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polism, differ but in name ; and that a people, who are in general excluded from any share of the legislative are to all intents and purposes, as much slaves, when twenty, independent of them, govern, as when but one domineers. The tyranny is even more felt, as every individual of the nobles has the haughtiness of a sultan ; the people are more miserable, as they seem on the verge of liberty, from which they are forever debarred; this fallacious idea of liberty, whilst it presents a vain shadow of happiness to the subject, binds faster the chains of his subjection. What is left undone, by the natural avarice and pride of those who are raised above the others, is completed by their suspicions, and their dread of losing an authority, which has no support in the common utility of the nation. A Genoese, or a Venetian republick, is a concealed despotism; where you find the same pride of the rulers, the same base subjection of the people, the same bloody maxims of a suspicious policy. In one respect the aristocracy is worse than the despotism. A body politick, whilst it retains its authority, never changes its maxims; a despotism, which is this day horrible to a supreme degree, by the caprice natural to the heart of man, may, by the same caprice otherwise exerted, be as lovely the next; in a succession, it is possible to meet with some good princes. If there have been Tiberiuses, Caligulas, Neros, there have been likewise the serener days of Vespasians, Tituses, Trajans, and Antonines ; but a body politick is not influenced by caprice or whim ; it proceeds in a regular manner; its succession is insensible ; and every man as he enters it, either has, or soon attains the spirit of the whole body. Never was it known, that an aristocracy, which was haughty and tyrannical in one century, became easy and mild in the next, In effect, the yoke of this species of government is so galling, that whenever the people have got the least power, they have shaken it off with the utmost indignation, and established a popular form. And when they have not had strength enough to support themselves, they have thrown themselves into the arms of despotism, as the more eligible of the two evils. This latter was the case of Denmark, who sought a refuge from the oppression of its nobility, in the strong hold The peo
to feast upon.
of arbitrary power. Poland has at present the name of republick, and it is one of the aristocratick form ; but it is well known, that the little-finger of this government, is heavier than the loins of arbitrary power in most nations. ple are not only politically, but personally slaves, and treated with the utmost indignity. The republick of Venice is somewhat more moderate ; yet even here, so heavy is the aristocratick yoke, that the nobles have been obliged to enervate the spirit of their subjects by every sort of debauchery; they have denied them the liberty of reason, and they have made them amends, by what a base soul will think a more valuable liberty, by not only allowing, but encouraging them to corrupt themselves in the most scandalous manner. They consider their subjects, as the farmer does the hog he keeps
He holds him fast in his stye, but allows him to wallow as much as he pleases in his beloved filth and gluttony. So scandalously debauched a people as that of Venice, is to be met with no where else. High, low, men, women, clergy, and laity, are all alike. The ruling nobility are no less afraid of one another, than they are of the people ; and for that reason, politically enervate their own body by the same effeminate luxury, by which they corrupt their subjects. They are impoverished by every means which can be invented; and they are kept in a perpetual terrour by the horrours of a state-inquisition. Here you see a people deprived of all rational freedom, and tyrannized over by about two thousand men; and yet this body of two thousand, are so far from enjoying any liberty by the subjection of the rest, that they are in an infinitely severer state of slavery ; they make themselves the most degenerate and unhappy of mankind, for no other purpose than that they may the more effectually contribute to the misery of a whole nation. In short, the regular and methodical proceedings of an aristocracy, are more intolerable than the very excesses of a despotism, and in general, much further from any remedy.
Thus, my Lord, we have pursued aristocracy through its whole progress ; we have seen the seeds, the growth, and the fruit. It could boast none of the advantages of a despotism, miserable as those advantages were, and it was overloaded
with an exuberance of mischiefs, unknown even to despotism itself. In effect, it is no more than a disorderly tyranny. This form therefore could be little approved, even in speculation, by those who were capable of thinking, and could be less borne in practice by any who were capable of feeling. However, the fruitful policy of man was not yet exhausted. He had yet another farthing-candle to supply the deficiencies of the sun.
This was the third form, known by political writers under the name of democracy. Here the people transacted all publick business, or the greater part of it, in their own persons : their laws were made by themselves, and upon any failure of duty, their officers were accountable to themselves, and to them only. In all appearance, they had secured by this method the advantages of order and good government, without paying their liberty for the purchase. Now, my Lord, we are come to the master-piece of Grecian refinement, and Roman solidity, a popular government. The earliest and most celebrated republick of this model, was that of Athens. It was constructed by no less an artist, than the celebrated poet and philosopher, Solon. But no sooner was this political vessel launched from the stocks, than it overset, even in the life-time of the builder. A tyranny immediately supervened ; not by a foreign conquest, not by accident, but by the very nature and constitution of a democracy. An artful man became popular, the people had power in their hands, and they devolved a considerable share of their power upon their favourite ; and the only use he made of this power, was to plunge those who gave it into slavery. Accident restored their liberty, and the same good fortune produced men of uncommon abilities and uncommon virtues amongst them. But these abilities were suffered to be of little service either to their possessors or to the state.
Some of these men, for whose sakes alone we read their history, they banished; others they imprisoned ; and all they treated with various circumstances of the most shameful ingratitude. Republicks have many things in the spirit of absolute monarchy, but none more than this; a shining merit is ever hated or suspected in a popular assembly, as well as in a court; and all services done the state, are looked upon as dangerous to the
If at any
rulers, whether sultans or senators. The Ostracism at Athens was built upon this principle. The giddy people, whom we
. have now under consideration, being elated with some flashes of success, which they owed to nothing less than any merit of their own, began to tyrannize over their equals, who had associated with them for their common defence. With their prudence they renounced all appearance of justice. They entered into wars rashly and wantonly. If they were unsuccessful, instead of growing wiser by their misfortune, they threw the whole blame of their own misconduct on the ministers who had advised, and the generals who had conducted those wars ; until by degrees they had cut off all who could serve them in their councils or their battles. time these wars had an happy issue, it was no less difficult to deal with them on account of their pride and insolence. Furious in their adversity, tyrannical in their successes, a commander had more trouble to concert his defence before the people, than to plan the operations of the campaign. It was not uncommon for a general, under the horrid despotism of the Roman emperors, to be ill received in proportion to the greatness of his services. Agricola is a strong instance of this. No man had done greater things, nor with more honest ambition. Yet on his return to court, he was obliged to enter Rome with all the secrecy of a criminal. He went to the palace, not like a victorious commander who had merited and might demand the greatest rewards, but like an offender who had come to supplicate a pardon for his crimes. His reception was answerable : “ Brevi osculo, et nullo sermone exceptus, turbæ servientium inmistus est." Yet in that worst season of this worst of monarchical* tyrannies, modesty, diseretion, and a coolness of temper, formed some kind of security even for the highest merit. But at Athens, the nicest and best studied behaviour was not a sufficient guard for a man of great capacity. Some of their bravest commanders were obliged to fly their country, some to enter into the service of its enemies, rather than abide a popular determination on their conduct, lest, as one of them said, their giddi
Sciant quibus moris illicita mirari, posse etiain sub malis principibus mag. nos viros, &c. See 42 to the end of it.
ness might make the people condemn where they meant to acquit; to throw in a black bean even when they intended a white one.
The Athenians made a very rapid progress to the most enormous excesses. The people under no restraint soon grew dissolute, luxurious, and idle. They renounced all labour, and began to subsist themselves from the publick revenues. They lost all concern for their common honour or safety, and could bear no advice that tended to reform them. At this time truth became offensive to those lords the people, and most highly dangerous to the speaker. The orators no longer ascended the rostrum, but to corrupt them further with the most fulsome adulation. These orators were all bribed by foreign princes on the one side or the other. And besides its own parties, in this city there were parties, and avowed ones too, for the Persians, Spartans, and Macedonians, supported each of them by one or more demagogues pensioned and bribed to this iniquitous service. The people, forgetful of all virtue and publick spirit, and intoxicated with the flatteries of their orators (these courtiers of republicks, and endowed with the distinguishing characteristicks of all other courtiers) this people, I say, at last arrived at that pitch of
I madness, that they coolly and deliberately, by an express law, made it capital for any man to propose an application of the immense sums squandered in publick shows, even to the most necessary purposes of the state. When you see the people of this republick banishing and murdering their best and ablest citizens, dissipating the publick treasure with the most senseless extravagance, and spending their whole time, as spectators or actors, in playing, fiddling, dancing and singing, does it not, my lord, strike your imagination with the image of a sort of complex Nero? And does it not strike you with the greater horrour, when you observe, not one man only, but a whole city, grown drunk with pride and power, running with a rage of folly into the same mean and senseless debauchery and extravagance ? But if this people resembled Nero in their extravagance, much more did they resemble and even exceed him in cruelty and injustice. In the time of Pericles, one of the most celebrated times in the