Front Page Titles (by Subject) Political Discourses upon Tacitus - The Works of Tacitus, vol. 3 - Gordon's Discourses II, History (Books 1-2)
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Political Discourses upon Tacitus - Publius Cornelius Tacitus, The Works of Tacitus, vol. 3 - Gordon’s Discourses II, History (Books 1-2) [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. 3.
Part of: The Works of Tacitus, 4 vols.
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I NOW acquit myself of my engagement to the Public, by sending abroad the remaining Works of Tacitus translated into English. In this second Volume I have followed the same method as in the first, allowing for the difference of stile in the Original; for that of the History is more eloquent and sounding than that of the Annals; though both Works are equally grave, equally abounding in strong sense and beautiful reflections, such as at once convince the understanding, affect the heart, and please the imagination: Proofs of the power of good writing, and indeed of its utmost perfection. A very fine stile may be very languid; very lively expression may have very little force; very grave reasonings may be far short of persuading. But when a writer at the same time delights, and animates and instructs, when his sentences are brilliant, his propositions self-evident, his arguments irresistible, his manner charming, and when his heart withal is benevolent and sincere, he is an accomplished, he is a perfect writer. Such a writer is Tacitus, as I have already largely shewn. Nor do I mean or want to add further to the character or defence of that extraordinary Author. I hope I need not. I have already amply displayed and defended it, and the more I study him, the more cause I find to admire and justify him, and to wonder at the objections usually made to him, as fantastical and groundless.
The following History is one of the most entertaining that can possibly be read, full of surprising events and revolutions, recounted with great spirit and judgment, in a stile more free and flowing than that of the Annals, and every where enriched with curious observations, all charming and wise. Equally noble and delightful are his two Treatises subjoined, his Account of Germany, and the Life of Agricola, both very curious, both very instructive, and only worthy of the masterly hand of Tacitus.
In the beginning of the former Volume, I have shewn how ill he had been used by former Translators. His History has hardly fared better than his Annals. Sir Henry Savil who translated it first, has taken great pains and is very exact; but his expression is mean, lifeless and perplexed, void of all force and beauty. He grovels from sentence to sentence, labouring after the meaning of words and particular phrases, and quite loses, or quite starves the noble and nervous thoughts of Tacitus. He is a cold dealer in dry grammar, untouched with the vivacity of his Author, and without feeling, much less possessing, any part of his strength and fire. His Notes are learned, but insipid, and shew great diligence and memory, but a barren genius, and very short discernment. His censures of Tacitus are pitiful, and in them he chiefly betrays his own peevishness, his vanity and carping temper.
Since him there has been another Translation still worse, by several hands, most of them beholden to him for the sense of Tacitus, and guilty of enfeebling even the weak expression of Sir H. Savil. He translated four books of the History, with the Life of Agricola (I presume he omitted the fifth book in tenderness to the Jews) and they who translated these over again have sadly maimed them to make them modern English, that is to say, to make Tacitus prate pertly and familiarly. Were it not for fear of tiring my reader I could largely shew the many and continual defects of both Translations as I did those in the Translations of the Annals. But to such as have any doubt or curiosity about it, I refer that task.
In defence of my own Translation, I have little else to say than that it wanted no care of mine to make it exact, to make it resemble the Original, and yet not to read like a Translation. It is my opinion, that it is possible for an English writer to imitate the Ancients very nearly in phraseology and stile. As our Language is capable of many variations of phrase, there is great room to improve it by the transposition of words from the common way of marshalling them; and in solemn works of prose well as in poetry, it must be frequently done in order to preserve a decent dignity of expression, and to avoid the lightness and familiarity of ordinary conversation: Whatever is intended to convince the understanding, and to move the heart, must be noble and grave, free from all trite words, from all light and trivial sounds. And because we want variety of words, and our words often want force, it will be found necessary to give them some advantage in the Ranging and Cadence; a thing which may easily be done. Of this a thousand instances might be produced, especially from Milton and other of our Poets. But I shall illustrate what I mean by a quotation or two from the old Testament, The Prophet speaking of Tophet, says, “Wide and deep it was made: For the King it was made.” This seems to me more noble and sounding than if it had been expressed a different and the usual way, though the very same words had been employed: “It was made wide and deep: It was made for the King.” Another example I shall take from the Book of Job. “By the blast of God they perish, and by the breath of his nostrils they are consumed.” This manner of expression is far from being stiff. I think it more flowing as well as more forcible than the common manner. Here both periods close with the strongest ideas, those conveyed by the words perish, and consumed; and the vigour of the sentence is found where it should be, in the end of it.
Another improvement would arise from reviving some of our old words, such as have significancy and sound: For many such there are, and many such we eminently want. I have ventured upon doing this in a few instances; and it may be done in abundance with success.
I have not yet found any cause for wishing that I had taken another method in translating Tacitus. Whoever would do him justice must endeavour to preserve his brevity and fire, and, instead of bringing him down to common language, endeavour to raise the language up to him, or as near him as the idiom will permit. Such transformation is for its advantage, may be made without hurting perspicuity or the ear, and will prove more beautiful as well as more lively. I mean not a verbal translation, which is generally no language, but only harshness and jargon. What I mean is Pruning and Ranging, the Rejecting all waste words, all faint phrases, and the Consolidating spirit and sound. These variations from the usual and familiar form, are by some called Latinisms, and under that name condemned. But if they be clear and strong, and read well, they are just, whatever they be called. I wish our Language resembled Latin more. I own that an exact imitation of the Latin will never do, witness the old Translation of Tacitus, which creeps after every word with equal insipidness and obscurity. I shall only produce one example. That Writer speaking of the Germans, says, Argentum & aurum propitii an irati Dii negaverint, dubito. The Translator renders it thus: “Silver and Gold whether the angry or favourable Gods have denied them, I doubt.” This is nonsense. The man perhaps knew what Tacitus meant; but no English reader can know what he himself means, though he has adhered literally to the Latin. In my own Translation of this passage, I have preserved something of the Latin manner, I hope without injuring the English. “Silver and Gold the Gods have denied them, whether in kindness or in anger, I am unable to decide.” Sir Walter Raleigh, Mr. Hobbes, Milton and Shakespear, are all great masters of language; and their language resembles that of the Ancients.
Whatever objections to this performance come from men of capacity and candour, I have ever regarded, I ever shall regard, with due submission to them, with due distrust of my self, and be ready to own my conviction, or to convince them that I cannot see cause. There may be very just and unanswerable exceptions, which have not been communicated to me. Whenever they are, I shall be forward and glad to make suitable alterations.
In reviewing my Translation of the Annals I have discovered some mistakes, which though they be of little importance, I shall rectify in the next edition. The like care I shall take of the present Volume, where I hope very few will be sound.
The following Discourses, like the former, were composed for the interest of public Liberty, against public violence and the iniquities of power. Nor can one who reads Tacitus attentively, fail of starting a thousand reflections, such as must fill his heart with anguish for the deplorable lot of a people enslaved and oppressed, and with bitterness against their tyrants and oppressors. Unless he have hardened his heart against all the impulses of humanity and compassion, unless he have lost all regard for right and wrong, all sense of liberty and truth, he must be struck with the sad scenes before him, innocence suffering, cruelty devouring, iniquity exalted and powerful, virtue persecuted and perishing. He must rejoice in his own happier lot and that of his country; must abhor all practices and principles repugnant to liberty, and productive of servitude, abhor the men who broach such principles, and advance such practices. He must find proportionable delight from seeing the cause of Liberty flourish, from seeing it well explained, asserted and recommended.
The advantages and blessings of Liberty are there most palpably to be discerned, where Tyranny is most heavily felt; and from this very History the reader will see, that whatever is good or amiable in the world is by Tyranny destroyed and extinguished; that whatever is evil, mischievous and detestable, is by Tyrants introduced, nurtured and propagated. From hence he will reason and recollect that every thing dear and desirable to society must result from a state of liberty; that there only property and life are not precarious, nor conscience and the faculties of the soul bound in chains: That even Religion, in order to do good, must be left entirely free, and that in countries enslaved, it is converted, even the sacred alliance between the soul of man and its Creator, is converted, into an apparent engine of tyranny and delusion, into a manifest market and commodity for deluders, who whilst they are openly engaged in nothing but gain, and fraud and domineering, and the like selfish pursuits, all very worldly, many very wicked, have the confidence to preach up self-denial, to preach against the world, and to claim successorship to the poor, wandering, holy and disinterested Apostles. A sort of hypocrisy and assurance more insulting than all the rest of their unhallowed contradictions and doings, that such men as they, the tools of Tyranny, and themselves Tyrants, dare thus cover their pride and passions with the name and commission of the meek and merciful Jesus; dare pretend to reasoning, yet forbid all enquiry, talk of learning, and promote ignorance, demand vast reverence from the people for keeping them in a condition of savageness and slavery, and take great revenues for deceiving and oppressing them.
By such considerations upon nations under servitude, especially under popish servitude, the most hideous and complete that the world ever saw, he will be awakened with just zeal for the preservation of his own British Liberty, and grow jealous of every attempt to abridge it; since whoever will know the value of Liberty, need only examine the dismal state of those countries where it is not.
Liberty, which is the people’s civil salvation, cannot be too often inculcated and explained. Where Liberty is gone, what have they more? It has been often secretly undermined, often openly attacked in this free Nation. Against it many monstrous and wicked doctrines have been advanced: To overturn it the holy name of God has been boldly profaned, his sacred Word impiously perverted, all the excesses of oppression and public robbery have been encouraged and sanctified: And all this by some Oracles of the Law, in defiance of Law, by many ministers of Religion, in spight of Religion and of solemn Oaths. Injustice has usurped the name of Law; nonsense, chicanery, and the prostitution of Scripture, were called found Divinity; usurpation and misrule were stiled the Ordinance of God: madness was Loyalty; common sense was Treason.
Thus was every thing dear and valuable to this Nation given up: nor was it a meer compliment officiously made, and not taken. To manifest how acceptable it was, the perjured and godless traitors who made it, were openly distinguished with protection and rewards: To refute their reveries and barbarous positions, was dangerous, forbidden, nay, capital; and to prevent the poor people, thus doomed to bondage and misery, from perceiving how inhumanly they were abused and betrayed by their professed guides and pensioners, and by these their paid protectors, they were blinded and terrified by the witchery of words and superstition, nay, threatened with damnation if they would not be damned to be slaves.
What language can paint such shocking wickedness and delusion! Surely none ever feared God so little as some who have spoken in his name; none have ever been so void of humanity towards men as many who assumed a right to guide them to all happiness. Nor was it possible for any man to deliver such tenets as from God, without being either a bold Impostor, or an Enthusiast stark mad, a hard-hearted Knave, or a dreaming Lunatic. In truth, these doctrines of theirs were as notoriously selfish as they were notoriously wicked and absurd. Whenever they themselves were caressed, they never failed to justify oppression and to deify oppressors. Whenever they thought themselves slighted, though bereft of nothing but the power of doing mischief, they ever laboured with all bitterness to distress and even to destroy every administration however legal, however free from any violation offered to oaths and laws. Could there be a stronger demonstration, that such a spirit came not from a gracious and a just God, or from reason, or from any concern for right and justice, and the good of men? And was it not evidently inspired by the foulest ambition, by malice and rage, and every corrupt and ungodly passion? Could they after this expect to be trusted or respected by men, they who had shewn themselves such restless enemies to society and the good of men?
To vindicate the Deity from the impious charge of protecting Tyrants, to maintain the cause of Liberty, and shew its blessings, to assert the rights of men and of society, and to display the sad consequences of public corruption, with the beauty and benefit of public virtue, is the design of these discourses. The design I hope is pardonable, and in pursuing it I can truly say, that I was utterly divested of all personal passions, of every partiality, friendship or enmity, and utterly free from any view to hurt or to flatter any man in the world. If I inveigh against any of the dead, or praise them, it is for a warning and incitement to the living. To explain the evils of Tyranny lay directly in my way, and tended to shew the value, the inestimable value of Liberty.
What so nearly concerns the happiness of all men, it imports every man to know. It is but knowing their birthright, with the measures of securing it, as also the peril and ways of losing it, and the curse attending the loss. It is a subject of infinite availment, and comprehends whatever is dear to men in the world; it furnishes the strongest truths, the clearest reasonings, and is perplexed with no intricacies. The great question arising from it, is chiefly this, whether men have a right to what God and Nature has given them, to what their own Laws and Constitutions confirm to them, to what the Oaths and Duty of their Magistrates testify to belong to them: Whether that sort of government which is evidently best for men, be well pleasing to the Deity, or whether he espouses and approves the worst. What question ever admitted of a clearer answer? Yet what tomes of nonsense and ungodly falshoods have been published about it, to sanctify oppression, to blast and overthrow all the natural and civil rights of men!
Common happiness and security are the ends of society; to procure these ends is the duty of Governors; where they are procured it is the duty of subjects to obey, and reverence, and support their Governors. Where such ends are not pursued, but, in opposition to them, power degenerates into violence, and subjection into slavery; where meer will and passion bear rule, where universal misery and dread and open oppression prevail, can Government be said to exist? No; this is not the exercise of Government, but of hostility; and to resist an enemy is but self-defence; it is the law and duty of nature. Is it not repugnant to nature and to all common sense, to reverence evil, to be fond of the author of evil, and to conceive that any duty is due to him? Was it possible for the Romans to love Tiberius, possible to esteem Caligula or Nero? It is enough that people love such as love them, that they esteem those who protect and relieve them.
DISCOURSES UPON TACITUS.
Of the Emperors who are the subject of the ensuing History: Of their Ministers, their Misfortunes, and the causes of their Fall.
An Idea ofNero’s Reign, how mildly it began, how terrible it grew. The deceitfulness of prosperity.
NERO at first proposed to reign after the model of Augustus, and, upon all occasions, courted the fame of Clemency, Liberality and Courtesy; did every thing that was generous and benevolent to the Public; shewed every act of mercy and tenderness to particulars; wished, that he could not write, when he was to sign an execution; was continually doing popular and expensive things. For these he was extremely flattered: Flattery infatuated him with vanity; and by his extravagances he became necessitous. Hence the beginning of his cruelty and rapine. He surrendered himself intirely to a course of luxury, and engaged the City in it; loved Shews and Pantomimes, found the people loved them, and thence promoted them assiduously and continually, and at last obliged men of the first quality to act in them, as he himself did.
This course at last grew tiresome, he first contemptible, then hated. He threw off all care of public affairs and the duty of an Emperor, to attend the Theatre, and gain the unprincely glory of singing and acting. There followed continual murders, parricides, false accusations and excesses, as if his life had been a constant struggle to shew how wicked, how execrably bad, a human creature vested with great power may be. He murdered his brother Britannicus, murdered his mother Agrippina, his wife Octavia, his wife Poppæa, Antonia his wife’s sister, because she would not marry him, Vestinus the Consul, to have his wife; murdered most of his own kindred, all of them that were signal for merit or fortune, or splendor, or popularity, Rufius Crispinus his wife’s son, Seneca his ancient Præceptor and Counsellor, with Burrus Captain of his guards, a venerable and excellent person: as also all the rich freedmen at court, all such ancient men as had at first promoted his adoption, and then his sovereignty. At last he murdered men by heaps with their families and children, by the knife, by poison, by drowning, by starving, by torture and casting them headlong; and all for any cause or no cause, some for their name or that of their ancestors, some for their faces, looks and temper. He robbed the Provinces, robbed the Temples, wasted the public Treasure, murdered the best men, oppressed all, and brought all things into a state of dissolution and desolation. These with him were the measures of Government, such as he said his predecessors (though brutal and raging Tyrants) had failed in, and he blamed them for not understanding their own powera . He destroyed Rome by fire, meant to destroy the Senate by the sword, and rejoiced at the first tydings of a revolt, as thence he hoped for a pretence to sack and pillage the Provinces.
Princes in the flow of their power and grand fortune (things so apt to turn the head and swell the heart) should prevent overmuch giddiness and insolence, naturally cleaving to grandeur, by supposing themselves now and then in a state of distress, and considering the great possibility of a change: They should at least put themselves in the place of others, their subjects and inferiors, and as they would then wish to be used by their Prince, let them use their People. They should reflect how much a tumult of spirit caused by prosperity darkens or suspends the understanding; they therefore ought to suspend their joy and stifle their vanity and passions, to consult and exercise their reason. Instead of this, they seldom quit their exultation till that quits them, nor hear reason till reason can do them no good, but only serve to reproach and torment them. Croesus King of Lydia could not bear the behaviour of Solon, for telling him honest truth and refusing to magnify his power and felicity. But when misfortune and captivity had abated his pride, and brought him to his senses; when he who had been lately so elated and happy, saw a dreadful doom prepared for him, he could sigh, and call mournfully upon the name of Solon, and prefer his wisdom to the wealth of the world. Croesus seems to have been a man of sense and natural moderation, but blinded by fortune and flattery.
The weakness ofGalba,and the iniquities of his Ministers.
GALBA, with an heart altogether upright and well-meaning, for want of prudence, activity and a good head, fell into measures quite unpopular and odious. His severity to the soldiery was ill-timed, so was his strictness and parcimony; and he who was a new Prince, unestablished, and should have courted all men because he wanted the assistance of all, behaved himself so as to disoblige the Armies, the Senate, the Equestrian Order, and the People. Besides, he was blindly controuled, and his authority abused by his servants and ministers, men who were continually prostituting the credit and character of their Master to their own vile gain and wicked passions. By them all things were set to sale, Offices, Provinces, public Revenues, public Justice, and the lives of men both innocent and guilty. He was old, they were insatiable, and eager to make the most of a short reign; and as he was easy and credulous, they were daring and rapacious. From him they enjoyed their place and honours and all their advantages, but employed the same not for his benefit, but their own: Nay, every service which they did to themselves was pernicious to him, since whilst they reaped all the profit, he bore all the odium.
In truth no Prince will be long reckoned good, when his Ministers are known to be bad; and if they are much hated, he will not be much beloved. Few Princes, if any, escape reproach where their Ministers are believed to deserve it. It must be owned that Ministers are often wronged, and suffer imputations very ill-grounded and unjust; nay, perhaps, will be ever doomed to suffer such, from the nature of their post and power; and where they do so, it is but reasonable and generous to protect them. But here the guilt was glaring, and their iniquities manifest to all men but Galba. He whom of all men it most imported to know it, knew it not. As he never inquired into their behaviour, nor blamed it, they never mended it, nor feared him. The sad fate which this their corruption and his own indolence and incuriosity brought upon him, is a sufficient warning to Princes either never to trust implicitly to the advice and conduct of any Ministers, or at least to be well assured that the men are such as may be implicitly trusted. The best of them have weaknesses, and passions, and partialities, enow to lead them into rashness and mistakes: There are therefore perhaps none of them so perfectly innocent and wise, as to render a discerning Prince secure that their management, however uninspected, however unaccountable, will yet be righteous and immaculate. Ministers no more than their Masters ought to be left without restriction and controul. It may perhaps be right in some few instances to deceive a Prince, it may be of public advantage to mislead the Public: But such a latitude will be ever more likely to be abused than well applied.
The folly of the evil measures pursued by these Ministers, how pernicious to themselves and to the Emperor.
NOT to dwell upon the ingratitude and vileness of Galba’s Ministers, thus to abuse, discredit and ruin a Prince to whom they owed all things, and to sacrifice him, his glory and diadem, to sordid interest, which was the smallest thing that they ought to have sacrificed for him, their ancient Emperor, and so good a Master; the measures which they took proved pernicious to themselves. Their policy was folly, and though they pursued nothing but their interest, they were not interested enough. The best interest is that which provides for our own reputation and security. Now the Ministers of Galba, by every step which they took, invited and hastened their own doom. Their safety and establishment depended upon his, and these they were continually weakening and rendering odious and contemptible, and themselves detestable. Their daily oppressions, their daily acts of venality and rapine, multiplied their enemies without measure. Nay, to their own enormous guilt they added the odium of that of others, even that of the most execrable instruments of Nero’s Tyranny, Tigellinus and Halotus, men whose execution was demanded by the universal voice of the Roman People. Indeed had these two sons of blood been less guilty than they really were, it had been but just, as well as politic and popular, to have devoted their impure lives to the Manes of so many illustrious Romans murdered by them, and to the honest rage of the Public. But this was only justice and reason, it was only obliging the People and strengthening their Master: small considerations with Vinius, and Laco, and Icelus, in comparison of filling their coffers and gratifying private passions! They protected both; and thence gained to their Prince what they never studied to avert, infinite public hate, but to themselves what they aimed at, and what every one may conjecture. It is probable too that they dreaded the precedent of punishing any man for having done what they themselves were doing. Yet their very wealth contributed to their destruction and that of their families.
But besides the influence of money and example, Titus Vinius who chiefly protected Tigellinus, had another view which is finely expressed by Tacitus; namely, “thence to purchase means of shelter and escape in time to come. For this is the policy of every desperate offender, from distrust of present fortune, and dread of change, to arm himself betimes with private favour against the public hate. Hence it comes, that for the protection of innocence no regard is shewn; but the guilty combine for mutual exemption from punishment.” Such was the selfish wisdom of Vinius: But his wisdom proved weakness; for, by protecting the abhorred Tigellinus, he drew fresh abhorrence upon himself. The People, after Otho had succeeded, were so bent upon the execution of Tigellinus, that an uproar ensued, and many seditious clamours, till the sentence was passed for his doom, now over-late, as it was plainly forced, and therefore could claim no thanks. For, under Otho too, the same policy and corruption prevailing, justice against that monster was hardly procured.
Such confederacies between guilty men in power and guilty men out of power, are frequent and natural; and no man who is corrupt or intends to be, will care to join in punishing any man for corruption. Mucianus, the prime Confident of Vespasian, entertained the Senate with a long discourse in behalf of the Accusers. Yes, the Favourite of Vespasian, a Prince who prosessed to cure and remove the mischiefs of former tyranny, became an advocate for the Accusers, the sorest instruments of that tyranny. How consistent was this! and what hopes it must give the Senate and People of Rome of seeing better days? What came he for? If it was to save the Romans, why save their worst enemies? If he meant altogether to secure the Flock why so tender of the Wolves, unless he found wolfish inclinations in himself? What a comfortable reflection to the Public, that after myriads of men slain, after so many millions spent, after so many struggles and battles, and so much crying desolation, they were to have no change but that of names, and no Prince without oppressors! The Candidates for place and power are always bent upon public reformation, till they have an opportunity of making one, and then find it needless, or dangerous, or unseasonable. They are great enemies to oppression, till they are in a capacity of oppressing. Then, as their own guilt grows, they become very merciful to the guilty. This is the spirit of man, this the round of things. Great redresses are still wanted, still promised, still unperformed. Such Mockery is not new, and never will be old.
All wickedness is folly; nor can I recollect an instance where evil doings have not been followed by painful consequences to the doers. They were either disappointed, or found new difficulties, or met with infamy and mortification, or infecurity, or some grief and uneasiness after the iniquity, such as rendered the committing of it a greater affliction than pleasure. Neither in the fortune of Alexander, or Cæsar, or Mahomet, or of any other the most resplendent criminal against Truth, and Liberty, and Peace, is ought to be found to invalidate this reasoning. Even in their beloved pursuits of power, they could have no pure delight: Though they valued not the liberties and lives of men, yet as they valued their own security, and success, and fame, they must needs feel many inward struggles, many apprehensions and distrusts, many doubts about the issue, many anxieties for themselves, and their party and causea . If worthy pursuits also are often attended with evils, the testimony of a good conscience and of good men at least makes these evils the lighter.
However true or disputable these speculations be, it is certain that the Ministers of Galba, by their corrupt and selfish management, brought a bloody fate upon themselves as well as upon their Prince; a Prince who, from the integrity of his intention, merited a better, but from his blind reliance upon such wicked men could not reasonably hope for any other.
Galba’s blindness in trusting intirely to his Favourites, who by their wickedness blasted his reign, and their own hopes.
HAD Galba been blessed with good Counsellors, he would in all probability have proved an excellent Prince. He had many public and private virtues; he was temperate, frugal, free from ambition, an enemy to the insolence of the soldiery, and wished well to the Commonwealth. But what availed his good qualities, when he exercised them not? He himself robbed no man, but those under him robbed all men; and he, who should not have employed bad men, or at least should have restrained or punished them, incurred the same censure and blame as if he himself had done the evil, or authorized it. The People justly expect protection and paternal usage from their Prince, and where they find it not, will think the Prince answerable. Why does he undertake the Office? Why is he raised so high above others, and all men, but for the good of all? Why was Nero deposed, if things were not mended under Galba? Why a new Prince chosen, but for the ease of the Public after a reign of Violence and Tyranny? Vain is the change of men, where measures are not changedb .
Galba left the administration, he left his own fate and glory to his Favourites; and his Favourites sold him to dishonour, and a violent death, turned the State into a market and shambles; and whilst they were yet glutting their cruelty and avarice, the hand of vengeance overtook them, though it was reasonably judged that some of them had tried to secure a retreat, and had purposely betrayed Galba to merit favour from Otho. It is the way of such men: when they have foolishly or wantonly ruined their Master’s affairs, their last office to him is to revolt from him, and perhaps it proves the first instance of their dealing sincerely with him. But whether they really meditated treason or not, they were believed to have done it: Such was the public opinion of their vileness and falshood; and such always will be the general rule of judging, that from men notoriously wicked every sort and degree of wickedness will be apprehended.
It is worth observing here how short-sighted and imperfect was the ambition of these men, and how foolishly, as well as wickedly, they marred what they aimed at. Was it glory and power? By consulting and establishing those of their Master, they would have reaped an abundant share to themselves. Good men would have applauded and assisted them; bad men would have feared them: They would have had inward peace, perhaps protection, from their own good works, reverence from the public voice, and the praises of posterity. By the same honest means they might have acquired wealth, and ample fortunes, with the approbation of all men, and probably left it to the peaceable possession of their families. They had the largest opportunities for raising and establishing their name: They were the first Ministers in the great and opulent Empire of Rome, vested with the first dignities, and first in favour; and they served a Prince easy to his servants, too easy, one never disposed to check or change them.
As he came to the Empire with great expectation, and popular favour, had his administration proved steady and virtuous, all revolts might have been prevented, or, through his superior credit and strength, easily defeated, and he might have gone to his grave in peace and glory. Both his Rivals were in their persons extremely unpopular, both loathed for their vices, both desperately poor, neither of them esteemed in War, neither thought qualified for the arts of Peace, one a stupid Glutton, one an abandoned Debauchee. He himself had conducted Armies with renown, governed Provinces with integrity. His race was noble, his life innocent; he possessed great wealth, and was by all men esteemed capable and worthy of swaying the Sceptre. What more probable, than that his reign might have lasted peaceably as long as his life, had his reign been well conducted? where a fairer prospect for his Ministers than under himself? By betraying him they betrayed themselves: by ill serving him, they ruined themselves. What could they expect from Otho or Vitellius, but to be considered as real Traitors, or at best as corrupt and wretched Counsellors? the former always detested, the latter always despised, even by such as profit by them. Amurath the Turkish Emperor cut off the head of the Persian Governor who betrayed a City into his hands. Myr Mahmud dealt severely with those who had held a traiterous correspondence with him from Ispahan, declared their names infamous, their estates confiscated, and had them all put to death, and their carcasses thrown into the streets. Thus too the Emperor Maximin served Macedo who had prompted his bosom-friend Quartinus to revolt, and then slew him to make a merit with Maximin, who, for all his wicked merit, put him to death.
The infatuation of men in power; they generally rely upon it as never to end, and thence boldly follow the bent of their passions. Instances of this. Guilty Ministers how dangerous.
WHAT I have observed in the last Section was reasonable and obvious. But in the tumult of rampant passions, reason is not heard. Those Ministers were transported with the sudden change of their condition, and giddy with the direction of Imperial Power. The present temptation, the prevailing appetite was too strong to be resisted; and, without regard to consequences, to the Emperor’s honour and safety, to the public good, to their own infamy and danger, they blindly followed every impulse of concupiscence and revenge. Men in a torrent of prosperity seldom think of a day of distress, or great men, that their greatness will ever cease. This seems to be a sort of a curse upon power, a vanity and infatuation blended with the nature of it: as if it were possible, nay, easy, to bind the fickleness of fortune, and ensure happiness for a term of years. It is from this foolish assurance, often cleaving to very able men, that those in authority often act with such boldness and insolence, as if their reign were never to end, and they were for ever secure against all after-reckonings, all casualities and disgrace. From whence else comes it, but from such blind security in the permanence of their condition, and in the impunity of their actions, that Ministers have sometimes concerted schemes of general oppression and pillage, schemes to depreciate or evade the Laws, restraints upon Liberty, and projects for arbitrary Rule? Had they thought that ever they themselves should suffer in the common oppression, Would they have advised methods of oppressing? Would they have been for weakening or abrogating the Laws, had they dreamed that they should come to want the protection of Law? Would they have aimed at abolishing Liberty, had they apprehended that they were at any time to fall from power; or at establishing despotic Rule, but for the sake of having the direction of it against others, without feeling its weight and terrors in their own particulars?
A great man near an hundred years ago is changed with having contrived such a model of government for one of our English Kings, as was intirely arbitrary and Turkish, a model deliberately digested in writing. Such a monstrous change of mind had ensued the change of his condition: Formerly he had breathed a very different and opposite spirit, and asserted Liberty with uncommon zeal: It was when he came to sway the State that he altered his stile; which it is probable he would not have altered, had he not imagined that his sway was to have no end. He lived to see it at an end. He, who had but too lightly esteemed Laws and Liberty, and the Lives of men, was bereft of Liberty and Life in a manner contrary to the forms of Law; and as he had promoted lawless and unaccountable power, he fell by an effort of power, unusual and extraordinary. A wicked Minister, who declared in a succeeding reign, that he hoped to see the King’s Edicts (that is, his absolute will and humour) have the force of Laws, and pass for Laws, made this declaration in plenitude of favour, which, as he meant not by any virtue of his to lose, he hoped never to forfeit; made it at a time when his head would have been employed in framing such Edicts. When afterwards he was abandoned to disgrace, I trust he had different sentiments about kingly power, and perhaps would not willingly have seen his life and estate taken away by a proclamation.
Such a reverse in the fortunes of men, especially of great men, who depend upon the caprice, and whim, and breath of another, were easy to be imagined, did not self-love darken the understanding. The greatest men, nay, the wisest men, when they are blind, are exceeding blind. How few of them have provided against an evil day! How few secured themselves a resource of friendship and affection from the Public, in case of a storm at Court, and the frowns of a Crown! nay, what some of them have done to serve the Crown against the People, has been a motive with the Crown (and a politic motive, though not always a just one, at least not generous) to sacrifice them to the pleasure and revenge of the People. Thus Cæsar Borgia used Romiro D’Orco, Governor of Romagna, one first employed to commit cruelties, then executed for having committed them; and thus the Great Turk often uses his Bashaws.
To return to Galba; no Prince was ever more unhappy in his Favourites: They were very wicked, very guilty men; nor can any Prince, who entertains such, be happy or secure. Mr. Selden, discoursing of Edward II. and his Minions, says, “Thus Favourites, instead of cement between Prince and People, becoming rocks of offence, bring ruin sometimes to all, but always to themselves.” Those of Galba had but their deserts: Their Master merited a better fate, and chiefly through their guilt his blood was shed. Great guilt in Ministers is threatening to a Prince. When they can no longer support their Master, nor their Master them, their next course will probably be to desert him, or to rebel against him. As by their wicked administration they had betrayed his interest and dignity, destroyed his reputation, the dearest interest which a Prince can have, incensed and estranged the minds of his people, who are the surest support which a Prince can rely on, it is by no means unnatural, if at last they destroy him whom they had already undone. I shall hereafter prove this by many examples.
Weak and evil Princes rarely profit by able Ministers; they like flatterers better: These frustrate the good advice of others.
EVEN when these Roman Emperors happened to have good Ministers, they rarely made any good use of them, but followed the advice of others and worse: For with bad they were always provided. Hence it is, that as a weak or an evil Prince seldom has good counsel, he is seldom the better for it when he has. Suetonius Paulinus and Marius Celsus were able men, and probably would have made the cause of Otho triumphant, had Otho pursued their counsels. But about all such Princes, for one honest or able man, there will be many foolish and base, and it is great odds but these have much more influence and weight; as they are more forward and impudent, more positive and sanguine, more prone to flatter him, and assure him of success (a method which goes great lengths with Princes); and, as they are worse judges of measures, less concerned about events. Perhaps too they have already made, or mean to make terms for themselves, whatever becomes of their Master. So Cæcina came to desert Vitellius, and to espouse the cause of Vespasian, when he was assured that the merits of his treason would be rewarded by the latter. Perhaps they are bent upon the ruin of some Rival at Court, For this has also happened, that men have betrayed their own cause out of pique to some particular Leader in it; Armies have been often suffered, by one of the Commanders, to be cut to pieces, purely to bring disgrace upon the other, and Laco, Captain of the guards to Galba, even in the last struggle of his Prince for saving his life and Empire, opposed every counsel, however wholesome, which came from any one else, particularly from Titus Vinius.
Titianus, Otho’s brother, and Proculus, Captain of his guards, thwarted and frustrated every good advice, every rational project of Paulinus and Celsus, and as they were better flatterers, they were better heard. They were both very wicked men; Proculus particularly excelled in slander and whispering, and was an adroit Courtier. It was thus that this man, full of craft and injustice, came easily to surpass in credit all who were more righteous than himself. Otho, moreover, as well as these his Favourites, dreaded and distrusted every able man, relied chiefly upon talebearers, and made his chief court to the common soldiers. So did Vitellius, and so probably will most weak and guilty Princes. They dislike to see any man exceed them in prowess, and public estimation, or to possess the credit arising from address, good conduct, and military exploits. Nay, such of them as most eminently want Governors, are sometimes the most fearful of being governed. Lewis the thirteenth dreaded the great capacity of Cardinal Richelieu, and hated his person; as did Nero the person and authority of Seneca.
The danger of serving such Princes ill, is not greater than that of serving them over-well, nor perhaps so great: and many great Ministers and Generals have been ill used and undone for doing eminent service, and discharging their duty with applause; such as Caius Silius, Antonius Primus, and Gonsalo, the great Spanish Captain, under Ferdinand the Catholic. From this weakness and pride of theirs, they are sometimes prone of themselves to follow the advice of weak counsellors rather than of such as are able and sufficient, partly from jealousy of the latter, partly from an ambition of being thought to do notable things without them, and of reaping all the praise themselves, at least of seeing it reaped by such whose moderate ability and character gives them no umbrage.
Hence the signal miscarriages of Princes who have wise Ministers but neglect their wise advice. Nero was assisted, or might have been, by the counsels of Seneca and Burrus, and it was no fault of theirs that he proved a detestable Tyrant. What advice he took, was that of Sycophants, Debauchees, Pandars, of the worst and off-cast of humankind. These told him what an accomplished Prince he was, what ripeness of judgment he had, what maturity of years; and being no longer a child, it was high time for him to shake off his Tutor. For towards Seneca they bore notable rancour and antipathy, as was natural to such profligates who then swarmed at Court; and whilst he was there, he still proved some check to the brutal spirit of Nero; a thing which pleased not the Courtiers, nor Nero himself: For with such Princes flattery in their servants is more palatable and prevailing than virtue and ability.
How difficult it is for a worthy man to serve a bad Prince, and how dangerous.
IN like manner was Otho hurried through evil counsel and conduct into evil fortune, though served by such Leaders as Paulinus and Celsus. Such is the risque which an able and worthy man incurs by serving a weak Prince, even to have his good counsels rejected, and to bear the blame and discredit of evil counsels which he had disapproved. For upon the most signal Minister all the reproach will be apt to rest, and he must bear the infamy of the worst; nor perhaps will it be safe for him to disown the foolish and disastrous measures which he opposed, lest he thence cast a blemish upon his Master. Even some able Princes have looked with an evil eye upon the person and credit of an able Minister, and perhaps it is the fafest way of advising the best of them, to let the advice seem to come from themselves. Such is the slippery situation of good Ministers under Princes wise or weak; a situation not to be envied.
Otho miscarried; and as Paulinus and Celsus were thought his directors, they were likewise thought traitors: so infamous were the measures which he had pursued, and which they in truth had opposed. Yet afterwards Paulinus and Proculus meanly descended, for their own safety, to confess that they had contrived them purposely; and for favour from Vitellius pleaded the merit of having betrayed Otho. Vitellius too was vain enough to believe, that, out of pure regard for him, they had really stained themselves with such foul dishonour. It was shameful to own that they had, though they had not. But so differently do men construe actions done for them and against them, and so rare it is to find the bravest men completely brave, any more than the wisest men completely wise. The qualities of all men are limited, and subject to inconstancy; else such a man as Paulinus, who had so often ventured his life for glory, would never have studied to save it by infamy. It was, however, much less criminal to assume guilt, than to have earned it.
It must be owned, it required either very great virtue or very great folly to serve such Princes as some of these Emperors were; though it was cruel and unjust to betray them. By raising to the Diadem such men as Otho and Vitellius, it looked as if the design had been, not to find one fit to restore the Roman State, shaken, ravaged, and tyrannized by the bloody Nero, but to chuse one purely for his resemblance of that Monster, one as monstrous as he. They were both guilty of the same debauchery and excesses, both studied to imitate him, and to restore his name and honours; nay, divine honours were already paid solemnly to his Manes. It was even reckoned one of Otho’s qualifications for reigning, that in his manners he so neatly resembled Nero. For this the soldiers adored him; and for this the common people loved him, as they had Nero, and as the vulgar ever will any man who gratifies them with idleness, and the means of debauchery. What, for example, is more pernicious to a State, to public Virtue, to private Industry and Innocence, than rioting and idle holy-days? Yet what more dear to the populace than such debauched and riotous days, and the holy idle men who encourage them? I speak of Italy, and other Popish countries.
In serving such Princes, there was neither honour nor security to one’s self, nor benefit to the Public. Their chief delight was in feats of prodigality and voluptuousness, in Jesters, Pathics and Buffoons, and all the execrable retainers to Nero’s Court. They thought that the business of Sovereignty consisted in excesses and sensuality. Their measures of Government were to oppress and exhaust the State, to depress or destroy every good man, to countenance and employ the most profligate: Or, if they employed men of merit, they did it against their will, and the more they were obliged to such men, the more they hated them; as Vitellius did Junius Blæsus, a man nobly born, of a princely spirit, and equal fortune, one who served him generously, and at a vast expence furnished him with a princely train, which the great poverty of Vitellius could not yet afford: For all this he incurred the Emperor’s distaste, and was repaid in hollow flattery, and sincere hate. Who could chearfully serve a creature whom he could not help despising, and probably had cause to fear, one by whom he knew himself dreaded, perhaps hated?
Under wicked Princes, how natural and common it is to wish for a change. Their different treatment living and dead. In what a Prince is chiefly to confide.
DOUBTLESS all good men, all prudent men, all who wished the good of the Empire, the tranquillity of Rome, and security to themselves, had their eye upon a change. A better there might be, a worse there could not. All endeavours exerted in behalf of such rash, raging and polluted Tyrants, tended only to prolong public misery and disgrace, as well as the ruin and perils of particulars. They who served them with most applause, must expect distrust and ill usage in return, at best to be dismissed, perhaps to be destroyed, as was that glorious Commander Corbulo by Nero, and the illustrious Agricola thought to have been by Domitian. Men wicked and corrupt are always suspicious; and it was natural for them to dread and hate the best men for being the best. Nor could either Otho or Vitellius, with a good grace, complain of being deserted and betrayed. It was no more than they themselves had done to Galba, who confided in them whilst they were revolting from him.
Besides, such was their character with the Public and the public opinion concerning them, such the wrong measures which they took, such the weak and evil counsellors whom they followed, that it was manifest they could not stand. And when Princes begin to totter, the zeal of their adherents always begins to slacken. They who were the foremost to flatter them, are also foremost to censure them; and, as a Prince in power never fails to have merit and applause, a Prince who is fallen or falling, never wants faults and reproach. It was thus with Galba: How much zeal, how many warm professions did he find whilst he stood? How many upbraidings, how much contumely pursued him after he fell? It was thus with Otho, thus with Vitellius. They were adored and traduced, as fortune was seen to espouse them or to forsake them. And thus it will be with all Princes. It is seldom that they will hear truth, seldom that others will venture to tell it. They must therefore form a judgment of the opinion of the Public, and of their own stability, from their own actions and administration, from the character of the Ministers whom they employ, and of the measures which they pursue, and not from the sayings and soothings of those about them, nor from the shouts of a crowd, nor from the fidelity of their Generals. All these lights may be deceitful, and have deceived many. But a righteous conduct may be boldly trusted. At worst, who would not rather fall by it, than subsist by vileness and iniquity? He who falls through virtue is a gainer, whatever he loses; as he who gains by wickedness is certainly a loser, whatever he gains. Virtue is equivalent to all things, and the wages of wickedness are worse than nothing. Nor is this speculation only, and mere refining, but holds in practice, and the commerce of life.
Of competition amongst the Ministers of a Prince, and their corruption. The evil effects of indolence in a Prince.
Discord between Ministers, how fatal to their Masters.
THE strife and discord between the Ministers of a Prince, who wants authority to controul them, and capacity to make advantage of their difference, never fail to be of mischievous consequence. The Ministers of Galba were daily striving not to serve him, not to save the State, but to distress and disappoint one another. Between the Ministers of Vitellius the like enmity prevailed. He could do nothing without them, they did nothing but contend with one another; and by seeming partial to Valens he provoked Cæcina to hate him, and at last revolt from him. For Sabinus (Vespasian’s brother) knew his disgusts, and improved them; and by representing his unequal usage from Vitellius, drew him to embrace the party of Vespasian. Nor was this his desertion and infidelity a new or uncommon thing: It is the usual result of such competitions. When an ambitious man cannot engross the whole power and favour. he will renounce what he has, though ever so much, and concur with an enemy to pull down a rival. With such men the fear of public and avowed enemies is not so prevalent and alarming as that of a secret Competitor. Cardinal Mazarin was abhorred by the faction of the Frondeurs, yet concerted with them for the ruin of the Prince of Condé, even when the Frondeurs were offering the Prince their assistance to destroy the Cardinal, whom the Prince had protected from their vengeance. The Prince afterwards, in emulation to the Cardinal, called in the Spaniards, the natural enemies of France.
The vile and malicious Eunuchs, they who governed all things under Schah Hussein, Emperor of Persia (a few years since deposed by the Agvans) were more afraid of their own Generals, especially if they proved honest and able, than of these Barbarians and public enemies. They were therefore continually destroying every brave commander, and thence daily advancing the interest and conquests of the invaders. This will account for their hasty and amazing success. Yet after they had gained many Provinces, were ravaging the heart of the Empire, and advancing with terror and rapidity to besiege the Capital, the Emperor having appointed a faithful and experienced General, had regained most of the country, and was upon the point of retrieving all; till the Eunuchs, the execrable governing Eunuchs, set themselves, with all their might and malice, to ruin his preserver and the preserver of the State, because no man should have more credit than themselves. They effected their wicked purpose, and made that good-natured easy Prince believe, that his deliverer was his enemy, and they themselves his only vigilant guardians, whilst they were disgracing his Government, and overturning his Throne.
When an army was defeated, one faction at Court (for the wretched Eunuchs were always divided into two) never failed to rejoice; as the General being preferred by one faction, was always and certainly maligned by the other. The loss of Armies, the desolation of the Kingdom, the dishonour of their Royal Master, the miseries of the poor unoffending People, touched them not. They hated domestic rivals more than public enemies. There followed, or rather there attended such competition and misrule, an intire dissolution of government. No Magazines, no stores, no experienced officers; nothing fit for the field. Even when all was lost but the Capital, and that was besieged; when the sword was pressing them from without, fear and famine within, these merciless wretches forbore not to cabal against every effort for deliverance, because no man should have the glory of effecting it, and thence endanger or eclipse them.
An indolent Prince a ready prey to the falsest and worst of all men: These disgrace his Reign, and provoke his people. — Their amazing corruption.
WHEN a Prince neglects himself and his own credit, all men will be apt to neglect him: The worst men will be sure to gather about him, and then the best men cannot serve him. Schah Hussein had been served by able Ministers, brave Generals; but the Eunuchs disappointed all their endeavours, and often destroyed their fortunes and lives. Weak and indolent Princes always trust men too much or too little; and it behoves every Prince to be wary what sort of persons he entertains about him in any station, since all such, however low, will always have some degree of influence and be able to hurt him. If they cannot mislead him (which yet they will probably endeavour, probably accomplish) they can at least discredit him either by reviling him, or by behaving themselves corruptly, and thence bring a stain upon him. For a Prince always suffers by the ill behaviour and depravity of his servants, especially where they meddle in the distribution of favours or punishments.
Galba’s common domestics and even his slaves were considerable enough to dishonour the Sovereignty of their Master, because they were known to sell all places and all acts of grace. The Emperor, who should have considered the desert of particulars, should have considered their capacity and pretensions, as well as his own reputation and the justice of bestowing benefits worthily, neglected this useful and important duty, and left it to the administration of his domestics, who discharged it to his reproach and their own gain. With these mercenary and faithless knaves it availed not how much or how fast they disgraced, and consequently ruined their good old Master, provided they could by his indulgence and their own villainy acquire money: Though every step that they took to raise themselves in this dishonourable way, was a step taken to sink him, since in his fame and reputation, which they were thus polluting and pulling down, his best strength lay.
Indeed it never fails to sour and provoke the People, People of all ranks, when they see underlings and upstarts, perhaps vagabonds and strangers, rise, by the mere countenance and indolence of a Prince, into pomp and wealth; see his Butler or his Barber possessed of fortune sufficient for the qualifications of many Senators. If upon themselves only they brought public odium, it were of little moment; but by such infamous gain they bring infamy upon their Patron and their Prince, not to mention the just resentment of all such whose reasonable pretensions are thus defeated. So considerable is the evil and danger to a Prince in having venal minds about him. Galba was as much undone by the corruption of his servants, as by the corruption and violence of the soldiers.
To the Emperor Schah Hussein there was no access but through the favour of the Eunuchs, nor any merit considered by them but that of money. These filthy slaves sold the royal protection, sold the royal favours to the best bidder, and made public traffic of public employments and justice. Hence all emulation in merit was extinguished, where no sufficiency, no virtue was regarded. Hence also public oppression, with private extortion and rapine, in all forms; since they who had exhausted themselves to purchase places, were forced to exercise all sorts of villainy and spoil to repay themselves, and to feed their insatiable Patrons the Eunuchs with continual bribes for protection and impunity. Thus all Persia groaned under depredations and licensed spoilers. Formerly no thefts or robberies were known amongst them, because the Governors of the places and provinces were answerable for the damage, and took special care to prevent it. But under Schah Hussein robbery was common, and even encouraged, because the Governors had a share, or, in civiller words, a perquisite. Nor had they ought to fear from justice, for none was stirring. As long as they had prudence and a purse to fee the Eunuchs, they might spoil and ravage without mercy or shame. He must be a very simple knave, unworthy to be an oppressor, who would not resign a part to save himself and the whole.
The Eunuchs, the most barbarous bloodsuckers that Persia had ever seen, were, forsooth, such enemies to blood, that they taught the Emperor a cruel piece of false mercy, that of putting no man to death for any crime whatsoever. Thus these pious deceivers secured themselves. Then by their advice he turned all punishments into pecuniary mulcts; but, as his conscience scrupled to receive amercements for sin and crimes, they who taught his conscience this tender lesson for their own good, had the fingering of all these fines. Thus these gentle hypocrites enriched themselves.
The public Tax in Persia was fixed and certain, and every town paid yearly such a limited and constant sum. This the Governors could not alter: But as the mulcts for offences are arbitrary, they were discovering perpetual offences and raising perpetual fines, and thus pillaged the people of sums mighty and uncertain. They used by these money-penalties to levy at once six times more upon some towns than these towns paid to the public Tax in a whole year. Even by the Governor of Isaphan, the capital of the Empire, and seat of Government, thieves and robbers were put to ransom. Such as had not robbed sufficiently to satisfy him and gain his favour and a release, were kept in jayl, yet let out at nights to rob again and again; and by their last robberies they cleared themselves of punishment for all the former.
The Reign of an indolent Prince, how destructive it may prove, however harmless the man. Into what contempt he falls.
NOW whence all the abovementioned crying injustice, whence this absence of all equal protection and depravation of all Law in Persia; whence all this anarchy and spoil of the greater over the smaller, this general and rampant iniquity, this sacrifice and oppression of innocence? Came it not all from one root, the baseness and corruption of those about the Throne, and the weakness of him upon it? Schah Hussein was a Prince of infinite good nature, full of generosity, full of mercy and compassion; his mind of that delicacy and tenderness, that he was startled and alarmed upon haveing shot a Duck in one of his canals, when he meant only to have frightened her. He thought himself polluted with blood, and for expiation had recourse to acts of devotion and alms-deeds. For he had likewise a world of religion; so much religion, that when fire had seized the great Hall of the Palace, full of wealth and rich furniture, he would not suffer it to be extinguished, for fear of opposing the decrees of Providence. He gave immense Charities, built Monasteries, endowed Hospitals, performed long Pilgrimages, one Pilgrimage of six hundred miles.
Now what availed his good-nature, what his compassion or his religion? He would not hurt a Duck, but suffered his Subjects to be pillaged and undone, brought war and desolation upon his Country. The poor man saw the Duck killed, but saw not the oppressions of his people, nor heard their cries. He seemed to have no other Kingdom or care than his Seraglio. The Ladies there, not his Subjects, had all his time and benevolence; and the Governor of a City or Province was sure to please him, if he sent him a fine Woman! No matter how that Governor used or abused the People. About this Schah Hussein made no enquiry: If he had, his faithful advisers the Eunuchs were beforehand retained to make a favourable answer. In truth, these indulgent Tutors of his, had consulted his ease so much in withdrawing him from all the cares and fatigues of Government, by assuming the whole of that painful task to themselves, that he seemed not to believe himself interested in the concerns or fate of his own Empire. When he was told that the public enemy approached to Isaphan; he said, “It was the business of the Ministers to look to that; they had armies ready. For his part, if his Palace at Farabath were but left him, he should be content.” Into what insensibility, what weakness, and, therefore, into what contempt, had this poor harmless Prince brought himself, by trusting blindly to selfish seducers.
Than a Prince, or a State, or great Man fallen into contempt, nothing is more contemptible, nothing is more insecure. This, I think, is an observation of Livy. Even that religious or rather superstitious turn, with which these designing hypocrites had bewitched Schah Hussein, the better to govern their Dupe by such ghostly fears, was of pernicious consequence to his People. In one long pilgrimage which he took, to visit the tomb of a Saint, as he travelled accompanied with all his Seraglio and a guard of sixty thousand men, he oppressed and ruined all the Provinces through which he passed, and wasted more treasure than would have served for many expeditions against the invaders of Persia.
A Prince who neglects his affairs will always be contemned, and from the moment he is contemned, he ceases to be secure. People will be turning their eyes and minds towards a Successor, growing impatient for a change, and perhaps be ready to make one. At best, though they may wish him well, they cannot esteem him. What esteem could the Public entertain for Philip the fourth of Spain, when they saw him marching to defend his Kingdom against the French, accompanied, not with a number of Officers, but with a troop of Comedians. For such had been the contrivance of the Count Duke Olivares, to keep him from marching too fast, and from meddling with affairs, and seeing public mismanagements. What wonder if the affairs of that Prince were so loosely conducted, if his designs miscarried, and that great Monarchy, for so long a time, made so small a figure, when the Monarch himself was resigned to absolute indolence, and not he but his Favourites reigned? Small will be the credit of a Nation abroad, when the administration is loose or wretched at home, and small the regard for a Prince who exercises not the duty of one. Philip was a good man, but a bad King, as it is possible that a good King may be a bad man.
A Prince beset with evil Counsellors, how fast he improves in evil.
A PRINCE who is naturally weak, or, which is the same thing, has ability, but does not apply it, is always sure of being surrounded by the worst of all men, who will be flocking about him as eagerly as a party of robbers about a rich booty, and wil exert equal zeal to keep far from him all such who are not so bad as themselves. If they find him weak, they will make him wicked; if they find him wicked, they will make him worse. If they cannot make him directly cruel, they will at least make him idle, and idleness in a Prince is cruelty; since he who governs all men, ought to be more vigilant than all. A Prince who minds not affairs, let his intention be ever so good, is liable to be eternally abused and misled; for without experience, and examination, and attending to the course of things, he can form no judgment about them; but must trust altogether to the judgment and representation of others, and thence becomes their property and machine.
The most mischievous of all the Roman Emperors (and more mischievous the world never saw) were yet made worse by their Favourites and Flatterers. The cruelty of Tiberius was heightened by the bloody counsels of Sejanus; Macro promoted the monstrous excesses of Caligula; and the brutal Nero was made more brutal by the instigation of Tigellinus. Of all human vermin the worst are found in debauched Courts; and even a well-disposed Prince, if he be but credulous and lazy, can hardly escape being managed and corrupted by them, especially if he be addicted to pleasure. They will be continually laying baits for him, devising new scenes of voluptuousness, and keeping him immersed in sensuality.
The Emperor Commodus was carefully educated by several learned men placed about him by his father the excellent Marcus Aurelius, who at his death left him in the hands of his own ancient friends and worthy Ministers. But he soon became weary of virtuous Men, became soon corrupted by Flatterers and debauched Courtiers, abandoned the duty of an Emperor, and surrendered himself to ease and luxury. In this course he was encouraged by his reigning Favourites, particularly by Cleander, who, whilst he was sunk in voluptuousness, studied to destroy him, and set up himself. Sejanus too, from managing the whole business of the Empire, found himself in a condition of aspiring to be Emperor.
When a Prince runs thus, like Commodus, into these dangers (though they were dangers of his own making, and arose from his mismanagement and folly) they sour his spirit, make him distrustful of all men, and thence mischievous and cruel to all. Thus from purposes perhaps harmless at first, he becomes at last a Tyrant. This was the fate and character of Commodus, who in the beginning chiefly attended to pleasure: This withdrew him from Government and the business of a Prince: Others ruled; he grew despised: Conspiracies were formed against him: These incensed him; and from being an idle voluptuary, he commenced a bloody Tyrant. He greedily hearkened to all slanders, all defamations; thought all men wicked; contracted fierce enmity to every thing that was good; abhorred and banished from his presence all men who had virtue or wisdom, as men ill sorting with his reign and genius and degenerated into a devouring savage; would see none about him but Buffoons, Pimps, Pandars, Gladiators and Charioteers, wretches as polluted as himself, and so vile as to give him no umbrage; and set himself, to butcher and destroy all who were obnoxious to him or them. Hence he grew further detested, and found that he was; and thence his fresh sallies of Fury and Tyranny. Such is the gradation, and so naturally does evil beget and multiply evil!
Of public Frugality.
The Prodigality of the Emperors; its terrible consequences to the Public, namely, Tyranny, Murders and Oppression.
AMONGST all the weaknesses, vices, and excesses of the Roman Emperors who involved themselves and the Empire in calamities, none contributed more to their own ruin and that of the State, than their Profuseness and Prodigality. And upon all Princes and Courtries in the world the same conduct will have the same effect. “If by popular or vain-glorious bounties we exhaust the Exchequer, by rapine and oppressions we must supply it;” said Tiberius very wisely. It was what his mad Successor did; he wasted the publick money, then robbed and murdered to get more. This was the course of almost all the succeeding Princes, of Caligula, Nero, Otho, Vitellius, Domitian, Commodus, &c. And this the continual cause of lawless oppression and killing. In taxing the People and arraigning particular men, it was not justice or guilt that were considered, but how much money could be acquired. So that wealthy men were always guilty, extravagance and murder succeeded one another naturally, a man who had a great Fortune rarely escaped being a great Traitor, and with his Life he always forfeited his Estate. Oftentimes rich men were put to death without any form at all, but only by a short direction from the Emperor to kill them, and seize all that they had. And Nero, whenever he bestowed any public Office, always told the person; “Thou knowest what my wants require: let our joint endeavours be, that no man possess any thing.”
These Tyrants first brought themselves into necessities by monstrous wastefulness and dissipation, then let loose their bloodhounds to spoil and destroy men and countries for a supply. Nero declared, that he knew no other use of Treasure but to scatter it, and thought the calculation of expence (without which neither the Public nor particulars can subsist) a task only worthy of misers and mean souls; but esteemed such who knew how to lavish and confound, as spirits altogether polite and magnificent. Nor did he admire and applaud his uncle Caligula for any of his execrable exploits, so much as for his consuming, in so short a time, such an immense Treasure left in the Exchequer by Tiberius; that is to say, above one and twenty millions of our money in less than a year. He indeed closely followed the great example, insomuch that he plundered and squandered almost all that that mighty Empire could yield him. He robbed and exhausted Nations, Cities, Churches, and all degrees of men, not only of money and land, but of furniture, pictures and ornaments. From wanting, he proceeded to plundering and killing. So had his pattern and predecessor Caligula, who had at last descended to keep public Stews for money, whither all men were invited to encourage the Emperor, and promote his trade. He likewise kept a public warehouse for the sale of confiscated goods, which he put upon his customers at his own price. Domitian too, when by every wild expence he had drained the Treasury, and involved himself in great straights, had recourse to every expedient, every trick of rapine and spoiling, and to unlimited butchery.
What else could be expected, after such incredible waste, but proportionable barbarity and plunder? Nero had squandered away above seventeen millions, in mad bounties; Vitellius, in a few months, consumed more than seven millions, chiefly in feats of voluptuousness and gluttony. Caligula in one supper spent near eighty thousand pounds, and upon his favourite horse bestowed a stable furnished with ivory and solid gold, besides a great houshold and train. Nero entertained Tiridates in Rome, at the expence of above six thousand pounds a day; and when he went away, presented him with the sum of near eight hundred thousand pounds. To Menecrates the Harper, and to Spicillus the Fencer, he gave the Palaces and patrimonial Estates of noble Romans, even those of the first dignity, such as had been distinguished with triumphal honours. Nor, after this, was it a wonder to see his Lady Poppæa drawn by Mules covered with harnesses of Gold, or bathing herself daily in the warm milk of five hundred she-asses, such as had lately foaled.
The revenue of the world was not equal to the expence and luxury of these Imperial Vultures, frantic with power and elevation. No matter for the misery, the want and beggary of humankind, so these profligates, the worst of the race, might but riot with their vile train of Pandars, Sycophants, Harlots, Buffoons and Informers about them; for in such only they delighted. Nations must be drained of their whole wealth and best blood, to furnish out a debauch for the chief Cannibal and his crew. To pamper a few such as were the curse and disgrace of nature, all the rest were obliged to languish, to sorrow, and to perish. Whenever a new fund was wanted, to carry on the course of voluptuousness and prodigality, it was only laying a heavy Tax upon the miserable People already undone by Taxes, or murdering and confiscating a number of men guilty of being rich, sometimes forty at once.
Only the worst men share in the bounties of an extravagant ‘Prince, and carefully seclude the best — How ruinous his extravagance to himself and the State.
IN the bounties of a prodigal Prince the worst men always share, as by it all the rest are sufferers. Such as really deserve it, are seldom the better for it. The vitious, the idle, the impudent and the false, will naturally flock about him, and be vigilant to keep far from him whatever bears the dangerous marks of honesty, truth, or modesty. Terrible Rivals these to the Minions of Power, and never to be suffered to approach, at least not to be heard when they do. When the poor unfortunate Vitellius, not more unhappy in his own folly than in the falshood and corruption of his Confidents, was undoing himself by precipitate counsel, such of his officers as would have dealt faithfully with him, and advised him profitably, were debarred by the Minions, who had in truth so moulded his soft and simple spirit, that he would hear nothing but what was pleasing and pernicious, and disrelished every honest truth, as unsavoury and bitter. An honest Centurion who honourably ventured to acquaint him with his condition, with the strength and victory of his enemies, with his own weakness and loss, was reviled by him as a Traitor; usage which so incensed the brave man, that, as a proof of his sincerity, he went and slew himself.
Who were they that reaped all the enormous gifts of the Roman Emperors? Who but Fencers, Fidlers, Jesters, Prostitutes, Voluptuaries, Procurers and Accusers, Creatures at once the most wasteful and rapacious, the pests and dishonour of Society and of the Court, but with the Emperors chief Favourites and privy Counsellors. The Government of Vitellius was chiefly conducted by the vilest Mimics and Chariot-drivers; but especially by Asiaticus, his Freed-slave: This last was his Pathic, or Male-Mistress, reckoned one of the richest men in the Empire, and the greatest rogue.
“The followers to a King excessive in gifts, are excessive in demands, and cut them not out by reason, but by example,” says Sir Robert Cotton: “Favours past are not accounted. We love no favours but what are future.” Some of these observations he has taken from Montagne. He adds, that “the more a Prince weakeneth himself in giving, the poorer he is in friends. For such prodigality in a Sovereign ever ends in the rapine of his Subjects.” He instances in Henry the Third. This King, so prodigal and bountiful, was forced to sell his Lands, sell his Jewels, pawn his Countries abroad, nay, his Imperial Crown, and even to rob the Shrine of Edward the Confessor. At last he had not bread for his family, was driven to quit house-keeping, and went about with his Queen and Children, from Abbey to Abbey, humbly seeking victuals and lodging.
A lamentable situation for a King or a Man; yet he deserved no other, and indeed run into it by his great obstinacy, perjury and tyranny. He had sealed, he had signed, and solemnly sworn to observe the great Charter, with many terrible execrations upon himself, or any other that broke it. Yet he afterwards broke it openly, bid open defiance to all Oaths, all Charters and Laws, had recourse to avowed Oppression, called in foreign Counsellors and foreign Guards, became an Enemy to his People and a public Spoiler. But from all his spoiling and oppressing, he gained nothing in the end but the just recompence of such enormous measures, shame and distrust, scorn and beggary. Yet again his Oath was taken, again he swore to observe the great Charter, and was once more reinstated and supplied. But, faithless still, and despising the ties of conscience for the mischievous possession of unjust power, he once more ventured his own Damnation and a War upon his People. It must be owned, he grew wiser near his latter end, and after he had governed fifty years, began to learn from many efforts, many trials and revolutions, after much distress and disgrace, that his greatest power, his greatest safety, consisted in ruling righteously, in obeying the Laws, and using his People well.
“His immoderate liberality, says Sir Robert, he had found but a weak means to win love; but it lost more in gathering, than it gained in the giving. This Bounty bestowed without respect, was taken without grace, discredited the Receiver, detracted from the judgment of the Giver, and blunted the appetites of such as carried their hopes out of virtue and service.” — He that will “lay the foundations of greatness upon popular love, must give the People ease and justice. For they measure the bond of their obedience always by the good that they receive.”
The waste of public Money, its tendency to produce popular Commotions and civil War. — How much men love themselves better than the Public. — Such waste seldom answers any end.
WHENCE began the civil War in Paris, during the minority of Lewis the fourteenth, but from the extreme exactions and oppressions practised to supply the treasury, exhausted by prodigality, and by bounties and pensions to particulars? For the Queen and the Cardinal, to recommend their administration, and strengthen themselves with friends, refused nothing, gave the public money with both hands, and by gratifying Creatures made the People mad. For the poor People must ever pay all, even for their own undoing. It may not be amiss to observe here, that, whilst the People, only were oppressed, the sovereign Courts made no opposition: But as soon as they themselves began to be cramped and squeezed, they presently grew public-spirited, and combined to make a great stand. Thence the famous Arrêt of Union of all the Parliaments. Yet the Parliament of Paris, though acting from such narrow and selfish motives, was thought the refuge of the distressed, and adored by the People, who, unless misled by some false friend, or by some superior passion, are always and naturally grateful.
This behaviour of the Parliament of Paris reminds me of a man who had a place in the Exchequer during our own civil War. The man was a good Cavalier, a great lover of Church and Monarchy. He had an affection for the cause and person of the King, and was concerned for his misfortunes. But whatever befell his Majesty and the Royal Interest, or that of the Church, which were both daily sinking, the good man, though very sorry, still kept his temper and his place, still preached patience and acquiescence to his friends. He saw all the calamities of his Royal Master, saw him taken, imprisoned, hardly used, tried, nay, his head cut off, saw Monarchy it self and Episcopacy utterly abolished: He disliked all this indeed, but bore it all. He was still for submitting to the Powers that were, though he approved them not. At last the Parliament did a thing which effectually set fire to his zeal, by going about to regulate and retrench the Fees of the Exchequer. He then declared, “That if they were for striking at Fundamentals, it was high time for all honest men to look about them.”
No bribe, no liberality can secure men void of natural honour and virtue. Many of those who had been most highly favoured by Princes, and most beholden to their liberality, were the first to desert them, and to turn against them. Many have thought the advantages given them to be no more than what were already due to their merit, and therefore no ties upon them to future service. Besides, many will be bribed and engaged to go certain lengths, but not all. And such largesses, such officious application to men by the means of money, will be apt to pass for an argument of the weakness of the Administration, and the fears of those in Power; and then the Government will be dispised, and the Leeches still craving for more. Or it will be judged that the Court hath evil and dangerous designs; and then too the price will be raised by some; others will quite fall off. Many of all these sorts quite deserted the Queen and the Cardinal; and of such as remained, few were cordial and determined, whatever they appeared.
The wisdom of Parsimony in a Prince ---- The certain distress and disgrace of such as are prodigal.
PRINCES should consider themselves as only Stewards of the public Purse, and what a breach of trust it is, what a breach of honour, nay, how cruel and criminal, to apply the People’s money otherwise than for the People’s benefit, much more to waste it wantonly, or bestow it upon Idlers, Flatterers and Debauchees. I am pleased with the frugality and public spirit of Omar, the second Caliph after Mahomet. He had a jewel of great price sent him, as a present from the Greek Emperor Heraclius, and sold it. His friends advised him to keep it for himself. But Omar said, he could not answer that to the Public. In proportion to this his public frugality, was the steadiness and credit of his Government; and in dealing with particulars, he was equally just and judicious.
Very different were the measures of Othman, the next Caliph, different his reputation and fate. He was partial and profuse to his Creatures, employed them however unqualified, removed the best Officers in the State to make room for them, and upon them wasted the public Treasure, which his predecessors owned to belong to the Public. But Othman said that it was God’s, and that he who was successor to the Apostle of God, had a right to dispose of it as he pleased. It is probable that his Minions and Flatterers, they who gained by his mismanagement and prodigality, had been filling his weak head with wild dreams of his Prerogative and Divine Right, for which doubtless these pernicious hypocrites appeared very zealous. It was what others have done since; that is, they have often so infatuated a Prince with a divine right of doing whatever he pleased, (that is, a power from the good God to be mischievous to men) that he has perished in making the experiment. In which the Almighty did but vindicate his goodness from such a blasphemous imputation, and give these seducers the lye.
Aprofuse Administration is always loose, disrespected and tottering: That of Othman was eminently so, and ended tragically. Public discontents and resentments, popular remonstrances and insurrections, were the natural effects of his misrule. As he had sacrificed all things to his Creatures, and regarded his Family more than the Public; it was no wonder that the People, who were not regarded by him, grew weary of him; no wonder that they were enraged at such a scandalous diffipation of the public money to feed worthless Favourites. And when the People whom he had provoked, had taken up arms against him, could his Favourites, whom he had so dearly purchased, protect him? No: The poor man, having lost all esteem and the hearts of his subjects, was left helpless and forlorn, and butchered in his house with the Alcoran in his lap. For Othman was very devout, and perhaps saying his prayers, when his Secretary was using his name and seal to the destruction of his best subjects, and servants; a practice usual with the Secretary.
Henry the third of France was a most lavish Prince, and according to the measure of his lavishness were his exactions and rapine. He was so buried in riot and sensuality, and his subjects so drained and pillaged, as to have it said of him, that only by his daily and heavy oppressions, they knew him to be alive. Could a more infamous thing be said of a King, one whose duty it is to be daily employed in contriving how to ease and benefit his People? He made a very different use of Sovereignty, and robbed them without mercy to satiate his Minions and his Vice: As if Royalty were only pomp and luxury, and Princes only for themselves.
He reaped the just fruits of such extreme wickedness and folly; and suffered sorely for having made his People suffer. By his prodigality and the barbarous methods which he took to supply it, he drove them to despair; and as the first part of his reign had been wanton and oppressive, the latter part of it was miserable and distressed. He never could recover the esteem and affections of his subjects; so that ambitious men, taking advantage of the scorn and hate borne him by almost all men, hunted him to his grave; and he who had been a man of blood, died in blood. Yet this unhappy Prince had many good qualities, and some great ones. But he was easy and profuse, and thence the property of Sycophants, Minions and Monks, and to his People a very great Tyrant.
His father too had a fine disposition and fine endowments, but his reign was grievous and intolerable; because he was profuse, and therefore rapacious. He loaded his Kingdom with heavy impositions, such as were unknown before, yet all too little to gorge a few Favourites. So that besides the general grinding of the poor people, the rich must be brought under forfeitures, and their estates given to the Leeches about the King. To accomplish this, Laws were stretched or trod under foot, evidence forged, witnesses suborned, and every execrable Court-art tried to destroy the innocent, on purpose to enrich wretches bloated with guilt and crimes. Heresy was one fruitful pretence for worrying and robbing the wealthy, that the Minions might have their spoils. To be innocent was of no availment; nor had any man, marked out for a victim, other remedy than that of redeeming his life and estate by a large price given to the Minions for their interposition with the King, who, for the sake of such blood-thirsty serpents, was become the enemy and spoiler of his People.
The Dutchess of Valentinois, a wicked woman who governed this King and misled him, glutted her self with confiscations; especially those of the Hugonots. He himself the while was necessitous, his Government weak, and full of miscarriages and dishonour. He had spent a large Treasure left him by his father, devoured the substance of his People, seized many Estates, was forty millions in debt, yet the Kingdom not defended, nor his Dominions preserved intire, but on all hands lost and dismembereda .
Such a curse upon a King are venal and voracious Favourites: Such a curse upon the People, is a King governed by them. They never fail to bring misery and desolation upon his People, and upon him necessity and dishonour: Perhaps he escapes not so. A violent death, which shortened the days of that Prince, leaves us only room to conjecture what events his measures might have produced, had he continued them, and his reign been longer.
Public Frugality and public Profusion compared in their effects. ---- Princes brought by extravagance into distress have no resource in the hearts and purses of the People.
PARSIMONIA magnum est vectigal. It is not great Revenue, but great Frugality, that creates plenty, nor a small income, but want of thrift, that brings poverty. Francis the first with a few Taxes was rich, though always in war: Such was the force of good management, that this alone sufficed for so many demands, so many expences. His Successors with numerous Taxes were poor even in peace. Francis was so apprized of the sufficiency of the public Revenue even then, that he advised his son Henry the second to ease the People, and abolish some of the Imposts, especially such as were laid on to support the War. We see how well he profited by such good counsel.
When Princes, who by extravagance and mismanagement are distressed in their Finances, come to be pressed by any public exigency, by disorders at home or war abroad (and to such exigences such Princes will be ever most obnoxious) they then find, perhaps too late, the folly and wickedness of their ill œconomy. The People whom they have provoked and abused will not help them, or, being already impoverished, cannot. Will they then have recourse to their Minions for help to defend their Crown and Dignity, and to repulse an Invader? Nero in the midst of his sports and profusion never had thought of a day of distress, or that he should ever be obliged to ask the Romans for money, and be refused: But he lived to see that day, to find wants, and none to supply them. When the Provinces and Armies were revolting, and he judged an expedition in person necessary to reclaim them, he wanted a fund to set it on foot, and commanded all orders of men to bring in such a proportion of money. But almost all men refused to contribute any thing, and, with common consent, desired, that he would rather recall all the monstrous sums which he had bestowed upon his creatures and implements, the Informers and Accusers. It was a just and a bitter return made to the deadly Tyrant.
Afrugal administration of the public Treasure is a sign of a well-governed State, which can never be well governed where the public Treasure is wasted and misapplied. To the honour of Queen Elizabeth’s reign it was said, (and to her honour too much never can be said) that in her Court Majesty and Thrift strove for pre-eminence: No Prodigality, no Meanness: No Hardships upon the People; no Resentment upon the Queen. She never had oppressed nor drained her People: No wonder she had their hearts, which Mr. Osborne calls, very truly, the Paradise of a Prince.
Her Successor, who was always lavish, was always in wants, and ever hunting after new resources for money; nor did he refuse any that were offered, however heavy, however scandalous. Hence so many Combinations and Monopolies, to the ruin of Trade, and the affliction of the Subject, so many vexatious Prosecutions, so many excessive and arbitrary Fines. The Bloodsuckers about him were continually preying upon him, and forcing him to prey upon the Public. Profuseness created want, and want, which tempts private men to be knaves, makes public men oppressors. All his regular Revenue, all the supplies which he had from Parliaments, with all the advantages which arose from many mean devices, many oppressive tricks to get money, were hardly sufficient to raise and support Favourites, Upstarts, Panders and Voluptuaries.
Could the Public like such an Administration, or honour him? He was accounted at best but a King in Law, not established upon the affections of his People. It was reckoned that his Minions cost England more than Queen Elizabeth had spent in all her Wars. He was fond of all new ways of raising money and squeezing his People, fond of all Forfeitures and Consiscations; affronted his Parliament, so that they cared not to oblige him; deceived them, so that they would no longer trust him; denied their reasonable demands, or granted and then eluded them; descended to all low shifts, and was at last thought unworthy of all confidence, submitted to have the money granted by Parliament deposited in the hands of Commissioners appointed by Parliament, yet afterwards forced it from these Commissioners against all faith and honour solemnly plighted.
A Prince must be extremely despised of whom it could be said, as it was of him, “That he had no designs to hurt any people but his own; and was severe against Deer-stealers, but indulgent to Man-slayers,” since no murder was punished when the murderer had money. In return for all his Prodigality, Falshood and Oppression, he was scorned, hated, and lived in constant uneasiness and distress. In his reign began those discontents which afterwards involved the Nation in the long Civil War.
The greatest Revenues insufficient under ill management----How grievous this to the People, how baneful to the State. The true Liberality of a Prince, what. The vile spirit of flattering Casuists.
NO Revenue whatever is large enough to bear constant embezzlement. The wealth of the new World, the mines of Mexico and Peru, possessed by the Spaniards, could not keep their great Monarchy from scandalous poverty during a long course of years in the late reigns; because the Finances were miserably managed, lavished in misapplications and enormous Pensions, and diverted from the service of the State. By this means, in a great measure, that proud Monarchy, which had aimed at being universal, was become so impotent and helpless, that, far from conquering other countries, she could not defend her own, saw some of her most considerable territories torn from her, and had it not been for some of her neighbours, even such as she had formerly aimed at swallowing up, but now, for their own preservation, obliged to protect that their ancient enemy, she herself had followed the fortune of her Frontiers, and been the sport and purchase of a Conqueror. A few Provinces once her own, not very large, but very frugal, as they had at first beaten her in her best days, assisted her in her worst, and, in the greatness of their fleets and armies employed in her defence, quite surpassed her, as well as in promptness and capacity to fit them out. Can there be a greater instance of the different effects of management and mismanagement?
Under the Ministry of Cardinal Mazarin, during the minority of Lewis the fourteenth, when money was wanted from the Finances for the service of the State, the Superintendents were wont to answer, “That there was none in the Treasury, but the Cardinal would lend the King some.” With honest management the King could not have been so destitute, nor the Cardinal so abounding. When the Emperor Claudius was once complaining of the poverty and emptiness of his Exchequer, it was pertinently observed, “That he might be abundantly rich, if his two governing Freedmen would admit him for a sharer with them.” Narcissus and Pallas were the two meant, they who studied nothing but to ravage and spoil with all their might: No matter what the Public paid; no matter what their Master wanted.
Lewis the fourteenth, who was extremely magnificent, that is, throwed away vast sums in pomp and vanity, when he heard of the great Confederacy forming against him, resolved to abridge his prodigious expence in building, gardens, jewels, &c. For that very year he had, in building only, spent fifteen millions. Nor could he hold his resolution to retrench, notwithstanding the public necessity so pressing, notwithstanding the private poverty so melancholy and affecting. He went on with Prodigality and Taxing. What the poor People had, he would not want; for his pity was by no means so extensive as his power.
To spare, to foster, and to enrich the People, is the true and chief Liberality of a Prince. Detestable is that Bounty which impoverishes all men. It was truly said of Otho, that greatly deceived were they with whom his profusion and extravagances passed, as he would have had them, under the name and guise of Generosity. The man might know how to waste and confound; but to the discreet and beneficent rules of liberality he must have been an utter stranger. I admire a saying of Henry the Great, (who, in truth, was a glorious Prince) that he hoped to see the time when the poorest man in France would be able to have a pullet in his pot; or words to that purpose. This shewed the true and paternal spirit of a King, such a spirit as every King ought to have, else I know no business he has with the Office. What has any King to do but to make the People happy? What have People to do with a King who makes them miserable? Yet, to the dishonour of some of our English Princes, they often claimed payment of the People, and had it, even for reasonable Laws and Concessions, and never parted with any lawless exactions without an Equivalent. They were paid for granting what it was unjust and infamous to deny.
I was out of countenance for a late Prince, one who affected the title of Great (in my opinion very preposterously) upon meeting somewhere with the following Story. He told a Mistress of his, what great peace of mind he had just received from his Confessor, to whom he had imparted his anxiety about his grinding and exhausting his People in so grievous a manner, and how readily the good man had removed all his scruples, by assuring him, that whatever they had was his own, and whatever was his own he might conscientiously take. She is said to have replied, very freely, but very justly; “And were you such a fool as to believe him?” Doubtless there was no slattery, no self-ends, nor view to favour and preferment in the State-Casuistry of this holy hard-hearted knave, who by the law of God could authorize Oppression, and sanctify the enormities of a Tyrant. Surely worse than no Religion is that Religion which extinguishes humanity and warrants barbarity; as wicked as Tyrants are, they who countenance Tyranny, and of all Sycophants such who cajole in the name of the Lord, are the most pestilent and odious.
When King James the first asked Bishop Neal, whether he might not take his People’s money without the ceremony and consent of Parliaments; the Bishop answered roundly, that he might. “God forbid, Sir, but you should: You are the breath of our nostrils.” By such cant, and the impious burlesque of Scripture, he would have warranted the overthrow of the Establishment, and let loose the King to rob his Subjects, contrary to the Duty of a King, contrary to his Coronation-oath, and against Law and the Constitution. Had the Law provided no punishment for such a poisonous parricide, such a declared enemy to Law and Liberty, and all men? To meditate the death of the King is justly made High Treason. The Bishop was for killing the Constitution. To such extreme wickedness and falshood it is probable this unhallowed pedant was led only out of regard to King James’s partiality to Episcopacy, and chiefly to his being the source of ecclesiastical preferments. I know not in what other sense he could be the breath of the Bishop’s nostril: Sure I am it would have been a very lying compliment out of the mouth of the People, had they been fleeced and spoiled against Law, as the good King desired, and the pious Bishop advised. This miserable consideration was to his narrow spirit superior to the felicity of human Society, the Laws of his Country, and all things.
The State of Athens was so sensible of the danger and mischief of embezzling or misapplying the public money, that to prevent it they made the following awful Law: “That whereas a thousand Talents were yearly assigned for the defence of Athens against foreign invasions; if any person presumed to lay out, or but proposed to lay out that money, or any part of it, on any other design, he should suffer death.” And, though by the Law of Athens no free Athenian could be put in bonds, yet such as had wasted or misapplied the public Treasure, were excepted and denied the benefit of it. Many other wise and severe precautions they took to secure the Revenue of their State, and by it the State itself. Nor can any State subsist in honour and security where havock is made in the Exchequer. A Nation as well as a Family may be undone by Profuseness.
Public Frugality advantageous to all; disliked only by a few.----Public Bounties ill bestowed, how dishonourable.
BY all those from whom a Prince takes nothing away, that is to say, by almost all men, he shall be accounted noble and beneficent, and reckoned close and penurious only by a few to whom he gives nothing, says Machiavel; and it is truly said. Let him therefore judge, whether it be not more just, prudent and profitable to oblige and caress his People, though he disgust some particulars, than to cherish and glut a few particulars at the expence of the People. People sometimes love to see a liberal Prince, but care not to feel him, when he is liberal out of their pockets. It must be a melancholy consideration to a Prince (if he consider at all) that by giving a large Pension perhaps to a worthless or wasteful man, he is laying a heavy load upon the backs of hundreds of his best subjects, and oppressing a multitude to be generous or rather prodigal to one. It was a fine and true compliment to Trajan, that he warily restrained all lavishness in the Exchequer, because he never meant to supply it out of the fortunes of the innocent.
It is indeed infamous in any man to accept of bounties from the Public, if he can live without them. They who do so, are at best but public Almsmen; and every man of fortune, who with it has virtue or shame, will scorn the character. What is here said, does not affect such as for serving the Public receive thence an equivalent; since rewards that are due are never scandalous. But, alas! the service is too often over-rated, and when that ceases, the recompence is often continued to such as want it not, as well as given to many who not only do not want it, but never could deserve it. I have known great Largesses and mighty Annuities granted to many for no apparent reason, but that they were shameless enough to ask, and the Prince weak enough to give. If they had any real claim, it was too infamous to be owned: and it is a terrible reproach upon a Prince, when, for a small or a wicked service done to him personally, equal regard is had, and as much liberality shewn, as for any signal service done to the State, perhaps more, and when the Offices of the State, or its Treasure are prostituted to gratify private Jobbs and Intimacies.
When this giving humour prevails, there is no end of Suiters and Claimers. Every man, every woman will have something to alledge, some suffering or some service. Upon the accession, particularly, of a new Prince such claims always abound. “In every shift of Princes, says Sir Robert Cotton, there are few so mean or modest that please not themselves with some probable object of preferment. Men expect payment for doing their duty and assisting the Public, that is assisting themselves, and what is no more than duty they call merit, and merit must be rewarded; and when men are left to measure their own, we may guess it will lose nothing of its extent and value. There are indeed few who think themselves as high in employment as they are in capacity.” When there are not Places enow to gratify pretenders, an equivalent is expected; and when once Pensions multiply, and are given to many worthless people, there can be no satisfactory reason given for refusing others as worthless. Thus the public Revenue comes to be thrown into a fort of average and spoil. Nor when the corruption has gone far, is it an easy matter to cure it; and he who first attempts it, Prince or Minister, will be sure to find a hard task, a torrent of opposition and outrageous clamours: For all the Harpies, all who had not clean hands, will be found to have foul mouths; and when public frugality, when general ease and relief is intended and pursued, injustice and avarice will be imputed. But the reformation, as it is always just, will certainly prove popular at last, when the generality feel benefit from the just disappointment of a fewb .
The Duty of a Prince, what. His motives to be good, and content with limited Power: That of the Roman Emperors bounded.
IF we now enquire into the duty of a Prince, what else can it be but to conform to the Laws, and see that all others conform; to be vigilant for the public welfare, to consult the good of the whole and of particulars, to prevent oppression and to punish it, to promote virtue and to reward it, to consider himself as made for the People’s protection, not the People for his pleasure, and that where his Subjects reap no advantage, he can reap no glory; to enforce the observance of Law by his example as well as by his judgments, and by his faithful care of his People, merit their affection and fidelitya .
It is thus he must resemble the Deity, nor can he be otherwise the Representative of God than by doing God-like actions. It is not enough that he do things innocent and harmless: it is not enough that he forbear things wicked and mean. What he does must be virtuous, noble, public spirited. Every sordid action, every low artifice he must detest and avoid. He who represents the Almighty, he who guards the Laws and the Lives of men, must be just in observing Law, ambitious to resemble his Maker and Sovereign. How can he, how dare he neglect or injure those for whose sake alone he is what he is? “He who is above all, ought to be better than all,” was the wise and worthy saying of Cyrusb .
Such a Prince, whose only end and pursuit is the People’s good, as it is in truth his only business, will desire no power to hurt them, none such as others under him, or after him, may turn to their prejudice, though he himself would not. Though a Prince perfectly wise and just could never abuse any power, he would not covet power without bounds, because whatever the best Princes have had, the worst will always expect. So that good Princes will be content with a little, a smaller share, that the bad may not have too much. They will look beyond their own time, and contrive that the People may be happy when they themselves are gone. This consideration terribly heightens the crime of Usurpation, and overturning the Laws of a Country. Though he who does it may have good qualities, and possibly desire public good; Yet such as are to come after him may be fools, madmen, bloody savages. Cæsar, therefore, and his fellows are never to be forgiven, never to be excused.
Let a Prince be invested with a power ever so boundless, it is still intended, or ought to be, for the good of men, and he has none to be cruel or wicked. A power to destroy, is not given, but taken, and what is usurped, has no right whatever. No regular, no just power can be derived from the irregular will of man, whatever fine name he takes to himself. “Hard it is for one who has no bounds to his power, to set bounds to his passions;” said the wise and good Marcus Aurelius. Nor did the Roman Emperors pretend to be above the Law, but only above the formality of Law. If they acted otherwise, as they generally did, they gave the lie to truth, and their own professions. Alexander Severus declared, that nothing was so much a part of sovereign power, nothing so much its character, as to live according to the Laws. Trajan professed, that the Prince was so far from being above the Laws, that the Laws were above the Prince. As he took an Oath to obey the Laws, he faithfully observed that Oath; and thence Pliny says, “That all the Emperors before him had made the same professions, but their professions were not believed:” What they had promised to be, he was. The Romans in the times of the Emperors, made a wide difference between a Prince and a Master: the former they considered as a lawful Magistrate, the latter as an Intruder and Usurper. And it was observed of Trajan, that he possessed the place of a lawful Prince, to prevent the exercise of lawless rulec . The Emperor Adrian declared to a public assembly of the Romans, that he would govern like one who had the direction of the People’s affairs, not his own; and Severus owned himself to be no more than the public Steward. Many Emperors used their power mischievously; but such abuse of power was no part of their Commission.
The wisdom of governing by Law ----- No just power without Law ---- Just Government requires sense ---- Any wretch capable of tyrannizing ---- No good man fond of boundless power.
THEY who are set over men, too often forget that they themselves are but men. Indeed such of them who pretended to be above Law and above Humankind, were much worse than beasts, they who claimed Divinity, a disgrace to Humanity. Hence Pliny says to Trajan, who, without arrogating celestial honours, had a spirit truly divine, “That, from the fate of the Princes his predecessors, it was manifest, that none but such as men love, are beloved by the Gods.”
What is it that gives a Prince a right to power? Not his bare will, for then every man who has force, has a right to power, a right to all that downright brutal force can bring him. As the public good is the general rule of Laws, these Laws are the rule and boundaries of the Prince’s power. To these all men are and ought to be subject, he especially who is intrusted with their execution and the care of all men. If the Laws are for the security of the State, why should not the Prince observe them, he to whom the guardianship of the State is committed? The Roman Emperors, even in their acts of Tyranny pretended to observe Law, and under the name of some Law most of their cruelties were perpetrated. Nor durst they avowedly violate the Laws. Thus Claudius was afraid to marry Agrippina, for that there was no Law authorizing an Uncle to marry his Niece. Nor durst he accomplish the marriage till a Decree was purposely made. Thus even the outrageous Nero proceeded in cutting off some of the greatest men: He got them butchered under the form and mockery of Law.
It is the more glory for a Prince to govern regularly, and by the just measure of Equity and Laws; for that, in order to govern well, parts, and prowess, and vigilance are required; but any novice, any savage can exert brutal passion, follow his absurd humour, yield to his headstrong will. It is the easiest thing in the world to exercise disorder and misrule, to gratify private appetite, to create public mischief and disorder. This the frantic Caligula could do, this the infamous Heliogabalus, and this our Richard the second or King John. A madman or a fool may be an able Tyrant: and to be so, fools and madmen are the most aspiring. La Bruyere says, “That for the exercise of Tyranny there is no need of arts or sciences. Those politics which consist only in shedding of blood, are very narrow and void of refinement: They inspire us to kill such who, while they are alive, prove an obstacle to our ambition. This is what a man naturally cruel does without difficulty. It is the most horrible, it is the most gross method of supporting ourselves, or of acquiring grandeur.” Indeed, a wrong head, a wicked heart, and human shape, seem the chief qualifications for a Tyrant.
As unlimited oppression generally follows unlimited power, and as all power that can be abused will be abused, none but a madman, a wicked man, or a changeling will desire unaccountable dominion, whence he can reap no other fruit than guilt and odium, and his People none but misery and pillage. What can be the mark of a viler spirit, what a more detestable character of a man, what more repugnant to the business and duty of a public Father, than to consider the People as his property, not his care; as if millions were created for the sake of aggrandizing one of themselves, often the worst, as a Tyrant is certainly the worst creature in his dominions, let the rest be ever so bad, and bad they must be, as well as wretched. For the breath of Tyranny contaminates all things, destroys the best things, nor can virtue any more than happiness stand before it, or within its reach. It is a maxim with evil Princes to make their subjects evil; and, in order to bear slavery, they must have the abject souls and vices of slaves, must be sordid, ignorant, debauched, void of care for the Public, void of humanity and honour.
How amiable the character of a good Prince, who rules by Justice and Law, who loves and relieves his People.
HENRY the fourth of France used to say, “That in order to reign well, it is not expedient to do whatever we can:” A saying worthy of the wise head and great heart of that brave Prince. As he said, he practised. He always heard with great patience the remonstrances of his Subjects and Parliaments, nor was ashamed to change his opinion, or to depart from points of prerogative; hated to hear Parasites magnify his power, and shew great tenderness for the privileges of Royalty, or to be praised by men unworthy of praise; would not suffer the Provinces to be oppressed to enrich particulars; confessed that he differed not from his Subjects, since he had but two eyes and two feet no more than they. He told an assembly of the principal men of Normandy at Rouen, that he had called them, not blindly to approve what was his will and pleasure, but to receive their counsel, to trust it, and to follow it. This was the language of a man of sense and honour, and he did just the contrary to what a fool or a small spirit would have done. A certain Prince, cotemporary with him, would have probably told such an assembly, “That State-affairs were above their reach,” (and quoted some Latin to prove it) “that they should beware of entrenching upon his Prerogative; that he wanted not their advice, for he was a wise King.”
The word Prerogative was what that great French Monarch was seldom heard to mention. He considered it as given him only for one end, nor could it be given to any Prince for any other, for the sake and support of his People, as were his Revenues to enable him to defend the People, and not to be wasted upon pomp and voluptuousness, as were the Revenues of some other Crowns at that time. An oppressive Prerogative is a monster and contradiction: so are oppressive Revenues, nor will a good Prince think ought due to him which his Subjects are unable to bear or to pay. Henry the fourth abhorred the recent excesses and encroachments of the Royal Authority, and suppressed many duties which the late Tyranny had exacted. In one Edict he forgave the People all the arrears due to the Crown, and wished that his own Revenue had been sufficient, for that then he would have taken nothing out of the purses of his People. The divine Marcus Aurelius remitted all that had been due to the Imperial, or to the public Treasury (for they were distinct) during six and forty years. He declared, “That the public wealth belonged to the Senate and People, that he had nothing of his own, that the very Palace which he lived in was theirs.”
This was the stile, these the concessions of a King and public Father, two characters which should eternally be the same, but too seldom are. Nor were all these professions of theirs the grimace of politicians. Marcus Aurelius and Henry the fourth had no occasion for grimace: Great souls are always sincere. They delighted to see their People happy, and studied to make them so. To accomplish this, Henry the fourth chearfully lessened his revenue, lessened his authority, and restrained his prerogative where his prerogative interfered with the interest and happiness of his People. He was above all little suspicions, above all doubling and deceit; habits so common to men of little minds and little sense. As he wronged no man, he feared none, and his large mind was never fretted with the jealousies usually cleaving to power. He knew no purpose of being higher than others, but to do good to all; and when he found himself too high to assist those below him, he feared not to descend; still secure in the benevolence of his intentions and conduct, as well as in the sufficiency of his own might. He was aware that overbearing pride and prerogative were not the means to win affection or esteem, and that the condescension of a Prince is no contradiction to his dignity, nay, a sure way to raise it: He therefore lived with his People like a father with his children; as was said of a Roman Emperor who resembled him, I mean Trajan, a Prince in all excellencies resembling Henry the fourth. What pity that such Princes, such friends to the world and protectors of men, should ever die!
The miserable Spirit and Infamy of Princes who consider themselves above Law, and independent on their People.
HAD Cato the elder known two such Princes as the above-mentioned, he would not have given such a shocking character of Kings, “That they were all ravening beasts:” a character due to those whom he knew, eastern Tyrants, the constant Enslavers, Oppressors and Butchers of men. Power is indeed a brutal, a hideous thing, when not tempered by Reason and Laws, not employed for the benefit of Society; and such as have it and do not thus use it, are worse than animals of prey, more destructive, more detestable.
One of the greatest and bravest of our Princes was Edward the third. He had many demands made upon him by his Parliaments, and granted them all. Hence he reigned and died in renown. Two of our weakest and worst Kings (at least till then) were Edward the second and Richard the second. These were great zealots for Prerogative, that is for a privilege to be mischievous and unaccountable, and rejected all such demands. Hence their miserable reigns, their calamitous ends, their infamous memory. They were that sort of wretches who set up folly and appetite against duty and human society. Good sense and greatness of mind are always found together, and justice is inseparable from either. Edward the third had equal wisdom and magnanimity, and was just in proportion as he was brave. It was his study to cherish his People, nay, to be great with them, and to be counselled by their Representatives. “He had the honour, says Selden, to be the repairer of the ruins that his father had made, and was a Prince whom you might think by his Story to be seldom at home, and by his Laws seldom abroad.”
Lewis the thirteenth was a great lover of power, in proportion to his great incapacity to exercise it. As a specimen of both, when the People of Tholouse applied to him, by an earnest and unanimous petition, for mercy to the Duke De Montmorency condemned to die, he answered, “That if he followed the inclinations of the People, he should not act like a King.” I question whether his son would have given a better answer, a Prince so flattered for the art of reigning, if his government deserve that name. What strange lofty notions must have possessed the weak head of this Prince, that a King should act for himself against his People! The thing is often too true. But, pray, how should the People act, on their part, upon such an occasion? I mean not the People of Tholouse at that juncture, but a whole Nation, when they find by his administration, that he only considers himself, and not them, or rather makes them only a property to himself. Such as have an unjust power, ill got, or overmuch, or such as intend to abuse their power, are ever jealous and fearful. They are ever fearing those whom they cause to fear, and whom they fear they seek to oppress or destroy. This is the nature and progress of Tyrannyd . In Dr. Burnet’s late History we find a shocking declaration of Charles the second concerning the Duke of Lauderdale, that the Duke had indeed done a great many damned things against the people of Scotland; “but I cannot see, says his Majesty, that he has done any thing against my interest.” A speech upon which I make no reflection, nor can my imagination furnish one that can possibly heighten its horror.
Now besides the infamy, besides the crying iniquity of Lewis the thirteenth, of making his Kingdom groan under the merciless weight of Prerogative exerted in violation of their Birthright, Liberty and Law; all the new power which he usurped was usurped to his Minister. It was the Cardinal who swayed the enormous Scepter, and swayed it terribly, even to the dread and shame of the Monarch, who by setting himself above the Laws, above the remonstrances of his Parliament, did but set the Cardinal above him, and from his excessive weakness, to call it no worse, his Minister derived his excessive power. Henceforward he could not, he durst not either see or hear but by licence from his Eminence.
Princes seeking or possessing arbitrary Power, rarely exercise any themselves: Their Ministers and Creatures generally rule all.
IT is wonderful this strange thirst, this boundless appetite in Princes for unbounded Power, which yet they seldom occupy themselves, but leave to be exercised by others, their Minions or Mistresses. What they gain by putting bonds upon all men, is to be themselves holden in bonds by the meanest or the worst. Lewis the thirteenth, a Prince very insufficient, but very obstinate, one who had no ideas or very short ones of his own, assumed to be the origin and oracle of all Justice and Law; and his passions, infused or managed by the Cardinal, were to be the rule of life, and to determine the fate of all men. The Cardinal, who used the King like a mere machine, was effectually Monarch of France, as all Frenchmen felt, as all Europe saw. He was indeed an extraordinary man, a mighty genius: but as he trod upon the Laws and Liberties of his Country, the best that can be said of him, is, that he was an able destructive Minister. Whoever rules by fancy will ever be a pernicious ruler, let his abilities be what they will.
The sovereignty, and folly, and cruelty of Claudius were all managed by his manumised Slaves, or his Wives; and he had neither discernment or passions but such as they infused. Nor was it peculiar to Claudius to be under such guideance. The rest of the Cæsars were generally subject to the supreme rule of some mean and uncontroulable Favourite. These lofty Emperors who would bear no limits to their authority, exercised in effect none, but, reserving only the name and iniquity of power, devolved the administration and abuse of it upon their vilest domestics, the dregs of human race.
The great Turk, who claims and exercises a power without controul over the lives of all men, who challenges a right to the fortune and property of all, and is Lord of every acre throughout his vast dominions, enjoys from all this enormous, this sounding sovereignty no more than a mighty name and mighty danger. He is seldom seen, seldom does any thing, or knows what is done. With the seal which he delivers to his prime Vizier, he surrenders the absolute disposal of his immense Empire, the absolute direction of his boundless Authority. The Prerogatives of State which he exerts in his own person, are such as concern not the State, at least help it not: He diverts himself with the tricks and grimaces of Mutes and Buffoons, with his Ladies or Pathics, with Dogs and Huntsmen.
It is thus he discharges the duties of a Sovereign, thus guards the Public, and protects Nations. Are these the marks of authority divine, of a power holden immediately from God, sacred and irresistible, as the Mahometan Doctors teach? Are the characteristics of Divinity to be found in the neglect and abuse of Government, as well as in the discharge of it? If he who does the office be the person divinely appointed, as I think he ought, not the Grand Seignior, but the Grand Vizier is the man. How the Turkish Divines reason upon this point, I know not I doubt not but they are provided with good casuistry and distinctions to account for their recommending, as they have sometines done, their Monarch to be dethroned or knocked on the head, though by their principles he was irresistible and sacred. Such force and magic there is in the sage subtleties of this profound Divinity and of these able Divines, and so powerfully do they aid Princes to stand or fall!
A Mahometan preacher was bold enough to tell the Emperor to his face, that instead of defending Buda (then besieged) he went every day a hunting. The rebuke had such an effect, that, as soon as the sermon was ended, his Highness ordered nine hundred of his hunting dogs to be drowned. We see the efficacy of an honest sermon upon a Prince when an honest man is found to preach it, one who aims at truth and reformation, not at flattery and preferment.
Thamas King of Persia was shut up in his Seraglio, drowned in voluptuousness, for ten years together, leaving his Authority to be abused, and his Subjects oppressed and devoured all that while at the lust and discretion of his servants. They therefore were the sovereign Rulers, whilst he had the sovereign Title. In a manner like this are all or most of the great Monarchies in the East conducted. The Monarchs do nothing, and their Ministers do mischief. These Representatives of the Deity are themselves represented by a Woman, or a Pathic, always by a Slave.
Such of our English Kings as had the greatest appetite to absolute rule, as the worst always had, never swayed what violent power they had grasped, but resigned their People, their Dominion and themselves to Creatures and Favourites: Whether the King were a Henry, an Edward or a Richard, a John or a James, it was still a Pierce Gaveston, a Hugh Spencer, a Mountford, a Brember, a Carr or a Peters that misgoverned and oppressed. The King only lent his name and warrant, and often not that; but still blindly approved what they had done, though he knew it not, nor why.
The arbitrary will of Favourites often proves the only Law of a bad and arbitrary Prince — How apt they are to abuse his Power, and at last to desert him.
THE caprice, or passion, or evil counsel of a reigning Favourite, will always pass upon a weak Prince for the rules of Equity and Law. As a Prince who is not controuled by Law will in all probability prove bad, and certainly bad where he rejects Law; so a Minister acting without any check or inquiry from his Master, is not very likely to prove modest and virtuous. The one will be apt to grow domineering and insolent, if the other be credulous and indolent. Such a temptation is seldom withstood, or such an opportunity lost. This was the case and misfortune of Galba. For such, says Tacitus, was his weakness and acquiescence, that by it the avarice of his friends, already insatiable, and ravening according to the measure of his sovereign fortune, was farther heightened and excited; whilst under a Prince thus feeble and credulous, their iniquities were attended with the smaller peril, and with gains the more mighty. Pliny says,d it was always a glaring and sure sign, that the Prince was impotent and contemptible, when his Servants were mighty and powerful.
Richard the second left his Government so entirely to his Favourites, that they were said “to have taken the Kingdom to farm.” They passed Patents, they issued Proclamations, levied Money, spoiled the Subject, all without his knowledge or once asking his consent. Nor other reason had they for setting him above Law, but that they might be lawless. Thus they caused it to be proclaimed in the City of London, “That no person should dare to utter a word or expression against them, on pain of forfeiting all that he had.” Nay, they made the poor weak King swear to them, “not only to be governed and counselled by them alone, but to maintain and defend them, and to live and die with them.” After this it is small wonder that they would not suffer the great persons of the Realm, or the King’s best subjects, to give him any advice or information, or even to approach him, except in their presence. Brember (one of the Minions) caused two and twenty men to be hanged in one night, without law or trial. But this was only a small essay of his power and violence; he had marked out seven or eight thousand obnoxious Citizens to be cut off at once, and prepared a common Hatchet for that purpose, an instrument that providentially served to strike his own head from his body.
Concerning those low and servile spirits at Court, who, in times of peace and corruption, swagger and govern all things with high insolence and disdain, manage little intrigues with notable craft and sufficiency, tell lies, practise falshood, traffic for places, and carefully keep all men of honour, capacity and merit at a due distance; it is worth while to observe, what a miserable figure they make in a time of danger and alarms, confounded, struck with terror, ready to change sides, ready to abandon their old friends and protectors, to submit with mean suppleness to such as they had lately deceived, insulted and oppressed, and to become humble slaves to professed enemies.
Princes guilty of the Oppressions committed by their Authority. Their Ministers are generally, like them, bad or good. A limited Authority safest to Kings and Ministers. The best Ministers obnoxious to clamours.
A PRINCE who permits oppression and cruelty, is cruel and oppressive, though he know it not; for he ought to know, ought to enquire, and to prevent it, or punish it. Why else is he a Prince, and what else is his duty, but to watch for the public good? Nor did ever any reason otherwise, except Tyrants, public enemies and spoilers, with their Flatterers and Minions, who hoped to gain by misleading and corrupting them. What they cannot do themselves they ought to see well done by others, to redress what is ill done, to take care that it be not repeated, and that public examples be made of public criminals. A Prince becomes bad by his idleness as well as by his actions. He is invested with a great trust, the greatest upon earth, one so extensive that upon the well or ill executing of the same depends the felicity or misery of Nations; so that whoever neglects it, is unfit for it, or unworthy of it.
It is allowed that an able and honest Ministry make amends for the indolence or insufficiency of a Prince: but how rarely does it happen that he chuses such? They generally prove like himself, vicious or weak, or make his folly a warrant for their injustice. His choice is determined not by their talents for Government, about which perhaps he is ignorant, perhaps unconcerned, but by taste, or whim, or passion, for some particular quality, or some foolish excellency that he delights in. Peradventure they joak well, or shave well, or procure him Mistresses, or become such themselves, or are notable Musicians, notable Devotees, or notable Drinkers. For such accomplishments, and without any other, Men, and Monks, and Women, and Barbers, and Buffoons and Fidlers have been raised by Kings to rule over Kingdoms.
They who do what they please, seldom do what they ought, and such as may do evil with impunity, generally do it with licentiousness. Nor other sence or security is there against evil, but penalties and the dread of evil. Men are then least likely to offend when they dare not. The power therefore of the highest ought to be bounded, and precautions taken as well against the excesses of Kings, as those of Subjects. Kings themselves should desire it: it is the safest rule as well as the most honourable, and even most profitable; since where the People, secured by the Laws, live unmolested, the Prince will reign in security, and the more free they are, the more able they will be to serve him, the more chearful to support him, as well as more rich and liberal to supply him.
Neither can a Prince under the restriction and guidance of Laws, be long served by worthless, silly, or arbitrary men. They must be men of sense and reputation, otherwise they will soon destroy themselves, or him, or both. In a Nation governed by fixed Laws all men will see, indeed feel, whether the Laws and their Properties are violated, whether they are oppressed against Law, or protected by it. The dignity of the Administration must be supported, decency and gravity preserved, with regularity in the course of business; the Public must be tenderly treated, and particulars civilly used: Else the Crown will fall into contempt, into weakness and distress, the Subject into discontents and rage, all things into confusion. Minions and Underlings may, and probably always will, have secret influence and sway, sometimes enough to hurt and perplex a Minister, who often suffers blame for the ill things which they, in spight of him, dof . But he who conducts the public affairs must be a man of parts, a man of business, and sufficiency, of name and credit.
With all this he must expect to be hardly pressed, often find it a hard task to stand. He will often be thought guilty even where he is most innocent. He will be sure to disoblige some, even by obliging others: Several will think themselves at least as well qualified as he for his place, and, in hopes to be taken in, endeavour to push him out. They will be apt to charge him with crimes at a venture, and probably hate him enough to wish him criminal, or to believe him so. Many will concur in the imputation, some through personal anger, more through natural malignity, most of all through folly. The multitude love changes, some find advantage in it, and many hope to find. Even his excellencies and renown may happen to create him enemies and persecutiong . Perhaps few Ministers ever served a Prince with more faith and sufficiency than Monsieur De Rôny did his great Master Henry the fourth, or with greater regard to the interest of the Public. Yet his credit with the King, though no more than he deserved, and two or three fine employments, however due to his merit, served for a constant pretence to malecontents, and even for the ground of several conspiracies. In matters of great and public moment, it is a difficult thing to please all.
The benefit of standing Laws to Princes and their Ministers, further illustrated. What regard Princes should have to posthumous Fame, what dread of Infamy.
IT is not in a free Country as in one enslaved, where whatever the Prince likes all must seem to approve; where all must bestow their reverence and submission blindfold, where-ever he bestows power and favour, though blindfold too. In a Nation of Freedom and Laws, all men claim a right to judge and censure for themselves, a right which they often abuse and misapply, but ought never to lose. Better it is, that all men say what they please, than one man do what he will. Yet a Minister under all these disadvantages, however obnoxious to clamour and unjust censure, is safer and happier than in the service of a lawless Prince, whose rage is usually more sudden than his favour, and who never accuses but he likewise destroys, often without accuseing; whereas when the Laws govern, Ministers are frequently accused, but seldom hurt; nay, the worst often escape, whilst under a Tyrant the best never do.
To Princes themselves the Laws are the best guides as well as guards. Most men will be apt to flatter them, few to tell them the truth. Let them have recourse, for information, to the Laws, Counsellors which will not cajole nor deceive them, nor betray and desert them, as Favourites and Armies may. Sycophants will tell them, that “they may do what they list,” and, it is like, confirm that impious lie by another equally impious, that “such is the ordinance of God.” The Laws will tell him, that, “whatever he does must be for the good of men; that he has no right to hurt them, no power but what is given him, limited by institutions framed by the wisdom of men, for their own safety and his, and that for their security, and not for his own ease or pride, he is set over them. If he break his bounds, if he violate his trust, he becomes an enemy to God and Man, and must hope for favour from neither, since in the sight of God, the impartial Father of all men, none are high or low but in the sanctity or impiety of their lives, and he who injures and betrays all men is evidently the worst of all.”
Let any Prince judge, which is the more reasonable instructor, the Sycophant or the Laws. (For Sycophants, and the vilest, they all are who tell a Prince that he may overturn the Law) Let him judge which is likely to lead him to most justice and benevolence, to most honour and renown, to most security whilst he lives, to most praise when he is dead: Let him determine with himself, whether he would be a Nero, governed by Parasites and his lusts, detested as a Tyrant, doomed to immortal abhorrence through all ages, or a Titus, who made Justice and Law the measure of his Government, was stiled the delight of human-kind at that time, and has been judged worthy of the same amiable character at all times since. In proportion to the excellence and depravity of a Prince’s reign, will be his same afterwards, illustrious or inglorious.
What can be more delightful to a Prince, than an assurance of being adored when he is dead? What more shocking than to foresee, that he shall be abhorred, or even his memory slighted amongst men? For in the memories of men his most lasting monument must be raised, happy for him if also in their affectionsi . These are the inscriptions, this the character, which cannot be erazed, panegyrics that will not lye, unperishing honours, out of the power of time, and death, and malicek . Such as were by Pliny foretold to Trajan, and such as Trajan still enjoys, still shall enjoy.
Idle Princes seldom come to be able Princes. How much application to business imports them, for their own accomplishment and the good of their Government.
INDOLENT Princes, such as love not business, or are kept from it, besides their being liable to be abused, scarce ever come to be men of great sufficiency, though they may have good natural parts. It is by the continual exercise of the understanding that the understanding is enlarged. A man of much industry, with moderate parts, will be an overmatch for one who has the greatest, but never exerts them. Attention to business and the affairs of life, fills the mind with ideas and reflections, arms it against mistakes and surprizes, and uses it to judging and deciding. But to a spirit untrained and void of experience, every small matter proves a great difficulty, every small difficulty proves discouraging. A man practised in affairs is seldom startled or at a loss, and for every emergency will be apt to find some expedient; for he is used to emergencies, and to provide for them. Every small Clerk will be apt to despise, every little Lawyer be able to outwit a man just come out of a College or a Cloister, though he may make no mean figure there. Even very silly men will acquit themselves notably in business, where it lies in a road and method, and make dispatch where a very bright man not used to it would be strangely puzzled. I have seen a man of poor natural capacity, but well trained in business, triumph over a man of extraordinary talents destitute of experience. Such as are originally weak may acquire artificial abilities, as others of great genius, applying to nothing, will be good for nothing.
As the business of reigning is the most important upon earth, he who is invested with supreme authority, in order to make himself worthy of it, should be extremely careful to qualify himself for it. He should inform himself assiduously, exert himself diligently, and convince all men, that he who bestows every office, is able to discharge, and therefore fit to bear, the highest. It were indeed preposterous, that authority should be in the hands of one who ought to administer it, but cannot, and leaves it all to be administered by others. This was the character of many of the Cæsars, Idiots in Government, Heroes in Tyranny. So that Pliny had just cause to say, That it seemed highly unworthy, that he should confer all dignities, who could sustain none.
It is a misfortune even in a Country where the Laws govern, to have a weak, or, which is the same thing, an indolent Prince; for the administration of an indolent Prince is generally weak; and where he does too little, those who act for him will be apt to do too much. But under a Government limited by Laws, such weakness or neglect in a Prince can do least harm, nor can his will or his folly be pleaded, as in arbitrary Countries, for the cause or cloak of enormities, since his will and his folly are repugnant to the Laws, and may be opposed by Law. All men know how far his power extends, how far others can extend it for him. In absolute Monarchies, not only his will, his fury, his appetites, are Laws, and Laws irresistible, but so likewise are the appetites, and will, and sury of his Officers, who always alledge that, whatever they perpetrate he commands; and who dares doubt or deny it, or go to Court to enquire?
But let a Prince’s power be ever so cautiously restrained, let the Laws which limit and direct him be ever so plain, he will still find an abundant call for all his industry, in chusing his Officers, in observing their Conduct, in overlooking his Revenue, in executing the Laws, in hearing Petitions, in attending to Treaties and Embassadors, in taking care of the Dignity and Tranquillity of the Nation, and even in governing his Family. What more extensive office would a Prince have, if he mean to perform it with conscience and care? Few men are equal to it; the ablest man cannot be too diligent in it.
Henry the fourth of France had a great understanding, because he had made great use of it. From his childhood he was almost continually exercised in distress and affairs, and forced by the former into the latter. As he was a man of great pleasure, had his Kingdom fallen to him early and easily, it is certain he would not have had equal sufficiency; for sufficiency is to be acquired like a science. He was forced to be industrious, vigilant, inquisitive, and therefore was always improving. Thus he became excellently qualified for Government. Henry the third might have proved so too, had he been obliged from his youth and for a long course of years to have struggled for his Crown. He had shewn what he was capable of, whilst yet very young. In truth so great was his reputation in the camp, such ability he had manifested as a Commander, and such hopes were conceived of him as a Prince, that he was chosen King of Poland before he was twenty years old. But through idleness, and sensuality, and flatterers, he became a most miserable Ruler, infamous and sanguinary.
Princes that do nothing, but leave all things to others, will always be minors, as was our Richard the second. Contemptible is that Prince who holds nothing of Sovereignty but the Pageantry and the Crown. Poor Richard lost even that: Nor can any Prince who takes no care to support his own dignity, be secure that his dignity will not fall. Men who are able and good will be kept carefully from him, at least from serving him. The selfish, the false, the mischievous will always be most numerous about him, perhaps exclude all others, at least will always have the most sway, perhaps the only sway. At last perhaps he will bear no counsel but the worstl .
In spight of any human sufficiency or virtue, that a Prince can exert or possess, there will be many abuses growing or creeping in, such as he cannot altogether remove or prevent. But where he is idle, where he is neglectful, disorder will prevail tenfold, corruption walk barefaced, truth and virtue and merit will be brow-beaten or banished, vice and insolence will flourish, the Laws lose their force, the Administration become loose and despised.
Such was the reign of Henry the third of France, such that of Richard the second of England. They minded nothing but pleasure and festivity. Their Government by being neglected, grew corrupt, impotent, scandalous, at last fell to pieces. Yet the former was a capable Prince, indeed capable of great things, and only wanted application; but from his propensity to pleasure he disrelished business and fatigue, and by the pernicious flattery and soothing of Minions and Deceivers, came to drop the reins of Government in their hands, and reserved to himself only the name and danger. Richard the second had the same voluptuous biass, and the like mischievous Leaders. He was not a Natural, nor a Lunatic, nor seems to have wanted a share of sense; but having never been taught, or suffered, or inclined, to exert it, he continued in the state of childhood, simple by habit, foolish for want of industry and experience, and having never discharged the functions of Government, was at last unable to discharge them.
The most wretched and wicked of all Princes are wont to account themselves most sacred, and to claim Attributes divine.
IT is remarkable that both the wretched Princes mentioned in the last Section were strangely conceited of their own power, had high notions of Prerogative, nay, claimed Authority almost divine, and were extremely jealous of Kingship when they exercised none, but left themselves and their Realms to be abused and undone by the Parasites their Masters. This is the spirit of all wretched Princes, to be proud according to the measure of their folly, to be the fonder of power for being the less able to weild it, and to assume an alliance with the Gods when they are too vile or foolish to be accounted men. The Roman Emperors, most signal for cruelty, frenzy and stupidity, never failed to be Gods, or akin to the Gods.
Such Christian Princes as have aimed at Titles and Privileges more than human, would have done well to have remembered, that they were but reviveing the stale pretensions of ancient Tyrants and Pagans, and owning for their Predecessors Madmen, Idiots, Savages, the most detested that ever the earth bore. Nor indeed have any followed these Monsters in this profane and enormous vanity but such as in their other qualities too resembled them, the vicious, the prodigal, the false, the poor spirited, and the debauched, such as could not govern well or chose to govern ill, such as boldly called in Heaven to vindicate what Law and Conscience condemned, and alledged a deputation from above to blast and destroy all things below. When impious designs were entertained, when measures execrable and ruinous were pursued, solemn Oaths violated, Liberty extinguished, all the Laws overturned, Tyranny set up, then a Lieutenancy from God was always forged and pleaded, divine impunity for diabolical deeds, a right from the Father of Mercies, of Justice, and of Men, to commit Cruelty and Injustice, to oppress and butcher.
Visions like these, wild and impious, are refuted by repeating them, and the dishonour of such as maintained and encouraged them, sufficiently exposed. Such too is the mean character of these Princes, such has been their reign and fate, as to vindicate the Deity from the blasphemous imputation of having avowed them.
The same subject continued.
The example of a Prince its efficacy: When good how advantageous to his People and himself.
BY the actions of a Prince, the spirit of a Prince is discerned. If he do nothing, it is not he who reigns: If what he does be bad, he had better not reign. One upon whom the felicity of all depends, is under a continual call and obligation to see that none be miserable, that none be wronged or unredressed: and because his own example is of universal influence, beyond that of exhortation, or of precepts, or of preachments, indeed more cogent than Law itself, or penalties, or terrors, it behoves him to shew himself wise and virtuous. How glorious is it for a Prince, when it becomes the glory of all men to imitate him? How scandalous, when he is only their guide to baseness and debauchery? The goodness of his demeanour should vie with the greatness of his powera . In vain will he cause vice to be punished, if he himself be vicious: even in his executing of just Laws, he will be accounted unjust, if he himself observe them not; nor will the frowns of Justice be found of such force, as the countenance and pattern of him who holds, or should hold, her scales.
In Peru, during the Government of the Inca’s, when any of the Royal Blood, or of the prime Nobles, violated the Law, they were punished more severely than a common Subject, forfeited all their Privileges, were degraded from their hereditary Honours, and accounted Traitors and Tyrants. It was thought reasonable to debase those who had shewn themselves base, and to make an example of such as by their great figure and credit were likely to draw others after their track. Upon the like motives a criminal Magistrate there was punished according to his character and quality, rather than to that of his crime, from an opinion that in a Minister of Justice the least evil was not to be tolerated, since he was appointed to eradicate evils, and obliged to be more observant of the Laws than his inferiors. It was said of the Inca’s, that they took such an affectionate care of their Subjects, as to merit being stiled rather Fathers of their Country, and Guardians of their Pupils, than Kings over Subjects. They were called by the Indians, Lovers of the Poor. Such should every Prince be, and appear to be. His life and conduct are a perpetual standard: All men see it, most men follow it, and according to the course of his life will be the course of morality or debauchery.
Vespasian in a few years (for he reigned not many) by the practice of frugality made all men frugal, and in that short space stopped a torrent of profusion which had been flowing for a hundred years before. Henry the third debauched all France, as did Richard the second all England. Manners as well as fashions beginning from the Court, the corrupt manners there become quickly universal. The Nobility, especially the young Nobility, perceived and followed the taste and pleasures of the King: The Gentry next, then the Commonalty, fell all into the fashion of their superiors. The reign of the great Queen Elizabeth and that of her Successor, sufficiently shew, how far the example of a virtuous or a voluptuous Prince can go towards making their People riotous or sober, as well as towards ennobling or debasing their spirits. The public Manners are best ascertained by those of public Rulers, and the surest cure for the irregularities of Subjects, is the regularity of Princes; since even Example alone without Authority, goes further than Authority without Example, says Plinyb to Trajan, who was indeed a pattern to his Subjects as well as to all succeeding Princes. He adds, that the fear of punishment is but an unsure guide to right morals.
Neither is the Virtue and Morality of a Prince of greater advantage to his People than to himself. Virtuous Subjects are always peaceable, nor will they fail to honour a virtuous Governor. It is the debauched, the riotous, the idle, who are prone to sedition, love public changes, and promote them. Whatsoever particular points a Prince may carry by debauching his People, it cannot be the stability of his Throne, whatever he may think. A People who have abandoned their Virtue will readily abandon their King; nor does he deserve any other, if it was he who first corrupted them. From a vicious People it is madness to hope for virtuous Principles, such as those of just allegiance and fidelity. Where no integrity is left, no honour can be expected; and when they are corrupted so far as to sell or throw away their Liberties, which is the highest degree of corruption, what other or lesser degree will they be ashamed of? Nor can one who has made them universally vile, complain, with a good grace, that they prove vile to him. It is but a part of what he taught them.
It is said of China, that when the Emperor proves licentious and bad, when he neglects his duty and the administration, and falls into enormities and vice, the face of the whole Empire becomes altered, and the People, otherwise sober and wise, grow riotous, unruly, debauched, and tumultuous. So that for his own sake he is obliged to be sober and orderly, obliged to preserve, at least, all the appearances of innocence and virtue. Yet the Monarchy of China is the most compleatly framed of any that the world ever produced, supported by admirable orders and maxims, all settled into reverence and authority by the approbation and usage of numerous ages. But all their admirable maxims and orders are insufficient where the good example of the Prince is wanting to inforce them. The Chinese therefore maintain, that by the virtue of the King the People becomes virtuous, and that he is responsible to Heaven for the wicked manners of his Kingdom. They say, it is a small matter for a Prince to punish crimes; He ought by the example of his own virtue to prevent crimes in others.
The innocence therefore of a Prince’s life is the best guide to his People, and the surest guard of his Person and Diadem. This is what Pliny says to Trajanc . Many of the Princes before him, besides their own pestilent examples, had forced the People, and all orders of men, by all the influence and terrors of Tyranny, to be debauched, dishonourable, contemptible, and wicked; that all men being corrupt, they themselves might not be seen worse than the rest, and no man have credit or virtue enough to be terrible to the Tyrants. Their policy was as absurd as it was abominable, and their fate proved a warning to Princes and all men, to avoid following their destructive example. Where God doth not bless, man will not, says Mr. Selden.
By the necessity of setting a good example, I do not mean that a Prince should be debarred from diversions and pleasure, but only from such as tend to corrupt the public Manners. With such pleasures of his as hurt not his People, the People have nothing to do. Most of the greatest Princes, as well as the best that ever reigned, were men of pleasure, which is almost universally the effect of much Genius and Fire. Nor does it avail how much they love it, if they pursue it with decency, and neglect not business and their duty. The Emperor Titus, he who was called the delight of mankind, was a man of gallantry, but his gallantries never interfered with his occupations. It is true, says Tacitus, that his soul, youthful and amorous, was not indifferent to Berenice; but from hence arose no neglect or relaxation in his conducting affairs of Duty and Trust. His father Vespasian had the same turn, loved gay amusements, but governed carefully. Trajan was addicted to wine and other delights, yet an able and faithful Steward of the Empire. Adrian loved diversions, but never neglected affairs. Solon, a very wise man and worthy Lawgiver, never made any scruple to own his fondness for Ladies, Musick and Wine; nor even in his old age had he lost that taste, or was ashamed of it.
The Character of a Prince to be learnt from that of his Company and Favourites, and his designs by the Opinions which become in fashion about him.
FROM the Characters and Principles of the men whom a Prince promotes or favours, his own may be learnt or presumed Trajan shewed what he himself was, by the excellency of the persons preferred and countenanced by him. In all things unlike the preceding Emperors, who chose the worst and vilest of all men, he chose the best and most virtuous. Hence he manifested to the world what sort of men and pursuits pleased him best. About him were found no Informers, no Accusers, no Advocates for lawless Power, no Instruments of Oppression, no Flatterers, no Calumniators. The former Princes had chosen Ministers, not so much for their ability in managing affairs, as for their dexterity in administring to their voluptuousness or fury, not Statesmen to rule the State, but Buffoons and Pandars to humour the Prince, or Ruffians and Spoilers to rob and kill for him.
What else but wickedness, cruelty, continual excesses and misrule could be foreseen or expected from Princes perpetually surrounded with Parasites, Jesters, Harlots, powerful Slaves and Assassins? What else to be presumed of Princes, who caressed and advanced the most opprobrious, the blackest and most detestable of all Villains; but that they disliked, distrusted, and would probably destroy every able, every worthy man? Was it not natural to imagine that an Emperor who was daily told that he might do what he pleased, would do what he pleased, and grow lawless when he was informed that he was above Law.
One of Nero’s Favourites, a hireling Orator employed to legitimate Tyranny and Murder by Law and Haranguing, to traduce innocent men by invectives before they were surrendered to the executioner, told the Tyrant his Master, that “he did but tire himself and his advocates by proceeding so leisurely with the Senate, in arraigning and cutting them off one by one, when he might, by saying but a single word, have the whole Body destroyed at one blow.” For such slackness, this faithful Counsellor blamed the bloody Tyrant, as too gentle and over-deliberate. This advice was short and decisive, and not at all disgustful. Nero shewed by abundant liberalities and honours how highly he esteemed the man, preferred him to the Consular and Pontifical Honours, and recompensed him with a bounty of fifty thousand pounds, part of the spoils of such noble Romans as he had hunted down and worried for the Imperial sport of his sacred Sovereign Nero.
When such men and such doctrines prevail, it is easy to guess what will follow, at least what is intended. No man will care to give pernicious counsel but where he knows it will be pleasing, nor will a Prince hear it unless he be inclinable to take it. He only who has a mind to do what he ought not, will like to be told that he may; and the will of the Prince is then preached up when Law and Liberty are to be pulled down. What means or avails the propagating of arbitrary Maxims, but to justify and introduce arbitrary Proceedings? They are too odious to be spread where no great design is to be served by doing it. Nor need any man desire a surer sign, that universal slavery is intended by the Court, than when universal submission to it is inculcated upon the People.
This consideration alone leaves no excuse or apology to be made for those reigns, when such slavish Tenets were every where maintained, and the vile Maintainers of these Tenets countenanced, hired and preferred: when from the public Tribunals and public Pulpits, places sacred to Law and Truth, it became fashionable, nay, became the only and surest way of rising there, to assert that there was no Law save in the wild Will of one, who though sworn to defend Law, might lawfully overturn it; to assert impious falshoods manifest to all men, to father such falshoods upon the God of truth, under his holy name to shelter outrageous oppressions, to bind up the hands of the oppressed; to maintain that the lives of men, which they held from God, their property, which was secured to them by the Constitution, the Constitution itself contrived by the wisdom of men for their own preservation, and defended through ages by their virtue and bravery, were all at the mere mercy and lust of him who was solemnly bound to protect all, but might, if he so listed, destroy them all, without opposition; nay, all opposition was damnable. When all this was notorious, constant, universal, the language of Power, the style of Favourites, and the road to favour, what doubt could remain whither it all tended? To prevent all doubts, arbitrary measures were pursued, whilst arbitrary principles were promoted. The persons of men were illegally imprisoned, illegal fines imposed, estates violently seized, and the Public confidently robbed.
Doctrines in defence of lawless Power, and against civil Liberty, to be punished as Treason against the Public. How Princes discover their spirit.----They seldom take warning.
THE Parliament of Paris mantained, that there were crimes which the King could not pardon, such as any great mischief or indignity done to the State. Pray what treatment is due to a deliberate opinion, declared and urged, that a State may be destroyed, all its Laws annulled, and all men in it made miserable slaves, whenever the chief Magistrate thinks fit? Can there be a greater crime, a greater indication of malice against the Public, or a higher evil intended and avowed? Or can the Authors of such horrible positions be acceptable to any but a horrible Tyrant, to a Nero, or one who would be as bad as he, one who hates his People, pursues an interest destructive of theirs, and is consequently their enemyd ?
An English Prince, who longed for power unlimited, though he made miserable Use of what he had, was wont to say, “That a Crown was not worth having, if he that wore it must be thus controuled by a parcel of fellows.” He meant the Parliament, who must have been fellows indeed, and bad ones, if the worst of them was worse than himself. He had been trusted with vast sums of the public money for the service of the Public, had betrayed that trust, sunk the money, or applied it against the Public, and after so vile a fraud, instead of penitence and shame, had the face to complain that he was not entrusted with the whole without limitation or inquiry. He had Parasites enough to tell him that it was his right, and over the Kingdom there were Impostors more than enough to persuade People to believe and submit to it, men who for some preferment, or for better preferment to themselves, had the assurance to tell a great Nation, that they ought to bear bondage: Nor did ought but the power of forcery and delusion keep the shameless deluders from being stoned.
Such dreadful doctrines, however, and corresponding practices, alarmed all men who had preserved their honesty and their senses, and there ensued such a struggle between him and his People as soured and inflamed them, and made him miserable, fearful and insecure all the rest of his reign. By pursuing the like Politics, by countenancing the like arbitrary Maxims, his Father had come to be first disliked, then distrusted, at last undone. But he had not wisdom and virtue enough to profit by this example, no more than his immediate Successor, who made such an open claim of doing what he pleased with his Kingdoms, that his Kingdoms, to save themselves, drove him out. Even the holy men, who for many years had blinded him with a belief, that he might violate his Oath and Trust with safety, as soon as they found the weight of his oppressive hand, which they had encouraged him to exert, turned fiercely against him, and bad him open defiance. Too few Princes take warning. They are often so blinded by their own wilfulness and sovereign fortune, or by the soothings of flatterers, especially of such as flatter them in strains of piety, and mislead them in the name of the Lord, that their doom sometimes comes upon them, before they are apprized of danger.
King Eric, heir to Queen Margaret, who reigned over Sweden, Denmark and Norway, was deposed whilst yet exulting in his power, security, and violence, and despising the cries of his People, whom he had barbarously oppressed. Yet his Successors proved not wiser, nor, consequently, safer. Confiding in their own strength, and too often instigated by the Clergy, they rioted in Oppression, Barbarity and Massacres, till the evil hour overtook them unforeseen, when they had quite forfeited all title to pity and assistance. The Emperor Charles the fifth was a Prince of sense, yet grew rash and wanton through good fortune, and was insolent to his captives, some of them great Princes, whom he carried about, from place to place, in a very injurious manner. Whence, says Thuanus, he gained not a Triumph by the victory, but the most inveterate hate by his Triumph. But amidst his glory and pride, sudden distress and fears overtook him: At Ausburg his soldiers mutinied with great fury, for want of their pay; nor was his dread and danger less from the citizens, who immediately took arms to defend their houses from being plundered.
Nero was diverting himself in the Theatre, when news came of the revolt of Gaul, and Vitellius immersed in debauchery when Vespasian was proclaimed Emperor. Caligula and Domitian were concerting more murders, at the instant that they themselves were pierced with the fatal knife; so was Commodus. When men have a while done evil actions with success, they begin to think either that they are not evil, or that they may be repeated with equal safety. They do not consider that punishment often comes the surer for coming slow, and that by proceeding in their crimes, they are but advancing to meet it. Wicked men cease to do wickedly when it is out of their power, and only necessity can reform them.
Of the Veracity of Princes----The folly of Falshood----The worst and silliest men practise it most ---- it is inseparable from Tyranny.
IF we consider the character of a Prince for Veracity or the want of it, it is certain that as he values his word or disregards it, he himself will be disregarded or valued. The same man can never be accounted honourable and false, nor is it possible for him to follow Falshood, but the fame of Falshood will follow him. To gain belief to words, actions must follow. Evasions and chicaning can never save him: by such shifts and meannesses he will be thought the more mean. When a man is once known to be a knave and a lyar, what man of sense or honest man will trust him; and when a Prince is found to falsify and play low tricks, what Nation will trust him? For no man, nor Prince, was ever false or treacherous in many instances, without being discovered; and a treacherous temper, once detected, becomes both hated and impotent. Tiberius in whatever he said was thought to mean something else, even when he did not.
In Falshood there is no excellence or praise. Any Blockhead, any Lunatic can be a lyar. Caligula, who was really crazy, could be exceeding false, and though he owned himself above shame, yet practised craft. He was full of darkness and equivocation, and a great dissembler: a lesson which he had learnt early and carefully in the Court of Tiberius.
The silliest people are the greatest lyars, and the most gross and stupid Nations have been found deceitful and hollow. For deceit is not peculiar to Courts, though it may be much improved there, nor has any man cause to value himself upon an accomplishment common amongst Barbarians and Canibals, indeed fit for none else. Tyrants, who are worse than Canibals, are always false. Nero was so in a sovereign degree, so by nature, so by education, and could kiss and wheedle such as he hated, and meant to destroy. Thus he behaved to his Mother, thus to Seneca, treated them with much fondness, with many embraces, and caused them to be murdered. Even the stupid Vitellius could falsify and deceive, could cover the rancour of his heart under great complaisance and familiarity. Domitian was as false as either, sudden and subtle in his cruelty; and whenever he was most implacable, appeared most moderate and merciful. I believe the same to be generally true of all Tyrants ancient or later, as well as of John Basilowitz, Lewis the eleventh, and Muly of Morocco. It is the first lesson that they learn, it is the most easy, and it is necessary that he who has an evil heart should hide it, and conceal or disguise his wicked purposes.
When men are continually pursuing mischievous designs, they will be apt to practise continual hypocrisy; for no man will own his intentions to be bad: and such as are conscious of their own depraved inclinations will be prone to suspect others, will study to over reach whomsoever they suspect, will hate those who are like themselves, as well as those who are not. Hence the constant commerce of insincerity amongst corrupt and designing men: when base motives govern their actions, guile governs their tongues, and fair words cover dark ends.
This is a terrible situation, and wretched policy. He who deceives all men, will be deceived by all: For no man will trust, no man will love one who cheats every man. Hatred grows as naturally out of distrust, as love out of confidence. I do not find that Tiberius had one sincere friend in the world; for he had, or was believed to have had, a friendship for no man. So that as all men feared or suspected him, he was hated by all, trusted by none. It was dealing with him according to his own measure: Had he loved his People, he might have had their love, and been faithfully served, had he acted faithfully.
Princes of noble and good minds scorn to deceive: thence their Glory and Popularity.
QUEEN Elizabeth, who regarded her Subjects as her Children, was by her Subjects honoured as their common Parent, and as such she lived with them, as did Trajan with the Romans. She never broke her faith with her People, never deceived them. They suspected her of no evil designs, as they saw she practised none; and were zealous for her glory, because her glory was for their good. They liked to see her great, since she sought no greatness which tended to make them less, none in which they had not a share. She retained their obedience by the strongest tye, that of their affections; their affections were engaged by the strongest and most natural bonds, those of their own interest; nor knew she what it was to have an interest distinct from theirs, much less an opposite interest. The greatest contest between her and her People, her and her Parliaments, was that of mutual confidence and zeal, as was said of the above-mentioned Emperor and the Roman Senate.
Mr. Selden says of her, that “to her People she committed her considence under God, and they to her their chiefest treasure upon earth.” He says, that she once refused a subsidy as too much, would take but one half, and thanked the People for the remnant; “a courtesy, says he, that rang loud abroad, to the shame of other Princes.” I think it is the same Author who observes, that “to a Prince who spares them, the People will always be liberal, and a good Prince will spare a liberal People.” It is no wonder that under her the Credit of the Exchequer was as high as that of the Exchange. These were ways to endear her Government to all men, ways to endear Monarchy when conducted by such a Monarch. In her days were seen no struggles for a Commonwealth, nor did her Subjects wish for a plurality of Rulers, when they were happier under one. Monarchy must grow terrible before it grows odious, oppressive ere people long to shake it off; nor will they have recourse to another form of Government, till driven to it for relief. Princes are censured when they bear insults and encroachments from one another, and blamed if they take not vengeance. Is not equal consideration, at least some consideration, to be had to the honour and preservation of a People when oppressed and worried by their Rulers, men whom they pay so dearly, and support so nobly, to secure and protect them, an office which that illustrious Queen performed with such benevolence and wisdom?
Her glorious cotemporary Henry the fourth of France, to his other great qualities added that of great Veracity, in this, as in every thing else, very different from the two Princes his immediate Predecessors. In the Court of Charles the ninth, Falshood and Treachery prevailed; and these vices were accompanied by all others, by cruelties, debauchery, poisonings and assassinations, by all sorts of oppressions, all sorts of misrule. Henry the third was found to be so fraudulent and false, that his promises passed for snares, and by having deceived all men, could be trusted by none. For his known want of faith so often given and broken, he was abandoned by his subjects; and even his oaths, even declarations under his hand, passed for nothing but proofs that he would certainly violate them. At the same time the King of Navarre (afterward Henry the fourth) who had never failed in his word, was trusted by every body. Even his enemies trusted him: When upon occasion he had offered them hostages, they refused the same, and desired only his word: Yes, his mortal enemies the Spaniards, upon coming to a treaty with him, refused hostages, and sought only his word.
This was Virtue, this was Wisdom; and what Prince who knows the value, the glory and advantage of it, would be without it? A worthy Minister of his, the President Jeannin, a man of excellent understanding, was famed for equal probity, and acted in Counsel, acted in Negotiations, and with particular men, without any refinings or doublings, or little artifices. These are what a man truly wise despises, what none but the apes of wise men practise. Henry the fourth held his honour so sacred, as to declare, “That he would lose his Crown rather than cause the least suspicion of breaking his Word, even to his greatest enemies.”
The consequences of Falshood in a Prince, Scorn and Impotence----It is the mark of a poor and dishonest Spirit----Great and virtuous Spirits abhor it.
THERE is a meanness, a deformity in tricking and lying, such as a great and a good mind scorns as well as detests. In truth the honour of Henry the fourth and of Queen Elizabeth, their steadiness and nobleness of mind, were so known and prized, that as far as their names were known, their persons were feared or reverenced. They despised that sort of Kingcraft so unmanly and pedantic, which a cotemporary Prince used to boast of, and by which he made himself little in the eyes of the world, and of his People. His Falshood was so notorious, and be so notoriously decried for his Falshood, that the only fruit he reaped from it, was impotence and contempt. He had no kind of credit abroad, worse than none at home; his treaties were abortive, his mediations slighted, his resentments laughed at; and he who called himself the wisest King in Europe, was really the Dupe and the Jest of all Christendom. The only people who could depend upon him, were his Favourites, and these he durst not deceive: as often as he dared he did, and when he was about to part with one of them for ever, he could ask him, after many kisses, “For God’s sake, when shall I see thee again?” Then turn round and say, “I hope in God I shall never see thy face more.” With foreign States his promises and his menaces were alike disregarded, because alike unexecuted, and with his People their Prince had not so much credit as a Banker. He had so often, so shamefully, forfeited his credit, perverted the public trust, wasted the public money, that he was thought unworthy of all farther confidence. The most disgraceful of all Bankrupts, is a King bankrupt of his Honour.
The Romans, the greatest People that the Sun ever saw, as they were great in their fortune and valour, were so also in their honour, which they observed with signal punctuality, and by it gained renown with all nations, who whilst they could depend upon their faith, adhered with fidelity to their interest. Some of their allies were so obstinate in their adherence to the Romans, that rather than relinquish them they suffered the sword, famine and utter destruction, nay, destroyed themselves. They held treachery in such detestation, that when a traiterous Schoolmaster in a Town which they besieged, offered to procure it to be surrendered by betraying all his scholars, the children of the principal Inhabitants, into the hands of the Roman General, they abhorred the proposal, and gave up the villain even to their enemies. The same noble courtesy they did to King Pyrrhus, whilst yet desolating Italy: When his physician proposed to poison him for a certain reward, they rejected the execrable proposal, and communicated it to his Master. Long afterwards, when they had lost their Liberty, and with it too much of their virtue, they yet refused the offer of Adgandestrius a Prince of Germany, who undertook, “That if the Senate would send him poison, he would dispatch Arminius;” the most terrible foe that they had ever found in that country. The answer of the Senate was very noble, “That not by snares and blows in the dark, but openly armed, and in the day of battle, the Roman People pursued vengeance against their enemies.” The Romans, Queen Elizabeth, and Henry the fourth, had great Spirits, great Honour, but were not accomplished in little falsifications, such as the abovementioned Prince gloried in by the name of Kingcraft. It was well he had some cause of glorying.
Tyranny worse than Anarchy, or rather nothing but Anarchy.
IT is usually said, that bad Government is better than none; a proposition which is far from self-evident. I am apt to think that absolute Tyranny is worse than Anarchy; for I can easily suppose popular confusion to be less mischievous than a settled active Tyranny, that it will do no less harm, and is likely to end sooner. All tumults are in their nature, and must be, short in duration, must soon subside, or settle into some order. But Tyranny may last for ages, and go on destroying, till at last it has left nothing to destroy. What can the most dreadful Anarchy produce but a temporary work of desolation and fury, what but violation of Law and Life? And can Government be said to exist, where all Justice is neglected, where all Violence and Oppression is committed, where lawless Will is the only reason, where the ravages of blind appetite, and of the blind sword; are the only administration?
If this be Government, what is Anarchy? Is obedience due to aught but Law and Protection? Is he a Governor who spoils and kills? Am I obliged to pay duty and reverence to my enemy, to a common robber? By doings, and not by titles and names, is a Governor distinguished from an enemy; and less vengeance is due to a professed spoiler, than to a spoiling Magistrate. What have Societies to do with such a destructive Traitor, but to exterminate or destroy him, before he has destroyed society and all men? An Oppressor under the name of a Ruler, is the most detestable Oppressor; and, by such impudence and mockery, should but quicken universal resentment. I know of no argument for destroying Anarchy, but what is full as strong for the destruction of Tyranny.
Bad Princes ought to be treated with severity and abhorrence, in honour and justice to the good ---- No worthy Prince offended to see a wicked Prince exposed.
IN discoursing on Princes, I have treated the good with all possible reverence, as the tender Fathers of their People, as benevolent Guardians of Law and Righteousness, as Friends to human kind: A divine Character, which can never be too much prized, never too much extolled. If towards the bad I have shewn equal indignation, I hope I shall want no excuse, since it was equally just. They who honour worthy Princes, cannot avoid detesting Princes that are wicked; nor can such as hate not the wicked, ever truly love the worthy, says Plinye to Trajan, who, I dare say, believed him, and must needs find it a genuine compliment to his own excellent reign, to see those of the preceding Tyrants well exposed, since the blacker theirs appeared, the brighter his must shine. To expose them was to praise him, and it is chiefly by such opposition of characters, that his friend the Consul adorns that of the Emperor, in his immortal Panegyric, a Master-piece of Eloquence, Truth and good Sense, and a continued Invective against Domitian, and the other Imperial Savages, who had stained and perverted the Sovereignty. It is thus, in a great measure, that he applauds Trajan, and his method was just.
To reverence bad Princes, is to rob and injure the good, as reverence is the reward and perquisite of well-doing. If no evil whatsoever can be entitled to respect, what claim to it have the authors of evil, they especially who commit the highest? Do the Indians well in adoring mischievous Demons? Were the ancient Pagans wise in their wild worship of fire, fevers and crocodiles? Was any beast of prey, were all beasts of prey, half so destructive as Nero? Were the ravages of the Conflagration or a Pestilence worse than his ravages? Are men bound to reverence the plagues, the tormentors, and the consumers of men? To speak respectfully of bad men, Princes or others, is not reverence but flattery, and flattery is abuse. Before men can be brought to adore a hurtful being, they must be first (so far at least) divested of their senses, and struck blind by superstition, and then it is reverence without reason, consequently nothing. Who would value himself upon the trances of a mad-man, mistaking you for a Deity, and adoring you?
A good Prince should indeed take it amiss to perceive bad ones spared, as it will argue a presumption that he approves them, or will come to resemble them: An imputation which he should fear and abhor. He will therefore, for his own sake, encourage all freedom to examine and display their behaviour and memory. Nor can he discourage this as long as he means not to do as they did. Pliny asserts it roundly, as a matter of the utmost certainty: “That, when of an evil Prince posterity says nothing, it is evident that the present Prince follows his steps.” When Commodus put one to death for reading the life of Caligula, freely written by Suetonius, what could the Public infer, but that he knew his own conduct to be like that of Caligula? Trajan, who was a virtuous Prince, cared not how contumeliously the name and memories of Tyrants were used: Nor was aught a greater proof of the excellence of his administration, and the integrity of his heart, than that in his reign it was safe for all men to inveigh against evil Government, and evil Prinees, as the same Pliny observes; and elsewhere, still complimenting that glorious Emperor; “We then shew how passionately we love good Princes, when we are seen utterly to abhor the bad.” Tacitus says, to the deathless praise of this reign, that such was the rare felicity of the times, “That you might entertain what sentiments you pleased, and declare what sentiments you entertained.”
In consequence of such true principles, these two noble Authors treat Nero, Domitian and their fellows, as Monsters, Beasts, and Executioners; and thus must every honest, every rational Author treat such Princes. Pliny says, that Domitian was “the Spoiler, the Butcher of every excellent Person; a most treacherous Prince; a most rapacious Robber.” With such bitter and terrible names did a Roman Consul treat a wicked Emperor, in presence of a good one, Pliny before Trajan, nay, speaking to Trajan. Tacitus is not more tender: like the other, he loved virtue, and hated vice too much to be so.
Of Bigotry in Princes.
The mischief of Bigotry in a Prince: Its strange efficacy, and what Chimera’s govern it.
TACITUS tells us, that Otho was, in his designs upon the Sovereignty, violently instigated by the vain predictions of the Astrologers, who were ever confidently averring, that the Stars presaged approaching revolutions, and a year of signal glory to Otho. What else was this his absurd and greedy belief in the Astrologers but Bigotry to deceivers and false prophecy, whence he was prompted to seize the Empire, murder the Emperor, and throw the world into War and convulsions? For with him these wretched predictions passed as uttered by a prophetic spirit, and as the propitious warnings of the Fates. My Author, according to his custom, accounts for Otho’s credulity in these by a fine observation, “That such is the visionary genius of human nature, ever most zealous to believe things dark and unsearchable.” He adds, that Ptolemy (one of the Astrologers most credited by him) confined not himself afterwards to predictions only; but having first flattered the ambition of Otho, was now prompting him to the last bloody act of treason. His reflection upon this is just and strong, “That from the harbouring of such aspiring wishes, to the forming of such black purposes, the mind is led with wonderful facility.”
Croesus, King of Lydia, was a bigotted believer of Oracles, and many and immense were the gifts and oblations which he made them. By their fallacious responses he was incited to war with Cyrus, which ended in his perpetual captivity, and in the utter conquest of his wealthy Kingdom.
Bigotry in a weak Prince, or in any Prince, is always one of his worst and most dangerous weaknesses, generally ruinous to his People, often to himself; as it subjects him to the blind controul of narrow-spirited and designing Guides (for all Bigots must have Directors and Masters) who in manageing his conscience seldom forget their own interest, and to that interest often sacrifice the Public and all things.
Bigotry has a kindness for nothing but itself, and to all the rest of the world bears at best perfect unconcern, generally perfect malice. Hence wild wars and persecutions, Countries oppressed and exhausted, Communities enslaved and butchered, all perhaps for names and garments, for postures and grimaces, for sounds, and distinctions, and nonsense. Corresponding to the design is the result; numbers are made miserable or destroyed, that a few may flourish and domineer. For, that dominion is founded in Grace, and that the holy ought to inherit the Earth, is a position as old and extensive as roguery and enthusiasm. From this spirit Princes who are guided by it, instead of public Fathers and Protectors, often become public Pests and Destroyers; Nations are animated against Nations, and those of the same Nation plague and devour one another.
What human wisdom can restrain men actuated by divine fury? And when they think that the Deity commands them to spoil and kill, what avails any counsel or exhortation to protect and to save? Sheck Eidar a Prince and Enthusiast of Persia, having made a Reform of the Mahometan Religion there, declared it impossible to be saved without adhering to his system: And upon such as are to be damned in the next world, it is always deemed lawful, nay, necessary and meritorious, to inflict penalties and death in this.
The Turkish Doctors, on the contrary, differing from those of Persia in some important niceties, hold it lawful for the true believers (that is, for themselves) to kill, destroy and exterminate the Persians. Those pious zealots even hope from the goodness of God, that, at the day of judgment he will graciously change these Heretics into Asses, and doom them to carry the Jews, as the most contemptible of all Nations, a full trot into Hell. For such cruel and unrelenting censures, certainly these sound divines must have enormous provocation, and the Persians undoubtedly hold the most shocking opinions. They do so: For, instead of washing the naked feet all over, as the orthodox Turks do, they satisfy themselves with only sprinkling the water lightly over them. Another of their damnable Doctrines is, that they do not trim their Mustaches, according to the pure doctrine and usage of these their antagonists, but cut their beards only upon the chin. What is yet more horrible, they hold it lawful to wear green about their feet, a colour sacred to the memory of Mahomet; and, as a further demonstration of their obstinacy and pestilent notions, they assert the lawfulness of wearing a red Turbant. What can be a more just, what a nobler ground for hatred and war between these two Nations; war and hatred never to have an end?
Incited by such worthy causes as these, and openly avowing them as the motives of anger and hostility, their respective Princes have often conducted vast armies against each other, wasted countries, sacrificed millions. An Emperor of Turkey had it once in his head to have massacred all the Christians in his Dominions, though in several of his Countries they were by far the greater part. But this and all the Laws of mercy and policy are but weak considerations when opposed to religious impulse, and the instigation of Bigotry and Bigots. Mahomet was to be humoured, he who was the Apostle of God, he who hated Infidels. Now who would, who durst refuse to oblige God and Mahomet? Nor was such reasoning peculiar to the Mahometan Dervises, the good men who conduct the Consciences of Mahometan Princes. The professors of the best Religion cannot reason better, whenever they allege Religion to justify violence.
How easily a bigotted Prince is led against reason and interest: What ravages he is apt to commit.
FOR such dreams and whimsies as those last recited, or for whimsies equally absurd, equally reproachful to men and societies, haave Princes been brought to consume their People and risk their States. The Emperor Justinian, bent upon a war against the Vandals in Africa, was dissuaded from it by his first Minister, the Captain of his guards, for solid reasons, but urged again to the same wild design by the credit and foolish reasons of a Bishop, who it seems had in his sleep seen a vision, which encouraged the Emperor by all means to exterminate those Heretics. (They were Arians.) Who could withstand such an argument? And was not the expedition a wise one, worthy of a judicious Prince and of the Public-weal? It was at least worthy of him who advised it, and he dreamed or lied meritoriously for the truth, that is to say, for his own opinion and animosity. In sanguinary, in wild and destructive counsels, none have ever exceeded, few have ever equalled, those who professed to be the Ministers of mercy and peace.
Henry the second of France made a most scandalous Peace with the Emperor, even to the dismembring of his own Dominions, on purpose to make war upon his native Subjects, and to crush and butcher the Hugonots, who gave him no provocation, but that of praying to God in a manner which they judged most acceptable to God. This the selfish Bigots who governed his Passions and Counsels, and dishonoured his Crown, represented as the most crying crime, and this crime he punished with the most glaring rigour. It was a fine pursuit in which these seducers had engaged a Prince, in himself truly magnanimous, that of cutting the Throats of his People. One of his Successors, a great aimer at Glory, with all his mighty ambition was cramped by the little spirit of a Bigot. He who aimed at universal Monarchy, was himself subject to the Empire of Bigots, and his Bigotry made his country groan, made him an enemy to great part of his Subjects, the soberest and most industrious of them all, and produced oppressions and desolation utterly repugnant to the glory which he thirsted after without measure, and claimed without a title.
The expulsion of the Moors from Spain, effected by the devices and instigations of restless and mischievous Monks, working upon the Bigotry of the King, and continually alarming his Conscience with the anger and denunciations of Heaven for his slowness and want of zeal, is another sad instance of the baneful nature of this sort of spirit, when found in a Prince, or in those who govern him. In all places where it prevails, how different soever they be, and upon all occasions, how contradictory soever they prove, whatever it proposes or pursues, is still the cause of God: And who that once believes this, will, by opposing it, venture to fight against God? There is afterwards no room, nor perhaps safety, to mention public good or public peace, or any temporal consideration whatever. For what are these in comparison? What signified the numbers and industry of the Moors, as long as they were Infidels? Where the harm of dispeopling and impoverishing Spain, when, with so small a loss, so great, so pious a point was gained, that of quieting the King’s Conscience and making the Monks easy? No matter what became of the Bees so the Drones were safe, and the Bigot was appeased.
A bigotted Prince how subject to be drawn into Guilt and Folly — The dictates of Bigotry how opposite to those of true Religion.
ANY folly, any chimera or punctilio, let it be as absurd, as mean and trifling as it will, when once it is pronounced sacred, grows instantly momentous, and equal, nay, superior, to all things. Whether it be a piece of earth, or piece of building, or a coat, or a cap, or a day, or an uncouth word; it is more important than the tranquillity of the world and all the rights of men, and for it all men are to be oppressed, or worried, or slaughtered. Nay, the highest and most diffusive mischief which a Prince can do, shall be made his highest merit; and public devastation or a general massacre shall be recommended as a sure and pious atonement for his private vices and enormities.
Henry the third of France was very debauched, very devout, a notorious Bigot, a notorious Oppressor. But by acts of penance all his acts of impiety were cancelled, his conscience calmed, and he free to begin a new score of iniquity. This was the repeated round of his life. Amongst the atonements exacted from him by the merciless Hypocrites whose property and instrument he was, the persecution of the Protestants was always one: The rest consisted in profuse bounties and donations to the Monks. So that the blood and spoil of his poor Subjects payed for all. He, moreover, rendered himself contemptible by descending to strange and ridiculous mortifications, and to all the foolish mummery of Friars, so much below a King or a Man, but so much conducing to the holy purposes of his ghostly Guides, who thus bewitched him and held him fast to their fraternity.
Whilst the late Pope, a well-meaning man, but a wretched Bigot, instead of attending to the Administration of his Principality, was bestowing all his thoughts and time in visiting Churches and Images, in consecrating Chappels and Altars, and the like pious and unprofitable fooleries, corruption and injustice prevailed in his Court, oppression and misery amongst his People. With the best intentions that could be, his reign was despicable and grievous. What Philip de Comines says, that a stupid Prince is the heaviest curse that God can send upon a People, is equally true of a bigotted one; for Bigotry is religious stupidity, pious craziness; and as folly, whether natural or spiritual, is of it self blind and always requires guiding, the Bigot as well as the Blockhead will be for ever a slave to Pedagogues and Seducers.
Cardinal Richlieu, amongst the other implements of his Sovereignty over his Master the Monarch, was always provided with some able Divines to explain away conscientious Scruples, the impressions of Morality, and the precepts of the Gospel, whenever the same thwarted his Passions and Politics. Nay, the whole Assembly of the Clergy of France always proved his complaisant Casuists upon occasion, and accommodated their Theology to the drift of the first Minister. When he was engaging these his Sycophants to declare the marriage of the Duke of Orleans to be null, because he did not like it (and a better reason the Bible it self could not have furnished for illuminating these venerable Guides) the Queen Mother wrote to the Pope, to forbid the Clergy from meddling with that marriage: “For, she said, it was publicly notorious, that the Bishops were all Courtiers, and would say whatever the King or Minister would have them, and even contradict what they then declared, should a future Minister bid them.” By the like management he brought the King, who, like a good Catholic, abhorred Heretics, to protect and assist Heretics, as he did the Protestants in Germany, yet at the same time to crush and oppress his own Subjects, because they were Heretics, though by the Law and his Duty he owed them protection.
To believe in God, to trust in him, and to adore him, is the Duty of a Prince and of all men. But, for the love of God to hurt and distress men, is amazing wickedness and phrenzy. Conscience is the most sacred property, and has as just a right to protection from the Sovereign as have the lives and fortunes of his Subjects. If difference in Religion cause disputes amongst his People, so does difference about civil Property; and in religious controversies amongst them, it is his duty to hold as even a hand as in litigations about money and land. In one case as well as the other, he is to leave them to Law, and Reason, and Argument, and to prevent their deciding religious opinions, any more than civil suits, by force and violence.
Further instances of the great mischiefs occasioned by Bigotry of Princes.
WHENCE proceeded the Croisades, those mad expeditions so often undertaken by Christian Princes to recover Judea out of the hands of the Saracens, but from the Bigotry of Princes and People inspired and managed by the Pope and the Clergy? For this, Europe was drained of her best Men and Treasures, and her strength wasted in the East, for no reasons of State or security, but only for the sake of the Rock where our Saviour’s Body had lain for some hours. Neither he nor his Apostles had declared, that he had endowed this Rock with any sanctity or virtue, any more than any other stone or earth upon which he had chanced to tread. But the cheating Priests, they who always laid the first foundations of their Empire in delusion, by their noise, impudence and forgeries raised such frantic zeal in the minds of men, as produced great armies, efforts, and slaughter for the recovery of a bit of ground just like other ground. It was apparent that neither God, nor Christ, nor the blessed Spirit concerned themselves about it, else they would have guarded it from the hands of Infidels. So far otherwise, that never did any warlike expeditions more miserably miscarry, never was so much valour and strength so uselesly thrown away. Indeed, the whole ended in misfortunes and disappointments, nor produced aught save the destruction of Christian blood and wealth abroad, misrule, weakness and poverty at home, and the establishment of Ecclesiastical Tyranny in Christendom. Yet, though it was manifest that God blessed not these extravagant rambles, which were likewise repugnant to all good policy amongst men, the solemn cheats who deceived in his name, who would always be knowing his will in spite of himself, and who valued not the interest of men, failed not to preach up more, when all the former had ended in nothing but infamy and ruin. They cared not what became of the world so they could govern it, and with all their might, and frauds, and impudence, again and again excited Christendom to destroy itself to humour them.
What will not deluders dare, what will not the deluded suffer, when delusion reigns and reason is subdued? When men have lost the use of their senses, they are not likely to be very circumspect about their persons and fortunes; nor will such as rob them of their understanding, spare their lives or property; and they who belied God made no scruple of abusing men. Still more Croisades were preached up and undertaken. To carry them on men sacrified their persons and estates, married women their jewels and rich apparel, maidens their portions, widows their dowries; he who had no property gave his life, and such as were too feeble to travel and fight, hired others in their room. Under such phrenzy the Impostors had brought them by an assurance of pardon for all their sins, by an offer of the inheritance of the Saints to all who had the grace to act like madmen, and perish like fools. Paradise and Salvation, of which these Jugglers assumed to be the disposers, cost them nothing, and these they were always ready to traffic away for any substantial advantage and gratification present. Thus they abused the Laity with words and hopes, a sort of payment which they themselves would never accept: Nor, in truth, was ever any sett of men so addicted as they to secure all their rewards and establishments in this life, whilst, to disguise their designs, they were all the while discoursing piously of another.
They preached up the contempt of the world to others, and still humbly accepted to themselves whatever they had induced others to renounce. Nay, to engross all, seemed to be the only drift of such preachments.
All this was glaring and notorious to common sense: But the Monks had vanquished and banished all common sense by the dint of ghostly fears: And to combat any understanding that was still stubborn and unbewitched, they were furnished with other weapons, with dungeons, ropes and faggots. Every one who dared to contradict the Monks, though in defence of the veracity and honour of God, and for the welfare of human-kind, was an Atheist, at best a Heretic, fit to be consigned to Satan and destroyed by men. So far had these enemies to the world gained the dominion of it with its property, and such credit had the mockers of God obtained by boldly abusing his name and word! What could be more ruinous, and had proved to be, than these Croisades? Yet with what vehemence did the Clergy promote them, and how fast and blindly did Kings and People run to destruction and shame at the cry and instigation of the Clergy, who had the craft and address to throw all their works of zeal, all or the principal hazard and expence, upon the heads and pockets of others, and of making the Laity their dupes, property and drudges? Pere Daniel, the Jesuit, in his late History of France, is forced to own, that the Clergy there, after they had preached up a Croisade with mighty eloquence and zeal, grumbled bitterly when they themselves became taxed to carry it on. So rare, says he, it is to find any zeal that is perfectly disinterested! This is a very merciful reflection. The truth is, that their zeal was nothing but interest, or, at best, frenzy.
The Story of Saint Bernard is remarkable. He was engaged by the Pope to exert his credit and eloquence in raising a Croisade. The warm Monk undertook it zealously, and laboured in it with ardour. Even miracles were said to have been wrought in favour of his endeavours. He alledged a divine call, and authority divine for that expedition, and prophesied certain success to the Christians, certain destruction to the Turks. Upon such assurances from Heaven, uttered by one of its Embassadors, who sounded the Lord’s trumpet to war, all men ran to enlist themselves, and whole Cities and Villages were left desart. A mighty army passed into Asia, most of that mighty army perished: The whole expedition was fatal, and God’s Providence gave the lye notoriously to the promises of his Embassador, who yet kept himself in countenance by a pitiful subterfuge; “That these forces miscarried for their sins.” Why did he not foresee these sins, he who pretended to divine light and prophecy? He had boldly promised success without exception or reserve; and the excuse which he made will equally serve any quack-prophet that ever appeared or ever can appear in the world.
Besides the loss of men, which was often such as left the countries that furnished them little else but Widows and Orphans; (for the Monks who remained in safety at home, were to be accounted, not members, but moths of human Society) besides the waste of Treasure, then very scarce in Christendom; the Administration of Government was every where neglected or abused in the absence of the Governors, men, who can never fail of finding business enough at home, if they will conscientiously perform it. Kings too were sometimes taken prisoners, and for ransoming them, almost all the money which remained in their poor Countries, always made poor by these pernicious enterprizes, must be amassed and carried away to enrich their enemies.
We now see clearly the folly and mischief of these wild adventures; we discern (in this instance at least) the danger of credulity, the pestilent influence of delusion. They who were under it perceived it not, and we wonder at their blindness. Succeeding generations will perhaps be finding cause, though I hope not equal cause, of wondering at us, though they too may have their follies, but perchance not the same follies.
The choice of Ministers how much it imports Prince and People. Of what sad consequence to both, when bad. The bad only serve themselves, not their Master.
PRINCES cannot do all themselves, and must therefore appoint such as they can trust to act for them and in their name, men who are to apprize them of what is proper for them to know, to advise them what is fit for them to do. These are their Ministers and Counsellors, and upon the rash or prudent choice of these, the credit and ease, or dishonour and danger of a Prince, as well as the safety, or ill usage of his People largely depends. As wise Princes chuse such as are like themselves, so do Princes who are weak or vicious. Nero’s Favourite was Tigellinus, Queen Elizabeth had a Walsingham, Trajan a Pliny, Henry the fourth of France a Duke de Sully.
In a free Country, a Prince has a great advantage and assistance in chusing his Ministers, for if his intentions be righteous, if he mean to maintain the Constitution of the Laws, he will of course appoint men of name and ability: And this he may do without much ability of his own: He need only attend to the unbiassed humour and opinion of the Representatives of the People, and he cannot fail of being furnished with the ablest men. Whenever you want to chuse, you are, by the general consent, directed to the person worthy to be chosen, said Galba to Piso. Not unlike this is the observation of Helvidius Priscus, when an Embassy of Senators were about to be sent to Vespasian. Helvidius proposed, that they should be nominated by the Magistrates; for that by the judgment of the Senate thus manifested, the Prince would be, as it were, advised and warned, whom to fear and shun, whom to countenance and approve. He adds, that no greater support was there of a righteous reign, than righteous Ministers about the person reigning. If indeed a Prince aim at overturning the Constitution and setting his Power above the Law, he will find out tools proper for the wicked work, creatures of mere will, of desperate fortunes or designs, dreaded or contemned, selfish, enterprizing, or fool-hardy, such as will humour him, such as must depend upon him. But a Prince who studies publick good, will like men who are public-spirited. Such as are known to love their Country and its Laws, can never be unacceptable to one who has no views but to preserve both.
Whilst Nero was guided by the counsels of Seneca and Burrus, great hopes were conceived of his Government, because they were known to be worthy and able men. The Plan of his Reign conceived by them, and by him exhibited in his first speech to the Senate, was very just and fine. “He claimed not the judgment and decision of affairs, nor would allow the shutting up those who were accused in the same house with their accusers, and by it sustain the impotent Tyranny of a few. Nothing should be saleable within his walls, nor any access there to the crooked plots and attempts of ambition. Between his Family and the Republick a just distinction should be maintained. The Senate should uphold her ancient jurisdiction. Italy and all those provinces, which depended by allotment upon the People, should apply only to the Tribunal of the Consuls, and by them procure access to the Fathers. To himself he reserved, what was especially committed to his trust, the direction of the Armies.” Tacitus adds, that these declarations of his wanted not sincerity, and by the Senate many regulations were made, agreeable to their own good liking. For some years his Government continued very good, at least very plausible, and, as far as they conducted it, was unexceptionable, nay, reckoned a pattern to the best Princes, as the rest of it cannot be exceeded by the worst.
But when Burrus and Seneca were dead, or their credit with Nero decayed, it was easily foreseen at what he aimed, and that he would break out into all the outrages of a Tyrant, especially when it was seen who held the chief sway about him. Seneca and Burrus were therefore sorely lamented, the more for that Tigellinus succeeded. As he had shewn himself unworthy of such a Ministry, he now found a Minister worthy of such a Prince, who promoted him only for his infamy and vileness. And as they had taken all care to form him to virtue and good government, it was the business and pursuit of his present director to draw him headlong into a course of abominations and cruelty. Infinite enormities he caused him to commit; many he committed of his own head, unknown to his Master. They were well matched, or rather very ill: Nero promoted him because he was a polluted and mischievous man; and he improved Nero into a most pestilent Tyrant, such a Tyrant as committed a power of tyrannizing even to his manumised slaves. Helius was one of them, and to his governance and disposal the Emperor surrendered the people of Rome and those of all Italy, with a sway so absolute and dreadful, that, without once consulting his Master, he sentenced Roman Knights, nay, Senators, to what punishments or penalties he listed, some to exile, some to death, many to consiscations. By the breath of this arbitrary and potent Slave capital doom was pronounced against one of the most illustrious Grandees of Rome, Sulpitius Camerinus, as also against his son; and both were doomed to die, for no sort of crime, or other reason, save that they used the additional name of Pythicus, a name derived to them from their ancestors. The just Judge charged this as impiety against the Emperor, who had acquired that title by his victories in the Pythian Games. If the Freedman were thus mighty, what must be the first Minister, and one in such high favour?
Tigellinus at last acted as became such a Minister to such a Prince, proved a Traitor to his master, whom he had made a traitor to his trust, brought all men to abhor him, then deserted him. What other could be expected from him? Was it likely that he who was a villain to almost all the world, could be faithful to any man in it? It was but natural that a man who had acted so many villainies for him, or in his name, should act one against him, and save his own life at the expence of his Master’s. Purely for his own sake, only directed to his own ends, had been all the efforts of his Ministry, and what Nero vainly thought to be the effects of duty and fidelity, resulted from treachery and selfish views. He meant nothing but the gratification of his own brutal spirit, and the aggrandizing of himself, purposes which could not be accomplished but by the favour and authority of Nero. He therefore did not serve Nero; he only humoured and deceived him, as does every Minister every Prince when he encourages him in evil courses, or pursues them in his name.
A sure rule for a Prince to know when he is advised faithfully. The duty of a Minister to warn Princes with freedom. The interest of Princes to hear a Minister patiently. Few will tell them truth, when telling it is offensive. A wise Prince will encourage it.
HERE therefore is a rule for a Prince to judge of the fidelity of his Ministers, by considering whether their counsel be good or evil: If it be unjust, or cruel, or unpopular, though it may be pleasing, it is certainly faithless. No Prince is advised well, who is not advised honestly, and whosoever serves him wickedly, serves him falsly; since no service is due to him, none ought to be done for him, and none will profit him, but what is righteous and honourable. All the actions of a Prince, all his pursuits should tend to glory and popularity, and from just actions alone all genuine glory arises. Agesilaus King of Sparta said well, when the necessity was urged of complying with the Great King, a title always given to the Monarch of Persia, “The Great King is not greater than I, unless he be juster.” Plutarch, who mentions this, adds, that he thus settled the true, the Royal Standard of Greatness, which is to be estimated by Justice, not by Force. What glory can follow wickedness in any shape, however disguised by art, or new named by flattery?
From the Governors of men nothing should be found but what is for the good of men; when that good is not pursued, but evil felt instead of good, the Governors are deemed infamous, because by them Government is perverted. When the sword given for protection, is turned upon the givers, and, instead of protecting, slays, he who weilds it will be accounted unworthy to hold it. This is what all wise Princes know, what such as know it not should be told, and what honest Ministers will always tell. What else is the use of Counsel and of Counsellors? It is betraying a Prince to suffer him to do evil unwarned; how much worse to lead him into it? He will certainly suffer for it at last. Danger naturally accompanies wicked actions, especially wicked actions that affect the State. One danger surely attends such actions, the danger of infamy, of all others the greatest, such as a Prince ought to dread more than death. Now what is due to men who train and sooth a Prince into the worst, the most shocking doom that can befall him, that of being odious to the present and all succeeding generations? For the infamy of Princes is ever as immortal as their glory, perhaps more, as men are apter to reproach than to praise. Thus Nero is oftener mentioned than Titus, Caligula than Trajan.
Hence it imports a Prince to be patient of counsel, to court information, and prize men who tell him truth, to hate slatterers who always conceal or disguise it, and to submit his own opinion and pursuits to be examined, canvassed, and even contradicted. If he be peevish and imperious, wedded to his own sentiments, hate free speech, and discourage such as use it, he must expect, that his servants will utterly neglect their duty, when it is thus dangerous or fruitless to do it. When it becomes safer to deceive him than to counsel him, few or none will be apt to counsel him, many will be ready to deceive him: all his measures will be extolled, the worst perhaps most of all, because they want it most, and he may be fondest of the foolishest. Many reasons will be found to support that which is most against reason, and he may go on with great ease, because free from contradiction, boldly, because blindly, and meet ruin with applause. Perhaps he will feel the blow before he knows it to be coming, and, just at the approach of death, learn that he has a disease. Too many are apt to flatter wantonly, but almost all men will flatter when they are forced to it. Few men in the world will venture a Prince’s displeasure, fewer their employments, and scarce any their lives, to tell him uncourtly truths. When Nero had thrown off all shame and restraints, was already debasing his dignity in the face of the world, and engaged in harping and in singing-matches upon the public Stage, it was no longer possible or safe to admonish him of the ruinous course which he followed. So that what his worst sycophants encouraged, his best friends seemed to approve. Even Burrus joined in applauding him whilst his heart ached for him. He proceeded in his scandalous pursuits with such ardour as to destroy whomever he found to dislike them, hoping for applause from all men, not for Reigning but for Acting: The Theatre was his scene of glory, and in theatrical diversions he was engaged when he received news of the conspiracy formed to deprive him of empire and life. He was undone before any one was found bold enough to tell him, that he was undoing himself.
Exceeding singular and hardly ever to be expected is such resolute honesty as an Emperor of China once found in his Mandarins. He had given himself over to acts of Tyranny, and was proceeding in them. His Ministers modestly but truly represented to him the enormity and evil tendency of his conduct. He immediately caused these Ministers to be executed: Others made the same representations, and had the same fate. In the next the like stiffness and integrity was still found, and against them too the like bloody sentence pronounced. Yet more remained to bear a testimony equally virtuous and daring. By this their perseverance, so sleddy and undaunted, his stubbornness was overcome, he relented, and, yielding to conviction, changed his course of reigning.
Virtue so disinterested, so heroic, is seldom seen. In the beginning of the civil wars in France, during the minority of the late King, when all things were running into confusion, a present remedy wanted, and a Council called to find one, out of seven or eight Counsellors who composed it, not one was found who spoke as he thought, for fear of offending the Queen Regent; insomuch that, as the sure way to please her, all studied to deceive her. Fear is not wont to speak truth. When perfect sincerity is expected, perfect freedom must be allowed; nor has one who is apt to be angry when he hears truth, any cause to wonder that he does not hear it. A Prince of temper and sense, one who has patience to hear, and capacity to distinguish, need seldom be deceived. Queen Elizabeth, Trajan, and Henry the fourth of France not only encouraged freedom in their Ministers, and took advice in Council, but abroad and from all men.
De Rosni, the great Confident of Henry the fourth, used to treat him with so much plainness, nay, sometimes with such roughness, as none but a very wise King, who knew his value, and the use of plain speaking, would have borne. A foolish Prince (and such are always proudest) would have banished him for ever, perhaps done worse. That great Prince found cause to consult others besides his Ministers, when enquiring how to ease his People oppressed by the Farmers of the Revenue, he learnt that some of his Privy Council were so mean to be Pensioners to these rapacious Farmers, had share of their wicked gains, and thence supported them in all their rapine and oppressions. He discovered too, that all tricks and artifices were used to keep him from knowing the state of his Revenue, and the accounts perplexed on purpose to make it impossible, at least extremely difficult and tedious.
Ministers to be narrowly observed, as well as heard. They sometimes combine to nourish corruption and blind the Prince. How nearly it concerns him that all about him be uncorrupt.
HENRY the Great took the advice of his Ministers, as also care not to be misled by their advice: When Miron, Lieutenant-civil, and Provost of the Merchants, espoused the interest of the People whose property in the rents of the Townhouse of Paris the Court was about to seize, the Courtiers pressed to have him doomed to some terrible punishment, as an Incendiary; nay, as a Blasphemer, because in his remonstrances to the King, he uttered some uncourtly truths, such as, though they touched not the King, fell heavily upon some of his Counsellors. This they called flying in the King’s face, and would have had him vindicate their honour as his own; nay, their honour at the price of his justice. He was too worthy and wise to hearken to them.
A wise Prince will profit as well by watching his servants, as by consulting them. Henry the Great saw in how many channels they had caused corruption to flow, nor could he with all his vigour and understanding stop all, nor even cleanse the seats of Justice. Of old the order taken in that Kingdom for supplying the Tribunals worthily, was very good, by directing a Register to be kept of all the able Advocates and Lawyers. Out of these, upon a vacancy, three were presented to the King, for him to chuse one. But the Courtiers had advised the King to slight all such representations, as restraints upon Royalty, and to chuse one of his own mere will and finding. Thus it fell into the hands of the Courtiers to recommend, and they always recommended him that gave most. Hence base fellows filled the Courts, ignorance possessed and polluted the sacred seats of Justice, and these scandalous dealers, who had found money more regarded than virtue and sufficiency, were seen to value Law and Righteousness less than Money. Of this venality of places Thuanus justly complains, in the dedication of his excellent History to that King. Yet this evil, this establishment of corruption has been found scarce capable of a cure even by such Princes and Ministers as had the cure of it at heart.
Indeed all corruptions creep easily in, but are with great difficulty removed. In time they even grow fashionable, and then no man is ashamed of being in the mode; so that the greatest infamy upon earth ceases to be infamous when grown common, as every iniquity countenanced at Court will grow. When the shame of being vicious is banished, vice becomes established; nay, virtue will then be thought singularity and sourness, and be treated with coldness and contempt. So much it imports a Country, so much it imports a Prince who values common honesty, his own reputation, and the interest of his Country, that all about him have clean hands. It is not enough that his Ministers and great Officers be untainted and above the mean traffic of selling places: None that are near him, or approach his person should be suffered to dabble in that vile commerce. The disgrace and the danger will at last reach him, and when places are basely filled, when honours are unworthily bestowed, he will bear, at least, share of the blame. He should consider such infamous traders as Vulturs, that prey upon the very vitals of Sovereignty, the credit of the Sovereign, as creatures obscene that contaminate his Court, injure and provoke his People, alienate their affections, and dishonour his reign. When such venality prevails, it will certainly be known, as certainly create disgusts, soon spread to general murmuring. Some will be provoked because it immediately hurts them, others will resent it as it affects the Public, and all will dislike it as it is base. It may indeed happen that the man who has favour for money, may deserve it without money, and then it is hard upon him to pay for what he merits: But generally speaking, the worst men rise when money is the way of rising. However that be, the thing itself is dishonourable and unpopular: and what hath a Prince more to fear than unpopularity and dishonour?
Let a Prince, the ablest Prince, take what care he pleases, he will still be in danger to be misled, if those in his confidence have an interest to mislead him. Vespasian, who at first intended no oppression, was by evil counsel brought to commit many. Queen Elizabeth confessed to her Parliament with regret, that she had been overreached, her power abused, and enormities committed under her name. Edward the third suffered his reign, one of the most glorious that history can shew, to be stained by the Ministry of a Mistress, a rapacious Woman, who had a shameful sway over him and his affairs. The Prerogative, which in the hands of a good Prince is a rod of Gold, when exerted by evil instruments under him, becomes a rod of Iron; as I have seen it somewhere observed.
What selfish ends the Counsellors of Princes sometimes pursue, yet pretend public good. They gratify private passion to the ruin of the State. What a reproach to a Prince the corruption of his Servants.
HENRY the Great, after gaining the Battle of Ivry, might, according to the general opinion, have had the City of Paris surrendered to him, had he immediately advanced thither. That he did not, was ascribed to the artifices of his Ministers agreeing to dissuade him from it upon different motives of their own. The Marshal de Biron was thought to dread Peace, for that by it his own great importance would have heen lost or lessened. Monsieur D’O, Superintendent of the Finances, was believed to aim at the sacking of Paris, that thence the King’s treasures might be filled, and his debts cancelled. Others imagined that the Hugonot Ministers retarded him, from a jealousy of an accommodation with the Catholics of Paris about matters of Religion. The several conjectures are reasonable, that, particularly, concerning the Marshal de Biron, who was so fond of continuing the war, that he would not suffer his son to seize the General of the League, when he proposed it and had it in his power. “How, says the Marshal, wouldst thou send us back to plant cabbages at Biron?”
The Marquis de Louvois, Minister to the late French King, acted from the same principle, and by it influenced his Master. He was eternally contriving to keep the King and his Kingdom involved in wars, because he himself was Secretary at War, and during war found that he was of most consideration. As further proofs of the power and prevalence of private spirit in public concerns, in the minority of that King, the Dutchess de Longueville instigated the civil war with all her might, purely to avoid living with her husband the Duke, whom she had provoked with her conduct. The Duke de Nemours did what he could to promote it, on purpose to separate the Prince of Conde from the Dutchess of Chatillon, a Lady whom they both loved. The Queen Regent studied not to prevent a civil war, since it might bring back her dear fugitive Cardinal. Katherine de Medicis was continually stirring up commotions, conspiracies, and even civil wars, even against her own son Henry the third, with design to secure power to herself. She succeeded too well: She exhausted that noble Country, oppressed the Subjects, destroyed Liberty and Laws, to promote desolation, licentiousness and the consuming sword. Was this Wretch, this Pest of Society, the Parent of her Country? As the most comprehensive calamity that could befall a Nation, she kept it always divided, always engaged in war and blood. When the People, wearied and weakened with long strife and slaughter, had procured peace and a breathing-time, she never ceased her wicked machinations, until she had broke it again, and, in spight of Treaties and public misery, set their blood a running. Moreover, to drive all virtue out of a country, from which she had already driven all security and concord, she carefully promoted all sorts of debauchery, and amidst the pangs and calamities of the State, encouraged every excess of voluptuousness and revelling. Nay, to gain and corrupt the Grandees with the fairest and most bewitching baits, she kept her Court replenished with fair Ladies well trained and fit to cajole Malecontents, and to soften Heroes. Those whom nothing else could influence, this did. By what name can we call these politics, this trade of hers?
Many public designs, however admired and interesting, are sacrificed to private ends and personal piques. The Duke de Mayenne, that zealous Catholic, General of the League, the mortal enemy to Heresy and Henry the fourth, postponed all his zeal for Religion, all regard for the League, all his hate of Heretics, to the sole fear that his nephew the Duke of Guise would be declared King and set above him. Upon this apprehension he made a truce with Henry the fourth.
It is happy for Princes when their interest and that of their Ministers are the same; happy for the Public when both combine to promote the common good. But when such as conduct the Administration are drawn away by low pursuits and gains of their own, the Prince’s reputation will be blotted, the public interest at best neglected, often marred or ruined. There are instances where a general war has been risked, rather than a few Courtiers would part with some private bribes and gettings, even from scandalous Villains and Banditti.
The Uscoques, who were a nest of fugitives settled at Segna upon the Frontiers of Hungary, and there protected by the House of Austria, as a band of desperate fellows proper to repulse the encroachments and insults of the bordering Turks, became themselves Freebooters upon all Nations, and thence caused universal complaints from the neighbouring States, especially from that of Venice; and repeated applications were made to the Imperial Court for redress. This course of rapine, and consequently these complaints and expostulations, went on for many years. The Uscoques still robbed, the foreign Ministers still complained, no effectual redress was obtained, and therefore a War was threatened. Behold the true reason of all this. When the Merchants and Traders, despoiled by this band of Thieves, went to the Imperial Court to represent their losses, and to beg relief, they saw their Jewels and Brocades upon the Wives of the Imperial Ministers.
This was a hopeful confederacy and commerce between great Ministers of State and a Den of Robbers. It was thus they were protected in robbing: They, indeed, paid so high for this protection, that though they had made infinite spoil, and acquired great wealth, they were still beggars, for they were suffered to keep none. One old Uscoque had in his time acquired by plunder to the value of eighty thousand Crowns, yet perished for want. The Robbers at Court seem to have been the more rigorous sort of the two, for they left nothing: Surely they were the most infamous.
What a scandal upon the Imperial Court, to be thus bribed by a nest of Rogues and Outlaws, to suffer such depredations upon the innocent, to have such vile spirits at the helm of the State, and, for the sordid lucre of particulars, to venture a war in Europe. Much more honourable were the grounds which engaged Alonso the ninth, King of Leon, in a war against another Prince, his kinsman, for that the latter owed him ten thousand Maravedis, about seven pounds ten shillings of our money. Upon the payment of that sum Don Alonso promised to make peace.
I think it is boasted of the Austrian Family, as a proof of their innate generosity and clemency, that in the space of three hundred years, they never punished any of their Ministers, their worst Ministers, with death or confiscation. So safe were those who maintained this honourable alliance with the Uscoques. This character of that August House, reminds me of what was said of Charilaus, a King of Sparta, remarkable for extreme gentleness, “that he was so gracious as to be very good to the very worst of men.”
Under a Prince subject to be blindly managed, a change of Ministers rarely mends the Administration He often hates his Ministers, yet still employs them. Ministers most in danger where the Prince has most Power.
IT is a heavy misfortune to a country, when a Prince is subject to the management and designs of whomsoever he happens to have about him; for then the change of persons rarely mends the condition of his country or his own condition. Lewis the fourteenth was weary of the imperious humour of Madam de Montespan, and apprized that many of her demands were unreasonable and insolent; yet could refuse her nothing when face to face. So manageable was that great Monarch by those who had once got possession of him, Ministers or Mistresses, that even Mademoiselle Fontange, a stupid idiot, but very handsome, domineered over him. He generally hated his Ministers, and almost always feared them, wanted to get rid of them, but was afraid to discharge them. In order to remove Fouquet, Superintendent of the Finances, he used the most remote pretences, disguised his intentions, made seints, took a long journey, drew an army together, and made such mighty movements, as if some great war had been on foot. Yet Fouquet was at all times in his power, nor does there appear any other cause for so many precautions, and such a grand apparatus, but his own extreme timidity and causeless fear. He could not abide Louvois his first Minister, who had long managed him: The like aversion he bore to Seignelay and la Feuillade, two other of his Ministers: Insomuch that when he had taken Mons, he reckoned it amongst the other felicities of the year, that he was relieved for ever from these three great Officers. He had been weakly subject to them, then as weakly afraid of them. Had it not been for the King’s dread or hatred, or that of some superior Favourite, it was thought that Louvois might have lived to have been an older man.
What signifies the change of Ministers, without changing measures? What, when they who succeed are permitted to be as bad as their predecessors? Let a Prince hate a Minister ever so much, or dread him, or destroy him; all this avails neither him nor the State, if the Administration be not mended. Without this any alteration or punishment is folly or mockery. It is the grimace of Justice, like that in Turkey, where the Grand Seignior frequently cuts off a wicked and rapacious Bashaw, but never returns any of his rapine. He ought to correct or prevent foul dealings, to discountenance such of his servants as commit them, and to protect and encourage such as commit none against all clamour and malevolence; for clamours and malevolence there will be against Ministers the most virtuous and irreproachable, as long as there are Ministers or Men.
Ministers are only safe there, where the standing fence of impartial Laws will be able to protect their innocence, when in spight of innocence the People think them guilty, and the Prince through pique or policy would punish them as such. The People may be misinformed, and often are, and passion may misguide the Prince. But the Laws are never angry, at least with the guiltless, and judge not but according to truth and evidence. There, as they cannot act by the mere command of the Prince, so neither can they suffer by his mere will. In arbitrary countries the Prince must sometimes destroy good Ministers, because it is known that he can; and to an enraged populace or soldiery he has no room to plead his inability. His overgrown power is a curse upon himself as well as upon his servants, and by having too much he has none, or worse than none, none to protect and save, which is the office of a Governor and a Father; but only to kill and destroy, which is the work of an enemy and an executioner. Such a power is but the worst part of bondage, bondage to him, bondage to them, to be doomed to act, not to chuse it, doomed to the most terrible of all slavery, that of destroying, or being destroyed. This has been often the situation of the greatest Monarchs upon earth. It was that of Otho. In Otho, says Tacitus, authority sufficient was not found to prohibit acts of violence; it was hitherto only in his power to ordain them to be done. It was that of Vitellius. To him, says the same Author, no power remained either to command or to forbid; nor was he any longer Emperor, but only the cause of war. And it was that of many of their successors. In Turkey it is common. Who can securely serve such Princes? They can put you to death if you do not obey their commands, however unjust they be, and cannot defend you when you do, nor save you, however innocent you are.
Ministers trusted without controul, sometimes threatening and perillous to a Prince. How fatal this often to themselves, and to the State.
EVEN Princes of parts, and naturally jealous, are sometimes subject to a fondness for Favourites, even to folly and their own danger, apt to heap so much grandeur upon them as to have none left for themselves; and when nothing of Sovereignty remains but the name, that too will soon follow, unless some chance or stratagem intervene to secure it, and redeem the whole. Tiberius, the darkest and most suspicious Prince upon earth, was yet open to Sejanus without reserve, trusted him without bounds. To this Idol every thing was made to bend, all knees to bow, and many noble lives sacrificed. By his power and artifices he destroyed most of the Imperial Family; nay, effected the same by the co-operation of Tiberius, whose passions he guided and enflamed. In all public honours done to Tiberius, Sejanus was included, and shared in them with the Emperor at the Emperor’s desire, at Rome, in the Senate, over the Provinces. In the City he had more Statues erected than the Year has Days. Men every where swore by the Fortune of Sejanus, with the same solemnity as by that of the Prince, nor was the name of the Prince found oftener in the last Wills of the Romans than the name of Sejanus. To him, in his absence, Embassadors were sent with the same form as to the Prince, Embassadors from the People of Rome, Embassadors from the Equestrian Order; nay, Embassadors from the Roman Senate. His birthday was celebrated publicly, by a decree of Senate, as well as that of the Prince. For his health public vows were paid every return of the new year, as for the health of the Emperor.
What else was all this, but to invest Sejanus with Sovereignty, by paying him all the honours due to a Sovereign? Though all discerning men saw the consequence, saw his pursuits, and whither they tended, no man durst inform or warn the Emperor, because by it he must have exposed his own life; so capricious was the Prince, so powerful his Minion. No wonder his intelligence was late, and that his information and despair came together. Sejanus swayed the State at the head of the soldiery, who were Masters of the State, and had in their hands the making and unmaking of Emperors: So that no more remained to be done to accomplish a revolution, but just to change names, Sejanus for Tiberius, the latter long since imprisoned in an Island, the former already governing the Empire, and adored by the Army. Nothing but the form seemed wanting, and that too was concerted, and the conspiracy settled. Tiberius, at last, illuminated, by wonderful wiles and dissimulation, and by the bold management and lies of Macro, escaped this peril. Yet it was nine months ere he could accomplish the fall of this mighty Traitor, whose doom proved as destructive to the Roman State as had his flourishing Fortune.
No Tyranny was ever more signal than that of Tiberius both in raising that pestilent Favourite, and in pulling him down. Whomsoever Sejanus disliked, Tiberius destroyed, and by his favour or frowns all men prospered or perished. The Roman World seemed the Patrimony of Sejanus. The Roman People were his vassals, the Grandees of Rome his dependents or victims, the Army his guards, the Emperor his shadow. But whatever mischief he had done whilst he lived, he did rather more when dead. As before, all who were obnoxious to him, had been murdered, or beggared, or banished; so now all who had espoused him, and adhered to him, all who depended upon him, all who had favoured his fortune, or were suspected to have favoured it, were doomed to the like inexorable cruelty, to dungeons, to halters and the bloody knife. Nay, progressive murders were too slow for the inhuman rage of Tiberiusa . Men, Women and Children must be butchered in the lump, lie dead in heaps, and barbarity be exercised on their carcasses.
This general carnage is affectingly described in the sixth Book of the Annals. “His cruelty being but inflamed by incessant executions, all those kept in prison under accusation of any attachment to Sejanus, were by his command put to the slaughter. Exposed to the Sun lay the sad monuments of the mighty butchery; those of every, sex, of every age; the illustrious and the mean; their carcasses ignominiously thrown, apart or on heaps. Neither was it permitted to their surviving friends or kindred, to approach them, to bewail them, nor even any longer to behold them. Round the dead guards were placed, who watched faces and marked the signs of sorrow; and as the bodies putrified, saw them dragged to the Tyber, where they floated in the stream, or were driven upon the banks, no man daring to burn them, none to touch them. The force of fear had cut off the intercourses of humanity: and in proportion to the growth of Tyranny, every symptom of commiseration was banished.” It was in court to Tiberius that most men courted Sejanus: For this, Tiberius destroyed them, as he had before those who did it not. If the crime was so great, the old Tyrant should in justice have destroyed himself as the greatest Criminal.
The great mischief of exalting Favourites beyond measure, especially such as command great Armies.
MUCH the like sway had Plautianus under Severus, and much the like fate. He had enjoyed the same post, committed the same oppressions and excesses, and was put to death for having had the same treasonable designs. No man’s fortune escaped his claws, and by trick or violence he shared in the estates of all men: Many of the most considerable he put to death. No Nation escaped his extortions, no City was unpillaged. The Presents made to him were larger and more frequent than those to the Emperor, and he could boast more Statues erected to him, in Rome, in other Cities, by private men, by public societies, and even by the Senate. The Senators and Soldiers swore by his Fortune, and for him made solemn vows. He commanded the guards, governed all things, did what he listed. Indeed so giddy and wanton his boundless power had made him, that having invited to his house an hundred Romans of good Families, he caused them all to be castrated. Nor were they boys only whom he thus abused, but men grown, some of them married men; and all for no other cause than to increase the number of his daughter’s Ennuchs. Dion Cassius says, that he had seen some of these men, so suddenly made Eunuchs, Eunuchs who had children, wives and beards. To this daughter, whom he married to the Emperor’s son, he gave a fortune large enough for the daughters of fifty Kings.
All this power was too mighty to last in the same shape; nor did it. He must either cease his greatness, to be greater, or perish. Rather than do the first, he ventured the last in order to the second. He attempted to cut off the Emperor, and was himself cut off. Fortune saved Severus, as it had Tiberius, and they kept their Diadem, when they had nigh lost it. So near sometimes is Treason to a Throne, and sometimes ascends it. Plautianus, in the midst of his hopes and grandeur, he who was first Minister to the Emperor, Father-in-law to the Emperor’s son, and aiming himself at the Empire, was executed like a common malefactor, by the command of his daughter’s husband, and his body thrown into the street. So strangely are the views of the greatest men baffled! This great match for his child, whence he hoped an accession of credit and might, hastened his tragical fall, and made it more tragical. With him too fell his family: His son, born, as once seemed, to wealth more than Royal, his daughter more than royally portioned and married, were banished to an island, where having for some time led a miserable life, destitute of common necessaries, struggling with many miseries, apprehending yet more and heavier, they were relieved by the hand of an executioner in the following reign.
Neither does it appear that Severus had in the least foreseen such a reverse in the Fortune of his great Favourite, and for want of such foresight, caused it. It was but the natural consequence of such a blind and unbounded trust. The temptation was too great, and what was at first ambition in Plautianus, grew at last to be necessity. This Severus himself afterwards owned, lamented the weakness of human nature, which in elevated fortune knows no moderation, and blamed himself for haveing raised him so high that he grew giddy. By the ruin too of Plautianus many were endangered, several suffered a bloody doom.
Where-ever there are greatstanding Armies, Revolutions are suddenly brought about, and therefore will be often attempted; for whoever has the Army, has or may have the State. Hence the danger of Tiberius, hence that of Severus, and hence the danger and sudden fate of many Princes in almost all ages, as well as encouragement to ambitious men to set up themselves by corrupting the soldiery, a task not over difficult. It was the fate of most of the Roman Emperors, as to be made by their Armies, so to be destroyed by their Armies.
The same subject continued.
Good Ministers often ruined and destroyed for their virtue by a combination of the bad. The spight and wicked arts of the latter. How ready to charge their own guilt upon the innocent.
IT is a matter of grief and concern, though not always of wonder, to see the best servants of a Prince often supplanted, often undone by the worst, to see his truest friends depressed, and the most pernicious parasites triumph, to consider the vile lyes and contemptible causes by which the bad undermine and undo the good. Junius Blæsus was one of the most illustrious Romans, of a princely Spirit, and his Fortune like his Race, very noble. He was Governor of Lionese Gaul, and espoused the cause of Vitellius early and cordially; nay, bore at first all the expence of his Imperial State and Train; for such was the poverty of Vitellius, that he could not as yet support the same himself. For such splendid instances of his zeal Vitellius returned him many open commendations, and much secret hatred.
A man of so much esteem and merit the false and spiteful Courtiers could not bear. They bore him special enmity, for that, in a reputation glorious and popular, he so far surpassed themselves contaminated with every sort of infamy. A man so dangerous to the Tribe, by being so much better than they, and so much above them, must therefore be taken off, and as he was perfectly innocent, some fault must be forged, and the simple Emperor alarmed with the shadow of some terrible Treason. A terrible one indeed they found: Blæsus happened to sup with a Friend, whilst the Emperor happened to be out of order. This was aggravated to him, and this embittered him. Here was ground and encouragement enough to proceed to a direct charge; it was all that the plotters wanted, they who made it their business to dive with a curious eye into all the passions and disgusts of the Prince. Instantly one of the body is dispatched to impeach him. The Impeacher made a dismal, a weeping harangue, how “Blæsus was making merry, and the Emperor’s life at stake, nor could aught secure it but the death of such an insolent criminal.” The argument prevailed: The foolish Emperor ordered him to be poysoned, and, as brutish as foolish, went full of glaring joy to see him in his agonies; nay, boasted, that he had feasted his eyes with the sight of an enemy expiring.
This was the unworthy, the tragical end of Junius Blæsus, procured by the poysonous tongues of traducers; a man venerable for the antiquity of his house, signal for elegance of manners, signal for uprightness of heart; in his faith towards Vitellius obstinately firm, free from all vice, from all ambition and intrigues, so far from coveting any hasty honour, much less sovereignty, that he could hardly escape being judged worthy to be Sovereign. The truth is, he had been already tried by the Courtiers and false friends of Vitellius, and by them tempted to desert him, but tempted in vain. This alone might prompt some of them to destroy him. It was what many supposed to have occasioned the death of Fonteius Capito commander in Germany under Galba: Cornelius Aquinus, and Fabius Valens, two Colonels of Legions, instigated him to rebel, and upon his refusal slew him, then charged him with Rebellion.
How hard it is for a good Minister to support himself with a Prince surrounded by Sycophants and Seducers, or to preserve him and his State. Their execrable Stratagems to execute their Malice. How such sometimes abuse the Prince, mislead him, distress him, and murder him.
AS no good Minister can be fafe where such mischievons Minions prevail, so neither can a Prince nor his State. It is not the honour of the Prince, it is not the ease and benefit of the Country that they seek and consider; it is only their own interest and advantage, and this they will pursue, though to the ruin of Prince or State. King James the fifth of Scotland had a fair opportunity of establishing a lasting peace with England. Henry the eighth his Uncle, then at great variance with the Pope, the Emperor and Spain, willing to strengthen himself at home, even desirous to settle the succession upon his Nephew, courted him to an alliance; nay, to an interview and conference at York. Nothing could promise fairer for the advantage of Scotland, for many ages harrassed and desolated by wars with England, nothing prove more honourable and beneficial to the Scotch King than the entail of the English Crown and the support of his Uncle. Henry the eighth had then only a daughter, Mary, and she was declared illegitimate. King James therefore, by the advice of his Council, declared his acceptance of the proposal; the English Embassadors returned highly satisfied, and highly pleased their Master, who made great preparations at York for the entertainment of his Nephew.
But the Scotch King had Minions about him of more prevalence with him than his Council, or his Honour or his Interest, if these two can be parted. To these Minions the Clergy apply, and with large bribes engage them to dissuade the King from keeping his word. Some of the Minions too were Clergymen, and in the name of all laboured to debauch and deceive the King. They frightened and cheated him with the word Heresy. And whatever offended the Clergy, be it man or thing, must surely be an enemy to God and the King, and consequently very bad and terrible. They said, it was grown up in England, and growing fast in Scotland, and shewed him what notable profit would accrue to him from suppressing it, and enriching himself with the estates of such as professed, and of such as favoured it. With this they gave him a list of their names, encouraging him to plunder and burn the best and richest of his subjects.
The King listened to the proposal too greedily, and communicated it to the Laird of Grange his Treasuret. This was an honest and bold Man, who freely shewed his Master the monstrous iniquity and mischief of such counsel, exposed the evil and rapacious hearts of the Bishops, their corrupt practices, unsufferable pride, ambitious designs, and ungodly lives, with their utter unfitness to be trusted in Council, or with any civil concerns; represented, how rashly and perniciously one of his Predecessors, King David, had stripped the Crown of its Patrimony to endow Bishopricks and Abbeys; whence his Majesty was now so poor, the Prelates so rich, so prodigal and assuming, that they strove to be Masters and Directors in all things. Thus he convinced the King, and recovered him to his first reasonable purpose of closing with England; insomuch that his Majesty, next time the Prelates approached him, fell upon them with great bitterness, for having endeavoured to mislead him into such cruelties against so many Noblemen and Barons, to the danger of his own Estate. “Wherefore, said he, gave my Predecessors so many lands and rents to the Kirk? Was it to maintain Hawks, Dogs and Whores to a number of idle Priests? The King of England burns, the King of Denmark beheads you: I shall stick you with this Whingar.” Wherewith, says Sir James Melvil (from whom I quote these words) he drew out his dagger, and they fled from his presence in great fear.
He now fully resolved to keep his promise with his Uncle of England, as tending both to his advancement and honour. But his resolution held not. The Bishops were not easily baulked nor ashamed, nor wont to relax when interest, or dominion, or revenge was in view. Again they assail the Minions, particularly Oliver Sinclair, with store of gold, promised him high honours by their weight and procurement, especially the command of the Army against England, could he bring his Master to violate his Faith, and break with his Uncle. Their next step was to undo the Treasurer, by defaming him to the King: “He was proud, he was a Heretic (an imputation always powerful, however stale and foolish) he carried an English new Testament in his pouch; nay, he was so arrogant, that he would not procure Women for the King, nor prostitute his Son’s Wife to his Majesty’s Pleasure.” For this was one article of the charge against him, and urged by a venerable Prelate. It was usual for these Favourites to furnish the young King with Women, married or unmarried, thus to preserve their favour.
When the King vindicated his Minister, as a plain, frank Gentleman, whom he loved well, and to whom he begrudged no reward; the Prior of Pittenween replied and said, “Sir, the heir (heiress) of Kelly is a lusty fair Lass, and I dare pledge my life, that if your Majesty will send for her presently, he shall refuse to send her to you.” (The Lady was betrothed to the Treasurer’s Son.) A godly proposal, and it took. The King signed an order for the Lady to be brought to him; nay, the Prelates and their Faction contrived that a brother Prelate, the Prior of Pittenween, should carry it, and return with the fair prize. The Treasurer refused to comply, for good reasons: amongst others, the reverend Envoy was his known Enemy, and a known Debauchee. The Prior however who had gained the main point, rejoiced in the denial, and by it enraged the King, nay, from him a warrant was obtained to seize the Treasurer, and commit him to the Castle of Edinburgh.
He was aware of their mischievous devices, and hastened to Court. The King lowered, nor would speak to him. He boldly asked his Majesty, Why such a change, so much displeasure presently after so much favour, and for what offence? The King replied, “Why did thou refuse to send me the maiden whom I wrote for, and gave despiteful language to him I sent for her?” The Treasurer said, that he thought himself meetest to bring her, nor would he trust the Prior, as he knew him to be one infamous for rapes, a man the most notorious of any in Scotland for debauching of women, whether wives or virgins. Such failings, it seems, the holy man had, but was zealous for the Hierarchy against Heretics and his Country. “Hast thou then brought the Gentlewoman with thee?” said the King. Yes, Sir, said the Treasurer. This softened him. “Alas, saith the King, they have set out so many leasings against thee, that they have obtained of me a warrant to put thee in ward: But I shall mend it with a contrary order.”
The Treasurer answered with lamentation; “My life, Sir, or warding is a small matter: but it breaks my heart, that the world should hear of your Majesty’s facility.” For he had learnt, that in his absence they had made the King send to England to contradict his promise, and refuse to meet his Uncle. His lamentations availed not: The worst counsels had swayed him. The Prelates, and other Minions corrupted by them, and subservient to them, rule the King. Harry the eighth rages, vows to revenge so much scorn, and sends away an Army to lay Scotland desolate by fire and sword. The Scotch King too raises forces, but forces without heart, as in a cause undertaken for the pleasure of the Prelates against their Country. This damped their spirits, but what quite finished their dejection and despair was, to see Oliver Sinclair, a Minion and Hireling of the Prelates, declared General of the Army.
The Lords and principal Officers, through indignation that the Court and Country should be governed by such vile instruments as the Bishops and their Creatures, refused to fight under such a worthless Commander; nay, suffered themselves to be all taken prisoners. The whole Army was overthrown, the Kingdom defenceless, and exposed to the ravages of a victorious enemy, and the poor King to anguish and disgrace. Against the Bishops all mouths were open, all men enraged, to see the Country perishing to satiate their fury and ambition: The King heard the general outcry, his eyes were opened, and, in the fulness of his heart, he dropped some expressions of resentment against his ghostly and execrable advisers; for which expressions they soon took severe vengeance.
Such men never retract, never forgive. The Realm was under the spoiling hand of Enemies and Invaders, the Army routed, the Nobility provoked, the People miserable and murmuring, the King distressed, and his Honour lost. Did all this soften the Bishops? No: to accomplish their malice and good services to the Public and their Sovereign, they murder him by poison. For, with their other politics and wholsome severities derived from Rome, they had learnt the art of making an Italian Posset, and with this, administered by some of their faithful villains about him, they shut up the days and reign of James the fifth, first deprived him of his Innocence, next of his honest Counsellors, then of his Peace and Honour, lastly of his Life.
Were not these notable Directors of a Monarch’s power and conscience? Nay, even dying and dead they abused him, as well as they had whilst alive. One of them attending him at his death, dictated a Will for him, and what he himself caused to be written, when the poor King was expiring, he boldly declared to be the King’s Will afterwards. To such an amazing power in wickedness and want of shame had the Clergy then grown by their enormous increase of property. But they were popish Clergy: The Protestant sort thirst not after wealth, and where they have it, are too meek to become proud and abuse it, too conscientious to neglect the cure of souls, and live in luxury, too modest to haunt Courts, too disinterested and sincere to flatter Princes, too just and impartial to preach selfish doctrines tending to raise themselves by the purse, or subserviency, or sufferings of others.
Reflections upon the fate of KingJamesthe fifth of Scotland seduced and undone by Minions, who withdrew him from the direction of an honest Minister.
SUCH was the fate of James the fifth, a Prince of spirit and good qualities, but debauched, abused and undone by wicked and crafty Minions, Pandars and Seducers; such the dismal issue of false and unjust Counsels, of forsaking honest and worthy advisers, to follow the deceitful, the selfish and corrupt; and such ample ground had Sir James Melvil for saying as he does of Princes, especially of young Princes, and their favour to those who misguide and ruin them. “They were carried away by the craft and envy of such as could subtilly creep into their favour, by flattery and by joining together in a deceitful bond of fellowship, every one of them setting out the other, as meetest and ablest for the service of their Prince, to the wrack of him and his Country; craving the Prince to be secret, and not to communicate his secrets to any but their Society. Thus the Prince’s good qualities being smothered by such a company, were commonly led after the passions and particularities of those, who shot only at their own marks: Some of them continually possessing his ear, and debarring therefrom all honest, true and plain speakers; so that no more hope could be left of a gracious Government, nor place for good men to help the Prince and Country, wherethrough fell out many foul, strange, and sad accidents, as may be afterwards seen and read: Princes misused, and abused, their Country robbed, their best and truest servants wracked, and the wicked instruments at last perished with all their high and fine pretences; others, ay, (always) such-like, succeeding in their place, never one taking example to become more temperate and discreet, because of the destruction of those who went before them; but as highly and fiercely following their greedy, vain and ambitious pretences, obtained the like tragical reward.”
He afterwards quotes the complaint made by Monsieur de Boussie, when left and disliked by the Prince his Master. “Alas, wherefore should men be earnest to surpass their neighbours in worthiness and fidelity, seeing that Princes, who get the fruits of our labours, like not to hear of plainness, but of pleasant speeches, and are easily altered without occasion upon their truest Servants?”
Where Flattery is encouraged, Flatterers rule, and sincerity is banished. Ministers sometimes fall not through guilt but faction; yet always accused of guilt.
WHEN a Prince will bear no Minister that tells him the truth, and only exalts those who sooth and flatter him, the best Flatterer is always sure to be the first Minister, and his Master will be pleasantly deceived instead of being faithfully and unacceptably served. The Marquiss do Vieville, Superintendent of the Finances to Lewis the thirteenth, gained his favour and preferment by extolling the King’s spirit and conduct, in commanding his armies in person. Though that Prince had no sufficiency in war, he liked to hear that he had, perhaps believed it; for what is more vain than power, what more credulous than vanity? At the same time his Chancellor de Sillery fell under displeasure and lost his employment, for blaming these military rambles. His Son too, Monsieur de Puysieux, Secretary of State, was afterwards removed, on pretence, that the King could not trust a Man who was doubtless soured by the disgrace of his Father.
To the disgrace of that Minister almost the whole band of Courtiers contributed, all from causes personal and distinct. The Queen-Mother hated him for his superior credit with the King; Cardinal Richlieu, for having opposed his elevation to the Purple; the Prince of Conde, for forwarding a Peace with the Hugonots, whence his own credit was lessened or lost in the Army; the Count of Soissons for retarding his marriage with the King’s Sister; de Thoiras for discrediting him with the King; the Duke de Bellegarde for opposing the resignation of his employment to a kinsman. These were their true motives, though very opposite to those that they avowed. They charged him with insolence to the King, infidelity in his trust, and corruption. Whatever faults he might have, his faults had no share in his disgrace.
Favour at Court is a brittle thing. That of Vieville, the Superintendent, had its period and declension. Though he had flattered the King and lyed for his honour, the King gave him up to the jealousy and displeasure of the Cardinal, a more terrible antagonist than the Monarch himself. Falling Ministers are always faulty, and must be: It would be preposterous and unjust to pull them down, yet own them innocent. Vieville was accused of many heavy crimes, “with deciding great affairs of his own head; with altering the King’s orders; with sending directions to Embassadors, without communication with the King or Council; with doing acts of injustice, and throwing the odium upon the King, and with gratifying his pride and passions at the expence of the King’s honour.”
To the honour of that Minister it must be owned, that upon trial, all the uproar and pompous charges against him for malversation and corruption in the Treasury, appeared groundless. In truth, in all the efforts of faction and rivalship men do not study to punish Truth, but Reproach. The Cardinal wanted to ruin him. It is so probable that men in office may be guilty, that if such guilt be but boldly charged, it will be readily believed. When the suspicion is once well raised, it will hardly fail of being well received. This serves the turn, and proves a good warrant for disgracing an innocent man once thought guilty. Indeed when prejudices subside, and popular heat cools, it is probable his innocence will begin to appear and be credited; but first he is disgraced or undone, and his Competitors already triumph, till perhaps they meet with the same measure from others.
The Eunuchs of Schah Hussein falsly charged the first Minister behind his back with a conspiracy, and produced a forged Letter to support it. By that Letter it was to be executed in a few hours. The Emperor was frightened, and gave immediate orders to arrest him. The Emperor considered the Eunuchs as his guardian angels, who by their vigilance had saved him, yet would needs be so just as to hear that great Man in his own defence. He defended himself gloriously, exposed their execrable fraud, and manifested his own innocence. But what signified his innocence, or the Emperor’s conviction, for his eyes were put out? Of this the cruel villains had taken present care, that he might never stand in their way in the same post, or any post again.
A Minister may be disgraced for his Virtue, and Fidelity to his Prince. Mercenary Courtiers certain Enemies to upright Ministers. Justice done to both by time and history.
IN the reign of Richard the second, Sir Richard Scroope was promoted to be Lord Chancellor of England, a Person reckoned so accomplished and just, that he was raised to that Great Trust at the request of the Parliament, both Lords and Commons. He was indeed too just to hold it long. He would not serve the turn of the Favourites, and the Favourites would not let him serve the King and Kingdom. They had begged Grants of diverse Lordships lately fallen to the Crown: But what the King had weakly granted, the Chancellor honestly refused to confirm. He alledged “the King’s wants and debts, with the necessity of satisfying his creditors; that no good Subject should prefer his own advantage to the King’s interest, private lucre to public good: Already they had received from his Majesty abundant Largesses; and it was but modest to ask no more.” This repulse fired them, and to the King they went with grievous accusations against the Chancellor: “He was obstinate, he contemned his Majesty’s Commands; he must suffer exemplary punishment for his disobedience and scorn of the Royal Authority, which would otherwise fall into public contempt.”
This was enough to incense the undiscerning King, who sends in a fury to demand the Seal. Doubtless it was from pure tenderness for the King’s Honour (whom they were cheating and robbing) and with no eye to any interest of their own, that they arraigned the Chancellor, and asserted the Prerogative. Nor is it to be imagined, that they did not represent him abroad in ugly colours, as proud and insolent, engrossing all favour to himself, injureing the King’s best friends, nay, acting the part of a King himself. Nor were all these imputations more than what others had deserved, and therefore likely enough to be believed of the Chancellor, who was thus severely censured, thus ungratefully dismissed, for his uncommon faith and integrity.
The good Chancellor reaped one advantage of which neither Malice, nor Power, nor Time could deprive him. He is recorded in the History of his Country, as a glorious Magistrate, an upright Minister, a faithful Patriot: whilst his supplanters bear such a Character as they deserve, that of Sycophants, public Robbers, Enemies to King and People. Thus it is that virtue triumphs over vice, and for ever triumphs; this the immortal reward of men who faithfully serve their Country, who worthily discharge public Trust. The fruits of base actions perish; their infamy only is sure to remain. It is a dreadful lot, that of being hated to all following generations. How amiable is the contrary lot, to be beloved and praised whilst there are Men and Letters in the World? Such are the different and lasting lots of a ChancellorJefferies, and a ChancellorCowper.
Of the People.
The variable Character of the People: very good or very bad, according to their education and government. Hence the improvement or depravation of their manners.
CONCERNING the People it is scarce possible to lay down any general proposition. If we say, that they are greatly disposed to evil, it is true: If we assert, that they have a fund of goodness in them, it is true. They are cruel and merciful, constant and fickle, fond of their benefactors, ungrateful to their friends, very patient, very furious, unmanageable, and easy to be governed, greatly given to change, greatly afraid of it, apt to love extravagantly, apt to hate implacably. They are indeed just what they are made, formed by habit and direction: They take the impressions that are given them, follow the opinions of such as lead them, the example of those who govern them, and are capable of being very virtuous and modest, very vitious and turbulent, according to the lessons and pattern of their Guides and Rulers.
Thus the Romans from a band of Robbers, became a civil Community, at first rough and rude, afterwards regular and sociable, then polite and elegant, always brave, fond of Liberty and Glory, impatient of Servitude. Such was their beginning, alteration, and improvement, still in proportion to the influence of their Leaders and Laws, fierce and warlike under Romulus because he was so, tamed by Religion or Superstition under Numa, addicted to civil oeconomy and regulations of State under Servius Tullius, who made such institutions his care; zealous Republicans under a republican Government; full of reverence for Arts and Learning when Arts and Learning came to be favoured and introduced by the Magistrates. Afterwards when they were corrupted by evil and ambitious men, they became extremely corrupt, and intirely changed by the change of their Government; and in order to make such a change or to continue it, such corruption was carefully promoted and perpetuated. Their spirit, their honesty, and even their discernment were vitiated, sunk and banished, to qualify them for misery and chains. Whilst they had courage, integrity and eyes, usurpation could not prosper nor vassalage be established. Thenceforward the Roman People grew utterly debauched and spiritless; their Virtue, which rose with their Government, fell with it, and they were as unlike what they had been, as Servitude is unlike Liberty.
Nor was such a revolution of Manners peculiar to the Romans, but in all places will follow such revolutions of State. It is not so much by the genius of the Clime, by the heat or coldness of a Country, that the characters of the Inhabitants are to be known and estimated, as by the nature of their Government, and the wisdom, or defect, or corruption of their Laws. It is thus that men from Savages and Banditti, become just and humane, or from virtuous and free, abject slaves and barbarians.
Attica, the Country of the Athenians, was over-run with violence, feuds, robbery and murders, until Theseus reformed the Government, and by it civilized the People, who by virtue of their Liberty and Laws, afterwards corrected and improved by Solon, came to be the masters and standard of politeness and learning over the world. Thus Lycurgus reclaimed the licentiousness of the Spartans, and established such an institution, and such wise orders amongst them, that for courage, patriotism and every kind of virtue, they were the envy and wonder of all Nations. As the Liberty of these two famous Cities decayed, so did their Valour and Probity, and perished when that perished. They seemed afterwards another race of men, though their blood and climate were still the same. The Grecians, once Conquerors and Masters of universal Empire, are now spiritless Slaves, sunk in unmanly superstition, drunken, ignorant, barbarous.
The Nations in Peru lived nearer to the condition of beasts than that of men, till taught the Laws of Society by the Inca’s: For these Princes did not so much subdue them, as instruct and polish them. So that these Clans of Savages, many of them Canibals, dealing in human sacrifices, and practising abominations scarce credible, were brought by the mere force of good usage and good Laws, to be sociable, discreet and humane: They who were strangers to agriculture, they who went naked, were destitute of houses, lived upon rocks and hills, and knew not what it was to dress their food, dropped all their wildness, formed regular habitations, fell into present industry, cultivated the ground with care, and altogether grew a mighty People, sober, ingenious, orderly, and formed an Empire above two thousand miles in extent, an Empire which continued for eight hundred years happy and flourishing.
It is chiefly by education and the exercise of the understanding that some men come to surpass others; for by nature men are alike, all made of the same materials; nor greater difference is there between the Lord and the Slave, than that which proceeds from chance or education. Many men great in title have the spirit of Slaves; many men mean in fortune have greatness of spirit: Many a Cicero has kept sheep, many a Cæsar followed the plough, many a Virgil foddered cattle. Government is public education, and as the national discipline is good or bad, Nations will be well nurtured, or ill. In all civilized Countries, the people are generally harmless and manageable, where they are not misled or oppressed. Oppression is apt to make a wise man mad, nay, the wiser he is the more he will feel the oppression, because he will the more readily discern it to be unjust: And when men are misled, they discern not justice from violence.
The People under good Government apt to be peaceable and grateful: often patient under Oppression: often moderate in opposing Oppressors: inclinable to Justice when not misled.
THE Roman Commonalty quarrelled not with the Nobility, until the Nobility insulted and oppressed them; nay, they bore it a good while without complaining, complained long before they proceeded to an insurrection, even their insurrections were without blood, and they grew calm and content upon every appearance of redress; for, their redress was seldom complete, and what was undertaken seldom made good. In the struggle, particularly about the Agrarian Law, a Law so necessary to the State, so necessary to preserve equality amongst Citizens, without which they could not be long free, they were perpetually injured, disappointed and abused. The Law was eternally violated, they eternally the sufferers. Was it any wonder that a grievance so notorious and heavy, so much affecting the Public and the People, was felt and resented by the People; any wonder that they contended for its removal, or, that when it was not removed, they had recourse to violence to procure justice, and were guided by their Tribunes, who sometimes, under the name of that Law and a colour of espousing the Populace, pursued very ambitious and dangerous designs?
Who were the aggressors? The Nobility surely, they who had so long deluded the Plebeians, that these could no longer trust them. The Plebeians had indeed shewn much more faith and patience, than the other had honour or justice; and where between parties, treaties are always broken, enmity will be always reviving. Yet it was many years, rather many ages ere that enmity had recourse to the sword or produced hostility and blood. The People preserved a strange steddy reverence to the Patricians, whilst these were daily scorning, daily aggrieving the People. (In the City, says Livy, the violence of the Fathers was daily increasing, and so were the miseries of the People. When they had gained admission to the public Honours, which had been long accounted things sacred, and thence inaccessible to the Populace, who were reckoned unworthy and prophane, they were very tender and slow in exerting that glorious privilege and power, and for many years continued to confer all the great Offices upon the Nobility. So that they seemed to have given back again that right for which they had so long contended before they gained ita .
The People are very apt to be deceived, yet as often to their own wrong as to that of others; and when through mistake they have hurt others, they are sorry for it as soon as made sensible of it. Their pity generally follows their severity, and is more lasting than their anger. If their wrath be immoderate, so is their commiseration; and what mischief they do in their fury, they are inclinable to repair when their senses return. When the popular Orators at Athens had before the People falsly represented some of their brave Officers as criminal, the People doomed the innocent men to die, but repented as soon as they were undeceived, and discharged their vengeance upon the Orators.
The People too are very grateful to their benefactors, and their affections generally lasting whenever they are well apprized that the object is very deserving. The Athenians ever adored the memory of Theseus and Solon, ever honoured their descendents. The same respect the Lacedæmonians always paid to the name and posterity of Lycurgus. That of Lucius Junius Brutus was affectionately reverenced by the Romans, so was that of Poplicola, of the Gracchi, and indeed that of all their great Patrons and Heroes. Queen Elizabeth is never mentioned by an Englishman but with affection and praise. The name of Orange is popular in Holland, though some who bore it pursued very unpopular measures there. Does not this shew that the love of the People is stronger than their disgusts? They rather remember him who first founded their Liberty, than him who attempted to take it away.
In Countries where the race of their Princes has proved rather bad than good, nay, exceeding bad, yet the People are generally bent to honour, generally averse to change that race, but retain a fondness without cause or merit, nay, against reason and interest. This is foolish, but it is good-natured folly. The Roman People were fond of the Cæsars, the Parthians of the Family of Arsaces, the French of that of Charlemain, though most of each line proved contemptible or tyrannical, often both. When any of the blood grew quite intolerable, and for his cruelty or insufficiency was deposed, another of the same blood was placed in his room. The Lineage was still beloved and supported, though the men were often changed and abhorred.
The People generally fond of old Names and Habits. The difference between the same People under different Governments: How generous and friendly when free; how vicious and false when enslaved.
THE People are indeed subject to change, but it is chiefly by fits, when they are angry, or seduced. Left to themselves, they usually go on in the old way, or return back to it again. Old Habits and old Names seem to please them most, nor do they readily desert the same till forced or deceived. Cæsar and Augustus were so sensible of this bent in the People to ancient Customs and Institutions, that when upon enslaving Rome, they had in effect dissolved the force and essence of the Roman Magistracy, they left the Magistrates their old Names, and all the appearances of power and dignity. They are likewise inclinable to be quiet and harmless, where no provocation rouses them: but when they are enraged, they are very terrible and very cruel. Yet their outrage is not apt to last. They soon cool, and when their rage subsides, remorse is apt to follow: They will then embrace the man whom just before they sought to murder, and love him the more for having intended him a mischief.b
Between the Roman People under the Commonwealth, and the Roman People under the Dominion of the Emperors, the difference was as great as between different Nations, and they only resembled each other in language and dress. They were indeed as different, or rather as opposite, as men uncorrupted and free are to debauched Slaves. In Livy you find the People brave, generous, temperate and just, especially for some ages after the rise of the State: Tacitus represents them as false, flattering, spiritless and debauched: Yet neither of these Authors is chargeable with contradiction or falsifying. By Liberty they were inspired with virtue and every good quality: To fashion them for Tyranny, all their virtue was destroyed, all baseness and debauchery encouraged, and they were taught not to consider the Roman State, but only the Roman Emperor. Their zeal and allegiance were to be manifested by obsequious fawning, and a torrent of flattery. This was all their lesson and duty, and they learnt it notably. They adored, they extolled every Tyrant, the worst generally most: Whether he committed murder, or incest, or folly, drove chariots, or sung songs, he was still divine, still invincible. Their acclamations were to sound not with what was just or true, but with what was deceitful and pleasing. Their praises were no proof or effect of their affection, but of their falshood and servility: Whether they hated or despised him, they were sure to magnify him, nay, ready to use the same stile towards his enemy and destroyer on the very same dayc . They were loud in behalf of Galba at noon, vehement in calling for the blood of Otho: Before night they were as loud in the applauses of Otho, as vehement in traducing Galba, who was then murdered, and his carcass the sport of the Rabble.
How unlike this to the spirit and behaviour of the Roman People under the free State, when any great man, and their benefactor was sacrificed? After the murder of the Gracchi the People failed not to reproach and even to insult the authors of it, though the greatest men in Rome. They charged Scipio Nasica, upon all occasions, in the streets, and to his face, as a Tyrant and Murderer. Insomuch that to save him from their indignation, the Senate contrived to send him into Asia, under the pretence of an Embassy. Nor durst he ever return into Italy, though he was chief Pontiff, but wandered abroad under discontent and anguish, and soon died of grief, according to the account given by Plutarch. Nor did the celebrated Scipio Africanus, a man as great, as popular, and as much admired as any man that ever lived at any time, escape much better, for having shewed his approbation of that murder. This provoked them so, that notwithstanding his extraordinary character, and the reverence always paid him, they treated him with despight publicly, and interrupted his speeches with hissing. To the memory of the Gracchi, the Roman People amply manifested their fondness and reverence, caused their Statues to be made, erected them in public, consecrated the places where they were slain, there offered first-fruits and oblations, there performed worship and devotion.
The People when deceived by names and deluders, how extremely blind and cruel, yet mean well.
THE People are so sincere in their friendship, that they are often fond of their false friends. Cæsar was popular whilst he was undoing the People; so were the Dukes of Guise; so is the Inquisition. That execrable Tribunal, bloody and treacherous as it is, a reproach to Christianity, destructive to men, is reverenced as the bulwark of Religion, though it be only so to the pernicious Impostors who are the pests of Religion, enemies to Society and human Happiness. This cruel band of the People’s servitude and misery, the People would venture their lives to defend. So profoundly are they bewitched, so effectually bound and blinded by ungodly Sorcerers, spiritual Fortune-tellers, whom they hug and enrich for cheating and enslaving them. When once their faculties are thus darkened or dead, it is not surprizing that they fiercely reject all relief and illumination, that, following the impulse or nod of their powerful seducers, they are ready to fight in defence of their blindness and chains, ready to sacrifice and butcher all who would enlighten and release them.
Can there be a greater instance of the power and mischief of delusion, a greater warning to guard against it? Superstition is apt to creep in and gain force, even without the aid of art: But when art, and industry, and interest combine to promote and increase the infirmities of Nature; when all helps, all tricks, all terrors are applied and exerted to mislead, frighten and deceive; nay, when power, and penalties, and punishments, might and magistracy, rods and axes, combine in the cause of delusion and deluders; when all inquiry is forbid, all inquirers executed and damned; what can ensue but thick ignorance and barbarity, the triumphs of fraud, the exile of common sense? Can infatuation and hardness of heart go further, than to rejoice in using a man cruelly, in torturing him till he is almost dead, and afterwards recovering him on purpose to burn him alive, for an opinion perhaps very innocent, perhaps very just, by himself esteemed sacred, at worst hurtful only to himself? Yet at such shocking acts of inhumanity there are people, there are women and infants, and whole Nations that can rejoice, though in other instances not ungenerous nor cruel. They can sorrow for the just execution of a thief or a murderer, and exult to see a conscientious man thrown quick into the flames, for daring to be rational, for consulting truth, or endeavouring to make himself acceptable to the Deity.
THE Deities are hungry, the Priests of Mexico were wont to cry in the ears of their Emperor. He took their word, and in submission to such holy warning, butchered thirty thousand of his Subjects in one year, to humour the Priests, and to feed the Idols. What else is the language of all men who prompt any Prince to shed blood and plague his Subjects in defence of Bigotry falsely called Religion? For, religion itself disclaims hurting any man for any opinion. The Deity is angry, is the stile of all persecutors; and by the force of that cry, more blood has been shed in Christendom than ever was in Mexico, or by all the human sacrifices since the Creation. What else is persecution, but human sacrifice? What but destroying men to please the God-head? Montagne says with reason, “That the Savages do not so much offend him, in roasting and eating the bodies of their dead, as do they who torment and persecute the living.”
The power of delusion further illustrated. The dreadful wickedness and impieties committed under the name of Religion. Religious cheats surpass all others.
WHEN the Reformation was gaining ground in Sweden, by the secret countenance of that extraordinary Prince, Gustavus Ericson, the People enraged by the Clergy, made an insurrection, and advanced towards Stockholm, with fury and menaces. The King sent to the multitude, consisting chiefly of Boors (for the more stupid the men, the stronger their zeal) to know their demands. In answer they insisted, “to have all the Heretics burnt, and the bells restored again.” For it seems some of these sacred utensils had been. dislodged. Here is an instance of a People’s furiously opposing the greatest good that could befall them, the light of the Gospel, and redemption from their thraldom to Popery, nay, venturing a rebellion and their lives to defeat that good, and to procure the destruction of their friends and neighbours for being wiser than themselves: Nor is it the only instance. The like happened in many other Countries upon that same occasion. To shew, however, that the People are capable of being mended and undeceived, when the Government is wise and just enough to rescue them from their deceivers; King Gustavus having abolished Popery, and proved himself an able and upright Prince, lived to see his Person and Government so well beloved, and the People so changed, that the same Nation who once took up arms against him, would have ventured their lives for him.
The People generally mean good, when they commit evil. The Swedes thought that there was no Salvation out of the Church of Rome; so their Priests told them, nor would they or dared they disbelieve their Priests: And who would not be tenacious of the means of Salvation? They had the same false assurance, upon the same holy authority, that Heretics were enemies to God. So that in fighting against Heretics, they only fought God’s Battles; in burning of Heretics, they did but execute God’s vengeance upon God’s enemies.
Who is it that would not obey, when he is convinced that the Almighty commands? Hence the power of Impostors who speak, and govern, and cheat the People in his name; and hence the frenzy and wickedness of the People when under the influence of such Impostors. Who will be deterred by the dread of the block, or checked by the ignominy of the gallows, when he considers the gallows or the block as the means of martyrdom, and the way to glory? Have there not been men who by she merit even of murder, the murder of Kings, fought to gain a place in Paradise, and immortality amongst men? Was not Jacques Clement, who assassinated Henry the third of France, deemed a Martyr? And when his impious fraternity the Monks, had roused the bloody Bigot, to perpetrate the detestable deed, was he not said to have been inspired by God? It is plain that the wretch was persuaded that he had a call from Heaven. Jean de Chastel, a youth who attempted to murder Henry the great, shewed not the least sign of remorse at his execution; so strongly was the Enthusiast possessed that the murder of an Heretic, and one excommunicated by the Pope, was a service acceptable to God. Ravillac afterwards accomplished the murder of that incomparable Prince, many years after he had ceased to be a protestant, and been formally reconciled to the Church of Rome. The ghostly deceivers persuaded the gloomy Villain, that the King was a Heretic in his heart, for that he did not persecute and kill the Protestants.
Thomas a Becket, a mischievous assuming Priest, as this Island ever saw, turbulent, rebellious, forsworn, was entitled a Saint and Martyr; a fellow that really deserved a halter, was complimented with a crown of glory, and for many centuries had more worship paid him than Jesus Christ. He was indeed a greater advocate for power ecclesiastical. So enchanted were the People by the cant and charms of Impostors, so utterly berest of understanding, as to adore their deceivers, their enemies, and oppressors! Can these People be said to have been rational, they who were for exalting such as had a manifest interest to keep them blind and humble, an interest to get all their property, and to leave them none of their senses?
It is enough to mortify and grieve any candid spirit, who wishes well to humanity, to see human nature so pitifully debased, human understanding suspended, lost or turned into a snare; taught to be angry at common sense, and to submit to the nonsense of sounds; to learn folly as an improvement; to bear slavery as duty and happiness; to bestow their wealth upon those who inveighed against wealth, yet were ever and insatiably pursuing more; to encourage them with great revenues to perform functions which they performed not, but left to others whom they hired for poor wages; to persecute truth, and fall prostrate before falshood; to worship names and garments, common earth, common food, and common men, with many more absurdities alike disgraceful to reason, alike pernicious to society. Such is the sovereign force of delusion, and such was the character of the English Nation, such that of the English Clergy, in the days of the great English Saint, Thomas a Becket, and till the Reformation, when the use of reason and conscience was restored.
The People not turbulent unless seduced or oppressed: slow to resist Oppressors: sometimes mild even in their just vengeance: brave in defence of their Liberties.
IT is owing to the arts and industry of seducers, that the People are sometimes uneasy and discontent under a good Government; for under such a Government they are naturally inclined to be quiet and submissive, and it must be very ill usage that will tempt them to throw it off, when they are not first notoriously misled. There were insurrections against Gustavus Ericson, so there were against Queen Elizabeth, all animated by the same spirit, superstition managed and enflamed by Priests. But when a just Administration is once settled, and become familiar to the People, and where no violent innovations are attempted, they will not be apt to disturb it, nor to wish ill to it. They are in truth very slow to resist, and often bear a thousand hardships before they return one. The Romans long suffered the encroachments, insults and tyranny of the last Tarquin, before they drove him out, nor would they have done it so soon, but for the rape and tragical fate of Lucretia. The Dutch endured the Tyranny of Spain, till that Tyranny grew intolerable. When King Philip had wantonly violated his solemn oath, destroyed their ancient Liberties and Laws, shed their blood, acted like an implacable enemy, and used them like dogs, it was high time to convince him that they were men, and would continue free men in spite of his wicked attempts to enslave them. They did so to some purpose, to their own immortal glory, and establishment in perfect independency, to his infinite loss and lasting dishonour.
The People of Swisserland groaned long under the heavy yoak of Austria, sustained a course of sufferings and indignities too many and too great for human patience: so insolent and barbarous were their Governors, so tame and submissive the governed. At last they roused themselves, or rather their oppressive Governors roused them, so as not to be quelled. Yet they carried their vengeance no further than was barely necessary for their future security. They spilt little or none of the blood of their Tyrants and Taskmakers, the Rulers from Austria, who had so freely spilled theirs. They only conducted these lawless spoilers to the borders of the Country, and there dismissed them in safety, under an oath never more to return into their territories. What could be more slow to resist, what more meek in their ressistance, than that brave and abused People? They were indeed so brave, and had been so abused, as to resolve never more to submit to the Imperial Power. Thenceforth they asserted their native freedom, and asserted it with amazing valour. With handfuls of men they overthrew mighty hosts, and could never be conquered by all the neighbouring Powers. Their exploits against the Imperial Armies, against those of Lewis the eleventh, then Dauphin, against Charles the bold, Duke of Burgundy, are scarce credible. Three hundred and fifty Swiss routed at one time eight thousand Austrians, some say sixteen thousand. An hundred and thirteen vanquished the Arch-Duke Leopold’s Army of twenty thousand, and killed a great number; an hundred and sixteen beat another Army of near twenty thousand, and slew him.
It was no small provocation, no casual mistakes, or random sallies of passion in their Rulers, that drove the Dutch and the Swiss to expell theirs. No; the oppression, the Acts of violence were general, constant, deliberate and increasing. For such is the nature of men, especially of men in power; that they will rather commit two errors than retract one; as Lord Clarendon justly observes. Sometimes they will commit a second, to shew that they are not ashamed of the first, but resolved to defy resentment, to declare their contempt of the People, and how much they are above fear and amendment. Some of them have delighted to heighten cruelty by mirth and derision, like him in Swisserland, who having long insulted and abused the poor People, and still thinking their servitude imperfect, set up his Cap in the market-place, and obliged all that passed by to pay in reverence; nay, to punish one for failing in duty to that Cap, he caused him to place an Apple upon his son’s head, and at such a distance cleave it with an Arrow. Was there not cause, was it not high time to exterminate such instruments of cruelty?
The same Subject continued.
The infatuation of Men in power: they are much apter to oppress, than the People to rebel. People oppressed rejoice in public misfortunes. In disputes between Magistrates and People, the former generally to blame.
IT is a miserable infatuation of Men in power, to push that power and the People’s patience as far as either will go, and leave no room for a retreat. Those of this spirit finding the People tame and patient to a certain degree, conclude that they will or must be so to every and the utmost degree, and so never think of taking off their heavy hands, till the People, grown desperate, throw of them and their power, and having found no mercy, may be tempted to shew none. Promises of amendment will then be too late. They will not trust to the faith and good usage of one, who had dealt faithlessly and barbarously with them, even before they had exasperated him by opposition. His remorse and promises, however sincere, will be thought false and ensnaring; and even of his good actions unkind constructions will be madea .
Under an evil Administration, or one suspected and hated (a misfortune that seldom comes without cause) People will rejoice in the public distress, suffer themselves to be invaded, submit to be vanquished, bear national dishonour and private loss, rather than assist their Governor to prevent it. Thus the Romans behaved under the Decemvirate. That People of all others the most brave, of all others the most signal for public spirit, refused to fight, and bore a defeat; because rather than not be revenged upon that usurped Magistracy, they chose that the public enemy should execute that revenge, and to obtain it, ventured the worst that could befall themselves and their Country. Under Tiberius, people received with joy any news of revolts and invasions. In the year 1639, the English Nation was pleased that the Scots had seized the four northern Counties; and in the Reign of Charles the second his Subjects hated the French, because the King loved them, as a Droll pleasantly told him, when he was wondering what might be the reason.
The People are sometimes long patient under unjust usage, where it is not altogether violent and severe. The Romans under the usurpation of the Decemvirate, continued peaceable whilst the exercise of that power was tolerable; nay, they suffered many efforts of Tyranny, oppressive enormities, murder, arbitrary imprisonment, lawless decrees, and lust passing for Law, before they had recourse to resistance and self-defence. At last they roused themselves, driven to outrage by outrageous oppression. This their proud Oppressors might have foreseen, had not power and pride made them altogether blind. Appius Claudius the chief of them, had hardened his spirit against all reason and tenderness: So strangely was he intoxicated with the possession of his enormous power. Yet with all their provocation, they hurt no man’s person. They at first threatned high, and sufficient cause they had: But by a few reasonable words they were soon softened, upon assurance of seeing the usurpation abolished. These Usurpers were like most others: They had their authority from the Law, would keep it against Law, and stretch it beyond Law. I could mention a Commonwealth, in which the People have seen themselves for many years, daily divested of their rights, and instead of chusing their Magistrates themselves, according to the very fundamentals of their Constitution, see their Magistrates chuse one another, their Government changed, and an Aristocracy grown out of a popular Government. This public abuse, corruption and breach of Trust, the People see, complain of it indeed, but bear it. Their patience too may have a period: I wish that they may never be prompted to seek a violent remedy, such as may shake or overturn their State.
Governors are apt to censure the People as restless and unruly, the People their Magistrates as unjust and oppressive. It is generally very easy to decide who are most to be censured. There are many Countries where arbitrary oppressions are felt every day, yet not one insurrection or rebellion known in an age. Power is an incroaching thing, and seldom fails to take more than is given. Men in limited authority are apt to covet more, and when they have gained more, to take all. The People, who aim chiefly at protection and security, are content to keep what they have, nor seek to interfere in matters of Power, till Power has attempted to rob them of liberty and right: When these are seized by those who are bound to defend them, are the People to blame for expressing resentment, and seeking redress? It is but the natural Law of self-preservation, a Law that prevails even amongst Brutes; and is the effect of Reason as well as of Passion. In the first sallies of their wrath, they sometimes discharge it violently and shed blood, and when justice is denied, seek redress from force: but their wrath lasts not, and when they once have recovered their usurped rights, they even spare the Usurpers.
The gentleness of the People in their pursuit of Justice against oppressive Magistrates. How readily Men who have oppressed the Law, seek the protection of the Laws. The People not revengeful: they shew mercy where they have found none.
REMARKABLE was the modesty and innocence of the Roman People, after all the violent oppressions of the Decemviri. Even they from the Camp marched peaceably through the City under their arms, and when they might have fallen upon their domestic enemies, the ten insolent Tyrants, and destroyed them at once, they preserved their temper and civil behaviour, hurt no man’s person, no man’s house or fortune. They only desired to be reinstated in their ancient Liberties, and left those who had usurped their Liberties to the chastisement of the Law, an indulgence which they who had destroyed Law could not reasonably have claimed. It is indeed remarkable, that Appius Claudius, the Ringleader of these Usurpers, and the most obnoxious to popular vengeance, he who had abolished all appeals to the People, appealed to them himself when he saw himself reduced to the condition of a Subject; saw himself impleaded for his enormities and lawless rule. Could there be a more mortifying declaration of a man’s own guilt? He who had destroyed all the privileges of the People, had the confidence to implore the People’s protection. As a free Roman Citizen he claimed and prayed an exemption from bonds, after he had imperiously bereft the free citizens of Rome of that just immunity.
The Story is beautifully recounted in the third book of Livy. Appius has had his fellows in other countries, men who would not submit to the decision of Law when they thought themselves above Law; and afterwards, upon the abatement of their pride, were glad to seek its protection; men who promoted arbitrary imprisonments without allowing legal relief from the Tribunals of Justice, then claimed that relief when they came to be imprisoned. Such men are for equal Justice, not when other People want it, but when they want it themselves. Surely if any man ought to be denied the benefit of Justice, it is he who will do none: A consideration which was urged against Appiusb .
I Believe that upon research, it will be generally found, that the People have used their Rulers with much more tenderness than their Rulers have used them; that merciless Usurpers have found mercy, and barbarous Tyrants, when deposed, have not been treated barbarously. That mighty man of blood, Sylla, he who had wantonly massacred thousands, usurped the Government of Rome, filled its streets with carcasses, as well as all Italy with murder and lamentation, a monster of cruelty, an enemy to his country and all men, lived in safety after he had resigned his power, lived in the midst of Rome, a City which he had usurped, oppressed, and caused so often to bleed and mourn: He who by so many violent deaths had made his Country thin, died in peace. So gentle and forgiving were the Romans, that though he walked daily and publicly amongst them without any precaution, they made no attempt upon his life, however hateful and guilty. Doubtless the Athenians might have slain their Tyrant Pisistratus, during so many years as he lived privately in exile after they had expelled him, if their vengeance had prompted them: They suffered him to live in quiet, let him live to enslave them again. Towards Dionysius the younger, the Syracusians manifested themselves equally mild and unrevengeful. When they were released from that filthy Tyrant, saw him a necessitous vagabond, reduced to teach boys, they offered not to disturb him, so far were they from seeking his life, but left him an opportunity of enslaving them once more. Nay, to an Aunt of his, sister to the Tyrant his Father, they always paid the respect due to a lawful Princess, even after the abolition of Tyranny, supported her in princely sort, and buried her magnificently.
The Romans however they regretted the usurpation of Cæsar, regretted his death more. He had done them the highest evil that Man could do, and they grieved for his loss. The People of Ispahan, upon the late Revolution in Persia, shewed more grief for the misfortunes of their Emperor Schah Hussein than for their own, though theirs were as great as could befall human nature; and though from his evil Administration, all their numberless calamities flowed, first all their long pillage and oppression, next war, invaders, and desolation, then famine and a siege, lastly, their subjection to the will and sword of a foreign enemy, fierce, jealous and sanguinary. Yet their chief concern was for their old Emperor, the author and inviter of all their sore afflictions, when they saw him about to resign a crown which he was never worthy to wear.
The People not hard to be governed, nor unconstant, nor ungrateful, at least not so often as they are accused.
I AM inclinable to think it so far from being true, that the People are hard to be governed, that I am afraid the very contrary will prove true, namely, that they are too easily to be oppressed: Neither is this to their praise. Is it not sufficient for the character of any Nation, sufficient for their duty and glory, to submit quietly to just and humane, to equal and certain Laws, to which their Governors themselves submit? Surely, yes. Is it not infamy rather than loyalty, for People to yield tamely to the wanton will of Usurpers and Traitors, whose duty it is to protect them, whose practice it is to rob them, who will submit to no Law, who execute cruelty instead of Justice, oppress men against Law, or act lawlesly under the name of Law? What else can it be? Here therefore is the difference between Freemen, who obey righteous Laws, and Slaves, who must obey the worst and any.
I Know not in the world very many Governments that do not make a shift, and some of them use not very good shifts, to supply themselves with as much power as they well want, and as much revenue as the People can spare. Nor do the People usually refuse or envy them a competent portion of either, nor even some excesses and extravagance in both. But when nothing will suffice less than a power to destroy as well as to protect, nothing less than beggaring the Subjects instead of taxing them; when the Laws are annulled or despised, and their birth-right seized; are they unconstant and ungovernable, because they feel wrong, and seek right? Who can be easy under distress, or thankful for barbarous usage? When men are made great in order to do great good, those who made them so, and for whose sake they are so, will murmur, if they are disappointed, especially when instead of great good, they are repaid with great evil.
Such as become enemies to their benefactors cannot wonder if their benefactors resent ingratitude so glaring, and so faithless a return. Violence, especially violence from men who owe us good usage, will sooner or later be returned with violence, and ought to be. Not mere power, but protection is entitled to duty and gratitude, and whoever sets up for governing without protecting, must not be surprized to meet with detestation instead of affection, contempt instead of honour, opposition instead of submission. Good Government makes a good People; nor will the good complain of the good. Where the People are bad, it will be presumed that their Rulers have made them so: And then who has most reason to complain? Perhaps the People are accounted bad for adhering stubbornly to their Liberty and Laws: To rail at them for this, is to make them a high compliment, and a severe contumely upon their Governors; namely, that they would be Oppressors, but their People are too virtuous and brave to let them.
The State of Genoa had recourse to the French King for protection against her Enemies. “No, said the King; the Devil may have that People for me, they are only fit for such a Governor.” A speech which has been repeated as a Satire upon them ever since, yet was really a very great Praise, whatever he intended. He had once before undertaken their Protection, and sent them Troops, who indeed relieved them from the former enemy, but proved a worse. To repay themselves for saving the Republic, they wanted to destroy it; to enslave it, because they had delivered it from slavery. For such heinous Treachery and Tyranny the People drove them out, and provoked that Prince by preserving themselves. For this he gave them to the Devil as a proper instrument to revenge his quarrel. What would he have had of them? to have been thankful for changing their condition without makeing it better? to have grown presently easy, because they had changed their Oppressors, but were still oppressed? to have kissed the Iron rod, only for that it was new, though as heavy as the old, and been humbly satisfied with whips and racks, chains and rapine, beggary and death? Could they take cruelty to be mercy? Could they reverence the blackest treachery, and submit tamely to servitude from those whom they employed and paid to abolish it? Did they belong to the Devil for refusing to sacrifice their Freedom and Property, their Families, Lives, and every human happiness, to the lusts and spoil of enemies, or to such as were worse than enemies, faithless friends?
The People falsly charged with Fickleness, and Ingratitude, and Rebellion in resisting Oppressors and Tyrants. All Tyrants, all who assume lawless rule, are Rebels, and the greatest.
JUST such cause of anger had King James to the People of England, &c. of whom he was wont to make the same complaint, that they were a fickle, giddy and rebellious People: A slander that turned wholly upon himself, who had alienated their affections by using them like slaves, by governing them without and against Law, and, for a limited English Monarchy, setting up a boundless Tyranny. It was not enough to be trusted with the power of protecting them, the noblest Trust that mortal man can possess; No; he must have a power also to destroy them, which none but a Destroyer can want. Three great free Nations could not, would not bear to be tyrannized by one trusted and sworn to protect them. If a man whom I take for a guard become an assassin, and turn upon me the arms which I gave him to defend me, am I blameable for discharging him? Will any but assassins blame me? If King James was not satisfied with the conditions of the Monarchy, he might have declined accepting it: No man would have taken him by force, and made him a King. In receiving it he received a Trust for the benefit of the People, attended with all reasonable advantages, with all possible glory to himself. This Trust he ingloriously perverted, and applyed it treacherously to their subversion. When he ought to have made the Law his rule, according to his duty and his oath, he made his Will his Law, or rather the will of his bigoted Queen and of his hot-headed Priests. Against the Constitution he set up the sword, his outlawed Priests against the established Church, Romish Superstition against the Protestant Religion, and an Army of Papists against a Protestant People. This was such absolute Treason against the Public, that the People must have been fickle and wicked indeed, had they given up the ancient Laws, their Property, Lives, and just Rights into the jaws of this violent, this enormous and upstart Power, calculated always to destroy, never to save.
Were the People fickle for adhering to their old Constitution? were they changeable in not submitting to a change, an avowed and violent change of their ancient Government? Were they ungovernable, because they rejected misgovernment? ungrateful for defending their Lives and Estates against the Usurpation of those who owed them all gratitude? Were they Rebels in maintaining the Law against such as were open Rebels to Law, and insolently professed to be above Law, though vested with power to protect Law, the only just end of power? People that will not be oppressed, will always be reckoned ungovernable by men who are, or who would be Oppressors, and enemies to Oppression will be stiled enemies of Government. It will be seditious to blame the excesses of Power, insolent to mention the insolence of those who abuse Power; it will be the sign of a turbulent spirit, to distinguish between public right and wrong, between Government and Tyranny, nor will it be enough to own all good Government to be irresistible, but the worst and the abuse of the best must be likewise irresistible: To complain of Tyranny, will be Faction; to throw it off, Rebellion. They who oppress are the first and greatest Rebels; and for the oppressed to turn upon them, is but to resist Rebellion, is but to do a just and a natural action. Whoever violates the Laws of reason, equity and nature, whoever violates the Laws of his Country, whatever station or name he bear, is a Rebel, subject to the Laws against Violence and Rebellion. Tyrants, therefore, and lawless Oppressors are the highest and most consummate Rebels in the world, capital Traitors to God and Man, and punishable by all the Laws of God and of Reason.
People who are slaves love not their Prince so affectionately, nor can defend him so bravely, as those who are free.
WEAK and poor is that loyalty which results only from force and fear, nor can it last longer than does the slavish passion which creates it, but goes with it, as it comes with it. Whenever the dread is gone, so is the loyalty, or follows him who causes superior dread. From a People that are slaves, no Prince can expect steady duty and adherence. Let who will master them, they can be but slaves, and therefore have small reason to oppose one who cannot well make their condition worse, or to abide by him who has made it so bad, and would not make it better. Nor have they spirit to defend him, though they were willing. They are in the field what they are at home, pusilanimous, abject, cowardly. Hence most of the great Monarchies have been overturned, at least always beaten, almost as soon as attacked, especially when by Freemen the attack was made. Thus Darius fell before the Greeks, who in all encounters, and with few men against multitudes, had been long accustomed to vanquish the Great King, and at last seized his many Kingdoms, as long before they would have done, but for their own domestic jealousies and strife. Thus too Antiochus fell before the Romans, and thus Tigranes. Lucullus said well, that “the Lion never counts the number of the Sheep,” when he, who led but fourteen thousand men, little more than two Legions, was told what myriads he had to encounter. It was indeed an encounter between Lions and Sheep, nor found his men so much occasion for fighting as for laughing, to see such a vast host frightened and flying before a handful of men. From the little free State of the Samnites, the Romans found more danger and opposition than from all the absolute Princes in the world. Such is the mighty difference between the spirit of Freemen and of Slaves, between men who live and fight for themselves, and men who breathe and act at the mere mercy of another.
In the East the servitude of the People is as blind and complete, as Tyranny, and Art, and Superstition can make it. Does this Slavery in the People, Slavery the most stupid and abject, secure the Prince, and fortify his Throne? So far otherwise, that the Eastern Kings, they who are such absolute Masters of the lives and fortunes of their Subjects, are thence the more unsafe, and thence their Thrones the more unstable and wavering. The higher he is, the more violent and probable is his fall. The People indeed profess to adore him: Yes, because they are forced; or whether they do it through fear or superstition, their adoration is not accompanied with personal love; and the nearer he approaches to a God, the less affection he has from men. Where the distance is so vast, there can be no intercourse of mutual kindness, nor can aught which causes only awe and terror, ever cause love and tenderness. He who would gain his People’s hearts, must not set himself too high, nor them too low. Between persons who would continue cordial friends some equality must be preserved, whether they be private men, or Kings and People.
The weak and precarious condition of the greatest Prince, who is not beloved by his People. No Tyrant can be, and why.
PEOPLE who possess no certain property, nor establishment in their Country, are under no tye to their Country, nor holden by any obligation to their Prince. So that, as la Loubiere observes in his historical relation of Siam, since they must bear the same yoke under any Prince whatsoever, and since it is impossible to bear a heavier, they never concern themselves about the fortune of their Prince. He says, experience shews that upon the least trouble or attempt, they let the Crown go quietly to him, whoever he be, that has most force or most policy. A Siamese will readily die to discharge private hate, to be released from a wretched life, or to escape a cruel Death: but to die for their Prince and Country, is a virtue unknown there. They want the motives which animate free men: they have no liberty, no certain property, consequently no attachment to their native soil. Insomuch that those of them who are taken captives by the King of Pegu, will reside peaceably in that Country, at a small distance from their own frontiers. They soon forget their native abodes, where they knew nought but servitude, and bear the present because no worse than the past. The Natives of Pegu too, when carried into Siam, shew the same indifference to return home, and for the same reason. The Kings of the East, says he, are regarded as the adoptive Sons of Heaven, their souls believed to be celestial, in virtue as much transcending other souls, as their royal lot appears happier than that of the rest of men. Yet if one of their Subjects revolt, the People begin presently to doubt which of the two souls is most valuable, that of the lawful Prince, or that of the rebellious Subject, and whether the heavenly adoption be not passed from the King to the Subject. Their Histories are full of such examples. He likewise quotes Father Martinius, who says that the Chinese are often persuaded, that in changing their Sovereign they follow the will of Heaven, and have sometimes preferred a common Robber to the reigning Prince.
But besides, says he, that such despotic authority is almost destitute of defence, the exercise of it centering altogether in the Prince, is weak for want of spreading and communication. Whoever would dispossess the Prince, has little more to do than to take upon him the spirit and person of a Prince; because all the authority being confined to one, and exerted but by one, is presently transferred, for want of many employed and interested to preserve it; and there is none but the Prince concerned or able to defend the Prince. He adds, that it appears, that in the ancient rebellions in China, whoever seized the royal Seal, presently rendered himself master of all; for the People always obeyed orders where-ever the Seal appeared, without enquiring in whose hands it was. Such too is the jealousy and care with which the King of Siam keeps his, which he trusts with no man, as to make it credible, that the obedience of the People there also follows the Seal. So that the chief danger of these Princes arises from things whence they hope their chief security, whether it be from a great Army, or a Seal: Whoever gains these, is presently King. The same is true of a great Treasure, the last resource in arbitrary Governments. The People there are under a continual state of ruin and poverty, and being constantly drained, cannot furnish any sudden supply upon sudden exigency. The Prince therefore must trust to what he has, and that likewise being liable to be seized, may be turned against him, may serve to exalt the Usurper. Upon this la Loubiere remarks justly, that besides the exhausting and spoiling of the People, by drawing from them great sums to fill his treasure, it frequently helps forward the ruin of him who has gathered it, and as it was collected to preserve him, it is employed and dissipated to undo him. This is the substance of what that Author says in the latter part of the fourteenth Chapter, Part the third.
So much does a Prince gain by boundless power, by enslaving his People, and having an interest and purse different from theirs. They have no ability to support him, nor any reason: They have no money to give him, because he has taken all, or too much; they have nothing of their own to defend, and why should they defend him, since by losing him, they lose nothing?
The political cause of Nobility. They are readily respected by the People: apt to oppress. Nobility without Virtue, what. The Spirit of Nobility, what it ought to be.
AFTER so much said about the People, it may not be improper to add something concerning the Nobility. As by the People I mean not the idle and indigent rabble, under which name the People are often understood and traduced, but all who have property, without the privileges of Nobility; so by the latter I mean such as are possessed of privileges denied to the People.
In a State no man ought to rise above the rest, without giving the rest some equivalent for such superiority; and for all public distinction there ought to be some public merit. As it is wise in a Prince or a State to employ men of virtue and capacity, it is but just to reward them. This was the natural rise of the Roman Senators, chosen for their ability and experience to direct the State, and dignified with the title of Conscript Fathers, as were their descendents by that of Patricians. Their duty arose from their dignity, and their dignity recompensed their duty. Thus they merited their pre-eminence and popular estimation; nor did the People ever fail in reverence to them, until they failed in their respect to the People, and hardly then. So natural it is for power to encroach, and so much apter are men in authority to depart from moderation, than the People from subjection. As property begets power, so does power property: The Senators, they who swayed the State, engrossed the riches of the State. The People were poor, and kept poor by the Nobility, who oppressed them by excessive usury, and when they could not satisfy the debt, seized their persons, and kept them in bonds. The violence was too great, the usage too ignominious to be always borne by a free and bold People, who therefore in their own defence forced the Nobility to allow them Magistrates and Protectors of their own. Thus began the popular Tribunes, Officers who frequently mortified the Nobility, taught the People to aspire in their turn, and to assert a right to all the highest Honours. This was the effect and punishment of Patrician Pride. The People were content to be governed; but when their Governors insulted and oppressed them, they assumed a share in governing themselves.
The People are the materials of Government, their protection its end, nor can it have any other; and that Government is a Monster where the People have no share, such a Monster as nature produces not, a Head unconcerned for the Body and Members, and, instead of nourishing, devouring them. In Society no man should be higher than others, but for the good of others; when that good is not obtained, when he considers himself only for himself, and pursues his own advantage to the hurt of others, his elevation is preposterous; it is against justice and nature, and better he descend than all men sink. Nature produces no Nobility, nor do the greatest when they come into the world, surpass the meanest in features, complexion or strength. The difference is created by civil establishment, which confers Nobility for political ends, but cannot convey a great soul with a great name, any more than stature or strength. It would be well, if, when the best men are thus raised, their descendents would continue to resemble them. When they do not, their degeneracy is a scandal to themselves as well as injurious to the Public, and thence the more scandalous. For being elated none of them have any cause, since it is incumbent upon them to surpass others in Virtue as well as in Title.
Nobility without Virtue is but exalted infamy, and the severest thing you can say of a great man, is to call him mean; and mean he is if he do mean things, let his name be ever so sounding; nay, he is mean when his behaviour is not great. The absence of good qualities is abundant reproach; but where he has many evil and none good, he becomes a disgrace to his Country, ought to be the scorn of his order, and consigned to the rabble, as he is already one of them in masquerade. His spirit ought to be noble like his name, full of private benevolence, full of public zeal, abhorring corruption, despising little personal advantages, doing justice to every man, seeking the good of all men; his example illustrious as his title, above falshood, above lucre. It is thus he deserves superiority and praise, and were he not noble, has a claim to be so. He honours a great station more than a great station can him. Greatness of soul is above the gift of man; a Crown cannot convey it, but only distinguish it, and does honour to itself by honour so bestowed. Little to be valued is that reverence which is paid only to title and rank; nor will a wise man much regard that respect which would be paid to his footman, were his footman in the same station. True esteem is always personal. What men pay to fortune and accidents, is only flattery or fashion, and in it the heart has no share.
The Duty of a Nobleman to his Country. In Virtue and public Spirit he ought to surpass others.
A MAN of great title with a little and evil mind, is worse and more despicable than the lowest of the vulgar, who are often bad through mere necessity and ignorance, as well as through a vicious education. Even poverty cannot excuse the base actions of a man of rank. He who has a worthy mind, will not act poorly even in poverty; he will consider his Duty and Honour preferably to his wants, and bear calamity rather than reproach. All Noblemen should be the ornaments of Society, else Society cannot esteem them, nor ought; for their integrity is of great concernment to the Public. According to the measure of their Virtue or Corruption, the State often thrives or decays, especially where they have a large share in making the Laws, and in directing the Administration. It is but common honesty to be just to their Country, to consult and promote its interest; it is no more than the duty which all men owe it; and upon public men, men of eminence and title, this duty is more particularly incumbent: They are of most consideration, they are better qualified (it is to their irreparable shame if they are not) and they are already possessed of their reward, by being what they are.
Whoever is indifferent about the interest of his Country, let his condition be ever so low, is unworthy to live in it, and it ought to drive him out; for he who is not its friend, is its enemy. Though he may have no fortune, he has still something valuable to engage him; he has a life to lose or to be protected, and by being protected by the Public, he is bound, nay, he is paid to wish it well and to defend it. Besides this, common humanity, the interest, and distress, and preservation of his acquaintance and neighbours, or relations, are powerful calls upon him to love and promote the good of the whole. He who has no public Virtue can hardly be thought to have any other; since out of a complication of private virtues public virtue arises, out of tenderness and mercy, out of generosity and goodness of spirit, out of friendship and justice, out of love for Liberty, and Right, and Peace, as likewise from an aversion to Intrusion and Violence, to Usurpation and Servitude.
A passion for the public Weal is the noblest passion that can possess the heart of man, and he who has it not can have little else that is good or laudable there. A benevolent heart interests it self even in the concerns of remote Nations, and in Revolutions which befell many ages ago. Who can read of free Nations falling into bondage, of Virtue depressed, of Villainy exalted, without sympathy and commiseration? Who, even at this distance, or a thousand ages hence, can behold the divine Brutus perishing in defence of the most righteous cause upon earth, behold the debauched Anthony, the faithless Octavius, triumphing in the worst, without being touched with indignation, touched with forrow? Or see, without emotion and heaviness, these and the succeeding Tyrants mowing down, with settled fury, whatever was good and glorious amongst men?
If public Spirit be the duty of all men, the duty not only of the middle, but the lowest order, how much public Spirit is to be expected from the Nobility, from them upon whom their Country has poured its highest favours, upon whom it should rely for the last zeal and services? What can be so just, what so dear, what so noble and comprehensive, what so much a duty, as to love and maintain what gave us not only birth, but fortune, honours and distinction? It is but gratitude to a generous benefactor: and if we are ungrateful, so sovereignly ungrateful, what good quality have we? Against Ingrates the ancient Persians had an express Law, very penal and rigorous. They considered ingratitude as the source of all enmities amongst men, and an indication of the vilest spirit, nor believed it possible for an ungrateful man to love the Gods or Men, or his Friends, Parents, or Country. Surely he that loves not the last, can love none of the rest, and ingratitude to one’s Country implies universal ingratitude.
A Nobleman void of good Qualities, or possessed with bad, a miserable Character. The Baseness and Corruption of the Roman Nobility; its fatal consequence.
ANOBLEMAN and not a Patriot, is a wild contradiction, at best a pitiful and depraved character. What is he? Surely not worthy to bear any trust for his Country, or to shine in her honours, if he make no conscience of his trust, if he betray it, or be indifferent about it, or want public faith and zeal, uncorruptible faith and affectionate zeal. As public Honours should be given for public Spirit, public Spirit should ever accompany public Honours: nor without that has any man a right to these, either to obtain them or to keep them. By such an essential defect and disqualification he degrades himself, and forfeits what he has no capacity to enjoy. He is afterwards to be considered as an Intruder, a Mimic who indeed acts a part, but sustains no real Dignity. Nor can the ornaments and prerogatives of his Order serve for aught but to expose him to constant ridicule and despight; like many of the Nobility in the time of Sallust, who says of them, “That they were like so many Statues, and besides their pompous name had nothing to recommend them.”
The stupidity of the Roman Nobility was far from being their worst quality. They were corrupted, debauched, oppressive, insolent, venal; mercenary men who betrayed the Public, who debased themselves to make vile traffic of their voices and power in the State, sold Justice, sold Countries, gave judgment against the Innocent for money, or neglected to do it when the Innocent had none: For money they protected public Enemies, for money authorized domestic Oppressors. Whoever would see a true picture of them, need only read the story of the War against Jugurtha finely told by Sallust. By their Corruption they hastened the downfal of Liberty, of which in truth corrupt men are never worthy. What they afterwards suffered in the civil war, from the rage of Usurpers, was a just punishment upon them for such shameful degeneracy and corruption. Thenceforth they served for continual sacrifices to succeeding Tyrants. They might thank themselves: Had they been just and uncorruptible, they might have saved themselves and the State. By their Corruption and Venality, by their Pride and Oppression, they had lost their power.
Whenever Government becomes corrupt and oppressive, it grows from that moment hated and weak. Hence ambitious men find temptation and opportunity to overturn it. They will find enough to say against it, and enow to hear them; what they say will be greedily swallowed. The lot that is disliked, is generally believed the worst that can happen, another is desired, and a remedy hoped from a change, which seldom brings one. Whenever the present Governors are hated, their Competitors are sure of being admired, though perhaps much worse. But the evil which is immediately felt is thought heaviest, and to get rid of it, a heavier is often incurred. Besides men will venture a mischief to themselves, if by it they can afflict their enemies. The Roman Nobility had provoked the Roman People, so that both pursuing separate interests fell naturally under the dominion of one. The like happened in Denmark: All public burdens and taxes were laid upon the People, nor would the Nobility bear any part, but treated them with scorn and oppression. The injured People took bitter vengeance, made the King absolute to make the Nobility Slaves. These made once a great figure: At present a small Officer in the Army is of more account than a Nobleman of Denmark.
The beginning of public Corruption generally from the Nobility: How ruinous this to the Public, and to themselves.
THE first great blow that was given to the Liberties of France, was given by the Nobility, who consented, in the reign of Charles the seventh, as Philip de Comines observes, that the Court should raise money upon their Tenants, for the venal consideration of having share of that money to themselvesa . He adds that by this that King brought a heavy sin upon his own soul and upon that of his Successors, and gave his Kingdom a wound which would continue long to bleed. Upon this occasion, I cannot forbear quoting another passage from that good Frenchman, that honest Politician, worthy Historian. “Is there, says he, a Prince upon earth, who has power to lay a single penny upon his Subjects, without the grant and consent of those who are to pay it, otherwise than by Tyranny and Violence?----No Prince can levy it, unless through Tyranny, and under the penalty of excommunication. But there are those who are brutish enough not to know what they can do or omit in this affair.”
These impositions grew monstrous, almost as soon as they grew arbitrary: Charles the seventh, who began them, never raised annually above an hundred and eighty thousand pounds. His Son Lewis XI. almost trebled that Revenue; and since then all that the Kingdom and People had, even to their skins, has hardly been thought sufficient for their Kings. All this might have been easily foreseen; but a little present lucre blinded the French Nobility.
By money got with their consent, the Court could maintain Armies without their consent; and it was too late to defend their public privileges, when they had given away the public purse, the first and greatest privilege, the bulwark of all the rest. They afterwards found, by dear experience, that nothing which hurts their Country could in the issue benefit them, and that in betraying the rights of the Public, they had betrayed their own. By flattering and exalting the Crown for some present gratuity, some poor personal advantages, they brought themselves to a slavish dependence upon the Crown for all the advantages of honour and life. Neither could the Crown be blamed for giving them money, if it was true that they would not do their duty, would not serve their Country without money. By it however they gained little. Besides the meanness and disgrace of it, what they got corruptly, they wasted prodigally, and ruined their posterity without mending their own condition. It was moreover a temptation to the Crown to grasp at all, since whatever is coveted, it knew how to accomplish.
What the Nobility did, others were too ready to imitate, and the Court took advantage of the venality of all. So that Mezeray had too much cause to say what he does of the States-General holden in the beginning of the reign of Charles the eighth, that the President of the States, many of the Ecclesiastics, and several Deputies, sold themselves to the Court, and betrayed the public cause. It must be owned that whatever the Court acquired this way, was but a poor acquisition, not the hearts of the People, but the venal mouths of their Deputies. Nor can a Monarchy be ever strengthened by any acquisitions which weaken the People. It is at best but the strength of a man in a frenzy and convulsions, mighty for a time, and supernatural, but ending in miserable faintness, languor and death.
The advantages of public Liberty to the Nobility. How fast Tyrants destroy them. The strange degeneracy of the Roman Nobility: contemptible, yet proud: subject to be degraded for base Morals or Poverty.
IN a free Country the Nobility have room to exercise all their virtues: Under an arbitrary Prince what virtue they have they must hide; since if it be signal, they may find it fatal. It is certain that by most it is marked with a jealous eye, and such jealousy seldom sleeps or forgivesb . The Politics of almost all the Cæsars were nothing else than bloody devices to murder every man of quality signal for any virtue military or civil, or for wealth and family. Tacitus is full of such examples, and I have elsewhere referred to them. It was treasonable to be noble; capital to be rich; criminal to have borne honours, criminal to have declined them; and the reward of worth and virtue was quick and inevitable destruction; says Tacitus. So that men of character, possessed of great qualities, were, for safety, obliged to disguise them, and to appear, against nature, mean, fawning, debauched, and even stupid, like the first Brutus under Tarquin. The natural heaviness of Galba was supposed to be assumed, purposely to escape the deadly suspicion of the several Tyrants under whom he had lived. Such was the splendor of his race, and such the terrible spirit of those times (which he had escaped) that thence colour was ministered for bestowing the name of real wisdom upon that which in him was real heaviness, as the same author observes. Through this fear and precaution, under the Tyranny of Domitian, Tacitus says, men were so careful to conceal their faculties, that they lost a great space of their life in silence and non-existence, insomuch that they had survived not only others but themselves. Now where was the advantage, where the honour of being Noble, when such as were Noble were obliged to act meanly, and to seem mean? It was all mock-honour, and a misfortune to possess it. Under such pressure and terrors could virtue rise or flourish, a thing too rare even where it was encouraged?
In fact most of the Nobility were what they seemed, corrupt, base, servile, void of spirit and virtue, destitute of accomplishments, in name only and fortune distinguished from the Rabble, and therefore worse than they. Ridiculous is a noble name without noble qualities. Is a fruit-tree to be regarded, which bears no fruit? The reasoning of Marius is unanswerablec . The illustrious virtue of the founder of a family, is but a perpetual reproach upon his descendants, if they want virtue. The merit of our forefathers derives none upon us, no more than their crimes do guilt. Is it any praise to a coward, that he had an ancestor who was brave? He has much cause to be ashamed, none to glory, yet probably will glory in spite of shame. The less merit generally the more pride, and nothing is more common than to find in very worthless, in very corrupt men, notable stateliness and insolence. I have known men of the most fastidious spirit and confident mien, do actions little and base, known them false, sordid, unjust. What can be more odious than such men, what more contemptible? Do not Titles and Honours, if they have any, render them more contemptible, more odious? For a great man to be dishonest and corrupt, is infamy in abundance; but when to corruption and dishonesty he adds insolence and disdain, he is completely infamous, and claims abhorrence from all men.
It was part of the office of the public Censors at Rome, to weed the Senate, and to degrade unworthy Senators: Nor could that illustrious dignity be gained or kept without a suitable fortune. It was not thought honourable or safe, that any one with an ill character and no estate, should act and vote amongst Magistrates and Lawgivers; that a man of bad morals should direct the public manners, and dispose of property, yet have none. Nor was aught more just, than that they who had the spirit of the worst Plebeians, as well as the poverty, should be reduced into the class of men whom they resembled. A Senator was at first no more than a Plebeian well accomplished, and therefore ennobled; and it was but reasonable, that Senators, who wanted accomplishments, should be declared Plebeians again, when in effect they were so before. Nobility was the price of worth, and without worth, reckoned Usurpation. It was thought equitable usage, as to raise men of merit, so to pull down men who happened to be raised without it. The worthless Nobility were a scandal to the worthy, as well as to their own ancestors; nor was it just that the worst should be ennobled, when the best could be no more. Great qualities were accounted natural Nobility, such as no favour, no power could bestow; and the power which exalted worthless men, was thought rather to debase it self than to honour them. Besides it was disgraceful and dangerous to the State, that men unqualified, corrupt, venal, infamous, should be allowed any share in the sway; that an Ignorant and a Mercenary should have equal weight with the ablest Senators, and upright Patriots.
Public Virtue justly due from the Nobility to the Public. They ought to be zealous for Liberty upon their own account.
IT is but just to the Publick, for men to merit the stations which they hold in it, to render themselves worthy of the privileges and emoluments which they enjoy from it. To take a reward without deserving it, is a sort of robbery, especially when to that reward public Service and Duty are annexed. The Nobility of a Country have more advantages from it than the rest of the Natives, and are therefore more bound in honour and conscience to serve it. It is for this only they are, or should be Noble. For their own sake also they are bound to study its prosperity, and to guard its Liberty and Laws. Where these are precarious, so will be their dignity, which can never be safe where Liberty is not so, unless in an established Aristocracy, of which I do not now speak. By such righteous conduct, a conduct so worthy of public Leaders, so incumbent upon the Protectors of their Country, they entail security upon their families, and glory upon their own name. For under Tyranny even the memory of great Men is denied Justice. Arulenus Rusticus was condemned for having published the life and praises of Thrasea Pætus, a glorious Patriot murdered by Nero, who hated him for his virtue, which the Monster laboured to extirpate from the earth. Herennius Senecio was put to death under Domitian, for doing the like justice to the virtuous memory of Helvidius Priscus. Even the books were doomed to the flames; so zealous were these Tyrants to destroy the name as well as the life of every excellent person. But in spite of the Tyrants, in spite of all their power and rage, those precious names are still preserved, still praised: So will be the names of all great Men remarkably good; and, to heighten the glory of these, the infamy of great bad Men, will be never suffered to perish. Here therefore is the choice, to be immortal in Praise, or in Reproach.
Of public Teaching and Teachers.
Whoever is head of the State ought to be head of the Religon of the State. The force of early impressions, with their use and abuse.
TACITUS says, that no Government was ever sufficiently powerful to repress the turbulent sallies of a people, who were once brought to sanctify and defend the evil doings and devices of men as real parts and acts of Religion. Never was any observation more true; and it shews of what importance it is to Government to take care how the people are nurtured, that the public education be rational and just, and that subjects be not taught to reverence any authority in the State more than the civil authority, or indeed to behold or feel any other whatsoever. Where the public Teachers depend not upon the Magistrate, his subjects will no longer depend upon him, but upon their Teachers, nor obey him when taught disobedience by them. It is dangerous to the Magistrate to have his people believe, that any man, or set of men, has more interest with God than he has, since then, the same man, or set of men, will of course have more interest with his people. Every Magistrate therefore who would rule with proper awe and in proper security, must be at the head of the Church as well as of the State. This was the just policy of the Caliphs in Arabia and Egypt, this the policy of the Sophi’s of Persia, and this is the policy of the Crown of Great Britain. The great Turk assumes not the name, but he exercises the power by making and unmaking the Mufti at his pleasure.
In discoursing of public Teaching, I do not mean to consider the course or method of education in schools and universities, but to examine the effects of ignorance or understanding in the people, and how much it concerns a State what notions are instilled into them concerning Religion and Government.
I believe it will be allowed just, that such impressions as are most wise and virtuous, and worthy to last, should be first made, not only because they are most important, but because the most early impressions are likely to abide longest, especially when the understanding finds afterwards cause to approve and retain what the mind had already imbibed. Upon our spirits, whilst yet young and tender, any ideas whatsoever may be stamped, however foolish, however mad, or even pernicious. Nay, such are very easily infused, though very hard to be removed. This is exemplified in the eminent stubbornness of religious errors. What is more monstrous than some of these, what more repugnant to all common sense and human happiness, what more dishonourable to the attributes of God, what more disgraceful to the reason of men, or more baneful to society? Yet what upon earth is maintained with such fondness, with such zeal and obstinacy? Whence comes all this ferocity for the support of folly, often in defence of misery, but from hence, that these reveries are for the most part very early sucked in, besides that they are confirmed by superstition, which teaches men not to reason, but to fear, not to see, but to believe? I know not that thing which human minds may not be taught to adore, let it be ever so absurd, ever so deformed, or destructive, whether Crocodiles and Serpents, or Impostors and Dæmons. Nay, what they often adore does not even exist, but is only fancied, like the imaginary Deity mentioned and ridiculed by Cicero, called Aius locutus, the Voice that spoke, or like the Idols mentioned by St. Paul, who of them says truly, “that they were nothing in the world;” that is they were only statues and names.
Of this openness of the soul to receive impressions readily, and of its fondness for impressions early received, excellent use might be made, though it has happened to be generally misapplied and abused. The mind may be taught true propositions as well as false, such as tend to its honour and advantage as well as those which tend to its hurt and disgrace. People may be brought up with an high opinion of their own reason as well as with a low, and learn to exercise it as well as to lay it aside, to consider and prize it as a gift and guide given them by God, as well as to rail at it, and to distrust its guidance. As in some countries (alas! too many) they are educated to love delusion, and to adore deluders, they might in others be instructed to despise deluders and to abhor delusion; here to love liberty and right, as there to bear bondage and misrule; to love God without being cheated and impoverished in his holy name, to honour Governors, but to own no allegiance to Oppressors; to know that the wise God cannot command fooleries, nor good Magistrates rule violently.
The ignorance of the People no pledge of security to to their Governors. The ignorant Rabble always most tumultuous.
GOVERNORS are not the less secure because their subjects have sense and discernment; I think they are much more so, and that from the stupidity and blindness of their people they have constant danger to apprehend; as blind men are apter to be misled than men that have eyes. The ignorant and foolish are eternally subject to misguidance, eternally apt to be inflamed by Incendiaries, to be deceived and drawn away by Demagogues. Such as have no understanding of their own, will be ever at the mercy and command of those who can gain their admiration and esteem, and will ever follow the man who can best seduce them. Thus the causeless mutinies in Armies, thus unprovoked tumults and insurrections in Cities and Countries, generally consist of the ignorant and brutal Rabble, excited and conducted by wretches often as low as themselves, only of superior craft and the bad are chiefly guided by the worst. Such was the sedition of the Legions in Pannonia, in the beginning of the reign of Tiberius.
“In the Camp, says Tacitus, there was one Percennius, formerly a busy Leader in the embroilments of the Theatre, and now a common soldier; a fellow of a petulant, declaiming tongue, and by inflaming parties in the Playhouse, well qualified to excite and infatuate a crowd. This Incendiary practised upon the ignorant and unwary. He engaged them in nightly confabulations, and by little and little incited them to violence and disorders, and towards the evening when the soberest and best affected were withdrawn, he assembled the worst and most turbulent. When he had thus ripened them for sedition, and other ready incendiaries were combined with him, he personated a lawful Commander, and harangued them.” His harangue was artful and vehement, and by it he quite fired the credulous multitude. All licentiousness followed and terrible outrages, especially when Vibulenus, another incendiary and common soldier, had inflamed them with fresh fury by an impudent lye, as if his brother had lately perished for promoting the common cause. Insomuch that had it not appeared that the Impostor never had any brother, to atone for that imaginary murder their General was in danger of suffering a real one. Now during all this insurrection and uproar of the common herd (for of such only it consisted) the General was still dutifully obeyed by the Centurions, and by all the soldiers of any merit.
Indeed all sudden disorders are raised, all furious and unjust revolutions are accomplished, chiefly by the gross and undistinguishing crowd, nurtured in no principles, or bad ones, ready to take every impression and alarm, to love or to hate by impulse and direction, and to be guided not by justice, and sense, but by passion and names, and cries.
One tumult is generally the picture of all others; and reason, which is a calm and orderly thing, can scarce have part in any, but instead of it rage and wilfulness bear sway: Like the uproar in Ephesus against St. Paul, stirred up by the Shrine-makers to Diana. A terrible insurrection there was, and a hideous clamour. The whole city was filled with confusion, yet the greater part of the multitude knew not wherefore they were come together. They only agreed in their common phrenzy and in a common cry, that great was Diana of the Ephesians; and this cry was the only argument which they continued to urge for the space of two hours against what the Apostle had declared; namely, “that they were no Gods which were made with hands;” a most self-evident and pious truth, if ever there were any. But this manly and benevolent doctrine served only to provoke, not to convince a rabble nurtured in blind error, and therefore furious to defend it.
The untaught vulgar, how liable to be seduced. The great Power of their Teachers over them.
IT does not at all follow from the ignorance of the people, that they are thence the more likely to be peaceable subjects. The more ignorant they are, the more easily they are deceived; and such who depend, not upon reason, but upon authority and men, are the surest dupes of Ambition and Craft, the certain materials for every public combustion. A few loud, or solemn, or even senseless words artfully pronounced and applied, are sufficient to raise their passions, to present them with false objects of love and hate, to fill them with foolish pity or foolish indignation, and to harden them against all sense and peace. It is likely they may be even so blind and bewitched, as to think all their outrages and cruelties so many acts of justice, nay, of piety and merit, especially in countries where they are wickedly taught to believe, that violence and barbarities are well pleasing to God and warranted by his will, provided that, for their justification, his name be boldly used. Whoever can persuade them, that their lawful Governors are enemies to God, has it in his power to make them enemies to their lawful Governors; and then the next step will be to rebel against their King, in order to shew their obedience to the King of Kings.
Neither is it any certain security to their Ruler, that they may be also taught to consider him and his power as altogether irresistible and sacred, though he should even degenerate into the most pestilent Tyrant; since, besides that such doctrine is utterly against nature, which when thoroughly incensed, will prove often too stubborn to be bound by any doctrine; there can be no constant dependence upon the operation of any principle which is it self founded upon nonsense and falshood. Whatever is absolutely absurd admits of infinite uncertainty and latitude in reasoning from it, and a contradiction once granted generally involves a man in a train of contradictions even to that contradiction and to one another. Moreover the reception of an absurd position implies such blindness in them who embrace it, that the same men who taught them, (for example) that they must never resist upon any pretence whatsoever, may afterwards teach them to resist even upon the very pretence of defending nonresistance.
Such inconsistencies we have seen in our own time. They who teach nonsense, claim likewise a right to declare the explanations of their own nonsense, and these they take care to accommodate to their present temper and views, and to the several variations of their views. Nor from such as they have instructed in folly have they cause to apprehend any discoveries to their disadvantage, or that any inconsistency will be charged upon them. Men who submit to be blind, have no right to see; and he who sees for them, will hardly suffer them to perceive any faults or errors in himself. So that he may persuade them to one thing to day, to another to morrow, yet scorn to own any contradiction in his conduct, or in their practice. He will still be sure of their adherence, so long as they have not light enough to see that they want light; nor, whilst they delight in darkness, can they dislike him who keeps them in it.
The deceitfulness of Doctrines which are against Reason and Nature.
THERE can hardly be found under any Government ignorance more gross than under that of Turkey; nor can the power of the Sovereign there be possibly carried higher, either in the minds of the People, or in the principles of their Religion. Yet where upon earth is sovereign Power more precarious than there, where more perillous? and where is the life of the Sovereign so often sacrificed? All men profess to adore his person, all men own his authority to be without bounds; no man pretends that it ought to be limited: Nay, to dispute the doctrine and prerogative of his absolute Will, would be as penal, as to call in question the Attributes, and even the Being of God; nor did it ever enter into their hearts to circumscribe his Sovereignty by any law. They profess passive obedience even unto death, though he command whole armies to precipitate themselves from a rock, or to build him a bridge with piles of their bodies for his passing of rivers, or to kill each other to afford him sport; nor is he ever accountable for any action or excess whatsoever, though he destroy wantonly, and without all cause, a thousand of his subjects in a day. These are flights worthy the grossness of Turks, worthy the gross flattery of Turkish Divines; nor have any Divines exceeded them in stretching this slavish Doctrine, except some of our own who have held it unlawful to resist even for the salvation of human kind. As they had thus improved upon the Turkish Casuists, so in another instance they wronged them, by asserting that this doctrine was the peculiar characteristic of their own Church, when it was that of the Mahometan Church many hundred years before.
But this doctrine, however savage and gross, and however by it flatterers may please undiscerning Princes, has been found so opposite to nature (as indeed it is to all common sense) that it has proved too barbarous even for the barbarity of Turks; and of all Princes who have died violently, none have died more tragically than theirs, none have found so little respect and obedience. These Gods upon earth; these shadows and images of the Almighty; these brethren to the Sun; these givers of all earthly dignities and crowns, are, with all these their divine titles, often the sport and victims of the vilest rabble.
This it is to carry submission beyond reason and nature. As every thing human is limited, so of course is human patience; and what avails theory against the bent of nature? You may bring people by teaching and ghostly fascination, to say any thing be it ever so absurd, ever so hurtful, perhaps to believe it too. But there is difference between saying and bearing, between assenting and suffering. When the trial comes, passion will prove stronger than opinion.
The most ignorant people, though they cannot reason, can be angry; and anger, whilst it lasts, is their guide. Their other guides may dictate to them, and argue for them, but cannot feel for them, may govern their ideas, but not their rage. All schemes which pre-suppose the continual rest or suppression of the passions, are foolish and fantastical, let the terrors and restrictions which they annex be ever so awful. What can be more so than the dread of hell, of everlasting torture and burning; a penalty denounced by some, particularly by the Turks, against resistance, and by many believed? Yet has this dreadful terror, even when corroborated with numerous guards and mighty armies, secured the thrones of Princes? No: Such as have trusted to it, have fallen in spight of it, perhaps because they trusted to it. They who rule righteously want no such deceitful support; for such it is, at best; and he who relies upon it has generally no other to rely on, and therefore deserves not a better. It is not just that falshood should support misrule, or the holy name of God serve to shield an Oppressor. A good Prince confides in the laws, and in his own upright administration, and has no occasion for recourse to lies and frauds, since he is sure of the favour of God and man: and he who reigns wickedly, ought not to wonder if his wicked hopes perish.
The foregoing Reasoning further illustrated. How much it behoves Rulers that their Subjects be well and rationally taught.
HOW little passive principles, and unlimited power, and mighty armies secure a Prince against public disgusts, the Revolution at Constantinople the other day, is a signal proof and example; and many such examples have happened there. This is the second within the space of seven and twenty years. A Prince whose authority knew no bounds, one by whose breath all men lived, and the greatest men perished, one whose height of power could only be expressed by titles taken from the Almighty, is in a moment tumbled from his proud throne into a prison. Had he not been raised so unnaturally high, his fall would not probably have been so immediate and violent. Where there is only one man to be changed, the change is soon made, let the nature of his power be ever so pompous, let his name be ever so solemn. Titles the most lofty signify nothing, when all reverence for titles is gone; and his despotic power, which he holds from his armies, must leave him whenever his armies do.
An angry faction, or a tumultuous soldiery, or even one desperate fellow, can effect a Revolution, where it is to be effected by removing a single person, since upon a single person in all arbitrary countries, the whole Government rests. But, to remove a Parliament, or to destroy all them who chuse Parliaments, is a far different task. Here therefore is the security of a Prince ruling over a free people. The States of the Country are a wall about him. Whatever burthens the subjects bear, as they are laid on by public consent, cannot provoke them against him: Hence his safety from popular tumults. As he relies not upon armies, at least but in part, even the revolt of an army can but in part distress him; and he has a resource amongst his people, where he has not provoked them by oppression. It will moreover be a constant check and discouragement to any design against him, that, though it should succeed, the Government would not be altered, and severe vengeance would be sure to follow.
Since, therefore, neither gross ignorance in the people, nor the possessing them with the most slavish tenets, can secure their Rulers against insurrections and revolt; it is the interest of their Rulers, as well as duty, to provide that the public education be rational and virtuous, and the public morals be sound, that the people have just notions of right and wrong, that they be not taught slavery instead of subjection, delusion under the name of religion, and folly for devotion. Where they are taught to be honest and sensible, they will be certainly dutiful to their Governors as well as just to one another; but if they be left to folly and corrupt dealings, their reverence to magistrates will be precarious, and may be as well too little as too much, since without a share of sense, especially a sense of honour and obligations, they can have no sure rule of conduct and obedience, and are more likely to follow evil than good, to be turbulent than peaceable.
Every departure from just liberty is an approach to slavery; every advance towards slavery is a step to brutality, which is then compleat when no liberty is left: And the nearer men are to beasts, the sooner they are enraged, the harder to govern. Wild beasts, however managed and muzzled, often destroy their keepers, as the most abject slaves have sometimes destroyed their proud tyrants. Men who know how to exercise their reason and to watch over their passions, will be quiet under good usage out of choice and interest, whereas such whose faculties are vitiated or suppressed, know not when it is proper to sit still, or when it is right to rouse: They may be persuaded, by those whom they trust with the management of their senses, that the best condition is the worst, that the most equal Government is Oppression, that the most legal Title is Usurpation; that a Prince, provided his name be John or James, may do whatever he pleases, be it ever so wicked and tyrannical; but if he be called Thomas or William, let him be ever so just and wise, he is an usurper. For, to the stupid and intoxicated herd they do not, they need not, give the true reason, or a better reason, or any reason at all, for this their partiality and aversion. Neither is it likely that they will own, that in stiling Rulers the Ordinance of God, or Apostates from God, they are generally, almost eternally, guided by their passions, to fawn or clamour, flatter or revile, bless or curse, be obsequious or rebellious, just as they find themselves courted or neglected.
Power in the hands of the public Teachers how dangerous to Rulers; and how ill it suits with Christianity.
A People led by delusion, especially by religious delusion (the most powerful of all others, and thence the most practised) are the subjects, not of the civil magistrate, but of the deluders, who may incite them against him, as well as engage them for him. Insomuch that for his own safety, and for the repose of the State, he must be beholden not to his People, but to the Leaders and Pedagogues of the People. To them he must pay all his court, and leave them to domineer, nay, assist them in domineering, that they may suffer him to reign, though only to reign in name. Constant distress and restraint is the least that he can expect, nay, if he continue not sufficiently tame, they will perhaps arm his own subjects against him; perhaps, not content with putting him under due fear and chastisement, they will even depose him, perhaps butcher him, or oblige him to butcher himself. Even this last sally of their pride and power is not new, as the others have been very common. The Egyptian Priests of old had gained such absolute sway over all men, especially over the King, that, as often as they found themselves prompted by any offence from him, or by any caprice of their own, they were wont, by a short order, to command him to die.
Others, since, have acted with equal scorn towards Princes, and deposed and murdered them with as high a hand. Nay, in most of their struggles with their Sovereign, they have proved too hard for him; a superiority which they at first gained through his own blindness and ill policy, by giving them himself, or suffering others to give them such mighty revenues, that, by the strength of these, and by their influence over the consciences of men, which with equal weakness he had surrendered to their will and blind guidance, they were become so potent and imperious, that he was glad to compound with them for the quiet possession of his Throne, to comply with all their demands, to be still augmenting their privileges and power, and thence to weaken and give up his own; nay, to be their daily and common executioner, and to inflict death and vengeance where-ever they shewed displeasure. Nor did all this complaisance always save him, if he manifested any uneasiness or reserves, or the love of mercy rather than of cruelty, or refused chearfully to kill or distress all his subjects, who in their devotions used not the words and tunes in fashion, though the fashion was daily changing.
The speech of the Bishop of Nismes to the French King the other day is a curious specimen of the spirit of those men. He tells his Majesty, “That his Monarchy is founded upon Catholicism,” that is, upon whatever they, the Bishops, shall think fit to call so; for they are the Judges. So that, whenever he falls from Catholicism, that is, whenever he provokes these Judges of Catholicism to declare that he does, he falls of course from his Monarchy. In the mean time they modestly expect from his Majesty, that he should persecute and undo all who refuse to submit blindly to their authority and dictates, in spite of conscience and conviction. It is the usual reasoning of such men. Whoever opposes or contradicts them, never fails to be an enemy to God and the King.
Christianity, which was certainly propagated without the aid of wealth or power, never has, never can receive any assistance from either. Like all other institutions civil and sacred, it must subsist upon the same principles from whence it began, or cease to subsist. Nor can it enter into the heart of man to conceive, how Religion, which is a conviction of the soul produced by the grace of God there, and without that grace can never be produced, should result from force or gain, things which naturally cause only pride and the fear of man, and other worldly passions quite repugnant to Religion. Nor was any thing ever more evident than that, when secular authority and secular riches are contended for in behalf of Christianity, it is done not by the voice of Christ nor for any purposes of his, but by the voice of interested men, and for apparent ends of their own.
We will readily allow them to be holy men, who call men to Christ, and labour to convert souls from sin; but surely they are not also holy when they are employed about things which have no share of holiness in them. They are not holy in offices and pursuits which are purely civil or natural. No man can be said to be holy in eating, sleeping, or in growing rich: neither is he holy even in preaching or praying, if in these functions his soul be corrupt or insincere. If his sermon be about secular things, it is not a religious sermon, no more than any other speech prompted not by grace but by passion; or, if he pray without faith and the spirit, his prayer is no longer holy. We must distinguish between the occupation and the man, between his holy occupation and his other occupations. Were every thing which a holy man does, to be accounted holy, even his sin would be holy, his acts of frailty would be acts of holiness. In his preaching and teaching the same rule must be observed; else his mistakes must be swallowed as instruction, and he may preach you into sin and folly as well as out of it.
The absurdity of implicit belief in any set of Teachers, with its mischievous and monstrous consequences. The natural progress of Persecution.
WHAT is said above shews the monstrous nonsense of submitting blindly to any set of Teachers, and the matchless assurance of such as claim it. The condition of the countries where this wicked point is gained, their shocking ignorance and misery, are abundant warnings to nations who yet possess the privilege of private judgment and conscience, to be zealous in preserving a privilege so precious, the inestimable gift of God and Nature, that divine ray issuing from the Deity, and the true characteristic of a rational creature.
It is human reason more than human shape, that denominates a man. Indeed such as part with their reason, have in a great measure renounced their species, and are to be ranked with creatures that are not rational, nay, in some sort, below them; for, dumb beasts part not with their instinct. After this fatal surrender of their chief faculty, what other faculty, or which of their senses can they claim a right to exercise? They have indeed small pretence to any reserve, nor is any reserve allowed them such as may interfere with their spiritual bondage. They are even doomed to renounce their eyes, their taste and their smell, to disown the taste of bread in bread, and the flavour of wine in wine, to see the one God, who is indivisible and fills heaven and earth, cut out of a loaf into numberless human bodies intire, yet still, to maintain that he is but one though thousands of mouths are eating him, and each eats him whole.
After swallowing this infinite lie, what other dare they dispute, especially when it comes from men armed with double terrors, those of Hell and those of secular Power? It is then too late to assert our senses, which perhaps are already bewitched and given up; it is too late to alledge, that it implies an absolute contradiction and impossibility, for any man to bind and govern the involuntary motions of my soul, which I my self cannot direct, nor hinder, nor alter. From the assuming of a power over the mind of man, every other power will follow of course; and civil servitude is the sure result of spiritual.
From hence men should be exhorted to examine before they assent. To order men to believe in their hearts what the heart of man cannot conceive, is such a stretch of assurance and impiety, such a mark of malice against truth and sense, such an assault upon natural candor and veracity, such a sure way to harden men in lying and hypocrisy, such an apparent inlet to all delusion and every ungodly dominion, that all men should rise up against it. It may begin with negative penalties, but, if suffered to go on, will end in an Inquisition; for, a small punishment infers the necessity of a greater, where the first answers not the end, and consequently of the highest, when none but the highest will do.
How few consider this, with the danger and natural tendency of punishing for opinions? Many would rejoice at the whipping of a man for having notions different from theirs, yet be sorry to see him burned: whereas the same arguments that justify the use of the lash will justify that of the faggot, and were that man as strong as his persecutors, he has an equal right and pretence for whipping or burning them. So that, if this spirit were universally let loose, before persecution ceased men must cease.
The Will of God not deposited with any set of Men. The use of public Teaching, with the Character necessary to public Teachers. How much they are corrupted by Pomp and great Wealth.
WHEN the Will of God is matter of record, it is monstrous absurdity to depend for the knowledge of it, upon the authority of men; and it is an open affront to the divine Being, to stile it his revealed Will, and yet to call it obscure or hard to be understood. What can be greater mockery than to suppose, that the omnipotent God should impart to some men only, certain great secrets which were of the utmost importance to all men; that all men were to be eternally taxed for having these secrets eternally communicated them; that he should publish these secrets in his revealed Will to remain always concealed though always preached; that they are still to be secrets, still hid, though thousands are publishing and explaining them every day, and have been for many ages? Is it not more worthy the idea of an all-wise, of an all-merciful God, to believe that he lays open to all men whatever is necessary for all men to know?
Neither does this reasoning affect the being of national Churches. It is my opinion, that a panochial Clergy are of infinite use, where they take pains by their example and instructions to mend the hearts of the people, where they teach them to love God, and their Neighbour, and Virtue, and their Country, and to hate no man. As corrupt as men are, though more prone to evil than good, I believe it possible for a wise, and diligent, and upright Clergyman, to shame vice and dishonesty out of his parish, to make virtue amiable to all his hearers, to convince knaves of the folly and deformity of knavery, and to persuade them to be honest even for the sake of interest, as well as for quiet of mind, and for reputation, and the love of their neighbours. By the same means other evil habits might be cured, such as drunkenness, lewdness, lying and idleness. People might be even made fond of all the genuine duties of Religion, which are really but few in number, and all capable of demonstration to the meanest capacity.
But it is absolutely expedient, thet they who profess to teach truth, be themselves men of veracity; that they be virtuous and sober in order to recommend sobriety and virtue, and shew by their behaviour, upon all occasions, that their duty, that the instruction and happiness of the people, is dearer to them than their own interest. If the conduct of a Teacher be contrary to all this, his character is contrary to that of a Pastor. If he set out with a great and solemn falshood, and say that he came from God, whom he never saw, if he alledge the call of the Holy Ghost, when his call was apparently interested and human; these are the marks of every false prophet, and he doth not teach, but deceive: Or if he be debauched, or false, or idle, vain will be his attempts, if he use any, to cure these vices in others. If he have a great or considerable revenue for the cure of souls, and surrender that important cure to a worthless hireling retained at a small price, can he be thought to love souls so well as money? Nor can he pass for an Embassador of Peace, if he revile, or curse, or teach his people to hate and injure such as differ in speculations from him.
Neither can he be thought a messenger of truth, or an instructer of men, if he puzzle them with curious and fanciful notions irreconcilable to probability and human apprehension, yet to be embraced as necessary duties. This were to represent the wise and good God as delighting to mock and perplex his creatures with riddles and contradictions. And, for men to own their belief of any religious proposition, which they cannot possibly conceive, is to mock God in their turn; since to embrace with our understanding what the understanding cannot comprehend, is absolutely impossible. I can easily conceive, that a just God must love righteousness and hate iniquity; and this must be obvious to the conceptions of all men. But, I cannot conceive how the God of truth should delight in sophistry, how he who would have all men come to the knowledge of truth, should desire to have all men confounded with inexplicable niceties, or to have that made true in systems which in reason can never be true.
Neither can a Teacher ever edify others whilst he preaches up himself. If he contend for power, and dominion, and worldly pomp, how is he a spiritual guide? The blessed Jesus and his holy Apostles had nothing of all this, claimed nothing. And it is amazing that others, who evidently want the spiritual endowments of the Apostles, should venture to demand, as successors to the Apostles, what it is plain the Apostles never had, nor sought. Other arms than persuasion and prayer, they have none, and power is incompatible with either. It was natural for Mahomet to plant a false Religion by troops of horse. But Christ and St. Paul took no such ways, nor allowed others to take them.
Nor has it at all appeared, that our Religion ever flourished in proportion as Churchmen grew wealthy. I doubt its spirit will be found to have constantly sunk as their pomp increased. The People, indeed, have ever been most ignorant where the Clergy have been most powerful. The more the latter had, the less they taught, and, when under the name of Religion, they were become masters of all things, they quite abolished Religion to set up frauds and superstition. To what gross ignorance, to what misery and barbarity they had brought Christendom before the Reformation, I leave Historians to declare. In what a horrible state of stupidity, dread and desolation, they still keep the parts of it yet unreformed, all travellers see, and all that read travels may learn.
So much the poor People got by giving these their Teachers all, or too much, and by believing their commission to be from God, when they were acting like the most depraved of men, full of revenge, though professed followers of the meek Jesus, who when he was reviled, reviled not again; nay, confidently glutting their avarice under his name, though he himself had not a place where to lay his head.
All this was natural, and, in all places upon earth, the like causes will produce the like effects, to the end of the world. The people who had been long deluded, grew first blind; when they had parted with their reason, they were easily brought to part with their property, and where all the property was, there all the power followed.
Public Teachers have no Power, no Creation but from the State. Their Folly and ill Policy in claiming any other.
IT becomes the wisdom of all Governors so to fashion and regulate the public Teachers, as to let them know, and all men see, that they are the Creatures of the State, appointed by the civil Power to a religious office. This was the wisdom of England at the Reformation. They were then obliged to swear, that they derived all power of all sorts whatsoever, from the Crown; nor could they after this, without express perjury, claim any antecedent or independent power. They were by this cut off from the profane nonsense and presumption of their predecessors, of representing Jesus Christ, and of succeeding the Apostles; a source from which the Popish Clergy had drawn all their gain and fairy dominion, and with which they had covered and hallowed all their wicked pretences and frauds.
Yet for several reigns after the excellent Queen Elizabeth, though the same law, and oaths and subscriptions continued, many of the Clergy, in defiance of the constitution, of conscience and of shame, adopted all the antichristian and corrupt claims of the Popish Clergy; and, through the monstrous policy of the reigning Princes, this their lawless behaviour was connived at, nay, supported. For, the Court, where all arbitrary schemes were on foot, in order to gain its own pursuits, humoured and assisted the Clergy in theirs; and though both Court and Clergy became thence notoriously unpopular and obnoxious; though both Monarchy and Church suffered a terrible Catastrophe, for aiming at more than belonged to either, the same restless spirit possessed both upon their re-establishment, and both arrogated a power to be lawless and forsworn, by divine right.
This spirit met another severe check afterwards, yet revived again with equal confidence; but the times since bore it worse than ever: Insomuch that all the contempt of which Churchmen so much complain, has been brought upon the Clergy by many of the Clergy themselves. Their claims were so ambitious, extravagant, indeed so false and wicked, and have been so well exposed, that no man of common sense could reverence the persons who made them.
What they are, the Law certainly makes them; what they have, the same Law certainly gives them. Why would they be falsly aspiring to a higher creation, and a title divine? Why be deriving from God what all the world sees to come only from the bounty of societies and of particular men? Why be broaching doctrines destructive of Liberty in a nation of Freemen? Why assert an extraordinary, even a divine power to do certain actions, and pronounce certain words, which any man who has hands and a tongue could speak and perform as well, if the civil Magistrate appointed him? Why would they shock all men of any discernment or piety, by fathering all their most selfish, all their most earthly and sordid opinions upon our blessed Redeemer and his holy Gospel, all their notorious falshoods and contradictions upon the word of truth? Why cover apparent ambition and avarice, manifest vengeance and anger, with these sacred names?
These were not ways to gain reverence; and had they gained any, it had been all false reverence, not worth gaining, indeed worse than none. Truth wants no false decking, nor any help from falshood, but is often lost or injured by such unnatural company. Whoever speaks truth and does good, is sure of a warrant and approbation from heaven, whatever be his habit or his title; and, if he utter falshood and do mischief, he may be assured that God will disown him; and no name, however solemn, no habiliment, however grave or gorgeous, can in the least justify him.
The Apostles had no power, no revenues, nor even the countenance of authority. All their credit, all their reverence and success flowed from their heavenly doctrine and behaviour. I hope the world, which has been so long illuminated with the light of the Gospel, is not worse than it was then. The Gospel has been many ages planted amongst us; nor could the Clergy be said to be still planting it over again where the people already believed and received it. The business therefore of the public Teachers was, by continually urging its precepts upon the consciences of men, to improve them in practical holiness, to purify their lives in this world, and thence fit them for another. For this purpose they have encouragement and support from the State; and as a designation and maintenance from the civil power is all that they can desire, it is likewise all that they want. They have all possible scope to propagate every divine truth, to enforce every social and civil duty: And whilst they are thus worthily employed, no man will envy them, no man can contemn them; nay, all men will, for their own sakes, pay them all due countenance and respect.
In this glorious pursuit they might be of excellent use to others, and gain great esteem to themselves, by making people good and government easie, for good men will be good subjects. But it will be a great obstacle in their way to esteem, if they aim at too much, and would derive it only from their name and function, however they neglect or pervert their duty, and however worthless they be in their persons. Too great a fondness for themselves, will make others less fond of them, and by deriving their pedigree too high, many will be provoked to set it too low, or even at nought; like vain men who boast the greatness of their race, when their descent is known to be ordinary, and their rise late and sudden.
The fatal and ungodly consequences of allowing force in matters of Religion and Conscience; how inconsistent with the nature and end of religious Teaching. The contempt of public Teachers, whence it arises, and the cry of Priestcraft how founded.
FROM all temporal power the public Teachers ought to be carefully debarred. This is what neither agrees with the Teachers of Religion, or with the nature of civil Government, which admits not of partnership. for the same cause that any degree of spiritual power is claimed, the highest degree will be claimed, till at last the civil power is either swallowed up in the ecclesiastical, or becomes only its tool and machine, as in Spain and Italy, where the Clergy claim a jurisdiction independent upon the Magistrate, which also infers a right to excommunicate and depose him. This is at best a two-faced Tyranny, a lame and uncertain Government, constrained to do too little or too much; a monster with two heads, each aiming at the chief direction of the body, each furnished with a set of limbs moving opposite ways.
They who deal with the soul, if they meditate its conviction, must avoid all force, which can only teach it to lie. Indeed the exercise of power in matters of Conscience has produced such tragical effects, always and every where, as to be sufficient warnings to every country and generation to prevent kindling a flame that would consume all things. Whenever this power has been once gained, the public Teachers have then done teaching, and begun to command. Instead of arguing, they then imprison, and silence gainsayers by a halter, or a faggot.
It is wonderful how a man of this spirit, can have the face to attempt the conversion of any man or nation of men. How can he pretend to reason me into his opinion, when if I embrace it, I must never leave it, though I dislike it, nor follow my reason afterwards, though my reason satisfies me that I have been mistaken, and that my present profession is impious and absurd? Would it not be madness to embrace the opinion of a man, who professes to persecute or kill you, if you ever afterwards change your mind, let your conviction be ever so full, your conscience ever so uneasy? I would fain know how such men can set about the work of conversion, unless they play the hypocrites, and hide all their terrors, their daggers and their flames, till they have once made sure of your person. This were a fraud unworthy the Christian name, and yet I cannot see how such men could avoid such a fraud. They are obliged either to forbear conversions, or to deceive their converts. Their principle is antichristian, and must lead them into antichristian practices. Whoever would preach the name of Christ, must renounce all persecution, all severities.
Such of our Clergy as disown all spiritual independent power, all chimerical claims to a divine right, and honestly derive all their distinction and privileges from the Law of the Land, have acted a wise as well as an honest part, and are the only men who can preserve the Church and Churchmen from contempt, by giving up all ghostly craft, all restraints upon Conscience, and by declaring for reason against force. Such men can never be charged with Priestcraft nor be obnoxious to the scorn that follows it. That such craft has long prevailed in the world, done prodigious mischief in it, and proved always baneful to private Conscience and to public Liberty, is too manifest to be denied. Indeed, to raise a cry of Priestcraft where there is none, would be foolish and unjust; and it is as foolish and unjust to complain of the cry where the thing subsists. I doubt the thing only began the cry, and continues it where it is continued.
Every claim of the Clergy’s, which is irreconcilable to the understandings, to the freedom and interest of the Laity, is Priestcraft, such as any power to domineer, to damn or to save, to know hearts by confession, to change the qualities of persons, and places, and matter, by prerogative and words, &c. Surely the impartial God, the Father of mercies and of men, is not influenced by the persons of men; nor can the same words be effectual with him out of one man’s mouth, and ineffectual out of the mouth of another. This would not savour of infinite wisdom, but of infinite caprice; as it would be infinite cruelty to make the happiness and eternal welfare of men depend upon habits and postures, upon names and forms, and to leave the salvation of one man, or of many, at the option of another, or of a few. Yet this doctrine, as false and impious as it is, has been maintained; and a power to oblige all men to submit to it has been contended for.
Power in the hands of any public Teachers, leads naturally to Popery, and is Popery. How apt they are to differ amongst themselves, yet claim conformity from all others. Persuasion and good example their only province; the sanctity of their doings their only sanctity.
SUCH principles as these mentioned in the last Section, constitute the genuine spirit of Popery. This is the spirit, these the principles which make Popery terrible. For, as to the mere whimsies of Popery, its ridiculous tenets and worship, they are of little moment in themselves. If a man pay adoration to a piece of paper with a picture upon it, or to a bit of rotten wood, or to a rusty nail; he is to be pitied for his folly, but by his folly he hurts not me. It is the power of the Clergy, it is their long claws that constitute Popery, render Popery terrible, and are Popery, real Popery, whatever else it be called. A Clergy who may do whatever they please in behalf of themselves against the Laity, will ever be popish Priests; that is, they will do what popish Priests have always done, every thing to depress the Laity, every thing to exalt themselves. Other difference there will be none, save in names and trifles.
Where-ever the power of Popery, that is, an unbounded authority in the Clergy, is established, all the visionary follies, all the idolatry and extravagant superstition of Popery, are likely to follow. The ignorance and pannic fears of the vulgar, and the cunning and selfishness of their guides, will in time introduce all the rest. The amazing positions and absurdities of Popery were not immediately settled with the monstrous power of the Popes, but gradually and naturally followed it.
Calvin was a Protestant, and a Reformer, and occasioned great good by weakening Popery: but in the proceedings against Servetus, Calvin was a Pope, nay, a popish Inquisitor, if it be true, that he was the author of these proceedings. Was Servetus a Heretic to John Calvin? So was John Calvin to the Pope and the Monks, who had as much right to burn him, and were as little vouched by the Gospel in their trade of burning, as was he in burning Servetus.
Were every man who differs from another in religious points, especially in points owned to be not only curious, but even inexplicable, to be executed, but one man in the world would remain alive, since all men differ more or less. No men differ more about Religion than Clergymen, or with more acrimony. They are subject to dispute about things of the least and of the greatest moment, and to mix much passion with all their disputes, be the subject ever so important, or ever so trivial: I wish I could say, that they never manifested any unchristian want of charity towards each other, and towards all their opponents whatsoever. However that be, it is matter of wonder, that they, who are so different and opposite, nay, so endlessly divided in their sentiments, can so boldly exact conformity from all men, can contend that all men should agree with them, who cannot agree with one another.
Under all the darkness and uncertainties of Paganism, did the Philosophers (the Teachers of those days) differ more widely, or quarrel more fiercely than the Teachers under a clearer dispensation have differed and quarrelled? Or did the wrangling of these old heathen Sages ever produce such furious ferments in the world, such merciless wars, such public desolation, as the everlasting contention between Fathers and Fathers, between Doctors and Doctors, has produced? It is strange, that they who professed to be guided by eternal verity, and to guide all men to it, should maintain eternal strife about it. If this be owing to their own various conceits, to their passions, errors and particular interests, with what certainty, or satisfaction, or safety, can we rely upon such disputing and contradictory Leaders? How is it possible to be determined by judges who vary thus infinitely in their judgments? Will they tell us, that they agree in the thing, though they differ in explaining it? This would be too great mockery, when it seems we must assent to the thing as they explain it; else there is an end of all their pretended authority and guidance. If they say, that the thing cannot be explained at all; this is still equally absurd, since the assenting to what admits no explication, is to assent to nothing; and why do they dispute about what they can never clear?
It, in truth, looks as if the providence of God had thus ordered it, on purpose to baffle the vanity of such men as would dictate to others, and attempt to make his word clearer or darker than he himself has thought fit to make it. It looks as if he meant to warn us, by these their perpetual wrangles, to depend upon our own eyes and reason for understanding his will revealed in his word, which to the meanest capacity discovers what is sin, and what is duty. What more is necessary? Has curious doubting and learned discord ever mended the world? I wish the contrary were not too tragically true.
The province of public Teachers is persuasion. Other force than that, and the force of good example, is monstrous; it is contrary to the Gospel to require any, or any respect at all but what results from their usefulness and the piety of their lives. All men will be ready to reverence them according to the measure of their integrity and virtue, and of the good that they do. What would they have more? This is reverence upon a solid foundation, such as will last. But to demand high respect to mere shew and names, to the sanctity of their characters, however little there appear in their persons, or to their mighty prerogatives from Heaven, when their pursuits are altogether worldly, is the direct way to bring themselves under public ridicule and even public indignation.
It is only sanctity of actions that makes a sanctified character; and whoever does those actions has that character, as he who does them not cannot have it, though he may boldly assume it. A Clergyman who is a persecutor, an oppressor, a drunkard, proud, unjust, licentious, must with an ill grace talk of his sacred profession, or pretend to the Holy Ghost. Much more conceivable it is, much more likely and natural, that the Holy Spirit should influence and accompany any Layman who is peaceable and merciful, just and sober. That Spirit can never surely be supposed to dwell in evil and vicious men, be their titles ever so specious and cœlestial. He whose ways are not apostolical, can never be esteemed a successor to the Apostles: whereas he who lives like an Apostle, though he bear no particular habit or name, is an apostolical man.
It is not reconcilable to common sense or any sense, that holiness or the power of holiness can adhere indelibly to a man of an idle, or profligate and impure life, merely by the force of ordination, that is, of being ordained, according to the prescription of the Law and Forms of man’s devising, to perform an office which he performs not, but neglects or dishonours. Can it ever accord with reason, or with the idea of God and his Religion, that those lands, which are once possessed by one sort of Churchmen, though acquired by the most impious frauds, to maintain the luxury of infamous and cheating Monks, must still continue appropriated to the use of another sort of Churchmen, and can never be alienated without the sin of sacrilege? That the holy Church of Jesus Christ, who possessed no wealth himself, nor left any behind him, can crave or bear an endowment acquired by robbery and frauds, or refuse to make restitution to such as have been plundered in his name by vile and rapacious deceivers?
How it is that public Teachers fail of respect, or gain it.
CAN there be more shocking tenets than those, mentioned in the last Section, or more repugnant to all reason and virtue, to all truth and piety? Yet many such tenets are maintained with notable fierceness. It is certain that the Reformation owned none such; nor, consequently, does our Church, which is founded upon the Reformation, own them. In renouncing Pepery, we renounced all its falsities and abominations; nor can he who adopts and defends them, be an English Protestant, nor indeed hardly a Christian, if he thus fly in the face of Christ and his Apostles, and in their name demand possessions which they never enjoyed, demand power which they never sought, but always renounced.
If in their exhortations, they promote narrow interests, separate from the public interest, or hurtful to it: if they endeavour to make their hearers rather blindly obedient to themselves than zealous for the public weal and for the honour of the State, rather intoxicated dupes to names and delusion, than wise and good subjects: if when they are angry at their Governors they encourage disaffection to the Government, but, when humoured, preach up slavery and tameness under oppression however outrageous, can they hope to be reverenced? Can they be thought actuated by Religion, or Reason, by Mercy, or Truth, or by any good spirit? But, if their conduct be contrary to all this, no contempt or public despite can possibly befall them. Where they act worthily, they will be as sure of respect, as by acting differently they will be sure to miss it. True respect comes from good deeds and not from notions and appellations, much less from pride and the itch of dominion, from impatience of difference in opinion, or peevishness of spirit. Whoever manifests a general meekness of behaviour, universal charity and forbearance, consults and promotes private honesty and peace, with public virtue and tranquillity and the welfare of society, and goes about doing good, cannot fail to find the esteem of all men.
Excessive Revenues of the public Teachers, how pernicious to the World. A decent and easy maintenance to be allowed them.
WHAT respect a great portion of the world owes to its Teachers, the miserable condition of most parts of it, the ignorance and slavery to which they have brought it, and under which they suffer, nay, oblige it to lye, do abundantly shew. Can it be denied that as their power rose, civil happiness sunk, that in proportion to their grandeur has been the misery of their followers? Indeed if the most heavy and lasting curses that can befal or afflict human kind, entitle them to respect, they may, in many places, claim the highest, from public delusion, persecution, beggary and bondage, and from general desolation and woe, as from so many monuments of their own raising, or such at least, as they largely helped to raise. It is evident, that where they prosper most, the people are the most wretched, and that to such prosperity such wretchedness is owing; if that can be called prosperity which produces such infinite evil.
Is not this ample warning to nations which are not yet in the same condition, to take care of every approach towards it? And is not this a ready answer to every attempt for accumulating overmuch worldly property upon spiritual men? Beyond a certain measure it makes them useless, very much makes them dangerous, and their pride and power always rise in proportion to their revenues. Is it not so in Spain and Italy, where their infinite wealth, eternally productive of infinite authority, has made them a public plague and scourge. There their terrors and depredations know no bounds: Guarded by flames and an Inquisition against gainsayers and all opposition to their enormous falshoods and insatiable avarice, they cheat and domineer without fear or restraint, and not content to prey upon the substance of the miserable Laity, rob them even of their senses and their time. So complete is the delusion there, so fast the bondage over soul and body.
If this be dreadful, let other nations yet free and rational, yet at liberty to understand the Bible and to follow their Consciences, guard against all measures that would lead them, however imperceptibly, into the same doleful and unchristian state, for Christianity is a state of freedom. The Church of Christ has subsisted, and even flourished, without any revenues at all; but too much revenue has always impaired its purity, sometimes quite defaced it, as in the above instances. It has always so happened, that immense wealth and a holy profession have not well accorded, and much pomp and spirituality neither look well nor sound well together. Neither can there be a more effectual demonstration, that neither a heavenly commission, nor heavenly hearts belong to men, to any set of men whatsoever, than to see them ever and ardently engaged in pursuits of worldly wealth and worldly power.
Let the public Teachers have a maintenance in the name of God, a decent and easy maintenance secured to them by laws and the consent of society; but let them not boldly pretend to derive their maintenance from God, when it is evidently the gift of men. They who contend for this, cut themselves off from all regard, and cannot possibly be grateful to any benefactor, since they consider him not as the giver, but only as the instrument, nay, probably may think him an usurper in pretending to give them what was theirs before by divine right.
Moreover their maintenance ought to be restrained within a certain measure, and not suffered to grow so as to devour in time the property and maintenance of all other men. If some of them have too little, as doubtless they have, others have too much; and in all orders of men there will ever be such inconveniences and unequal distribution; nor is it possible for public wisdom to remedy the same, or for the public purse to enrich or even to support all that are indigent, or situated lower than they wish, and sometimes deserve. It is more just that particulars should bear a hard lot, than that, to mend it, society should suffer, and the ballance of society be lost or endangered. It is against all reason, and very ungenerous, to seek relief from any scheme which would in time bring all men to seek relief from them. I wish it could be so ordered, that where-ever Religion produce Gain, Gain would never prove to be more considered than Religion.
An inquiry why the Christian Dispensation has, with all its advantages and excellencies, so little mended the World. Whether and how far public Teachers are chargeable with this.
WHY the world has not been more mended by the Christian Dispensation, of itself so much adapted to mend the world, is worth the inquiry of all men, especially of such as are employed to inculcate its precepts upon the minds of all. And here many other inquiries subsequent to this will naturally occur; namely, whether they have ever pursued their own worldly interest more assiduously than suited with their holy profession, and never prostituted religion to serve the pursuits of wealth and power: whether they have ever dispensed with sins, and been even partial to favourite and bountiful sinners, or discouraged and even persecuted conscience, and sincerity, and all holiness that bore not their mark: whether they never claimed an absolving and damning power, and by it brought men to fear them more than God, to be more afraid of offending them than of committing sin, for which they could so easily pronounce pardon: whether they have always manifested that humility, gentleness and benevolence so well becoming such as spoke in the name of Christ: whether they never used the Holy Gospel to warrant their own anger and ambition or avarice, and in the stile of the Gospel enflamed the mad rage of party: whether they have been equally diligent to make their followers sincere Christians, as warm zealots, Champions for Christ as Champions for Churchmen: whether they promoted knowledge and all religious and rational inquiries without reserve, and taught truth rather than blind submission, rather than the narrow principles of particular factions: whether they have promoted the great blessings of society, civil and religious Liberty, obedience to equal and fixed Laws rather than to the lawless and unsteady will of man, and have always supported Government, when Governors observed the Laws: and whether men who have a holy profession, if in their conduct they be not holy, can be reverenced for their profession which they dishonour, or lead men into all righteousness, without being righteous themselves?
The continual endeavours of so many thousand Teachers in any country, to recommend the beauty and benefit of Religion and Virtue, and to shew the deformity and mischief of evil and immorality, would surely be of vast weight and consequence. But let the number of Teachers be ever so great, small good will ensue, if many exert no endeavours at all, if many do it superficially, like a task which they seem forced to, and not to chuse or delight in.
If they recommend dry and dark speculations, such as are hard to be understood, or if understood, produce no practical duties, and, without mending the heart, only perplex the head; or if they inveigh against such as entertain ideas different from theirs, and provoke people to bitterness towards each other, instead of exhorting them to mutual love and forbearance: If their hearts appear set upon pomp, and gain, and dominion, rather than filled with humility and self-denial, and zeal for the souls of men: If they promote ignorance and slavery, persecution and discord, and shew anger or favour to men, not according as they are wicked or virtuous, but countenance their own followers however bad, and hate and distress such as only follow the pure dictates of Conscience: If they darken or pervert the Gospel by vain glosses, by false and selfish comments, and would oblige all men to submit to these their inventions, though directly opposite to the Gospel and all the ends of the Gospel; small is the wonder that mankind are not mended by such depraved instruction. It is indeed wonderful that, bad as they are, they are not still worse, since it is manifest that over a great part of the earth, and in some of its finest regions, their Instructors are continually deceiving, debasing, blinding, frightening and oppressing them.
In matters of Religion, neither the Greek Church nor the Roman Church allow their people to retain common sense, nor to forgive it in others. For Religion they are taught gibberish, and contradictions, and dreams, and to hate and damn as Atheists, or Heretics, all who are not so blind, and distracted, and slavish as themselves. Their Teachers even assume to sell them the mercy of God and eternal Salvation, at a price, to absolve them from the blackest guilt for money, and for money to disarm the Almighty of his resentment and vengeance. As long as they can pay, they may sin, and are thus encouraged, nay, warranted in eternal immorality. In the Office of the Datary at Rome, sins are taxed according to their several sizes and qualities, and the greatest as well as the least are cancelled by silver and gold; and for iniquities destructive to society and shocking to nature, such as have wealth may find atonement.
Where such or any commutations for sin are allowed and practised, are sins likely to abate, sinners to mend, or Religion to abound, or even to subsist, in any force or purity? I wish nothing like this vile traffic were found in other countries even where Popery is abolished. I doubt a good gift to the Altar, that is, to them who minister there, often passes as an expiation for a multitude of sins; and has it never happened that a bounty to the Church has been strangely pressed upon the consciences of timorous and dying people, as what powerfully opened the gates of Paradise, and was a prevailing antidote against future torments?
One thing seems to be notoriously true of almost all parties in Religion, that men are not esteemed by them according to their real piety and virtue, but according to their blind adherence and party-zeal; and the most worthless or worst men are often caressed and applauded, whilst the soberest and the best are neglected or decried. Thus we have seen very pious Christians hated and traduced as very bad Churchmen, when very base and very profligate men were extolled as excellent Churchmen.
The Gentlemen of Port Royal were, for their Learning and Writings, for their Religion and Virtue, an ornament to the learned world as well as to the Kingdom of France: They were even zealously attached to the Romish Religion. But all this merit saved them not from contumely and persecution, because they had defended the eternal laws of Morality and the Gospel against the execrable maxims and casuistry of the Jesuits, who in their voluminous writings had confounded all Morality and Conscience. For this the Gentlemen of Port Royal were represented as Atheists, Heretics, and enemies to the Church, nay, as enemies to the Government, and thence exposed to all injustice, ill usage, and the frowns of power. The like treatment had the divine Archbishop of Cambray, the immortal Fenelon. When at the same time, the grossest ignorants, the vilest voluptuaries, the most hot-headed bigots, were reckoned excellent Catholics, applauded, and preferred.
What the King of Sardinia has lately done, in taking the education of youth out of the hands of the Jesuits, merits great attention, and is an example to other Princes and States, at least to those of the same communion. It was indeed of high moment, that the publick education should not be directed by an order of men who were continually pursuing an interest directly against the interest of the State; who taught his subjects not so much to reverence the Magistrate, as to reverence Them, not to love or consider the good of the whole, but the good of that Order; who poisoned them with party-maxims destructive of the maxims of society; and instead of instilling the benevolent principles of peace and mutual forbearance, without which all society must be miserable or perish, inspired virulence and eternal hate, and would rather see the State run into ruin and dissolution, than suffer the least variation from their own conceits, however fond, or ridiculous, or wicked. For, it is notorious, that this is the spirit of the Jesuits. I wish it were not the spirit of several other sects and bigots, especially where their bigotry is animated by a passion for power and riches. It seems the Court at Turin is not much disturbed at the threats of the Reverend Fathers to leave the country, but even frankly offers passports to as many as think fit to go.
No body can forget the extraodinary merit and bitter treatment of the late excellent Dr. Clark, his able performances in defence of Christianity, and the restless attempts to ruin him as a bad Churchman. The declaration of Father Canaye the Jesuit to the Marshal D’Hocquincourt, related by St. Evremont, was open and instructtive. The Marshal had said, that he was formerly a Jansenist, but now for the Jesuits, and could be crucified for his Religion, though he knew not why or wherefore. Oh excellent words, blessed motions, says the Jesuit! be crucified for Religion, yet not know why or wherefore! what an extraordinary grace, my Lord, has Heaven bestowed upon you? Estote sicuti infantes: Be as little children: Blessed are the poor in spirit. The good Father liked the Marshal’s zeal the better for being stark blind: so far was he from blaming his ignorance.
Where-ever it is more dangerous to offend the Clergy than to offend God, it is natural for the interest of Religion to decay. For the ignorant and the many, will always incline, nay, probably, be taught to rely more upon Them than upon Him, and to think that if they can but please Them, they cannot displease Him. Where an ill man who conforms, is better used than a good man who dissents, the necessity of being good will not be considered, but the necessity of being conformable, and men will not be so much afraid of sin as of dissenting. When the doing certain actions, which may be done without any devoutness at all, shall yet pass for devotion, many will be apt to think that when they have performed these, they have done all that is required, at least made amends for past iniquities, which they may still cancel, as often as committed, by the like atonement and repetitions, and by a little devotion on one day in the week, calm their conscience about all their failings during the rest.
Thus false zeal is, as it were, a mulct for want of Religion, and passes for Religion; and many other Churchmen besides those of Rome, seem to accept of equivalents in the room of real piety. Were it otherwise, the guides of one sect would love the sober and good men of another sect better than the vicious of their own. They would hate the strictest conformists who wanted virtue, and esteem separatists who had it. But I doubt the constant practice is otherwise in most Churches and Sects. So that the name of Religion is used, but the thing, the essence, is often turned into faction and party, and lost in the endless passions of men. They all talk of Christ and Paul, and appeal to them. Perhaps it is well for many that they are not yet called upon by either to make good their appeals. Nay, were Christ or Paul to return to the earth under their former characters, I fear their reception, in many countries, would not be better than it was in Judæa.
This Section, as well as the whole Discourse grows too long, though much more might be said. I shall make but one observation more, namely, upon the strange inconsistency which has sometimes appeared in the notions of some great and venerable Doctors about evil and sin; I mean how they could be vehement against peccadillos, against follies and frailties, which were of little consequence, and for which perhaps they had no relish, yet could often, at the same time, go deliberately, nay, zealously, into apparent measures of public oppression, or of public tumults and war; could assist and sanctify the most enormous, the most dreadful, the most complicated and devouring of all sins, those of Tyranny and Rebellion; could declaim terribly against profane swearing, which only hurt him who uttered it, and yet encourage and animate universal Perjury, sometimes in Magistrates, at another time in the people; and be for establishing universal Slavery, or inciting general Revolts, at different times, just as they happened to be pleased or disgusted. For such has been the inconsistency of their behaviour in many countries, and at many times; and, as none have ever proved sorer plagues to righteous Governors, none have been such fell champions for Tyrants. And as to the abuses of Religion, especially such as were gainful, have they ever appeared willing to reform them, or willingly suffered them to be reformed by others? And have not all great and useful Reformations been accomplished by the Laity, and constantly opposed by the public Teachers? Could Religion, the humble and disinterested Religion of the Gospel flourish under such Circumstances, and such Directors?
Of Public Spirit, its use and efficacy. How little promoted by public Teachers. Some Considerations upon the importance and character of Public Spirit.
WHILST the public Teachers were so much attached to party and interest, it was no wonder that in their teaching there were many material omissions. One thing of great importance they seem to have almost intirely neglected, I mean the raising and recommending of Public Spirit, so necessary to the prosperity of every Country, and even to the preservation of all. It was this which animated the Roman State, and set the Romans above all other men. But they who instructed the youth of Rome had no by-ends, no detached interests of their own. They inspired such as they taught, with the love of their Country, and of Virtue, and of Honour. The public good, the glory of the State, was the end of all, and to promote it they had learned chearfully to forego every private advantage, nay, life it self. This was a fine spirit, early and constantly infused, and produced men who were a credit and ornament to human nature, and are patterns still for the whole race. Such was the glorious effect of a noble and rational education.
The Romans began to know the value of Liberty, and to feel a passion for the Public Weal, at an age when others since are conning over words, and know little else but to fear the rod, and, without once thinking of their Country, only learn to reverence a particular set of men and names, and heartily to hate all the rest. They are for a course of many years employed about words, and notions, and subtleties; and when they are thus sufficiently disciplined into narrowness of mind, when their heads are well filled with absurd maxims, and unmeaning distinctions, they may be safely trusted abroad in the world, as secure against all free and rational sentiments, and possessed with false ideas of reverence and of aversion, to the end of their lives. When, like the young Romans, they might be shining in assemblies or armies, they are engaged in Logic, and combating in Metaphysics.
Mr. Locke says, “It is matter of astonishment, that men of quality and parts should suffer themselves to be so far misled by custom, and implicit faith. Reason, if consulted, would advise, that their children’s time should be spent in acquiring what might be useful to them when they come to be men, rather than to have their heads stuffed with a deal of trash, a great part whereof they usually never do (it is certain they never need to) think on again as long as they live; and so much as does stick by them, they are only the worse for. This is so well known, that I appeal to parents themselves, who have been at cost to have their young heirs taught it, whether it be not ridiculous for their sons to have any tincture of that sort of learning, when they come abroad into the world; whether any appearance of it would not lessen and disgrace them in company. And that certainly must be an admirable acquisition, and deserves well to make a part in education, which men are ashamed of where they are most concerned to shew their parts and breeding.”
In latter ages the cause of public Liberty has been little beholden to the public Teachers, who, instead of instilling and cherishing Public Spirit, without which Liberty can hardly subsist, have too often exerted all their endeavours to extinguish both. Where-ever Slavery is settled, they help too assiduously to confirm it, and where it is not, many of them have appeared diligent agents to introduce it. Was it thus they merited the profound reverence which they claimed from mankind, thus that they earned the mighty revenues which they enjoyed, for bringing upon men the highest evil which men can suffer, an evil big with every other evil, the dreadful calamity of public Servitude?
For the following part of this Section upon Public Spirit, I am obliged to a noblea Lord of great knowledge, observation and parts, with all which he himself seems to be much less acquainted, than they are who have the happiness of knowing him; and such is the private manner in which he passes most of his time, that his acquaintance are far from numerous: So natural it is for fine qualifications to be accompanied with great modesty.
“It is a remark of Thucydides, that bad Laws well executed are better than good Laws not duly observed. It is not enough for a Nation to have a good Constitution, unless both the Governors and People concur in adhering to it with strictness. Abuses once suffered to creep in, so naturally gain ground, so quickly spread, that it requires constant vigilance to prevent their entrance and growth. A jealousy for the Public is a commendable jealousy, and if ever the excess of any passion were justifiable, it would surely be so here. That temper of mind to which we give the name of Public Spirit, is so necessary to all societies, that it is next to impossible they should long subsist without it. Indeed, whatever difficulties particular men may find in the exercise of it, all men agree to commend it. Nor can there be better proof of the excellency of any character, than to see the very men who resolve never to deserve it, taking great pains to make the world believe that they have a right to it.
“In times of the greatest corruption, we do not find, that ever a corrupt man of any sense durst openly avow his principles, or declare that he made his own interest the measure of his public conduct. Quite otherwise: Such men are apt to start at their own picture, and will not forgive those who discover their views, and represent them in proper colours. Such tenderness is prudential; since the discovery of ill designs, is a step towards defeating them. Besides, men are generally more ashamed of vices which shew the weakness of their understanding, than of those which unfold the corruption of their hearts. It is a confession of the meanness of a selfish disposition, that men are thus loth to be thought governed by it. Though they would be glad to reap benefit from their low pursuits, they are ashamed to be detected in contriving them.
“It therefore looks as if it were equally renouncing the rules of good sense, and every impulse of good nature, to be destitute of regard for the welfare of the Community, or to imagine that any private advantage can stand in competition with the prosperity of the whole. For one nation to grow rich by the spoils of others, is very unjust, yet not always impolitic. But to weaken and impoverish our own Country, is as foolish as it is wicked; since private property must be very insecure, when once that of the public is in danger; nor can it be ever more so than when it comes to be deserted by those whose interest it is to preserve it.
“I believe that scarce any Constitution has been overturned by mere accidents or misfortunes. Errors at home may have immediately contributed to national ruin, and foreign invasion brought it on. But a long course of mismanagements, of ambition and rapine, and of evil and loose administration, has generally preceded all great Revolutions; when the leading men made it their only study to supplant, decry, and oppress each other; when the people were on both sides perverted to serve the narrow and corrupt purposes of particular and opposite Leaders, and were animated not by zeal for their Country, but for hostile factions debauching and rending their Country. Whenever cabals, and licentiousness, whenever corruption, and contempt of authority, are the measures of acquiring, and afterwards of supporting power, the consequences must be oppression and injustice, which will naturally introduce disorder and confusion. A Government thus sapped in the foundations, like a tree loosened at the roots, will infallibly be overturned by the first unruly blast, and would in time be overset even by its own weight.
“Societies can never subsist but through the same means by which they were first instituted. Impartiality and justice, zeal for the Public, and a steady adherence to its interest, are the only national securities. When these are wanting, large Territories, and great Fleets and Armies, will prove but feeble supports; and, in spite of all such splendid appearances, destruction will follow. The several changes of Government in the Grecian Commonwealths, are proofs of this observation. Abuses of power made corruption necessary; corruption produced baseness, luxury, and the extinction of all virtue, and these seldom ended but in some kind of Usurpation and Tyranny. Nor were they brought to a sense of their follies until they had thus suffered for them; and, before they thought of returning to their old principles of honesty and Public Spirit, they must be first awakened by the severe lash of some arbitrary power.
“It was for this integrity of Manners, for this Public Spirit, and inviolable attachment to their Constitution, that the Lacedemonians were so remarkable, as were also the Romans for many ages, and it was through the decay of Public Spirit and national Integrity, that Athens was so near being destroyed in the course of the Peloponnesian War. Alcibiades, who had boundless ambition, employed his great wealth in debauching the people, that by their assistance he might raise himself upon the ruin of his antagonist. Hence also the peace concluded between the two nations by Nicias, was broken a few years after it was made; a breach which brought on all those losses abroad, all those distractions at home, which had like to have ended in the utter subjection of the Republic.
“Many examples of this kind are found in the Roman Historians; but remarkable above all is the story and conduct of Cæsar, who by debauching the people enslaved the State. Whoever reads Tully’s Epistles, which are a curious secret History of those times, must be struck with the prodigious dissolution of manners in that once honest and powerful people. Indeed so astonishing was the change, that they were become even past reclaiming. All the smart of their long and heavy misfortunes was not sufficient to bring them back to a sense of their duty to their Country. Insomuch that when by the death of their Dictator, Liberty was once more, as it were, presented to them, they wanted the courage, or rather they had not the honesty to accept it.
“If we inquire into the accounts of latter days, we still find the same causes regularly producing the same effects. What was it that occasioned those long and desperate civil wars which afflicted and almost destroyed the great and powerful Kingdom of France? Was it not private ambition, private interest carried on under public pretences? The preservation of the old Religion, and the modest request of a toleration to the new, were the outward appearances, and very plausible they were. But the injustifiable ambition of the Princes, and the selfish attachment of their dependents, were the secret springs that produced and prolonged those pernicious disturbances, pernicious not only in weakening and impoverishing the State for the present, but in debauching the principles of all orders of men, and making each side look upon the irregular views of their own party as the only objects of attention and zeal, and thus sacrifice the interest, nay, almost the very being of the Community, to the low and narrow pursuits of furious factions. And when after the short calm of Henry the fourth’s reign, the public disorders began to revive in the minority of his Successor, and it was found necessary for the support of the Royal Power, to curb and break that of the Grandees, an opportunity was furnished to two succeeding Ministers, for their own security as well as their Master’s, totally to destroy all possibility of opposition. So that putting an end to the old establishment, in its room they set up a new, which, probably, the French Nation will never be able to remove or alter.
“It is impossible to forget, on this occasion, the great Revolution in a neighbouring Kingdom, not much above half a century ago. Whilst the Nobility and Commons were wisely quarrelling about the manner of raising the money requisite for disbanding the army, two or three Parricides snatched the opportunity, and sold the Liberties of their Country for two hundred and fifty thousand crowns, and changed an elective and limited Monarchy into one hereditary and absolute.
“Who can reflect on the folly of such conduct, without surprize, when he considers it as sometimes passing upon the world for mighty artifice and cunning? To barter away substances for shadows, to part with a birthright for a mess of pottage, is an absurdity so glaring, that one might as well believe those who do it to be possessed with real honesty, as with any share of wisdom. Contemptible, and poor, and foolish are any terms, even the highest terms, for betraying one’s Country. They who do it, do but teach and encourage others to play the same game upon themselves, where they find by their example it may be done with impunity. What is general dishonesty, but general insecurity? To practise villainy ourselves, is to authorize it in others against us; and it is as natural to lose by it as to gain by it. They who for some profit of their own would defraud mankind of their liberties or fortunes, are like sharpers who intoxicate company with liquor before they play with them. They may succeed in robbing their dupes of their money, but have cause to fear their rage; since by the unjust loss of their money, men are likewise apt to lose all temper.
“Without peace of mind there can be no such thing as happiness; nor can there be any peace of mind where there is a sense of guilt, which is naturally accompanied with apprehension of danger. Can such as know that they are not to be trusted themselves, ever frankly trust others? They will be apt to think others like themselves, true only to self-interest, and so will try to deceive them, as well as despise them for being deceived. Thus endless dishonesty, whether in private or public life, will be attended with endless anxieties, when such as practise it remember that by all their unrighteous acquisitions, all their guilty success, they can only set themselves up as marks to be shot at, and will have the less chance of escaping by being so much exposed.
“Greatness acquired by great abilities and Public Spirit, is a noble acquisition, and will be enjoyed with satisfaction, though it cannot always escape obloquy and clamour. But power and pomp purchased by the misery and groans of the people, as it is always detestable, so it is always unsafe. Grandeur, in order to be respected by the Public, must be supported with merit towards the Public. They who love the people, they who consult their interest, and pursue it, are worthy to shine amongst them, nay, worthy to rule them. But greatness without dignity, which arises as well from public benevolence as from capacity, is like Laws without penalties: The weak and simple may perhaps submit to them; but they are despised by those whom they are most wanted to restrain. To be exalted upon the ruins of Liberty and Laws, to rise by force and iniquity, and to assert superiority over men by hurting and oppressing them, is strange infatuation, a dangerous province. It is like being mounted on an unruly horse without bit or bridle; a situation which no wise man would chuse to be in. When Solon was advised to make use of his interest with his countrymen to seize the supreme rule, he answered wisely, that Tyranny indeed was a fair spot; but there was no way to come out of it.
“Such as are known not to love their Country, cannot reasonably expect to be safe in it, or that enmity to the Public will not meet with public hate, which is the next step to public revenge: and they who are indifferent to every interest but their own, though they may purchase flatterers who have minds as bad as theirs, can never be exempt from one miserable reflection, that most men, and all the best men abhor them, whilst only a few of the worst applaud them; nor can they find much delight from the hollow praises of a tribe of Fawners, when they remember that injured multitudes are at the same time perhaps cursing them.
“The desire of applause is implanted in human nature, and without doubt intended by the Author of nature as an incitement to virtue and benevolent actions; since by such means only we can be sure of obtaining so pleasing a gratification. We may indeed personate Public Spirit for a while, yet have none, and for a while pass for virtuous without having Virtue: But the fraud will soon be discovered. No disguises can long hide the false Patriot; and his hypocrisy will but add to his condemnation, when it is no longer able to cover his guilt.
“There seems to be one never-failing test whence to distinguish a public spirited Man; even an honest and disinterested heart. This is a sort of constitutional Virtue, and whoever has it is secure against many of the most dangerous temptations. The love of money and of power are violent passions, and few who are strongly possessed with them can safely trust themselves. How naturally does the avaricious man listen to any scheme for filling his coffers? How eagerly does the ambitious man enter into measures for inlargeing his figure and power? How apt are both to flatter themselves that they deserve all that they can possibly possess, that whatever they can grasp is but their due, and that therefore they can never grasp too much? Blinded by these favourite inclinations, they can bear nothing that thwarts them; and, as they thus state the account on one side only, the balance must be eternally one way.
“The true Patriot is content to take the approbation of his own conduct, at least for one part of his reward; neither would he exchange his quiet of mind, or the good wishes of his countrymen, for all the benefit which he could possibly make by justly forfeiting either. He has a general benevolence to the rest of the world, and cannot taste that unnatural happiness of being alone easy amongst the many that are miserable, especially were they to be miserable by his means. Though he may not set up for any romantic pitch of Patriotism, though he do not undertake to devote himself for his Country, like Curtius, and may be diffident of the weakness of human nature when put upon such awful trials; yet of one Virtue he is at all times sure, never to sacrifice the Public to his passions or interest, or risque the tranquillity of the State for any views or emoluments of his own.
The END of the Discourses.
[a ]Negavit quemquam principum scisse quod sibi liceret.
[a ]Si recludantur tyrannorum mentes, posse aspici laniatus et ictus----sævitia, libid[Editor:illegible letters] malis consultis animus dilaceretur.
[b ]Eadem novæ aulæ mala, æquè gravia, non æquè excusata.
[a ]Aliis quidem quum omnia raperent, & rapta retinerent, utsi nihil rapuissent, nihil detinuissent, defuerint omnia. Plin. Pan.
[b ]Augeo Principis munus, quum ostendo liberalitati inesse rationem. Ambitio enim, et jactantia, et effusio, et quidvis potius quam liberalitas existimanda est, cui ratio non constat. Plin. Paneg.
[a ]Omnia invisere, omnia audire, et undecunque invocatum, slatim velut numen adesse et assistere.
[b ]Un Roy (entant que Roi) n’ai rien proprement sien: il se doit soy mème à autruy. La jurisdiction ne se donne point en faveur du jurisdiciant: C’est en faveur du juridicie; says Montagne. He adds, That a superior is created not for his own advantage, but for that of his inferiors: As a Physician is so for the sick, not for himself.
[c ]Sedem obtinet Principis, ne sit Domino locus.
[d ]Cuncta ferit dum cuncta timet.
[d ]Præcipuum indicium non magni principis, magnos libertos.
[f ]Damnatus culpæ quam alii deliquerant.
[g ]Causa periculi non crimen ullum, sed gloria viri.
[i ]Mihi in animis vestris templa; hæ pulcherrimæ effigies et mansuræ.
[k ]In quos nihil fiammis, nihil senectuti, nihil successoribus liceat.
[l ]Ita formatis principis auribus, ut acerba quæ utilia.
[a ]Par omnibus, et hoc tantum cæteris major quo melior.
[b ]Vita principis censura est, eaque perpetua — non tam imperio nobis opus est, quam exemplo.
[c ]Discimus experimento, fidelissimam custodiam principis, ipsius innocentiam.
[d ]Tempus fuit, et nimium diu fuit, quo alia adversa, alia secunda principi et nobis.
[e ]Neque enim satis amarint bonos Principes, qui malos satis non oderint.
[a ]Non jam per intervalla ac spiramenta temporum, sed continuo et velut uno ictu Rempublica exhausit.
[a ]Possessionemque honoris usurpati modo a plebe per paucos annos, recuperasse in perpetuum patres viderentur. Liv.
[b ]Diversa pari certamine postulantibus.
[c ]Quippe illis non judicium aut veritas, sed tradito more quemcunque principem adulandi, licentia acclamationum, et studiis inanibus.
[a ]Inviso semel principe, seu bene seu male facta premunt.
[b ]Unum Appium Claudium & legum expertem, & civilis & humani fœderis esse.
[a ]A cecy consentirent les Seigneurs de France, pour certaines pensions qui leur furent promises, pour les deniers qu’on leveroit en leurs terres.
[b ]Promptissimus quisque sævitia Principis interciderat.
[c ]Quanto vita illorum præclarior, tanto horum socordia flagitiosior.
[a ]Lord Pagett.