An Essay on the History of Civil Society - Part V

Part Sixth.

Of Corruption and Political Slavery.

Section I.

Of Corruption in general

If the fortune of nations, and their tendency to
aggrandisement, or to ruin, were to be estimated by merely
balancing, on the principles of last section, articles of profit
and loss, every argument in politics would rest on a comparison
of national expence with national gain; on a comparison of the
numbers who consume, with those who produce or amass the
necessaries of life. The columns of the industrious, and the
idle, would include all orders of men; and the state itself,
being allowed as many magistrates, politicians, and warriors, as
were barely sufficient for its defence and its government, should
place, on the side of its loss, every name that is supernumerary
on the civil or the military list; all those orders of men, who,
by the possession of fortune, subsist on the gains of others, and
by the nicety of their choice, require a great expence of time
and of labour, to supply their consumption; all those who are
idly employed in the train of persons of rank; all those who are
engaged in the professions of law, physic, or divinity, together
with all the learned, who do not, by their studies, promote or
improve the practice of some lucrative trade. The value of every
person, in short, should be computed from his labour; and that of
labour itself, from its tendency to procure and amass the means
of subsistence. The arts employed on mere superfluities should be
prohibited, except when their produce could be exchanged with
foreign nations, for commodities that might be employed to
maintain useful men for the public.
These appear to be the rules by which a miser would examine
the state of his own affairs, or those of his country; but
schemes of perfect corruption are at least as impracticable as
schemes of perfect virtue. Men are not universally misers; they
will not be satisfied with the pleasure of hoarding; they must be
suffered to enjoy their wealth, in order that they may take the
trouble of becoming rich. Property, in the common course of human
affairs, is unequally divided: we are therefore obliged to suffer
the wealthy to squander, that the poor may subsist; we are
obliged to tolerate certain orders of men, who are above the
necessity of labour, in order that, in their condition, there may
be an object of ambition, and a rank to which the busy aspire. We
are not only obliged to admit numbers, who, in strict oeconomy,
may be reckoned superfluous, on the civil, the military, and the
political list; but because we are men, and prefer the
occupation, improvement, and felicity of our nature, to its mere
existence, we must even wish, that as many members as possible,
of every community, may be admitted to a share of its defence and
its government.
Men, in fact, while they pursue in society different objects,
or separate views, procure a wide distribution of power, and by a
species of chance, arrive at a posture for civil engagements,
more favourable to human nature than what human wisdom could ever
calmly devise.
If the strength of a nation, in the mean time, consists in
the men on whom it may rely, and who are fortunately or wisely
combined for its preservation, it follows, that manners are as
important as either numbers or wealth; and that corruption is to
be accounted a principal cause of national declension and ruin.
Whoever perceives what are the qualities of man in his
excellence, may easily, by that standard, distinguish his defects
or corruptions. If an intelligent, a courageous, and an
affectionate mind, constitutes the perfection of his nature,
remarkable failings in any of those particulars, must
proportionally sink or debase his character.
We have observed, that it is the happiness of the individual
to make a right choice of his conduct; that this choice will lead
him to lose in society the sense of a personal interest; and, in
the consideration of what is due to the whole, to stifle those
anxieties which relate to himself as a part.
The natural disposition of man to humanity, and the warmth of
his temper, may raise his character to this fortunate pitch. His
elevation, in a great measure, depends on the form of his
society; but he can, without incurring the charge of corruption,
accommodate himself to great variations in the constitutions of
government. The same integrity, and vigorous spirit, which, in
democratical states, renders him tenacious of his equality, may,
under aristocracy or monarchy, lead him to maintain the
subordinations established. He may entertain, towards the
different ranks of men with whom he is yoked in the state, maxims
of respect and of candour. he may, in the choice of his actions,
follow a principle of justice, and of honour, which the
considerations of safety, preferment, or profit, cannot efface.
From our complaints of national depravity, it should,
notwithstanding, appear, that whole bodies of men are sometimes
infected with an epidemical weakness of the head, or corruption
of heart, by which they become unfit for the stations they
occupy, and threaten the states they compose, however
flourishing, with a prospect of decay, and of ruin.
A change of national manners for the worse, may arise from a
discontinuance of the scenes in which the talents of men were
happily cultivated, and brought into exercise; or from a change
in the prevailing opinions relating to the constituents of
honours or of happiness. When mere riches, or court-favour, are
supposed to constitute rank; the mind is misled from the
consideration of qualities on which it ought to rely.
Magnanimity, courage, and the love of mankind, are sacrificed to
avarice and vanity, or suppressed under a sense of dependence.
The individual considers his community so far only as it can be
rendered subservient to his personal advancement or profit: he
states himself in competition with his fellow-creatures; and,
urged by the passions of emulation, of fear and jealousy, of envy
and malice, he follows the maxims of an animal destined to
preserve his separate existence, and to indulge his caprice or
his appetite, at the expence of his species.
On this corrupt foundation, men become either rapacious,
deceitful, and violent, ready to trespass on the rights of
others; or servile, mercenary, and base, prepared to relinquish
their own. Talents, capacity, and force of mind, possessed by a
person of the first description, serve to plunge him the deeper
in misery, and to sharpen the agony of cruel passions; which lead
him to wreak on his fellow-creatures the torments that prey on
himself. To a person of the second, imagination, and reason
itself, only serve to point out false objects of fear, or desire,
and to multiply the subjects of disappointment, and of momentary
joy. In either case, and whether we suppose that corrupt men are
urged by covetousness, or betrayed by fear, and without
specifying the crimes which from either disposition they are
prepared to commit, we may safely affirm, with Socrates, 'That
every master should pray he may not meet with such a slave; and
every such person, being unfit for liberty, should implore that
he may meet with a merciful master.'
Man, under this measure of corruption, although he may be
bought for a slave by those who know how to turn his faculties
and his labour to profit; and although, when kept under proper
restraints, his neighbourhood may be convenient or useful; yet is
certainly unfit to act on the footing of a liberal combination or
concert with his fellow-creatures: his mind is not addicted to
friendship or confidence; he is not willing to act for the
preservation of others, nor deserves that any other should hazard
his own safety for his.
The actual character of mankind, mean-time, in the worst, as
well as the best condition, is undoubtedly mixed: and nations of
the best description are greatly obliged for their preservation,
not only to the good disposition of their members, but likewise
to those political institutions, by which the violent are
restrained from the commission of crimes, and the cowardly, or
the selfish, are made to contribute their part to the public
defence or prosperity. By means of such institutions, and the
wise precautions of government, nations are enabled to subsist,
and even to prosper, under very different degrees of corruption,
or of public integrity.
So long as the majority of a people is supposed to act on
maxims of probity, the example of the good, and even the caution
of the bad, give a general appearance of integrity, and of
innocence. Where men are to one another objects of affection and
of confidence, where they are generally disposed not to offend,
government may be remiss; and every person may be treated as
innocent, till he is found to be guilty. As the subject in this
case does not hear of the crimes, so he need not be told of the
punishments inflicted on persons of a different character. But
where the manners of a people are considerably changed for the
worse, every subject must stand on his guard, and government
itself must act on suitable maxims of fear and distrust. The
individual, no longer fit to be indulged in his pretensions to
personal consideration, independence, or freedom, each of which
he would turn to abuse, must be taught, by external force, and
from motives of fear, to counterfeit those effects of innocence,
and of duty, to which he is not disposed: he must be referred to
the whip, or the gibbet, for arguments in support of a caution,
which the state now requires him to assume, on a supposition that
he is insensible to the motives which recommend the practice of
The rules of despotism are made for the government of
corrupted men. They were indeed followed on some remarkable
occasions, even under the Roman commonwealth; and the bloody axe,
to terrify the citizen from his crimes, and to repel the casual
and temporary irruptions of vice, was repeatedly committed to the
arbitrary will of the dictator. They were finally established on
the ruins of the republic itself, when either the people became
too corrupted for freedom, or when the magistrate became too
corrupted to resign his dictatorial power. This species of
government comes naturally in the termination of a continued and
growing corruption; but has no doubt, in some instances, come too
soon, and has sacrificed remains of virtue, that deserved a
better fate, to the jealousy of tyrants, who were in haste to
augment their power. This method of government cannot, in such
cases, fail to introduce that measure of corruption, against
whose external effects it is desired as a remedy. When fear is
suggested as the only motive to duty, every heart becomes
rapacious or base. And this medicine, if applied to a healthy
body, is sure to create the distemper it is destined to cure.
This is the manner of government into which the covetous, and
the arrogant, to satiate their unhappy desires, would hurry their
fellow-creatures: it is a manner of government to which the
timorous and the servile submit at discretion; and when these
characters of the rapacious and the timid divide mankind, even
the virtues of Antoninus or Trajan, can do no more than apply,
with candour and with vigour, the whip and the sword; and
endeavour, by the hopes of reward, or the fear of punishment, to
find a speedy and a temporary cure for the crimes, or the
imbecilities of men.
Other states may be more or less corrupted: this has
corruption for its basis. Here justice may sometimes direct the
arm of the despotical sovereign; but the name of justice is most
commonly employed to signify the interest, or the caprice, of a
reigning power. Human society, susceptible of such a variety of
forms, here finds the simplest of all. The toils and possessions
of many are destined to asswage the passions of one or a few; and
the only parties that remain among mankind, are the oppressor who
demands, and the oppressed who dare not refuse.
Nations, while they were intitled to a milder fate, as in the
case of the Greeks, repeatedly conquered, have been reduced to
this condition by military force. They have reached it too in the
maturity of their own depravations; when, like the Romans,
returned from the conquest, and loaded with the spoils, of the
world, they gave loose to faction, and to crimes too bold and too
frequent for the correction of ordinary government; and when the
sword of justice, dropping with blood, and perpetually required
to suppress accumulating disorders on every side, could no longer
await the delays and precautions of an administration fettered by
It is, however, well known from the history of mankind, that
corruption of this, or of any other degree, is not peculiar to
nations in their decline, or in the result of signal prosperity,
and great advances in the arts of commerce. 'The bands of
society, indeed, in small and infant establishments, are
generally strong; and their subjects, either by an ardent
devotion to their own tribe, or a vehement animosity against
enemies, and by a vigorous courage founded on both, are well
qualified to urge, or to sustain, the fortune of a growing
community. But the savage, and the barbarian, have given,
notwithstanding, in the case of entire nations, some examples of
a weak and timorous character.(1*) They have, in more instances,
fallen into that species of corruption which we have already
described in treating of barbarous nations; they have made rapine
their trade, not merely as a species of warfare, or with a view
to enrich their community, but to possess, in property, what they
learned to prefer even to the ties of affection or of blood.
In the lowest state of commercial arts, the passions for
wealth, and for dominion, have exhibited scenes of oppression, or
servility, which the most finished corruption of the arrogant,
the cowardly, and the mercenary, founded on the desire of
procuring, or the fear of losing, a fortune, could not exceed. In
such cases, the vices of men, unrestrained by forms, and unawed
by police, are suffered to riot at large, and to produce their
entire effects. Parties accordingly unite, or separate, on the
maxims of a gang of robbers; they sacrifice to interest the
tenderest affections of human nature. The parent supplies the
market for slaves, even by the sale of his own children; the
cottage ceases to be a sanctuary for the weak and the defenceless
stranger; and rites of hospitality, often so sacred among nations
in their primitive state, come to be violated, like every other
tie of humanity, without fear or remorse.(2*)
Nations, which in later periods of their history became
eminent for civil wisdom and justice, had, perhaps, in a former
age, paroxysms of lawless disorder, to which this description
might in part be applied. The very policy by which they arrived
at their degree of national felicity, was devised as a remedy for
outrageous abuse. The establishment of order was dated from the
commission of rapes and murders; indignation, and private
revenge, were the principles on which nations proceeded to the
expulsion of tyrants, to the emancipation of mankind, and the
full explanation of their political rights.
Defects of government, and of law, may be in some cases
considered as a symptom of innocence and of virtue. But where
power is already established, where the strong are unwilling to
suffer restraint, or the weak unable to find a protection, the
defects of law are marks of the most perfect corruption.
Among rude nations, government is often defective; both
because men are not yet acquainted with all the evils for which
polished nations have endeavoured to find a redress; and because,
even where evils of the most flagrant nature have long afflicted
the peace of society, they have not yet been able to apply the
cure. In the progress of civilization, new distempers break
forth, and new remedies are applied: but the remedy is not always
applied the moment the distemper appears; and laws, though
suggested by the commission of crimes, are not the symptom of a
recent corruption, but of a desire to find a remedy that may
cure, perhaps, some inveterate evil which has long afflicted the
There are corruptions, however, under which men still possess
the vigour and the resolution to correct themselves. Such are the
violence and the outrage which accompany the collision of fierce
and daring spirits, occupied in the struggles which sometimes
precede the dawn of civil and commercial improvements. In such
cases, men have frequently discovered a remedy for evils, of
which their own misguided impetuosity, and superior force of
mind, were the principal causes. But if to a depraved
disposition, we suppose to be joined a weakness of spirit; if to
an admiration, and desire of riches, be joined an aversion to
danger or business; if those orders of men whose valour is
required by the public, cease to be brave; if the members of
society, in general, have not those personal qualities which are
required to fill the stations of equality, or of honour, to which
they are invited by the forms of the state; they must sink to a
depth from which their imbecility, even more than their depraved
inclinations, may prevent their rise.

Section II.

Of Luxury

We are far from being agreed on the application of the term
luxury, or on that degree of its meaning which is consistent with
national prosperity, or with the moral rectitude of our nature.
It is sometimes employed to signify a manner of life which we
think necessary to civilization, and even to happiness. It is, in
our panegyric of polished ages, the parent of arts, the support
of commerce, and the minister of national greatness, and of
opulence. It is, in our censure of degenerate manners, the source
of corruption, and the presage of national declension and ruin.
It is admired, and it is blamed; it is treated as ornamental and
useful; and it is proscribed as a vice.
With all this diversity in our judgements, we are generally
uniform in employing the term to signify that complicated
apparatus which mankind devise for the ease and convenience of
life. Their buildings, furniture, equipage, cloathing, train of
domestics, refinement of the table, and, in general, all that
assemblage which is rather intended to please the fancy, than to
obviate real wants, and which is rather ornamental than useful.
When we are disposed, therefore, under the appellation of
luxury, to rank the enjoyment of these things among the vices, we
either tacitly refer to the habits of sensuality, debauchery,
prodigality, vanity, and arrogance, with which the possession of
high fortune is sometimes attended; or we apprehend a certain
measure of what is necessary to human life, beyond which all
enjoyments are supposed to be excessive and vicious. When, on the
contrary, luxury is made an article of national lustre and
felicity, we only think of it as an innocent consequence of the
unequal distribution of wealth, and as a method by which
different ranks are rendered mutually dependent, and mutually
useful. The poor are made to practise arts, and the rich to
reward them. The public itself is made a gainer by what seems to
waste its stock, and it receives a perpetual increase of wealth,
from the influence of those growing appetites, and delicate
tastes, which seem to menace consumption and ruin.
It is certain, that we must either, together with the
commercial arts, suffer their fruits to be enjoyed, and even, in
some measure, admired; or, like the Spartans, prohibit the art
itself, while we are afraid of its consequences, or while we
think that the conveniencies it brings exceed what nature
We may propose to stop the advancement of arts at any stage
of their progress, and still incur the Censure of luxury from
those who have not advanced so far. The house-builder and the
carpenter at Sparta were limited to the use of the axe and the
saw; but a Spartan cottage might have passed for a palace in
Thrace: and if the dispute were to turn on the knowledge of what
is physically necessary to the preservation of human life, as the
standard of what is morally lawful, the faculties of physic, as
well as of morality, would probably divide on the subject, and
leave every individual, as at present, to find some rule for
himself. The casuist, for the most part, considers the practice
of his own age and condition, as a standard for mankind. If in
one age or condition, he condemn the use of a coach, in another
be would have no less censured the wearing of shoes; and the very
person who exclaims against the first, would probably not have
spared the second, if it had not been already familiar in ages
before his own. A censor born in a cottage, and accustomed to
sleep upon straw, does not propose that men should return to the
woods and the caves for shelter; he admits the reasonableness and
the utility of what is already familiar; and apprehends an excess
and corruption, only in the newest refinement of the rising
The clergy of Europe have preached successively against every
new fashion, and every innovation in dress. The modes of youth
are the subject of Censure to the old; and modes of the last age,
in their turn, are matter of ridicule to the flippant, and the
young. Of this there is not always a better account to be given,
than that the old are disposed to be severe, and the young to be
The argument against many of the conveniences of life, drawn
from the mere consideration of their not being necessary, was
equally proper in the mouth of the savage, who dissuaded from the
first applications of industry, as it is in that of the moralist,
who insists on the vanity of the last. 'Our ancestors,' he might
say, 'found their dwelling under this rock; they gathered their
food in the forest; they allayed their thirst from the fountain;
and they were clothed in the spoils of the beast they had slain.
Why should we indulge a false delicacy, or require from the earth
fruits which she is not accustomed to yield ? The bow of our
fathers is already too strong for our arms; and the wild beast
begins to lord it in the woods.'
Thus the moralist may have found, in the proceedings of every
age, those topics of blame, from which he is so much disposed to
arraign the manners of his own; and our imbarrassment on the
subject, is, perhaps, but a part of that general perplexity which
we undergo, in trying to define moral characters by external
circumstances, which may, or may not, be attended with faults in
the mind and the heart. One man finds a vice in the wearing of
linen; another does not, unless the fabric be fine: and if,
mean-time, it be true, that a person may be dressed in
manufacture, either coarse or fine; that he may sleep in the
fields, or lodge in a palace; tread upon carpet, or plant his
foot on the ground; while the mind either retains, or has lost,
its penetration, and its vigour, and the heart its affection to
mankind, it is vain, under any such circumstance, to seek for the
distinctions of virtue and vice, or to tax the polished citizen
with weakness for any part of his equipage, or for his wearing a
fur, perhaps, in which some savage was dressed before him. Vanity
is not distinguished by any peculiar species of dress. It is
betrayed by the Indian in the phantastic assortments of his
plumes, his shells, his party-coloured furs, and in the time he
bestows at the glass and the toilet. Its projects in the woods
and in the town are the same: in the one, it seeks, with the
visage bedaubed, and with teeth artificially stained, for that
admiration, which it courts in the other with a gilded equipage,
and liveries of state.
Polished nations, in their progress, often come to surpass
the rude in moderation, and severity of manners. 'The Greeks,'
says Thucydides, 'not long ago, like barbarians, wore golden
spangles in the hair, and went armed in times of peace.'
Simplicity of dress in this people, became a mark of politeness:
and the mere materials with which the body is nourished or
clothed, are probably of little consequence to any people. We
must look for the characters of men in the qualities of the mind,
not in the species of their food, or in the mode of their
apparel. What are now the ornaments of the grave, and severe;
what is owned to be a real conveniency, were once the fopperies
of youth, or were devised to please the effeminate. The new
fashion, indeed, is often the mark of the coxcomb; but we
frequently change our fashions, without increasing the measures
of our vanity or folly.
Are the apprehensions of the severe, therefore, in every age,
equally groundless and unreasonable? Are we never to dread any
error in the article of a refinement bestowed on the means of
subsistence, or the conveniencies of life? The fact is, that men
are perpetually exposed to the commission of error in this
article, not merely where they are accustomed to high measures of
accommodation, or to any particular species of food, but
where-ever these objects, in general, may come to be preferred to
friends, to a country, or to mankind; they actually commit such
error, where-ever they admire paultry distinctions or frivolous
advantages; where-ever they shrink from small inconveniencies,
and are incapable of discharging their duty with vigour. The use
of morality on this subject, is not to limit men to any
particular species of lodging, diet, or cloaths; but to prevent
their considering these conveniencies as the principal objects of
human life. And if we are asked, Where the pursuit of trifling
accommodations should stop, in order that a man may devote
himself entirely to the higher engagements of life? we may
answer, That it should stop where it is. This was the rule
followed at Sparta: The object of the rule was, to preserve the
heart entire for the public, and to occupy men in cultivating
their own nature, not in accumulating wealth, and external
conveniencies. It was not expected otherwise, that the axe or the
saw should be attended with greater political advantage, than the
plane and the chisel. When Cato walked the streets of Rome
without his robe, and without shoes, he did so, most probably, in
contempt of what his countrymen were so prone to admire; not in
hopes of finding a virtue in one species of dress, or a vice in
Luxury, therefore, considered as a predilection in favour of
the objects of vanity, and the costly materials of pleasure, is
ruinous to the human character; considered as the mere use of
accommodations and conveniencies which the age has procured,
rather depends on the progress which the mechanical arts have
made, and on the degree in which the fortunes of men are
unequally parcelled, than on the dispositions of particular men
either to vice or to virtue.
Different measures of luxury are, however, variously suited
to different constitutions of government. The advancement of arts
supposes an unequal distribution of fortune; and the means of
distinction they bring, serve to render the separation of ranks
more sensible. Luxury is, upon this account, apart from all its
moral effects, adverse to the form of democratical government;
and in any state of society, can be safely admitted in that
degree only in which the members of the community are supposed of
unequal rank, and constitute public order by means of a regular
subordination. High degrees of it appear salutary, and even
necessary, in monarchical and mixed governments; where, besides
the encouragement to arts and commerce, it serves to give lustre
to those hereditary or constitutional dignities which have a
place of importance in the political system. Whether even here
luxury leads to abuse peculiar to ages of high refinement and
opulence, we shall proceed to consider in the following sections.

Section III.

Of the Corruption incident to Polished Nations.

Luxury and corruption are frequently coupled together, and
even pass for synonymous terms. But in order to avoid any dispute
about words, by the first we may understand that accumulation of
wealth, and that refinement On the ways of enjoying it, which are
the objects of industry, or the fruits of mechanic and commercial
arts: And by the second a real weakness, or depravity of the
human character, which may accompany any state of those arts, and
be found under any external circumstances or condition
whatsoever. It remains to inquire, What are the corruptions
incident to polished nations, arrived at certain measures of
luxury, and possessed of certain advantages, in which they are
generally supposed to excel?
We need not have recourse to a parallel between the manners
of entire nations, in the extremes of civilization and rudeness,
in order to be satisfied, that the vices of men are not
proportioned to their fortunes; or that the habits of avarice, or
of sensuality, are not founded on any certain measures of wealth,
or determinate kind of enjoyment. Where the situations of
particular men are varied as much by their personal stations, as
they can be by the state of national refinements, the same
passions for interest, or pleasure, prevail in every condition.
They arise from temperament, or an acquired admiration of
property; not from any particular manner of life in which the
parties are engaged, nor from any particular species of property,
which may have occupied their cares and their wishes.
Temperance and moderation are, at least, as frequent among
those whom we call the superior, as they are among the lower
classes of men; and however we may affix the character of
sobriety to mere cheapness of diet, and other accommodations with
which any particular age, or rank of men, appear to be contented,
it is well known, that costly materials are not necessary to
constitute a debauch, nor profligacy less frequent under the
thatched roof, than under the lofty ceiling. Men grow equally
familiar with different conditions, receive equal pleasure, and
are equally allured to sensuality, in the palace, and in the
cave. Their acquiring in either habits of intemperance or sloth,
depends on the remission of other pursuits, and on the distaste
of the mind to other engagements. If the affections of the heart
be awake, and the passions of love, admiration, or anger, be
kindled, the costly furniture of the palace, as well as the
homely accommodations of the cottage, are neglected: and men,
when roused, reject their repose; or, when wearied, embrace it
alike on the silken bed, or on the couch of straw.
We are not, however, from hence to conclude, that luxury,
with all its concomitant circumstances, which either serve to
favour its increase, or which, in the arrangements of civil
society, follow it as consequences, can have no effect to the
disadvantage of national manners. If that respite from public
dangers and troubles which gives a leisure for the practice of
commercial arts, be continued, or increased, into a disuse of
national efforts; if the individual, not called to unite with his
country, be left to pursue his private advantage; we may find him
become effeminate, mercenary, and sensual; not because pleasures
and profits are become more alluring, but because he has fewer
calls to attend to other objects; and because he has more
encouragement to study his personal advantages, and pursue his
separate interests.
If the disparities of rank and fortune which are necessary to
the pursuit or enjoyment of luxury, introduce false grounds of
precedency and estimation; if, on the mere considerations of
being rich or poor, one order of men are, in their own
apprehension, elevated, another debased; if one be criminally
proud, another meanly dejected; and every rank in its place, like
the tyrant, who thinks that nations are made for himself, be
disposed to assume on the rights of mankind: although, upon the
comparison, the higher order may be least corrupted; or from
education, and a sense of personal dignity, have most good
qualities remaining; yet the one becoming mercenary and servile;
the other imperious and arrogant; both regardless of justice, and
of merit; the whole mass is corrupted, and the manners of a
society changed for the worse, in proportion as its members cease
to act on principles of equality, independence, or freedom.
Upon this view, and considering the merits of men in the
abstract, a mere change from the habits of a republic to those of
a monarchy; £rom the love of equality, to the sense of a
subordination founded on birth, titles, and fortune, is a species
of corruption to mankind. But this degree of corruption is still
consistent with the safety and prosperity of some nations; it
admits of a vigorous courage, by which the rights of individuals,
and of kingdoms, may be long preserved.
Under the form of monarchy. while yet in its vigour, superior
fortune is, indeed, one mark by which the different orders of men
are distinguished; but there are some other ingredients, without
which wealth is not admitted as a foundation of precedency, and
in favour of which it is often despised, and lavished away. Such
are birth and titles, the reputation of courage, courtly manners,
and a certain elevation of mind. If we suppose, that these
distinctions are forgotten, and nobility itself only to be known
by the sumptuous retinue which money alone may procure; and by a
lavish expence, which the more recent fortunes can generally best
sustain; luxury must then be allowed to corrupt the monarchical
as much as the republican state, and to introduce a fatal
dissolution of manners, under which men of every condition,
although they are eager to acquire, or to display their wealth,
have no remains of real ambition. They have neither the elevation
of nobles, nor the fidelity of subjects; they have changed into
effeminate vanity, that sense of honour which gave rules to the
personal courage; and into a servile baseness, that loyalty,
which bound each in his place, to his immediate superior, and the
whole to the throne.
Nations are most exposed to corruption from this quarter,
when the mechanical arts, being greatly advanced, furnish
numberless articles, to be applied in ornament to the person, in
furniture, entertainment, or equipage; when such articles as the
rich alone can procure are admired; and when consideration,
precedence, and rank, are accordingly made to depend on fortune.
In a more rude state of the arts, although wealth be
unequally divided, the opulent can amass only the simple means of
subsistence: They can only fill the granary, and furnish the
stall; reap from more extended fields, and drive their herds over
a larger pasture. To enjoy their magnificence, they must live in
a croud; and to secure their possessions, they must be surrounded
with friends that espouse their quarrels. Their honours, as well
as their safety, consist in the numbers who attend them; and
their personal distinctions are taken from their liberality, and
supposed elevation of mind. In this manner, the possession of
riches serves only to make the owner assume a character of
magnanimity, to become the guardian of numbers, or the public
object of respect and affection. But when the bulky constituents
of wealth, and of rustic magnificence, can be exchanged for
refinements; and when the produce of the soil may be turned into
equipage, and mere decoration; when the combination of many is no
longer required for personal safety; the master may become the
sole consumer of his own estate: he may refer the use of every
subject to himself; he may employ the materials of generosity to
feed a personal vanity, or to indulge a sickly and effeminate
fancy, which has learned to enumerate the trappings of weakness
or folly among the necessaries of life.
The Persian satrape, we are told, when he saw the King of
Sparta at the place of their conference, stretched on the grass
with his soldiers, blushed at the provision he had made for the
accommodation of his own person: he ordered the furs and the
carpets to be withdrawn; he felt his own inferiority; and
recollected, that he was to treat with a man, not to vie with a
pageant in costly attire and magnificence.
When, amidst circumstances that make no trial of the virtues
or talents of men, we have been accustomed to the air of
superiority, which people of fortune derive from their retinue,
we are apt to lose every sense of distinction arising from merit,
or even from abilities. We rate our fellow-citizens by the figure
they are able to make; by their buildings, their dress, their
equipage, and the train of their followers. All these
circumstances make a part in our estimate of what is excellent;
and if the master himself is known to be a pageant in the midst
of his fortune, we nevertheless pay our court to his station, and
look up with an envious, servile, or dejected mind, to what is,
in itself, scarcely fit to amuse children; though, when it is
worn as a badge of distinction, it inflames the ambition of those
we call the great, and strikes the multitude with awe and
We judge of entire nations by the productions of a few
mechanical arts, and think we are talking of men, while we are
boasting of their estates, their dress, and their palaces. The
sense in which we apply the terms, great, and noble, high rank,
and high life, shew, that we have, on such occasions, transferred
the idea of perfection from the character to the equipage; and
that excellence itself is, in our esteem, a mere pageant, adorned
at a great expence, by the labours of many workmen.
To those who overlook the subtile transitions of the
imagination, it might appear, since wealth can do no more than
furnish the means of subsistence, and purchase animal pleasures,
that covetousness, and venality itself, should keep pace with our
fears of want, or with our appetite for sensual enjoyments; and
that where the appetite is satiated, and the fear of want is
removed, the mind should be at ease on the subject of fortune.
But they are not the mere pleasures that riches procure, nor the
choice of viands which cover the board of the wealthy, that
inflame the passions of the covetous and the mercenary. Nature is
easily satisfied in all her enjoyments. It is an opinion of
eminence, connected with fortune; it is a sense of debasement
attending on poverty, which renders us blind to every advantage,
but that of the rich; and insensible to every disgrace, but that
of the poor. It is this unhappy apprehension, that occasionally
prepares us for the desertion of every duty, for a submission to
every indignity, and for the commission of every crime that can
be accomplished in safety.
Aurengzebe was not more renowned for sobriety in his private
station, and in the conduct of a supposed dissimulation, by which
he aspired to sovereign power, than he continued to be, even on
the throne of Indostan. Simple, abstinent, and severe in his
diet, and other pleasures, he still led the life of a hermit, and
occupied his time with a seemingly painful application to the
affairs of a great empire.(3*) He quitted a station in which, if
pleasure had been his object, he might have indulged his
sensuality without reserve; he made his way to a scene of
disquietude and care; he aimed at the summit of human greatness,
in the possession of imperial fortune, not at the gratifications
of animal appetite, or the enjoyment of ease. Superior to sensual
pleasure, as well as to the feelings of nature, he dethroned his
father, and he murdered his brothers, that he might roll on a
carriage incrusted with diamond and pearl; that his elephants,
his camels, and his horses, on the march, might form a line
extending many leagues; might present a glittering harness to the
sun; and loaded with treasure, usher to the view of an abject and
admiring croud, that awful majesty, in whose presence they were
to strike the forehead on the ground, and be overwhelmed with the
sense of his greatness, and with that of their own debasement.
As these are the objects which prompt the desire of dominion,
and excite the ambitious to aim at the mastery of their
fellow-creatures; so they inspire the ordinary race of men with a
sense of infirmity and meanness, that prepares them to suffer
indignities, and to become the property of persons, whom they
consider as of a rank and a nature so much superior to their own.
The chains of perpetual slavery, accordingly, appear to be
rivetted in the East, no less by the pageantry which is made to
accompany the possession of power, than they are by the fears of
the sword, and the terrors of a military execution. In the West,
as well as the East, we are willing to bow to the splendid
equipage, and stand at an awful distance from the pomp of a
princely estate. We too, may be terrified by the frowns, or won
by the smiles, of those whose favour is riches and honour, and
whose displeasure is poverty and neglect. We too may overlook the
honours of the human soul, from an admiration of the pageantries
that accompany fortune. The procession of elephants harnessed
with gold might dazzle into slaves, the people who derive
corruption and weakness from the effect of their own arts and
contrivances, as well as those who inherit servility from their
ancestors, and are enfeebled by their natural temperament, and
the enervating charms of their soil, and their climate.
It appears, therefore, that although the mere use of
materials which constitute luxury, may be distinguished from
actual vice; yet nations under a high state of the commercial
arts, are exposed to corruption, by their admitting wealth,
unsupported by personal elevation and virtue, as the great
foundation of distinction, and by having their attention turned
on the side of interest, as the road to consideration and honour.
With this effect, luxury may serve to corrupt democratical
states, by introducing a species of monarchical subordination,
without that sense of high birth and hereditary honours which
render the boundaries of rank fixed and determinate, and which
teach men to act in their stations with force and propriety. It
may prove the occasion of political corruption, even in
monarchical governments, by drawing respect towards mere wealth;
by casting a shade on the lustre of personal qualities, or
family-distinctions; and by infecting all orders of men, with
equal venality, servility, and cowardice.

Section IV.

The same subject continued

The increasing regard with which men appear, in the progress
of commercial arts, to study their profit, or the delicacy with
which they refine on their pleasures; even industry itself, or
the habit of application to a tedious employment, in which no
honours are won, may, perhaps, be considered as indications of a
growing attention to interest, or of effeminacy, contracted in
the enjoyment of ease and conveniency, Every successive art, by
which the individual is taught to improve on his fortune, is, in
reality, an addition to his private engagements, and a new
avocation of his mind from the public.
Corruption, however, does not arise from the abuse of
commercial arts alone; it requires the aid of political
situation; and is not produced by the objects that occuPy a
sordid and a mercenary spirit, without the aid of circumstances
that enable men to indulge in safety any mean disposition they
have acquired.
Providence has fitted mankind for the higher engagements
which they are sometimes obliged to fulfil; and it is in the
midst of such engagements that they are most likely to acquire or
to preserve their virtues. The habits of a vigorous mind are
formed in contending with difficulties, not in enjoying the
repose of a pacific station; penetration and wisdom are the
fruits of experience, not the lessons of retirement and leisure;
ardour and generosity are the qualities of a mind roused and
animated in the conduct of scenes that engage the heart, not the
gifts of rejection or knowledge. The mere intermission of
national and political efforts is, notwithstanding, sometimes
mistaken for public good; and there is no mistake more likely to
foster the vices, or to flatter the weakness, of feeble and
interested men.
If the ordinary arts of policy, or rather, if a growing
indifference to objects of a public nature, should prevail, and,
under any free constitution, put an end to those disputes of
party, and silence that noise of dissension, which generally
accompany the exercise of freedom, we may venture to
prognosticate corruption to the national manners, as well as
remissness to the national spirit. The period is come, when, no
engagement remaining on the part of the public, private interest,
and animal pleasure, become the sovereign objects of care. When
men, being relieved from the pressure of great occasions, bestow
their attention on trifles; and having carried what they are
pleased to call sensibility and delicacy, on the subject of ease
or molestation, as far as real weakness or folly can go, have
recourse to affectation, in order to enhance the pretended
demands, and accumulate the anxieties, of a sickly fancy, and
enfeebled mind.
In this condition, mankind generally flatter their own
imbecility under the name of politeness. They are persuaded, that
the celebrated ardour, generosity, and fortitude, of former ages,
bordered on frenzy, or were the mere effects of necessity, on men
who had not the means of enjoying their ease, or their pleasure.
They congratulate themselves on having escaped the storm which
required the exercise of such arduous virtues; and with that
vanity which accompanies the human race in their meanest
condition, they boast of a scene of affectation, of languor, or
of folly, as the standard of human felicity, and as furnishing
the properest exercise of a rational nature.
It is none of the least menacing symptoms of an age prone to
degeneracy, that the minds of men become perplexed in the
discernment of merit, as much as the spirit becomes enfeebled in
conduct, and the heart misled in the choice of its objects. The
care of mere fortune is supposed to constitute wisdom; retirement
from public affairs, and real indifference to mankind, receive
the applauses of moderation and virtue.
Great fortitude, and elevation of mind, have not always,
indeed, been employed in the attainment of valuable ends; but
they are always respectable, and they are always necessary when
we would act for the good of mankind, in any of the more arduous
stations of life. While, therefore, we blame their
misapplication, we should beware of depreciating their value. Men
of a severe and sententious morality have not always sufficiently
observed this caution; nor have they been duly aware of the
corruptions they flattered, by the satire they employed against
what is aspiring and prominent in the character of the human
It might have been expected, that in an age of hopeless
debasement,(4*) the talents of Demosthenes and Tully, even the
ill-governed magnanimity of a Macedonian, or the daring
enterprise of a Carthaginian leader, might have escaped the
acrimony of a satirist, who had so many objects of correction in
his view, and who possessed the arts of declamation in so high a

I, demens, et saevos per Alpes,
Ut pueris placeas, et declamatio fias,

is part of the illiberal censure which is thrown by this poet on
the person and action of a leader, who, by his courage and
conduct, in the very service to which the satire referred, had
well nigh saved his country from the ruin with which it was at
last overwhelmed.

Heroes are much the same, the point's
From Macedonia's madman to the Swede,

is a distich, in which another poet of beautiful talents, has
attempted to depreciate a name, to which, probably, few of his
readers are found to aspire.
If men must go wrong, there is a choice of their very errors,
as well as of their virtues. Ambition, the love of personal
eminence, and the desire of fame, although they sometimes lead to
the commission of crimes, yet always engage men in pursuits that
require to be supported by some of the greatest qualities of the
human soul; and if eminence is the principal object of pursuit,
there is, at least, a probability, that those qualities may be
studied on which a real elevation of mind is raised. But when
public alarms have ceased, and contempt of glory is recommended
as an article of wisdom, the sordid habits, and mercenary
dispositions, to which, under a general indifference to national
objects, the members of a polished or commercial state are
exposed, must prove at once the most effectual suppression of
every liberal sentiment, and the most fatal reverse of all those
principles from which communities derive their hopes of
preservation, and their strength.
It is noble to possess happiness and independence, either in
retirement, or in public life. The characteristic of the happy,
is to acquit themselves well in every condition; in the court, or
in the village; in the senate, or in the private retreat. But if
they affect any particular station, it is surely that in which
their actions may be rendered most extensively useful. Our
considering mere retirement, therefore, as a symptom of
moderation, and of virtue, is either a remnant of that system,
under which monks and anchorets, in former ages, have been
canonized; or proceeds from a habit of thinking, which appears
equally fraught with moral corruption, from our considering
public life as a scene for the gratification of mere vanity,
avarice, and ambition; never as furnishing the best opportunity
for a just and a happy engagement of the mind and the heart.
Emulation, and the desire of power, are but sorry motives to
public conduct; but if they have been, in any case, the principal
inducements from which men have taken part in the service of
their country, any diminution of their prevalence or force is a
real corruption of national manners; and the pretended moderation
assumed by the higher orders of men, has a fatal effect in the
state. The disinterested love of the public, is a principle
without which some constitutions of government cannot subsist:
but when we consider how seldom this has appeared a reigning
passion, we have little reason to impute the prosperity of
preservation of nations, in every case, to its influence.
It is sufficient, perhaps, under one form of government, that
men should be fond of their independence; that they should be
ready to oppose usurpation, and to repel personal indignities:
under another, it is sufficient, that they should be tenacious of
their rank, and of their honours; and instead of a zeal for the
public, entertain a vigilant jealousy of the rights which pertain
to themselves. When numbers of men retain a certain degree of
elevation and fortitude, they are qualified to give a mutual
check to their several errors, and are able to act in that
variety of situations which the different constitutions of
government have prepared for their members: but, under the
disadvantages of a feeble spirit, however directed, and however
informed, no national constitution is safe; nor can any degree of
enlargement to which a state has arrived, secure its political
In states where property, distinction, and pleasure, are
thrown out as baits to the imagination, and incentives to
passion, the public seems to rely for the preservation of its
political life, on the degree of emulation and jealousy with
which parties mutually oppose and restrain each other. The
desires of preferment and profit in the breast of the citizen,
are the motives from which he is excited to enter on public
affairs, and are the considerations which direct his political
conduct. The suppression, therefore, of ambition, of
party-animosity, and of public envy, is probably, in every such
case, not a reformation, but a symptom of weakness, and a prelude
to more sordid pursuits, and ruinous amusements.
On the eve of such a revolution in manners, the higher ranks,
in every mixed or monarchical government, have need to take in
the care of themselves. Men of business, and of industry,
inferior stations of life, retain their occupations, and are
secured, by a kind of necessity, in the possession of those
habits on which they rely for their quiet, and for the moderate
enjoyments of life. But the higher orders of men, if they
relinquish the state, if they cease to possess that courage and
elevation of mind, and to exercise those talents which are
employed in its defence, and its government, are, in reality, by
the seeming advantages of their station, become the refuse of
that society of which they once were the ornament; and from being
the most respectable, and the most happy, of its members, are
become the most wretched and corrupt. In their approach to this
condition, and in the absence of every manly occupation, they
feel a dissatisfaction and languor which they cannot explain:
They pine in the midst of apparent enjoyments; or, by the variety
and caprice of their different pursuits and amusements, exhibit a
state of agitation, which, like the disquiet of sickness, is not
a proof of enjoyment or pleasure, but of suffering and pain. The
care of his buildings, his equipage, or his table, is chosen by
one; literary amusement, or some frivolous study, by another. The
sports of the country, and the diversions of the town; the
gaming-table,(5*) dogs, horses, and wine, are employed to fill up
the blank of a listless and unprofitable life. They speak of
human pursuits, as if the whole difficulty were to find something
to do. They fix on some frivolous occupation, as if there was
nothing that deserved to be done: They consider what tends to the
good of their fellow-creatures, as a disadvantage to themselves:
They fly from every scene, in which any efforts of vigour are
required, or in which they might be allured to perform any
service to their country. We misapply our compassion in pitying
the poor; it were much more justly applied to the rich, who
become the first victims of that wretched insignificance, into
which the members of every corrupted state, by the tendency of
their weaknesses, and their vices, are in haste to plunge
It is in this condition, that the sensual invent all those
refinements on pleasure, and devise those incentives to a
satiated appetite, which tend to foster the corruptions of a
dissolute age. The effects of brutal appetite, and the mere
debauch, are more flagrant, and more violent, perhaps, in rude
ages, than they are in the later periods of commerce and luxury:
but that perpetual habit of searching for animal pleasure where
it is not to be found, in the gratifications of an appetite that
is cloyed, and among the ruins of an animal constitution, is not
more fatal to the virtues of the soul, than it is even to the
enjoyment of sloth, or of pleasure; it is not a more certain
avocation from public affairs, or a surer prelude to national
decay, than it is a disappointment to our hopes of private
In these reflections, it has been the object, not to
ascertain a precise measure to which corruption has risen in any
of the nations that have attained to eminence, or that have gone
to decay; but to describe that remissness of spirit, that
weakness of soul, that state of national debility, which is
likely to end in political slavery; an evil which remains to be
considered as the last object of caution, and beyond which there
is no subject of disquisition in the perishing fortunes of

Section V.

Of Corruption, as it tends to Political Slavery.

Liberty, in one sense, appears to be the portion of polished
nations alone. The savage is personally free, because he lives
unrestrained, and acts with the members of his tribe on terms of
equality. The barbarian is frequently independent from a
continuance of the same circumstances, or because he has courage
and a sword. But good policy alone can provide for the regular
administration of justice, or constitute a force in the state,
which is ready on every occasion to defend the rights of its
It has been found, that, except in a few singular cases, the
commercial and political arts have advanced together. These arts
have been in modern Europe so interwoven, that we cannot
determine which were prior in the order of time, or derived most
advantage from the mutual influences with which they act and
re-act upon one another. It has been observed, that in some
nations the spirit of commerce, intent on securing its profits,
has led the way to political wisdom. A people, possessed of
wealth, and become jealous of their properties, have formed the
project of emancipation, and have proceeded, under favour of an
importance recently gained, still farther to enlarge their
pretensions, and to dispute the prerogatives which their
sovereign had been in use to employ. But it is in vain that we
expect in one age, from the possession of wealth, the fruit which
it is said to have borne in a former. Great accessions of
fortune, when recent, when accompanied with frugality, and a
sense of independence, may render the owner confident in his
strength, and ready to spurn at oppression. The purse which is
open, not to personal expence, or to the indulgence of vanity,
but to support the interests of a faction, to gratify the higher
passions of party, render the wealthy citizen formidable to those
who pretend to dominion; but it does not follow, that in a time
of corruption, equal, or greater, measures of wealth should
operate to the same effect.
On the contrary, when wealth is accumulated only in the hands
of the miser, and runs to waste from those of the prodigal; when
heirs of family find themselves straitened and poor, in the midst
of affluence; when the cravings of luxury silence even the voice
of party and faction; when the hopes of meriting the rewards of
compliance, Or the fear of losing what is held at discretion,
keep men in a state of suspense and anxiety; when fortune, in
short, instead of being considered as the instrument of a
vigorous spirit, becomes the idol of a covetous or a profuse, of
a rapacious or a timorous mind; the foundation on which freedom
was built, may serve to support a tyranny; and what, in one age,
raised the pretensions, and fostered the confidence of the
subject, may, in another, incline him to servility, and furnish
the price to be paid for his prostitutions. Even those, who, in a
vigorous age, gave the example of wealth, in the hands of the
people, becoming an occasion of freedom, may, in times of
degeneracy, verify likewise the maxim of Tacitus, That the
admiration of riches leads to despotical government.(6*)
Men who have tasted of freedom, and who have felt their
personal rights, are not easily taught to bear with incroachments
on either, and cannot, without some preparation, come to submit
to oppression. They may receive this unhappy preparation, under
different forms of government, from different hands, and arrive
at the same end by different ways. They follow one direction in
republics, another in monarchies, and in mixed governments. But
where-ever the state has, by means that do not preserve the
virtue of the subject, effectually guarded his safety;
remissness, and neglect of the public, are likely to follow; and
polished nations of every description, appear to encounter a
danger, on this quarter, proportioned to the degree in which they
have, during any continuance, enjoyed the uninterrupted
possession of peace and prosperity.
Liberty results, we say, from the government of laws; and we
are apt to consider statutes, not merely as the resolutions and
maxims of a people determined to be free, not as the writings by
which their rights are kept on record; but as a power erected to
guard them, and as a barrier which the caprice of man cannot
When a basha, in Asia, pretends to decide every controversy
by the rules of natural equity, we allow that he is possessed of
discretionary powers. When a judge in Europe is left to decide,
according to his own interpretation of written laws, is he in any
sense more restrained than the former? Have the multiplied words
of a statute an influence over the conscience, and the heart,
more powerful than that of reason and nature? Does the party, in
any judicial proceeding, enjoy a less degree of safety, when his
rights are discussed, on the foundation of a rule that is open to
the understandings of mankind, than when they are referred to an
intricate system, which it has become the object of a separate
profession to study and to explain?
If forms of proceeding, written statutes, or other
constituents of law, cease to be enforced by the very spirit from
which they arose; they serve only to cover, not to restrain, the
iniquities of power: they are possibly respected even by the
corrupt magistrate, when they favour his purpose; but they are
contemned or evaded, when they stand in his way: And the
influence of laws, where they have any real effect in the
preservation of liberty, is not any magic power descending from
shelves that are loaded with books, but is, in reality, the
influence of men resolved to be free; of men, who, having
adjusted in writing the terms On which they are to live with the
state, and with their fellow-subjects, are determined, by their
vigilance and spirit, to make these terms be observed.
We are taught, under every form of government, to apprehend
usurpations, from the abuse, or from the extension of the
executive power. In pure monarchies, this power is commonly
hereditary, and made to descend in a determinate line. In
elective monarchies, it is held for life. In republics, it is
exercised during a limited time. Where men, or families, are
called by election to the possession of temporary dignities, it
is more the object of ambition to perpetuate, than to extend
their powers. In hereditary monarchies, the sovereignty is
already perpetual; and the aim of every ambitious prince, is to
enlarge his prerogative. Republics, and, in times of commotion,
communities of every form, are exposed to hazard, not from those
only who are formally raised to places of trust, but from every
person whatever, who is incited by ambition, and who is supported
by faction.
It is no advantage to a prince, or other magistrate, to enjoy
more power than is consistent with the good of mankind; nor is it
of any benefit to a man to be unjust: but these maxims are a
feeble security against the passions and follies of men. Those
who are intrusted with any measures of influence, are disposed,
from a mere aversion to constraint, to remove opposition. Not
only the monarch who wears a hereditary crown, but the magistrate
who holds his office for a limited time, grows fond of his
dignity. The very minister, who depends for his place on the
momentary will of his prince, and whose personal interests are,
in every respect, those of a subject, still has the weakness to
take an interest in the growth of prerogative, and to reckon as
gain to himself the incroachments he has made on the rights of a
people, with whom he himself and his family are soon to be
Even with the best intentions towards mankind, we are
inclined to think, that their welfare depends, not on the
felicity of their own inclinations, or the happy employment of
their own talents, but on their ready compliance with what we
have devised for their good. Accordingly, the greatest virtue of
which any sovereign has hitherto shown an example, is not a
desire of cherishing in his people the spirit of freedom and
independence; but what is in itself sufficiently rare, and highly
meritorious, a steady regard to the distribution of justice in
matters of property, a disposition to protect and to oblige, to
redress the grievances, and to promote the interest of his
subjects. It was from a reference to these objects, that Titus
computed the value of his time, and judged of its application.
But the sword, which in this beneficent hand was drawn to protect
the subject, and to procure a speedy and effectual distribution
of justice, was likewise sufficient in the hands of a tyrant, to
shed the blood of the innocent, and to cancel the rights of men.
The temporary proceedings of humanity, though they suspended the
exercise of oppression, did not break the national chains: the
prince was even the better enabled to procure that species of
good which he studied; because there was no freedom remaining,
and because there was no where a force to dispute his decrees, or
to interrupt their execution.
Was it in vain, that Antoninus became acquainted with the
characters of Thrasea, Helvidius, Cato, Dion, and Brutus? Was it
in vain, that he learned to understand the form of a free
community, raised on the basis of equality and justice; or of a
monarchy, under which the liberties of the subject were held the
most sacred object of administration?(7*) Did he mistake the
means of procuring to mankind what he points out as a blessing?
Or did the absolute power with which he was furnished, in a
mighty empire, only disable him from executing what his mind had
perceived as a national good? In such a case, it were vain to
Hatter the monarch or his people. The first cannot bestow
liberty, without raising a spirit, which may, on occasion, stand
in opposition to his own designs; nor the latter receive this
blessing, while they own that it is in the right of a master to
give or to with-hold it. The claim of justice is firm and
peremptory, We receive favours with a sense of obligation and
kindness; but we would inforce our rights, and the spirit of
freedom in this exertion cannot take the tone of supplication, or
of thankfulness, without betraying itself. 'You have intreated
Octavius,' says Brutus to Cicero, 'that he would spare those who
stand foremost among the citizens of Rome. What if he will not?
Must we perish? yes; rather than owe our safety to him.'
Liberty is a right which every individual must be ready to
vindicate for himself, and which he who pretends to bestow as a
favour, has by that very act in reality denied. Even political
establishments, though they appear to be independent of the will
and arbitration of men, cannot be relied on for the preservation
of freedom; they may nourish, but should not supersede that firm
and resolute spirit, with which the liberal mind is always
prepared to resist indignities, and to refer its safety to
Were a nation, therefore, given to be moulded by a sovereign,
as the clay is put into the hands of the potter, this project of
bestowing liberty on a people who are actually servile, is,
perhaps, of all others, the most difficult, and requires most to
be executed in silence, and with the deepest reserve. Men are
qualified to receive this blessing, only in proportion as they
are made to apprehend their own rights; and are made to respect
the just pretensions of mankind; in proportion as they are
willing to sustain, in their own persons, the burden of
government, and of national defence; and are willing to prefer
the engagements of a liberal mind, to the enjoyments of sloth, or
the delusive hopes of a safety purchased by submission and fear.
I speak with respect, and, if I may be allowed the
expression, even with indulgence, to those who are intrusted with
high prerogatives in the political system of nations. It is,
indeed, seldom their fault that states are inslaved. What should
be expected from them, but that being actuated by human desires,
they should be averse to disappointment, or even to delay; and in
the ardour with which they pursue their object, that they should
break through the barriers that would stop their career? If
millions recede before single men, and senates are passive, as if
composed of members who had no opinion or sense of their own; on
whose side have the defences of freedom given way, or to whom
shall we impute their fall? to the subject, who has deserted his
station; or to the sovereign, who has only remained in his own;
and who, if the collateral or subordinate members of government
shall cease to question his power, must continue to govern
without any restraint?
It is well known, that constitutions framed for the
preservation of liberty, must consist of many parts; and that
senates, popular assemblies, courts of justice, magistrates of
different orders, must combine to balance each other, while they
exercise, sustain, or check the executive power. If any part is
struck out, the fabric must totter, or fall; if any member is
remiss, the others must incroach. In assemblies constituted by
men of different talents, habits, and apprehensions, it were
something more than human that could make them agree in every
point of importance; having different opinions and views, it were
want of integrity to abstain from disputes: our very praise of
unanimity, therefore, is to be considered as a danger to liberty.
We wish for it, at the hazard of taking in its place, the
remissness of men grown indifferent to the public; the venality
of those who have sold the rights of their country; or the
servility of others, who give implicit obedience to a leader by
whom their minds are subdued. The love of the public, and respect
to its laws, are the points in which mankind are bound to agree;
but if, in matters of controversy, the sense of any individual or
party is invariably pursued, the cause of freedom is already
He whose office it is to govern a supine or an abject people,
cannot, for a moment, cease to extend his powers. Every execution
of law, every movement of the state, every civil and military
operation, in which his power is exerted, must serve to confirm
his authority, and present him to the view of the public, as the
sole object of consideration, fear, and respect. Those very
establishments which were devised, in one age, to limit, or to
direct the exercise of an executive power, will serve, in
another, to settle its foundations, and to give it stability,
they will point out the channels i n which it may run, without
giving offence, or without exciting alarms, and the very councils
which were instituted to check its incroachments, will, in a time
of corruption, furnish an aid to its usurpations.
The passion for independence, and the love of dominion,
frequently arise from a common source: There is, in both, an
aversion to controul; and he, who, in one situation, cannot bruik
a superior, must, in another, dislike to be joined with an equal.
What the prince, under a pure or limited monarchy, is, by the
constitution of his country, the leader of a faction would
willingly become in republican governments. If he attains to this
envied condition, his own inclination, or the tendency of human
affairs, seem to open before him the career of a royal ambition:
but the circumstances in which he is destined to act, are very
different from those of a king. He encounters with men who are
unused to disparity; he is obliged, for his own security, to hold
the dagger continually unsheathed. When he hopes to be safe, he
possibly means to be just; but is hurried, from the first moment
of his usurpation, into every exercise of despotical power. The
heir of a crown has no such quarrel to maintain with his
subjects: his situation is flattering; and the heart must be
uncommonly bad, that does not glow with affection to a people,
who are, at once, his admirers, his support, and the ornaments of
his reign. In him, perhaps, there is no explicit design of
trespassing on the rights of his subjects; but the forms intended
to preserve their freedom, are not, on this account, always safe
in his hands.
Slavery has been imposed upon mankind in the wantonness of a
depraved ambition, and tyrannical cruelties have been committed
in the gloomy hours of jealousy and terror: yet these demons are
not necessary to the creation, Or to the support of an arbitrary
power. Although no policy was ever more successful than that of
the Roman republic in maintaining a national fortune; yet
subjects, as well as their princes, frequently imagine that
freedom is a clog on the proceedings of government: they imagine,
that despotical power is best fitted to procure dispatch and
secrecy in the execution of public councils; to maintain what
they are pleased to call political order (8*) and to give a
speedy redress of complaints. They even sometimes acknowledge,
that if a succession of good princes could be found, despotical
government is best calculated for the happiness of mankind. While
they reason thus, they cannot blame a sovereign who, in the
confidence that he is to employ his power for good purposes,
endeavours to extend its limits; and, in his own apprehension,
strives only to shake off the restraints which stand in the way
of reason, and which prevent the effect of his friendly
Thus prepared for usurpation, let him, at the head of a free
state, employ the force with which he is armed, to crush the
seeds of apparent disorder in every corner of his dominions; let
him effectually curb the spirit of dissension and variance among
his people; let him remove the interruptions to government,
arising from the refractory humours and the private interests of
his subjects; let him collect the force of the state against its
enemies, by availing himself of all it can furnish in the way of
taxation and personal service: it is extremely probable, that,
even under the direction of wishes for the good of mankind, he
may break through every barrier of liberty, and establish a
despotism, while he flatters himself, that he only follows the
dictates of sense and propriety.
When we suppose government to have bestowed a degree of
tranquillity, which we sometimes hope to reap from it, as the
best of its fruits, and public affairs to proceed, in the several
departments of legislation and execution, with the least possible
interruption to commerce and lucrative arts; such a state, like
that of China, by throwing affairs into separate offices, where
conduct consists in detail, and in the observance of forms, by
superseding all the exertions of a great or a liberal mind, is
more akin to despotism than we are apt to imagine.
Whether oppression, injustice, and cruelty, are the only
evils which attend on despotical government, may be considered
apart. In the mean time it is sufficient to observe, that liberty
is never in greater danger than it is when we measure national
felicity by the blessings which a prince may bestow, or by the
mere tranquillity which may attend on equitable administration.
The sovereign may dazzle with his heroic qualities; he may
protect his subjects in the enjoyment of every animal advantage
or pleasure: but the benefits arising from liberty are of a
different sort; they are not the fruits of a virtue, and of a
goodness, which operate in the breast of one man, but the
communication of virtue itself to many; and such a distribution
of functions in civil society, as gives to numbers the exercises
and occupations which pertain to their nature.
The best constitutions of government are attended with
inconvenience; and the exercise of liberty may, on many
occasions, give rise to complaints. When we are intent on
reforming abuses, the abuses of freedom may lead us to incroach
on the subject from which they are supposed to arise. Despotism
itself has certain advantages, or at least, in time of civility
and moderation, may proceed with so little offence, as to give no
public alarm. These circumstances may lead mankind, in the very
spirit of reformation, or by mere inattention, to apply or to
admit of dangerous innovations in the state of their policy.
Slavery, however, is not always introduced by mere mistake;
it is sometimes imposed in the spirit of violence and rapine.
Princes become corrupt as well as their people; and whatever may
have been the origin of despotical government, its pretensions,
when fully explained, give rise to a contest between the
sovereign and his subjects, which force alone can decide. These
pretensions have a dangerous aspect to the person, the property,
or the life of every subject; they alarm every passion in the
human breast; they disturb the supine; they deprive the venal of
his hire; they declare war on the corrupt as well as the
virtuous; they are tamely admitted only by the coward; but even
to him must be supported by a force that can work on his fears.
This force the conqueror brings from abroad; and the domestic
usurper endeavours to find in his faction at home.
When a people is accustomed to arms, it is difficult for a
part to subdue the whole; or before the establishment of
disciplined armies, it is difficult for any usurper to govern the
many by the help of a few. These difficulties, however, the
policy of civilized and commercial nations has sometimes removed;
and by forming a distinction between civil and military
professions, by committing the keeping and the enjoyment of
liberty to different hands, has prepared the way for the
dangerous alliance of faction with military power, in opposition
to mere political forms, and the rights of mankind.
A people who are disarmed in compliance with this fatal
refinement, have rested their safety on the pleadings of reason
and justice at the tribunal of ambition and of force. In such an
extremity, laws are quoted, and senates are assembled, in vain.
They who compose a legislature, or who occupy the civil
departments of state, may deliberate on the messages they receive
from the camp or the court; but if the bearer, like the centurion
who brought the petition of Octavius to the Roman senate, shew
the hilt of his sword,(9*) they find that petitions are become
commands, and that they themselves are become the pageants, not
the repositories of sovereign power.
The reflections of this section may be unequally applied to
nations of unequal extent. Small communities, however corrupted,
are not prepared for despotical government: their members,
crouded together, and contiguous to the seats of power, never
forget their relation to the public; they pry, with habits of
familiarity and freedom, into the pretensions of those who would
rule; and where the love of equality, and the sense of justice,
have failed, they act on motives of faction, emulation, and envy.
The exiled Tarquin had his adherents at Rome; but if by their
means he had recovered his station, it is probable, that in the
exercise of his royalty, he must have entered on a new scene of
contention with the very party that restored him to power.
In proportion as territory is extended, its parts lose their
relative importance to the whole. Its inhabitants cease to
perceive their connection with the state, and are seldom united
in the execution of any national, or even of any factious,
designs. Distance from the feats of administration, and
indifference to the persons who contend for preferment, teach the
majority to consider themselves as the subjects of a sovereignty,
not as the members of a political body. It is even remarkable,
that enlargement of territory, by rendering the individual of
less consequence to the public, and less able to intrude with his
counsel, actually tends to reduce national affairs within a
narrower compass, as well as to diminish the numbers who are
consulted in legislation, or in other matters of government.
The disorders to which a great empire is exposed, require
speedy prevention, vigilance, and quick execution. Distant
provinces must be kept in subjection by military force; and the
dictatorial powers, which, in free states, are sometimes raised
to quell insurrections, or to oppose other occasional evils,
appear, under a certain extent of dominion, at all times equally
necessary to suspend the dissolution of a body, whose parts were
assembled, and must be cemented, by measures forcible, decisive,
and secret. Among the circumstances, therefore, which in the
event of national prosperity, and in the result of commercial
arts, lead to the establishment of despotism, there is none,
perhaps, that arrives at this termination, with so sure an aim,
as the perpetual enlargement of territory. In every state, the
freedom of its members depends on the balance and adjustment of
its interior parts; and the existence of any such freedom among
mankind, depends on the balance of nations. In the progress of
conquest, those who are subdued are said to have lost their
liberties; but from the history of mankind, to conquer, or to be
conquered, has appeared, in effect, the same.

Section VI.

Of the Progress and Termination of Despotism

Mankind, when they degenerate, and tend to their ruin, as
well as when they improve, and gain real advantages, frequently
proceed by slow,and almost insensible,steps. If,during ages of
activity and vigour, they fill up the measure of national
greatness to a height which no human wisdom could at a distance
foresee; they actually incur, in ages of relaxation and weakness,
many evils which their fears did not suggest, and which, perhaps,
they had thought far removed by the tide of success and
We have already observed, that where men are remiss or
corrupted, the virtue of their leaders, or the good intention of
their magistrates, will not always secure them in the possession
of political freedom. Implicit submission to any leader, or the
uncontrouled exercise of any power, even when it is intended to
operate for the good of mankind, may frequently end in the
subversion of legal establishments. This fatal revolution, by
whatever means it is accomplished, terminates in military
government; and this, though the simplest of all governments, is
rendered complete by degrees. In the first period of its exercise
over men who have acted as members of a free community, it can
have only laid the foundation, not completed the fabric, of a
despotical policy. The usurper, who has possessed, with an army,
the centre of a great empire, sees around him, perhaps, the
shattered remains of a former constitution; he may hear the
murmurs of a reluctant and unwilling submission; he may even see
danger in the aspect of many, from whose hands he may have
wrested the sword, but whose minds he has not subdued, nor
reconciled to his power.
The sense of personal rights, or the pretension to privilege
and honours, which remain among certain orders of men, are so
many bars in the way of a recent usurpation. If they are not
suffered to decay with age, and to wear away in the progress of a
growing corruption, they must be broken with violence, and the
entrance to every new accession of power must be stained with
blood. The effect, even in this case, is frequently tardy. The
Roman spirit, we know, was not entirely extinguished under a
succession of masters, and under a repeated application of
bloodshed and poison. The noble and respectable family still
aspired to its original honours: The history of the republic, the
writings of former times, the monuments of illustrious men, and
the lessons of a philosophy fraught with heroic conceptions,
continued to nourish the soul in retirement, and formed those
eminent characters, whose elevation, and whose fate, are,
perhaps, the most affecting subjects of human story. Though
unable to oppose the general bent to servility, they became, on
account of their supposed inclinations, objects of distrust and
aversion; and were made to pay with their blood, the price of a
sentiment which they fostered in silence, and which glowed only
in the heart.
While despotism proceeds in its progress, by what principle
is the sovereign conducted in the choice of measures that tend to
establish his government? By a mistaken apprehension of his own
good, sometimes even of that of his people, and by the desire
which he feels on every particular occasion, to remove the
obstructions which impede the execution of his will. When he has
fixed a resolution, whoever reasons or demonstrates against it is
an enemy; when his mind is elated, whoever pretends to eminence,
and is disposed to act for himself, is a rival. He would leave no
dignity in the state, but what is dependent on himself; no active
power, but what carries the expression of his momentary pleasure.
Guided by a perception as unerring as that of instinct, he never
fails to select the proper objects of his antipathy or of his
favour. The aspect of independence repels him; that of servility
attracts. The tendency of his administration is to quiet every
restless spirit, and to assume every function of government to
himself.(10*) When the power is adequate to the end, it operates
as much in the hands of those who do not perceive the
termination, as it does in the hands of others by whom it is best
understood: the mandates of either, when just, should not be
disputed; when erroneous or wrong, they are supported by force.
You must die, was the answer of Octavius to every suit, from
a people that implored his mercy. It was the sentence which some
of his successors pronounced against every citizen that was
eminent for his birth or his virtues. But are the evils of
despotism confined to the cruel and sanguinary methods, by which
a recent dominion over a refractory and a turbulent people is
established or maintained? And is death the greatest calamity
which can afflict mankind under an establishment by which they
are divested of all their rights? They are, indeed, frequently
suffered to live; but distrust, and jealousy, the sense of
personal meanness, and the anxieties which arise from the care of
a wretched interest, are made to possess the soul; every citizen
is reduced to a slave; and every charm by which the community
engaged its members, has ceased to exist. Obedience is the only
duty that remains, and this is exacted by force. If under such an
establishment, it be necessary to witness scenes of debasement
and horror, at the hazard of catching the infection, death
becomes a relief. and the libation which Thrasea was made to pour
from his arteries, is to be considered as a proper sacrifice of
gratitude to Jove the Deliverer.(11*)
Oppression and cruelty are not always necessary to despotical
government; and even when present, are but a part of its evils.
It is founded on corruption, and on the suppression of all the
civil and the political virtues; it requires its subjects to act
from motives of fear; it would asswage the passions of a few men
at the expence of mankind; and would erect the peace of society
itself on the ruins of that freedom and confidence from which
alone the enjoyment, the force, and the elevation of the human
mind, are found to arise.
During the existence of any free constitution, and whilst
every individual possessed his rank and his privilege, or had his
apprehension of personal rights, the members of every community
were to one another objects of consideration and of respect;
every point to be carried in civil society, required the exercise
of talents, of wisdom, persuasion, and vigour, as well as of
power. But it is the highest refinement of a despotical
government, to rule by simple commands, and to exclude every art
but that of compulsion. Under the influence of this policy,
therefore, the occasions which employed and cultivated the
understandings of men, which awakened their sentiments, and
kindled their imaginations, are gradually removed; and the
progress by which mankind attained to the honours of their
nature, in being engaged to act in society upon a liberal
footing, was not more uniform, or less interrupted, than that by
which they degenerate in this unhappy condition.
When we hear of the silence which reigns in the seraglio, we
are made to believe, that speech itself is become unnecessary;
and that the signs of the mute are sufficient to carry the most
important mandates of government. No arts, indeed, are required
to maintain an ascendant where terror alone is opposed to force,
where the powers of the sovereign are delegated entire to every
subordinate officer: nor can any station bestow a liberality of
mind in a scene of silence and dejection, where every breast is
possessed with jealousy and caution, and where no object, but
animal pleasure, remains to balance the sufferings of the
sovereign himself, or those of his subjects.
In other states, the talents of men are sometimes improved by
the exercises which belong to an eminent station: but here the
master himself is probably the rudest and least cultivated animal
of the herd; he is inferior to the slave whom he raises from a
servile office to the first places of trust or of dignity in his
court. The primitive simplicity which formed ties of familiarity
and affection betwixt the sovereign and the keeper of his
herds,(12*) appears, in the absence of all affections, to be
restored, or to be counterfeited amidst the ignorance and
brutality which equally characterise all orders of men, or rather
which level the ranks, and destroy the distinction of persons in
a despotical court.
Caprice and passion are the rules of government with the
prince. Every delegate of power is left to act by the same
direction; to strike when he is provoked; to favour when he is
pleased. In what relates to revenue, jurisdiction, or police,
every governor of a province acts like a leader in an enemy's
country; comes armed with the terrors of fire and sword; and
instead of a tax, levies a contribution by force: he ruins or
spares as either may serve his purpose. When the clamours of the
oppressed, or the reputation of a treasure amassed at the expence
of a province, have reached the ears of the sovereign, the
extortioner is indeed made to purchase impunity by imparting a
share, or by forfeiting the whole of his spoil; but no reparation
is made to the injured; nay, the crimes of the minister are first
employed to plunder the people, and afterwards punished to fill
the coffers of the sovereign.
In this total discontinuance of every art that relates to
just government and national policy, it is remarkable, that even
the trade of the soldier is itself greatly neglected. Distrust
and jealousy on the part of the prince, come in aid of his
ignorance and incapacity; and these causes operating together,
serve to destroy the very foundation on which his power is
established. Any undisciplined rout of armed men passes for an
army, whilst a weak, dispersed, and unarmed people, are
sacrificed to military disorder, or exposed to depredation on the
frontier from an enemy, whom the desire of spoil, or the hopes of
conquest, may have drawn to their neighbourhood.
The Romans extended their empire till they left no polished
nation to be subdued, and found a frontier which was every where
surrounded by fierce and barbarous tribes; they even pierced
through uncultivated deserts, in order to remove to a greater
distance the molestation of such troublesome neighbours, and in
order to possess the avenues through which they feared their
attacks. But this policy put the finishing hand to the internal
corruption of the state. A few years of tranquillity were
sufficient to make even the government forget its danger; and in
the cultivated province, prepared for the enemy, a tempting prize
and an easy victory.
When by the conquest and annexation of every rich and
cultivated province, the measure of empire is full, two parties
are sufficient to comprehend mankind; that of the pacific and the
wealthy, who dwell within the pale of empire; and that of the
poor, the rapacious, and the fierce, who are inured to
depredation and war. The last bear to the first nearly the same
relation which the wolf and the lion bear to the fold; and they
are naturally engaged in a state of hostility.
Were despotic empire, mean-time, to continue for ever
unmolested from abroad, while it retains that corruption on which
it was founded, it appears to have in itself no principle of new
life, and presents no hope of restoration to freedom and
political vigour. That which the despotical master has sown,
cannot quicken unless it die; it must languish and expire by the
effect of its own abuse, before the human spirit can spring up
anew, or bear those fruits which constitute the honour and the
felicity of human nature. In time of the greatest debasement,
indeed, commotions are felt; but very unlike the agitations of a
free people: they are either the agonies of nature, under the
sufferings to which men are exposed; or mere tumults, confined to
a few who stand in arms about the prince, and who, by their
conspiracies, assassinations, and murders, serve only to plunge
the pacific inhabitant still deeper in the horrors of fear or
despair. Scattered in the provinces, unarmed, unacquainted with
the sentiments of union and confederacy, restricted by habit to a
wretched oeconomy, and dragging a precarious life on those
possessions which the extortions of government have left; the
people can no where, under these circumstances, assume the spirit
of a community, nor form any liberal combination for their own
defence. The injured may complain; and while he cannot obtain the
mercy of government, he may implore the commiseration of his
fellow-subject. But that fellow-subject is comforted, that the
hand of oppression has not seized on himself: he studies his
interest, or snatches his pleasure, under that degree of safety
which obscurity and concealment bestow.
The commercial arts, which seem to require no foundation in
the minds of men, but the regard to interest; no encouragement,
but the hopes of gain, and the secure possession of property,
must perish under the precarious tenure of slavery, and under the
apprehension of danger arising from the reputation of wealth.
National poverty, however, and the suppression of commerce, are
the means by which despotism comes to accomplish its own
destruction. Where there are no longer any profits to corrupt, or
fears to deter, the charm of dominion is broken, and the naked
slave, as awake from a dream, is astonished to find he is free.
When the fence is destroyed, the wilds are open, and the herd
breaks loose. The pasture of the cultivated field is no longer
preferred to that of the desert. The sufferer willingly flies
where the extortions of government cannot overtake him; where
even the timid and the servile may recollect they are men; where
the tyrant may threaten, but where he is known to be no more than
a fellow-creature; where he can take nothing but life, and even
this at the hazard of his own.
Agreeably to this description, the vexations of tyranny have
overcome, in many parts of the East, the desire of settlement.
The inhabitants of a village quit their habitations, and infest
the public ways; those of the valleys fly to the mountains, and,
equipt for flight, or possessed of a strong hold, subsist by
depredation, and by the war they make on their former masters.
These disorders conspire with the impositions of government
to render the remaining settlements still less secure: but while
devastation and ruin appear on every side, mankind are forced
anew upon those confederacies, acquire again that personal
confidence and vigour, that social attachment, that use of arms,
which, in former times, rendered a small tribe the seed of a
great nation; and which may again enable the emancipated slave to
begin the career of civil and commercial arts. When human nature
appears in the utmost state of corruption, it has actually begun
to reform.
In this manner, the scenes of human life have been frequently
shifted. Security and presumption forfeit the advantages of
prosperity; resolution and conduct retrieve the ills of
adversity; and mankind, while they have nothing on which to rely
but their virtue, are prepared to gain every advantage; and when
they confide most in their fortune, are most exposed to feel its
reverse. We are apt to draw these observations into rule; and
when we are no longer willing to act for our country, we plead in
excuse of our own weakness or folly, a supposed fatality in human
The institutions of men are, indeed, likely to have their end
as well as their beginning: but their duration is not fixed to
any limited period; and no nation ever suffered internal decay
but from the vice of its members. We are sometimes willing to
acknowledge this vice in our countrymen; but who was ever willing
to acknowledge it in himself? It may be suspected, however, that
we do more than acknowledge it, when we cease to oppose its
effects, and when we plead a fatality, which, at least, in the
breast of every individual, is dependent on himself. Men of real
fortitude, integrity, and ability, are well placed in every
scene; they reap, in every condition, the principal enjoyments of
their nature; they are the happy instruments of providence
employed for the good of mankind; or, if we must change this
language, they show, that while they are destined to live, the
states they compose are likewise doomed by the fates to survive,
and to prosper.


1. The barbarous nations of Siberia, in general, are servile and

2. Chardin's travels through Mingrelia into Persia.

3. Gemelli Carceri.

4. Jovenal's 10th satire.

5. These different occupations differ from each other, in respect
to their dignity, and their innocence; but none of them are the
schools from which men are brought to sustain the tottering
fortune of nations; they are equally avocations from what ought
to be the principal pursuit of man, the good of mankind.

6. Est apud illos et opibus honos; eoque unus imperitat, &c.
Tacitus De mor. Ger. c. 44.

7. M. Antoninius, lib. 1.

8. Our notion of order in civil society is frequently false: it
is taken from the analogy of subjects inanimate and dead; we
consider commotion and action as contrary to its nature; we think
it consistent only with obedience, secrecy and the silent passing
of affairs through the hands of a few. The good order of stones
in a wall, is their being properly fixed in the places for which
they are hewn; were they to stir the building must fall: but the
order of men in society, is their being placed where they are
properly qualified to act. The first is a fabric made of dead and
inanimate parts, the second is made of living and active members.
When we seek in society for the order of mere inaction and
tranquility, we forget the nature of our subject, and find the
order of slaves, not that of free men.

9. Sueton.

10. It is ridiculous to hear men of a restless ambition, who
would be the only actors in every scene, sometimes complain of a
refractory spirit in mankind; as if the same disposition from
which they desire to usurp every office, did not incline every
other person to reason and to act at least for himself.

11. Porrectisque utriuque brachii venis, postquam cruorem
effudit, humum super spargens, proprius vocato Quaestore,
Libemus, inquit, Jovi Liberator. Specta juvenis; et omen quidem
Dii prohibeant; ceterum in ea tempora natus es, quibus, firmare
animum deceat constantibus exemplis. Tacit. Ann. lib. 16.

12. See Odyssey.

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