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Cato: A Tragedy and Selected Essays, ed. by Christine Dunn Henderson and Mark E. Yellin, with a Foreword by Forrest McDonald (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2004).
First produced in 1713, Cato, A Tragedy inspired generations toward a pursuit of liberty. Liberty Fund’s new edition of Cato: A Tragedy, and Selected Essays brings together Addison’s dramatic masterpiece along with a selection of his essays that develop key themes in the play. Cato, A Tragedy is the account of the final hours of Marcus Porcius Cato (95–46 B.C.), a Stoic whose deeds, rhetoric, and resistance to the tyranny of Caesar made him an icon of republicanism, virtue, and liberty.
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The formation of the American republic was such a farfetched undertaking that, when it was done, many could regard it as a heaven-sent miracle. The winning of independence on the field of battle was monumental enough, but that was just half the task. The other half was to establish a regime that would provide a maximum of liberty consistent with the public safety. Compounding the problem was that Americans were unreservedly committed to a republican form of government, and no extant models of that kind of government were available.
The more-educated and better-informed citizens looked in every conceivable place for guidance, and they found but little. There was the Bible—which almost everyone read—but its only political advice was that monarchy was bad, and Americans had already reached that conclusion. Political theorists abounded, but the dicta of Locke and Montesquieu were not applicable to American conditions, nor were those of Plato and Aristotle. The Scotsmen David Hume and Adam Smith were relevant but far from adequate. By default, that left the history of the ancient Roman republic, and all educated Americans were familiar with that history, but its essence was a tragic tale of decline into tyranny.
Ordinary people knew about ancient Rome, too, not from books but from an enormously popular play by Joseph Addison, Cato. Though the seventeenth-century Puritanical prejudice against stage productions still lingered in parts of New England, eighteenth-century Americans elsewhere were avid playgoers, and Cato was by far their favorite play. It was first performed and published in London in 1713. It was soon republished in Glasgow, Dublin, Belfast, Edinburgh, Göttingen, Paris, and Rome; at least eight editions were published in the British-American colonies by the end of the century. The play was also performed all over the colonies, in countless productions from the 1730s until after the American Revolution.
That most of the founding generation read it or saw it or both is unquestionable, and that it stuck in their memories is abundantly evident. Benjamin Franklin, as a young and aspiring writer, committed long passages from it to memory and then attempted to write them out, in hopes that Addison’s writing style would rub off on him. Mercy Otis Warren based her own play, “The Sack of Rome,” directly on Cato. Patrick Henry adapted his famous “Give me liberty or give me death” speech directly from lines in Cato. Nathan Hale’s celebrated last words, “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country,” echoes a remark by Cato, “What a pity it is that we can die but once to save our country.”
Cato was the favorite play of George Washington, who saw it many times and quoted or paraphrased lines from it in his correspondence over the course of four decades. The first known occasion when he cited it was when he identified himself with one of its characters in a letter to Mrs. George William Fairfax in 1758. In 1775 he wrote to Benedict Arnold to commend his heroism in the ill-fated Quebec expedition: “It is not in the power of any man to command success; but you have done more—you have deserved it.” In Act 1, scene 2, Cato’s son says, “’Tis not in mortals to command success. But we’ll do more, Sempronius, we’ll deserve it.” One of Cato’s most quoted sentiments was “‘When vice prevails, and impious men bear sway,’ the post of honor is a private station.” Washington expressed that thought on numerous occasions, including the letter he wrote to Alexander Hamilton in 1796 opening the correspondence through which the two wrote the renowned Farewell Address.
The impact of the play upon Washington and others is illustrated by the fact that, during the dreadful winter at Valley Forge, he had it performed for his troops to inspire them with determination, despite a congressional resolution condemning stage performances as contrary to republican principles. Moreover, in 1783, when his officers encamped at Newburgh, New York, threatened to mutiny—as Cato’s troops had done in the play—Washington appeared before them and quite self-consciously shamed them into abandoning the enterprise essentially by rehashing Cato’s speech.
At first blush, Cato would scarcely seem to offer much consolation to Americans in their efforts to establish a durable republic. The story recounts Cato’s noble but vain efforts to save the remnants of the Roman republican Senate from the usurping arms of the all-conquering Caesar, “who owes his greatness to his country’s ruin.” In the end, Cato commits suicide, and the republic perishes as well.
Yet one of the subplots of the drama offered a ray of hope, at least for the more sanguine of the founders, for it provided a means of escaping a dilemma. Both classical and modern theorists of republics held that their actuating principle was public virtue—virtue in the sense of selfless, full-time, manly devotion to the public weal. Many Americans had been governed by such public spiritedness during the war and made great sacrifices for the cause of independence, but in normal times people were too individualistic and too avaricious to sustain that level of commitment. Besides, Americans believed in original sin, which in eighteenth-century terms meant that they believed men were driven by their “passions”—drives for self-gratification—and that the “ruling” passions of most public men were ambition and avarice, the love of power and the love of money.
One of the characters in Cato provides a way around that human frailty. Juba, a young Numidian in Cato’s camp (who incidentally was the character with whom Washington identified in his early letter), is concerned that he may have incurred Cato’s displeasure by being preoccupied with his love of Cato’s daughter at such an inappropriate time. He says, “I’d rather have that man approve my deeds, than worlds for my admirers.” Just before, he had recited what were famous lines about honor, “the noble mind’s distinguishing perfection / that aids and strengthens virtue where it meets her, / and imitates her actions, where she is not.” Honor in these verses is a substitute for virtue: a preoccupation with earning “the esteem of wise and good men.” Addison thought the point so important that he wrote an essay in The Guardian explaining and elaborating it. Genuine virtue, he declared, was exceedingly rare, but all could aspire to honor. To put it differently, Addison, through Juba, advises people to follow the opposite course from what Shakespeare’s Polonius recommends in Hamlet. Polonius says to his son Laertes, “This above all: to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.” Shakespeare put the words in the mouth of a prattling fool, and Addison tells us that they are indeed foolish words. Rather, he says, be true to the wise and the virtuous, and then thou cannot be false to thyself.
In his public life, Washington followed Addison’s advice, and so did Hamilton, and so did a host of other founders; and in the doing they overcame their private shortcomings and behaved virtuously enough in public to establish a regime of liberty that would perdure.
Joseph Addison’sCato, A Tragedy captured the imaginations of eighteenth-century theatergoers throughout Great Britain, North America, and much of Europe. From its original performance on April 14, 1713, the play was a resounding success. Embraced by an audience whose opinions spanned the political spectrum, Cato was a popular and critical triumph that had tremendous appeal both as a performance and as a published text. In the second half of 1713, the play was staged more than twenty times in London alone, and before the century’s end, twenty-six English editions of Addison’s tragedy had appeared. Cato’s popularity continued to spread throughout the eighteenth century, and the play appeared in performance and published translation in countries such as Italy, France, Germany, Holland, and Poland. With its themes of liberty, virtue, and resistance to tyranny, Addison’s Cato inserted itself into eighteenth-century consciousness, providing many of the words and images that informed republican sensibilities during this period in Britain, Europe, and the British colonies in North America.
Despite the play’s enormous influence, Addison’s reputation was not exclusively as a playwright; indeed, he was best known to contemporaries and succeeding generations as the master of the essay form. Samuel Johnson, while not completely without criticism of Cato, singled out Addison’s writings as a model of expression. In his Lives of the Poets, Johnson declared, “Whoever wishes to attain an English style familiar but not coarse, and elegant but not ostentatious must give his days and nights to the volumes of Addison.” A creative force behind coffeehouse periodicals such as the Spectator, the Guardian, and the Freeholder, Addison wrote more than 400 essays on matters such as taste, manners, literature, theater, politics, and the observation of daily life in London. With readerships of several thousand, these periodicals were powerful tools in shaping public mores, sensibilities, and discourse in the eighteenth century. In his work as an essayist, Addison further explored and developed many of the themes that were raised in his Cato. This volume presents Addison’s Cato with a brief selection of some of his essays that further develop themes announced in the play.
Addison was born in 1672 in the Wiltshire hamlet of Milston, where his father was the church rector. In 1687, he matriculated at Oxford, studying first at Queen’s College before being elected to Magdalen College. At Oxford, he acquired a reputation for poetry and criticism; his studies focused on the classics, with an orientation more to Latin than to Greek. The early acts of Cato can be traced to Addison’s days as a student. After leaving Oxford in 1699, Addison traveled for four years through France, Italy, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, and Holland. Upon his return to Britain, he came quickly to the attention of key Whig political figures such as John, Lord Somers, and was commissioned to write The Campaign, a long poem commemorating Marlborough’s 1704 victory over the French at Blenheim. Addison quickly rose through the Whig political ranks, holding government positions including the position of Commissioner of Appeals (recently vacated by John Locke), Under-Secretary of State, Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Chief Secretary for Ireland, and eventually Member of Parliament for Malmesbury.
During this period, Addison began his career as a popular essayist, ultimately becoming the acknowledged master of what was then a relatively new form. He contributed to the Whig Examiner (1710), which responded to the Tory paper Examiner, and worked with his boyhood friend Richard Steele on the Tatler (1709–11). From there, Addison and Steele joined forces on the paper that truly cemented Addison’s reputation, the Spectator (1711–1712, 1714). After his run with the Spectator, Addison penned the final act to the four acts he had already written for Cato, A Tragedy; during Cato’s initial London staging, Addison continued producing essays, working with Steele on the Guardian (1713) and composing several pieces that dealt explicitly with themes from Cato. Addison struck out on his own for the Freeholder (1715–16) essays, which took a decidedly more political tone. His last set of essays, in The Old Whig (1718), was marred by a personal break with his longtime collaborator Steele over matters of public policy. Addison was a prolific author; in addition to his coffeehouse essays and Cato, he composed poetry in both Latin and English, hymns, an opera, another play, literary criticism, and a variety of translations of classical authors. Joseph Addison died in 1719 at the age of 47.
Addison was born into a world that had recently witnessed the tumult of the English Civil War and the beheading of Charles I, followed by Cromwell’s Puritan commonwealth. Britain’s political instability continued in Addison’s early life, with the Restoration of the Stuart monarchy in 1660 and the Glorious Revolution of 1688, in which another king—James II—was forced by Parliament to flee the country. The mature Addison’s writing career spanned the period of British history marked by the conclusion of Queen Anne’s reign in 1714 and the inauguration of the Hanoverian succession. This was a time of political upheaval and uncertainty, filled with resistance and uprisings by Jacobites who retained loyalty to the Stuart family line. Disturbances of this nature were a challenge to the very legitimacy of the Hanoverian succession. These years were characterized by intense factional conflict between Whigs and Tories over political control, with 1710–14 being the final years of Tory control before the extended period of Whig dominance that began with the accession of George I to the throne in 1714. Addison himself was politically associated with the Whigs, yet Cato is remarkable for the manner in which both Whigs and Tories embraced it as sympathetic to their causes; leaders of both parties were present at the opening performance, and Alexander Pope’s account of the premiere describes Whigs and Tories competing to appropriate the play to their own causes. During the first performance, Whigs loudly applauded each mention of “liberty,” and between acts, the Tory Bolingbroke publicly gave Barton Booth—the actor who played Cato—fifty guineas, for defending the cause of liberty against a perpetual dictator. That Addison himself wanted the message of the play to transcend party politics can be seen in his commissioning a Tory, Pope, to write the play’s Prologue and a Whig, Sir Samuel Garth, to compose the Epilogue.
The eighteenth century saw the rise of a new literary form—the essay—whose growth can be attributed to several causes. With the lapse of government monopoly control of publishing licenses in 1695, there was a proliferation in all sorts of literature, including periodicals, which relied upon brief pieces of writing. This same period also witnessed greater commercial activity and the rise of a new merchant class with opportunities that had not previously existed for leisure and for conversation. Men and women of this new bourgeoisie frequently gathered for conversation in coffeehouses, which functioned as slightly more democratic versions of the salon, and there they discussed political, moral, literary, and aesthetic matters. Periodicals provided the coffeehouse patrons with topics of light conversation as well as gentle guidance in sensibilities, manners, and other matters of taste. Describing the periodical essay, Samuel Johnson said, “For this purpose nothing is so proper as the frequent publication of short papers, which we read not as study but amusement. If the subject be slight, the treatise likewise is short. The busy may find time, and the idle may find patience.” Addison and Steele’s Spectator was among the most prominent of contemporary periodicals. Typically, three to four thousand copies of each edition of the Spectator were printed, and some accounts claim that sales exceeded fifteen thousand at times. Even these approximate figures are misleading, though, for each copy would be passed from one reader to the next, and Addison himself estimated that at least twenty people read any single purchased copy.
Situating the Spectator in the tradition of influential Renaissance texts such as Giovanni della Casa’s The Book of Manners and Baldesar Castiglione’s The Book of the Courtier, Johnson described the purpose of Addison’s essays in the following manner: “To teach the minuter decencies and inferior duties, to regulate the practice of daily conversation, to correct those depravities which are rather ridiculous than criminal, and remove those grievances which, if they produce no lasting calamities, impress hourly vexation. . . . ” In Spectator 10, Addison described his own ambition somewhat differently. He writes, “It was said of Socrates that he brought Philosophy down from Heaven, to inhabit among Men; and I shall be ambitious to have it said of me, that I have brought philosophy out the Closets and Libraries, Schools and Colleges, to dwell in the Clubs and Assemblies, at Tea-Tables and Coffee-Houses.” Citing Seneca and Montaigne as his models, Addison sought not only to educate his audience, but also to regulate their passions and to promote self-discipline, moderation, and pursuit of the public interest. Addison was by no means alone in his desire to influence and shape his readers’ tastes and sensibilities. To name but a single example, Anthony Ashley Cooper, Earl of Shaftesbury, also sought to mold his readers’ intellectual and aesthetic sensibilities through his 1711 Characteristicks of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times. Shaftesbury’s primary audience, however, seems to have been the gentlemanly class, whereas Addison focused his attention on a decidedly more middle-class audience.
Addison’s essays were instrumental in spreading the culture of politeness, learning, and sensibility throughout the middling classes, and also in restoring order to a Britain still reeling from the tumultuous events of the seventeenth century, which had called into question the legitimacy of traditional forms and institutions of authority. Through his work as an essayist, Addison attempted to refine his readers’ sociability and to instill in them a sensibility about what was pleasing and likely to be approved by worthy others. These themes recur throughout Cato’s dramatic action, with Cato’s judgment emerging as the objective standard by which others measure their actions and judgments. To cite but two examples, Syphax draws attention to Cato’s “piercing eyes,” capable of seeing to the essence of things and “discerning our frauds” (I.iii). Cato also offers his own standards as a type of universalizable rule, proclaiming that “in Cato’s judgment, / A day, an hour, of virtuous liberty / Is worth a whole eternity in bondage” (II.i). The play’s themes of theatricality, imagination, and idealized spectators are echoed in Spectator 231’s “in our solitudes, we should fancy that Cato stands before us, and sees every thing that we do” and in Addison’s Spectator 10 assertion that his work is addressed to “everyone who considers the world as theatre, and who desires to form a right judgment of those who act in it.” The dozen or so Spectator papers beginning with number 411 are particularly significant in this context, for they discuss the pleasures of the imagination in a manner deeply influential upon the rest of the eighteenth century.
The breadth of topics to which Addison turned his attention as an essayist is remarkable. In the essays selected for this volume, besides the essays that are included for their explicit discussion of Cato, issues such as patriotism, virtue, fame, liberty, prudence, fortune, integrity, the nature of government, honor, faction, and education are raised. Other Addison essays explore a wide range of topics, including literary criticism, satire, religion, and the role of women in society. Addison likened the essay form to a woods “with many great and noble objects” in which one “may ramble . . . and every Moment discover something or other which is new to you” (Spectator 476). In the advertisement to a 1776 edition of the Spectator, Johnson encapsulated the breadth, character, and influence of Addison’s essays in the following manner: “The Book thus offered to the Public is too well known to be praised: It comprizes [sic] precepts of criticism, sallies of invention, descriptions of life, and lectures of virtue. It employs wit in the cause of truth, and makes elegance subservient to piety: It has now for more than half a century supplied the English nation, in great measure, with principles of speculation, and rules of practice; and given Addison a claim to be numbered among the benefactors of mankind.”
Addison’s Cato, A Tragedy is based on the final days of Cato the Younger (95–46 b.c.), also known as Cato of Utica. Cato the Younger was one member of a patrician family who were historically strong supporters of Roman republicanism and traditions. Most noteworthy among his ancestors was his great-grandfather, Cato the Elder or Cato the Censor (234–149 b.c.), famous for his oft-repeated refrain of “Carthago delenda est” (“Carthage must be destroyed”) and for upholding a simple life of agrarian virtue. Like his great-grandfather, Cato the Younger epitomized a commitment both to liberty and to the republic, and he came to exemplify virtue in late Roman republican politics. Cato’s reputation for stern virtue and unwavering principle was widely known. “It is said of Cato,” wrote Plutarch in his Life of Cato the Younger, “that even from his infancy, in his speech, his countenance, and all his childish pastimes, he discovered an inflexible temper, unmoved by any passion, and firm in everything . . . to go through with what he undertook.” The mature Cato was also known for his austerity in personal habits, eating simply and frequently refusing to wear a tunic under his toga or to wear shoes. He was widely regarded as the embodiment of the Stoic virtues of self-control and stern discipline, as well as an inflexible adherent to principles of justice. According to Sallust, Cato “preferred to be, rather than to seem, virtuous; hence, the less he sought fame, the more it pursued him” (The War with Catiline, LIV.6).
Cato’s concern for Roman liberty led him to oppose Pompey when he feared Pompey’s power had grown too great, then to join with Pompey against Julius Caesar once he began to appreciate the threat to Roman liberty that Caesar represented. A leading figure in the Senate, Cato was a member of the Optimates, a political faction that sought to maintain the traditional authority of the Senate within the republic as a protection against the dangers of both mob rule and the tyranny of a single individual. The Optimates stood in opposition to the Populares, who advocated political and economic reform by means of land redistribution. Caesar had embraced the Populares’ political agenda early in his career, but it was through his military success and his ability to command his troops’ continued loyalty that his political power truly grew. Prior to outbreak of the civil war that would eventually end the republic, a triumvirate of Caesar, Pompey, and Crassus shared power. With the death of Crassus, though, that alliance crumbled. Caesar’s legions crossed the Rubicon to take control of Rome, while Pompey withdrew from Italy—Senate in tow—to Greece and to the fateful meeting at Pharsalus.
The political struggle between Cato and Caesar was a contest between widely divergent characters. Political restraint versus political ambition was but one facet of the conflict between these great Roman figures that was personal, intense, and well known at the time. Each represented a different response to the crisis of the Roman republic, and the tension in the Roman spirit can be seen in the comparison between them. Sallust’s The War with Catiline offers an extended discussion of their characters. According to Sallust, “They had the same nobility of soul, and equal, though quite different, reputations. Caesar was esteemed for the many kind services he rendered and for his lavish generosity; Cato for the consistent uprightness of his life. The former was renowned for his humanity and mercy; the latter had earned respect by his strict austerity. Caesar won fame by his readiness to give, to relieve, to pardon; Cato, by never offering presents. The one was a refuge for the unfortunate, and was praised for his good nature; the other was a scourge for the wicked, admired for his firmness” (Book VI). Cato stood for preserving republican virtue, tradition, and precedent; for respecting established institutions and the Senate in particular; and for his unwavering adherence to principle. By contrast, Caesar represented energy, innovation, and a willingness to break with precedent in his pursuit of advantage, territorial gains, and personal aggrandizement. If Cato embodied the austere simplicity and the moral conscience of republican Rome, Caesar personified the lavish grandiosity which came to characterize the Empire.
One example of the contrast between Cato’s severity, austerity, and self-restraint and Caesar’s humanity, mercy, and generosity was the Catilinarian conspiracy. There, Cato insisted on the conspirators’ swift execution, while Caesar pled for leniency and called for their imprisonment rather than their death. Cato argued that the conspirators should be treated as if they had been caught in the act; moreover, since they planned to show no mercy to Rome, they should be shown none by Rome. Cato’s oratory carried the day in the Senate, which had initially been swayed by Caesar’s entreaties. In Act IV, scene 4, Addison echoes Sallust’s characterization when Lucius tells Cato that “the virtues of humanity are Caesar’s” and Cato responds that “such popular humanity is treason” and that Caesar’s virtues have undone Rome. One aspect of Caesar’s humanity was his well-known policy of offering clemency to his defeated enemies, and it is likely that he would have extended clemency to Cato as well. Describing a military dictator as possessing the virtues of humanity may strike the modern reader as somewhat surprising and might have struck eighteenth-century theatergoers as such, too. Audiences in the eighteenth century, however, would have appreciated that the popular, humane figure could be the greatest threat to liberty and that an unbendingly virtuous character such as Cato—willing to sacrifice his own life to freedom’s cause—could be liberty’s greatest defender.
No discussion of Cato would be complete without some consideration of his relationship to Stoicism, since both to Romans and in an abstract sense, Cato exemplified the life led in accordance with Stoic ideals. Identifying the virtuous life with happiness, Stoicism emphasized the importance of self-command as a means of placing an individual beyond the reaches of the whims of fortune. Stoics believed that self-mastery and therefore true freedom could be attained only by putting aside passion, unjust thoughts, and indulgence and by fulfilling one’s duty for the right reasons. Cato’s unwavering commitment to his principles and his willingness to apply his standards of judgment to others led many Romans to admire his philosophic commitment, including Cicero, whose De Finibus Bonorum et Malorum (On the Ends of Good and Evil) casts Cato as the spokesman for Stoicism. Given the deep intermingling of morality and politics in the Roman republic, it is not entirely surprising that much of Cato’s political standing in the Senate and his place in public opinion was due to his fellow Romans’ appreciation of his moral character. This is not to suggest, however, that Cato was above criticism. There were many—including some of his political allies—who disapproved of Cato’s inflexibility and his unwillingness to compromise. Even Cicero, generally a great admirer of Cato, commented in Letters to Atticus that “the opinions he [Cato] delivers would be more in place in Plato’s Republic than among the dregs of humanity collected by Romulus” (Letters, 2.1). Addison echoes something of Cicero’s criticisms in Spectator 243’s description of Stoicism as “the pedantry of virtue.”
The action of the play follows on the 46 b.c. battle at Pharsalus, a critical moment in the Roman Civil War in which Caesar won a decisive victory over Pompey’s more numerous forces. After Pharsalus, remnants of the defeated forces and senators coalesced in the North African city of Utica under the leadership of Cato, who became a living symbol of Roman republican liberty. In Utica, Cato’s forces formed an alliance with the army of Numidia’s King Juba I, who had previously been victorious against one of Caesar’s supporters. This time, however, Juba was not so fortunate, and the combined forces of Cato and Juba were defeated at Thapsus. With the military situation around him bleak and untenable, Cato encouraged those closest to him to flee; he then took his own life. Addison’s dramatization of Cato’s magnificent death scene generally accords with the ancient accounts. According to Plutarch, Cato engaged in philosophic disputation—especially regarding the Stoic paradox that only the good man is free, and that all wicked men are slaves—soon after the defeat at Thapsus. The intensity with which Cato defended his argument left all who were listening with no doubt that he intended “to put an end to his life, and set himself at liberty.” Plutarch also describes Cato’s consulting Plato’s Phaedo (which Addison calls simply by its later subtitle, “On the immortality of the soul”) in the hours before his suicide. The ancient account of Cato’s death, however, is even more dramatic than the scene staged by Addison. Cato’s first attempt was not fatal, and his horrified family summoned a physician in order to repair his partial disembowelment and to stitch up the wound, whereupon Cato “thrust away the physician, plucked out his own bowels, and tearing open the wound, immediately expired.”
Cato’s suicide opens itself to many different interpretations. It might be viewed as the death knell of Roman liberty, with the republic itself perishing alongside Cato. It might be considered a manifestation of his philosophic strength, an example of his willingness to follow his principles wherever they would lead him. It could also be viewed as a final act of defiance against Caesar and an unwillingness to be co-opted by Caesar’s policy of clemency; by taking his own life rather than allowing Caesar to spare it, Cato would thus be denying Caesar an important moral victory in addition to the military one already claimed at Thapsus. Or, Cato’s death at his own hand might be understood as one man’s refusal to accept a life under tyranny and therefore as a vindication of individual liberty. The debate over how to understand Cato’s life and suicide was lively during Caesar’s reign, and we believe it remains a valuable point of consideration in the contemporary world.
Because of Cato and his essays, Addison’s influence throughout the eighteenth century was enormous. In the period immediately following Addison’s death, two opposition Whig writers—Thomas Gordon and John Trenchard—took up the banner of Cato against governmental corruption and infringement of liberty in a series of newspaper letters (1720–1723) subsequently collected as Letters of Cato. David Hume modeled his own career as an essayist on Addison, explicitly citing Addison as the great authority and presenting his own project in language similar to Addison’s Spectator 10 statement. In “Of Essay-Writing” Hume writes that he considers himself to be a “a kind of Resident or Ambassador from the dominions of Learning to those of Conversations.” Adam Smith took up Addison’s notion of the dispassionate and moderate spectator, formalizing it as the impartial spectator that forms the cornerstone of the moral philosophy he developed in Theory of Moral Sentiments. In Émile, Jean-Jacques Rousseau cites the Spectator as an example of appropriate reading for young women to understand their duties in society. Voltaire’s Letters on the English reveals his admiration of Cato as “a masterpiece, both with regard to the diction and to the beauty and the harmony of the numbers,” and he states that “Mr. Addison’s Cato appears to me to be the greatest character that was brought upon any stage.” As Forrest McDonald notes in the foreword to this volume and elsewhere, Cato also had a tremendous impact in early America, where its words and themes influenced George Washington, John Adams, and many others. To sketch Addison’s impact on but one colonial figure, Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography details the young Ben’s finding an edition of the Spectator and using it as his standard for cultivating a clear and precise mode of expressing his sentiments. The Autobiography’s handbook for self-improvement also draws its motto directly from Act V, scene I, of Cato: “Here will I hold. If there’s a power above us, / (And that there is, all nature cries aloud / Through all her works,) he must delight in virtue; / And that which he delights in, must be happy.”
To the eighteenth century, Addison’s continued prominence seemed such a foregone conclusion that Hume suggested, “Addison, perhaps, will be read with pleasure, when Locke shall be entirely forgotten” (An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, 1.4). Into the nineteenth century, Addison’s influence continued, although with the passage of time he became less appreciated as the author of Cato, and better known for his Spectator essays. For much of the twentieth century, Addison’s influence has been solely as an essayist, and his work as a dramatist has been neglected almost entirely. Recently, though, interest has been rekindled in his Cato, primarily for its impact in both Britain and America. We hope that this edition will contribute to an appreciation of the play as a work of both historical importance and enduring philosophical significance.
Christine Dunn Henderson and Mark E. Yellin
Our intention has been to present Addison’s Cato with a selection of his essays in order to illuminate some of the play’s key themes; we make no claims to having produced a truly critical edition of either the plays or the essays. This edition of Cato is based on the eighth edition, published in 1713 by J. Tonson and Sons, and we wish to thank the Folger Shakespeare Library for its generosity in allowing us access to its copies of the second and the eighth editions. Early printings of the play omitted a significant exchange between Cato and Portius in Act V; this printer’s error was corrected in the third edition. Most subsequent editions of the play follow the corrections of the third edition, although a few—such as a 1996 edition of Cato edited by William-Alan Landes—follow the early printings in omitting that passage. Addison himself thought the seventh printing was definitive, and we have used the eighth edition, which is identical to the seventh, as our authoritative version of the play in most regards. We have departed from the eighth edition in omitting the “Verses to the Author of Cato” which precede the play in that presentation. Our decision to include only Pope’s prologue and Garth’s epilogue was based on the second edition’s text and on Addison’s dislike of the additional verses’ inclusion in printings of the play. With the exception of the Spectators, we have drawn the essay texts from the Works of the Right Honourable Joseph Addison, edited by Addison’s literary executor, Thomas Tickell, and published in 1721 by Jacob Tonson. For the Spectators, we have used Donald Bond’s 1965 edition of The Spectator published by Oxford University Press, which is recognized as the definitive scholarly edition. In developing our notes for the Spectator essays, we cannot but acknowledge our debt to Bond’s fine scholarship, but we have departed from him in many ways, and we take full responsibility for any errors and omissions. Unless otherwise indicated, translations of all classical sources have been drawn from the Loeb Classical Library, published by Harvard University Press.
Acknowledgments typically begin with some statement to the effect of “it would be impossible to name everyone who helped us.” In this case, such a statement is especially appropriate, for Addison’s intellectual breadth led us far afield of our own areas of expertise, and in the process of preparing this book, we tested the limits of our friends’ and colleagues’ patience with our seemingly endless queries. Truly, we cannot begin to name everyone who so generously shared their expertise with us, but we are especially grateful to the following individuals: Calum Carmichael, Douglas Den Uyl, Hans Eicholz, Garrett Fagan, Anne Fortier, Luis René Gámez, David Hart, Paulina Kewes, John Kirby, Joe Lane, Tom Martin, Forrest McDonald, Andy Morris, Emilio Pacheco, Adam Potkay, Claude Rawson, Sarah Skwire, Aristide Tessitore, Jennifer Thompson, Eduardo Velásquez, and David Wootton.
We also could not have completed this project without the support and perspective supplied by our families. To Ethel, Reggie, and James, we dedicate this volume.
September 29, 2003
As it is acted at the Theatre Royal, in Drury Lane, by his majesty’s servants
Ecce spectaculum dignum, ad quod respiciat, intentus operi suo, Deus! Ecce par Deo dignum, vir fortis cum malâ fortunâ compositus! Non video, inquam, quid habeat in terris Jupiter pulchrius, si convertere animum velit, quam ut spectet Catonem, jam partibus non semel fractis, nihilominus inter ruinas publicas erectum.
Spoken by Mr. Wilks
|LUCIUS, a Senator,||MR. KEEN|
|SEMPRONIUS, a Senator,||MR. MILLS|
|JUBA, Prince of Numidia,||MR. WILKS|
|SYPHAX, General of the Numidians,||MR. CIBBER|
|PORTIUS, Son of Cato,||MR. POWELL|
|MARCUS, Son of Cato,||MR. RYAN|
|DECIUS, Ambassador from Caesar,||MR. BOWMAN|
|Mutineers, Guards, &c.|
|MARCIA, Daughter to Cato,||MRS. OLDFIELD|
|LUCIA, Daughter to Lucius,||MRS. PORTER|
Scene, A large Hall in the Governor’s Palace of Utica.
Juba, Marcia, Lucia.
Sempronius, Lucius, Cato.
Sempronius with the leaders of the mutiny.
Cato, Sempronius, Lucius, Portius, Marcus.
Sempronius and the leaders of the mutiny.
Sempronius, dressed like Juba, with Numidian guards.
Enter Juba, listening.
Cato, meeting the corpse.
Cato, solus, sitting in a thoughtful posture: in his hand Plato’s Book on the Immortality of the Soul.
A drawn sword on the table by him.
Spoken by Mrs. Porter.
Thursday, April 20, 1710
———Nunquam libertas gratior exstat
Quam sub rege pio. ———
From my own Apartment, April 19.
I was walking two or three days ago in a very pleasing retirement, and amusing my self with the reading of that ancient and beautiful Allegory, called The Table of Cebes. I was at last so tired with my walk, that I sate down to rest my self upon a Bench that stood in the midst of an agreeable Shade. The musick of the Birds, that filled all the Trees about me, lulled me asleep before I was aware of it; which was followed by a Dream, that I impute in some measure to the foregoing Author, who had made an impression upon my Imagination, and put me into his own way of thinking.
I fancied my self among the Alpes, and, as it is natural in a Dream, seemed every moment to bound from one Summit to another, till at last, after having made this airy progress over the tops of several Mountains, I arrived at the very Centre of those broken Rocks and Precipices. I here, methought, saw a prodigious circuit of Hills, that reached above the clouds, and encompassed a large space of ground, which I had a great curiosity to look into. I thereupon continued my former way of travelling through a great variety of winter scenes, till I had gained the top of these white mountains, which seemed another Alpes of Snow. I looked down from hence into a spacious Plain, which was surrounded on all sides by this Mound of hills, and which presented me with the most agreeable prospect I had ever seen. There was a greater variety of colours in the embroidery of the meadows, a more lively green in the leaves and grass, a brighter chrystal in the streams, than what I ever met with in any other region. The light it self had something more shining and glorious in it than that of which the day is made in other places. I was wonderfully astonished at the discovery of such a Paradise amidst the wildness of those cold hoary Landskips which lay about it; but found at length, that this happy region was inhabited by the Goddess of Liberty; whose presence softened the rigours of the Climate, enriched the barrenness of the Soil, and more than supplied the absence of the Sun. The place was covered with a wonderful profusion of Flowers, that without being disposed into regular borders and parterres, grew promiscuously, and had a greater beauty in their natural luxuriancy and disorder, than they could have received from the checks and restraints of art. There was a river that arose out of the south-side of the mountain, that by an infinite number of turns and windings, seemed to visit every plant, and cherish the several beauties of the Spring, with which the fields abounded. After having run to and fro in a wonderful variety of Meanders, it at last throws it self into the hollow of a mountain, from whence it passes under a long range of Rocks, and at length rises in that part of the Alpes where the inhabitants think it the first source of the Rhone. This river, after having made its progress through those Free Nations, stagnates in a huge Lake at the leaving of them, and no sooner enters into the regions of Slavery, but runs through them with an incredible rapidity, and takes its shortest way to the Sea.
I descended into the happy fields that lay beneath me, and in the midst of them, beheld the Goddess sitting upon a Throne. She had nothing to enclose her but the bounds of her own Dominions, and nothing over her head but the Heavens. Every glance of her eye cast a track of light where it fell, that revived the spring, and made all things smile about her. My heart grew chearful at the sight of her, and as she looked upon me, I found a certain Confidence growing in me, and such an inward Resolution as I never felt before that time.
On the left hand of the Goddess sat the Genius of a Commonwealth, with the Cap of Liberty on her head, and in her hand a Wand, like that with which a Roman Citizen used to give his Slaves their freedom. There was something mean and vulgar, but at the same time exceeding bold and daring in her air; her eyes were full of fire, but had in them such casts of fierceness and cruelty, as made her appear to me rather dreadful than amiable. On her shoulders she wore a Mantle, on which there was wrought a great confusion of figures. As it flew in the wind, I could not discern the particular design of them, but saw wounds in the bodies of some, and agonies in the faces of others; and over one part of it could read in Letters of Blood, The Ides of March.
On the right hand of the Goddess was the Genius of Monarchy. She was cloathed in the whitest Ermin, and wore a Crown of the purest Gold upon her head. In her hand she held a Sceptre like that which is born by the British Monarchs. A couple of tame Lions lay crouching at her feet: Her countenance had in it a very great majesty without any mixture of terror: Her voice was like the voice of an Angel, filled with so much sweetness, accompanied with such an air of condescension, as tempered the awfulness of her appearance, and equally inspired love and veneration into the hearts of all that beheld her.
In the train of the Goddess of Liberty were the several Arts and Sciences, who all of them flourished underneath her eye. One of them in particular made a greater figure than any of the rest, who held a thunderbolt in her hand, which had the power of melting, piercing, or breaking every thing that stood in its way. The name of this Goddess was Eloquence.
There were two other dependent Goddesses, who made a very conspicuous figure in this blissful region. The first of them was seated upon an hill, that had every plant growing out of it, which the soil was in its own nature capable of producing. The other was seated in a little Island, that was covered with groves of Spices, Olives, and Orange-trees; and in a word, with the products of every foreign clime. The name of the first was Plenty, of the second, Commerce. The first leaned her right arm upon a Plough, and under her left held a huge Horn, out of which she poured a whole Autumn of Fruits. The other wore a Rostral Crown upon her head, and kept her eyes fixed upon a Compass.
I was wonderfully pleased in ranging through this delightful place, and the more so, because it was not incumbered with fences and enclosures; till at length, methoughts, I sprung from the ground, and pitched upon the top of an hill, that presented several objects to my sight which I had not before taken notice of. The winds that passed over this flowry Plain, and though the tops of trees which were full of blossoms, blew upon me in such a continued breeze of sweets, that I was wonderfully charmed with my situation. I here saw all the inner Declivities of that great circuit of mountains, whose outside was covered with Snow, overgrown with huge forests of Fir-trees, which indeed are very frequently found in other parts of the Alpes. These trees were inhabited by Storks, that came thither in great flights from very distant quarters of the world. Methought, I was pleased in my Dream to see what became of these birds, when, upon leaving the places to which they make an annual visit, they rise in great flocks so high till they are out of sight; and for that reason have been thought by some modern Philosophers to take a flight to the Moon. But my eyes were soon diverted from this prospect, when I observed two great gaps that led through this circuit of mountains, where guards and watches were posted day and night. Upon examination I found, that there were two formidable enemies encamped before each of these avenues, who kept the place in a perpetual alarm, and watched all opportunities of invading it.
Tyranny was at the head of one of these armies, dressed in an Eastern habit, and grasping in her hand an Iron Sceptre. Behind her was Barbarity, with the garb and complexion of an Aethiopian;Ignorance with a Turbant upon her head; and Persecution holding up a bloody flag, embroidered with Flower-de-luces. These were followed by Oppression,Poverty,Famine,Torture, and a dreadful train of appearances, that made me tremble to behold them. Among the Baggage of this army, I could discover Racks, Wheels, Chains, and Gibbets, with all the instruments Art could invent to make humane nature miserable.
Before the other avenue I saw Licentiousness, dressed in a garment not unlike the Polish Cassock, and leading up a whole army of Monsters, such as Clamour, with a hoarse voice and a hundred tongues; Confusion, with a mis-shapen body and a thousand heads; Impudence, with a forehead of Brass; and Rapine, with hands of Iron. The tumult, noise, and uproar in this quarter were so very great, that they disturbed my Imagination more than is consistent with sleep, and by that means awaked me.
Saturday, April 22, 1710
Tertius è Caelo cecidit Cato.
From my own Apartment, April 21.
In my younger years I used many endeavours to get a place at Court, and indeed continued my pursuits till I arrived at my Grand Climacterick: but at length altogether despairing of success, whether it were for want of capacity, friends, or due application, I at last resolved to erect a new Office, and for my encouragement, to place my self in it. For this reason, I took upon me the title and dignity of Censor of Great Britain, reserving to my self all such Perquisites, Profits, and Emoluments as should arise out of the discharge of the said Office. These in truth have not been inconsiderable; for besides those weekly contributions which I receive from John Morphew, and those annual subscriptions which I propose to my self from the most elegant part of this great Island, I daily live in a very comfortable affluence of Wine, Stale beer, Hungary water, Beef, Books, and Marrow-bones, which I receive from many well-disposed citizens; not to mention the forfeitures which accrue to me from the several offenders that appear before me on Court-days.
Having now enjoyed this office for the space of a twelvemonth, I shall do what all good officers ought to do, take a survey of my behaviour, and consider carefully whether I have discharged my duty, and acted up to the Character with which I am invested. For my direction in this particular, I have made a narrow search into the nature of the old Roman Censors, whom I must always regard, not only as my Predecessors, but as my Patterns in this great employment; and have several times asked my own heart with great impartiality, Whether Cato will not bear a more venerable figure among Posterity than Bickerstaffe?
I find the duty of the Roman Censor was twofold. The first part of it consisted in making frequent reviews of the people, in casting up their numbers, ranging them under their several tribes, disposing them into proper classes, and subdividing them into their respective centuries.
In compliance with this part of the Office, I have taken many curious surveys of this great City. I have collected into particular bodies the Dappers and the Smarts, the Natural and Affected Rakes, the Pretty fellows and the Very pretty fellows. I have likewise drawn out in several distinct parties your Pedants and Men of fire, your Gamesters and Politicians. I have separated Cits from Citizens,Free-thinkers from Philosophers,Wits from Snuff-takers, and Duellists from Men of honour. I have likewise made a calculation of Esquires, not only considering the several distinct swarms of them that are settled in the different parts of this town, but also that more rugged species that inhabit the fields and woods, and are often found in pot-houses, and upon hay-cocks.
I shall pass the Soft Sex over in silence, having not yet reduced them into any tolerable order; as likewise the softer tribe of Lovers, which will cost me a great deal of time, before I shall be able to cast them into their several Centuries and Sub-divisions.
The second part of the Roman Censor’s Office was to look into the Manners of the people, and to check any growing Luxury, whether in Diet, Dress, or Building. This Duty likewise I have endeavoured to discharge, by those wholsome precepts which I have given my countrymen in regard to Beef and Mutton, and the severe censures which I have passed upon Ragouts and Fricacies. There is not, as I am informed, a pair of Red heels to be seen within ten miles of London, which I may likewise ascribe, without vanity, to the becoming zeal which I expressed in that particular. I must own, my success with the Petticoat is not so great; but as I have not yet done with it, I hope I shall in a little time put an effectual stop to that growing evil. As for the article of Building, I intend hereafter to enlarge upon it, having lately observed several Warehouses, nay, private Shops, that stand upon Corinthian pillars, and whole rows of Tin pots showing themselves, in order to their sale, through a Sash-window.
I have likewise followed the example of the Roman Censors, in punishing offences according to the quality of the offender. It was usual for them to expel a Senator who had been guilty of great Immoralities out of the Senate-house, by omitting his name when they called over the list of his Brethren. In the same manner, to remove effectually several Worthless men who stand possessed of great honours, I have made frequent draughts of Dead men out of the vicious part of the Nobility, and given them up to the new Society of Upholders, with the necessary orders for their interrment. As the Roman Censors used to punish the Knights or Gentlemen of Rome, by taking away their Horses from them, I have seized the Canes of many Criminals of figure, whom I had just reason to animadvert upon. As for the offenders among the Common people of Rome, they were generally chastised, by being thrown out of a higher Tribe, and placed in one which was not so honourable. My Reader cannot but think I have had an eye to this Punishment, when I have degraded one species of men into Bombs, Squibs, and Crackers, and another into Drums, Bass-viols, and Bagpipes; not to mention whole packs of Delinquents whom I have shut up in Kennels, and the new Hospital which I am at present erecting, for the reception of those of my countrymen who give me but little hopes of their amendment, on the borders of Moor-fields. I shall only observe upon this particular, that since some late surveys I have taken of this Island, I shall think it necessary to enlarge the plan of the buildings which I design in this quarter.
When my great predecessor Cato the Elder stood for the Censorship of Rome, there were several other Competitors who offered themselves; and to get an interest among the people, gave them great promises of the mild and gentle treatment which they would use towards them in that Office. Cato on the contrary told them, he presented himself as a Candidate, because he knew the Age was sunk in Immorality and Corruption; and that if they would give him their votes, he would promise them to make use of such a strictness and severity of discipline as should recover them out of it. The Roman Historians, upon this occasion, very much celebrated the Publick-spiritedness of that people, who chose Cato for their Censor, notwithstanding his method of recommending himself. I may in some measure extol my own countrymen upon the same account, who, without any respect to party, or any application from my self, have made such generous Subscriptions for the Censor of Great Britain, as will give a magnificence to my Old age, and which I esteem more than I would any Post in Europe of an hundred times the value. I shall only add, that upon looking into my Catalogue of Subscribers, which I intend to print Alphabetically in the front of my Lucubrations, I find the names of the greatest Beauties and Wits in the whole Island of Great Britain, which I only mention for the benefit of any of them who have not yet subscribed, it being my design to close the Subscription in a very short time.
Thursday, October 12, 1710
Parere jam non scelus est.
We live in a nation where at present there is scarce a single head that does not teem with politicks. The whole Island is peopled with Statesmen, and not unlike Trinculo’s Kingdom of Vice-roys. Every man has contrived a scheme of government for the benefit of his fellow-subjects, which they may follow and be safe.
After this short preface, by which, as an Englishman, I lay in my claim to be a Politician; I shall enter on my discourse.
The chief point that has puzzled the freeholders of Great-Britain, as well as all those that pay scot and lot, for about these six months last past, is this, Whether they would rather be governed by a Prince that is obliged by laws to be good and gracious, just and upright, a friend, father, and a defender of his people; or by one who, if he pleases, may drive away or plunder, imprison or kill, without opposition or resistance. This is the true state of the controversy relating to passive-obedience and non-resistance. For I must observe, that the Advocates for this doctrine have stated the case in the softest and most palatable terms that it will bear: And we very well know, that there is great art in moulding a question; and that many a motion will pass with a nemine contradicente in some words, that would have been as unanimously rejected in others. Passive obedience and non-resistance are of a mild, gentle, and meek-spirited sound: They have respect but to one side of the relation between the sovereign and the subject, and are apt to fill the mind with no other ideas but those of peace, tranquillity, and resignation. To show this doctrine in those black and odious colours that are natural to it, we should consider it with regard to the Prince as well as to the people: The question will then take another turn, and it will not be debated whether resistance may be lawful, or whether we may take up arms against our Prince; but whether the English form of government be a tyranny or a limited monarchy? Whether our Prince be obliged by our constitution to act according to law, or whether he be arbitrary and despotical.
It is impossible to state the measures of Obedience, without settling the extent of Power; or to describe the Subject, without defining the King. An arbitrary Prince is in justice and equity the master of a non-resisting people; for where the power is uncircumscribed, the obedience ought to be unlimited. Passive-obedience and non-resistance are the duties of Turks and Indians, who have no laws above the Will of a Grand Signior or a Mogul. The same power which those Princes enjoy in their respective governments, belongs to the legislative body in our constitution; and that for the same reason; because no body of men is subject to laws, or can be controuled by them, who have the authority of making, altering, or repealing whatever laws they shall think fit. Were our legislature vested in the person of our Prince, he might doubtless wind and turn our constitution at his pleasure; he might shape our government to his fancy. In a word, he might oppress, persecute, or destroy, and no man say to him, what dost thou?
If therefore we would rightly consider our form of government, we should discover the proper measures of our duty and obedience; which can never rise too high to our Sovereign, whilst he maintains us in those rights and liberties we were born to. But to say that we have rights which we ought not to vindicate and assert; that Liberty and Property are the birth-right of the English nation, but that if a Prince invades them by violent and illegal methods, we must upon no pretence resist, but remain altogether passive; nay, that in such a case we must all lose our lives unjustly rather than defend them: this, I say, is to confound governments, and to join things together that are wholly repugnant in their natures; since it is plain, that such a passive subjection, such an unconditional obedience, can be only due to an arbitrary Prince or to a legislative body.
Were these smooth ensnaring terms rightly explained to the people, and the controversy of Non-resistance set in this just light, we should have wanted many thousands of hands to some late Addresses. I would fain know what Free-holder in England would have subscribed the following Address, had it been offered to him; or whether Her Majesty, who values the rights of her subjects as much as her own prerogative, would not have been very much offended at it? and yet I will appeal to the Reader, if this has not been the sense of many Addresses, when taken out of several artificial qualifying expressions, and exposed in their true and genuine light.
“It is with unspeakable grief of heart, that we hear a set of men daily preaching up among us, that pernicious and damnable doctrine of self-preservation; and boldly affirming, as well in their public writings, as in their private discourses, that it is lawful to resist a tyrant, and take up arms in defence of their lives and liberties. We have the utmost horror and detestation of these diabolical principles, that may induce your people to rise up in vindication of their rights and freedoms, whenever a wicked Prince shall make use of his Royal authority to subvert them. We are astonished at the bold and impious attempts of those men, who under the reign of the best of Sovereigns, would avow such dangerous tenets as may secure them under the worst. We are resolved to beat down and discountenance these seditious notions, as being altogether republican, jesuitical, and conformable to the practice of our rebellious fore-fathers; who in all ages, at an infinite expence of blood and treasure, asserted their rights and properties, and consulted the good of their posterity by resistance, arms, and pitched battles, to the great trouble and disquiet of their lawful Prince. We do therefore in the most humble and dutiful manner solemnly protest and declare, that we will never resist a Sovereign that shall think fit to destroy our Magna Charta, or invade those rights and liberties which those traytors procured for us; but will venture our lives and fortunes against such of our fellow-subjects who think they may stand up in defence of them.”
It happens very unluckily that there is something so supple and insinuating in this absurd unnatural doctrine, as makes it extremely agreeable to a Prince’s ear: for which reason the publishers of it have always been the favourites of weak Kings. Even those who have no inclination to do hurt to others, says the famous Satyrist, would have the power of doing it if they pleased. Honest men who tell their Sovereigns what they expect from them, and what obedience they shall be always ready to pay them, are not upon an equal foot with such base and abject flatterers; and are therefore always in danger of being the last in the Royal favour. Nor indeed would that be unreasonable, if the professors of Non-resistance and Passive-obedience would stand to their principle: but instead of that, we see they never fail to exert themselves against an arbitrary power, and to cast off the oppression when they feel the weight of it. Did they not in the late Revolution rise up unanimously with those who always declared their subjection to be conditional, and their obedience limited? And very lately, when their Queen had offended them in nothing but by the promotion of a few great men to posts of trust and honour, who had distinguished themselves by their moderation and humanity to all their fellow-subjects, what was the behaviour of these men of meek and resigned principles? Did not the Church-Memorial, which they all applauded and cried up as the language and sentiments of their party, tell H. M. that it would not be safe for Her to rely upon their doctrines of Passive-obedience and Non-resistance, for that nature might rebel against principles? Is not this, in plain terms, that they will only practice Non-resistance to a Prince that pleases them, and Passive-obedience when they suffer nothing? I remember one of the rabble in Oedipus, when he is upbraided with his rebellion, and asked by the Prophet if he had not taken an oath to be loyal, falls a scratching his head, and tells him, Why yes, truly, he had taken such an oath, but it was a hard thing that an oath should be a man’s master. This is in effect the language of the Church in the above-mentioned Memorial. Men of these soft peaceable dispositions in times of prosperity, put me in mind of Kirke’s Lambs; for that was the name he used to give his dragoons that had signalized themselves above the rest of the army by many military atchievements among their own country-men.
There are two or three fatal consequences of this doctrine, which I cannot forbear pointing out. The first of which is, That it has a natural tendency to make a good King a very bad one. When a man is told he may do what he pleases with impunity, he will be less careful and cautious of doing what he should do, than a man who is influenced by fear as well as by other motives to virtue. It was a saying of Thales the wise Milesian,That of all wild beasts a tyrant is the worst, and of all tame beasts a flatterer. They do indeed naturally beget one another, and always exist together. Persuade a Prince that he is irresistible, and he will take care not to let so glorious an attribute lie dead and useless by him. An arbitrary power has something so great in it, that he must be more than man who is endowed with it, but never exerts it.
This consequence of the doctrine I have been speaking of, is very often a fatal one to the people; there is another which is no less destructive to the Prince. A late unfortunate King very visibly owed his ruin to it. He relied upon the assurances of his people, that they would never resist him upon any pretence whatsoever, and accordingly began to act like a King who was not under the restraint of laws, by dispensing with them, and taking on him that power which was vested in the whole legislative body. And what was the dreadful end of such a proceeding? It is too fresh in every body’s memory. Thus is a Prince corrupted by the professors of this doctrine, and afterwards betrayed by them. The same persons are the Actors, both in the temptation and the punishment. They assure him they will never resist, but retain their obedience under the utmost sufferings: he tries them in a few instances, and is deposed by them for his credulity.
I remember at the beginning of King James’s reign the Quakers presented an Address, which gave great offence to the High Church-men of those times. But notwithstanding the uncourtliness of their phrases, the sense was very honest. The Address was as follows, to the best of my memory, for I then took great notice of it; and may serve as a counterpart to the foregoing one.
“These are to testify to thee our sorrow for our friend Charles, whom we hope thou wilt follow in every thing that is good.
“We hear that thou art not of the religion of the land any more than we, and therefore may reasonably expect that thou wilt give us the same liberty that thou takest thy self.
“We hope that in this and all things else thou wilt promote the good of thy people, which will oblige us to pray that thy reign over us may be long and prosperous.”
Had all King James’s subjects addressed him with the same integrity; he had, in all probability, sat upon his throne till death had removed him from it.
Thursday, May 3, 1711
. . . Intus, & in jecore aegro Nascuntur Domini . . .
Most of the Trades, Professions, and Ways of Living among Mankind, take their Original either from the Love of Pleasure or the Fear of Want. The former, when it becomes too violent, degenerates into Luxury, and the latter into Avarice. As these two Principles of Action draw different Ways, Persius has given us a very humorous Account of a young Fellow who was rouzed out of his Bed, in order to be sent upon a long Voyage by Avarice, and afterwards over-persuaded and kept at Home by Luxury. I shall set down at length the Pleadings of these two imaginary Persons, as they are in the Original, with Mr. Dryden’s Translation of them.
When a Government flourishes in Conquests, and is secure from foreign Attacks, it naturally falls into all the Pleasures of Luxury; and as these Pleasures are very expensive, they put those who are addicted to them upon raising fresh Supplies of Mony, by all the Methods of Rapaciousness and Corruption; so that Avarice and Luxury very often become one complicated Principle of Action, in those whose Hearts are wholly set upon Ease, Magnificence, and Pleasure. The most Elegant and Correct of all the Latin Historians observes, that in his time, when the most formidable States of the World were subdued by the Romans, the Republick sunk into those two Vices of a quite different Nature, Luxury and Avarice: And accordingly describes Catiline as one who coveted the Wealth of other Men, at the same time that he squandred away his own. This Observation on the Commonwealth, when it was in its height of Power and Riches, holds good of all Governments that are settled in a State of Ease and Prosperity. At such times Men naturally endeavour to outshine one another in Pomp and Splendor, and having no Fears to alarm them from abroad, indulge themselves in the Enjoyment of all the Pleasures they can get into their Possession; which naturally produces Avarice, and an immoderate Pursuit after Wealth and Riches.
As I was humouring my self in the Speculation of these two great Principles of Action, I could not forbear throwing my Thoughts into a little kind of Allegory or Fable, with which I shall here present my Reader.
There were two very powerful Tyrants engaged in a perpetual War against each other: The Name of the first was Luxury, and of the second Avarice. The Aim of each of them was no less than Universal Monarchy over the Hearts of Mankind. Luxury had many Generals under him, who did him great Service, as Pleasure, Mirth, Pomp, and Fashion. Avarice was likewise very strong in his Officers, being faithfully served by Hunger, Industry, Care and Watchfulness: He had likewise a Privy-Counsellor who was always at his Elbow, and whispering something or other in his Ear: the Name of this Privy-Counsellor was Poverty. As Avarice conducted himself by the Counsels of Poverty, his Antagonist was entirely guided by the Dictates and Advice of Plenty, who was his first Counsellor and Minister of State, that concerted all his Measures for him, and never departed out of his sight. While these two great Rivals were thus contending for Empire, their Conquests were very various. Luxury got Possession of one Heart, and Avarice of another. The Father of a Family would often range himself under the Banners of Avarice, and the Son under those of Luxury. The Wife and Husband would often declare themselves on the two different Parties; nay, the same Person would very often side with one in his Youth, and revolt to the other in his old Age. Indeed the Wise Men of the World stood Neuter; but alas! their Numbers were not considerable. At length, when these two Potentates had wearied themselves with waging War upon one another, they agreed upon an Interview, at which neither of their Counsellors were to be present. It is said that Luxury began the Parly, and after having represented the endless State of War in which they were engaged, told his Enemy, with a Frankness of Heart which is natural to him, that he believed they two should be very good Friends, were it not for the Instigations of Poverty, that pernicious Counsellor, who made an ill use of his Ear, and filled him with groundless Apprehensions and Prejudices. To this Avarice replied, that he looked upon Plenty, (the first Minister of his Antagonist) to be a much more destructive Counsellor than Poverty, for that he was perpetually suggesting Pleasures, banishing all the necessary Cautions against Want, and consequently undermining those Principles on which the Government of Avarice was founded. At last, in order to an Accommodation, they agreed upon this Preliminary; That each of them should immediately dismiss his Privy-Counsellor. When things were thus far adjusted towards a Peace, all other Differences were soon accommodated, insomuch that for the future they resolved to live as good Friends and Confederates, and to share between them whatever Conquests were made on either side. For this Reason, we now find Luxury and Avarice taking Possession of the same Heart, and dividing the same Person between them. To which I shall only add, that since the discarding of the Counsellors above mentioned, Avarice supplies Luxury in the room of Plenty, as Luxury Prompts Avarice in the place of Poverty.
Tuesday, July 24, 1711
Ne pueri, ne tanta animis assuescite bella:
Neu patriae validas in viscera vertite vires.
My worthy Friend Sir Roger, when we are talking of the Malice of Parties, very frequently tells us an Accident that happened to him when he was a School-boy, which was at a time when the Feuds ran high between the Round-heads and Cavaliers. This worthy Knight being then but a Stripling, had Occasion to enquire which was the Way to St. Ann’s Lane, upon which the Person whom he spoke to, instead of answering his Question, called him a young Popish Cur, and asked him who had made Ann a Saint? The Boy being in some Confusion, enquired of the next he met, which was the way to Ann’s Lane, but was called a Prick-eared Curr for his Pains, and instead of being shown the Way was told, that she had been a Saint before he was born, and would be one after he was hang’d. Upon this, says Sir Roger, I did not think fit to repeat the former Question, but going into every Lane of the Neighbourhood, asked what they called the Name of that Lane. By which ingenious Artifice he found out the Place he enquired after, without giving Offence to any Party. Sir Roger generally closes this Narrative with Reflections on the Mischief that Parties do in the Country; how they spoil good Neighbourhood, and make honest Gentlemen hate one another; besides that they manifestly tend to the Prejudice of the Land-Tax, and the Destruction of the Game.
There cannot a greater Judgment befall a Country than such a dreadful Spirit of Division as rends a Government into two distinct People, and makes them greater Strangers and more averse to one another, than if they were actually two different Nations. The Effects of such a Division are pernicious to the last degree, not only with regard to those Advantages which they give the Common Enemy, but to those private Evils which they produce in the Heart of almost every particular Person. This Influence is very fatal both to Mens Morals and their Understandings; It sinks the Virtue of a Nation, and not only so, but destroys even Common Sense.
A furious Party Spirit, when it rages in its full Violence, exerts it self in Civil War and Blood-shed; and when it is under its greatest Restraints naturally breaks out in Falshood, Detraction, Calumny, and a partial Administration of Justice. In a word, It fills a Nation with Spleen and Rancour, and extinguishes all the Seeds of Good-nature, Compassion and Humanity.
Plutarch says very finely, that a Man should not allow himself to hate even his Enemies, because, says he, if you indulge this Passion in some Occasions, it will rise of it self in others; if you hate your Enemies, you will contract such a vicious Habit of Mind, as by Degrees will break out upon those who are your Friends, or those who are indifferent to you. I might here observe how admirably this Precept of Morality (which derives the Malignity of Hatred from the Passion it self, and not from its Object) answers to that great Rule which was dictated to the World about an hundred years before this Philosopher wrote; but instead of that, I shall only take notice, with a real Grief of Heart, that the Minds of many good Men among us appear sowered with Party-Principles, and alienated from one another in such a manner, as seems to me altogether inconsistent with the Dictates either of Reason or Religion. Zeal for a Publick Cause is apt to breed Passions in the Hearts of virtuous Persons, to which the Regard of their own private Interest would never have betrayed them.
If this Party Spirit has so ill an Effect on our Morals, it has likewise a very great one upon our Judgments. We often hear a poor insipid Paper or Pamphlet cryed up, and sometimes a noble Piece depretiated by those who are of a different Principle from the Author. One who is actuated by this Spirit is almost under an Incapacity of discerning either real Blemishes or Beauties. A Man of Merit in a different Principle, is like an Object seen in two different Mediums, that appears crooked or broken, however streight and entire it may be in it self. For this Reason there is scarce a Person of any Figure in England who does not go by two contrary Characters, as opposite to one another as Light and Darkness. Knowledge and Learning suffer in a particular manner from this strange Prejudice, which at present prevails amongst all Ranks and Degrees in the British Nation. As Men formerly became eminent in learned Societies by their Parts and Acquisitions, they now distinguish themselves by the Warmth and Violence with which they espouse their respective Parties. Books are valued upon the like Considerations: An Abusive, Scurrilous Style passes for Satyr, and a dull Scheme of Party Notions is called fine Writing.
There is one Piece of Sophistry practised by both Sides, and that is the taking any scandalous Story that has been ever whispered or invented of a Private Man, for a known undoubted Truth, and raising suitable Speculations upon it. Calumnies that have been never proved, or have been often refuted, are the ordinary Postulatums of these infamous Scriblers, upon which they proceed as upon first Principles granted by all Men, though in their Hearts they know they are false, or at best very doubtful. When they have laid these Foundations of Scurrility, it is no wonder that their Superstructure is every way answerable to them. If this shameless Practice of the present Age endures much longer, Praise and Reproach will cease to be Motives of Action in good Men.
There are certain Periods of Time in all Governments when this inhuman Spirit prevails. Italy was long torn in pieces by the Guelfes and Gibellines, and France by those who were for and against the League, but it is very unhappy for a Man to be born in such a stormy and tempestuous Season. It is the restless Ambition of Artful Men that thus breaks a People into Factions, and draws several well-meaning Persons to their Interest, by a Specious Concern for their Country. How many honest Minds are filled with uncharitable and barbarous Notions, out of their Zeal for the Publick Good? What Cruelties and Outrages would they not commit against Men of an adverse Party, whom they would honour and esteem, if instead of considering them as they are represented, they knew them as they are? Thus are Persons of the greatest Probity seduced into shameful Errors and Prejudices, and made bad Men even by that noblest of Principles, the Love of their Country. I cannot here forbear mentioning the Famous Spanish Proverb,If there were neither Fools nor Knaves in the World, all People would be of one Mind.
For my own part, I could heartily wish that all Honest Men would enter into an Association, for the Support of one another against the Endeavours of those whom they ought to look upon as their common Enemies, whatsoever side they may belong to. Were there such an honest Body of Neutral Forces, we should never see the worst of Men in great Figures of Life, because they are useful to a Party; nor the best unregarded, because they are above practising those Methods which would be grateful to their Faction. We should then single every Criminal out of the Herd, and hunt him down, however formidable and overgrown he might appear: On the contrary, we should shelter distressed Innocence, and defend Virtue, however beset with Contempt or Ridicule, Envy or Defamation. In short, we should not any longer regard our Fellow-Subjects as Whigs or Tories, but should make the Man of Merit our Friend, and the Villain our Enemy.
Thursday, September 13, 1711
Man is subject to innumerable Pains and Sorrows by the very Condition of Humanity, and yet, as if Nature had not sown Evils enough in Life, we are continually adding Grief to Grief, and aggravating the common Calamity by our cruel Treatment of one another. Every Man’s natural weight of Affliction is still made more heavy by the Envy, Malice, Treachery or Injustice of his Neighbour. At the same time that the Storm beats upon the whole Species, we are falling foul upon one another.
Half the Misery of Human Life might be extinguished, would Men alleviate the general Curse they lye under, by mutual Offices of Compassion, Benevolence and Humanity. There is nothing therefore which we ought more to encourage in our selves and others, than that Disposition of Mind which in our Language goes under the Title of Good-nature, and which I shall chuse for the Subject of this Day’s Speculation.
Good-nature is more agreeable in Conversation than Wit, and gives a certain Air to the Countenance which is more amiable than Beauty. It shows Virtue in the fairest Light, takes off in some measure from the Deformity of Vice, and makes even Folly and Impertinence supportable.
There is no Society or Conversation to be kept up in the World without Good-nature, or something which must bear its Appearance, and supply its Place. For this Reason Mankind have been forced to invent a kind of artificial Humanity, which is what we express by the Word Good-Breeding. For if we examine thoroughly the Idea of what we call so, we shall find it to be nothing else but an Imitation and Mimickry of Good-nature, or in other Terms, Affability, Complaisance and Easiness of Temper reduced into an Art.
These exterior Shows and Appearances of Humanity render a Man wonderfully popular and beloved, when they are founded upon a real Good-nature; but without it are like Hypocrisie in Religion, or a bare Form of Holiness, which, when it is discovered, makes a Man more detestable than professed Impiety.
Good-nature is generally born with us; Health, Prosperity and kind Treatment from the World are great Cherishers of it where they find it, but nothing is capable of forcing it up, where it does not grow of it self. It is one of the Blessings of a happy Constitution, which Education may improve but not produce.
Xenophon in the Life of his Imaginary Prince, whom he describes as a Pattern for Real ones, is always celebrating the (Philanthropy) or Good-nature of his Hero, which he tells us he brought into the World with him, and gives many remarkable Instances of it in his Childhood, as well as in all the several parts of his Life. Nay, on his Death-bed, he describes him as being pleased, that while his Soul returned to him who made it, his Body should incorporate with the great Mother of all things, and by that means become beneficial to Mankind. For which reason he gives his Sons a positive Order not to enshrine it in Gold or Silver, but to lay it in the Earth as soon as the Life was gone out of it.
An Instance of such an overflowing of Humanity, such an exuberant Love to Mankind, could not have entred into the Imagination of a Writer, who had not a Soul filled with great Ideas, and a general Benevolence to Mankind.
In that celebrated Passage of Salust, where Caesar and Cato are placed in such beautiful, but opposite Lights; Caesar’s Character is chiefly made up of Good-nature, as it show’d it self in all its forms towards his Friends or his Enemies, his Servants or Dependants, the Guilty or the Distressed. As for Cato’s Character, it is rather awful than amiable. Justice seems most agreeable to the Nature of God, and Mercy to that of Man. A Being who has nothing to Pardon in himself, may reward every Man according to his Works; but he whose very best Actions must be seen with grains of Allowance, cannot be too mild, moderate and forgiving. For this reason, among all the monstrous Characters in Human Nature, there is none so Odious, nor indeed so exquisitely Ridiculous, as that of a rigid severe Temper in a Worthless Man.
This part of Good-nature, however, which consists in the pardoning and over-looking of Faults, is to be exercised only in doing our selves Justice, and that too in the ordinary Commerce and Occurrences of Life, for in the Publick Administrations of Justice, Mercy to one may be Cruelty to others.
It is grown almost into a Maxim, that Good-natured Men are not always Men of the most Wit. This Observation, in my Opinion, has no Foundation in Nature. The greatest Wits I have conversed with are Men eminent for their Humanity. I take therefore this Remark to have been occasioned by two Reasons. First, Because Ill-nature among ordinary Observers passes for Wit. A spightful Saying gratifies so many little Passions in those who hear it, that it generally meets with a good Reception. The Laugh rises upon it, and the Man who utters it is look’d upon as a shrewd Satyrist. This may be one Reason why a great many pleasant Companions appear so surprisingly dull, when they have endeavour’d to be Merry in Print, the Publick being more just than private Clubs or Assemblies, in distinguishing between what is Wit and what is Ill-nature.
Another Reason why the Good-natured Man may sometimes bring his Wit in Question is, perhaps, because he is apt to be moved with Compassion for those Misfortunes or Infirmities, which another would turn into Ridicule, and by that means gain the Reputation of a Wit. The Ill-natured Man, though but of equal Parts, gives himself a larger Field to expatiate in, he exposes those Failings in Human Nature which the other would cast a Veil over, laughs at Vices which the other either excuses or conceals, gives utterance to Reflections which the other stifles, falls indifferently upon Friends or Enemies, exposes the Person who has obliged him, and in short sticks at nothing that may establish his Character of a Wit. It is no wonder therefore he succeeds in it better than the Man of Humanity, as a Person who makes use of indirect Methods is more likely to grow Rich than the Fair Trader.
Tuesday, November 6, 1711
. . . Ingenuas didicisse fideliter artes Emollit mores, nec sinit esse feros.
I consider an Human Soul without Education like Marble in the Quarry, which shews none of its inherent Beauties, till the Skill of the Polisher fetches out the Colours, makes the Surface shine, and discovers every ornamental Cloud, Spot and Vein that runs through the Body of it. Education, after the same manner, when it works upon a noble Mind, draws out to View every latent Vertue and Perfection, which without such Helps are never able to make their Appearance.
If my Reader will give me leave to change the Allusion so soon upon him, I shall make use of the same Instance to illustrate the Force of Education, which Aristotle has brought to explain his Doctrine of Substantial Forms, when he tells us, that a Statue lies hid in a Block of Marble; and that the Art of the Statuary only clears away the superfluous Matter, and removes the Rubbish. The Figure is in the Stone, the Sculptor only finds it. What Sculpture is to a Block of Marble, Education is to an Human Soul. The Philosopher, the Saint, or the Hero, the Wise, the Good, or the Great Man, very often lie hid and concealed in a Plebean, which a proper Education might have disenterred, and have brought to Light. I am therefore much delighted with Reading the Accounts of Savage Nations, and with contemplating those Vertues which are wild and uncultivated; to see Courage exerting it self in Fierceness, Resolution in Obstinacy, Wisdom in Cunning, Patience in Sullenness and Despair.
Mens Passions operate variously, and appear in different kinds of Actions, according as they are more or less rectified and swayed by Reason. When one hears of Negroes, who upon the Death of their Masters, or upon changing their Service, hang themselves upon the next Tree, as it frequently happens in our American Plantations, who can forbear admiring their Fidelity, though it expresses it self in so dreadful a manner? What might not that Savage Greatness of Soul, which appears in these poor Wretches on many Occasions, be raised to, were it rightly cultivated? And what Colour of Excuse can there be for the Contempt with which we treat this Part of our Species; That we should not put them upon the common foot of Humanity, that we should only set an insignificant Fine upon the Man who murders them; nay, that we should, as much as in us lies, cut them off from the Prospects of Happiness in another World as well as in this, and deny them that which we look upon as the proper Means for attaining it?
Since I am engaged on this Subject, I cannot forbear mentioning a Story which I have lately heard, and which is so well attested, that I have no manner of reason to suspect the Truth of it. I may call it a kind of wild Tragedy that passed about twelve Years ago at St. Christophers, one of our British Leeward Islands. The Negroes who were concern’d in it, were all of them the Slaves of a Gentleman who is now in England.
This Gentleman among his Negroes had a young Woman, who was looked upon as a most extraordinary Beauty by those of her own Complexion. He had at the same time two young Fellows who were likewise Negroes and Slaves, remarkable for the Comeliness of their Persons, and for the Friendship which they bore to one another. It unfortunately happened that both of them fell in Love with the Female Negro abovementioned, who would have been very glad to have taken either of them for her Husband, provided they could agree between themselves which should be the Man. But they were both so passionately in Love with her, that neither of them could think of giving her up to his Rival; and at the same time were so true to one another, that neither of them would think of gaining her without his Friend’s Consent. The Torments of these two Lovers were the Discourse of the Family to which they belonged, who could not forbear observing the strange Complication of Passions which perplexed the Hearts of the poor Negroes, that often dropped Expressions of the Uneasiness they underwent, and how impossible it was for either of them ever to be happy.
After a long Struggle between Love and Friendship, Truth and Jealousy, they one Day took a Walk together into a Wood, carrying their Mistress along with them: Where, after abundance of Lamentations, they stabbed her to the Heart, of which she immediately died. A Slave who was at his Work not far from the Place where this astonishing piece of Cruelty was committed, hearing the Shrieks of the dying Person, ran to see what was the Occasion of them. He there discovered the Woman lying dead upon the Ground, with the two Negroes on each side of her, kissing the dead Corps, weeping over it, and beating their Breasts in the utmost Agonies of Grief and Despair. He immediately ran to the English Family with the News of what he had seen; who upon coming to the Place saw the Woman dead, and the two Negroes expiring by her with Wounds they had given themselves.
We see, in this amazing Instance of Barbarity, what strange Disorders are bred in the Minds of those Men whose Passions are not regulated by Vertue, and disciplined by Reason. Though the Action which I have recited is in it self full of Guilt and Horror, it proceeded from a Temper of Mind which might have produced very noble Fruits, had it been informed and guided by a suitable Education.
It is therefore an unspeakable Blessing to be born in those Parts of the World where Wisdom and Knowledge flourish; though it must be confest, there are, even in these Parts, several poor uninstructed Persons, who are but little above the Inhabitants of those Nations of which I have been here speaking; as those who have had the Advantages of a more liberal Education rise above one another, by several different degrees of Perfection. For to return to our Statue in the Block of Marble, we see it sometimes only begun to be chipped, sometimes rough-hewn and but just sketched into an human Figure, sometimes we see the Man appearing distinctly in all his Limbs and Features, sometimes we find the Figure wrought up to a great Elegancy, but seldom meet with any to which the Hand of a Phidias or a Praxiteles could not give several nice touches and Finishings.
Discourses of Morality, and Reflections upon human Nature, are the best Means we can make use of to improve our Minds, and gain a true Knowledge of our selves, and consequently to recover our Souls out of the Vice, Ignorance and Prejudice which naturally cleave to them. I have all along profest my self in this Paper a Promoter of these great Ends, and I flatter my self that I do from Day to Day contribute something to the polishing of Mens Minds; at least my Design is laudable, whatever the Execution may be. I must confess I am not a little encouraged in it by many Letters, which I receive from unknown Hands, in Approbation of my Endeavours, and must take this Opportunity of returning my Thanks to those who write them, and excusing my self for not inserting several of them in my Papers, which I am sensible would be a very great Ornament to them. Should I publish the Praises which are so well penned, they would do Honour to the Persons who write them; but my publishing of them would I fear be a sufficient Instance to the World that I did not deserve them.
Saturday, November 10, 1711
Vix ea nostra voco . . .
There are but few Men who are not Ambitious of distinguishing themselves in the Nation or Country where they live, and of growing Considerable among those with whom they converse. There is a kind of Grandeur and Respect, which the meanest and most insignificant part of Mankind endeavour to procure in the little Circle of their Friends and Acquaintance. The poorest Mechanick, nay, the Man who lives upon common Alms, gets him his Sett of Admirers, and delights in that Superiority which he enjoys over those who are in some Respects beneath him. This Ambition, which is natural to the Soul of Man, might methinks receive a very happy turn; and, if it were rightly directed, contribute as much to a Person’s Advantage, as it generally does to his Uneasiness and Disquiet.
I shall therefore put together some Thoughts on this Subject, which I have not met with in other Writers, and shall set them down as they have occurred to me, without being at the Pains to Connect or Methodise them.
All Superiority and Praeeminence that one Man can have over another, may be reduced to the Notion of Quality, which considered at large, is either that of Fortune, Body, or Mind. The first is that which consists in Birth, Title or Riches, and is the most foreign to our Natures, and what we can the least call our own of any of the three kinds of Quality. In relation to the Body, Quality arises from Health, Strength or Beauty, which are nearer to us, and more a Part of our selves than the former. Quality as it regards the Mind, has its rise from Knowledge or Vertue, and is that which is more essential to us, and more intimately united with us than either of the other two.
The Quality of Fortune, tho’ a Man has less reason to value himself upon it than on that of the Body or Mind, is however the kind of Quality which makes the most shining Figure in the Eye of the World.
As Vertue is the most reasonable and genuine Source of Honour, we generally find in Titles an Intimation of some particular Merit that should recommend Men to the high Stations which they possess. Holiness is ascribed to the Pope; Majesty to Kings; Serenity or Mildness of Temper to Princes; Excellence or Perfection to Ambassadors; Grace to Arch-Bishops; Honour to Peers; Worship or Venerable Behaviour to Magistrates; and Reverence, which is of the same Import as the former, to the inferior Clergy.
In the Founders of great Families such Attributes of Honour are generally correspondent with the Vertues of that Person to whom they are applied; but in the Descendants they are too often the Marks rather of Grandeur than of Merit. The Stamp and Denomination still continues, but the Intrinsick Value is frequently lost.
The Death-Bed shews the Emptiness of Titles in a true Light. A poor dispirited Sinner lies trembling under the Apprehensions of the State he is entring on; and is asked by a grave Attendant how his Holiness does? Another hears himself addressed to under the Title of Highness or Excellency, who lies under such mean Circumstances of Mortality as are the Disgrace of Human Nature. Titles at such a time look rather like Insults and Mockery than Respect.
The truth of it is, Honours are in this World under no Regulation; true Quality is neglected, Vertue is oppressed, and Vice triumphant. The last Day will rectifie this Disorder, and assign to every one a Station suitable to the Dignity of his Character; Ranks will be then adjusted, and Precedency set right.
Methinks we should have an Ambition, if not to advance our selves in another World, at least to preserve our Post in it, and outshine our Inferiors in Vertue here, that they may not be put above us in a State which is to settle the Distinction for Eternity.
Men in Scripture are called Strangers and Sojourners upon Earth, and Life a Pilgrimage. Several Heathen as well as Christian Authors, under the same kind of Metaphor, have represented the World as an Inn, which was only designed to furnish us with Accommodations in this our Passage. It is therefore very absurd to think of setting up our Rest before we come to our Journey’s End, and not rather to take care of the Reception we shall there meet, than to fix our Thoughts on the little Conveniences and Advantages which we enjoy one above another in the Way to it.
Epictetus makes use of another kind of Allusion, which is very beautiful, and wonderfully proper to incline us to be satisfyed with the Post in which Providence has placed us. We are here, says he, as in a Theatre, where every one has a Part allotted to him. The great Duty which lies upon a Man is to act his Part in Perfection. We may, indeed, say that our Part does not suit us, and that we could act another better. But this (says the Philosopher) is not our Business. All that we are concerned in is to excell in the Part which is given us. If it be an improper one the Fault is not in us, but in him who has cast our several Parts, and is the great Disposer of the Drama.
The Part which was acted by this Philosopher himself was but a very indifferent one, for he lived and died a Slave. His Motive to Contentment in this particular receives a very great Inforcement from the abovementioned Consideration, if we remember that our Parts in the other World will be new cast, and that Mankind will be there ranged in different Stations of Superiority and Praeeminence, in Proportion as they have here excelled one another in Vertue, and performed in their several Posts of Life the Duties which belong to them.
There are many beautiful Passages in the little Apocryphal Book, entitled, The Wisdom of Solomon, to set forth the Vanity of Honour, and the like Temporal Blessings, which are in so great Repute among Men, and to comfort those who have not the Possession of them. It represents in very warm and noble Terms this Advancement of a good Man in the other World, and the great Surprize which it will produce among those who are his Superiors in this. “Then shall the Righteous Man stand in great Boldness before the Face of such as have afflicted him, and made no Account of his Labours. When they see it they shall be troubled with terrible Fear, and shall be amazed at the strangeness of his Salvation, so far beyond all that they looked for. And they repenting, and groaning for Anguish of Spirit, shall say within themselves, This was he whom we had sometime in Derision, and a Proverb of Reproach. We Fools accounted his Life Madness, and his End to be without Honour. How is he numbered among the Children of God, and his Lot is among the Saints!”
If the Reader would see the Description of a Life that is passed away in Vanity, and among the Shadows of Pomp and Greatness, he may see it very finely drawn in the same Place. In the mean time, since it is necessary, in the present Constitution of things, that Order and Distinction should be kept up in the World, we should be happy if those who enjoy the upper Stations in it would endeavour to surpass others in Vertue, as much as in Rank, and by their Humanity and Condescention make their Superiority easy and acceptable to those who are beneath them; and if, on the contrary, those who are in meaner Posts of Life, would consider how they may better their Condition hereafter, and by a just Deference and Submission to their Superiors make them happy in those Blessings with which Providence has thought fit to distinguish them.
Saturday, November 24, 1711
O Pudor! O Pietas! . . .
Looking over the Letters, which I have lately received from my Correspondents, I met with the following one, which is written with such a Spirit of Politeness, that I could not but be very much pleased with it my self, and question not but it will be as acceptable to the Reader.
“You, who are no Stranger to Publick Assemblies, cannot but have observed the Awe they often strike on such as are obliged to exert any Talent before them. This is a sort of Elegant Distress, to which ingenuous Minds are the most liable, and may therefore deserve some Remarks in your Paper. Many a brave Fellow, who has put his Enemy to Flight in the Field, has been in the utmost Disorder upon making a Speech before a Body of his Friends at home: One would think there was some kind of Fascination in the Eyes of a large Circle of People, when darting all together upon one Person. I have seen a new Actor in a Tragedy so bound up by it as to be scarce able to speak or move, and have expected he would have died above three Acts before the Dagger or Cup of Poison were brought in. It would not be amiss, if such an one were at first introduced as a Ghost, or a Statue, till he recovered his Spirits, and grew fit for some living Part.
“As this sudden Desertion of ones-self shews a Diffidence, which is not displeasing, it implies at the same time the greatest Respect to an Audience that can be. It is a sort of Mute Eloquence, which pleads for their Favour much better than Words could do; and we find their Generosity naturally moved to support those who are in so much Perplexity to entertain them. I was extreamly pleased with a late Instance of this kind at the Opera of Almahide, in the Encouragement given to a young Singer, whose more than ordinary Concern on her First Appearance, recommended her no less than her agreeable Voice, and just Performance. Meer Bashfullness, without Merit, is awkward; and Merit, without Modesty, insolent: But Modest Merit has a double Claim to Acceptance, and generally meets with as many Patrons as Beholders.
I am, & c.”
It is impossible that a Person should exert himself to Advantage in an Assembly, whether it be his part either to sing or speak, who lies under too great Oppressions of Modesty. I remember, upon talking with a Friend of mine concerning the force of Pronunciation, our Discourse led us into the Enumeration of the several Organs of Speech, which an Orator ought to have in Perfection, as the Tongue, the Teeth, the Lips, the Nose, the Palate and the Wind-pipe. Upon which, says my Friend, you have omitted the most material Organ of them all, and that is the Forehead.
But notwithstanding an Excess of Modesty obstructs the Tongue, and renders it unfit for its Offices, a due Proportion of it is thought so requisite to an Orator, that Rhetoricians have recommended it to their Disciples as a Particular in their Art. Cicero tells us, that he never liked an Orator, who did not appear in some little Confusion at the beginning of his Speech, and confesses that he himself never entered upon an Oration without trembling and concern. It is indeed a kind of Deference which is due to a great Assembly, and seldom fails to raise a Benevolence in the Audience towards the Person who speaks. My Correspondent has taken notice, that the bravest Men often appear timorous on these Occasions; as indeed we may observe that there is generally no Creature more impudent than a Coward,
A bold Tongue, and a feeble Arm, are the Qualifications of Drances in Virgil; as Homer, to express a Man both timorous and sawcy, makes use of a kind of Point, which is very rarely to be met with in his Writings; namely, that he had the Eyes of a Dog, but the Heart of a Deer.
A just and reasonable Modesty does not only recommend Eloquence, but sets off every great Talent which a Man can be possessed of. It heightens all the Vertues which it accompanies; like the Shades in Paintings, it raises and rounds every Figure, and makes the Colours more beautiful, tho’ not so glaring as they would be without it.
Modesty is not only an Ornament, but also a Guard to Vertue. It is a kind of quick and delicate feeling in the Soul, which makes her shrink and withdraw her self from every thing that has Danger in it. It is such an exquisite Sensibility, as warns her to shun the first appearance of every thing which is hurtful.
I cannot at present recollect either the Place or Time of what I am going to mention; but I have read somewhere in the History of Ancient Greece, that the Women of the Country were seized with an unaccountable Melancholy, which disposed several of them to make away with themselves. The Senate, after having tryed many Expedients to prevent this Self-Murder, which was so frequent among them, Published an Edict, that if any Woman whatever should lay violent Hands upon herself, her Corps should be exposed Naked in the Street, and dragged about the City in the most publick manner. This Edict immediately put a stop to the Practice which was before so common. We may see in this Instance the Strength of Female Modesty, which was able to overcome the Violence even of Madness and Despair. The Fear of Shame in the Fair Sex, was in those Days more prevalent than that of Death.
If Modesty has so great an Influence over our Actions, and is in many cases so impregnable a fence to Vertue; what can more undermine Morality than that Politeness which reigns among the unthinking part of Mankind, and treats as unfashionable the most ingenuous part of our Behaviour; which recommends Impudence as Good-Breeding, and keeps a Man always in Countenance, not because he is Innocent, but because he is Shameless?
Seneca thought Modesty so great a Check to Vice, that he prescribes to us the Practice of it in Secret, and advises us to raise it in our selves upon imaginary Occasions, when such as are real do not offer themselves; for this is the meaning of his Precept, that when we are by our selves, and in our greatest Solitudes, we should fancy that Cato stands before us, and sees every thing we do. In short, if you banish Modesty out of the World, she carries away with her half the Vertue that is in it.
After these Reflections on Modesty, as it is a Vertue, I must observe, that there is a vicious Modesty, which justly deserves to be ridiculed, and which those Persons very often discover, who value themselves most upon a well-bred Confidence. This happens when a Man is ashamed to act up to his Reason, and would not upon any Consideration be surprized in the practice of those Duties, for the Performance of which he was sent into the World. Many an Impudent Libertine would blush to be caught in a serious Discourse, and would scarce be able to show his Head, after having disclosed a Religious Thought. Decency of Behaviour, all outward Show of Vertue, and Abhorrence of Vice, are carefully avoided by this Sett of shamefaced People, as what would disparage their gayety of Temper, and infallibly bring them to Dishonour. This is such a poorness of Spirit, such a despicable Cowardice, such a degenerate abject state of Mind as one would think Human Nature incapable of, did we not meet with frequent Instances of it in ordinary Conversation.
There is another kind of Vicious Modesty which makes a Man ashamed of his Person, his Birth, his Profession, his Poverty, or the like Misfortunes, which it was not in his Choice to prevent, and is not in his Power to rectifie. If a Man appears ridiculous by any of the aforementioned Circumstances, he becomes much more so by being out of Countenance for them. They should rather give him occasion to exert a noble Spirit, and to paliate those Imperfections which are not in his Power, by those Perfections which are; or to use a very witty Allusion of an eminent Author, he should imitate Caesar, who because his Head was bald, covered that Defect with Laurels.
Saturday, December 1, 1711
Visu carenti magna Pars Veri latet.
It is very reasonable to believe, that part of the Pleasure which happy Minds shall enjoy in a future State, will arise from an enlarged Contemplation of the Divine Wisdom in the Government of the World, and a Discovery of the secret and amazing Steps of Providence, from the Beginning to the End of Time. Nothing seems to be an Entertainment more adapted to the Nature of Man, if we consider that Curiosity is one of the strongest and most lasting Appetites implanted in us, and that Admiration is one of our most pleasing Passions; and what a perpetual Succession of Enjoyments will be afforded to both these, in a Scene so large and various as shall then be laid open to our View in the Society of superior Spirits, who perhaps will joyn with us in so delightful a Prospect.
It is not impossible, on the contrary, that part of the Punishment of such as are excluded from Bliss may consist not only in their being denied this Privilege, but in having their Appetites at the same time vastly encreased, without any Satisfaction afforded to them. In these, the vain Pursuit of Knowledge shall, perhaps, add to their Infelicity, and bewilder them in Labyrinths of Error, Darkness, Distraction, and Uncertainty of every thing but their own Evil State. Milton has thus represented the fallen Angels reasoning together in a kind of Respite from their Torments, and creating to themselves a new Disquiet amidst their very Amusements; he could not properly have described the Sports of condemned Spirits, without that Cast of Horror and Melancholy he has so judiciously mingled with them.
In our present Condition, which is a middle State, our Minds are, as it were, chequered with Truth and Falshood; and as our Faculties are narrow and our Views imperfect, it is impossible but our Curiosity must meet with many Repulses. The Business of Mankind in this Life being rather to act than to know, their Portion of Knowledge is dealt to them accordingly.
From hence it is, that the Reason of the Inquisitive has so long been exercised with Difficulties, in accounting for the promiscuous Distribution of Good and Evil to the virtuous and the wicked in this World. From hence come all those Pathetical Complaints of so many Tragical Events, which happen to the Wise and the Good; and of such surprizing Prosperity, which is often the Lot of the Guilty and the Foolish; that Reason is sometimes puzzled, and at a loss what to pronounce upon so mysterious a Dispensation.
Plato expresses his Abhorrence of some Fables of the Poets, which seem to reflect on the Gods as the Authors of Injustice; and lays it down as a Principle, that whatever is permitted to befal a Just Man, whether Poverty, Sickness, or any of those things which seem to be Evils, shall either in Life or Death conduce to his Good. My Reader will observe how agreeable this Maxim is to what we find delivered by a greater Authority. Seneca has written a Discourse purposely on this Subject, in which he takes Pains, after the Doctrine of the Stoicks, to shew, that Adversity is not in it self an Evil; and mentions a noble Saying of Demetrius, That nothing wou’d be more Unhappy than a Man who had never known Affliction. He compares Prosperity to the Indulgence of a fond Mother to a Child, which often proves his Ruin; but the Affection of the Divine Being to that of a Wise Father, who wou’d have his Sons exercised with Labour, Disappointment and Pain, that they may gather Strength, and improve their Fortitude. On this Occasion the Philosopher rises into that celebrated Sentiment, that there is not on Earth a Spectacle more worthy the Regard of a Creator intent on his Works, than a brave Man superior to his Sufferings; to which he adds, that it must be a Pleasure to Jupiter himself to look down from Heaven, and see Cato amidst the Ruins of his Country preserving his Integrity.
This Thought will appear yet more reasonable, if we consider Human Life as a State of Probation, and Adversity as the Post of Honour in it, assign’d often to the best and most select Spirits.
But what I wou’d chiefly insist on here, is, that we are not at present in a proper Situation to judge of the Counsels by which Providence acts, since but little arrives at our Knowledge, and even that little we discern imperfectly; or, according to the elegant Figure in Holy Writ, we see but in part, and as in a Glass darkly. It is to be consider’d that Providence in its Oeconomy regards the whole System of Time and Things together, so that we cannot discover the beautiful Connexions between Incidents which lye widely separated in Time, and by losing so many Links of the Chain, our Reasonings become broken and imperfect. Thus those Parts in the Moral World which have not an absolute, may yet have a relative Beauty, in respect of some other Parts concealed from us, but open to his Eye before whom Past, Present and To come, are set together in one point of View; and those Events, the Permission of which seems now to accuse his Goodness, may in the Consummation of Things, both magnifie his Goodness and exalt his Wisdom. And this is enough to check our Presumption, since it is in vain to apply our Measures of Regularity to Matters of which we know neither the Antecedents nor the Consequents, the Beginning nor the End.
I shall relieve my Readers from this abstracted Thought, by relating here a Jewish Tradition concerning Moses, which seems to be a kind of Parable, illustrating what I have last mentioned. That great Prophet, it is said, was called up by a Voice from Heaven to the Top of a Mountain; where, in a Conference with the Supreme Being, he was permitted to propose to him some Questions concerning his Administration of the Universe. In the midst of this Divine Colloquy he was commanded to look down on the Plain below. At the Foot of the Mountain there issued out a clear Spring of Water, at which a Soldier alighted from his Horse to Drink. He was no sooner gone than a little Boy came to the same Place, and finding a Purse of Gold which the Soldier had dropped, took it up and went away with it. Immediately after this came an Infirm old Man, weary with Age and Travelling, and having quenched his Thirst, sat down to rest himself by the side of the Spring. The Soldier missing his Purse returns to search for it, and demands it of the old Man, who affirms he had not seen it, and appeals to Heaven in witness of his Innocence. The Soldier, not believing his Protestations, kills him. Moses fell on his Face with Horror and Amazement, when the Divine Voice thus prevented his Expostulation, “Be not surprised, Moses, nor ask why the Judge of the whole Earth has suffer’d this thing to come to pass; the Child is the Occasion that the Blood of the old Man is spilt; but know, that the old Man whom thou sawest was the Murderer of that Child’s Father.”
Saturday, December 8, 1711
Forman quidem ipsam, Marce fili, & tanquam faciem Honesti vides: quae si oculis cerneretur, mirabiles amores (ut ait Plato) excitaret Sapientiae.
I do not remember to have read any Discourse written expresly upon the Beauty and Loveliness of Virtue, without considering it as a Duty, and as the Means of making us happy both now and hereafter. I design therefore this Speculation as an Essay upon that Subject, in which I shall consider Virtue no further than as it is in it self of an amiable Nature, after having premised that I understand by the word Virtue such a general Notion as is affixed to it by the Writers of Morality, and which by Devout Men generally goes under the Name of Religion, and by Men of the World under the Name of Honour.
Hypocrisie it self does great Honour, or rather Justice, to Religion, and tacitly acknowledges it to be an Ornament to Human Nature. The Hypocrite would not be at so much Pains to put on the Appearance of Virtue, if he did not know it was the most proper and effectual Means to gain the Love and Esteem of Mankind.
We learn from Hierocles it was a common Saying among the Heathens, that the Wise Man hates no Body, but only loves the Virtuous.
Tully has a very beautiful Gradation of Thoughts, to shew how amiable Virtue is. We love a Virtuous Man, says he, who lives in the remotest Parts of the Earth, tho’ we are altogether out of the reach of his Virtue, and can receive from it no manner of Benefit; nay, one who died several Ages ago, raises a secret Fondness and Benevolence for him in our Minds, when we read his Story: Nay, what is still more, one who has been the Enemy of our Country, provided his Wars were regulated by Justice and Humanity, as in the Instance of Pyrrhus, whom Tully mentions on this Occasion in opposition to Hannibal. Such is the natural Beauty and Loveliness of Virtue.
Stoicism, which was the Pedantry of Virtue, ascribes all good Qualifications of what kind soever to the Virtuous Man. Accordingly Cato, in the Character Tully has left of him, carried Matters so far, that he would not allow any one but a Virtuous Man to be handsom. This indeed looks more like a Philosophical Rant, than the real Opinion of a Wise Man: Yet this was what Cato very seriously maintained. In short, the Stoicks thought they cou’d not sufficiently represent the Excellence of Virtue, if they did not comprehend in the Notion of it all possible Perfection; and therefore did not only suppose, that it was transcendently Beautiful in it self, but that it made the very Body amiable, and banished every kind of Deformity from the Person in whom it resided.
It is a common Observation, that the most abandoned to all Sense of Goodness are apt to wish those who are related to them of a different Character; and it is very observable, that none are more struck with the Charms of Virtue in the fair Sex, than those who by their very Admiration of it are carried to a Desire of ruining it.
A virtuous Mind in a fair Body is indeed a fine Picture in a good Light, and therefore it is no wonder that it makes the beautiful Sex all over Charms.
As Virtue in general is of an amiable and lovely Nature, there are some particular kinds of it which are more so than others, and these are such as dispose us to do Good to Mankind. Temperance and Abstinence, Faith and Devotion, are in themselves perhaps as laudable as any other Virtues; but those which make a Man popular and beloved are Justice, Charity, Munificence, and in short all the good Qualities that render us beneficial to each other. For which Reason even an extravagant Man, who has nothing else to recommend him but a false Generosity, is often more beloved and esteemed than a Person of a much more finished Character, who is defective in this Particular.
The two great Ornaments of Virtue, which shew her in the most advantageous Views, and make her altogether lovely, are Chearfulness and Good-nature. These generally go together, as a Man cannot be agreeable to others who is not easie within himself. They are both very requisite in a Virtuous Mind, to keep out Melancholy from the many serious Thoughts it is engaged in, and to hinder its natural Hatred of Vice from sow’ring into Severity and Censoriousness.
If Virtue is of this amiable nature, what can we think of those who can look upon it with an Eye of Hatred and Ill-Will, or can suffer their Aversion for a Party to blot out all the Merit of the Person who is engaged in it. A Man must be excessively stupid, as well as uncharitable, who believes that there is no Virtue but on his own Side, and that there are not Men as honest as himself who may differ from him in political Principles. Men may oppose one another in some Particulars, but ought not to carry their Hatred to those Qualities which are of so amiable a Nature in themselves, and have nothing to do with the Points in dispute. Men of Virtue, though of different Interests, ought to consider themselves as more nearly united with one another, than with the vicious Part of Mankind, who embark with them in the same civil Concerns. We should bear the same Love towards a Man of Honour, who is a living Antagonist, which Tully tells us in the forementioned Passage every one naturally does to an Enemy that is dead. In short, we should esteem Virtue though in a Foe, and abhor Vice though in a Friend.
I speak this with an Eye to those cruel Treatments which Men of all sides are apt to give the Characters of those who do not agree with them. How many Persons of undoubted Probity and exemplary Virtue, on either Side, are blackned and defamed? How many Men of Honour exposed to publick Obloquy and Reproach? Those therefore who are either the Instruments or Abettors in such infernal Dealings, ought to be looked upon as Persons who make use of Religion to promote their Cause, not of their Cause to promote Religion.
Saturday, December 22, 1711
Laudis amore tumes? sunt certa piacula quae te Ter purè lecto poterunt recreare libello.
The Soul, considered abstractedly from its Passions, is of a remiss and sedentary Nature, slow in its Resolves, and languishing in its Executions. The use therefore of the Passions, is to stir it up and put it upon Action, to awaken the Understanding, to enforce the Will, and to make the whole Man more vigorous and attentive in the Prosecution of his Designs. As this is the End of the Passions in general, so it is particularly of Ambition, which pushes the Soul to such Actions as are apt to procure Honour and Reputation to the Actor. But if we carry our Reflections higher, we may discover further Ends of Providence in implanting this Passion in Mankind.
It was necessary for the World, that Arts should be invented and improved, Books written and transmited to Posterity, Nations conquered and civilized: Now since the proper and genuine Motives to these and the like great Actions, would only influence vertuous Minds; there would be but small Improvements in the World, were there not some common Principle of Action working equally with all Men. And such a Principle is Ambition or a Desire of Fame, by which great Endowments are not suffered to lie idle and useless to the Publick, and many vicious Men over-reached, as it were, and engaged contrary to their natural Inclinations in a glorious and laudable course of Action. For we may further observe, that Men of the greatest Abilities are most fired with Ambition, and that, on the contrary, mean and narrow Minds are the least actuated by it. Whether it be that a Man’s Sense of his own Incapacities makes him despair of coming at Fame, or that he has not enough range of Thought to look out for any good which does not more immediately relate to his Interest or Convenience, or that Providence, in the very Frame of his Soul, would not subject him to such a Passion as would be useless to the World, and a Torment to himself.
Were not this Desire of Fame very strong, the Difficulty of obtaining it, and the Danger of losing it when obtained, would be sufficient to deter a Man from so vain a Pursuit.
How few are there who are furnished with Abilities sufficient to recommend their Actions to the Admiration of the World, and to distinguish themselves from the rest of Mankind? Providence for the most part sets us upon a Level, and observes a kind of Proportion in its Dispensations towards us. If it renders us perfect in one Accomplishment, it generally leaves us defective in another, and seems careful rather of preserving every Person from being mean and deficient in his Qualifications, than of making any single one eminent or extraordinary.
And among those, who are the most richly endow’d by Nature, and accomplished by their own Industry, how few are there whose Vertues are not obscured by the Ignorance, Prejudice or Envy of their Beholders? Some Men cannot discern between a noble and a mean Action. Others are apt to attribute them to some false End or Intention; and others purposely misrepresent, or put a wrong Interpretation on them.
But the more to enforce this Consideration, we may observe that those are generally most unsuccessful in their Pursuit after Fame, who are most desirous of obtaining it. It is Sallust’s Remark upon Cato, that the less he coveted Glory the more he acquired it.
Men take an Ill-natured Pleasure in crossing our Inclinations, and disappointing us in what our Hearts are most set upon. When therefore they have discovered the passionate Desire of Fame in the Ambitious Man, (as no Temper of Mind is more apt to shew it self) they become sparing and reserved in their Commendations, they envy him the Satisfaction of an Applause, and look on their Praises rather as a Kindness done to his Person, than as a Tribute paid to his Merit. Others who are free from this natural Perverseness of Temper, grow wary in their Praises of one, who sets too great a value on them, least they should raise him too high in his own Imagination, and by Consequence remove him to a greater distance from themselves.
But further, this Desire of Fame naturally betrays the Ambitious Man into such Indecencies as are a lessening to his Reputation. He is still afraid least any of his Actions should be thrown away in private, least his Deserts should be concealed from the notice of the World, or receive any Disadvantage from the Reports which others make of them. This often sets him on empty Boasts and Ostentations of himself, and betrays him into vain fantastick Recitals of his own Performances: His Discourse generally leans one way, and whatever is the Subject of it, tends obliquely either to the detracting from others, or the extolling of himself. Vanity is the natural Weakness of an Ambitious Man, which exposes him to the secret Scorn and Derision of those he converses with, and ruins the Character he is so industrious to advance by it. For tho’ his Actions are never so Glorious, they lose their Lustre when they are drawn at large, and set to show by his own Hand; and as the World is more apt to find fault than to commend, the Boast will probably be censured when the great Action that occasioned it is forgotten.
Besides, this very Desire of Fame is looked on as a Meanness and an Imperfection in the greatest Character. A solid and substantial Greatness of Soul looks down with a generous Neglect on the Censures and Applauses of the Multitude, and places a Man beyond the little Noise and Strife of Tongues. Accordingly we find in our selves a secret Awe and Veneration for the Character of one who moves above us in a regular and illustrious Course of Vertue, without any regard to our good or ill Opinions of him, to our Reproaches or Commendations. As on the contrary it is usual for us, when we would take off from the Fame and Reputation of an Action, to ascribe it to Vain-Glory, and a desire of Fame in the Actor. Nor is this common Judgment and Opinion of Mankind ill-founded; for certainly it denotes no great Bravery of Mind to be worked up to any noble Action by so selfish a Motive, and to do that out of a Desire of Fame, which we could not be prompted to by a disinterested Love to Mankind, or by a generous Passion for the Glory of him that made us.
Thus is Fame a thing difficult to be obtained by all, but particularly by those who thirst after it, since most Men have so much either of Ill-nature or of Wariness, as not to gratifie and sooth the Vanity of the Ambitious Man, and since this very Thirst after Fame naturally betrays him into such Indecencies as are a lessening to his Reputation, and is it self looked upon as a Weakness in the greatest Characters.
In the next place, Fame is easily lost, and as difficult to be preserved as it was at first to be acquired. But this I shall make the Subject of a following Paper.
Monday, December 24, 1711
Φήμη γάρ τε κακὴ πέλεται· κούφη μὲν ἀεῖραι ᾽Ρεῖα μάλ’ ἀργαλέη δὲ φέρειν . . .
There are many Passions and Tempers of Mind which naturally dispose us to depress and vilify the Merit of one rising in the Esteem of Mankind. All those who made their Entrance into the World with the same Advantages, and were once looked on as his Equals, are apt to think the Fame of his Merits a Reflection on their own Indeserts; and will therefore take Care to reproach him with the Scandal of some past Action, or derogate from the Worth of the present, that they may still keep him on the same Level with themselves. The like kind of Consideration often stirs up the Envy of such as were once his Superiours, who think it a Detraction from their Merit to see another get Ground upon them and overtake them in the Pursuits of Glory; and will therefore endeavour to sink his Reputation, that they may the better preserve their own. Those who were once his Equals envy and defame him, because they now see him their Superiour; and those who were once his Superiours, because they look upon him as their Equal.
But further, a Man whose extraordinary Reputation thus lifts him up to the Notice and Observation of Mankind, draws a Multitude of Eyes upon him that will narrowly inspect every Part of him, consider him nicely in all Views, and not be a little pleased when they have taken him in the worst and most disadvantageous Light: There are many who find a Pleasure in contradicting the common Reports of Fame, and in spreading abroad the Weaknesses of an exalted Character. They publish their ill-natured Discoveries with a secret Pride, and applaud themselves for the Singularity of their Judgment which has searched deeper than others, detected what the rest of the World have over-looked, and found a Flaw in what the Generality of Mankind admires. Others there are who proclaim the Errours and Infirmities of a great Man with an inward Satisfaction and Complacency, if they discover none of the like Errours and Infirmities in themselves; for while they are exposing another’s Weaknesses, they are tacitly aiming at their own Commendations who are not subject to the like Infirmities, and are apt to be transported with a secret kind of Vanity, to see themselves superiour in some Respects to one of a sublime and celebrated Reputation. Nay it very often happens, that none are more industrious in publishing the Blemishes of an extraordinary Reputation, than such as lie open to the same Censures in their own Characters; as either hoping to excuse their own Defects by the Authority of so high an Example, or raising an imaginary Applause to themselves for resembling a Person of an exalted Reputation, though in the blameable Parts of his Character. If all these secret Springs of Detraction fail, yet very often a vain Ostentation of Wit sets a Man on attacking an established Name, and sacrificing it to the Mirth and Laughter of those about him. A Satyr or a Libel on one of the common Stamp, never meets with that Reception and Approbation among its Readers, as what is aimed at a Person whose Merit places him upon an Eminence, and gives him a more conspicuous Figure among Men. Whether it be that we think it shews greater Art to expose and turn to Ridicule a Man whose Character seems so improper a Subject for it, or that we are pleased by some implicit kind of Revenge to see him taken down and humbled in his Reputation, and in some Measure reduced to our own Rank, who had so far raised himself above us in the Reports and Opinions of Mankind.
Thus we see how many dark and intricate Motives there are to Detraction and Defamation, and how many malicious Spies are searching into the Actions of a great Man, who is not always the best prepared for so narrow an Inspection. For we may generally observe, that our Admiration of a famous Man lessens upon our nearer Acquaintance with him; and that we seldom hear the Description of a celebrated Person, without a Catalogue of some notorious Weaknesses and Infirmities. The Reason may be, because any little Slip is more conspicuous and observable in his Conduct than in another’s, as it is not of a Piece with the rest of his Character, or because it is impossible for a Man at the same Time to be attentive to the more important Parts of his Life, and to keep a watchful Eye over all the inconsiderable Circumstances of his Behaviour and Conversation; or because, as we have before observed, the same Temper of Mind which enclines us to a Desire of Fame, naturally betrays us into such Slips and Unwarinesses as are not incident to Men of a contrary Disposition.
After all it must be confess’d, that a noble and triumphant Merit often breaks through and dissipates these little Spots and Sullies in its Reputation; but if by a mistaken Pursuit after Fame, or through humane Infirmity, any false Step be made in the more momentous Concerns of Life, the whole Scheme of ambitious Designs is broken and disappointed. The smaller Stains and Blemishes may die away and disappear amidst the Brightness that surrounds them, but a Blot of a deeper Nature casts a Shade on all the other Beauties, and darkens the whole Character. How difficult therefore is it to preserve a great Name? when he that has acquired it is so obnoxious to such little Weaknesses and Infirmities as are no small Diminution to it when discovered, especially when they are so industriously proclaimed, and aggravated by such as were once his Superiours or Equals; by such as would set to Show their Judgment or their Wit, and by such as are guilty or innocent of the same Slips or Misconducts in their own Behaviour.
But were there none of these Dispositions in others to censure a famous Man, nor any such Miscarriages in himself, yet would he meet with no small Trouble in keeping up his Reputation in all its Height and Splendour. There must be always a noble Train of Actions to preserve his Fame in Life and Motion. For when it is once at a Stand, it naturally flags and languishes. Admiration is a very short-lived Passion, that immediately decays upon growing familiar with its Object, unless it be still fed with fresh Discoveries, and kept alive by a new perpetual Succession of Miracles rising up to its View. And even the greatest Actions of a celebrated Person labour under this Disadvantage, that however surprizing and extraordinary they may be, they are no more than what are expected from him; but on the contrary, if they fall any thing below the Opinion that is conceived of him, tho’ they might raise the Reputation of another, they are a Diminution to his.
One would think there should be something wonderfully pleasing in the Possession of Fame, that, notwithstanding all these mortifying Considerations, can engage a Man in so desperate a pursuit; and yet if we consider the little happiness that attends a great Character, and the multitude of disquietudes to which the desire of it subjects an ambitious Mind, one would be still the more surprized to see so many restless Candidates for Glory.
Ambition raises a secret Tumult in the Soul, it inflames the Mind, and puts it into a violent hurry of Thought: It is still reaching after an empty imaginary Good; that has not in it the power to abate or satisfy it. Most other things we long for can allay the cravings of their proper Sense, and for a while set the Appetite at rest: But Fame is a Good so wholly foreign to our Natures, that we have no Faculty in the Soul adapted to it, nor any Organ in the Body to relish it; an Object of Desire placed out of the possibility of Fruition. It may indeed fill the Mind for a while with a giddy kind of Pleasure, but it is such a Pleasure as makes a Man restless and uneasy under it; and which does not so much satisfy the present Thirst, as it excites fresh Desires, and sets the Soul on new Enterprises. For how few ambitious Men are there, who have got as much Fame as they desired, and whose thirst after it has not been as eager in the very height of their Reputation, as it was before they became known and eminent among Men? There is not any Circumstance in Caesar’s Character which gives me a greater Idea of him, than a Saying which Cicero tells us he frequently made use of in private Conversation, That he was satisfied with his share of Life and Fame. Se satis vel ad Naturam, vel ad Gloriam vixisse. Many indeed have given over their pursuits after Fame, but that has proceeded either from the Disappointments they have met in it, or from their Experience of the little Pleasure which attends it, or from the better Informations or natural Coldness of Old-Age; but seldom from a full Satisfaction and Acquiescence in their present Enjoyments of it.
Nor is Fame only unsatisfying in itself, but the Desire of it lays us open to many accidental Troubles, which those are free from who have no such a tender regard for it. How often is the Ambitious Man cast down and disappointed, if he receives no Praise where he expected it? Nay how often is he mortifyed with the very Praises he receives, if they do not rise so high as he thinks they ought, which they seldom do unless increased by Flattery, since few Men have so good an Opinion of us as we have of our selves? But if the Ambitious Man can be so much grieved even with Praise itself, how will he be able to bear up under Scandal and Defamation? For the same Temper of Mind which makes him desire Fame, makes him hate Reproach. If he can be transported with the extraordinary Praises of Men, he will be as much dejected by their Censures. How little therefore is the Happiness of an Ambitious Man, who gives every one a Dominion over it, who thus subjects himself to the good or ill Speeches of others, and puts it in the power of every malicious Tongue to throw him into a fit of Melancholly, and destroy his natural Rest and Repose of Mind? Especially when we consider that the World is more apt to Censure than Applaud, and himself fuller of Imperfections than Virtues.
We may further observe, that such a Man will be more grieved for the Loss of Fame, than he could have been pleased with the Enjoyment of it. For tho’ the Presence of this imaginary Good cannot make us Happy, the Absence of it may make us miserable: Because in the enjoyment of an Object we only find that share of Pleasure which it is capable of giving us, but in the loss of it we do not proportion our Grief to the real value it bears, but to the value our Fancies and Imaginations set upon it.
So inconsiderable is the Satisfaction that Fame brings along with it, and so great the Disquietudes to which it makes us liable. The Desire of it stirs up very uneasy Motions in the Mind, and is rather enflamed than satisfied by the Presence of the thing desired. The Enjoyment of it brings but very little Pleasure, tho’ the Loss or want of it be very sensible and afflicting; and even this little Happiness is so very precarious, that it wholly depends on the Will of others. We are not only tortured by the Reproaches which are offered us, but are disappointed by the Silence of Men when it is unexpected; and humbled even by their Praises.
Tuesday, December 25, 1711
Οὐχ’ εὕδει Διὸϛ ᾽Οφθαλμόϛ· ἐγγὺϛ δ’ ἔστι καὶ παρὼν πόνῳ.
That I might not lose my self upon a Subject of so great Extent as that of Fame, I have treated it in a particular Order and Method. I have first of all considered the Reasons why Providence may have implanted in our Minds such a Principle of Action. I have in the next Place shewn, from many Considerations, first, that Fame is a thing difficult to be obtained, and easily lost; Secondly, that it brings the ambitious Man very little Happiness, but subjects him to much Uneasiness and Dissatisfaction. I shall in the last Place shew, that it hinders us from obtaining an End which we have Abilities to acquire, and which is accompanied with fullness of Satisfaction. I need not tell my Reader, that I mean by this End, that Happiness which is reserved for us in another World, which every one has Abilities to procure, and which will bring along with it fullness of Joy, and Pleasures for evermore.
How the Pursuit after Fame may hinder us in the Attainment of this great End, I shall leave the Reader to collect from the three following Considerations.
First, Because the strong Desire of Fame breeds several vicious Habits in the Mind.
Secondly, Because many of those Actions, which are apt to procure Fame, are not in their Nature conducive to this our ultimate Happiness.
Thirdly, Because if we should allow the same Actions to be the proper Instruments, both of acquiring Fame, and of procuring this Happiness, they would nevertheless fail in the Attainment of this last End, if they proceeded from a Desire of the first.
These three Propositions are self-evident to those who are versed in Speculations of Morality. For which Reason I shall not enlarge upon them, but proceed to a Point of the same Nature, which may open to us a more uncommon Field of Speculation.
From what has been already observed, I think we may make a natural Conclusion, that it is the greatest Folly to seek the Praise or Approbation of any Being, besides the Supream, and that for these two Reasons, because no other Being can make a right Judgment of us, and esteem us according to our Merits; and because we can procure no considerable Benefit or Advantage from the Esteem and Approbation of any other Being.
In the first Place no other Being can make a right Judgment of us, and esteem us according to our Merits. Created Beings see nothing but our Outside, and can therefore only frame a Judgment of us from our exteriour Actions and Behaviour; but how unfit these are to give us a right Notion of each others Perfections, may appear from several Considerations. There are many Virtues, which in their own nature are incapable of any outward Representation: Many silent Perfections in the Soul of a good Man, which are great Ornaments to Human Nature, but not able to discover themselves to the Knowledge of others; they are transacted in private, without noise or show, and are only visible to the great Searcher of Hearts. What Actions can express the entire Purity of Thought which refines and sanctifies a virtuous Man? That secret Rest and Contentedness of Mind, which gives him a perfect Enjoyment of his present Condition? That inward Pleasure and Complacency, which he feels in doing Good? That Delight and Satisfaction which he takes in the Prosperity and Happiness of another? These and the like Virtues are the hidden Beauties of a Soul, the secret Graces which cannot be discovered by a Mortal Eye, but make the Soul lovely and precious in his Sight, from whom no Secrets are concealed. Again, there are many Virtues which want an Opportunity of exerting and shewing themselves in Actions. Every Virtue requires Time and Place, a proper Object and a fit Conjuncture of Circumstances, for the due Exercise of it. A State of Poverty obscures all the Virtues of Liberality and Munificence. The Patience and Fortitude of a Martyr or Confessor lye concealed in the flourishing Times of Christianity. Some Virtues are only seen in Affliction, and some in Prosperity; some in a Private, and others in a Publick Capacity. But the great Sovereign of the World beholds every Perfection in its Obscurity, and not only sees what we do, but what we would do. He views our Behaviour in every Concurrence of Affairs, and sees us engaged in all the Possibilities of Action. He discovers the Martyr and Confessor without the Tryal of Flames and Tortures, and will hereafter entitle many to the Reward of Actions, which they had never the Opportunity of performing. Another Reason why Men cannot form a right Judgment of us is, because the same Actions may be aimed at different Ends, and arise from quite contrary Principles. Actions are of so mixt a Nature, and so full of Circumstances, that as Men pry into them more or less, or observe some Parts more than others, they take different Hints, and put contrary Interpretations on them; so that the same Actions may represent a Man as Hypocritical and Designing to one, which make him appear a Saint or Hero to another. He therefore who looks upon the Soul through its outward Actions, often sees it through a deceitful Medium, which is apt to discolour and pervert the Object: So that on this account also, he is the only proper Judge of our Perfections, who does not guess at the Sincerity of our Intentions from the Goodness of our Actions; but weighs the Goodness of our Actions by the Sincerity of our Intentions.
But further; it is impossible for outward Actions to represent the Perfections of the Soul, because they can never shew the Strength of those Principles from whence they proceed. They are not adequate Expressions of our Virtues, and can only shew us what Habits are in the Soul, without discovering the Degree and Perfection of such Habits. They are at best but weak Resemblances of our Intentions, faint and imperfect Copies that may acquaint us with the general Design, but can never express the Beauty and Life of the Original. But the great Judge of all the Earth knows every different State and Degree of Human Improvement, from those weak Stirrings and Tendencies of the Will which have not yet formed themselves into regular Purposes and Designs, to the last entire finishing and consummation of a good Habit. He beholds the first imperfect Rudiments of a Virtue in the Soul, and keeps a watchful Eye over it in all its Progress, ’till it has received every Grace it is capable of, and appears in its full Beauty and Perfection. Thus we see that none but the Supreme Being can esteem us according to our proper Merits, since all others must judge of us from our outward Actions, which can never give them a just Estimate of us, since there are many Perfections of a Man which are not capable of appearing in Actions; many which, allowing no natural Incapacity of shewing themselves, want an Opportunity of doing it, or should they all meet with an Opportunity of appearing by Actions, yet those Actions may be misinterpreted, and applied to wrong Principles, or though they plainly discovered the Principles from whence they proceeded, they could never shew the Degree, Strength and Perfection of those Principles.
And as the Supreme Being is the only proper Judge of our Perfections, so is he the only fit Rewarder of them. This is a Consideration that comes home to our Interest, as the other adapts it self to our Ambition. And what could the most aspiring, or the most selfish Man desire more, were he to form the Notion of a Being to whom he would recommend himself, than such a Knowledge as can discover the least Appearance of Perfection in him, and such a Goodness as will proportion a Reward to it?
Let the Ambitious Man therefore turn all his desire of Fame this way; and, that he may propose to himself a Fame worthy of his Ambition, let him consider that if he employs his Abilities to the best Advantage, the Time will come when the Supreme Governor of the World, the Great Judge of Mankind, who sees every degree of Perfection in others, and possesses all possible Perfection in himself, shall proclaim his Worth before Men and Angels, and pronounce to him in the Presence of the whole Creation that best and most significant of Applauses, Well done thou good and faithful Servant, enter thou into thy Master’s Joy.
Tuesday, January 29, 1712
᾽Ω φιλτάτη γῆ μῆτερ, ὡϛ σεμνὸν σφόδρ’ εἶ
῏ῖϛ νοῦν ἔχουσι κτῆμα; . . .
I look upon it as a peculiar Happiness, that were I to chuse of what Religion I would be, and under what Government I would live, I should most certainly give the Preference to that form of Religion and Government which is established in my own Country. In this point I think I am determined by Reason and Conviction; but if I shall be told that I am acted by Prejudice, I am sure it is an honest Prejudice, it is a Prejudice that arises from the Love of my Country, and therefore such an one as I will always indulge. I have in several Papers endeavoured to express my Duty and Esteem for the Church of England, and design this as an Essay upon the Civil part of our Constitution, having often entertained my self with Reflections on this Subject, which I have not met with in other Writers.
That form of Government appears to me the most reasonable, which is most conformable to the Equality that we find in Human Nature, provided it be consistent with Publick Peace and Tranquillity. This is what may properly be called Liberty, which exempts one Man from Subjection to another, so far as the Order and Oeconomy of Government will permit.
Liberty should reach every Individual of a People, as they all share one common Nature; if it only spreads among particular Branches, there had better be none at all, since such a Liberty only aggravates the Misfortune of those who are deprived of it, by setting before them a disagreeable subject of Comparison.
This Liberty is best preserved, where the Legislative Power is lodged in several Persons, especially if those Persons are of different Ranks and Interests; for where they are of the same Rank, and consequently have an Interest to manage peculiar to that Rank, it differs but little from a Despotical Government in a single Person. But the greatest Security a People can have for their Liberty, is when the Legislative Power is in the Hands of Persons so happily distinguished, that by providing for the particular Interest of their several Ranks, they are providing for the whole Body of the People; or in other Words, when there is no part of the People that has not a common Interest with at least one part of the Legislators.
If there be but one Body of Legislators, it is no better than a Tyranny; if there are only two, there will want a casting Voice, and one of them must at length be swallowed up by Disputes and Contentions that will necessarily arise between them. Four would have the same Inconvenience as two, and a greater number would cause too much Confusion. I could never read a Passage in Polybius, and another in Cicero, to this purpose, without a secret Pleasure in applying it to the English Constitution, which it suits much better than the Roman. Both these great Authors give the Pre-eminence to a mixt Government, consisting of three Branches, the Regal, the Noble, and the Popular. They had doubtless in their Thoughts the Constitution of the Roman Common-wealth, in which the Consul represented the King, the Senate the Nobles, and the Tribunes the People. This Division of the three Powers in the Roman Constitution was by no means so distinct and natural, as it is in the English form of Government. Among several Objections that might be made to it, I think the chief are those that affect the Consular Power, which had only the Ornaments without the Force of the Regal Authority. Their Number had not a casting Voice in it; for which reason, if one did not chance to be employed Abroad, while the other sat at Home, the Publick Business was sometimes at a stand, while the Consuls pulled two different ways in it. Besides, I do not find that the Consuls had ever a Negative Voice in the passing of a Law, or Decree of Senate, so that indeed they were rather the chief Body of the Nobility, or the first Ministers of State, than a distinct Branch of the Sovereignty, in which none can be looked upon as a part, who are not a part of the Legislature. Had the Consuls been invested with the Regal Authority to as great a Degree as our Monarchs, there would never have been any Occasions for a Dictatorship, which had in it the Power of all the three Orders, and ended in the Subversion of the whole Constitution.
Such an History as that of Suetonius, which gives us a Succession of absolute Princes, is to me an unanswerable Argument against Despotick Power. Where the Prince is a Man of Wisdom and Virtue, it is indeed happy for his People that he is Absolute; but since in the common run of Mankind, for one that is Wise and Good you find ten of a contrary Character, it is very dangerous for a Nation to stand to its Chance, or to have its Publick Happiness or Misery depend on the Virtues or Vices of a single Person. Look into the Historian I have mentioned, or into any Series of Absolute Princes, how many Tyrants must you read through, before you come at an Emperor that is supportable. But this is not all, an Honest private Man often grows cruel and abandoned, when converted into an Absolute Prince. Give a Man Power of doing what he pleases with Impunity, you extinguish his Fear, and consequently overturn in him one of the great Pillars of Morality. This too we find confirmed by matter of Fact. How many hopeful Heirs apparent to great Empires, when in the Possession of them have become such Monsters of Lust and Cruelty as are a Reproach to Human Nature?
Some tell us we ought to make our Governments on Earth like that in Heaven, which, say they, is altogether Monarchical and Unlimited. Was Man like his Creator in Goodness and Justice, I should be for following this great Model; but where Goodness and Justice are not essential to the Ruler, I would by no means put my self into his Hands to be disposed of according to his particular Will and Pleasure.
It is odd to consider the Connection between Despotic Government and Barbarity, and how the making of one Person more than Man, makes the rest less. Above nine parts of the World in ten are in the lowest State of Slavery, and consequently sunk into the most gross and brutal Ignorance. European Slavery is indeed a State of Liberty, if compared with that which prevails in the other three divisions of the World; and therefore it is no wonder that those who grovel under it have many tracks of Light among them, of which the others are wholly destitute.
Riches and Plenty are the natural Fruits of Liberty, and where these abound, Learning and all the Liberal Arts will immediately lift up their Heads and flourish. As a Man must have no slavish Fears and Apprehensions hanging upon his Mind, who will indulge the Flights of Fancy or Speculation, and push his Researches into all the abstruse Corners of Truth, so it is necessary for him to have about him a Competency of all the Conveniencies of Life.
The first thing every one looks after, is to provide himself with Necessaries. This Point will engross our Thoughts till it be satisfied: If this is taken Care of to our Hands, we look out for Pleasures and Amusements; and among a great number of idle People, there will be many whose Pleasures will lie in Reading and Contemplation. These are the two great Sources of Knowledge, and as Men grow Wise they naturally love to communicate their Discoveries; and others seeing the Happiness of such a Learned Life, and improving by their Conversation, emulate, imitate and surpass one another, till a Nation is filled with Races of Wise and Understanding Persons. Ease and Plenty are therefore the great Cherishers of Knowledge; and as most of the Despotic Governments of the World have neither of them, they are naturally over-run with Ignorance and Barbarity. In Europe, indeed, notwithstanding several of its Princes are absolute, there are Men famous for Knowledge and Learning, but the Reason is because the Subjects are many of them rich and wealthy, the Prince not thinking fit to exert himself in his full Tyranny like the Princes of the Eastern Nations, least his Subjects should be invited to new-mould their Constitution, having so many Prospects of Liberty within their View. But in all Despotic Governments, tho’ a particular Prince may favour Arts and Letters, there is a natural Degeneracy of Mankind, as you may observe from Augustus’s Reign, how the Romans lost themselves by Degrees, till they fell to an Equality with the most barbarous Nations that surrounded them. Look upon Greece under its free States, and you would think its Inhabitants lived in different Climates, and under different Heavens, from those at present; so different are the Genius’s which are formed under Turkish Slavery, and Grecian Liberty.
Besides Poverty and Want, there are other Reasons that debase the Minds of Men, who live under Slavery, though I look on this as the Principal. This natural Tendency of Despotic Power to Ignorance and Barbarity, tho’ not insisted upon by others, is, I think, an unanswerable Argument against that Form of Government, as it shows how repugnant it is to the Good of Mankind and the Perfection of human Nature, which ought to be the great Ends of all Civil Institutions.
Tuesday, February 5, 1712
Πᾶσιν γὰρ εὖ φρονοῦσι συμμαχεῖ τύχη.
The Famous Gratian, in his little Book wherein he lays down Maxims for a Man’s advancing himself at Court, advises his Reader to associate himself with the Fortunate, and to shun the Company of the Unfortunate; which, notwithstanding the Baseness of the Precept to an honest Mind, may have something useful in it for those who push their Interest in the World. It is certain a great part of what we call good or ill Fortune, rises out of right or wrong Measures, and Schemes of Life. When I hear a Man complain of his being unfortunate in all his Undertakings, I shrewdly suspect him for a very weak Man in his Affairs. In conformity with this way of thinking, Cardinal Richelieu used to say, that unfortunate and imprudent, were but two words for the same thing. As the Cardinal himself had a great share both of Prudence and Good-Fortune, his famous Antagonist, the Count d’Olivarez, was disgraced at the Court of Madrid, because it was alledged against him that he had never any Success in his Undertakings. This, says an Eminent Author, was indirectly accusing him of Imprudence.
Cicero recommended Pompey to the Romans for their General upon three Accounts, as he was a Man of Courage, Conduct and Good-Fortune. It was, perhaps, for the Reason abovementioned, namely, that a Series of Good-Fortune supposes a prudent Management in the Person whom it befalls, that not only Sylla the Dictator, but several of the Roman Emperors, as is still to be seen upon their Medals, among their other Titles, gave themselves that of Felix, or Fortunate. The Heathens, indeed, seem to have valued a Man more for his Good-Fortune than for any other Quality, which I think is very natural for those who have not a strong Belief of another World. For how can I conceive a Man crowned with many distinguishing Blessings, that has not some extraordinary Fund of Merit and Perfection in him, which lies open to the Supream Eye, tho’ perhaps it is not discovered by my Observation? What is the Reason Homer’s and Virgil’s Heroes do not form a Resolution, or strike a Blow, without the Conduct and Direction of some Deity? Doubtless, because the Poets esteemed it the greatest Honour to be favoured by the Gods, and thought the best way of praising a Man was to recount those Favours which naturally implied an extraordinary Merit in the Person on whom they descended.
Those who believe a future State of Rewards and Punishments act very absurdly, if they form their Opinions of a Man’s Merit from his Successes. But certainly, if I thought the whole Circle of our Being was concluded between our Births and Deaths, I should think a Man’s Good-Fortune the Measure and Standard of his real Merit, since Providence would have no Opportunity of rewarding his Vertue and Perfections, but in the present Life. A Vertuous Unbeliever, who lies under the Pressure of Misfortunes, has reason to cry out, as they say Brutus did a little before his Death, O Vertue, I have worshiped thee as a Substantial Good, but I find thou art an empty Name.
But to return to our first Point. Tho’ Prudence does undoubtedly in a great measure produce our good or ill Fortune in the World, it is certain there are many unforeseen Accidents and Occurrences, which very often pervert the finest Schemes that can be laid by Human Wisdom. The Race is not always to the Swift, nor the Battel to the Strong. Nothing less than infinite Wisdom can have an absolute Command over Fortune; the highest degree of it which Man can possess, is by no means equal to fortuitous Events, and to such Contingencies as may rise in the Prosecution of our Affairs. Nay, it very often happens, that Prudence, which has always in it a great mixture of Caution, hinders a Man from being so fortunate, as he might possibly have been without it. A Person who only aims at what is likely to succeed, and follows closely the Dictates of Human Prudence, never meets with those great and unforeseen Successes, which are often the effect of a Sanguine Temper, or a more happy Rashness; and this perhaps may be the Reason, that according to the common Observation, Fortune, like other Females, delights rather in favouring the young than the old.
Upon the whole, since Man is so short-sighted a Creature, and the Accidents which may happen to him so various, I cannot but be of Dr. Tillotson’s Opinion in another Case, that were there any doubt of a Providence, yet it certainly would be very desirable there should be such a Being of infinite Wisdom and Goodness, on whose Direction we might rely in the Conduct of Human Life.
It is a great Presumption to ascribe our Successes to our own Management, and not to esteem our selves upon any Blessing, rather as it is the Bounty of Heaven, than the Acquisition of our own Prudence. I am very well pleased with a Medal which was struck by Queen Elizabeth a little after the Defeat of the Invincible Armada, to perpetuate the Memory of that extraordinary Event. It is well known how the King of Spain, and others who were the Enemies of that great Princess, to derogate from her Glory, ascribed the Ruin of their Fleet rather to the Violence of Storms and Tempests, than to the Bravery of the English. Queen Elizabeth, instead of looking upon this as a Diminution of her Honour, valued her self upon such a signal Favour of Providence; and accordingly in the Reverse of the Medal above-mentioned, has represented a Fleet beaten by a Tempest, and falling foul upon one another, with that Religious Inscription, Afflavit Deus & dissipantur. He blew with his Wind, and they were scattered.
It is remarked of a famous Graecian General, whose Name I cannot at present recollect, and who had been a particular Favourite of Fortune, that upon recounting his Victories among his Friends, he added at the end of several great Actions, And in this Fortune had no share. After which it is observed in History, that he never prospered in any thing he undertook.
As Arrogance, and a Conceitedness of our own Abilities, are very shocking and offensive to Men of Sense and Vertue, we may be sure they are highly displeasing to that Being who delights in an humble Mind, and by several of his Dispensations seems purposely to shew us, that our own Schemes or Prudence have no share in our Advancement.
Since on this Subject I have already admitted several Quotations which have occurred to my Memory upon writing this Paper, I will conclude it with a little Persian Fable. A Drop of Water fell out of a Cloud into the Sea, and finding it self lost in such an Immensity of fluid Matter, broke out into the following Reflection: “Alas! What an inconsiderable Creature am I in this prodigious Ocean of Waters; my Existence is of no Concern to the Universe, I am reduced to a kind of nothing, and am less than the least of the Works of God.” It so happened, that an Oyster, which lay in the neighbourhood of this Drop, chanced to gape and swallow it up in the midst of this his humble Soliloquy. The Drop, says the Fable, lay a great while hardning in the Shell, ’till by degrees it was ripen’d into a Pearl, which falling into the Hands of a Diver, after a long Series of Adventures, is at present that famous Pearl which is fixed on the Top of the Persian Diadem.
Thursday, April 10, 1712
I am very much pleased with a Consolatory Letter of Phalaris, to one who had lost a Son that was a young Man of great Merit. The Thought with which he comforts the afflicted Father is, to the best of my Memory, as follows; That he should consider Death, had set a kind of Seal upon his Son’s Character, and placed him out of the Reach of Vice and Infamy: That while he lived he was still within the Possibility of falling away from Virtue, and losing the Fame of which he was possessed. Death only closes a Man’s Reputation, and determines it as good or bad.
This, among other Motives, may be one Reason why we are naturally averse to the launching out into a Man’s Praise till his Head is laid in the Dust. Whilst he is capable of changing, we may be forced to retract our Opinions. He may forfeit the Esteem we have conceived of him, and some time or other appear to us under a different Light from what he does at present. In short, as the Life of any Man cannot be called happy or unhappy, so neither can it be pronounced vicious or virtuous, before the Conclusion of it.
It was upon this Consideration that Epaminondas, being asked whether Chabrias, Iphicrates, or he himself, deserved most to be esteemed; You must first see us dye, said he, before that Question can be answered.
As there is not a more melancholy Consideration to a good Man than his being obnoxious to such a Change, so there is nothing more glorious than to keep up an Uniformity in his Actions, and preserve the Beauty of his Character to the last.
The end of a Man’s Life is often compared to the winding up of a well-written Play, where the principal Persons still act in Character, whatever the Fate is which they undergo. There is scarce a great Person in the Grecian or Roman History whose Death has not been remarked upon by some Writer or other, and censured or applauded according to the Genius or Principles of the Person who has descanted on it. Monsieur de St. Evremont is very particular in setting forth the Constancy and Courage of Petronius Arbiter during his last Moments, and thinks he discovers in them a greater Firmness of Mind and Resolution than in the Death of Seneca, Cato, or Socrates. There is no Question but this polite Author’s Affectation of appearing singular in his Remarks, and making Discoveries which had escaped the Observation of others, threw him into this course of Reflection. It was Petronius his Merit that he died in the same Gaiety of Temper in which he lived; but as his Life was altogether loose and dissolute, the Indifference which he shewed at the Close of it is to be looked upon as a piece of natural Carelessness and Levity, rather than Fortitude. The Resolution of Socrates proceeded from very different Motives, the Consciousness of a well-spent Life, and the Prospect of a happy Eternity. If the Ingenious Author abovementioned was so pleased with Gaiety of Humour in a dying Man, he might have found a much nobler Instance of it in our Countryman, Sir Thomas More.
This great and learned Man was famous for enlivening his ordinary Discourses with Wit and Pleasantry, and, as Erasmus tells him in an Epistle Dedicatory, acted in all parts of Life like a second Democritus.
He died upon a point of Religion, and is respected as a Martyr by that side for which he suffered. That innocent Mirth, which had been so conspicuous in his Life, did not forsake him to the last: He maintain’d the same Chearfulness of Heart upon the Scaffold, which he used to shew at his Table: and upon laying his Head on the Block, gave instances of that good Humour with which he had always entertained his Friends in the most ordinary Occurrences. His Death was of a piece with his Life. There was nothing in it new, forced or affected. He did not look upon the severing of his Head from his Body as a Circumstance that ought to produce any Change in the disposition of his Mind; and as he died under a fix’d and settled hope of Immortality, he thought any unusual degree of Sorrow and Concern improper on such an occasion as had nothing in it which could deject or terrifie him.
There is no great danger of Imitation from this Example. Mens natural fears will be a sufficient guard against it. I shall only observe that what was Philosophy in this extraordinary Man, would be Frenzy in one who does not resemble him as well in the chearfulness of his Temper, as in the sanctity of his Life and Manners.
I shall conclude this Paper with the instance of a Person who seems to me to have shewn more Intrepidity and greatness of Soul in his dying Moments, than what we meet with among any of the most celebrated Greeks and Romans. I meet with this instance in the History of the Revolutions in Portugal, written by the Abbot de Vertot.
When Don Sebastian, King of Portugal, had invaded the Territories of Muly Moluc, Emperor of Morocco, in order to dethrone him, and set his Crown upon the Head of his Nephew, Moluc was wearing away with a Distemper which he himself knew was incurable. However he prepared for the reception of so formidable an Enemy. He was indeed so far spent with his Sickness that he did not expect to live out the whole Day, when the last decisive Battel was given; but knowing the fatal Consequences that would happen to his Children and People in case he should die before he put an end to that War, he commanded his principal Officers that if he died during the Engagement they should conceal his Death from the Army, and that they should ride up to the Litter in which his Corps was carried, under pretence of receiving Orders from him as usual. Before the Battel begun he was carried thro’ all the Ranks of his Army in an open Litter, as they stood drawn up in Array, encouraging them to fight valiantly in defence of their Religion and Country. Finding afterwards the Battel to go against him, tho’ he was very near his last Agonies, he threw himself out of his Litter, rallied his Army, and led them on to the Charge which afterwards ended in a compleat Victory on the side of the Moors. He had no sooner brought his Men to the Engagement, but finding himself utterly spent, he was again re-placed in his Litter, where laying his Finger on his Mouth, to enjoin Secresie to his Officers who stood about him, he died a few Moments after in that posture.
Friday, August 1, 1712
Quid deceat, quid non; quò Virtus, quò ferat Error.
Since two or three Writers of Comedy who are now living have taken their Farewell of the Stage, those who succeed them finding themselves incapable of rising up to their Wit, Humour and good Sense, have only imitated them in some of those loose unguarded Strokes, in which they complied with the corrupt Taste of the more Vicious Part of their Audience. When Persons of a low Genius attempt this kind of Writing, they know no Difference between being Merry and being Lewd. It is with an Eye to some of these degenerate Compositions that I have written the following Discourse.
Were our English Stage but half so virtuous as that of the Greeks or Romans, we should quickly see the Influence of it in the Behaviour of all the Politer Part of Mankind. It would not be fashionable to ridicule Religion, or its Professors; the Man of Pleasure would not be the compleat Gentleman; Vanity would be out of Countenance, and every Quality which is Ornamental to Human Nature, wou’d meet with that Esteem which is due to it.
If the English Stage were under the same Regulations the Athenian was formerly, it would have the same Effect that had, in recommending the Religion, the Government, and Publick Worship of its Country. Were our Plays subject to proper Inspections and Limitations, we might not only pass away several of our vacant Hours in the highest Entertainments; but should always rise from them wiser and better than we sat down to them.
It is one of the most unaccountable things in our Age, that the Lewdness of our Theatre should be so much complained of, so well exposed, and so little redressed. It is to be hoped, that some time or other we may be at leisure to restrain the Licentiousness of the Theatre, and make it contribute its Assistance to the Advancement of Morality, and to the Reformation of the Age. As Matters stand at present, Multitudes are shut out from this noble Diversion, by reason of those Abuses and Corruptions that accompany it. A Father is often afraid that his Daughter should be ruined by those Entertainments, which were invented for the Accomplishment and Refining of Human Nature. The Athenian and Roman Plays were written with such a regard to Morality, that Socrates used to frequent the one, and Cicero the other.
It happened once indeed, that Cato dropped into the Roman Theatre, when the Floralia were to be represented; and as in that Performance, which was a kind of Religious Ceremony, there were several indecent Parts to be acted, the People refused to see them whilst Cato was present. Martial on this Hint made the following Epigram, which we must suppose was applied to some grave Friend of his, that had been accidentally present at some such Entertainment.
An Accident of this Nature might happen once in an Age among the Greeks or Romans; but they were too wise and good to let the constant Nightly Entertainment be of such a Nature, that People of the most Sense and Virtue could not be at it. Whatever Vices are represented upon the Stage, they ought to be so marked and branded by the Poet, as not to appear either laudable or amiable in the Person who is tainted with them. But if we look into the English Comedies abovementioned, we would think they were formed upon a quite contrary Maxim, and that this Rule, tho’ it held good upon the Heathen Stage, was not to be regarded in Christian Theatres. There is another Rule likewise, which was observed by Authors of Antiquity, and which these Modern Genius’s have no regard to, and that was never to chuse an improper Subject for Ridicule. Now a Subject is improper for Ridicule, if it is apt to stir up Horrour and Commiseration rather than Laughter. For this Reason, we do not find any Comedy in so polite an Author as Terence, raised upon the Violations of the Marriage Bed. The Falshood of the Wife or Husband has given Occasion to noble Tragedies, but a Scipio or a Lelius would have looked upon Incest or Murder to have been as proper Subjects for Comedy. On the contrary, Cuckoldom is the Basis of most of our Modern Plays. If an Alderman appears upon the Stage, you may be sure it is in order to be Cuckolded. An Husband that is a little grave or elderly, generally meets with the same Fate. Knights and Baronets, Country-Squires, and Justices of the Quorum, come up to Town for no other Purpose. I have seen Poor Dogget Cuckolded in all these Capacities. In short, our English Writers are as frequently severe upon this Innocent unhappy Creature, commonly known by the Name of a Cuckold, as the Ancient Comick Writers were upon an eating Parasite, or a vain-glorious Soldier.
At the same time the Poet so contrives Matters, that the two Criminals are the Favourites of the Audience. We sit still, and wish well to them through the whole Play, are pleased when they meet with proper Opportunities, and out of humour when they are disappointed. The truth of it is, the accomplished Gentleman upon the English Stage, is the Person that is familiar with other Mens Wives, and indifferent to his own; as the Fine Woman is generally a Composition of Sprightliness and Falshood. I do not know whether it proceeds from Barrenness of Invention, Depravation of Manners, or Ignorance of Mankind; but I have often wondered that our ordinary Poets cannot frame to themselves the Idea of a Fine Man who is not a Whore-master, or of a Fine Woman that is not a Jilt.
I have sometimes thought of compiling a System of Ethics out of the Writings of these corrupt Poets, under the Title of Stage Morality. But I have been diverted from this Thought, by a Project which has been executed by an Ingenious Gentleman of my Acquaintance. He has composed, it seems, the History of a young Fellow, who has taken all his Notions of the World from the Stage, and who has directed himself in every Circumstance of his Life, and Conversation, by the Maxims and Examples of the Fine Gentle-man in English Comedies. If I can prevail upon him to give me a Copy of this new-fashioned Novel, I will bestow on it a Place in my Works, and question not but it may have as good an Effect upon the Drama, as Don Quixote had upon Romance.
Monday, June 21, 1714
Quippe domum timet ambiguam, Tyriosque bilingues.
“There is nothing, says Plato, so delightful, as the hearing or the speaking of Truth.” For this Reason there is no Conversation so agreeable as that of the Man of Integrity, who hears without any Intention to betray, and speaks without any Intention to deceive.
Among all the Accounts which are given of Cato, I do not remember one that more redounds to his Honour than the following Passage related by Plutarch. As an Advocate was pleading the Cause of his Client before one of the Praetors, he could only produce a single Witness in a Point where the Law required the Testimony of two Persons; upon which the Advocate insisted on the Integrity of that Person whom he had produced: But the Praetor told him, That where the Law required two Witnesses he would not accept of one, tho’ it were Cato himself. Such a Speech from a Person who sat at the Head of a Court of Justice, while Cato was still living, shews us more than a thousand Examples the high Reputation this great Man had gained among his Contemporaries upon the Account of his Sincerity.
When such an inflexible Integrity is a little softened and qualified by the Rules of Conversation and Good-breeding, there is not a more shining Virtue in the whole Catalogue of Social Duties. A Man however ought to take great Care not to polish himself out of his Veracity, nor to refine his Behaviour to the Prejudice of his Virtue.
This Subject is exquisitely treated in the most elegant Sermon of the great British Preacher. I shall beg leave to transcribe out of it two or three Sentences, as a proper Introduction to a very curious Letter which I shall make the chief Entertainment of this Speculation.
“The old English Plainness and Sincerity, that generous Integrity of Nature, and Honesty of Disposition, which always argues true Greatness of Mind, and is usually accompanied with undaunted Courage and Resolution, is in a great Measure lost among us.
“The Dialect of Conversation is now-a-days so swelled with Vanity and Compliment, and so surfeited (as I may say) of Expressions of Kindness and Respect, that if a Man that lived an Age or two ago should return into the World again, he would really want a Dictionary to help him to understand his own Language, and to know the true intrinsick Value of the Phrase in fashion; and would hardly, at first, believe at what a low Rate the highest Strains and Expressions of Kindness imaginable do commonly pass in current Payment; and when he should come to understand it, it would be a great while before he could bring himself with a good Countenance and a good Conscience, to converse with Men upon equal Terms in their own Way.”
I have by me a Letter which I look upon as a great Curiosity, and which may serve as an Exemplification to the foregoing Passage cited out of this most excellent Prelate. It is said to have been written in King Charles II’s Reign by the Ambassador of Bantam, a little after his Arrival in England.
“The People where I now am have Tongues further from their Hearts than from London to Bantam, and thou knowest the Inhabitants of one of these Places does not know what is done in the other. They call thee and thy Subjects Barbarians, because we speak what we mean; and account themselves a civilized People, because they speak one thing and mean another: Truth they call Barbarity, and Falshood Politeness. Upon my first landing, one who was sent from the King of this Place to meet me told me, That he was extreamly sorry for the Storm I had met with just before my Arrival. I was troubled to hear him grieve and afflict himself upon my Account; but in less than a Quarter of an Hour he smiled, and was as merry as if nothing had happened. Another who came with him told me by my Interpreter, He should be glad to do me any Service that lay in his Power. Upon which I desired him to carry one of my Portmantaus for me; but instead of serving me according to his Promise, he laughed, and bid another do it. I lodged the first Week at the House of one who desired me to think my self at home, and to consider his House as my own. Accordingly, I the next Morning began to knock down one of the Walls of it, in order to let in the fresh Air, and had packed up some of the Household-Goods, of which I intended to have made thee a Present: But the false Varlet no sooner saw me falling to work, but he sent Word to desire me to give over, for that he would have no such Doings in his House. I had not been long in this Nation, before I was told by one for whom I had asked a certain Favour from the chief of the King’s Servants, whom they here call the Lord-Treasurer, That I had eternally obliged him. I was so surprized at his Gratitude, that I could not forbear saying, What Service is there which one Man can do for another, that can oblige him to all Eternity! However I only asked him for my Reward, that he would lend me his eldest Daughter during my Stay in this Country; but I quickly found that he was as treacherous as the rest of his Countrymen.
“At my first going to Court, one of the great Men almost put me out of Countenance, by asking ten thousand Pardons of me for only treading by Accident upon my Toe. They call this kind of Lye a Compliment; for when they are civil to a great Man, they tell him Untruths, for which thou wouldest order any of thy Officers of State to receive a hundred Blows upon his Foot. I do not know how I shall negotiate any thing with this People, since there is so little Credit to be given to ’em. When I go to see the King’s Scribe, I am generally told that he is not at home, tho’ perhaps I saw him go into his House almost the very Moment before. Thou wouldest fancy that the whole Nation are Physicians, for the first Question they always ask me, is, how I do? I have this Question put to me above a hundred times a Day. Nay, they are not only thus inquisitive after my Health, but wish it in a more solemn Manner with a full Glass in their Hands every time I sit with them at Table, tho’ at the same time they wou’d perswade me to drink their Liquors in such Quantities, as I have found by Experience will make me sick. They often pretend to pray for thy Health also in the same Manner; but I have more Reason to expect it from the Goodness of thy Constitution, than the Sincerity of their Wishes. May thy Slave escape in Safety from this double-tongued Race of Men, and live to lay himself once more at thy Feet in thy Royal City of Bantam.”
Saturday, July 4, 1713
There is no virtue so truly great and godlike as Justice. Most of the other virtues are the virtues of created Beings, or accommodated to our nature as we are men. Justice is that which is practised by God himself, and to be practised in its perfection by none but him. Omniscience and Omnipotence are requisite for the full exertion of it. The one, to discover every degree of uprightness or iniquity in thoughts, words and actions. The other, to measure out and impart suitable rewards and punishments.
As to be perfectly just is an attribute in the divine nature, to be so to the utmost of our abilities is the glory of a man. Such an one who has the publick administration in his hands, acts like the representative of his Maker, in recompencing the virtuous, and punishing the offender. By the extirpating of a criminal he averts the judgments of heaven, when ready to fall upon an impious people; or, as my friend Cato expresses it much better in a sentiment conformable to his character,
When a nation once loses its regard to justice; when they do not look upon it as something venerable, holy and inviolable; when any of them dare presume to lessen, affront or terrifie those who have the distribution of it in their hands; when a judge is capable of being influenced by any thing but law, or a cause may be recommended by any thing that is foreign to its own merits, we may venture to pronounce that such a nation is hastening to its ruin.
For this reason the best law that has ever past in our days is that, which continues our Judges in their posts during their good behaviour, without leaving them to the mercy of such who in ill times might, by an undue influence over them, trouble and pervert the course of justice. I dare say the extraordinary person who is now posted in the Chief Station of the law, would have been the same had that act never past; but it is a great satisfaction to all honest men, that while we see the greatest ornament of the profession in its highest post, we are sure he cannot hurt himself by that assiduous, regular and impartial administration of justice, for which he is so universally celebrated by the whole kingdom. Such men are to be reckoned among the greatest national blessings, and should have that honour paid them whilst they are yet living, which will not fail to crown their memory when dead.
I always rejoice when I see a tribunal filled with a man of an upright and inflexible temper, who in the execution of his country’s laws can overcome all private fear, resentment, solicitation, and even pity it self. Whatever passion enters into a sentence or decision, so far will there be in it a tincture of injustice. In short, justice discards party, friendship, kindred, and is therefore always represented as blind, that we may suppose her thoughts are wholly intent on the equity of a cause, without being diverted or prejudiced by objects foreign to it.
I shall conclude this paper with a Persian story, which is very suitable to my present subject. It will not a little please the Reader, if he has the same taste of it which I my self have.
As one of the Sultans lay encamped on the plains of Avala, a certain great man of the army entered by force into a peasant’s house, and finding his wife very handsome, turned the good man out of his dwelling, and went to bed to her. The peasant complained the next morning to the Sultan, and desired redress; but was not able to point out the criminal. The Emperor, who was very much incensed at the injury done to the poor man, told him that probably the offender might give his wife another visit, and if he did, commanded him immediately to repair to his tent and acquaint him with it. Accordingly within two or three days the Officer entered again the peasant’s house, and turned the owner out of doors; who thereupon applied himself to the imperial tent, as he was ordered. The Sultan went in person, with his guards, to the poor man’s house, where he arrived about midnight. As the attendants carried each of them a flambeau in their hands, the Sultan, after having ordered all the lights to be put out, gave the word to enter the house, find out the criminal and put him to death. This was immediately executed, and the corps laid out upon the floor by the Emperor’s command. He then bid every one light his flambeau, and stand about the dead body. The Sultan approaching it looked upon the face, and immediately fell upon his knees in prayer. Upon his rising up he ordered the peasant to set before him whatever food he had in the house. The peasant brought out a great deal of coarse fare, of which the Emperor eat very heartily. The peasant seeing him in good humour, presumed to ask of him, why he had ordered the flambeaux to be put out before he had commanded the adulterer should be slain? Why, upon their being lighted again, he looked upon the face of the dead body, and fell down by it in prayer? and why, after this, he had ordered meat to be set before him, of which he now eat so heartily? The Sultan, being willing to gratifie the curiosity of his host, answered him in this manner. “Upon hearing the greatness of the offence which had been committed by one of the army, I had reason to think it might have been one of my own sons, for who else would have been so audacious and presuming? I gave orders therefore for the lights to be extinguished, that I might not be led astray, by partiality or compassion, from doing justice on the criminal. Upon the lighting of the flambeaux a second time, I looked upon the face of the dead person, and to my unspeakable joy, found that it was not my son. It was for this reason that I immediately fell upon my knees, and gave thanks to God. As for my eating heartily of the food you have set before me, you will cease to wonder at it, when you know that the great anxiety of mind I have been in, upon this occasion, since the first complaints you brought me, has hindered my eating any thing from that time till this very moment.”
Tuesday, September 15, 1713
———incoctum generoso pectus honesto.
Every principle that is a motive to good actions, ought to be encouraged, since men are of so different a make, that the same principle does not work equally upon all minds. What some men are prompted to by conscience, duty, or religion, which are only different names for the same thing, others are prompted to by Honour.
The sense of honour is of so fine and delicate a nature, that it is only to be met with in minds which are naturally noble, or in such as have been cultivated by great examples, or a refined education. This paper therefore is chiefly designed for those who by means of any of these advantages are, or ought to be, actuated by this glorious principle.
But as nothing is more pernicious than a principle of action when it is misunderstood, I shall consider honour with respect to three sorts of men. First of all, with regard to those who have a right notion of it. Secondly, with regard to those who have a mistaken notion of it. And thirdly, with regard to those who treat it as chimerical, and turn it into ridicule.
In the first place, true honour, tho’ it be a different principle from religion, is that which produces the same effects. The lines of action, tho’ drawn from different parts, terminate in the same point. Religion embraces virtue, as it is enjoined by the laws of God; Honour, as it is graceful and ornamental to human nature. The religious man fears, the man of honour scorns to do an ill action. The one considers vice as something that is beneath him, the other as something that is offensive to the divine Being. The one as what is unbecoming, the other as what is forbidden. Thus Seneca speaks in the natural and genuine language of a man of honour, when he declares that were there no God to see or punish vice, he would not commit it, because it is of so mean, so base and so vile a nature.
I shall conclude this head with the description of honour in the part of young Juba.
In the second place we are to consider those who have mistaken notions of honour, and these are such as establish any thing to themselves for a point of honour, which is contrary either to the laws of God, or of their country; who think it more honourable to revenge, than to forgive an injury; who make no scruple of telling a lie, but would put any man to death that accuses them of it; who are more careful to guard their reputation by their courage, than by their virtue. True fortitude is indeed so becoming in human nature, that he who wants it scarce deserves the name of a man; but we find several who so much abuse this notion, that they place the whole idea of honour in a kind of brutal courage; by which means we have had many among us who have call’d themselves men of honour, that would have been a disgrace to a gibbet. In a word the man who sacrifices any duty of a reasonable creature to a prevailing mode or fashion, who looks upon any thing as honourable that is displeasing to his maker, or destructive to society, who thinks himself obliged by this principle to the practice of some virtues and not of others, is by no means to be reckoned among true men of honour.
Timogenes was a lively instance of one actuated by false honour. Timogenes wou’d smile at a man’s jest who ridiculed his maker, and, at the same time, run a man through the body that spoke ill of his friend. Timogenes would have scorned to have betrayed a secret, that was entrusted with him, though the fate of his country depended upon the discovery of it. Timogenes took away the life of a young fellow, in a duel, for having spoken ill of Belinda, a Lady whom he himself had seduced in her youth, and betrayed into want and ignominy. To close his character, Timogenes, after having ruined several poor tradesmen’s families, who had trusted him, sold his estate to satisfie his creditors; but, like a man of honour, disposed of all the money he could make of it, in the paying off his play debts, or to speak in his own language, his debts of honour.
In the third place, we are to consider those persons, who treat this principle as chimerical, and turn it into ridicule. Men who are professedly of no honour, are of a more profligate and abandoned nature than even those who are acted by false notions of it, as there is more hopes of a heretick than of an atheist. These sons of infamy consider honour with old Syphax, in the play before-mentioned, as a fine imaginary notion, that leads astray young unexperienc’d men, and draws them into real mischiefs, while they are engaged in the pursuits of a shadow. These are generally persons who, in Shakespear’s phrase, are worn and hackney’d in the ways of men; whose imaginations are grown callous, and have lost all those delicate sentiments which are natural to minds that are innocent and undepraved. Such old battered miscreants ridicule every thing as romantick that comes in competition with their present interest, and treat those persons as visionaries, who dare stand up in a corrupt age, for what has not its immediate reward joined to it. The talents, interest, or experience of such men, make them very often useful in all parties, and at all times. But whatever wealth and dignities they may arrive at, they ought to consider, that every one stands as a blot in the annals of his country, who arrives at the temple of Honour by any other way than through that of Virtue.
Friday, December 23, 1715
Rara temporum felicitas, ubi sentire quae velis, et quae sentias dicere licet.
The arguments of an Author lose a great deal of their weight, when we are persuaded that he only writes for argument’s sake, and has no real concern in the cause which he espouses. This is the case of one, who draws his pen in the defence of property, without having any; except, perhaps, in the copy of a libel, or a ballad. One is apt to suspect, that the passion for liberty, which appears in a grub-street patriot, arises only from his apprehensions of a goal; and that, whatever he may pretend, he does not write to secure, but to get something of his own. Should the Government be overturned, he has nothing to lose but an old standish.
I question not but the Reader will conceive a respect for the Author of this paper, from the title of it; since, he may be sure, I am so considerable a man, that I cannot have less than forty shillings a year.
I have rather chosen this title than any other, because it is what I most glory in, and what most effectually calls to my mind the happiness of that Government under which I live. As a British Free-holder, I should not scruple taking place of a French Marquis; and when I see one of my countrymen amusing himself in his little cabbage-garden, I naturally look upon him as a greater person than the owner of the richest vineyard in Champagne.
The House of Commons is the representative of men in my condition. I consider my self as one who give my consent to every law which passes: a Free-holder in our Government being of the nature of a Citizen of Rome in that famous Common-wealth; who, by the election of a Tribune, had a kind of remote voice in every law that was enacted. So that a Free-holder is but one remove from a Legislator, and for that reason ought to stand up in the defence of those laws, which are in some degree of his own making. For such is the nature of our happy constitution, that the bulk of the people virtually give their approbation to every thing they are bound to obey, and prescribe to themselves those rules by which they are to walk.
At the same time that I declare I am a Free-holder, I do not exclude my self from any other title. A Free-holder may be either a Voter, or a Knight of the shire; a Wit, or a Fox-hunter; a Scholar, or a Soldier; an Alderman, or a Courtier; a Patriot, or a Stock-jobber. But I chuse to be distinguished by this denomination, as the Free-holder is the basis of all other titles. Dignities may be grafted upon it; but this is the substantial stock, that conveys to them their life, taste, and beauty; and without which they are no more than blossoms, that would fall away with every shake of wind.
And here I cannot but take occasion to congratulate my country upon the increase of this happy tribe of men, since, by the wisdom of the present Parliament, I find the race of Free-holders spreading into the remotest corners of the Island. I mean that Act which passed in the late Session for the encouragement of loyalty in Scotland: by which it is provided, That all and every Vassal and Vassals in Scotland, who shall continue peaceable, and in dutiful allegiance to his Majesty, his Heirs and Successors, holding lands or tenements of any offender [guilty of High-treason] who holds such lands or tenements immediately of the Crown, shall be vested and seized, and are hereby enacted and ordained to hold the said lands or tenements of his Majesty, his Heirs and Successors, in fee and heritage for ever, by such manner of holding, as any such offender held such lands or tenements of the Crown, &c.
By this means it will be in the power of a Highlander to be at all times a good tenant, without being a rebel; and to deserve the character of a faithful servant, without thinking himself obliged to follow his Master to the gallows.
How can we sufficiently extol the goodness of his present Majesty, who is not willing to have a single slave in his dominions! or enough to rejoice in the exercise of that loyalty, which, instead of betraying a man into the most ignominious servitude, (as it does in some of our neighbouring kingdoms) entitles him to the highest privileges of freedom and property! It is now to be hoped, that we shall have few Vassals, but to the laws of our country.
When these men have a taste of property, they will naturally love that constitution from which they derive so great a blessing. There is an unspeakable pleasure in calling any thing one’s own. A Free-hold, though it be but in ice and snow, will make the owner pleased in the possession, and stout in the defence of it; and is a very proper reward of our allegiance to our present King, who (by an unparallelled instance of goodness in a Sovereign, and infatuation in subjects) contends for the freedom of his people against themselves; and will not suffer many of them to fall into a state of slavery, which they are bent upon with so much eagerness and obstinacy.
A Free-holder of Great Britain is bred with an aversion to every thing that tends to bring him under a subjection to the arbitrary will of another. Of this we find frequent instances in all our histories; where the persons, whose characters are the most amiable, and strike us with the highest veneration, are those who stood up manfully against the invasions of civil liberty, and the complicated tyranny which Popery imposes upon our bodies, our fortunes, and our minds. What a despicable figure then must the present mock-patriots make in the eyes of posterity, who venture to be hanged, drawn and quartered, for the ruin of those civil rights which their ancestors rather than part with, chose to be cut to pieces in the field of battel? And what an opinion will after-ages entertain of their religion who bid fair for a gibbet, by endeavouring to bring in a superstition, which their forefathers perished in flames to keep out?
But how instructive soever the folly of these men may prove to future times, it will be my business more immediately to consult the happiness of the age in which I live. And since so many profligate writers have endeavoured to varnish over a bad cause, I shall do all in my power to recommend a good one, which indeed requires no more than barely to explain what it is. While many of my gallant countrymen are employed in pursuing rebels half discomfited through the consciousness of their guilt, I shall labour to improve those victories to the good of my fellow-subjects; by carrying on our successes over the minds of men, and by reconciling them to the cause of their King, their Country, and their Religion.
To this end, I shall in the course of this paper (to be published every Monday and Friday) endeavour to open the eyes of my countrymen to their own interest, to shew them the privileges of an English Free-holder, which they enjoy in common with my self, and to make them sensible how these blessings are secured to us by his Majesty’s title, his administration, and his personal character.
I have only one request to make to my Readers, that they will peruse these papers with the same candour and impartiality in which they are written; and shall hope for no other prepossession in favour of them, than what one would think should be natural to every man, a desire to be happy, and a good will towards those, who are the instruments of making them so.
Monday, December 26, 1715
Non de domino, sed de parente loquimur. Intelligamus ergo bona nostra, dignosque nos illius usu probemus; atque identidem cogitemus, si majus principibus praestemus obsequium, qui servitute civium, quam qui libertate laetantur.
Having in my first paper set forth the happiness of my station as a Free-holder of Great Britain, and the nature of that property which is secured to me by the laws of my country; I cannot forbear considering, in the next place, that person who is entrusted with the guardianship and execution of those laws. I have lived in one reign, when the Prince, instead of invigorating the laws of our country, or giving them their proper course, assumed a power of dispensing with them: and in another, when the Sovereign was flattered by a set of men into a persuasion, that the regal Authority was unlimited and uncircumscribed. In either of these cases, good laws are at best but a dead letter; and by shewing the people how happy they ought to be, only serve to aggravate the sense of their oppressions.
We have the pleasure at this time to see a King upon the throne, who hath too much goodness to wish for any power, that does not enable him to promote the welfare of his subjects; and too much wisdom to look upon those as his friends, who would make their court to him by the profession of an obedience, which they never practised, and which has always proved fatal to those Princes, who have put it to the tryal. His Majesty gave a proof of his sovereign virtues, before he came to the exercise of them in this kingdom. His inclination to justice led him to rule his German subjects in the same manner, that our constitution directs him to govern the English. He regarded those which are our civil liberties, as the natural rights of mankind; and therefore indulged them to a people, who pleaded no other claim to them than from his known goodness and humanity. This experience of a good Prince, before we had the happiness to enjoy him, must give great satisfaction to every thinking man, who considers how apt Sovereignty is to deprave human nature; and how many of our own Princes made very ill figures upon the Throne, who, before they ascended it, were the favourites of the people.
What gives us the greatest security in the conduct of so excellent a Prince is That consistency of behaviour, whereby he inflexibly pursues those measures which appear the most just and equitable. As he hath the character of being the most prudent in laying proper schemes; he is no less remarkable for being steady in accomplishing what he has once concerted. Indeed, if we look into the history of his present Majesty, and reflect upon that wonderful series of successes which have attended him, I think they cannot be ascribed to any thing so much as to his uniformity and firmness of mind, which has always discovered it self in his proceedings. It was by this that he surmounted those many difficulties which lay in the way to his succession; and by which, we have reason to hope, he will daily make all opposition fall before him. The fickle and unsteady politicks of our late British Monarchs, have been the perpetual source of those dissensions and animosities which have made the nation unhappy: Whereas the constant and unshaken temper of his present Majesty, must have a natural tendency to the peace of his government, and the unanimity of his people.
Whilst I am enumerating the publick virtues of our Sovereign, which are so conducive to the advantage of those who are to obey him, I cannot but take notice, that his Majesty was bred up from his infancy with a love to this our nation, under a Princess, who was the most accomplished woman of her age, and particularly famous for her affection to the English. Our countrymen were dear to him, before there was any prospect of their being his subjects; and every one knows, that nothing recommended a man so much to the distinguishing civilities of his Court, as the being born in Great Britain.
To the fame of his Majesty’s civil virtues, we may add the reputation he has acquired by his martial atchievements. It is observed by Sir William Temple, that the English are particularly fond of a King who is valiant: upon which account his Majesty has a title to all the esteem that can be paid the most warlike Prince; though at the same time, for the good of his Subjects, he studies to decline all occasions of military glory; and chuses rather to be distinguished as the Father, than as the Captain of his people. I am glad his rebellious subjects are too inconsiderable to put him upon exerting that courage and conduct, which raised him so great a reputation in Hungary and the Morea, when he fought against the enemies of Christianity; and in Germany and Flanders, where he commanded against the great disturber of the peace of Europe. One would think there was reason for the opinion of those, who make personal courage to be an hereditary virtue, when we see so many instances of it in the line of Brunswick. To go no farther back than the time of our present King, where can we find, among the soveraign houses of Europe, any other family, that has furnished so many persons of distinguished fortitude? Three of his Majesty’s brothers have fallen gloriously in the field, fighting against the enemies of their native country: And the bravery of his royal Highness the Prince of Wales, is still fresh in our memory, who fought, with the spirit of his father, at the battel of Audenarde, when the children of France, and the Pretender, fled before him.
I might here take notice of his Majesty’s more private virtues, but have rather chosen to remind my countrymen of the publick parts of his character, which are supported by such incontestable facts as are universally known and acknowledged.
Having thus far considered our happiness in his Majesty’s civil and military character, I cannot forbear pleasing my self with regarding him in the view of one, who has been always fortunate. Cicero recommends Pompey under this particular head to the Romans, with whom the character of being fortunate was so popular, that several of their Emperors gave it a place among their titles. Good fortune is often the reward of virtue, and as often the effect of prudence. And whether it proceeds from either of these, or from both together, or whatever may be the cause of it, every one is naturally pleased to see his interests conducted by a person who is used to good success. The establishment of the Electoral dignity in his Majesty’s family, was a work reserved for him finally to accomplish. A large accession of dominion fell to him, by his succeeding to the Dukedom of Zell, whereby he became one of the greatest Princes of Germany; and one of the most powerful persons, that ever stood next heirs to the throne of Great Britain. The Dutchy of Bremen, and the Bishoprick of Osnaburg, have considerably strengthned his interests in the Empire, and given a great additional weight to the Protestant cause. But the most remarkable interpositions of providence, in favour of him, have appeared in removing those seemingly invincible obstacles to his succession; in taking away, at so critical a juncture, the person who might have proved a dangerous enemy; in confounding the secret and open attempts of his traiterous subjects; and in giving him the delightful prospect of transmitting his power through a numerous and still encreasing progeny.
Upon the whole, it is not to be doubted but every wise and honest subject will concur with Providence in promoting the glory and happiness of his present Majesty, who is endowed with all those Royal virtues, that will naturally secure to us the national blessings, which ought to be dear and valuable to a free people.
Friday, January 6, 1716
Omnium Societatum nulla est gravior, nulla carior, quam ea quae cum republica est unicuique nostrum: cari sunt parentes, cari liberi, propinqui, familiares: Sed omnes omnium caritates patria una complexa est: Pro qua quis bonus dubitet mortem oppetere, si ei sit profuturus?
There is no greater sign of a general decay of virtue in a nation, than a want of zeal in its inhabitants for the good of their country. This generous and publick-spirited passion has been observed of late years to languish and grow cold in this our Island; where a party of men have made it their business to represent it as chimerical and romantic, to destroy in the minds of the people the sense of national glory, and to turn into ridicule our natural and ancient Allies, who are united to us by the common interests both of religion and policy. It may not therefore be unseasonable to recommend to this present generation the practice of that virtue, for which their ancestors were particularly famous, and which is called The love of one’s country. This love to our country, as a moral virtue, is a fixed disposition of mind to promote the safety, welfare, and reputation of the community in which we are born, and of the constitution under which we are protected. Our obligation to this great duty, may appear to us from several considerations.
In the first place we may observe, that we are directed to it by one of those secret suggestions of nature, which go under the name of Instinct, and which are never given in vain. As self-love is an instinct planted in us for the good and safety of each particular person, the love of our country is impressed on our minds for the happiness and preservation of the community. This instinct is so remarkable, that we find examples of it in those who are born in the most uncomfortable climates, or the worst of governments. We read of an inhabitant of Nova Zembla, who, after having lived some time in Denmark, where he was cloathed and treated with the utmost indulgence, took the first opportunity of making his escape, though with the hazard of his life, into his native regions of cold, poverty and nakedness. We have an instance of the same nature among the very Hottentots. One of these savages was brought into England, taught our language, and in a great measure polished out of his natural barbarity: but upon being carried back to the Cape of Good Hope (where it was thought he might have been of advantage to our English traders) he mixed in a kind of transport with his countrymen, brutalized with them in their habit and manners, and would never again return to his foreign acquaintance. I need not mention the common opinion of the Negroes in our plantations, who have no other notion of a future state of happiness, than that, after death, they shall be conveyed back to their native country. The Swiss are so remarkable for this passion, that it often turns to a disease among them; for which there is a particular name in the German language, and which the French call The distemper of the country: for nothing is more usual than for several of their common soldiers, who are listed into a foreign service, to have such violent hankerings after their home, as to pine away even to death, unless they have a permission to return; which, on such an occasion, is generally granted them. I shall only add under this head, that since the love of one’s country is natural to every man, any particular nation, who, by false politicks, shall endeavour to stifle or restrain it, will not be upon a level with others.
As this love of our country is natural to every man, so it is likewise very reasonable; and that, in the first place, because it inclines us to be beneficial to those, who are and ought to be dearer to us than any others. It takes in our families, relations, friends and acquaintance, and, in short, all whose welfare and security we are obliged to consult, more than that of those who are strangers to us. For this reason it is the most sublime and extensive of all social virtues: especially if we consider that it does not only promote the well-being of these who are our contemporaries, but likewise of their children and their posterity. Hence it is that all casuists are unanimous in determining, that when the good of the country interferes even with the life of the most beloved relation, dearest friend, or greatest benefactor, it is to be preferred without exception.
Farther, though there is a benevolence due to all mankind, none can question but a superior degree of it is to be paid to a father, a wife, or child. In the same manner, though our love should reach to the whole species, a greater proportion of it should exert it self towards that community in which providence has placed us. This is our proper sphere of action, the province allotted to us for the exercise of our civil virtues, and in which alone we have opportunities of expressing our good-will to mankind. I could not but be pleased, in the accounts of the late Persian embassy into France, with a particular ceremony of the Embassador; who, every morning, before he went abroad, religiously saluted a turf of earth dug out of his own native soil, to remind him, that in all the transactions of the day he was to think of his country, and pursue its advantages. If, in the several districts and divisions of the world, men would thus study the welfare of those respective communities, to which their power of doing good is limited, the whole race of reasonable creatures would be happy, as far as the benefits of society can make them so. At least, we find so many blessings naturally flowing from this noble principle, that, in proportion as it prevails, every nation becomes a prosperous and flourishing people.
It may be yet a farther recommendation of this particular virtue, if we consider, that no nation was ever famous for its morals, which was not at the same time remarkable for its public spirit: Patriots naturally rise out of a Spartan or Roman virtue: and there is no remark more common among the antient historians, than that when the State was corrupted with avarice and luxury, it was in danger of being betrayed, or sold.
To the foregoing reasons for the love which every good man owes to his country, we may add, that the actions, which are most celebrated in history, and which are read with the greatest admiration, are such as proceed from this principle. The establishing of good laws, the detecting of conspiracies, the crushing of seditions and rebellions, the falling in battel, or the devoting of a man’s self to certain death for the safety of fellow citizens, are actions that always warm the Reader, and endear to him persons of the remotest ages, and the most distant countries.
And as actions, that proceed from the love of one’s country, are more illustrious than any others in the records of time; so we find that those persons who have been eminent in other virtues, have been particularly distinguished by this. It would be endless to produce examples of this kind, out of Greek and Roman Authors. To confine my self therefore in so wide and beaten a field, I shall chuse some instances from Holy Writ, which abounds in accounts of this nature, as much as any other history whatsoever. And this I do the more willingly, because in some books lately written, I find it objected against revealed religion, that it does not inspire the love of one’s country. Here I must premise, that as the sacred Author of our religion chiefly inculcated to the Jews those parts of their duty wherein they were most defective, so there was no need of insisting upon this: the Jews being remarkable for an attachment to their own country, even to the exclusion of all common humanity to strangers. We see in the behaviour of this divine person, the practice of this virtue in conjunction with all others. He deferred working a miracle in the behalf of a Syro-Phoenician woman, until he had declared his superior good-will to his own nation; and was prevailed upon to heal the daughter of a Roman Centurion, by hearing from the Jews, that he was one who loved their nation, and had built them a Synagogue. But, to look out for no other instance, what was ever more moving, than his lamentation over Jerusalem, at his first approach to it, notwithstanding he had foretold the cruel and unjust treatment he was to meet with in that city! for he foresaw the destruction which in a few years was to fall upon that people; a destruction not to be parallelled in any nation from the beginning of the world to this day; and in the view of it melted into tears. His followers have in many places expressed the like sentiments of affection for their countrymen, among which none is more extraordinary than that of the great Convert, who wished he himself might be made a curse, provided it might turn to the happiness of his nation; or as he words it, of his brethren and kinsmen, who are Israelites. This instance naturally brings to mind the same heroic temper of soul in the great Jewish Law-giver, who would have devoted himself in the same manner, rather than see his people perish. It would indeed be difficult to find out any man of extraordinary piety in the sacred writings, in whom this virtue is not highly conspicuous. The Reader however will excuse me, if I take notice of one passage, because it is a very fine one, and wants only a place in some polite Author of Greece or Rome, to have been admired and celebrated. The King of Syria lying sick upon his bed, sent Hasael one of his great officers to the Prophet Elisha, to enquire of him whether he should recover. The Prophet looked so attentively on this messenger, that it put him into some confusion; or to quote this beautiful circumstance, and the whole narrative, in the pathetick language of Scripture, Elisha settled his countenance stedfastly upon him, until he was ashamed: and Hasael said, Why weepeth my Lord? And he said, Because I know the evil that thou wilt do unto the children of Israel: their strong holds wilt thou set on fire, and their men wilt thou slay with the sword, and wilt dash their children, and rip up their women with child. And Hasael said, But what, is thy servant a dog, that he should do this great thing? And Elisha answered, The Lord hath shewed me, that thou shalt be King over Syria.
I might enforce these reasons for the love of our country, by considerations adapted to my Readers as they are Englishmen, and as by that means they enjoy a purer religion, and a more excellent form of government, than any other nation under Heaven. But being persuaded that every one must look upon himself as indispensably obliged to the practice of a duty, which is recommended to him by so many arguments and examples, I shall only desire the honest, well-meaning Reader, when he turns his thoughts towards the publick, rather to consider what opportunities he has of doing good to his native country, than to throw away his time in deciding the rights of Princes, or the like speculations, which are so far beyond his reach. Let us leave these great points to the wisdom of our Legislature, and to the determination of those, who are the proper judges of our Constitution. We shall otherwise be liable to the just reproach, which is cast upon such christians, as waste their lives in the subtle and intricate disputes of religion, when they should be practising the doctrine which it teaches. If there be any right upon earth, any relying on the judgment of our most eminent Lawyers and Divines, or indeed any certainty in human reason, our present Sovereign has an undoubted title to our duty and obedience. But supposing, for argument’s sake, that this right were doubtful, and that an Englishman could be divided in his opinion, as to the person to whom he should pay his allegiance: in this case, there is no question, but the love of his country ought to cast the ballance, and to determine him on that side, which is most conducive to the welfare of his community. To bring this to our present case. A man must be destitute of common sense, who is capable of imagining that the Protestant religion could flourish under the government of a bigotted Roman-catholick, or that our civil rights could be protected by one who has been trained up in the politicks of the most arbitrary Prince in Europe, and who could not acknowledge his gratitude to his benefactor, by any remarkable instance, which would not be detrimental to the British nation. And are these such desirable blessings, that an honest man would endeavour to arrive at them, through the confusions of a civil war, and the blood of many thousands of his fellow-subjects? On the contrary, the arguments for our steady, loyal, and affectionate adherence to King George, are so evident from this single topic, that if every Briton, instead of aspiring after private wealth or power, would sincerely desire to make his country happy, his present Majesty would not have a single malecontent in his whole dominions.
Monday, January 23, 1716
Potior visa est periculosa libertas quieto servitio.
One may venture to affirm, that all honest and disinterested Britons of what party soever, if they understood one another, are of the same opinion in points of Government: and that the gross of the people, who are imposed upon by terms which they do not comprehend, are Whigs in their hearts. They are made to believe, that passive obedience and non-resistance, unlimited power and indefeasible right, have something of a venerable and religious meaning in them; whereas in reality they only imply, that a King of Great Britain has a right to be a Tyrant, and that his subjects are obliged in conscience to be slaves. Were the case truly and fairly laid before them, they would know, that when they make a profession of such principles, they renounce their legal claim to liberty and property, and unwarily submit to what they really abhor.
It is our happiness, under the present Reign, to hear our King from the throne exhorting us to be zealous assertors of the liberties of our countrey; which exclude all pretensions to an arbitrary, tyrannick, despotick power. Those, who have the misfortune to live under such a power, who have no other law but the will of their Prince, and consequently no privileges, but what are precarious. For though in some arbitrary Governments there may be a body of laws observed in the ordinary forms of justice, they are not sufficient to secure any rights to the people; because they may be dispensed with, or laid aside, at the pleasure of the Soveraign.
And here it very much imports us to consider, that arbitrary power naturally tends to make a man a bad Soveraign, who might possibly have been a good one, had he been invested with an authority limited and circumscribed by laws. None can doubt of this tendency in arbitrary power, who consider, that it fills the mind of man with great and unreasonable conceits of himself; raises him into a belief, that he is of a superior species to his subjects; extinguishes in him the principle of fear, which is one of the greatest motives to all duties; and creates an ambition of magnifying himself, by the exertion of such a power in all its instances. So great is the danger, that when a Soveraign can do what he will, he will do what he can.
One of the most arbitrary Princes in our age was Muley Ishmael, Emperor of Morocco, who, after a long Reign, died about a twelve-month ago. This Prince was a man of much wit and natural sense, of an active temper, undaunted courage, and great application. He was a descendent of Mahomet; and so exemplary for his adherence to the law of his Prophet, that he abstained all his life from the taste of wine; began the annual fast, or Lent of Ramadan two months before his subjects; was frequent in his prayers; and that he might not want opportunities of kneeling, had fixed in all the spacious courts of his Palace large consecrated stones pointing towards the East, for any occasional exercise of his devotion. What might not have been hoped from a Prince of these endowments, had they not been all rendered useless and ineffectual to the good of his people by the notion of that power which they ascribed to him! This will appear, if we consider how he exercised it towards his subjects in those three great points which are the chief ends of Government, the preservation of their lives, the security of their fortunes, and the determinations of justice between man and man.
Foreign Envoys, who have given an account of their audiences, describe this holy man mounted on horseback in an open court, with several of his Alcaydes, or governours of provinces about him, standing bare foot, trembling, bowing to the earth, and at every word he spoke, breaking out into passionate exclamations of Praise, as, Great is the wisdom of our Lord the King; our Lord the King speaks as an angel from Heaven. Happy was the man among them, who was so much a favourite as to be sent on an errand to the most remote street in his Capital; which he performed with the greatest alacrity, ran through every puddle that lay in his way, and took care to return out of breath and covered with dirt, that he might shew himself a diligent and faithful Minister. His Majesty at the same time, to exhibit the greatness of his power, and shew his horsemanship, seldom dismissed the foreigner from his presence, ’till he had entertained him with the slaughter of two or three of his liege subjects, whom he very dexterously put to death with the tilt of his launce. St. Olon, the French Envoy, tells us, that when he had his last audience of him, he received him in robes just stained with an execution; and that he was blooded up to his elbows by a couple of Moors, whom he had been butchering with his own imperial hands. By the calculation of that Author, and many others, who have since given an account of his exploits, we may reckon that by his own arm he killed above forty thousand of his people. To render himself the more awful, he chose to wear a Garb of a particular colour when he was bent upon executions; so that when he appeared in yellow, his great men hid themselves in corners, and durst not pay their court to him, till he had satiated his thirst of blood by the death of some of his loyal Commoners, or of such unwary officers of State as chanced to come in his way. Upon this account we are told, that the first news enquired after every morning at Mequinez, was, Whether the Emperor were stirring, and in a good or bad humour? As this Prince was a great admirer of architecture, and employed many thousands in works of that kind, if he did not approve the plan or the performance, it was usual for him to shew the delicacy of his taste by demolishing the building, and putting to death all that had a hand in it. I have heard but of one instance of his mercy; which was shewn to the master of an English vessel. This our Countreyman presented him with a curious hatchet, which he received very graciously; and asking him whether it had a good edge, tried it upon the Donor, who slipping aside from the blow, escaped with the loss only of his right ear; for old Muley, upon second thoughts, considering that it was not one of his own subjects, stopped his hand, and would not send him to Paradise. I cannot quit this article of his tenderness for the lives of his people, without mentioning one of his Queens, whom he was remarkably fond of; as also a favourite prime Minister, who was very dear to him. The first died by a kick of her Lord the King, when she was big with child, for having gathered a flower as she was walking with him in his pleasure garden. The other was bastinado’d to death by his Majesty; who, repenting of the drubs he had given him when it was too late, to manifest his esteem for the memory of so worthy a man, executed the Surgeon that could not cure him.
This absolute Monarch was as notable a Guardian of the fortunes, as of the lives of his subjects. When any man among his people grew rich, in order to keep him from being dangerous to the State, he used to send for all his goods and chattels. His Governours of Towns and Provinces, who formed themselves upon the example of their Grand Monarque, practised rapine, violence, extortion, and all the arts of despotick Government in their respective districts, that they might be the better enabled to make him their yearly presents. For the greatest of his Viceroys could only propose to himself a comfortable subsistence out of the plunder of his province, and was in certain danger of being recalled or hanged, if he did not remit the bulk of it to his dread Soveraign. That he might make a right use of these prodigious treasures, which flowed in to him from all the parts of his wide Empire, he took care to bury them under ground, by the hands of his most trusty slaves, and then cut their throats, as the most effectual method to keep them from making discoveries. These were his Ways and Means for raising mony, by which he weakened the hands of the factious, and in any case of emergency, could employ the whole wealth of his Empire, which he had thus amassed together in his subterraneous Exchequer.
As there is no such thing as property under an arbitrary government, you may learn what was Muley Ishmael’s notion of it from the following story. Being upon the road, amidst his life-guards, a little before the time of the Ram-feast, he met one of his Alcaydes at the head of his servants, who were driving a great flock of sheep to market. The Emperor asked whose they were: the Alcayde answered with profound submission, They are mine, O Ishmael, Son of Elcherif, of the line of Hassan. Thine!thou son of a cuckold, said this Servant of the Lord; I thought I had been the only proprietor in this country; upon which he run him through the body with his launce, and very piously distributed the sheep among his guards, for the celebration of the feast.
His determinations of justice between man and man, were indeed very summary and decisive, and generally put an end to the vexations of a lawsuit, by the ruin both of Plaintiff and Defendant. Travellers have recorded some samples of this kind, which may give us an idea of the blessings of his Administration. One of his Alcaydes complaining to him of a wife, whom he had received from his Majesty’s hands, and therefore could not divorce her, that she used to pull him by the beard; the Emperor to redress this grievance, ordered his beard to be plucked up by the roots, that he might not be liable to any more such affronts. A country Farmer having accused some of his Negro guards for robbing him of a drove of oxen, the Emperor readily shot the offenders: but afterwards demanding reparation of the accuser, for the loss of so many brave fellows, and finding him insolvent, compounded the matter with him by taking away his life. There are many other instances of the same kind. I must observe however under this head, that the only good thing he is celebrated for, during his whole reign, was the clearing of the roads and high-ways of robbers, with which they used to be very much infested. But his method was to slay man, woman and child, who lived within a certain distance from the place, where the robbery was committed. This extraordinary piece of justice could not but have its effect, by making every road in his Empire unsafe for the profession of a free-booter.
I must not omit this Emperor’s reply to Sir Cloudesly Shovel, who had taken several of his subjects by way of reprizal for the English captives that were detained in his dominions. Upon the Admiral’s offering to exchange them on very advantageous terms, this good Emperor sent him word, The subjects he had taken were poor men, not worth the ransoming; and that he might throw them over board, or destroy them otherwise as he pleased.
Such was the government of Muley Ishmael, the servant of God, the Emperor of the faithful, who was couragious in the way of the Lord, the noble, the good.
To conclude this account, which is extracted from the best authorities, I shall only observe that he was a great admirer of his late most Christian Majesty. In a letter to him, he compliments him with the title of Sovereign Arbiter of the actions and wills of his people. And in a book published by a French man, who was sent to him as an Ambassador, is the following passage, He is absolute in his States, and often compares himself to the Emperor of France, who he says is the only person that knows how to reign like himself, and to make his will the law.
This was that Emperor of France to whom the person who has a great mind to be King of these realms owed his education, and from whom he learned his notions of government. What should hinder one, whose mind is so well seasoned with such prepossessions, from attempting to copy after his patron, in the exercise of such a power; especially considering that the party who espouse his interest, never fail to compliment a Prince that distributes all his places among them, with unlimited power on his part, and unconditional obedience on that of his subjects.
Monday, January 30, 1716
Quapropter, de summâ salute vestrâ, P. C. de vestris conjugibus ac liberis, de aris ac focis, de fanis ac templis, de totius urbis tectis ac sedibus, de imperio, de libertate, de salute patriae, deque universâ republicâ decernite diligenter, ut instituistis, ac fortiter.
This day having been set apart by publick authority to raise in us an abhorrence of the Great Rebellion, which involved this nation in so many calamities, and ended in the murder of their Sovereign; it may not be unseasonable to shew the guilt of rebellion in general, and of that rebellion in particular which is stirred up against his present Majesty.
That rebellion is one of the most heinous crimes which it is in the power of man to commit, may appear from several considerations. First, as it destroys the end of all government, and the benefits of civil society. Government was instituted for maintaining the peace, safety, and happiness of a people. These great ends are brought about by a general conformity and submission to that frame of laws which is established in every community, for the protection of the innocent, and the punishment of the guilty. As on the one side men are secured in the quiet possession of their lives, properties, and every thing they have a right to: so on the other side, those who offer them any injury in these particulars, are subject to penalties proportioned to their respective offences. Government therefore mitigates the inequality of power among particular persons, and makes an innocent man, though of the lowest rank, a match for the mightiest of his fellow-subjects; since he has the force of the whole community on his side, which is able to controul the insolence or injustice of any private oppressor. Now rebellion disappoints all these ends and benefits of government, by raising a power in opposition to that authority which has been established among a people for their mutual welfare and defence. So that rebellion is as great an evil to society, as government itself is a blessing.
In the next place, rebellion is a violation of those engagements, which every government exacts from such persons as live under it; and consequently, the most base and pernicious instance of treachery and perfidiousness. The guilt of rebellion increases in proportion as these engagements are more solemn and obligatory. Thus if a man makes his way to rebellion through perjury, he gives additional horrors to that crime, which is in itself of the blackest nature.
We may likewise consider rebellion as a greater complication of wickedness than any other crime we can commit. It is big with rapine, sacrilege, and murder. It is dreadful in its mildest effects, as it impoverishes the publick; ruins particular families; begets and perpetuates hatreds among fellow-subjects, friends, and relations; makes a country the seat of war and desolation, and exposes it to the attempts of its foreign enemies. In short, as it is impossible for it to take effect, or to make the smallest progress, but through a continued course of violence and bloodshed; a robber or a murderer looks like an innocent man, when we compare him with a rebel.
I shall only add, that as in the subordination of a government the King is offended by any insults or oppositions to an inferior Magistrate; so the sovereign Ruler of the universe is affronted by a breach of allegiance to those whom he has set over us; Providence having delegated to the supream Magistrate in every country the same power for the good of men, which that supream Magistrate transfers to those several officers and substitutes who act under him, for the preserving of order and justice.
Now if we take a view of the present rebellion which is formed against his Majesty, we shall find in it all the guilt that is naturally inherent in this crime, without any single circumstance to alleviate it. Insurrections among a people to rescue themselves from the most violent and illegal oppressions; to throw off a tyranny that makes property precarious, and life painful; to preserve their laws and their religion to themselves and their posterity; are excused from the necessity of such an undertaking, when no other means are left for the security of every thing that is dear and valuable to reasonable creatures. By the frame of our constitution, the duties of protection and allegiance are reciprocal; and as the safety of a community is the ultimate end and design of government, when this, instead of being preserved, is manifestly destroyed, civil societies are excusable before God and man, if they endeavour to recover themselves out of so miserable a condition. For in such a case government becomes an evil instead of a blessing, and is not at all preferable to a state of anarchy and mutual independence. For these reasons, we have scarce ever yet heard of an insurrection that was not either coloured with grievances of the highest kind, or countenanced by one or more branches of the legislature. But the present rebellion is formed against a King, whose right has been established by frequent Parliaments of all parties, and recognized by the most solemn oaths; who has not been charged with one illegal proceeding; who acts in perfect concert with the Lords and Commons of the realm; who is famed for his equity and goodness, and has already very much advanced the reputation and interest of our country. The guilt therefore of this rebellion has in it all the most aggravating circumstances; which will still appear more plainly, if we consider in the first place the real motives to it.
The rebellion, which was one of the most flagitious in itself, and described with the most horror by historians, is that of Catiline and his associates. The motives to it are displayed at large by the Roman writers, in order to inspire the Reader with the utmost detestation of it. Catiline, the chief of the rebellion, had been disappointed in his competition for one of the first offices in the government, and had involved himself in such private debts and difficulties, as nothing could extricate him out of, but the ruin of an administration that would not entrust him with posts of honour or profit. His principal accomplices were men of the same character, and animated by the same incentives. They complained that power was lodged in the hands of the worst, to the oppression of the best; and that places were conferred on unworthy men, to the exclusion of themselves and their friends. Many of them were afraid of publick justice for past crimes, and some of them stood actually condemned as traytors to their country. These were joined by men of desperate fortunes, who hoped to find their account in the confusions of their country, were applauded by the meanest of the rabble, who always delighted in change, and privately abetted by persons of a considerable figure, who aimed at those honours and preferments which were in the possession of their rivals. These are the motives with which Catiline’s rebellion is branded in history, and which are expresly mentioned by Sallust. I shall leave it to every unprejudiced Reader to compare them with the motives which have kindled the present rebellion in his Majesty’s dominions.
As this Rebellion is of the most criminal nature from its motives, so it is likewise if we consider its consequences. Should it succeed, (a supposition which, God be thanked, is very extravagant) what must be the natural effects of it upon our Religion! What could we expect from an army, blest by the Pope, headed by a zealous Roman-Catholick, encouraged by the most bigotted Princes of the Church of Rome, supported by contributions not only from these several Potentates, but from the wealthiest of their convents, and officered by Irish Papists and out-laws! Can we imagine that the Roman-Catholicks of our own nation would so heartily embark in an enterprize, to the visible hazard of their lives and fortunes, did they only hope to enjoy their Religion under those laws which are now in force? In short, the danger to the Protestant cause is so manifest, that it would be an affront to the understanding of the reader to endeavour farther to prove it.
Arbitrary power is so interwoven with Popery, and so necessary to introduce it, so agreeable to the education of the Pretender, so conformable to the principles of his adherents, and so natural to the insolence of conquerors, that should our invader gain the sovereign power by violence, there is no doubt but he would preserve it by tyranny. I shall leave to the Reader’s own consideration, the change of property in general, and the utter extinction of it in our national funds, the inundation of Nobles without estates, Prelates without bishopricks, officers civil and military without places; and in short, the several occasions of rapine and revenge, which would necessarily ensue upon such a fatal Revolution. But by the blessing of Providence, and the wisdom of his Majesty’s administration, this melancholy prospect is as distant as it is dreadful.
These are the consequences which would necessarily attend the success of the present Rebellion. But we will now suppose that the event of it should for some time remain doubtful. In this case we are to expect all the miseries of a civil war: Nay, the armies of the greatest foreign Princes would be subsisted, and all the battels of Europe fought in England. The Rebels have already shewn us, that they want no inclination to promote their cause by fire and sword, where they have an opportunity of practising their barbarities. Should such a fierce and rapacious Host of men, as that which is now in the Highlands, fall down into our countrey, that is so well peopled, adorned and cultivated, how would their march be distinguished by ravage and devastation! might not we say of them in the sublime and beautiful words of the Prophet, describing the progress of an enraged army from the North; Before them is as the garden of Eden, and behind them as the desolate wilderness; yea, and nothing shall escape them.
What then can we think of a party, who would plunge their native countrey into such evils as these; when the only avowed motive for their proceedings is a point of Theory, that has been already determined by those who are proper judges, and in whose determination we have so many years acquiesced. If the calamities of the nation in general can make no impression on them, let them at least, in pity to themselves, their friends and dependents, forbear all open and secret methods of encouraging a Rebellion, so destructive, and so unprovoked. All human probabilities are against them; and they cannot expect success, but from a miraculous interposition of the Almighty. And this we may with all Christian humility hope, will not turn against us, who observe those oaths which we have made in his presence; who are zealous for the safety of that Religion, which we think most acceptable in his sight; and who endeavour to preserve that constitution which is most conducive to the happiness of our countrey.
Friday, February 3, 1716
Ignavum fucos pecus à praesepibus arcent.
The most common, and indeed the most natural division of all offences, is into those of omission and commission. We may make the same division of that particular set of crimes which regard human society. The greatest crime which can be committed against it is Rebellion; as was shewn in my last paper. The greatest crime of omission, is an indifference in the particular members of a society, when a Rebellion is actually begun among them. In such a juncture, though a man may be innocent of the great breach which is made upon Government, he is highly culpable, if he does not use all the means that are suitable to his Station for reducing the community into its former state of peace and good order.
Our obligation to be active on such an occasion appears from the nature of civil Government; which is an institution, whereby we are all confederated together for our mutual defence and security. Men who profess a state of neutrality in times of publick danger, desert the common interest of their fellow-subjects; and act with independence to that constitution into which they are incorporated. The safety of the whole requires our joint endeavours. When this is at stake, the indifferent are not properly a part of the community; or rather are like dead limbs, which are an incumbrance to the body, instead of being of use to it. Besides that, the protection which all receive from the same Government, justly calls upon the gratitude of all to strengthen it, as well as upon their self-interest to preserve it.
But farther; If men, who in their hearts are friends to a Government, forbear giving it their utmost assistance against its enemies, they put it in the power of a few desperate men to ruin the welfare of those who are much superior to them in strength, number and interest. It was a remarkable law of Solon, the great Legislator of the Athenians, that any person who in the civil tumults and commotions of the Republick remained neuter, or an indifferent spectator of the contending parties, should, after the re-establishment of the publick peace, forfeit all his possessions, and be condemned to perpetual banishment. This law made it necessary for every Citizen to take his party, because it was highly probable the Majority would be so wise as to espouse that cause which was most agreeable to the publick Weal, and by that means hinder a sedition from making a successful progress. At least, as every prudent and honest man, who might otherwise favour any indolence in his own temper, was hereby engaged to be active, such a one would be sure to join himself to that side which had the good of their country most at heart. For this reason their famous Law-giver condemned the persons who sat idle in divisions so dangerous to the Government, as Aliens to the community, and therefore to be cut off from it as unprofitable members.
Further; Indifference cannot but be criminal, when it is conversant about objects which are so far from being of an indifferent nature, that they are of the highest importance to our selves and our countrey. If it be indifferent to us whether we are free subjects or slaves; whether our Prince be of our own Religion, or of one that obliges him to extirpate it; we are in the right to give our selves no trouble in the present juncture. A man governs himself by the dictates of virtue and good sense, who acts without zeal or passion in points that are of no consequence: But when the whole community is shaken, and the safety of the publick endangered, the appearance of a Philosophical or an affected indolence must arise either from stupidity, or perfidiousness.
When in the division of parties among us, men only strove for the first place in the Prince’s favour; when all were attached to the same form of government, and contended only for the highest offices in it; a prudent and an honest man might look upon the struggle with indifference, and be in no great pain for the success of either side. But at present the contest is not in reality between Whigs and Tories, but between Loyalists and Rebels. Our country is not now divided into two parties, who propose the same end by different means; but into such as would preserve, and such as would destroy it. Whatever denominations we might range our selves under in former times, men who have any natural love to their country, or sense of their duty, should exert their united strength in a cause that is common to all parties, as they are Protestants and Britons. In such a case, an avowed indifference is treachery to our fellow-subjects; and a lukewarm allegiance may prove as pernicious in its consequences as treason.
I need not repeat here what I have proved at large in a former paper, that we are obliged to an active obedience by the solemn oaths we have taken to his Majesty; and that the neutral kind of indifference, which is the subject of this paper, falls short of that obligation they lie under, who have taken such oaths; as will easily appear to any one who considers the form of those sacred and religious engagements.
How then can any man answer it to himself, if, for the sake of managing his interest or character among a party, or out of any personal pique to those who are the most conspicuous for their zeal in his Majesty’s service, or from any other private and self-interested motive, he stands as a looker-on when the government is attacked by an open rebellion? especially when those engaged in it, cannot have the least prospect of success, but by the assistance of the ancient and hereditary enemies to the British nation. It is strange that these lukewarm friends to the government, whose zeal for their Sovereign rises and falls with their credit at Court, do not consider, before it be too late, that as they strengthen the rebels by their present indifference, they at the same time establish the interest of those who are their rivals and competitors for publick posts of honour. When there is an end put to this rebellion, these Gentlemen cannot pretend to have had any merit in so good a work: and they may well believe the nation will never care to see those men in the highest offices of trust, who when they are out of them, will not stir a finger in its defence.
Monday, February 13, 1716
Itaque quod plerumque in atroci negotio solet, Senatus decrevit, darent operam Consules nè quid Respublica detrimenti caperet. Ea potestas per Senatum more Romano magistratui maxuma permittitur, exercitum parare, bellum gerere, coercere omnibus modis socios atque cives, domi militiaeque imperium atque judicium summum habere. Aliter, sine populi jussu nulli earum rerum Consuli jus est.
It being the design of these papers to reconcile men to their own happiness, by removing those wrong notions and prejudices which hinder them from seeing the advantage of themselves and their posterity in the present establishment, I cannot but take notice of every thing that by the artifice of our enemies is made a matter of complaint.
Of this nature is the Suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act, by which his Majesty has been enabled, in these times of danger, to seize and detain the persons of such, who he had reason to believe were conspiring against his person and government. The expediency and reasonableness of such a temporary suspension in the present juncture may appear to every considerate man, who will turn his thoughts impartially on this subject.
I have chosen in points of this nature to draw my arguments from the first principles of government, which, as they are of no party, but assented to by every reasonable man, carry the greater weight with them, and are accommodated to the notions of all my Readers. Every one knows, who has considered the nature of government, that there must be in each particular form of it an absolute and unlimited power; and that this power is lodged in the hands of those, who have the making of its laws, whether by the nature of the constitution it be in one or more persons, in a single order of men, or in a mixt body of different ranks and degrees. It is an absurdity to imagine that those, who have the authority of making laws, cannot suspend any particular law, when they think it expedient for the publick. Without such a power all government would be defective, and not armed with a sufficient force for its own security. As self preservation by all honest methods is the first duty of every community, as well as of every private person, so the publick safety is the general view of all laws. When therefore any law does not conduce to this great end, but on the contrary in some extraordinary and unnatural junctures, the very observation of it would endanger the community, that law ought to be laid asleep for such a time, by the proper authority. Thus the very intention of our Habeas Corpus Act, namely, the preservation of the liberties of the subject, absolutely requires that act to be now suspended, since the confinement of dangerous and suspected persons, who might strengthen this rebellion, and spread a civil war through all parts of this kingdom, secures to us our civil rights, and every thing that can be valuable to a free people.
As every government must in its nature be armed with such an authority, we may observe that those governments which have been the most famous for publick spirit, and the most jealous of their liberty, have never failed to exert it upon proper occasions. There cannot be a greater instance of this, than in the old commonwealth of Rome, who flattered themselves with an opinion that their government had in it a due temper of the regal, noble, and popular power, represented by the Consuls, the Senators, and the Tribunes. The regal part was however in several points notoriously defective, and particularly because the Consuls had not a negative in the passing of a law, as the other two branches had. Nevertheless in this government, when the republick was threatened with any great and imminent danger, they thought it for the common safety to appoint a temporary Dictator, invested with the whole power of the three branches; who, when the danger was over, retired again into the community, and left the government in its natural situation. But what is more to our case, the consular power itself, though infinitely short of the regal power in Great Britain, was instructed with the whole authority which the legislature has put into the hands of his Majesty. We have an eminent instance of this in the motto of my paper, which I shall translate for the benefit of the English Reader, after having advertised him, that the power there given to the Consul, was in the time of a conspiracy. The senate therefore made a decree, as usual, when they have matters before them of so horrid a nature, That the Consuls should take care the common-wealth did not suffer any prejudice. By virtue of this very great power which the Senate allows to the Magistrate, according to the ancient customs of Rome, he may raise an army, wage war, make use of all kinds of methods to restrain the associates and citizens of Rome, and exercise the supreme authority both at home and abroad in matters civil and military;whereas otherwise the Consul is not invested with any of these powers without the express command of the people.
There now only remains to shew, that his Majesty is legally possessed of this power; and that the necessity of the present affairs requires he should be so. He is entrusted with it by the legislature of the nation; and in the very notion of a legislature is implied a power to change, repeal, and suspend what laws are in Being, as well as to make what new laws they shall think fit for the good of the people. This is so uncontroverted a maxim, that I believe never any body attempted to refute it. Our legislature have however had that just regard for their fellow-subjects, as not to entertain a thought of abrogating this law, but only to hinder it from operating at a time when it would endanger the constitution. The King is empowered to act but for a few months by virtue of this suspension; and by that means differs from a King of France, or any other tyrannical Prince, who in times of peace and tranquillity, and upon what occasion he pleases, sends any of his subjects out of the knowledge of their friends into such castles, dungeons, or imprisonments as he thinks fit. Nor did the legislature do any thing in this that was unprecedented. The Habeas Corpus Act was made but about five and thirty years ago, and since that time has been suspended four times before his present Majesty’s accession to the throne: twice under the reign of King William and Queen Mary; once under the reign of King William; and once under the reign of Queen Anne.
The necessity of this law at this time arose from the prospect of an invasion, which has since broke out into an actual rebellion; and from informations of secret and dangerous practices among men of considerable figure, who could not have been prevented from doing mischief to their country but by such a suspension of this Act of Parliament.
I cannot however but observe, that notwithstanding the lawfulness and necessity of such a suspension, had not the Rebellion broke out after the passing of this act of Parliament, I do not know how those who had been the most instrumental in procuring it, could have escaped that popular odium, which their malicious and artful enemies have now in vain endeavoured to stir up against them. Had it been possible for the vigilance and endeavours of a Ministry to have hindered even the attempts of an invasion, their very endeavours might have proved prejudicial to them. Their prudent and resolute precautions would have turned to their disadvantage, had they not been justified by those events, which they did all that was in their power to obviate. This naturally brings to mind the reflection of Tully in the like circumstances, That amidst the divisions of Rome, a man was in an unhappy condition who had a share in the administration, nay even in the preservation of the Commonwealth. O conditionem miseram non modo administrandae, verùm etiam conservandae Reipublicae!
Besides, every unprejudiced man will consider how mildly and equitably this power has been used. The persons confined have been treated with all possible humanity, and abridged of nothing but the liberty of hurting their country, and very probably of ruining both themselves and their families. And as to the numbers of those who are under this short restraint, it is very observable, that people do not seem so much surprized at the confinement of some, as at the liberty of many others. But we may from hence conclude, what every Englishman must observe with great pleasure, that his Majesty does not in this great point regulate himself by any private jealousies or suspicions, but by those evidences and informations he has received.
We have already found the good consequences of this suspension, in that it has hindered the Rebellion from gathering the strength it would otherwise have gained; not to mention those numbers it has kept from engaging in so desperate an enterprize, with the many lives it has preserved, and the desolations it has prevented.
For these and many other reasons, the representatives of Great Britain in Parliament could never have answered it to the people they represent, who have found such great benefits from the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act and without it must have felt such fatal consequences, had they not, in a case of such great necessity, made use of this customary, legal and reasonable method for securing his Majesty on the Throne, and their Country from misery or ruin.
Friday, March 30, 1716
This being a day in which the thoughts of our countrymen are, or ought to be, employed on serious subjects, I shall take the opportunity of that disposition of mind in my Readers, to recommend to them the practice of those religious and moral virtues, without which all policy is vain, and the best cause deprived of its greatest ornament and support.
Common sense, as well as the experience of all ages, teaches us, that no government can flourish which doth not encourage and propagate religion and morality among all its particular members. It was an observation of the ancient Romans, that their empire had not more increased by the strength of their arms, than by the sanctity of their manners: and Cicero, who seems to have been better versed than any of them, both in the theory and the practice of politicks, makes it a doubt, whether it were possible for a community to exist that had not a prevailing mixture of piety in its constitution. Justice, temperance, humility, and almost every other moral virtue, do not only derive the blessings of Providence upon those who exercise them, but are the natural means for acquiring the publick prosperity. Besides; religious motives and instincts are so busy in the heart of every reasonable creature, that a man who would hope to govern a society without any regard to these principles, is as much to be contemned for his folly, as to be detested for his impiety.
To this we may add, that the world is never sunk into such a state of degeneracy, but they pay a natural veneration to men of virtue; and rejoice to see themselves conducted by those, who act under the awe of a supreme Being, and who think themselves accountable for all their proceedings to the great judge and superintendent of human affairs.
Those of our fellow-subjects, who are sensible of the happiness they enjoy in his Majesty’s accession to the throne, are obliged, by all the duties of gratitude, to adore that providence which has so signally interposed in our behalf, by clearing a way to the Protestant succession through such difficulties as seemed insuperable; by detecting the conspiracies which have been formed against it; and, by many wonderful events, weakening the hands and baffling the attempts of all his Majesty’s enemies both foreign and domestick.
The party who distinguish themselves by their zeal for the present Establishment, should be careful, in a particular manner, to discover in their whole conduct such a reverence for religion, as may shew how groundless that reproach is which is cast upon them by their enemies, of being averse to our national worship. While others engross to themselves the name of The Church, and, in a manner, excommunicate the best part of their fellow-subjects; let us shew our selves the genuine sons of it, by practising the doctrines which it teaches. The advantage will be visibly on our side, if we stick to its essentials; while they triumph in that empty denomination which they bestow upon themselves. Too many of them are already dipt in the guilt of perjury and sedition; and as we remain unblemished in these particulars, let us endeavour to excel them in all the other parts of Religion, and we shall quickly find, that a regular morality is, in its own nature, more popular, as well as more meritorious, than an intemperate zeal.
We have likewise, in the present times of confusion and disorder, an opportunity of shewing our abhorrence of several principles which have been ascribed to us by the malice of our enemies. A disaffection to Kings and Kingly government, with a proneness to rebellion, have been often very unjustly charged on that party which goes by the name of Whigs. Our steady and continued adherence to his Majesty and the present happy settlement, will the most effectually confute this calumny. Our adversaries, who know very well how odious common-wealth principles are to the English nation, have inverted the very sense of words and things, rather than not continue to brand us with this imaginary guilt: For with some of these men, at present, loyalty to our King is Republicanism, and rebellion Passive-obedience.
It has been an old objection to the principles of the Whigs, that several of their leaders, who have been zealous for redressing the grievances of Government, have not behaved themselves better than the Tories in domestick scenes of life: but at the same time have been publick Patriots and private oppressors. This objection, were it true, has no weight in it, since the misbehaviour of particular persons does not at all affect their cause, and since a man may act laudably in some respects, who does not so in others. However it were to be wished, that men would not give occasion even to such invectives; but at the same time they consult the happiness of the whole, that they would promote it to their utmost in all their private dealings among those who lie more immediately within their influence. In the mean while I must observe, that this reproach, which may be often met with in print and conversation, tends in reality to the honour of the Whigs, as it supposes that a greater regard to justice and humanity is to be expected from them, than from those of the opposite party: And it is certain we cannot better recommend our principles, than by such actions as are their natural and genuine fruits.
Were we thus careful to guard our selves in a particular manner against these groundless imputations of our enemies, and to rise above them as much in our morality as in our politicks, our cause would be always as flourishing as it is just. It is certain, that our notions have a more natural tendency to such a practice, as we espouse the Protestant Interest in opposition to that of Popery, which is so far from advancing morality by its doctrines, that it has weakned, or entirely subverted, many of the duties even of natural religion.
I shall conclude, with recommending one virtue more to the friends of the present establishment, wherein the Whigs have been remarkably deficient; which is a general unanimity and concurrence in the pursuit of such measures as are necessary for the well-being of their country. As it is a laudable freedom of thought which unshackles their minds from the poor and narrow prejudices of education, and opens their eyes to a more extensive view of the publick good; the same freedom of thought disposes several of them to the embracing of particular schemes and maxims, and to a certain singularity of opinion which proves highly prejudicial to their cause; especially when they are encouraged in them by a vain breath of popularity, or by the artificial praises which are bestowed on them by the opposite party. This temper of mind, though the effect of a noble principle, very often betrays their friends, and brings into power the most pernicious and implacable of their enemies. In cases of this nature, it is the duty of an honest and prudent man, to sacrifice a doubtful opinion to the concurring judgment of those whom he believes to be well intentioned to their country, and who have better opportunities of looking into all its most complicated interests. An honest party of men acting with unanimity, are of infinitely greater consequence than the same party aiming at the same end by different views: As a large diamond is of a thousand times greater value whilst it remains entire, than when it is cut into a multitude of smaller stones, notwithstanding they may each of them be very curiously set, and are all of the same water.
Monday, April 16, 1716
In rabiem coepit verti jocus———
It is very justly, as well as frequently observed, that if our nation be ever ruined, it must be by itself. The parties and divisions which reign among us may several ways bring destruction upon our country, at the same time that our united force would be sufficient to secure us against all the attempts of a foreign enemy. Whatever expedients therefore can be found to allay those heats and animosities, which break us into different factions and interests, cannot but be useful to the publick, and highly tend to its safety, strength, and reputation.
This dangerous dissension among us discovers itself in all the most indifferent circumstances of life. We keep it up, and cherish it with as much pains, as if it were a kind of national blessing. It insinuates itself into all our discourses, mixes in our parties of pleasure, has a share in our diversions, and is an ingredient in most of our publick entertainments.
I was not long ago at the Play called Sir Courtly Nice, where to the eternal reproach of good sense, I found the whole audience had very gravely ranged themselves into two parties, under Hot-head and Testimony.Hot-head was the applauded Hero of the Tories, and Testimony no less the favourite of the Whigs. Each party followed their champion. It was wonderful to see so polite an assembly distinguishing themselves by such extraordinary representatives, and avowing their principles as conformable either to the zeal of Hot-head, or the moderation of Testimony. Thus the two parts which were designed to expose the faults of both sides, and were accordingly received by our ancestors in King Charles the Second’s reign, meet with a kind of sanction from the applauses which are respectively bestowed on them by their wise posterity. We seem to imagine that they were written as patterns for imitation, not as objects of ridicule.
This humour runs so far, that most of our late Comedies owe their success to it. The audience listens after nothing else. I have seen little Dicky place himself with great approbation at the head of the Tories for five Acts together, and Pinky espouse the interest of the Whigs with no less success. I do not find that either party has yet thrown themselves under the patronage of Scaramouch, or that Harlequin has violated that neutrality, which, upon his late arrival in Great-Britain, he professed to both parties, and which it is thought he will punctually observe, being allowed on all sides to be a man of honour. It is true, that upon his first appearance, a violent Whig tradesman in the pit begun to compliment him with a clap, as overjoyed to see him mount a ladder, and fancying him to be dressed in a highland plad.
I question not but my Readers will be surprized to find me animadverting on a practice that has been always favourable to the cause which now prevails. The British Theatre was Whig even in the worst of times; and in the last reign did not scruple to testify its zeal for the good of our country, by many magnanimous claps in its lower regions, answered with loud huzzas from the upper gallery. This good disposition is so much heightened of late, that the whole neighbourhood of the Drury-lane Theatre very often shakes with the loyalty of the audience. It is said, that a young Author, who very much relies on this prevailing humour, is now writing a Farce to be called A Match out of Newgate, in allusion to the title of a Comedy called A Match in Newgate; and that his chief person is a round-shouldered man with a pretty large nose and a wide mouth, making his addresses to a lovely black woman that passes for a Peeress of Great-Britain. In short, the whole Play is built upon the late escape of General Forster, who is supposed upon the road to fall in love with my Lord Nithisdale, whom the ingenious Author imagines to be still in his riding-hood.
But notwithstanding the good principles of a British audience in this one particular, it were to be wished that every thing should be banished the Stage which has a tendency to exasperate men’s minds, and inflame that party rage which makes us such a miserable and divided people. And that in the first place, because such a proceeding as this disappoints the very design of all publick diversions and entertainments. The institution of sports and shews was intended by all governments, to turn off the thoughts of the people from busying themselves in matters of state, which did not belong to them; to reconcile them to one another by the common participations of mirth and pleasure; and to wear out of their minds that rancour which they might have contracted by the interfering views of interest and ambition. It would therefore be for the benefit of every society, that is disturbed by contending factions, to encourage such innocent amusements as may thus disembitter the minds of men, and make them mutually rejoice in the same agreeable satisfactions. When people are accustomed to sit together with pleasure, it is a step towards reconciliation: but as we manage matters, our politest assemblies are like boisterous clubs, that meet over a glass of wine, and before they have done, throw bottles at one another’s heads. Instead of multiplying those desirable opportunities where we may agree in points that are indifferent, we let the spirit of contention into those very methods that are not only foreign to it, but should in their nature dispose us to be friends. This our anger in our mirth is like poison in a perfume, which taints the spirits instead of chearing and refreshing them.
Another manifest inconvenience which arises from this abuse of publick entertainments, is, that it naturally destroys the taste of an audience. I do not deny, but that several performances have been justly applauded for their wit, which have been written with an eye to this predominant humour of the town: but it is visible even in these, that it is not the excellence, but the application of the sentiment, that has raised applause. An Author is very much disappointed to find the best parts of his productions received with indifference, and to see the audience discovering beauties which he never intended. The Actors, in the midst of an innocent old Play, are often startled with unexpected claps or hisses; and do not know whether they have been talking like good subjects, or have spoken treason. In short, we seem to have such a relish for faction, as to have lost that of wit; and are so used to the bitterness of party rage, that we cannot be gratified with the highest entertainment that has not this kind of seasoning in it. But as no work must expect to live long which draws all its beauty from the colour of the times; so neither can that pleasure be of greater continuance, which arises from the prejudice or malice of its hearers.
To conclude; since the present hatred and violence of parties is so unspeakably pernicious to the community, and none can do a better service to their country than those who use their utmost endeavours to extinguish it, we may reasonably hope, that the more elegant part of the nation will give a good example to the rest; and put an end to so absurd and foolish a practice, which makes our most refined diversions detrimental to the publick, and, in a particular manner, destructive of all politeness.
Friday, May 4, 1716
Prodesse quam conspici.
It often happens, that extirpating the love of glory, which is observed to take the deepest root in noble minds, tears up several virtues with it; and that suppressing the desire of fame, is apt to reduce men to a state of indolence and supineness. But when, without any incentive of vanity, a person of great abilities is zealous for the good of mankind; and as solicitous for the concealment, as the performance of illustrious actions; we may be sure that he has something more than ordinary in his composition, and has a heart filled with goodness and magnanimity.
There is not perhaps, in all history, a greater instance of this temper of mind, than what appeared in that excellent person, whose motto I have placed at the head of this paper. He had worn himself out in his application to such studies as made him useful or ornamental to the world, in concerting schemes for the welfare of his country, and in prosecuting such measures as were necessary for making those schemes effectual: but all this was done with a view to the publick good that should rise out of these generous endeavours, and not to the fame which should accrue to himself. Let the reputation of the action fall where it would; so his country reaped the benefit of it, he was satisfied. As this turn of mind threw off in a great measure the oppositions of envy and competition, it enabled him to gain the most vain and impracticable into his designs, and to bring about several great events for the safety and advantage of the publick, which must have died in their birth, had he been as desirous of appearing beneficial to mankind, as of being so.
As he was admitted into the secret and most retired thoughts and counsels of his Royal master King William, a great share in the plan of the Protestant Succession is universally ascribed to him. And if he did not entirely project the Union of the two kingdoms, and the Bill of Regency, which seem to have been the only methods in human policy, for securing to us so inestimable a blessing, there is none who will deny him to have been the chief conductor in both these glorious works. For posterity are obliged to allow him that praise after his death, which he industriously declined while he was living. His life indeed seems to have been prolonged beyond its natural term, under those indispositions which hung upon the latter part of it, that he might have the satisfaction of seeing the happy settlement take place, which he had proposed to himself as the principal end of all his publick labours. Nor was it a small addition to his happiness, that by this means he saw those who had been always his most intimate friends, and who had concerted with him such measures for the guaranty of the Protestant succession, as drew upon them the displeasure of men who were averse to it, advanced to the highest posts of trust and honour under his present Majesty. I believe there are none of these Patriots, who will think it a derogation from their merit to have it said, that they received many lights and advantages from their intimacy with my Lord Somers: who had such a general knowledge of affairs, and so tender a concern for his friends, that whatever station they were in, they usually applied to him for his advice in every perplexity of business, and in affairs of the greatest difficulty.
His life was, in every part of it, set off with that graceful modesty and reserve, which made his virtues more beautiful, the more they were cast in such agreeable shades.
His religion was sincere, not ostentatious; and such as inspired him with an universal benevolence towards all his fellow-subjects, not with bitterness against any part of them. He shewed his firm adherence to it as modelled by our national constitution, and was constant to its offices of devotion, both in publick and in his family. He appeared a champion for it with great reputation in the cause of the seven Bishops, at a time when the Church was really in danger. To which we may add, that he held a strict friendship and correspondence with the great Archbishop Tillotson, being acted by the same spirit of candor and moderation; and moved rather with pity than indignation towards the persons of those who differed from him in the unessential parts of christianity.
His great humanity appeared in the minutest circumstances of his conversation. You found it in the benevolence of his aspect, the complacency of his behaviour, and the tone of his voice. His great application to the severer studies of the law, had not infected his temper with any thing positive or litigious. He did not know what it was to wrangle on indifferent points, to triumph in the superiority of his understanding, or to be supercilious on the side of truth. He joined the greatest delicacy of good-breeding to the greatest strength of reason. By approving the sentiments of a person, with whom he conversed, in such particulars as were just, he won him over from those points in which he was mistaken; and had so agreeable a way of conveying knowledge, that whoever conferred with him grew the wiser, without perceiving that he had been instructed. We may probably ascribe to this masterly and engaging manner of conversation, the great esteem which he had gained with the late Queen, while she pursued those measures which had carried the British nation to the highest pitch of glory; notwithstanding she had entertained many unreasonable prejudices against him, before she was acquainted with his personal worth and behaviour.
As in his political capacity we have before seen how much he contributed to the establishment of the Protestant interest, and the good of his native country, he was always true to these great ends. His character was uniform and consistent with itself, and his whole conduct of a piece. His principles were founded in reason, and supported by virtue; and therefore did not lie at the mercy of Ambition, Avarice, or Resentment. His notions were no less steady and unshaken, than just and upright. In a word, he concluded his course among the same well-chosen friendships and alliances, with which he began it.
This great man was not more conspicuous as a Patriot and a Statesman, than as a person of universal knowledge and learning. As by dividing his time between the publick scenes of business, and the private retirements of life, he took care to keep up both the great and good man; so by the same means he accomplished himself not only in the knowledge of men and things, but in the skill of the most refined arts and sciences. That unwearied diligence, which followed him through all the stages of his life, gave him such a thorough insight into the laws of the land, that he passed for one of the greatest masters of his profession, at his first appearance in it. Though he made a regular progress through the several honours of the long robe, he was always looked upon as one who deserved a superior station to that he was possessed of; till he arrived at the highest dignity to which those studies could advance him.
He enjoyed in the highest perfection two talents, which do not often meet in the same person, the greatest strength of good sense, and the most exquisite taste of politeness. Without the first, learning is but an incumbrance; and without the last, is ungraceful. My Lord Somers was Master of these two qualifications in so eminent a degree, that all the parts of knowledge appeared in him with such an additional strength and beauty, as they want in the possession of others. If he delivered his opinion of a piece of Poetry, a Statue, or a Picture, there was something so just and delicate in his observations, as naturally produced pleasure and assent in those who heard him.
His solidity and elegance, improved by the reading of the finest Authors both of the learned and modern languages, discovered itself in all his productions. His Oratory was masculine and persuasive, free from every thing trivial and affected. His style in writing was chaste and pure, but at the same time full of spirit and politeness; and fit to convey the most intricate business to the understanding of the reader, with the utmost clearness and perspicuity. And here it is to be lamented, that this extraordinary person, out of his natural aversion to vain-glory, wrote several pieces as well as performed several actions, which he did not assume the honour of: though at the same time so many works of this nature have appeared, which every one has ascribed to him, that I believe no Author of the greatest eminence would deny my Lord Somers to have been the best writer of the age in which he lived.
This noble Lord, for the great extent of his knowledge and capacity, has been often compared with the Lord Verulam, who had also been Chancellor of England. But the conduct of these extraordinary persons, under the same circumstances, was vastly different. They were both impeached by a House of Commons. One of them, as he had given just occasion for it, sunk under it; and was reduced to such an abject submission, as very much diminished the lustre of so exalted a character: but my Lord Somers was too well fortified in his integrity to fear the impotence of an attempt upon his reputation; and though his accusers would gladly have dropped their impeachment, he was instant with them for the prosecution of it, and would not let that matter rest till it was brought to an issue. For the same virtue and greatness of mind which gave him a disregard of fame, made him impatient of an undeserved reproach.
There is no question but this wonderful man will make one of the most distinguished figures in the history of the present age; but we cannot expect that his merit will shine out in its proper light, since he wrote many things which are not published in his name; was at the bottom of many excellent Counsels, in which he did not appear; did offices of friendship to many persons, who knew not from whom they were derived; and performed great services to his country, the glory of which was transferred to others: In short, since he made it his endeavour rather to do worthy actions, than to gain an illustrious character.
Friday, June 15, 1716
Quod si in hoc erro, libenter erro; nec mihi hunc errorem, quo delector, dum vivo, extorqueri volo.
As there is nothing which more improves the mind of man, than the reading of ancient Authors, when it is done with judgment and discretion; so there is nothing which gives a more unlucky turn to the thoughts of a Reader, when he wants discernment, and loves and admires the characters and actions of men in a wrong place. Alexander the Great was so inflamed with false notions of glory, by reading the story of Achilles in the Iliad, that after having taken a town, he ordered the Governor, who had made a gallant defence, to be bound by the feet to his chariot, and afterwards dragged the brave man round the city, because Hector had been treated in the same barbarous manner by his admired hero.
Many Englishmen have proved very pernicious to their own country, by following blindly the examples of persons to be met with in Greek and Roman history, who acted in conformity with their own governments, after a quite different manner, than they would have acted in a constitution like that of ours. Such a method of proceeding is as unreasonable in a politician, as it would be in a husbandman to make use of Virgil’s precepts of agriculture, in managing the soil of our country, that lies in a quite different climate, and under the influence of almost another Sun.
Our regicides in the commission of the most execrable murder used to justify themselves from the conduct of Brutus, not considering that Caesar, from the condition of a fellow-citizen, had risen by the most indirect methods, and broken through all the laws of the community, to place himself at the head of the government, and enslave his country. On the other side, several of our English Readers, having observed that a passive and unlimited obedience was payed to Roman Emperors, who were possessed of the whole legislative, as well as executive power, have formerly endeavoured to inculcate the same kind of obedience, where there is not the same kind of authority.
Instructions therefore to be learned from histories of this nature, are only such as arise from particulars agreeable to all communities, or from such as are common to our own constitution, and to that of which we read. A tenacious adherence to the rights and liberties transmitted from a wise and virtuous ancestry, publick spirit and a love of one’s country, submission to established laws, impartial administrations of justice, a strict regard to national faith, with several other duties, which are the supports and ornaments of government in general, cannot be too much admired among the States of Greece and Rome, nor too much imitated by our own community.
But there is nothing more absurd, than for men, who are conversant in these ancient Authors, to contrast such a prejudice in favour of Greeks and Romans, as to fancy we are in the wrong in every circumstance whereby we deviate from their moral or political conduct. Yet nothing hath been more usual, than for men of warm heads to refine themselves up into this kind of State-pedantry: like the country school-master, who, being used for many years to admire Jupiter, Mars, Bacchus and Apollo, that appear with so much advantage in classick Authors, made an attempt to revive the worship of the heathen gods. In short, we find many worthy Gentlemen, whose brains have been as much turned by this kind of reading, as the grave Knight’s of Mancha were by his unwearied application to books of Knight-errantry.
To prevent such mischiefs from arising out of studies, which, when rightly conducted, may turn very much to our advantage, I shall venture to assert, that in our perusal of Greek or Roman Authors, it is impossible to find a religious or civil constitution, any way comparable to that which we enjoy in our own country. Had not our religion been infinitely preferable to that of the ancient heathens, it would never have made its way through Paganism, with that amazing progress and activity. Its victories were the victories of reason unassisted by the force of human power, and as gentle as the triumphs of light over darkness. The sudden reformation which it made among mankind, and which was so justly and frequently boasted of by the first apologists for Christianity, shews how infinitely preferable it is to any system of religion, that prevailed in the world before its appearance. This pre-eminence of Christianity to any other general religious scheme, which preceded it, appears likewise from this particular, that the most eminent and the most enlightened among the Pagan Philosophers disclaimed many of those superstitious follies, which are condemned by revealed religion, and preached up several of those doctrines which are some of the most essential parts of it.
And here I cannot but take notice of that strange motive which is made use of in the history of free-thinking, to incline us to depart from the revealed doctrines of Christianity, as adhered to by the people of Great-Britain, because Socrates, with several other eminent Greeks, and Cicero, with many other learned Romans, did in the like manner depart from the religious notions of their own country-men. Now this Author should have considered, that those very points, in which these wise men disagreed from the bulk of the people, are points in which they agreed with the received doctrines of our nation. Their free-thinking consisted in asserting the unity and immateriality of the Godhead, the immortality of the soul, a state of future rewards and punishments, and the necessity of virtue, exclusive of all silly and superstitious practices, to procure the happiness of a separate state. They were therefore only free-thinkers, so far forth as they approached to the doctrines of Christianity, that is, to those very doctrines which this kind of Authors would persuade us, as Free-thinkers, to doubt the truth of. Now I would appeal to any reasonable person, whether these great men should not have been proposed to our imitation, rather as they embraced these divine truths, than only upon the account of their breaking loose from the common notions of their fellow-citizens. But this would disappoint the general tendency of such writings.
I shall only add under this head, that as Christianity recovered the law of nature out of all those errors and corruptions, with which it is overgrown in the times of Paganism, our national religion has restored Christianity it self to that purity and simplicity in which it appeared, before it was gradually disguised and lost among the vanities and superstitions of the Romish Church.
That our civil constitution is preferable to any among the Greeks or Romans, may appear from this single consideration; that the greatest Theorists in matters of this nature, among those very people, have given the preference to such a form of government, as that which obtains in this kingdom, above any other form whatsoever. I shall mention Aristotle,Polybius and Cicero, that is, the greatest Philosopher, the most impartial Historian, and the most consummate Statesman of all antiquity. These famous Authors give the pre-eminence to a mixed government consisting of three branches, the regal, the noble, and the popular. It would be very easy to prove, not only the reasonableness of this position, but to shew, that there was never any constitution among the Greeks or Romans, in which these three branches were so well distinguished from each other, invested with such suitable proportions of power, and concurred together in the legislature, that is, in the most soveraign acts of government, with such a necessary consent and harmony, as are to be met with in the constitution of this kingdom. But I have observed, in a foregoing paper, how defective the Roman commonwealth was in this particular, when compared with our own form of government, and it will not be difficult for the Reader, upon singling out any other ancient State; to find how far it will suffer in the parallel.
Collected from Plutarch in the Greek, and from Lucan, Salust, Lucius Florus, and other Authors in the Latin Tongue. Design’d for the Readers of Cato, a Tragedy
This Gentleman was the Great Grandson of M. Portius Cato Major, who by his Virtue and Excellence gain’d a wonderful Reputation and Authority amongst the Romans, and transmitted a Grandeur and Nobility to his Family, which to that Time it wanted; and which his famous Descendant, of whom I am here treating, by the signal Probity of his Life, and Glory of his Death, as it were studied to preserve and keep alive to all Posterity.
This Cato Uticensis was born in the 659th Year from the Building of Rome, when C. Caldus and L. Domitius Ahenobarbus were Consuls; for he kill’d himself in the 48th Year of his Age, which was the 707th Year from the Building of the City, when the Great Julius Caesar was the third Time Consul, with Marcus Aemilius Lepidus.
Our young Cato was, by the Loss of both his Parents, left an Orphan, and was bred up in the House of Livius Drusus, his Uncle by the Mother’s side. He from his very Infancy discover’d those Seeds of Virtue in his Disposition, which naturally produce the Harvest of his After-Sentiments and Actions: The Accent and Delivery of his Words, the Frame of his Countenance, and even the very Diversions of his Childhood, were concurring Testimonies of a firm and inflexible Temper, that could neither easily be carried away with youthful Levities, or sway’d by more ungentle Passions. I shall not here trace him thro’ all his growing Years, but only give an Instance from Plutarch, how early those Principles, and that Love of Liberty for his Country, were rooted in his Breast; to which he Religiously adhered thro’ all his Life, and to which he set the Seal of his Approbation in his memorable Death: Being now almost Fourteen Years old, and carried by his Tutor Sarpedo to Sylla’s House, who was then Dictator, and who had formerly had a Friendship with Cato’s Father, the young Gentleman saw the Heads of Great Men brought thither, who had fell under the Dictator’s Displeasure, and observing that all the Standers by sigh’d in secret at the Repetitions of Cruelty, he turns to his Master, and with an Air of indignant Resolution asks him, Why does no body kill this Man? The Master replying, Because they all fear him, Child, more than they hate him: Why then (says Cato again) do you not give me a Sword that I may stab him, and free my Country from this Slavery?
He seem’d indeed design’d by Fate a Pattern of Integrity, in Opposition to the general Corruption of the Times; for he thought the only Way to be honest, was to run counter to the Age, and not be ashamed of his own Singularities, but his Contemporaries Vices: He was a Man (says Velleius Paterculus) that was the very Picture of Virtue, and in all his Faculties more allied to the Purity of the Gods than the Frailties of Man; who never did a good Action; in an Ostentation of Honesty, but because he could not recede from the Sentiments of Honour which were ingrafted in his Breast, and only thought such Proceedings had Reason on their Side which were founded on Justice.
Being now one and twenty Years Old, the Gladiator’s War broke out in Italy, which was rais’d and fomented by one Sparticus a Thracian, who had perswaded seventy of his Fellow Swordsmen, it would be much more Honourable for them to fight for their own Liberty, than the Diversion of Rome: Lucius Gellius, the Consul, was chosen Praetor of the Army to subdue the Rebels, and Cato entered himself a Voluntier under that General, for the love that he bore to his Brother Caepio, who had the Command of a thousand Foot under the Consul. Cato soon met the Advancement he had so good a Title to; and was himself sent a Tribune into Macedon, to Rubrius, Praetor there, at whose Camp he no sooner arrived, but he was honoured with the Charge of one of the Roman Legions, where he endeared himself extreamly to the Soldiers, by always taking a part in what he commanded them; and by being in his Apparel, Diet, and Labour, more like a Common Soldier than their Officer: And when the time of his Service in the Army was expired, he received at his Departure not only the Prayers and Praises, but the Tears and Embraces of the Soldiers, who spread their Garments at his Feet, and kissed his Hands as he pass’d; which was an Honour rarely confer’d by the Romans on any of their Generals.
Cato, ere he would return Home, resolving to travel over Asia, and observe the Customs and Strength of the several Provinces, was met by Pompey at Ephesus, who would not receive him sitting, but rose to Embrace and Welcome him as one of the noblest Persons of Rome, and said many Things in Commendation of his Virtue both in his Presence and after he was gone away: Thence proceeding to pay his Respects to Old Deiotarus, King of Galatia, he had the Offers of immense Presents from that Monarch, which he could neither be persuaded himself to receive, nor suffer a Distribution of them to be made amongst his Followers.
On his Return to Rome, he spent much time in Philosophical Arguments with Athenodorus, sometimes at his own House, and othertimes in publick Disputations at the Forum to oblige his Friends: And when it came to his Turn to make suit for the Questorship, he would not be prevailed on to make his Applications, ’till he had fully informed himself in all the Ordinances belonging to the Duty and Authority of the Office: Thus instructed, he entered on this first Step to Civil Preferment, and fill’d the Place with such Sufficiency, and deserv’d Applause, that ’twas universally said, Cato had made the Office of a Questor equal to the Dignity of a Consul.
Cato, after he had laid down his Power, yet did not throw off his Care of the Treasury, but at the Expence of five Talents, had the Books containing Accounts of the Revenues, from Sylla’s time to his own, transcrib’d for him, and kept the same always by him: Nay, so diligent and laborious was he for the Good of the Commonwealth, that he was generally observed to be the first Man that came to, and the last that retired from the Senate House.
Being now in the One and Thirtieth Year of his Age, he was sollicited by his Friends to stand up for a Tribuneship of the People; which he resolutely declined, till he found Metellus Nepos was pushing for that Office, who was an Instrument employ’d by Pompey to get a Decree to pass in the Senate, that that General should presently be call’d into Italy with all his Forces for the Preservation of the City. Cato, who was apprised of the Measures this rash Agent meant to take, thought it was no time of Retirement for him; but that he must go and prevent Metellus in his Designs, or bravely die in Defence of his Country’s Liberty: He was back’d with the Interest of Persons of the best Quality, who perceived that he exposed himself to this dangerous Honour only for the Service of Rome, and was declared one of the Tribunes.
The beginning of this Year (which was the 690th from the Building of the City) threatned Rome with the most dangerous Conspiracy that ever was formed against the Safety of so potent a State, to wit, that of Cataline and his profligate Accomplices: In the detecting of which most horrid Combination, our Cato was not only Serviceable to the Consul Cicero, but when detected, the principal Instrument and Promoter of the Malefactor’s Punishments: For when this Subject came under the Debate of the Senate, Julius Caesar (who with Marcus Crassus was suspected as private Abetters of Cataline’s black Purpose) in a plausible and elegant Oration perswaded Mercy, and disapprov’d that the Criminals should die: He told the Senators, “That in Affairs of Moment, where Men are ask’d their Sentence, they ought to be free from the Influences of Passion, for that the Mind must err in its Judgment that was either prejudiced by Hate or Anger, or byass’d by Affection or Pity: That the foul Fact of the Conspirators should not weigh more with the Senate than their own Dignity, or they be more Indulgent to their Resentments than their Honours: That if Punishments could be found to equal the Crimes of the Conspirators, he should Approve the utmost Severities; but if the Greatness of their Guilt exceeded all Invention, he thought it fit they should so proceed, as their Laws in such Cases provided: That no Sentence could be Cruel against such Delinquents, but that it was abhorring from their State, since to a Citizen of Rome, offending, their Laws gave Exile, and not Death: That Syllanus (the designed Consul, and who spoke before Caesar) could not advise Execution, for fear of the Traytors, when the Diligence of the worthy Cicero had detected and prevented Danger; and if he meant it for a Punishment, Caesar thought Death was the End of Evils, and rather a Release from Pain, than a Torment: as it dissolved all Griefs, and beyond it were neither Care nor Joy. That therefore his Opinion was, that the Criminal should have their Estates confiscated to the publick Treasury, and their Persons confined in the Free Towns distant from Rome, and divided from each other; that they should have no Privilege of Appealing either to the Senate or People to have their Doom reversed or mitigated, and that whoever should presume to move it, the Senate should determine of them as Enemies to the Peace and Safety of the Roman State.”
When Caeser had harangued the House in a long Oration to this Effect, won over Syllanus to a more candid Interpretation of his Sentence, and inclined the Majority of the Senators to Votes of Clemency: Cato with much Warmth rose up and reply’d to Caesar’s Arguments. “Owned his Sentence was far different from the precedent One; that they disputed on the Kinds of Punishments, and sate consulting what they should decree against those, of whom they rather should beware: That such a Conspiracy was not like those Common Facts, which the Laws may Prosecute when they are Committed; but that if it was not provided against and prevented ere it happen’d, it would not wait their Judgment when it was happen’d; but when a City was taken, the vanquished Party had no Redress left. That they were not debating now on the Subject of Tribute and Customs, or the Injuries of their Allies, but on no less important a Theme than the hazard of their Lives and Liberties: That he had often been heard there, complaining either of the Licentiousness or Avarice of his Fellow-Citizens; and had procured himself many Enemies thereby; for that as he could not indulge himself in the committing of any Enormities, so he did not easily pardon a vicious Liberty in others; which seasonable Invectives of his, if they had Slighted, it was because Plenty and Prosperity made ’em Negligent; but now it was not the Case in Dispute, whether their Lives and Manners were conformable to the Rules of Honour or how the Empire might be Enlarg’d; but whether their Properties should continue their own, or become the Spoil of Invaders: That they had now even forgot the True Names of Things. That to give away Another’s Effects, was esteem’d Liberality, and an Hardiness in Ill Actions, was term’d Fortitude; to such a low Ebb of Virtue was the Common-Wealth reduc’d: That Gaius Caesar had very well and subtilly discours’d of Life and Death, as if he thought those Things a Fable, which were deliver’d them of Hell and Furies; and of ill Men going separate from Good to filthy dark and ugly Places That therefore Caesar would have the Paricides live, but far from Rome, and imprison’d in the small Free Towns, least there they might have Rescue. As if Men fit for such Attempts, were only to be found in the City, and not dispers’d throughout Italy? or that their audacious Proceedings would not have most Scope, where it found least Resistance? That Caesar’s Counsel was vain if he thought them dangerous; which if he did not, but alone remain’d unfrighted, where all others were terrified, it should give Cato and the Senate cause more to fear him: That the Fathers look’d about one at another, doubting what to do; with Faces, as they trusted to the Gods to save them; but that they are not Wishings and womanish Prayers can draw the Immortal’s Aid; but Vigilance, Counsel, Action, which they never forsake: That they had the Traytors in their Houses, yet stood fearing what to do with them: He thought, if they were so inclin’d to Softness, they should e’en let the Conspirators loose and furnish ’em with Arms; that their Mercy might turn their Misery! That as their Crimes had already been qualified by some, who pleaded, that they were great Men and had offended but through Ambition: He thought also, the Senate should spare the Honour of the Criminals, if they themselves had ever spar’d it, or their Fame, or Modesty, or the Gods, or Men; but that as Things then stood, Necessity and the Preservation of the City call’d aloud for speedy Punishment which ought to be inflicted, More Majorum. This Speech of Cato’s, delivered and received with all the Authority of so Great a Man, turn’d the House again, and it was decreed the Conspirators should be put to Death. I doubt not but the Readers will Pardon me for transcribing the Orator’s Sentiments so fully, since therein is seen the Strength of his Reasoning and Austerity of his Manners; since therein are painted the most lively Strokes of his Temper, and the true Image of his honest Mind.
Soon as the Traitors were disposed of at home, and Cataline worsted by Petreius abroad, and that Rome began to breath again, the Oppressions of such Imminent Danger being removed: Cato made use of the Power of his Tribuneship to secure the Health of the City, and prevent the poisonous Effects of Metellus’s Designs, in calling Pompey home with an Army, which he was sure would Strike at the Liberty of his Country, and Invest the Absolute Power of the State in that Victorious and Experienc’d General; wherefore after a warm Debate with Metellus in the Senate on that Head, he concluded boldly, That while he liv’d, Pompey should never come arm’d into the City. But tho’ Cato set all his Power against the Interests of Pompey, and stood up for the Maintaining the Laws, and Defending the Properties of Rome, yet Force prevailed over honest but impotent Opposition, and the City embroil’d with continual Heats and Factions, lay expos’d to the sinister Designs of those Ambitious Citizens, who were forming Combinations against her Liberty: Yet however the Party of Tyranny strengthened it self, Cato’s undaunted Spirit resisted their Proceedings even to the hazard of his Life, being one time paulted with Sticks and Stones by the Faction, and afterwards imprisoned by Caesar; but the Groans of the Senate, and the Universal Sadness of the People made Caesar asham’d of the Action; and he privately sent one of the Tribunes to take Cato out of the Prison. So zealously did this worthy Patriot labour to Prop the Ruins of his sinking City, and divert that Slavery which now like a Deluge began to overflow and swallow up all the Rights and very Being of a Free State: for Rome had tasted but four Years Respite from Cataline’s Invasion, when Caesar, Pompey, and Crassus entred into a firm but fatal Combination, ratify’d with mutual Oaths and Promises, That nothing should be done in the Common-wealth against any of their Interests or Approbations. But this Union, which they Disguis’d under the Name of Friendship, was in Effect no other thing than each Man’s Private Ambition; and the Consequences prov’d, that as this League, according to the Opinion of Cato, ruined the Foundations of the Roman Liberty, so their Proceedings were but Preludes to a Civil War.
Now was Rome either Aw’d or Debauch’d to a Compliance with these powerful Triumvirs; Offices, Provinces, and Governments were Engrossed between them; and each to heighten his own Power, contributed to strengthen and establish his Candidate’s Interest. Cato, when a Law was Propos’d, concerning the Provinces and Legions for Caesar, apply’d to Pompey, and told him, He did not consider now that he took Caesar upon his own Shoulders, who would shortly grow too weighty for him: and at length, when he would neither be able to lay down the Burthen, nor yet to bear it any longer, he would fall with it upon the Common-wealth; and then he would remember Cato’s Advice, which was no less Advantageous to Pompey than it was just and honest in it self.
While thus for near eight Years all Matters were carried in the Common-wealth by the compacted Artifice and Grandure of three Men, and even the meanest Elections in the Civil Power obtained with Canvasing and Intreague, with Struglings and Hostilities, Crassus at length was cut off, with a mighty Slaughter of his Forces, in the Parthian Wars; and the Death of this Triumvir, who, while he liv’d, was as a Check upon the other two, left them now an open Field for their Ambition and Emulation to work in: ’Twas now Caesar and Pompey began to grow Jealous of each others Growth and Designs, and Caesar’s Exploits and Victories over the fierce Gauls and Germans, made his Conquering Powers formidable to Rome: Caesar’s Immense Riches were an Eye-sore to Pompey, says Lucius Florus, and Pompey’s Dignity grated Caesar. One could not bear an Equal, the other a Superior; and they both laboured for the Mastery, as if so great an Empire could not satisfie the Ambition of Two such Grandees at once. When News was brought that Caesar had pass’d the Rubicon, taken Ariminum, and was coming on with his Army towards Rome; Pompey and all Men cast their Eyes on Cato, who had alone foreseen Caesar’s Intentions: Cato then told them, If you had believed me, or regarded my Advice, you would not now have been reduced to stand in fear of one Man, and also to put all your Hopes in one Man alone. Pompey too late confessed, that Cato indeed had spoke most like a Prophet, and that himself had acted too much like a Friend to Caesar. Disturbances and Dissentions daily encreas’d in Rome, and the City was fill’d with Murthers and Quarrels; Pompey was look’d upon as the fittest Person to redress all, and Cato advised the Senate to put all into his Hands, saying, That those who could raise up great Evils, could best allay them; and thereupon Marcellus the Consul took a Sword, which he carried publickly to Pompey, accosting him in these Terms, I Command you in the Name of the Senate, that you Assist the Republick with the Troops now under your Command, and speedily Levy more. Pompey, finding he had not sufficient Forces, and that those he could Raise were not very Resolute, forsook the City; and Cato followed him.
For tho’ he had an equal Aversion for the Heads of both Parties, as being jealous, where-ever the Fate of the Civil War confer’d the Conquest, the Victor would be likely to invade the Republick; yet being the greatest Assertor of Liberty the Roman State had now left, and Pompey being invested with a Command by the Senate in Defence of the City, Cato imbark’d with him; thinking it the highest Dishonour, says Lucan, to live in Ease and Security while his Labouring Country was in Danger; and professing that he would stick by Rome and her Cause to its last Gasp, as a Parent follows the Corpse of a Deceas’d Child. And from the Time of the Civil War’s breaking out, ’tis said he never cut his Hair or shaved his Beard, never wore a Garland, or was seen to smile, but wore a constant Sadness, Grief, and Dejection on his Looks and Gesture for the Calamities of his Country, and he continually bore the same Habit to the last, which-ever Party had Misfortune or Success. No body that reads the Eloquent Description of this Great Man’s Behaviour in Lucan, can be sufficiently enamour’d of his Virtues, or sufficiently admire him who was ingaged in a War, yet not prompted to Action by any private Piques, or byass’d by a Favourite-Faction; but studying the rigid Precepts of his Philosophy, labouring to know himself, and grieving for the Calamities of his Fellow-Creatures. To find him believing that he owed his Life to his Country, and that he was not born for himself but the Publick. To behold his Temperance, that accounted every thing a Banquet that but appeas’d his Hunger, every House a Palace that secured him from the Inclemencies of Weather, and every Vesture a Robe of State that was Proof against the Inconveniences of Cold and Rain; that thought the Increase of Kind, was the chief End of Marriage; that was a Father and Husband to his City, a Courter of Justice and Maintainer of severe Honesty; good to All, and in All; and one that never let Pleasure and Levity creep into the Annals of his Nobler and more Elevated Actions.
Cicero for some Time stood Neuter in this War; and when at last he came to find Pompey in his Camp, Cato remonstrated to him, That he ought to have preserved the Neutrality, which he at first made Profession of; and that the Inconstancy of his Proceeding was unworthy of a Man that was so well acquainted with the Maxims of true Philosophy: Cicero was so confounded with the Authority of this Reprimand, that he took the first Opportunity of Retiring, and never came up to the Battel of Pharsalia. Cato had the Government of Sicily allotted to him, and pass’d over to Syracuse: And when Advice was brought him of Pompey’s unhappy Conduct, and quitting of Italy, he broke out into this pathetick Exclamation, How dark and uncertain is the Will of Heaven! Pompey, when he did nothing wisely nor honestly, was always successful, and now that he would preserve his Country, and defend her Liberty, he is altogether unfortunate. He counsell’d Pompey to delay the War to a Treaty, and no way hazard an utter Overthrow: His gentle Laws, that no Roman City should be sack’d, nor Citizen kill’d in cold Blood, won Pompey all Italy, and his Courtesie at Rhodes, all Asia.
When Pompey had obtained a signal Advantage over Caesar’s Men, in a Conflict at Dyrrachium, and all were rejoic’d, and magnified the Success, Cato bewail’d his Country, and curs’d that Fatal Ambition, which made so many brave Romans murther one another.
When Pompey followed Caesar into Thessaly, he durst not Trust Cato with the Command at Sea; because he knew he fought not against one Tyrant, but against Tyranny it self; that if he succeeded not, Cato would be faithful to his Misfortunes; but if he conquer’d, then Cato would be too faithful to the Interest of the Republick.
After the Pharsalian Defeat, Cato went into the Island of Corsira, where he found Cicero who had not been in the Battel; and many Senators who had escaped thither from it, amongst whom was the Eldest Son of Pompey. Cato, who always was for governing himself according to the Prescription of the Law, offered the Command of his Forces to Cicero, who had been Consul; but he refusing the Charge, incens’d Pompey’s Son and all the young Gentlemen of his Party to such a Degree, that drawing their Swords upon him, they call’d him Traytor; and had not Cato’s Authority interpos’d to appease their unruly Anger, they had certainly slain him: Cicero escapes immediately to Brundusium, excuses the Choice he had made of an Unfortunate Party, and reconciles himself to Caesar. But Cato, understanding that Pompey was fled towards Aegypt, resolved to hasten after him; and having taken all his Men aboard set sail; but first to those that were not willing to accompany him, he gave free Liberty to depart. Coming to the Coast of Africk, they met with Sextus Pompey’s Younger Son, who saluted ’em with the disagreeable News of his Father’s Murther in Aegypt: The Soldiers were all excessively griev’d for the Loss of their admir’d General, and unanimously declared, that after Pompey they would follow no other Leader but Cato: Cato, in Compassion to the worth of Persons, who had given many Testimonies of their Fidelity, and whom he could not for shame leave in a Desart Country, amidst so many Difficulties, took upon him the Command of the Forces, which amounted to the Number of near ten thousand Men; and march’d towards the City of Cyrene, which presently received him: And here he design’d to have Winter’d; but being inform’d that Scipio (Pompey’s Father-in-Law) was received by King Juba, and that Appius Varus, whom Pompey had left Governor of Lybia, had joyned them with his Forces, Cato resolved to march towards them by Land. From Cyrene therefore he goes forward towards the Desarts of Lybia; after having furnished himself with Provisions, and got together a great many Asses to carry Water, and also some of those sort of Men, who by Sucking cure the Wounds made by the Bites of Serpents, who very much abound in those Desarts: They journied on for seven Days together; and here the Constancy of Cato is not a little to be admired, who marched always on Foot at the Head of his Troops; always drinking the last, nor that neither, till all the rest of his Army had undergone the extreamest Thirst, and were running to quench it at the Wells which they found in those Desarts: And ever after the Battel of Pharsalia he used to sit at Table, and added this to his other Ways of Mourning that he never lay down (as it was the Custom of the Romans) but to Sleep. At last he arrived at Scipio and Juba’s Camp, where the Insolence of that King of the Barbarians was very disgustful to him, and where the Affairs of Scipio and Varus went very ill, by reason of their Dissentions and Quarrels among themselves, and their Submissions and Flatteries to King Juba: But Cato in his Wisdom found means to pull down the haughty Spirit of that Monarch, and reconcile him and the jarring Generals to one another.
All the Army were ambitious of having Cato to be their Leader; and Scipio and Varus giving Way to the Soldiers Desires, offer’d him the Command: But Cato declined it absolutely, saying, He would not infringe those Laws, for the Defence whereof he had involv’d himself in Civil War, that he being but Pro-praetor ought not to Command in the Presence of a Pro-consul; besides that, the People would take it as a good Omen to see a Scipio Command in Africk, and that the very Name would give Courage to the Soldiers.
Scipio then taking upon him the Command of the Army, resolv’d to put the Inhabitants of Utica to the Sword, and to raze the City, for having taken part with Caesar; but Cato exclaim’d and protested against this Hostile Reprisal, and with much difficulty delivered that City, of which he afterwards took upon himself the Government, least it should fall into Caesar’s Hands.
Cato knowing it was a strong Place, and would be of great Consequence to either Party, improved the Fortifications, brought in great Stores of Corn, repaired the Walls, erected Towers, and made deep Trenches and Outworks round the Town; and was so Indulgent to the Inhabitants, that he took care no Injury should be done, nor Affront offer’d them by the Romans: Cato, who from this City sent great Quantities of Arms to the Camp; with mighty Tenderness advised Scipio, By no means to hazard a Battel with Caesar, who was a Man not only experienc’d in War, but encourag’d with his Successes: that ’twere better to tire him out with Delays, and as his Passions cool’d his Strength would lessen: Scipio, whose fierce Rashness would misconstrue Cato’s Cautions for Cowardice retorted, That as Cato was safe himself within Trenches, so he ought not to hinder them from making use of their Courage when Occasion offer’d: This ungrateful Reply of Scipio’s made Cato repent he had yielded the Command of the Forces to him, and he told his Friends, That if contrary to his Expectations Caesar should be o’erthrown, for his part he would not stay at Rome, but retire from the Cruelty and Inhumanity of Scipio, who had already given out fierce and proud Threats against many.
And here permit me, for a while to leave our Hero employed in the strict Care of his Government, making the City a Magazine for the Camp, studying the best Arts of Defence all Day, and groaning for the Miseries of his Country by Night; while I take a View of Caesar’s Measures after his Pharsalian Conquest, and the Celerity and Vastness of those Successes that forced Cato to shut his Eyes against the Victor, and make his Retreat to the friendly Arms of Death, ne Tyrannum Videret; least those sacred Opticks which were only bless’d with Scenes of Roman Liberty should be blasted with the Sight of Rome’s Inslaver.
Caesar, who had made this Remark on Pompey’s Conduct at Dyrrachium, that he had been lost without redress could Pompey have known how to have made use of the Victory, took care not to slip into the same Error himself upon Pompey’s Overthrow, but cry’d out to his Soldiers, That they ought to pursue their Advantage, make themselves Masters of the Enemies Camp, and not amuse themselves with the Plunder, but compleat the Conquest. Pompey, whose Forces were entirely cut off, or surrendered to the Victor, accompanied with a small Number of Friends, retired from Larissa to the Sea-side, and was reduced to seek for a Retreat in a poor Fisherman’s Cabbin. Caesar, who made a close Pursuit, obliged Pompey to go on Board a small Bark, who was so infatuated with his Misfortune that he could not think of laying hold of those Advantages which he had by Sea, where he had a Powerful and Victorious Army; but hearing that Caesar was upon his March, he stay’d for no Body, but set Sail towards Lesbos: After many Deliberations with his Friends, he resolved to retire into Aegypt, where the Young King Ptolomy’s Council advise, that they ought to invite him to shore and kill him; as the sure means to obtain Caesar’s Friendship, and never hereafter to be afraid of Pompey. Thus this great Man lost his Life miserably by the Instigation and Hands of three or four Villains. Caesar, who knew all his Enemies Hopes were wrapped up in the Person of Pompey, with his usual Diligence embarkes his Forces, soon lands at Alexandria, where he was entertain’d with the News of Pompey’s Death, and presented with his Head: The mournful Spectacle drew Tears from his Eyes, and perswaded him to revenge Pompey’s Death. Caesar, who found fresh Marks every Day of the Aegyptians untoward Intentions to him from the Insolence of the King’s Eunuchs, was provok’d to take his Revenge; and being likewise caught by the admirable Charms of Cleopatra, declared, That he being the first Magistrate of Rome, was resolved to enquire into the Difference between the King and his Sister: Not to trace the Grounds of these Proceedings, which are obvious to all Knowers of the Roman History, let it suffice, that a short War ensued: Caesar with the Assistance of Mithridates of Pergama defeated the Aegyptians, and establish’d Cleopatra Queen of Aegypt jointly with her younger Brother Ptolemy: Thus every where Victorious, Caesar departed with his Sixth Legion from Aegypt to go into Syria; But that Province being at Peace, he leaves his Kinsman Sextus Caesar there with one Legion, embarkes for Cilicia, pursues Pharnaces to Cappadocia, and defeats him at Ziela, a City of Pontus, with a great Slaughter. Thence, giving some necessary Orders to the Neighbouring Provinces, he embarks and goes into Italy with a Diligence that put all the World in Admiration. Caesar made but a short Stay at Rome, received many of Pompey’s Party, who came to meet him, with wonderful Moderation; appeased the Mutinous Insolence of the Tenth Legion; re-established Quiet in the City, and leaving Mark Antony to Command there, march’d by great Journies into Sicily; and thence, even when the Winds were contrary, set Sail for Afric, so Impatient was he to root up the last Reliques of the Civil War. Scipio and Juba were Entrench’d in two several Camps near the City of Thapsus, whither Caesar March’d directly to attack them, and after a bloody Engagement totally overthrew their Powers, and obliged Scipio to fall on his own Sword, and Juba to seek a Death from the Hand of one of his Slaves: The Consequences of this Battel were so great, that all that Part of Afric submitted to Caesar, except the City of Utica; the Reduction whereof was the only Task now remained for his Arms, and the Attempt whereof naturally brings me back to the Connection of Cato’s Story.
It was not long before Cato was inform’d of Scipio’s Defeat, by some of the Cavalry that had escaped the dreadful Slaughter, and who offer’d him their Service, if he would retreat with them from the hot Pursuit of the Enemy; but Cato then told them, he design’d to hold out the Siege of Utica. But the Faintness and Irresolution of the Townsmen, who were aw’d with the Apprehensions of Caesar’s vast Fortune, made him forego that Resolution; and he in vain attempted to pacifie their Frights, by telling them, That Scipio’s Loss was nothing near so great as it was represented, and that it was common to have Disasters enlarged by Report, that listen’d to Fear more than Truth. Cato had establish’d a kind of Senate in Utica, which he had compos’d of 300 Romans of good Quality; these Gentlemen he summon’d upon this threatening Juncture, and address’d himself to them with a wonderful Calmness and Resolution, in the following Manner: He advis’d ’em principally neither to divide their Numbers nor Counsels; for that while they continued their Union, Caesar would be afraid of their Opposition, and would the sooner pardon them, if they were reduc’d to the Misfortune of submitting themselves to his Mercy: Begg’d them to fix on what Measures they meant to take, and that for his part he should not mislike whatever they determined; that if they were intirely dishearten’d by the ill Success of their Cause, he would impute their Change to the Necessity of the Times; but if they had Resolutions to brave Misfortunes, and Lives to hazard in the Defence of Liberty, he should stand in Admiration of their noble Courage, and would be himself their Captain and Companion, to push the Fortune of their Cause and Country to the uttermost. Much more he said to them in the most animating Terms that the Hope of prevailing and hearty Sincerity of his Soul for the Interest of Rome could dictate: And while he was present, his Auditors were fill’d with a Noble Fire, that seem’d to inspire them to the Daring even of Impossibilities; but that Couragious Heat soon relax’d, and gave Way to the viler Counsels of preserving their Persons with their Effects. Cato at length finding his Authority was too weak to subdue their Cowardice, chang’d his Thoughts of Defence for others more agreeable to his Character, and those Opinions of Philosophy he had all along profess’d. News being brought that Caesar was in his March with all his Army towards Utica, he gave out his Orders with admirable Prudence and Resolution, and assisted many of his Friends to save themselves by Sea, others he advis’d to rely on Caesar’s Goodness, and gave this Charge and Exhortation to his Children, never to intermeddle with the Affairs of the Republick, telling them, the Corruptions of the Times would not permit them to act therein uprightly, as Cato’s Sons ought; and that for them to grow servile Observers of the Time, they could not act like honest Men.
At Night several of his particular Friends were at Supper with him, and amongst the rest some Philosophers: After Supper the Company fell into grave and learned Discourse, and it running mostly upon Philosophy, Cato advanced that Stoical Maxim, That the Virtuous only were happy and free, but wicked Men always miserable and in Slavery: Demetrius the Peripatetick, who made one of the Guests, would not easily allow this Paradox, and Cato defended the Subject with so much Warmth and Passion, that his Friends could not but suspect he had something more than ordinary in his Mind; and their Fears were increased by this Circumstance, that when Lucius Caesar proffer’d to fall on his Knees before his victorious Kinsman to beg Cato’s Life, Cato would not be brought to permit it, saying, He would not owe his Life to the Power of a Tyrant. Soon after Cato retir’d to Bed, and embraced his Sons and the whole Company with such unusual Tenderness, that their Suspicions were redoubled by it, and they caused his Sword to be privately convey’d away, which at other Time he was used to have by him.
He took up Plato’s Book of the Soul, and having read a little while, look’d for his Sword; missing it he call’d for one of his Slaves, and without the least Disorder, bid him fetch it; but not being obey’d, he grew in Anger, and struck the Slave with such force that he hurt his own Hand, crying out, He was betray’d, and should be delivered to the Enemy naked and unarmed.
The Noise immediately brought his Sons and Friends into the Chamber, on whom looking sternly, he ask’d them, If they had observ’d him to have lost his common Sense? And why they did not try to perswade him by Reasons, without obliging him by Force to follow other Opinions than those he had already learnt? That a Man Resolv’d, had no need of the help of a Sword, nor could miss of a way to Death; but might stifle himself, or beat out his Brains against the Walls. At this Discourse his Sons wept, and left the Room, but the Friends and Philosophers staying behind, he renew’d his Discourse, and ask’d them, If they were ordered to stay and stare on him like Mutes, and wait upon him for his Guard; That if they had good Reasons to convince him, that having nothing else to rely on, it would not be unworthy of him to beg his Life of the Enemy; to make him renounce all those Maxims which he had hiterto maintain’d, why did they not proceed to their Proofs? If they were not thus prepared, he bid them be gone, and tell his Sons they ought not to think of perswading him by Force, to a Thing which they could not pretend to convince him of by Reason.
After this the Company retir’d, and his Sword was sent him back by a Young Slave; he examining the Point, and finding it for his Purpose, laid it by, saying, Now I am Master of my self. He betook him again to the same Treatise of Plato, and having read it over twice, fell into so profound a Sleep that he was heard into his Anti-chamber. As soon as the Day appear’d, Cato snatch’d up his Sword, and thrust himself thro’ the Breast; but the Hurt of his Hand had so weaken’d the Blow, that he did not Dye immediately; but, staggering, fell upon his Bed, and threw down a Table, on which he had drawn some Figures of Geometry; the Noise whereof made his Slaves rush in, who with their Cries alarm’d all his Sons and Friends.
They found him with his Bowels out of his Body, and were so confounded with their Grief, that they beheld him without being able to assist him: His Eyes were yet open, and his Physician laying him upon his Bed, put up his Bowels which were not hurt, and clos’d up the Wound. But Cato, recovering his Spirits, and transported with Fury, thrust back the Physician, rent open the Wound, and tearing his Bowels expired before their Eyes.
Thus died this great Man in the eight and fortieth Year of his Age, and was honourably buried near the Sea-side by the Uticans; and there, in Plutarch’s Time, was to be seen an Image of him, holding a drawn Sword in his Hand: Utica was presently surrendred to Caesar, who being informed how Cato had slain himself, cry’d out, That Cato had envied him the Glory of saving his Life; and it is for that Reason, says he, that I envy his Death.
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Book design by Mark McGarry, Texas Type and Book Works, Inc., Dallas, Texas
Typography by G&S Typesetters, Inc., Austin, Texas
Printed and bound by Edwards Brothers, Inc., Ann Arbor, Michigan