Obrázky na stránke
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

succeeded well; but I disengaged myself in good time. I have often since avoided meddling in it, rarely accepted, and never asked it; keeping my back still turned to ambition ; but, if not like rowers who so advance backward, yet 80, at the same time, that I am less obliged to my resolution than to my good fortune, that I was not wholly embarked in it. For there are ways less displeasing to my taste, and more suitable to my ability, by which, if she had formerly called me to the public service, and my own advancement towards the world's opinion, I know I should, in spite of all my own arguments to the contrary, have pursued them. Such as commonly say, in opposition to what I profess, that what I call freedom, simplicity, and plainness in my manners, is art and subtlety, and rather prudence than goodness, industry than nature, good sense than good luck, do me more honour than disgrace: but, certainly, they make my subtlety too subtle; and whoever has followed me close, and pryed narrowly into me, I will give him the victory, if he does not confess that there is no rule in their school that could match this natural motion, and maintain an appear. ance of liberty and licence, so equal and inflexible, through so many various and crooked paths, and that all their wit and endeavour could never have led them through. The way of truth is one and simple; that of particular profit, and the cominodity of affairs a man is intrusted with, is double, unequal, and casual. I have often seen these counterfeit and artificial liberties practised, but, for the most part, without success; they relish of Æsop's ass who, in emulation of the dog, obligingly clapped his two fore feet upon his master's shoulders; but as many caresses as the dog had for such an expression of kindness, twice so many blows with a cudgel had the poor ass for his compliment: “Id maxime quemque decet, quod est cujusque suum maxime.' I will not deprive deceit of its due ; that were but ill to understand the world: I know it has often been of great use, and that it maintains and supplies most men's employment. There are vices that are lawful, as there are many actions, either good or excusable, that are not lawful in themselves.

I “ That best becomes every man, that he is best at.”—CICERO, De Offic., i. 31.

"1

"1

2

66

The justice which in itself is natural and universal, is otherwise and more nobly ordered, than that other justice, which is special, national, and constrained to the ends of government : “ Veri juris germanæque justitiæ solidam et expressam effigiem nullam tenemus; umbra et imaginibus utimur; insomuch that the sage Dandamis, hearing the lives of Socrates, Pythagoras and Diogenes read, judged them to be great men every way, excepting that they were too much subjected to the reverence of the laws which, to second and authorise, true virtue must abate very much of its original vigour; many vicious actions are introduced, not only by their permission, but by their advice: "Ex senatus consultis plebisquescitis scelera exercentur.”3 I follow the common phrase that distinguishes betwixt profitable and honest things, so as to call some natural actions, that are not only profitable but necessary, dishonest, and foul. .

But let us proceed in our examples of treachery: two pretenders to the kingdom of Thrace* were fallen into dispute about their title; the emperor hindered them from proceeding to blows : but one of them, under colour of bringing things to a friendly issue by an interview, having invited his competitor to an entertainment in his own house, imprisoned and killed him. Justice required that the Romans should have satisfaction for this offence; but there was a difficulty in obtaining it by ordinary ways; what, therefore, they could not do legitimately, without war and without danger, they resolved to do by treachery; and what they could not honestly do, they did profitably. For which end, one Pomponius Flaccus was found to be a fit instrument. This man, by dissembled words and assurances, having drawn the other into his toils, instead of the honour and favour he had promised him, sent him bound hand and foot to Rome. Here one traitor betrayed another,

1 “We retain no solid and express effigies of true right and justice; we have only the shadow and images of it.”—CICERO, De Offic., iii. 17.

? An Indian sage who lived in the time of Alexander the Great. Plutarch, Life of Alexander c. 20. Strabo (book xv.) calls him Mandanis.

3 « Crimes are committed by the consent of the magistrates and the common laws.”—SENECA, Ep. 95.

Rhescuporis and Cotys.—TACITUS, Annal., ii. 65.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

contrary to common custom : for they are full of mistrust, and 'tis hard to overreach them in their own art: witness the sad experience we have lately had.'

Let who will be Pomponius Flaccus, and there are enough who would : for my part, both my word and my faith are, like all the rest, parts of this common body: their best effect is the public service; this I take for presupposed. But should one command me to take charge of the courts of law and lawsuits, I should make answer, that I understood it not; or the place of a leader of pioneers, I would say, that I was called to a more honourable employment; so likewise, he that would employ me to lie, betray, and forswear myself, though not to assassinate or to poison, for some notable service, I should say, "If I have robbed or stolen anything from any man, send me rather to the gal. leys.” For it is permissible in a man of honour to say, as the Lacedæmonians did, having been defeated by Antipater, when just upon concluding an agreement: “You may impose as heavy and ruinous taxes upon us as you please, but to command us to do shameful and dishonest things, you will lose your time, for it is to no purpose.” Every one ought to make the same vow to himself, that the kings of Egypt made their judges solemnly swear, that they would not do anything contrary to their consciences, though never so much commanded to it by themselves. In such commissions, there is evident mark of ignominy and condemnation; and he who gives it, at the same time accuses you, and gives it, if you understand it right, for a burden and a punishment. As much as the public affairs are bettered by your exploit, so much are your own the worse, and the better you behave yourself in it, 'tis so much the worse for yourself; and it will be no new thing, nor, peradventure, without some colour of justice, if the same person

you, who set you on work. If treachery can be in any case excusable, it must be only so when it is practised to chastise and betray treachery. There are examples enough of treacheries, not only rejected,

3

ruin

? Montaigne here probably refers to the feigned reconciliation between Catherine de Medici and Henry, Duc de Guise, in 1588.

2 Plutarch, Difference between a Flatterer and a Friend, c. 21. 3 Idem, Apothegms of the Kings.

>

a

but chastised and punished by those in favour of whom they were undertaken. Who is ignorant of Fabricius' sentence against the physician of Pyrrhus ?

But this we also find recorded, that some persons have commanded a thing, who afterward have severely avenged the execution of it upon him they had employed, rejecting the reputation of so unbridled an authority, and disowning so abandoned and base a servitude and obedience. Jaropelc, Duke of Russia,' tampered with a gentleman of Hungary to betray Boleslaus, king of Poland, either by killing him, or by giving the Russians opportunity to do him some notable mischief. This worthy went ably to work: he was more assiduous than before in the service of that king, so that he obtained the honour to be of his council, and one of the chiefest in his trust. With these advantages, and taking an opportune occasion of his master's absence, he betrayed Vislicza, a great and rich city, to the Russians, which was entirely sacked and burned, and not only all the inhabitants of both sexes, young and old, put to the sword, but moreover a great number of neighbouring gentry, whom he had drawn thither to that end. Jaropele, his revenge being thus satisfied and his anger appeased, which was not, indeed, without pretence (for Boleslaus had highly offended him, and after the same manner) and sated with the fruit of this treachery, coming to consider the foulness of it, with a sound judgment and clear from passion, looked upon what had been done with so much horror and remorse, that he caused the eyes to be bored out and the tongue and shameful parts to be cut off of him who had performed it.

Antigonus persuaded the Argyraspidian soldiers to betray Eumenes, their general, his adversary, into his hands ; but after he had caused him, so delivered, to be slain, he would himself be the commissioner of the divine justice for the punishment of so detestable a crime, and committed them into the hands of the governor of the province, with express command, by whatever means, to destroy and bring them all to an evil end, so that of that great number of

Martin Cromer, De Rebus Polon., liv. v. p. 131, ed. 1555. 2 Plutarch, Life of Eumenes, c. 9.

* The soldiers bearing silver shields. Cotton translates it “ Agaraspides' souldiers.

3

2

men, not so much as one ever returned again into Macedonia: the better he had been served, the more wickedly he judged it to be, and meriting greater punishinent.

The slave who betrayed the place where his master P. Sulpicius lay concealed, was, according to the promise of Sylla's proscription, manumitted for his pains : but according to the promise of the public justice, which was free from any such engagement, he was thrown headlong from the Tarpeian rock.'

Our King Clovis, instead of the arms of gold he had promised them, caused three of Canacre's? servants to be hanged after they had betrayed their master to him, though he had debauched them to it: he hanged them with the purse of their reward about their necks : after having satisfied his second and special faith, he satisfied the general and first.

Mohammed II. having resolved to rid himself of his brother, out of jealousy of state, according to the practice of the Ottoman family, he employed one of his officers in the execution : who, pouring a quantity of water too fast into him, choked him. This being done, to expiate the murder, he delivered the murderer into the hands of the mother of him he had so caused to be put to death, for they were only brothers by the father's side; she, in his presence, ripped up the murderer's bosom, and with her own hands rifled his breast for his heart, tore it out, and threw it to the dogs. And even to the worst people it is the sweetest thing imaginable, having once gained their end by a vicious action, to foist, in all security, into it some show of virtue and justice, as by way of compensation and conscientious correction; to which may be added, that they look upon the ministers of such horrid crimes as upon men who reproach them with them, and think by their deaths to erase the memory and testimony of such proceedings.

Or if, perhaps, you are rewarded, not to frustrate the public necessity for that extreme and desperate remedy, he who does it cannot for all that, if he be not such himself, but look upon you as an accursed and execrable fellow, and conclude you a greater traitor than he does, against whom

1 Valerius Maximus, vi. 5, 7.
? Or rather Cararie. See Gregory of Tours, ü. 41.

« PredošláPokračovať »