Portrait of Thomas Hodgskin

Thomas Hodgskin wonders how despotism comes to a country and concludes that the “first step” taken towards despotism gives it the power to take a second and a third - hence it must be stopped in its tracks at the very first sign (1813)

Found in: An Essay on Naval Discipline

In his protest against impressment (conscription) and flogging in the Royal Navy, An Essay on Naval Discipline (1813) the ex-naval officer Thomas Hodgskin (1787-1869) argues that the brutal behavior of the officers has a corrupting influence which leads to outright despotism:

Presidents, Kings, Tyrants, & Despots

When I look around me in society, and see the nations of the earth most celebrated for the rigour and despotism of their government, groaning under the most grievous calamities, while ours from her freedom has had safety ensured to her; can these calamities be possibly traced to any other cause than this despotism, which has destroyed every manly feeling … Can the rise of despotism in any society be ever so well resisted as at first.—The first step it takes gives it additional power to take a second. It goes on thus increasing, till men’s opinions are bound up in its sanctity, and then it is irresistible.