ministers; as the falshood, the low tricks and spirit of these Underlings, are all ascribed to the genius of the place and of power; and under the character of insincerity and ingratitude, it is usual in popular discourse and opinion, though it is really very unjust, to throw all Courtiers together. I even believe that there are some of them foolish and base enough to like the reputation of slipperiness and deceiving, for the sake of being thought good Courtiers. From the numbers too and little minds of such, we may account for the general outcry and reproach which from that quarter usually follow any worthy Minister fallen into disgrace. They are for the Powers that be; and though they be the work of his hands, were thrust into place by his late might, and are still basking in the Sun-shine which he let in upon them; yet they are ready not only to leave a falling house, but to help pull it down. It is the temper of Renegadoes. The celebrated Sancho was first warmly in the interest of the injured Basil, one who had lost his Mistress for no want of merit, but through the superior wealth of his rival Gamacho; yet the savory skimmings and loaded ladles out of Gamacho’s kettles, so effectually turned the supple spirit of that courtly Squire, that, without more ceremony, he began to justify and extol the happy supplanter, and to rail plentifully at poor Basil under misfortune and disgrace.
What can Ministers expect, when they have raised such dust, but that with the first contrary wind, it will be blown into their eyes? Mean spirits, selfish and impudent, can never take the impressions of gratitude and honour; no more than such as are modest and generous can ever be ungrateful or base. Yet hard is the task to weed a Court of such; not only because the same interest that recommends, does likewise protect; but because there are so many Candidates ready to fill their places, and supported by so many Patrons and Intercessors, that more will be disobliged than can be gratified by the change; and after all perhaps the fresh comer may not prove the more deserving man. Neither can the great Officers easily cure the exorbitances and exactions of the inferior; especially when the same are become common and inveterate. All men, even the greatest men desire to live easy with those they have daily to do with, and will not care to incur the clamour and curses of Subalterns; who, though they are but small men, yet being numerous, and supported by all who are interested in corruption, are able by continual complaints and noise, to weaken the credit of the most puissant Minister, and to make him very uneasy.
The remarkable Fickleness and Insincerity of Courtiers.
I Had once an opportunity of seeing the steadiness and gratitude of Courtiers put to trial, upon an apprehension of a change in the ministry. I was strictly curious in my observations and inquiries; and my discoveries were such, as have fully confirmed me in all my former and present sentiments of these people. There were some who gave proofs of signal friendship and constancy to the standing Ministry; several were wary and silent, but many made preposterous haste to shew their levity and selfishness; and, from the behaviour of most, there arose warning enough, even to greatness itself, to rely for its best security upon wisdom and innocence.
A little before the death of Tiberius, then past hopes, he was reported to be dead. Instantly the Courtiers crowded about Caligula the next heir, with a torrent of congratulations and zeal; and he was going forth, thus attended, to assume the pomp and exercise of Sovereignty, when sudden tideings came, that the Emperor, who had lain some time in a swoon, was revived, and calling for some refreshment to strengthen his spirits. Instant terror seized all; most of them dispersed and fled; some assumed an air of mourning; many feigned utter ignorance. Caligula was struck speechless, and, from the highest hopes, expecting his last doom. Macro only remained undaunted; he commanded the ancient Emperor to be smothered with a great weight of coverings, having first ordered every body to quit the chamber.
Amongst the many good things, and excellent sense in the Memoirs of Cardinal De Retz, there occur frequent pictures of the Court, particularly upon the beginning of the Commotions in Paris. At the Palace Royal, and especially in the Cabinet, upon that occasion, every individual assumed a person, and acted a part. The Coadjutor acted the innocent and the dupe, but was not so. Mazarin affected to appear resolute, but appeared more so than he was. By starts and intervals the Queen counterfeited great temper and gentleness; yet had been at no time more bitter and enraged. The Duke De Longueville feigned extreme affliction, yet felt a sensible joy, as he was the man in the world the most delighted with the beginnings of all affairs. The Duke of Orleans, in speaking to the Queen, shewed great warmth and vehemence, but presently after fell a whistling (a usual habit of his) with all the indolence in the world. The Marshal De Villeroy displayed gayety and unconcern, to make his Court to Mazarin; but to the Coadjutor he owned, with tears in his eyes, that the State was upon the brink of a precipice. Mr. De Beautru and Mr. De Nogent, played the buffoons, to humour the Queen, and drolled upon the commotion; though both these men knew well, that, in all probability, this farce of theirs would too soon be followed by a Tragedy. The Abbé De La Riviere only, though the most notorious poltron of the age, was persuaded that this popular insurrection was but smoke; this he maintained stiffly to the Queen, and this pleased her. To fill up the complement of Actors, the Marshal De La Meilleraie, who had hitherto joined with the Coadjutor in representing the terrors and consequences of the tumult, all on a sudden changed his past part, and took that of the Champion, with a different tone and other sentiments; in an instant he was all rage, and contempt, and defiance. Mem.De Retz, vol. 1. p. 122.
In short, the Queen and the Cardinal took every one who told them truth, for a certain enemy to themselves, and for a promoter, at least a secret wellwisher, of the revolt. When this was the reward of plain-dealing, who would venture his place and favour by dealing plainly? Thus, for want of honest information, and sincere advisers, and by suspecting or disbelieving such as were so, the State had nigh perished. The whole detail in De Retz is full of curious incidents, full of strong and just reflections; as is almost the whole Book.
Of Armies and Conquest.
The Burden and Danger of maintaining great Armies.
TOO many Princes are infatuated with false notions of Glory, and thence delight in War. Without doubt it is true Glory to excel in war, where war is necessary; but in the whole course of History, where one has been so, twenty have been otherwise; and to engage in it from the wantonness of ambition, or for the sake of Laurel, or through peevishness and humour, is to risque the blood, and treasure, and people, and being of a State, for the foppery of false Heroism: or to sacrifice the same to the selfish and inglorious view of making a Country (either that which conquers, or that which is conquered, or both) the prey of the Hero. For such has been generally the logic of the Sword, that because it has saved, it may therefore oppress and enthral, and for defending a part, take the whole. Wars beget great Armies; Armies beget great Taxes; heavy Taxes waste and impoverish the Country, even where Armies commit no violences; a case seldom to be supposed, bebause it has seldom happened. But where great Armies are, they must be employed, and do mischief abroad, to keep them from doing it at home; so that the people must be exhausted and oppressed to keep the men of the sword in exercise.
The great Turk, to keep the swords of the Janizaries from his own throat, is forced to plague his neighbours, even where he earns nothing but blows and disgrace; and thence increases the danger which he would avert; for, as by his Armies he makes all men slaves, he himself is a slave to his Armies, and often their victim; or, to escape himself, is frequently forced to satiate their fury by the blood of his bravest Officers, and best Counsellors. If it be the Glory of his Monarchy, that he can put the greatest men and all men to death, without reason, or form, or process; he is subject in his own person to the same lawless and expeditious butchery, from his own outrageous slaves, who being not accustomed to receive any Law from him, give him none, whenever he is in their power, which is as often as they think fit; and he who is a Prince of slaves, is adjudged by slaves, and dies like the meanest slave. What is there to save him? His people who are oppressed, want the inclination, and being unarmed, the power. So that he lives in personal servitude to those who are the instruments of public Servitude; and as others must die to please him, so must he to please them. It is the Law of retaliation, and operates as often as its causes operate, namely, caprice, or rage, or fear. This is the blessing of being absolute, and unfettered by human constitutions; the same sword which is lifted up for you at the command of whim or passion, is with the like wantonness lifted up against you; and if you reign in blood, you must not think it strange to die in it.
Great Armies the best disciplined, whether thence the less formidable to a Country. Their Temper and Views.
IN regard to public Liberty, Armies the best disciplined are not less to be dreaded than the worst, but I think, more; since their relaxation of discipline takes away from their union and sufficiency; it renders them weaker and less equal to mighty mischief; but where they are strict and united, the highest iniquities are not too big for them. Disorderly Troops may rob particulars, ravage towns, and harass a Country; but if you would subdue Nations, commit universal spoil, and enslave Empires, your forces must be under the best regulations. It was with an Army victorious and brave, and consequently well disciplined, that Agathocles slaughtered all the Nobles of Syracuse, and brought that illustrious State (the noblest of all the Greek Cities) under bondage. Cromwell’s conquest of his Country was made by Troops the most sober and best disciplined that this, or perhaps any other nation, had ever seen. And it was with the best of all the Roman Armies, that Cæsar established himself Tyrant of Rome.
Soldiers know little else but booty, and blind obedience; whatever their interest, or rapacity dictates, they generally will do; and whatever their officers command, they must do. It is their profession to dispute by force, and the sword; they too soon learn their own power, and where it is an overbalance for the Civil Power, it will always controul the Civil Power, and all things a . They find readily somewhat to say; the strongest is ever the best disputant, when he carries his reasons upon the point of his sword b . They have done great services, they have suffered great wrongs, and will therefore reward and redress themselves. It is the reasoning of Cæsarc . It is nothing to the purpose to say, that an Army listed amongst the natives, especially the officers being natives, and many of them men of fortune, will never hurt or oppress their Country; for such were Cromwell’s Army, such were Cæsar’s, and many other enslaving Armies; besides Armies are soon modelled, and Officers who are obnoxious, are soon changed.
No Government can subsist but by force, and where-ever that force lies, there it is that Government is or soon will be. Free States therefore have preserved themselves, and their Liberties, by arming all their people, because all the people are interested in preserving those Liberties; by drawing out numbers of them thus armed, to serve their Country occasionally, and by dissolving them (when that occasion was over) into the mass of the people again; by often changing the chief Officers, or, if they continued the same, by letting their commissions be temporary, and always subject to the controul of the supreme Power, often to that of other co-ordinate Power, as the Dutch Generals are to the Deputies. It is indeed but rare, that States who have not taken such precaution, have not lost their Liberties; their Generals have set up for themselves, and turned the Arms put into their hands against their Masters. This did Marius, Sylla, Cæsar, Dionysius, Agathocles, Charles Martel, Oliver Cromwell, and many others; and this they all did by the same means: it is still frequently done in the Eastern Monarchies; and by the same means all the Christian Princes of Europe, who were arbitrary, became so. For as the experience of all ages shews us, that all men’s views are to attain dominion and riches, it is ridiculous to hope, that they will not use the means in their power to attain them, and madness to trust them with those means. They will never want pretences, either from their own fafety, or the public Good, to justify the measures which have succeeded; and they know well, that the success will always justify itself; that great numbers will be found to sanctify their power; most of the rest will submit to it, and in time will think it just and necessary; perhaps at last believe it to be obtained miraculously, and to have been the immediate act of Heaven.
Princes ruling by military Power, ever at the Mercy of military Men.
AS by these means private men often come at Sovereign Power; so limited Princes often become arbitrary; but one mischief is inseparable from this sort of Government; they generally lose their Authority by the same method they get it. For, having attained it by violence, they are obliged to keep it by violence; and that cannot be done but by engaging in the interest of their Oppression a body of men, strong enough to maintain it; and it will for the most part happen, that as these men have no interest but their own in serving a Tyrant, so when that interest ceases, and they can serve themselves better in destroying him, they seldom fail of doing it. In fact we find, that in all the great despotic Governments in the world the Monarchs are slaves to their soldiery, and they murder and depose their Princes just according to their caprices. The General sets up any of the Princes of the blood, whom he thinks most for his interest, and often-times upon the death of the Possessor they are all set up, by one part of the Army or other, (if one cannot get all the rest into his power, and murder them) and the Civil War continues, till one has slaughtered all his rivals.
If this is not done in the modern absolute Governments of Europe, it is because despotic Power is not so thoroughly established there, and the people have yet some share of Property, and consequently of Power; but still they do it as much as they dare; in some instances they have set up themselves, and in almost all have been the principal engines and instruments in working about Revolutions, according to their own inclinations and disgusts. Of this we had many instances in our own Country, within the compass of not many years.
How much easier is it to corrupt a few leading Officers, often necessitous, generally ambitious, than to persuade a whole Kingdom, if they are well governed, to destroy themselves? Some will be disobliged, because not preferred to their wishes, or because others are preferred before them; they will differ according to their countries or their interests about the person to be their General, and to have the power of preferring or recommending Officers; and that part which is disappointed shall be a faction against that which succeeds. Where-ever Commissions are venal, there will be no difficulty of buying those, who are disaffected, into them, if they can disguise their disaffection till a proper opportunity. In a Country where factions abound, and those at the helm can find any account in keeping measures with a contrary faction, Officers will be put in to oblige that faction, sometimes to gratify friends or favourites; at different times, others will be discarded, to oblige one party, or to mortify the other. New men, by private recommendation or money, shall supercede old Officers; this will create new dissatisfactions and disgusts, as soon as they dare shew them. When the Administration is changed, and another party gets uppermost, all those things shall be done over again; so that at last an Army shall be a medley of all the factions of a Kingdom; and all their preferments and expectations depending upon the success of those factions; each individual will take every safe opportunity to advance his own; and for the most part one or other of these factions, sometimes all, are ready to join in shuffling the cards anew; the sure prelude of a Civil War.
This is and ever must be the case of all Countries which subsist by standing Armies. For there are few instances in History, to be given of Armies who did not play their own game, in times of distress; few instances of disobliged or unpreferred Officers, who did not change sides; too many have made their peace by some remarkable act of treachery; very often they have done it only from the motives of ambition and avarice. I wish that we never had had instances amongst ourselves of any who have done the same; or even of Generals who played a double game. What Oliver Cromwell, Monk, and very many both of the King’s and of the Parliament Officers did in the Civil War, we all know, as well as what King James’s Army did more lately: I wish we equally knew what intrigues of this kind have been carrying on since. In Civil Wars amongst men of the same Country, the communication is so easy between friends, relations and former acquaintance, that there is a very ready transition from one side to another; and a little success, small intrigues, and a few advantages generally make that transition.
Instances of the Boldness and Fury of the Roman Soldiery.
IT is astonishing from what light and wanton motives, by what vile and contemptible instruments, Armies are often instigated to violence and ravages. The sedition of that in Pannonia, after the death of Augustus, was raised by one common soldier, inflamed by another; rapine and massacres were committed or defended by almost all; they murdered their Officers; even their General had like to have been murdered, upon the credit of an impudent lie told by one of these vile incendiaries, who yet could scarce alledge any other grievance than that they had not too much pay, and too little discipline. Nor was the insurrection, excited by these two fellows, restrained to the Pannonian Legions only, but extended to those in Germany, who waxed into fury rather greater, and outraged all things human and divine.
It was one common soldier who gave the Empire to Claudius, by saluting him Emperor, while the poor dastardly wretch was lurking in a corner, and expecting death instead of Sovereignty. Under Galba two private Centinels undertook to transfer the Empire to another, and actually transferred it. It is shocking to reflect with what eagerness these blood-thirsty assassins hastened to murder that good old Prince, for no charge of misgovernment, nor for defrauding them of their pay; but because he would not exhaust the Public to glut them with bounties. They were such abandoned Russians, that they sought to kill Marius Celsus, purely because as he was an able and virtuous man, they judged him an enemy to themselves who delighted only in blood, and wickedness, and spoil. It would require a volume to recount the behaviour, the treacherous and inhuman exploits of these sons of violence thenceforward; their murdering and promoting of Emperors, sometimes two or three, sometimes more, once thirty at a time; their selling the Empire for money; their besieging and threatning to massacre the Senate; their burning the Capitol, setting fire to the Imperial City, pillaging and butchering its inhabitants, and using them like slaves and captives; with other instances of their insolence, barbarity, and misrule. In the third and fourth Volumes of this Work much of this will be seen, recounted by Tacitus.
The Gothic Governments were military in their first settlement; the General was King, the Officers were the Nobles, and the Soldiers their Tenants; but by the nature of the settlement, out of an Army a Country Militia was produced. The Prince had many occasional troops, but no standing troops; hence he grew not absolute, like the Great Turk; who having cantoned out the conquered Countries amongst his horsemen, must by doing it have lost his arbitrary Power, but that he kept a large body of men in arms, called the Janizaries.
Great Britain has preserved its Liberties so long, because it has preserved itself from great standing Armies; which, where-ever they are strong enough to master their Country, will certainly first or last master it. Some troops we must have for guards and garisons, enough to prevent sudden Insurrections, and sudden Revolutions. What numbers are sufficient for this, the experience of past times, and the sense of our Parliaments, have shewn.
The Humour of conquering, how injudicious, vain, and destructive.
THE Athenians began the ruin of their State, by a mad and expensive War upon Sicily; and from an ambition of conquering a people who had never offended them, exposed themselves to the attacks of the Lacedemonians, to the revolt of their own subjects, to domestic disorders, and the change of their Government. And though upon the recalling of Alcibiades, they won some victories, and for a while made some figure; they were at last conquered intirely by Lysander, their walls thrown down, the States subject to them set at liberty, and they themselves subjected to the domination of thirty Tyrants. They never after recovered their former Glory. The Lacedemonians fell afterwards into the same warlike folly, and their folly had the same fate. By lording over Greece they drew upon themselves a combination of Greek Cities, which together (especially the Thebans under the famous Epaminondas) despoiled them of their Authority, soon after their triumph over Athens. The Thebans too abused their good fortune; they were equally fond of fighting and conquest, and by it drew another confederacy against them. In truth, everyone of these States had been so long weakening themselves, and one another, by their propensity to War, that at last they fell under servitude to the Kings of Macedon, a Country formerly depending upon, or rather under vassalage to Athens and Sparta.
These States acted like some of the Princes of our time; by trusting to their own superior Prowess, they invaded their neighbours, and taught them Art enough to beat themselves. Thus the Muscovite, by falling upon the late King of Sweden, yet in his minority, roused a tempest that had well nigh overturned his Throne; and thus that King, by refusing the most honourable conditions of peace, and by urging his fate and revenge too far, taught the Russians that bravery and discipline which nothing could ever teach them before; saw his own brave Army utterly routed by forces that he despised; himself driven from his dominions, and a fugitive in a Country of Infidels; and his Provinces cantoned out amongst enemies, who, before he had tempted his good fortune to leave him, would have been glad to have compounded with him for a moiety of their own dominions.
Charles Duke of Burgundy had his head so turned with gaining the battel of Montl’hery, that he never listened afterwards to any counsel, but that of his own headstrong humour; nor ceased plunging himself into Wars, till in that against the Switzers, who had given him no just provocation, he lost his Army, his dominions, and his life. If Philip the second had kept his oath with the Low Countries, he might have preserved his Authority over them all. But nothing less would humour his pride than the subduing of their Liberties and Conscience; and in defence of their Conscience and Property, he drove them to the use of Arms, which a people employed in trade and manufacture, as they were, had no list to, nor skill in. Every body knows the issue; he lost the seven Provinces and their Revenue for ever, with many millions of money, and almost half a million of lives thrown away to recover them. By his mighty and boasted Armada designed to conquer England, what else did he conquer but his own Power at sea? He had prepared, he had been for some years preparing, a naval force mighty as his own arrogance; but it all proved to be only measures taken for baffling his arrogance, and for destroying the maritime force of Spain; and all the while that he was vainly meditating the destruction of England, he was in reality taking the part of England against himself, and, with all his might, weakening its greatest enemy. Had he husbanded that mighty strength; had he employed it at times, and in parcels, against these dominions, he might have had some success; but he combined against his own hopes.
How foolish is the reasoning of passion! It leads men to throw away strength to gain weakness. Even where these sons of violence succeed, they may be justly said to acquire nothing, beyond the praise of mischief. What is the occupation and end of Princes and Governors, but to rule men for their good, and to keep them from hurting one another? Now what Conqueror is there who mends the condition of the conquered? Alexander the Great, though he well knew the difference between a limited and a lawless Monarchy, did not pretend, that his invasion of Persia was to mend the condition of the Persians. It was a pure struggle for dominion; when he had gained it, he assumed the Throne upon the same arbitrary terms upon which their own Monarchs had held it, nor knew any Law but his will. The subject only felt the violence of the change, without any benefit or relaxation from slavery. His Glory therefore is all false and deceitful, as is all Glory which is gained by the blood of men, without mending the state of mankind. This spirit of fighting and conquering continued in his Successors, who plagued the earth as he had done, and weltered in the blood of one another, till they were almost all destroyed by the sword or poison, with the whole family of Alexander. It was no part of the dispute amongst them, which of them could bestow most happiness upon the afflicted world, about which they strove, but who should best exalt himself, and enslave all.
The State of Carthage after many Countries conquered, but not bettered by her Arms, was almost dissolved by her own barbarous Mercenaries, and at last conquered and destroyed by the Romans; who were in truth the most generous conquerors that the world has known: and most Countries found the Roman Government better than their own. This continued for some time, till their Provincial Magistrates grew rapacious, and turned the Provinces into spoil. Rome itself perished by her conquests, which being made by great Armies, occasioned such power and insolence in their Commanders, and set some Citizens so high above the rest, an inequality pernicious to free States, that she was enslaved by ingrates whom she had employed to defend her. Rome vanquished foreign nations; foreign luxury debauched Rome, and traiterous Citizens seized upon their mother with all her acquisitions. All her great blaze and grandeur, served only to make her wretchedness more conspicious, and her chains more intensely felt. Upon her thraldom there ensued such a series of Tyranny and misery, treachery, oppression, cruelty, death and affliction, in all shapes; that her agonies were scarce ever suspended till she finally expired. When her own Tyrants, become through Tyranny impotent, could no longer afflict her, for protection was none of their business; a host of Barbarians, only known for ravages, and acts of inhumanity, finished the work of desolation, and closed her civil doom. She has been since racked under a Tyranny more painful, as it is more slow; and more base, as it is scarce a domination of men; I mean her vassalage to a sort of beings of all others the most merciless and contemptible, Monks and Spectres.
The Folly of conquering further urged and exemplified.
THE Turks, like other Conquerors, know not when to leave off. They sacrifice the people to gain more territories; and the more they conquer, the greater is their loss. They lavish men and treasure, to gain waste ground. What is the use of earth and water, where there are no Inhabitants for these elements to support? The strength of a Government consists in numerous subjects industrious and happy; not in extent of territory desolate or ill peopled, or peopled with inhabitants poor and idle. It is incredible what a profusion of wealth and lives their attempts upon Persia have cost them, always with fatal success, even under their wisest and most warlike Princes; and at a time when their Empire flourished most. Yet these attempts are continued, at a season when their Affairs are at the lowest; their Provinces exhausted, their people and revenue decayed, their soldiery disorderly, and all things conspiring to the final dissolution of their Empire.
Those who will be continually exerting their whole strength, whether they be societies or particular men, will at last have none to exert. The Turks have been for ages wasting their vitals to widen their extremities, and to extend their limbs; which, by being unnaturally stretched, are quite disjointed and benumbed for want of nourishment from the seat of life; and must therefore, like mortified members, soon drop off; they have been long spinning out their own vitals. Now if they had conquered Persia, what benefit would the conquest have derived to the Persians? None at all; but on the contrary, fresh oppression, and probably persecution; since the Turks deem them Heretics for the colour of their caps, and for their obstinate refusal to change one name for another in the list of Mahomet’s Successors.
Thus these Barbarians destroy themselves to destroy others; and Christian Princes imitate these Barbarians. The Spaniard, to secure to himself the possession of America, destroyed more lives than he had subjects in Europe; and his mighty Empire there, with his mountains of treasure, bears indeed an awful sound; yet it is allowed that he has lost much more than he got, besides the crying guilt of murdering a large part of the globe. His conquests there, together with his expulsion of the Moors at home, have dispeopled Spain; and the inhabitants who remain trusting to their American wealth, are too proud and lazy to be industrious; so that most of their gold goes to other nations for the manufactures wanted in the Spanish West-Indies. Hence multitudes and diligence (and diligence often creates multitudes, as by multitudes diligence is created) are better than mountains of gold, and will certainly attract such mountains; though others have the name and first property. Had he kept the industrious Moors, and expelled the barbarous Inquisitors; encouraged Liberty and Trade, and consequently Liberty of Conscience, Spain would have been a more powerful nation, and he consequently a greater King, than all his wide and guilty conquests have made him. Sir Walter Raleigh says, that the Low Countries alone did, for revenue, equal his West-Indies. Notwithstanding his many Kingdoms, his Empire in both Hemispheres, and that the sun never sets upon all his dominions at once, the small Republic of Holland, small in compass of territory, has been an overmatch for him.
A late neighbouring Prince was a busy Conqueror. But did his People and Country gain by his conquests? He drained them of men and money by millions, only to add to their poverty servitude and wretchedness, and from their chains and misery derived his own Glory. Nor do I know any reason why a Prince, who reduces his People, his Nobles, and all degrees of men in his Dominions, to poverty and littleness, should have the title of Great, unless for the greatness of the evils which he brought upon his own Kingdom and all Europe. Let the late and present condition of that Monarchy declare, what advantages that noble Country owes to his Glory and Victories. Had it not been for his wanton Wars and oppressive Taxes, there is no pitch of felicity which the goodness of their soil and climate, the number and industry of the natives, their many manufactures, and the advantage of their situation, might not have raised them to. But all was sacrificed to the Ambition and Bigotry of one. How many resources that Kingdom has within itself; and to what happiness it is capable of rising under a just and gentle Administration, is manifest from the suddenness with which it recovered itself under the good Government of Henry the fourth; how many millions it paid, how many put into the Exchequer; and what a flourishing condition it was arrived to, after so fierce, so long, and so consuming a Civil War, and after two such profuse and profligate Reigns, as that of Charles the Ninth, and that of Henry the Third. But what avails all this, when one short Edict, and the maggot of a minute, can dissipate all its wealth and all its happiness?
I might here display what ridiculous causes do often pique and awaken the vanity and ambition of Princes, and prompt them to lavish lives and treasure, and utterly undo those whom they should tenderly protect. For a beast of burden, or even for the tooth of a beast; for a mistress, for a river, for a senseless word hastily spoken, for words that had a foolish meaning, or no meaning at all; for an empty sepulchre or an empty title; to dry the tears of a coquette, to comply with the whims of a pedant, or to execute the curses of a bigot; important Wars have sometimes been waged, and nations animated to destroy one another; nor is there any security against such destructive follies, where the sense of every man must acquiesce in the wild passion of one; and where the interest and peace, and preservation of a State, are found too light to ballance his rage or caprice. Hence the policy of the Romans to tame a people not easy to be subdued; they committed such to the domination of Tyrants. Thus they did in Armenia, and thus in Britain e . And these instruments did not only enslave their subjects, but by continual fighting with one another, consume them.
Necessary Wars are accompanied with evils more than enough; and who can bear or forgive calamities courted and sought? The Roman State owed her greatness in a good measure to a misfortune; it was founded in War, and nourished by it. The same may be said of the Turkish Monarchy. But States formed for peace, though they do not arrive to such immensity and grandeur, are more lasting and secure; witness Sparta and Venice. The former lasted eight hundred years, and the other has lasted twelve hundred, without any Revolution; what errors they both committed, were owing to their attempts to conquer, for which they were not formed; though the Spartans were exceeding brave and victorious; but they wanted the Plebs ingenua, which formed the strength of the Roman Armies; as the Janizaries, a militia formerly excellently trained and disciplined, formed those of the Turk. With the latter, fighting and extending their dominions, is an article of their Religion, as false and barbarous in this as in many of its other principles, and as little calculated for the good of men.
[i ]Cunctas nationes & urbes populus, aut primores, aut singuli regunt. Delecta ex his & constituta Reipub. forma laudari facilius quam evenire, vel, fi evenit, haud diuturna esse potest.
[k ]Vulgus duro imperio habitum, probra ac verbera intentabat.
[l ]Vulgus eadem pravitate insectabatur interfectum, qua foverat viventem.
[a ]Omnis exuta æqualitate, jussa Principis aspectare.
[b ]Ut juvenem laudarent, & tollerent.
[c ]Libertatem metuebat, adulationem oderat.
[d ]Etiam illum, qui libertatem publicam nollet, tam projectæ servientium patientiæ tædebat.
[e ]Adulatione, quæ moribus corruptis, perinde anceps si nulla, & ubi nimia est.
[f ]Ruere in servitium consules, patres, eques; quanto quis inlustrior, tanto magis falsi ac festinantes.
[g ]Primores civitatis quorum claritudo sua obsequiis protegenda erat.
[h ]Tertio gradu primores civitatis scripserat; plerique invisos sibi, sed jactantia gloriaque apud posteros.
[i ]Scenicas saltandi canendique artes studiosissime appeteret — Thrax & auriga.
[k ]Ut quandocunque concessero, cum laude & bonis recordationibus facta atque famam nominis mei prosequantur.
[l ]Rupto pudore & metu, suo tantum ingenio utebatur.
[m ]Igitur accepto patrum consulto, postquam cuncta scelerum suorum pro egregiis accipi videt, exturbat Octaviam.
[n ]Quod ad eum finem memoravimus, ut quicunque casus temporum illorum nobis vel aliis auctoribus noscent, præsumptum habeant, quotiens fugas & cædes jussit princeps, totiens grates deis actas; quæque rerum secundarum olim, tum publicæ cladis insignia fuisse.
[o ]Quidam minora vero, ne tum quidem obliti adulationis.
[p ]Scelerum ministros, ut perverti ab aliis nolebat; ita plerumque satiatus, & oblatis in eandem operam recentibus, veteres & prægraves adflixit.
[q ]Ut exprobrantes aspiciuntur.
[r ]Civitati grande desiderium ejus manfit per memoriam virtutis.
[s ]Gravescentibus in dies publicis malis, subsidia minuebantur, concessitque vita Burrus.
[t ]Quibus omnia principis, honesta atque inhonesta laudare mos est.
[a ]Est vulgus ad deteriora promptum.
[b ]Intelligebantur artes, sed pars obsequii in eo ne deprehenderentur.
[c ]Simulationum falsa in sinu avi perdidiscerat.
[d ]Ad vana & totiens inrisa revolutus, de reddendâ Repub. &c. vero quoque & hopesto fidem dempsit.
[a ]Suâ in manu sitam rem Romanam; suis victoriis augeri Rempublicam.
[b ]Preces erant, sed quibus contradici non posset.
[c ]Hæc voluerunt: tantis rebus gestic, C. Cæsar condemnatus essem, nisi ab exercitu auxilium petissem.
[e ]Quædam civitates regi Cogiduno donatæ; vetere ac jampridem recepta populi Romani consuetudine, ut haberet instrumenta servitutis & reges.