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history of that commonwealth, a King of Egypt sent them a donation of corn. This they were mean enough to accept. And had the Egyptian prince intended the ruin of this city of wicked bedlamites, he could not have taken a more effectual method to do it, than by such an ensnaring largess. The distribution of this bounty caused a quarrel; the majority set on foot an enquiry into the title of the citizens; and upon a vain pretence of illegitimacy, newly and occasionally set up, they deprived of their share of the royal donation no less than five thousand of their own body. They went further ; they disfranchised them; and having once begun with an act of injustice, they could set no bounds to it. Not content with cutting them off from the rights of citizens, they plundered these unfortunate wretches of all their substance; and to crown this master-piece of violence and tyranny, they actually sold every man of the five thousand as slaves in the publick market. Observe, my Lord, that the five thousand
, we here speak of, were cut off from a body of no more than nineteen thousand ; for the entire number of citizens was
1 no greater at that time. Could the tyrant who wished the Roman people but one neck; could the tyrant Caligula himself have done, nay, he could scarcely wish for, a greater mischief, than to have cut off, at one stroke, a fourth of his people ? Or has the cruelty of that series of sanguine tyrants, the Cæsars, ever presented such a piece of flagrant and extensive wickedness ? The whole history of this celebrated republick is but one tissue of rashness, folly, ingratitude, injustice, tumult, violence, and tyranny, and indeed of every species of wickedness that can well be imagined. This was a city of wise men, in which a minister could not exercise his functions ; a warlike people, amongst whom a general did not dare either to gain or lose a battle ; a learned nation in which a philosopher could not venture on a free inquiry. This was the city which banished Themistocles, starved Aristides, forced into exile Miltiades, drove out Anaxagoras, and poisoned Socrates. This was a city which changed the form of its government with the moon ; eternal conspiracies, revolutions daily, nothing fixed and established. A republick, as an ancient philosopher has observed, is no one species of
government, but a magazine of every species; here you find every sort of it, and that in the worst form. As there is a perpetual change, one rising and the other falling, you have all the violence and wicked policy, by which a beginning power must always acquire its strength, and all the weakness by which falling states are brought to a complete destruction. Rome has a more venerable aspect than Athens; and she conducted her affairs, so far as related to the ruin and oppression of the greatest part of the world, with greater wisdom and more uniformity. But the domestick economy of these two states was nearly or altogether the same. An internal dissension constantly tore to pieces the bowels of the Roman commonwealth. You find the same confusion, the same factions, which subsisted at Athens, the same tumults, the same revolutions, and in fine, the same slavery ; if perhaps their former condition did not deserve that name altogether as well. · All other republicks were of the same character. Florence was a transcript of Athens. And the modern republicks, as they approach more or less to the democratick form, partake more or less of the nature of those which I have described.
We are now at the close of our review of the three simple forms of artificial society, and we have shewn them, however they may differ in name, or in some slight circumstances, to be all alike in effect; in effect, to be all tyrannies. But suppose we were inclined to make the most ample concessions ; let us concede Athens, Rome, Carthage, and two or three more of the ancient, and as many of the modern commonwealths, to have been, or to be, free and happy, and to owe their freedom and happiness to their political constitution. Yet allowing all this, what defence does this make for artificial society in general, that these inconsiderable spots of the globe have for some short space of time stood as exceptions to a charge so general ? But when we call these governments free, or concede that their citizens were happier than those which lived under different forms, it is merely ex abundanti. For we should be greatly mistaken, if we really thought that the majority of the people which filled these cities, enjoyed even that nominal political freedom of which I have spoken so much already. In reality, they had no
. part of it. In Athens there were usually from ten to thirty thousand freemen : this was the utmost. But the slaves usually amounted to four hundred thousand, and sometimes to a great many more. The freemen of Sparta and Rome were not more numerous in proportion to those whom they held in a stavery, even more terrible than the Athenian. Therefore state the matter fairly : the free states never formed, though they were taken altogether, the thousandth part of the habitable globe; the freemen in these states were never the twentieth part of the people, and the time they subsisted is scarce any thing in that immense ocean of duration in which time and slavery are so nearly commensurate. Therefore call these free states, or popular governments, or what you please; when we consider the majority of their inhabitants, and regard the natural rights of mankind, they must appear in reality and truth, no better than pitiful and oppressive oligarchies.
After so fair an examen, wherein nothing has been exaggerated ; no fact produced which cannot be proved, and none which has been produced in any wise forced or strained, while thousands have, for brevity, been omitted ; after so candid a discussion in all respects; what slave so passive, what bigot so blind, what enthusiast so headlong, what politician so hardened, as to stand up in defence of a system calculated for a curse to mankind ? a curse under which they smart and groan to this hour, without thoroughly knowing the nature of the disease, and wanting understanding or courage to supply the remedy.
I need not excuse myself to your Lordship, nor, I think, to any honest man, for the zeal I have shewn in this cause ; for it is an honest zeal, and in a good cause.
I have defended natural religion against a confederacy of atheists and divines. I now plead for natural society against politicians, and for natural reason against all three.
When the world is in a fitter temper than it is at present to hear truth, or when I shall be more indifferent about its temper; my thoughts may become more publick. In the mean time, let them repose in my own bosom, and in the bosoms of such
men as are fit to be initiated in the sober mysteries of truth and reason. My antagonists have already done as much as I could desire. Parties in religion and politicks make sufficient discoveries concerning each other, to give a sober man a proper caution against them all. The monarchick, and aristocratical, and popular partisans have been jointly laying their axes to the root of all government, and have in their turns proved each other absurd and inconvenient. In vain you tell me that artificial government is good, but that I fall out only with the abuse. The thing the thing itself is the abuse! Observe, my Lord, I pray you, that grand errour upon which all artificial legislative power is founded.
It was observed, that men had ungovernable passions, which made it necessary to guard against the violence they might offer to each other. They appointed governours over them for this reason ! but a worse and more perplexing difficulty arises, how to be defended against the governours ? Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? In vain they change from a single person to a few. These few have the passions of the one, and they unite to strengthen themselves, and secure the gratification of their lawless passions at the expense of the general good. In vain do we fly to the many. The case is worse ; their passions are less under the government of reason, they are augmented by the contagion, and defended against all attacks by their multitude.
I have purposely avoided the mention of the mixed form of government, for reasons that will be very obvious to your Lordship. But my caution can avail me but little. You will not fail to urge it against me in favour of political society. You will not fail to show how the errors of the several simple modes are corrected by a mixture of all of them, and a proper balance of the several powers in such a state. I confess, my Lord, that this has been long a darling mistake of my own; and that of all the sacrifices I have made to truth, this has been by far the greatest. When I confess that I think this notion a mistake, I know to whom I am speaking, for I am satisfied that reasons are like liquors, and there are some of such a nature as none but strong heads can bear. There are few with whom I can communicate so freely as with Pope. But Pope cannot bear every truth. He has a timidity which hinders the full exertion of his faculties, almost as effectually as bigotry cramps those of the general herd of mankind. But whoever is a genuine follower of truth, keeps his eye steady upon his guide, indifferent whither he is led, provided that she is the leader.
And, my Lord, if it be properly considered, it were infinitely better to remain possessed by the whole legion of vulgar mistakes, than to reject some, and at the same time to retain a fondness for others altogether as absurd and irrational. The first has at least a consistency, that makes a man, however erroneously, uniform at least ; but the latter way of proceeding is such an inconsistent chimera and jumble of philosophy, and vulgar prejudice, that hardly any thing more ridiculous can be conceived. Let us therefore freely, and without fear or prejudice, examine this last contrivance of policy. And without considering how near the quick our instruments may come, let us search it to the bottom.
First then, all men are agreed that this junction of regal, aristocratick, and popular power, must form a very complex, nice, and intricate machine, which being composed of such a variety of parts, with such opposite tendencies and movements, it must be liable on every accident to be disordered. To speak without metaphor, such a government must be liable to frequent cabals, tumults, and revolutions, from its very constitution. These are undoubtedly as ill effects as can happen in a society ; for in such a case, the closeness acquired by community, instead of serving for mutual defence, serves only to increase the danger. Such a system is like a city, where trades that require constant fires are much exercised, where the houses are built of combustible materials, and where they stand extremely close.
In the second place, the several constituent parts having their distinct rights, and these many of them so necessary to be determined with exactness, are yet so indeterminate in their nature, that it becomes a new and constant source of debate and confusion. Hence it is, that whilst the business of government should be carrying on, the question is, Who has a right to exercise this or that function of it, or what