Portrait of John Trenchard

John Trenchard on the real nature of political parties (1721)

Found in: Cato’s Letters, vol. 1 November 5, 1720 to June 17, 1721 (LF ed.)

The English Radical Whig journalist John Trenchard (1662-1723) warned that the true nature of political parties was to offer its members an opportunity to plunder the ordinary taxpayer by seeking plush jobs for themselves and kick-backs for their friends:

Parties & Elections

A very great authority has told us, that “‘Tis worth no man’s time to serve a party, unless he can now and then get good jobs by it.” This, I can safely say, has been the constant principle and practice of every leading patriot, ever since I have been capable of observing publick transactions; the primum mobile, the alpha and omega of all their actions: They all professed to have in view only the publick good; yet every one shewed he only meant his own; and all the while the great as well as little mob, the procerum turba mobilium, contended as fiercely for their leaders, as if their happiness or misery depended upon the face, the clothes, or title of the persons who robbed and betrayed them. Thus the highwayman said to the traveller, “Pray, Sir, leave your watch and money in my hands; or else, by G —, you will be robbed.”