The Hiſtory of Deſpotiſm is replete with uncommon events: On one ſide, we ſurvey the bold deſigns of ſome ambitious men, their villainous attempts, and the ſecret ſprings they put in action to attain illicit power: on the other ſide, we ſee the people, whilſt repoſing under the ſhade of their own laws, enſlaved; we behold the vain efforts of an unfortunate multitude to ſhake off oppreſſion, and the numberleſs evils conſtantly attendants on ſlavery. Scenes at once horrible and magnificent, wherein alternately appear peace, plenty, ſports, pomp, [Page 2] feſtivals, diſſentions, miſery, artifice, treachery, treaſon, baniſhments, conteſts and carnage.
Sometimes Deſpotiſm is eſtabliſhed at once by the force of arms: but this rapid progreſs of power to abſolute Empire is not the ſubject of my preſent work: it is the ſlow and gradual efforts of policy, which by degrees ſubject the necks of the people to the yoke, depriving them at the ſame time both of the means and deſire of ſhaking it off.
From attentively conſidering the eſtabliſhment of deſpotiſm, it is evident that Slavery is only the effect of time, and the neceſſary conſequence of the defects of political conſtitutions. Let us endeavour, therefore, to diſcover how by their means the Magiſtrate uſurps the title of Maſter, and ſubſtitutes his will for the law. Let us review that multiplicity of machines, which the ſacrilegious audacity of Princes has recourſe to, in order to ſap the foundation of liberty: let us follow their dark projects, their crafty proceedings, their ſecret plots, enter into a detail of their fatal policy, unfold the principles of that deceitful art, and reduce to one point of view the various attacks that have been made upon Public Freedom. But in arranging my obſervations, I ſhall leſs regard the order of time than the connection of the ſubject.
[Page 3] When once the dangerous truſt of public authority is committed to a Prince, and the care of enforcing obedience to the laws to Magiſtrates, the people ſee themſelves ſooner or later ſubdued by thoſe rulers they have made choice of, and their liberty, their property, their lives at the diſcretion of thoſe who have been appointed to protect them. No ſooner has the Prince caſt his eyes upon the truſt repoſed on him, but he endeavours to forget from what hands he received it: Full of himſelf and of his power, he ſupports impatiently the idea of his dependance, and conſtantly labours to free himſelf from every ſort of reſtraint.
The people are never voluntary ſlaves, they yield not to power, but when they believe it to be a duty, or are unable to oppoſe it. Hence in a ſtate newly founded or reformed, the ſubjects are not at once enſlaved, however imperfect the conſtitution might be. Deſpair, that prompted them at firſt to throw off the yoke, would prompt them to throw it off anew whenever they ſhould feel its weight. To commence with open attacks upon liberty, and to attempt to deſtroy it by violence, would prove therefore a raſh undertaking. When thoſe who govern, daringly diſpute the ſupreme power with open force, and the people [Page 4] perceive their rulers attempting* to enſlave them, the latter ever prevail, and the Prince in a moment loſes the fruit of all his efforts. At his firſt attempt the ſubjects unite againſt him, and his authority is at ſtake, if his conduct be not more ſubmiſſive than imperious. It is not therefore by open attacks Princes firſt attempt to enſlave the people, they take their meaſures in ſecreſy, they have recourſe to craft: it is by ſlow but conſtant efforts, by changes almoſt imperceptible, by innovations of which it is difficult to obſerve the conſequences, and ſuch as are ſcarcely taken notice of.
THE firſt attack Princes make upon the public liberty, is not the violating audaciouſly the laws, but the cauſing them to fall into oblivion. To enchain their ſubjects, they begin by ſetting them aſleep.
[Page 5] Whilſt men have their heads heated with ideas of liberty, and whilſt the bloody image of Tyranny is ſtill before their eyes, they deteſt deſpotiſm, and watch with inquietude every motion of the Miniſtry. The Prince at that time is cautious not to form any attacks upon public freedom; he appears the father of his people, and his reign the aera of juſtice. At firſt his adminiſtration is ſo mildly conducted, that it might be apprehended he has a deſign of extending Liberty, far from having any intent of ruining it.
Having nothing to diſpute relating to their privileges, which are not conteſted, nor to their liberty which is not attacked, the people gradually become leſs watchful over the conduct of their rulers, they inſenſibly diſcontinue to be upon their guard, and finally lay aſide all ſolicitude, reſting tranquil beneath the ſhade of the laws.
Thus in proportion as the people recede from the ſtormy times, in which the conſtitution took its riſe; they gradually loſe ſight of Liberty. To ſet their minds at reſt, there is occaſion only to let things proceed in their natural order. But Princes do not always rely on the power of time alone.
THE entrance of Deſpotiſm is ſometimes pleaſing and joyous: plays, feaſts, dances and ſongs being its chearful attendants* But in theſe feaſts and plays, the people perceive not the evils prepared for them; they reſign themſelves to pleaſure, and their joy is unbounded. But whilſt the inconſiderate multitude is abandoned to joy, the wiſe foreſee the remote calamities threatening their country, and by which it is at laſt to be overwhelmed: they perceive the chains concealed with flowers, ready to be fixed on the arms of their countrymen.
TO the power of time and influence of entertainments, is joined an attention to national affairs. Some war† is undertaken, public edifices [Page 7] are built, highways are made, &c. The multitude, judging from appearances alone, believe the Prince is attentive to the welfare of the ſtate only, whilſt he is wholly taken up with his projects; they grow careleſs more and more, and at laſt they ceaſe to be watchful over their enemy.
While the minds of the people ceaſe to be engaged, the defects of the conſtitution begin to unfold: the Prince, ever intent upon his own intereſts, is ſeeking means to extend his power; but now takes care not to give the leaſt room for diſturbing that profound ſecurity.
[Page 8] The Roman people, thoſe abſolute maſters of the earth, were extremely fond of public ſhows; and the magnificence of entertainments was a mean made uſe of, to captivate them, by thoſe who deprived them of their power and liberty.
When Charles II. aſcended the throne of Spain, the firſt buſineſs of the miniſter was to reſtore plenty to the kingdom, and to indulge the people with ſhows; never in that country were ſeen ſo many bull-fights, plays, and other entertainments after the taſte of the nation*.
To conciliate the affections of the people, princes have recourſe ſometimes to grants, &c.†
Louis XIV. applied himſelf to win the hearts of his ſubjects, by his engaging manners, his prodigality and [Page 9] magnificence. He was careful no one ſhould depart diſſatisfied from his preſence, he ſecured by lucrative employments thoſe whom he ſuſpected, and by favours gained to himſelf even the inſatiate croud of courtiers. At court, he amuſed the people with feaſts, fireworks, balls, maſquerades, tournaments, ſhews of every kind. In his campaigns, he repeated the feaſts, he viſited in his wonted pageantry the towns that had ſubmitted to his power; he invited to his table women of quality, conferred gratifications on the military, ſcattered gold among the populace, and was applauded to the ſkies. But it is not by grants only*, that Princes attempt to gain the affections of their ſubjects.
Ferdinand VI. on aſcending the throne, endeavoured to gain popularity by apparent airs of goodneſs: he ordered the priſons to be opened to all who had been committed for no capital crimes; he granted a general amneſty to deſerters and ſmugglers, and appointed two [Page 10] days a week for receiving petitions and hearing grievances*, &c.
The people of Venice admire the goodneſs of their maſters, when they ſee the Doge at the head of the Senate making the yearly proceſſion to St. Maria Formoſa, to diſcharge a promiſe of one of his predeceſſors, and not ſcorning to accept of a ſtraw hat and two bottles of wine, that the artiſans of the pariſh preſent him for his trouble: when they ſee the Doge on the 1ſt of Auguſt accepting of a few melons preſented to him by the gardeners, and allowing them to kiſs him: when they ſee the Senators aſſiſting with the Doge on Shrove-Tueſday at the ſlaughter of a bull, or at ſome other popular entertainment: when they ſee the grand-council on Corpus Chriſti day paſſing in proceſſion through St. Mark's place, each Noble yielding the right hand to a beggar.
How ſtrange ſoever it may appear, Princes ſometimes attain to deſpotiſm by means which in appearance tend to produce a contrary effect. In order to encreaſe their authority, ſome by a refinement of policy aſſume the character of juſtice, goodneſs and mercy; to deceive others, they take the outſide of [Page 11] plain dealing. Ximenes, became the idol of the Caſtillians by an apparent purity of manners, by his charity and munificence: the people not ſuſpecting him, left him to make what attempts upon their liberty he pleaſed, to keep in pay out of the revenue of his benefices mercenary troops, and augment the regal authority*.
The people of Terra Ferma boaſt of the lenity of the government of the Seignory, when they ſee the popularity of the podeſtates, and the attention given by the inquiſitors of ſtate to their complaints againſt the nobles they hate; and from the opinion they entertain that the whole is done for their advantage alone, they bleſs the equity of their maſters.
At other times, thoſe who govern, that they might conceal their own corruption, attempt to corrupt others; that they might conceal their own ambition, they flatter that of the people, they ſpeak to them perpetually of their rights, affect an extreme zeal for their intereſts, and raiſe themſelves to tyranny by affecting to protect them.
But in order to enſlave mankind, Princes have even affected an averſion to Empire: Some have laboured to promote the public happineſs; and taking [Page 12] advantage of that moment when the ſubjects exulted in their well-being, they pretended themſelves tired of the ſceptre, and reſolved to abdicate; expecting to be importuned to hold the reins of the Empire. The greateſt of evils this, ſince the Prince has the blind confidence of his people, and the means of abuſing it.
Whenever they appear in public, it is with the attributes of ſovereign power. Sometimes they have [Page 13] the faſcia, the ſceptre, the ſword of juſtice carried before them: oftentimes they are attended in pomp by all the great officers of the crown or a multitude of courtiers, and always by a formidable band of ſatellites*.
They are ſolicitous likewiſe to maintain the ſplendour of their houſhold; and fearing if they ceaſed to act the maſters, the great who approach their preſence would ceaſe to act the ſubjects, they ever affect an imperious tone. To teach the people to approach them with ceremony, and render themſelves more and more the object of reſpect, they have all introduced a degree of ſtate dignity into their court. Some have even prohibited any from either ſerving them or ſpeaking to them unleſs on their knees†.
[Page 14] Among the regulations which James I. enacted in the year 1613, in the council of Scotland, the councellors were ordered either to ride in the ſtreets with foot-cloths, or to go in coaches; but never to be ſeen on foot*.
Philip II. of Spain ordered, by a particular decree, all the members of his councils and the chancellors of his kingdoms, never to appear in public unleſs cloathed with a long robe and unſhaven†.
Whenever they viſit each other, they are received with pomp, treated with magnificence, indulged with every honour; and that the people might be the more ſtruck with the importance of a Prince, great marks of diſtinction are ever ſhewn to any individual of a royal family.
[Page 15] Vigilance, frugality, diſintereſtedneſs, love of glory and one's patria*, are the virtues by which people preſerve their liberty: accordingly that they might enſlave their ſubjects, Princes who aſpired to deſpotiſm, have obliged them to renounce thoſe virtues.
In order to ſubject the necks of the Spartans to the yoke, Philopaemen forced them to quit the auſtere way of educating their children, and to adopt an effeminating one: Thus he ſucceeded to extinguiſh† that elevation of ſpirit, that greatneſs of ſoul, which he ſo much dreaded.
After Edward I. had united the principality of Wales to his dominions, from a conviction that nothing contributed ſo much in maintaining the warlike genius and eagerneſs after glory of his new ſubjects, as the poetical traditions of their proweſs, which were ſung in their martial feaſts, he ordered a ſtrict perquiſition to be made after the Welſh poets, and put them to death‡.
[Page 16] From a like conviction, and actuated by the ſame motives, did the miniſtry during the laſt reign oblige the Highlanders to throw aſide their ancient dreſs, and renounce their martial feaſts.
ARTIFICE is generally made uſe of to abaſe the people, violence but ſeldom. Accordingly* places allotted for entertainments and debauchery are ordered to be erected; talents which ſerve to amuſe the people are encouraged; actors, muſicians, tumblers, puppet-players, mountebanks of every kind† are patronized, &c. The public being hereby wholly engaged, pry not into the conduct of adminiſtration.
Cyrus, having conquered Lydia, was told that the inhabitants of that country had revolted; but not thinking fit to demoliſh their cities or ſecure them with ſtrong garriſons, inſtituted therein public plays, [Page 17] theatres, taverns, houſes of ill fame: by theſe means the Lydians were rendered ſo effeminate as never to oppoſe him*.
At Rome, the Emperors oftentimes entertained the people with ſhows: and a fondneſs for theſe pleaſures extinguiſhed in the minds of the Romans that idea of liberty which their anceſtors ſo tenderly cheriſhed.
To ſubdue the ſpirit of their Engliſh ſubjects, the kings of the houſe of Stuart countenanced the general diſſipation. Under James I. ſpacious buildings were erected for exhibiting theatrical performances to the multitude. Maſks and mummings, drolls and dancings were the chief occupation of life. During Charles I.'s reign, the number of play-books were immenſe, the multitude of London play-hunters ſo augmented, that five houſes were not ſufficient to maintain their troops†. And under Charles II. all ranks of men were given up to diſſipation, debauchery and riotous banquetting.
Modern Princes are very careful to have theatres conſtructed in the principal cities of their dominions. [Page 18] The Venetians eſpecially are careful that the public attention ſhould be continually engaged by entertainments.
It is a matter of wonder how compleatly this artifice anſwers* the end intended. When a people has once taſted theſe pleaſures, careleſs of every thing elſe, they can no more forbear them, and are never ſo much diſcontented as when deprived of theſe their favorite amuſements.
The civil war in England of 1641 was not kindled till the theatres were ſhut: and a people has been ſeen [Page 19] groaning under the weight of their misfortunes, deſire theſe ſhows as the only remedy of their evils*.
IF, to that eagerneſs for diſſipation and frivolous entertainment that the theatre affords, the plays which are performed contain looſe ſentiments, baſe maxims, refined flattery to perſons in dignity, as moſt of the dramatic productions of foreign nations; if encomiums are beſtowed on the follies and vices of reigning Princes, as in ſome of thoſe allegoric paſtorals which were performed at the Court of Charles I. or of Louis XIV; the ſtage then becomes the moſt fatal ſchool of ſervitude.
BY encouraging the fine arts and the ſciences among the Romans, Auguſtus ſubjected them to the yoke; and by the ſame method, his ſucceſſors ſubdued the barbarians they had vanquiſed*.
No people was ever ſo independent as the ancient Germans. Without fixed eſtabliſhments, continually engaged in ſome expedition for pillaging, exceſſively fond of liberty, and ever continuing in arms, they were but little reſtrained by laws, their Princes had [Page 21] but little authority over them; and even that authority was but little reſpected. But, when once they had ſecured their conqueſts, their Princes in order to extending and ſecuring their power, laboured to inſpire them with the love of tranquil employments, to acquaint them with the ſweet fruits of induſtry, to engage them to cultivate the arts of peace, and devote themſelves to a contemplative life.
As ſoon as the crown of England was ſecured on the head of Alfred, this Prince took great care to inſpire his ſubjects with the love of arts and ſciences; and the better to encourage them to apply themſelves to ſtudy, he ſet them the example, and was attentive to reward merit*.
Spain, almoſt continually torn by factions, ſedition and civil wars, was, till the reign of Ferdinand V. ſunk into barbarity, its inhabitants being only ſuperficially acquainted with war and politics: but in order to extend his power, Ferdinand begun to introduce into his dominions the love of letters, by diſtributing favours to thoſe who addicted themſelves thereto†.
Not ſatisfied with encouraging letters by his liberality, Philip IV. recommended the ſtudy of them by his example. And as ſoon as Philip V. was firmly eſtabliſhed on the throne, he erected univerſities, patronized the literati, and rewarded thoſe who were diſtinguiſhed for eminent talents.
NO conſtitution maintains itſelf unaltered but by virtue. If this ſpring be long unbent, adieu liberty. Inſtead of concurring to the public welfare, every one ſeeks his own intereſts only; the laws fall into contempt, and the magiſtrates themſelves are the firſt in violating them. Thus the people being abaſed, an attempt is made to corrupt them.
At firſt the ſubjects are indulged with feaſts and ſhows, but as theſe entertainments cannot long continue, unleſs the Prince has the diſpoſal of the ſpoils of the whole world, a laſting ſource of corruption is then opened to the people: induſtry is encouraged, and commerce rendered flouriſhing*, in order to procure opulence. Now opulence is always attended by luxury.
ONE effect of luxury is the extinguiſhing the heroic virtues; for, when men can attract notice by ſumptuous equipages, coſtly dreſs, long retinue of ſervants, they are no more ſolicitous of attracting it by upright manners, noble ſentiments, glorious deeds.
Luxury is immediately attended by a looſeneſs of manners, which is the beginning of their depravation: both ſexes meet together in order to render their intercourſe more agreeable, and corrupt themſelves reciprocally; gallantry is introduced; this produces a frivolous turn of mind, puts a value on trifles, depreſſes whatever is of any concern; and duty is ſoon forgotten.
The arts which luxury maintains, and the pleaſures it promiſes, rendering ſociety delightful, hurry us away to effeminacy; they ſoften our manners, and [Page 25] enervate that haughtineſs which endures neither fetters nor reſtraint.
Hence Princes generally neglect nothing which may bring luxury into eſteem: they recommend it by their* example; they diſplay every where pageantry and magnificence, and are the firſt to ſow in the minds of their ſubjects thoſe ſeeds of corruption†.
[Page 26] If Princes recommend not luxury by their example, they at leaſt countenance it, or refuſe to reſtrain it. The Roman Senate, ſtill compoſed of grave Magiſtrates, propoſed to Auguſtus the reformation of the manners and of the luxury of women; but though obliged by his office of Cenſor to attend to it, he ever artfully avoided the importunate requeſt of the Senators†.
Some have gone even ſo far as to force their ſubjects to ſink into effeminacy. In order to ſubdue the inhabitants of Cuma, Ariſtomenes laboured to enervate the courage of the youth: he ordered the boys to let their hair grow, to adorn their heads with flowers, and, like girls, to wear long gowns of various colours; he commanded them, when going to their dancing or ſinging maſters, to be attended by women with umbrellas and fans; in the bath they were to be ſerved with looking-glaſſes, combs and perfumes: this way of education was continued till they were twenty years of age‡.
Thus by enervating and corrupting the people, luxury ſubdues them without reſiſtance to the will of [Page 27] an imperious Maſter, and forces them to purchaſe, at the price of their liberty, the quiet life and ſoft pleaſures they are permitted to enjoy.
LUXURY not only enervates the minds, but nothing is better calculated to divide them; when once introduced into a ſtate, the union of its members is deſtroyed; every one endeavours to attract notice, to become more conſpicuous than his neighbour, and riſe above the common level. Careleſs of the good of the public, they then attend to their private intereſts only; the love of one's patria is extinguiſhed in every heart; the citizen diſappears, and the man remains.
Luxury, as it extends itſelf, ranks ſuperfluity among neceſſaries. At firſt the people abandon themſelves to diſſipation; it becomes habitual to them; pleaſures are neceſſary; and as every one cannot enjoy them equally, they are actuated by various ſentiments: on one ſide are envy, jealouſy, hatred; on the other, pride and contempt—new ſeeds of diſcord!*
WHEN once men are corrupted by luxury, new deſires prey alternately on the mind. If the means of indulging them are wanting, every one buſies himſelf to ſupport the extravagances in which he delights.
The evil grows worſe every day, ſince from much endeavouring to be diſtinguiſhed, no one at laſt diſtinguiſhes himſelf any more; but as a rank is taken, and as a deſire of attracting the eyes of the public ſtill continues, every nerve is bent in order to get out of that intolerable uniformity. From that time there is no proportion between the wants and the means; every one is eager after riches, and bows down in the temple of Fortune. How many voluntary ſlaves!
Finally, a multitude of ſubjects, needy by their new wants, and vexed to be the meaneſt of all, vainly agitate themſelves to get off their humiliating poverty, and are at laſt reduced to wiſh for their country's deſtruction.
As long as Rome was inhabited by poor citizens, honeſty, honour, courage, and love of liberty, were incloſed within its walls; but when once it was enriched with the ſpoils of vanquiſhed nations, theſe ancient virtues gave way to a multitude of vices. Notwithſtanding the wiſdom of the laws, no ſooner were its gates open to the riches of the enemy, but Rome ceaſed to acknowledge its degenerated offſpring; manners and duties became oppoſite to each other; poverty, till then honoured, fell into contempt; gold became the object of every one's deſire; luxury expanded itſelf with rapidity; all plunged headlong into voluptuouſneſs: and when pleaſures had once impoveriſhed theſe Sybarites, a multitude of laviſh citizens, aſhamed of their poverty, caballed from ambition, and diſturbed public tranquillity; whilſt ſome powerful men alternately put themſelves at the head of the mob, tore the ſtate to pieces, ſpilled the blood of the citizens, uſurped the ſupreme power, and ſilenced the laws. Thus periſhed liberty at Sparta, and thus it will periſh among us.
WHENEVER riches are the price of every thing which attracts conſideration, they ſoon ſupply the place of birth, virtue, and talents, and are ſought after as the ſummum bonum. Thus, in order to corrupt the ſubjects, thoſe at the helm are careful to cheriſh the people's avarice by keeping up the ſpirit of gaming among them.
Such is the craft of the cabinet in France, England, Holland, but chiefly at Venice*.
ANOTHER method, put in practice for ſubduing the ſubjects, is the keeping them in idleneſs, and not controuling their pleaſures. They then, careleſs of liberty, take no concern in public affairs, [Page 31] and are ever buſied in contriving the means of indulging their baſe paſſions.
In order to render the Perſians good ſlaves, Cyrus kept them in idleneſs, plenty, and luxury; and theſe effeminate men called him their father*.
The Roman emperors, uſing this crafty policy, oftentimes entertained the people with feaſts or ſhews, and then the deluded multitude exerted themſelves in exalting the goodneſs of their maſters†.
The Venetians take great care to maintain their ſubjects in plenty, to ſet them free from moral reſtraint, and indulge them with ſhews. Far from controuling the pleaſures of the citizens, they give encouragement to lewdneſs, by publicly protecting houſes of ill fame; and thus divert the ſubjects from taking any concern in matters of ſtate. The clergy [Page 32] themſelves they allow to be diſſolute, and ſo greatly countenance their ſcandalous manners*, that theſe wretches highly praiſe the mild government of the Seignory.
WHILE ſports, feſtivals, merriments, ſhews, entertainments of every kind, engroſs the mind, people by degrees loſe ſight of liberty, and think not of it any more. By entirely neglecting to think of liberty, the true idea of it is obliterated, and falſe notions take place. To men always engroſſed by their pleaſures or private affairs, liberty is ſoon no more than the mean of amaſſing wealth without obſtacles, of poſſeſſing it with ſafety, and making merry without oppoſition. Thus the love of independency, for want of fuel, is extinguiſhed in every breaſt.
IN a country, where the Prince diſpoſes of benefices, places and dignities, though by their means he ever gets friends, he at firſt grants none but to deſerving perſons; but when once he has ſucceeded in abaſing and depraving his ſubjects, he thinks of getting creatures.
The great, being maſters of the lower claſſes of people, are ſo in ſome ſort of the ſtate; and with them the Prince begins to ſhare authority: he dazzles the ſight of one by a ribbon, ſeduces another by an employment, temptations are offered every one according to his favourite paſſions, and men eagerly preſent their necks to the yoke.
Beſides the ſmall number of powerful men, who fill up the firſt places of the ſtate, he holds by hope thoſe ambitious men who continually ſeek after favour and preferment. Thoſe he cannot draw in by realities, he prevails upon by promiſes, regards and careſſes; he cajoles his courtiers, who, proud of theſe marks of conſideration, endeavour by their ſervility to ſecure them.
Thus deficient of every principle of honour, and careleſs of their duty, thoſe at the helm are ever ſeeking to court the Prince, that they might ſhare his authority; and ſubmit themſelves to the yoke, that they might impoſe it on others. Theſe likewiſe ſeek after favour, every one aims to be exalted; men of a mean condition themſelves wiſh to riſe, that they might aſſume an imperious air.
WHEN the Prince has extenſive demeſnes or diſpoſes of the public money, he makes uſe of gold to increaſe the number of his creatures*. As luxury, ſo the greedy deſire of riches poſſeſſes every rank, and both the poor and the rich, more fond of money than of liberty, are ever ready to give way to bribery, and ſet a price on their honour†.
[Page 35] How greatly are things already altered! The love of liberty tyed the heart of every one faſt to his patria, by confounding private in public intereſt. Now the love of pageantry, of dignities, of gold, breaks off theſe ſacred bands, and concentrates men in their ſelfiſh views.
Seeing the diſcord, avarice, and venality of the people, one might imagine that already liberty is undone; but of ſo many men who ſeek to ſell themſelves, the Prince gets only thoſe whom he can purchaſe; others, with regret, remain faithful to their country.
WHILST the deſire of acquiring fame burns in the breaſt of the ſubjects, and they are greedy after glory alone, liberty is never more ſecure. They ſtand unſhaken at dangers, diſheartened by no obſtacle, and reſtrained by no conſideration; leſs fearing [Page 36] the moſt horrid torture, than the opprobrium of betraying their country to a tyrant.
Princes accordingly loſe no opportunity of changing the object of glory. For fame, which the public diſpenſes, they ſubſtitute honours which they alone diſtribute; and inſtead of making dignities the reward of ſervices done the patria, they make honours the ſalary of ſervices tendered to them. Thus their creatures are covered both with infamy and marks of dignity, and theſe marks of note are ſoon valued at the expence of merit, virtue and talents.
Hence ariſe two oppoſite effects: men of abject principles ſeek after dignities, men of an elevated mind deſpiſe them. Diſgraced by the uſe they are made of, and the perſons on whom they are beſtowed, to become worthy of them is no more the purſuit of noble ſouls. When once honours are diſcredited, an incentive to generous actions, to great deeds, is wanting; and the love of glory, for want of fewel, is extinguiſhed in every heart.
WHEN the Prince is the only ſource of conſideration, favour becomes the object of every one's deſires. To be accounted ſomething, thoſe who approach him exert themſelves to pleaſe him; the ineſtimable advantage of being free is therefore ſacrificed on all ſides to dazzling ſervitude, and the love of one's patria to ignominious marks of note.
In order to be in favour with the monarch, they ſpeak emphatically of his little merit; they allow him to poſſeſs virtues of every kind, and extol the happineſs of being under his empire*.
[Page 38] More than that, all who approach him abaſe themſelves, are earneſt to cringe at his feet, diſdain all thoſe who ſcorn to imitate them; and proud of their chains, ſeek for the diſgracing privilege of being his laughing ſtock.
Deſtitute of virtue, they cannot bear it in others; and exert all their addreſs in ridiculing them: on all occaſions they depreſs glorious deeds, aſperſe good men, and by the moſt humiliating epithets ſtigmatize the lovers of liberty.
At firſt, their baſe diſcourſes are deſpiſed; but, by conſtantly repeating the ſame without bluſhing, they amaze their adverſaries, and humble them by deſpiſing their blows. Beſides, as ſuch effrontery in facing ridicule impoſes upon the multitude, incapable of appraiſing things at their juſt value, contempt ends and admiration begins.
On his part, the Prince ſcarcely riſes any to dignities but in proportion as they prove ſervile. Never [Page 39] ſure of his favour, unleſs ever ready to betray their engagements, they are diſgraced from the moment they remember their duty. Mean flatterers, and thoſe wretches who ſell their conſcience that they might ſell their protection, are therefore the only perſons who can bear themſelves up in ſuch a thorny place. Thus all vices reign at courts; there flattery, perjury, and contempt of all duty, parade with effrontery.
Not being allowed to live as one might wiſh, every one lives according to the times, men, and affairs; even the wiſeſt have but a frigid admiration for virtue, and the beſt patriots are but little concerned for the public good.
IN a free, but newly eſtabliſhed government, men who have beſt ſerved their country, are ever ſeated at the helm; and men of avowed honeſty ever ſit on the bench. If the Prince is truſted with the power of diſpoſing of places for the future, it is on condition that he ſhall prefer none but deſerving perſons. But in order to become abſolute, far from calling to him [Page 40] talents and virtue, he imperceptibly removes from office men that are popular, wiſe, and incorruptible, and puts in their places men of eaſy terms.
HAVING engaged the people to loſe fight of their patria, an attempt is made to annihilate the love of it in their hearts. Men united by liberty and for liberty muſt remain free, as long as they remain united; to be enſlaved they therefore ought to be divided, and time never fails to offer an opportunity for it.
Almoſt in every ſtate, there are from its foundation various ranks of people; nobles ever diſdain the plebeians, and plebeians ever hate the nobles, or rather, every one who belongs to any rank, hates or deſpiſes thoſe who belong to another: theſe baſe paſſions Princes make uſe of to ſow diſſention, and alienate the affections of the people from their patria.
If there is originally no diverſity of ranks, thoſe at the helm labour to introduce it: they divide the people into different claſſes, and to every one aſſign [Page 41] particular employments, rights or privileges. The one is appointed to magiſtracies, the other to military ſervices; this to eccleſiaſtical benefices, that to trade and mechanical arts.
In order to incite jealouſy among his ſubjects, Philip II. of Spain, ſettled in 1586, by proclamation, a ceremonial to be obſerved in regard to the grandees, miniſters, and prelates; he likewiſe fixed the titles by which the citizens were to be ſtiled, and ordered the refractory to be proſecuted by law.
At Venice, the different orders of* cytadini are diſtinguiſhed the one from the other, and all from [Page 42] the vulgar, by peculiar privileges. The firſt order is appointed to the reſidentſhip of foreign courts, and to the ſecretaryſhip of counſels and embaſſies; into their families patricians are permitted to marry; ſometimes ſome of them are incorporated into the body of the nobility, inſtead of thoſe families which become extinct: the other cytadini are permitted to take the gown of the nobles. Thus they are all engaged to unite with the maſters of the commonwealth againſt the reſt of the people.
But as if this craft was ſtill inſufficient, the adminiſtration ſows diſſention among the rabble of the different wards of the city, and conſtantly keeps up two oppoſite parties* by ſecretly encouraging fighting among them on one particular day of the year.
Looking upon the Paduans as the antient maſters of Venice, the ſeignory took particular care to keep them diſunited. For that purpoſe, the moſt powerful families were tranſported to Venice, and ſuch privileges granted to the ſtudents of the univerſity as to incenſe the jealouſy of the citizens.
[Page 43] Princes, not ſatisfied with dividing the people into various orders, enjoying divers privileges, artfully incite diſcord in every order by means of odious diſtinctions*. They grant peculiar prerogatives to individuals, and give penſions to courteous officers, to adulatory academicians, poets, comedians, &c.
IN order to ſow diſcord among their ſubjects, almoſt all Princes have tolerated different religious ſects: ſome of them have even countenanced particular ſectaries; others, with the ſame views, have perſecuted them.
Theſe artifices prove ſo deſtructive to liberty, that by their aid many Princes have governed their people in an arbitrary manner.—A truth of which we ourſelves have more than once had the ſad experience.
[Page 44] When the reformation had extended itſelf among us, this kingdom was divided into two parties, who alternately having recourſe to the king, obliged him oftentimes to hold the balance between them; but to cruſh them both with their own hands, he made it incline now towards one ſide, then towards the other.
"As Henry VIII. was a ſlave to his furious paſſions, each party flattered themſelves that a blind compliance with the king's will would throw him fully into their intereſts, and they implicitly put themſelves into his hands."
While the people were in ſucceeding times divided into Whigs and Tories, and as ſoon as theſe two factions were made irreconcileable by the artifices of the court, and could counterbalance the forces of each other, Charles II. pulled off the maſk, diſſolved the parliament; and the nation beheld with aſtoniſhment, a king who had received ſo many mortifications from the legiſlative powers, and had been ſo often obliged to ſubmit, on a ſudden, without fleet, without army, without money, and without foreign aſſiſtance, become abſolute maſter of his kingdom; letting his oppoſers feel the terrible effects of his vengeance, ſacrificing the moſt ſpirited patriots to his rage, and governing his ſubjects with a tyrannical ſway.
Under thoſe Princes of the Auſtrian houſe who mounted the Spaniſh throne, the number of civil and military places was prodigious. There were thouſands of titulars, and ſcarcely any man of ſome conſideration without an office, or dignity*.
Hitherto the attempts made againſt liberty have not alarmed the ſubjects. As theſe changes have been gradual, and as theſe new manners have taken place without offending the minds of the people; far from entertaining any ſiniſter ſuſpicion, they believe their well-being to be augmented. But an alteration is ſoon to follow. Already there are no more public feaſts, no more mirthful ſhews. Sad ſcenes ſucceed, the ſubjects feel their grievous ſituation, and futurity offers them but an afflicting perſpective.
PRINCES cannot alone ruin liberty, they abſolutely want ſome aid; and as their miniſters are to be their chief tools of tyranny, they commit the execution of their dark deſigns to crafty men, to men without honour, honeſty, and conſcience. Some of the moſt artful confer no office, no place of any authority, but to men of new families, who being ſenſible that they owe every thing to royal favour, are content to ſupport the power of the crown, though at the expence of juſtice and national privileges; and the better to ſecure their projects, they even admit but few into the cabinet.
Henry VII. ever ruled by a faction, and that by the leſſer faction. To give full ſcope to his tyrannical rapacity, he nominated for his miniſters Empſon and Dudley, two profligate men, equally enabled by their knowledge in the law to pervert the forms of juſtice to the oppreſſion of the innocent, and perfectly qualified to prey upon the defenceleſs people.
FAVOUR always proves ſufficient to render miniſters zealous, but impunity alone renders them audaciouſly enterpriſing. Princes take care therefore to protect them againſt the laws, and free them from puniſhment, whatever be the crimes they are guilty of.
Henry VIII. granted to Wolſey the following pardon: ‘"THAT THE KING, OUT OF HIS MERE MOTION AND ESPECIAL FAVOUR, DID PARDON ALL AND ALL MANNER OF TREASON, MISPRISION OF TREASON, MURDERS, FELONIES, AND OUTRAGES WHATSOEVER, BY THE SAID WOLSEY COMMITTED, OR TO BE HEREAFTER COMMITTED."’
What did not Charles I. to free Strafford from puniſhment? At firſt he refuſed to ſign the death-warrant; next he interceded by tears and ſupplications; then demanded that the puniſhment ſhould be commuted into perpetual impriſonment; afterwards prayed for a reſpite, and in fine reluctantly ſubmitted.
LIBERTY is eſtabliſhed on the laws alone; but as the laws ever ſpeak by the mouths of men, in order to render them deluſive and uſeleſs, Princes ſet on the benches corrupted judges, or they corrupt thoſe who are ſitting.
Charles I. bribed the judges of the high-court of juſtice; and not content with this, under colour of reforming abuſes, granted a commiſſion to the Archbiſhop of Canterbury, and other members of the privy-council, for regulating the juriſdiction of all the courts of judicature in the kingdom. Theſe commiſſioners were to examine all queſtions, controverſies, and debates, ariſing about the juriſdiction of the courts, civil and eccleſiaſtical. They were conſtituted with power to call before them, as often as they would, any of the judges of the ſaid courts, or contending parties; to examine upon oath the officers and clerks; to hear and debate the queſtions and cauſes; to conſider and adviſe on the ſubject: then to lay before the King the ſaid conſiderations, that he might determine by his authority the matter in diſpute*.
After the diſſolution of the parliament held in 1634, all the magiſtrates, judges, juſtices of peace, governors [Page 50] and lords-lieutenants, were changed, and the moſt violent tories put in their places.
Charles II. uſed to cloſet the judges, to ſerve him his own way†.
The accounts of Graham and Burton, the wicked ſolicitors of James the Second's illegal proſecutions, having been inſpected by the committee appointed in relation to the ſtate priſoners, it appeared, "that, from the year 1679 to the year 1688, they had received near 40,000 pounds out of the Exchequer, which they alleged to have paid to witneſſes, jurors, ſolicitors, counſellors, and other perſons concerned in their proſecutions of indictments, informations, and trials of perſons in capital and other pretended criminal cauſes, and in the name and on behalf of the King."
WHILST the ſubjects abandon themſelves to diſſipation, the Prince, ſeeing himſelf ſurrounded with men careleſs of watching his motions, attempts to attack liberty. But he firſt drops ſome propoſals [Page 51] calculated to ſupport his ſecret views. If the propoſals paſs, they form a baſis upon which he haſtens to build. If they paſs not, and yet the oppoſition be not ſtrong, he takes advantage of the circumſtance, has recourſe to craft, endeavours to varniſh over his deſigns with the pretence of promoting the public good*, and begs they would rely on his word; then, without being aſhamed of baſely perjuring himſelf, he takes God to witneſs the uprightneſs of his intentions, and his reverence for the laws he is about to infringe: and the people are ſo ſilly as to truſt to ſuch proteſtations.
Thus the Court has ſince propoſed, by other pretended patriots, the ſettling of the militia on the ſame [Page 52] footing with regular troops; but God forbid that this project ſhould likewiſe be put in execution.
The Prince, being about to make an open attempt, in order to caſt a miſt before the eyes of the public, repeats feaſts and ſhews; he gains the public confidence by performing ſome engagement of his own, or he keeps up the ſpirit of gaming*.
In order to prepare the people to receive Mazarin, the very day that this miniſter was to return to Paris, Louis XIV. iſſued out a proclamation, commanding the immediate payment of all arrears on the rentes viagéres ſur l' Hotel de Ville †.
The very day of the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, this monarch exhibited a magnificent tournament‡; and he uſed to be laviſh of feaſts and ſhews, whenever he intended to invade ſome important branch of government, or to incroach upon the ſubjects.
Charles II. having formed a deſign of rendering himſelf abſolute, engaged, through the intrigues of [Page 53] the Duke of Lauderdale, the parliament of Scotland, held in 1669, to paſs an act approving the raiſing of the militia, and ordering that it might be employed in any county of the crown's dominions, without any application to the king for his expreſs order; and that it ſhould be obliged to obey any order from the Scotch council. Thus, taking in appearance the militia out of the royal hands to put it into thoſe of the council, it was in the king's power to order them whenever he had occaſion for them, without his appearing openly to call them into England; and any complaint, in caſe of a miſcarriage, would be brought againſt the council*.
IN no political conſtitution are the rights of the people well enough eſtabliſhed, to prevent the arbitrary proceedings of adminiſtration: In no political conſtitution has the legiſlature been wary enough to render innovations unneceſſary; and it is by means of theſe innovations that Princes lay the foundation of tyranny.
[Page 54] On any plauſible pretence they begin by creating ſome office, ſome dignity, or erecting a new court of juſtice. At firſt they have this court regulated as the old ones, they then alter its form of proceeding, and gradually make it arbitrary.
The power of creating peers without the aſſent of parliament was contrary to the ancient laws of the realm: this power was uſurped by Henry III.†
Under colour of clearing the kingdom of banditti, Edward I. eſtabliſhed the Commiſſion of Trial-Baton, with a power to reſearch and puniſh all kind of diſorders and crimes. Theſe commiſſioners took their turn in the ſeveral counties, and without diſtinguiſhing the innocent from the guilty, they proſecuted on the moſt trifling ſuſpicion, condemned on the ſlighteſt charge, and filled the gaols with pretended malefactors, who were permitted afterwards to redeem their liberty by paying heavy fines, with which the king's treaſury was filled‡.
Under the ſpecious pretence of eaſing thoſe ſubjects, who had no money to proſecute their ſuits in the courts of Weſtminſter, Henry VIII. without any authority from parliament, erected a council at York, [Page 55] the judicature of which extended over ſeveral ſhires. At firſt this unconſtitutional court acted according to the rules of other criminal courts; but James I. from the very beginning of his reign, made it dependant on the King's inſtructions. Charles I. afterwards made it independant of every rule of law in the kingdom, and ordered thoſe who ſhould fly from that bloody tribunal to be dragged before it from any part of the realm.
If the Prince erects no court of juſtice, he changes the eſtabliſhed forms of law, alters the tenure by which the judges hold their places, ſets them above the cenſure of the legiſlative powers, makes their judgments arbitrary, and calls before them all cauſes.
In a ſtatute of Henry IV. it is enacted, that the judgments given in the King's courts ſhall not be examined in Parliament or elſewhere, unleſs* made by attaint and error.
Having made the power of the Star-Chamber arbitrary, Charles I. ordered all civil cauſes between himſelf and his ſubjects to be brought before that court: —a bloody tribunal, where right and courage were uſeleſs; where bribery and villainy were ſeated on the bench, holding the balance of juſtice; where reſentment and ferocity quenched their thirſt in the blood of innocent victims.
[Page 56] It is not, however, by open and violent attacks that Princes commonly begin to overturn the conſtitution; they rather undermine it; they innovate by degrees, and make things yield inſenſibly to their will. If ſometimes they follow violent meaſures, it is only in relation to ſome notorious villain, whoſe puniſhment, though arbitrarily inflicted, is always agreeable to the people, more mindful of their own intereſts than jealous of their liberty, and ever ready to confirm the unjuſt power which is at laſt to oppreſs them.
TO become abſolute, craft without force avails but little*.
In a free country, it is with his ſubjects as volunteers, that the Prince attacks the enemy; with them [Page 57] he makes a conqueſt or defends the ſtate. But at the head of men wedded to their country he dares not make any attempt againſt liberty; mercenary troops are therefore thought neceſſary to ſubvert the government. Princes accordingly have all laboured, as ſoon as it was in their power, to have ſuch troops; and in order to ſucceed, they have employed many artifices.
Charles VII. of France, availing himſelf of the reputation which he had acquired in expelling the Engliſh out of his kingdom, and taking advantage of the impreſſion of terror which the enemy had left on the minds of his ſubjects, effected the* eſtabliſhment of a ſtanding army. Under pretence of putting the ſtate in a poſture of defence on any ſudden invaſion, he retained in his ſervice a body of ſixteen thouſand infantry and nine thouſand cavalry; he appointed officers to command them, and ſtationed them at his pleaſure in different parts of the kingdom. Thus, inſtead of the auxiliary tenants of the barons, attached only to the chieftain whoſe banner they followed, and accuſtomed to obey no other command, the King had troops that were taught to acknowledge a maſter, to obey his orders, and expect from him the reward of their ſervices.
[Page 58] Under the pious pretence of keeping always on foot a force ſufficient to oppoſe the frequent incurſions of the Moors from Africa, and to reſiſt the progreſs of the infidels, Ximenes, regent of Caſtile, iſſued out a proclamation commanding every city in that kingdom to enroll a certain number of its burgeſſes; he ordered them to be trained to the uſe of arms, engaged officers to command them, and took this new militia into his ſervice*.
While we were under feodal government, the military power was lodged in the hands of the barons; but as it always proved but very little ſerviceable to the crown, and ſometimes dangerous, Henry V. exchanged,† under various pretences, military ſervice for pecuniary contribution, and ſubſtituted to the military [Page 59] tenants of the nobles a new militia, much more diſpoſed to execute his orders. Henry's ſucceſſors purſued his plan; ſome of them even attempted to have a ſtanding army, and at laſt ſucceeded. Immediately after Monmouth's invaſion, James II. demanded a ſubſidy for keeping on foot ſome regular troops, under pretence of being ready at any time to face a new danger*. But a ſtanding army, properly ſpeaking, was unknown in England till the acceſſion of the houſe of Brunſwick. Through the very earneſt deſire of George I. a conſiderable body of troops was taken into conſtant pay, to maintain the tranquillity of the kingdom, and anſwer the ends of the treaty of Hanover.
In the other ſtates of Europe, the ſcheme of ſtanding armies has likewiſe been purſued with eagerneſs, and executed with ſuch ſucceſs, that, the Swiſs excepted, there are no patriotic ſoldiery; every where mercenaries ſtand armed by tyranny againſt liberty.
As theſe troops were raiſed under the ſpecious pretence of defending the ſtate, men tied to their country by ſome eſtabliſhment were at firſt enrolled. Such ſoldiers proved but little ſubmiſſive: in order to get ſoldiers more devoted, Princes were ſenſible that their [Page 60] armies ought to be compoſed of men, who having no property, no principle, might be ever as ready to march againſt their countrymen as againſt the enemy.
In proportion as induſtry increaſes and commerce flouriſhes, inequality extends itſelf; part of the people ſwallows up all the riches, the remainder, abaſed by miſery or contemptible employments, ſubſiſts only by the vices or follies of the opulent, and poſſeſſes an induſtry which weds them to no country. Of this abject populace, deſtitute of all knowledge, of every virtue, of every principle of honour, without patrimony, and aſhamed of their indigence, Princes compoſe their armies.
In England, there are indeed no foreign ſoldiery, but ſeveral Scotch regiments are conſtantly ſtationed there, and from the good harmony which reigns between the two nations, the king reſigns to them the odious part of oppreſſing his Engliſh ſubjects.
In all their expeditions, offenſive or defenſive, the ſenate of Venice have avoided, with the greateſt care, arming the citizens, even on the moſt urgent occaſions*.
Under colour of public ſafety, the regency of Spain in 1669, iſſued out a proclamation, forbidding the citizens of Madrid keeping fire-arms†.
In France the peaſants have been diſarmed under pretence of preventing their hunting; and in the whole kingdom, the capital excepted, only noblemen, military men, and honorary officers of the king are permitted to wear arms.
TO eſtabliſh ſtanding armies avails but little, if the means of keeping them are wanting. Accordingly Princes, whilſt they laboured to get mercenary troops, have applied themſelves to appropriate funds for the regular payment of them; and they needed only the ſame pretences.
THE Prince, having now grounded his authority, forms attempts upon liberty with leſs caution. As it is ſeldom the caſe that a whole nation is concerned for an injured ſubject*, the Prince [Page 63] attacks the privileges of the people by incroaching upon the rights of individuals.
If the injured parties make any expoſtulation about the violence offered them, awed by power, too feeble to conteſt with the miniſter, or unable to bear the charges of a law-ſuit; they are obliged to ſuffer the injury, and ſubmit to oppreſſion. Thus the queſtion not being determined, the outrages of the Prince paſs unrepreſſed; and, inſtead of appearing firmly in ſupport of thoſe who ſuffer in the public cauſe, the others baſely deſert them, and the unfortunate fall like victims devoted to their ill fate.
If the Prince has to do with men able to conteſt with him, he attempts to prevail over them. If his efforts prove unſucceſsful, he lets ſlip no opportunity to weary the adverſe parties by formality, adjournment, and expences; he is intent in perplexing them by cavilling at law, in order, if poſſible, to prevent the matter being finally decided.
[Page 64] If ſword and poiſon prove ineffectual, how many reſources ſtill remain? Intereſt, fear, hope, pride, prejudice, craft, ſeduction, calumny, perjury, all are in favour of the man arrayed with honours and conſtituted in power.
To defend his own rights, a private man has no reſource but to make application to a court of judicature, almoſt always preſided over, and oftentimes wholly compoſed of miniſterial tools*. Let his claim be ever ſo legal; juſtice and law, too weak againſt power and ſecret practices, are impotent ſupporters of his rights. Even thoſe who argue, generally reſtrained by fear or reſpect, are not ſo bold as to make [Page 65] good his title with ſpirit*; whilſt the counſel of the adverſe party, ſafe under the royal banners, and emboldened by favour, extenuate it, or put upon it a falſe conſtruction. Cunning is oppoſed to juſtice, ſophiſm to reaſon, falſehood to truth; no pains are wanting to ſeduce the judges in favour of tyranny. The judges themſelves, ſeduced or corrupted, run into oppreſſive vengeance; and, to gratify their intereſted views, proſtitute juſtice to power†. So that the unhappy ſufferer is almoſt always, not only deprived of redreſs, but meets with new oppreſſion, even ſometimes without having been ſuffered to offer any thing in his defence‡.
[Page 66] Thus men, fated to command, cruſh thoſe who have ſpirit enough to inform againſt arbitrary acts of power; make* ſophiſtry and clamour triumph over the moſt ſacred privileges, and raſhly complete, under the form of juſtice, the deſtruction of their enemies.
Would the evil had been circumſcribed here! But theſe acts of injuſtice ſoon produce many others: whilſt any newly injured perſon complains againſt oppreſſion, he is ironically anſwered, What do you complain of? We do you no wrong.—See the precedents. Thus outrages paſs into uſe; and, as if tyranny became lawful [Page 67] becauſe it remained unpuniſhed, they alledge antient uſurpations as ſacred prerogatives, and plead violences formerly offered to the laws, in vindication of thoſe violences which are now offered to them†.
THE people ſeldom foreſee their fate. Render their birthrights illuſive, undermine their liberty; they perceive their miſerable ſervitude only when they feel it, when they hear the names of the proſcribed, when they ſee the blood of their fellow ſubjects, or when cruſhed under the yoke, they, trembling, expect the puniſhment they are to undergo.
The ſubjects, in order to maintain their liberty, ought to watch the motions of the miniſtry with a jealous eye. Men are never ſo eaſily undone, as when they ſuſpect no danger; and too great ſecurity in a nation is almoſt always the forerunner of ſlavery.
[Page 68] But as a continual attention to public affairs is above the reach of the multitude; in a ſtate jealous of its liberty, there never ſhould be wanting ſome men to watch the tranſactions of the miniſters, unveil their ambitious projects, givean alarm at the approach of the ſtorm, rouſe the people from their lethargy, diſcloſe the abyſs open before them, and point out thoſe on whom the public indignation ought to fall. The greateſt misfortune, therefore, which can attend a free country, where the Prince is powerful and enterpriſing, is, that no party, no commotion, no faction agitate the minds of the ſubjects. All is undone, when the people are unconcerned for public affairs; on the contrary, liberty conſtantly ſprings up out of the fires of ſedition.
BUT in order that the efforts of watchful patriots may be attended with ſucceſs, great care ought to be taken, not to alarm the people cauſeleſsly;— made dupes to many falſe alarms, they become at laſt unconcerned at real dangers.
[Page 69] Great care ought to be taken likewiſe not to alarm them upon ſlight occaſions. If the grievances are not ſo apparent as to be univerſally aſſented to, there is but little hope of ſeeing them redreſſed: ſince the multitude are perſuaded by evidence alone, and by the efforts of the multitude only are the projects of tyranny confounded.
Great care ought to be taken chiefly not to incite them to the purſuit of a falſe, or even doubtful object. When the ſubjects proceed ſo far as to put themſelves in a poſture of defending their rights, it is of great concern to liberty that they be not overcome. By checks, the victory of adminiſtration is only delayed; but by checks, the people is diſheartened and abaſed.
WHEN adminiſtration is cenſured, the charges againſt it ought conſtantly to be ſupported by incontrovertible facts. If the ſubjects, in a juſt cauſe, make any inconſiderate ſtep, it ſuffices to ruin their affairs. The Prince, who at firſt trembled under the laſh of the malcontents, while they confined [Page 70] themſelves within the bounds of prudence, triumphs as ſoon as they go beyond; he complains in his turn, he proſecutes thoſe who have handled the pen; and leaving the public grievances for his private injuries, he oftentimes ſucceeds in making the people loſe ſight of the principal object. Thus the friends of liberty, who, by cautious proceedings, might have been victorious, loſe by a ſingle act of imprudence the fruit of their paſt efforts.
Of this truth we have a convincing proof before us. While the author of the North Briton contented himſelf with cenſuring the government, with diſcloſing the ſecret views of the favourite, with purſuing and proſecuting him cloſely, he kept the miniſtry in perpetual alarm, and made them tremble under the laſh of his ſpirited writings. But when he diſgraced his pen, by employing it in groſsly aſperſing the character of a certain Princeſs, inſtead of attacking arbitrary power, he furniſhed his enemies with weapons to his own deſtruction.
THE manner in which the cauſe of the public is defended, is not of little concern to liberty. When tyranny is complained of, let it be always in a grave and animated ſtile. Satirical writers attack indeed the tyrant, but not tyranny; and far from reminding him of his duty, they mortally wound his pride, they exaſperate and incenſe him the more.
Satirical ſtrokes avail not but to promote ſervitude: and although ſenſible men might look upon them not as upon exaggerated charges, they go not the leſs againſt the aim intended. For by affording fewel to public malignity*, they eaſe the people's griefs, weaken the ſenſe of their injuries, and prevent their reſentment; they make them laugh at their own misfortunes, and patiently ſuffer tyranny.
THE want of decency likewiſe prejudices the cauſe of the public. Groſs invectives indiſpoſe [Page 72] peaceable men, ſcandalize well bred men, and alienate all thoſe cool patriots, who are tied but by a thread to the cauſe of liberty.
IF it is of great concern that the public cauſe be not defended but in a ſerious ſtile, it is of no leſs concern that it be pleaded in a maſterly manner. All thoſe ſtupid writers, who ſtand forth as the champions of liberty, only prejudice it. Their languid productions do not awaken, do not perſuade, do not animate the reader; and the languor they inſpire prevents any ſpirited attempt.
IT has been ſaid, that in a ſtate jealous of its liberty, ſome men ought never to be wanting to reclaim the laws when violated by the Prince, to rouſe the people from their lethargy, to guide them in difficult caſes, and bring them back to their rights. But as [Page 73] the human mind, when too long intent upon any object, becomes weary of it; all is undone, if in exciting the patriotic zeal of the people, their ſpirits be exhauſted, and their zeal rendered extinct.
This unfortunately has happened to us in our late diſſenſions. Plagued with ſo many writings, and exhauſted by our own efforts, we are at preſent reduced to ſuch an apathy that nothing is able to fix our attention.
TO overturn the conſtitution, Princes commonly undermine it, they innovate by degrees, ſeldom in a flagrant manner. But the people are neither attentive nor ſagacious enough to obſerve thoſe innovations, nor foreſee the conſequences of them; and if they were, they have not ſpirit enough to oppoſe them. The firſt innovations, however, ought to be ſtrongly oppoſed, in order to maintain liberty. When once abuſes are grown inveterate, with the more difficulty are they reformed, they even many times admit of no remedy.
[Page 74] To maintain themſelves free, the people ought readily to eſpouſe the cauſe of any individual oppreſſed by the Prince. When ſubjects ſeparate their intereſts, they are ſubdued one after another, and liberty is undone. Far from being ready to protect the rights of others, every one muſt have ſeen his own rights many times flagrantly attacked, before he reſolves to defend them; and it is difficult to conceive how great advantage the government takes from that want of ſpirit to oppoſe its criminal attempts, and how much it concerns liberty that ſubjects be not ſo patient.
When Charles I. began to put his impure hands into the purſes of his ſubjects, or to offer them the ſhocking ſcene of a ſavage cruelty in the perſons of the unfortunate wretches who were doomed to deſtruction, had the people taken arms, marched againſt the tyrant, and condemned the miniſters of his vengeance to the ſcaffold, they never had ſo long groaned under the moſt odious oppreſſion.
Yet I would not adviſe a people to have recourſe at every inſtant to violent meaſures: but under colour of not diſturbing the public tranquillity, quiet men do not perceive that they gain nothing by their indulgence, but to be oppreſſed with more impunity; that they encourage tyranny, and that when they at [Page 75] laſt undertake to ſtop its progreſs, it often proves too late.
The ſacrilegious ambition of Princes prompts them to make attempts upon liberty; but the cowardice of the people alone permits their fetters to be forged. Ambitious as they are, Princes would be leſs enterprizing if they were always to make themſelves a way to abſolute power by force and violence. When we peruſe attentively the hiſtory of deſpotiſm, we ſometimes behold with aſtoniſhment an handful of men*, keeping in awe a whole nation. That inconſiderate moderation of the people, that timidity, that fatal propenſity to ſeparate their common intereſts, are the true cauſes of this ſurpriſing phenomenon; for where is the voice of the public, when every one continues ſilent?
WHEN the clamours of the oppreſſed ſubjects are at length excited, the Prince ſtrives to prevent the voice of the public from being heard: [Page 76] he ſends his emiſſaries every where to ſeduce the meaneſt claſs of the people, and engage them to preſent flattering addreſſes, which are artfully put in oppoſition to the juſt remonſtrances of the nation; then adding mockery to injury, he boaſts of the lenity of his government, and endeavours to make the multitude of the malcontents paſs for an handful of illminded people*.
But the better to conceal national grievances, the Prince kindly receives thoſe addreſſes which approve of his conduct, and diſtinguiſhes the bringers with particular marks of favour; whilſt thoſe who venture to preſent addreſſes in a contrary ſtile are received with evident* tokens of diſpleaſure, if they are not even denied admittance.
Not ſatisfied with diſcouraging thoſe who might have preſented diſagreeable addreſſes, the Prince ſilences the printers of news who are not devoted to him, whilſt others are allowed to publiſh daily invectives againſt the patriotic party, and beſtow encomiums on the adminiſtration.
[Page 77] If theſe meaſures do not ſucceed, the leaders of the malcontents are bribed, and engaged to extinguiſh the zeal of their own adherents†
IT is a maxim in the cabinet, that the injuries offered to the people, if they remain unredreſſed, acquire to the crown the prerogative of offering them new ones. Accordingly, when public grievances are brought before a ſupreme tribunal, the prince makes uſe of every poſſible artifice to prevent its taking cognizance of them; he attempts to divert therefrom the attention of the judges, by laying before them new objects‡, or prevails upon the preſident to diſſolve [Page 78] the aſſembly when about taking any ſpirited reſolution*.
[Page 79] If this proves not ſufficient, he removes the patriotic members by nominating them to places* which incapacitate them from having a ſeat in the ſenate; or if there be no other mean, he ſtops all proceedings by proroguing the ſeſſion.
When the Prince dares not prorogue it, from a conſideration of the adminiſtration being charged with miſdemeanors, if called to an account, he attempts to clear himſelf, endeavours to extend a veil over all his illegal tranſactions, by exempting his miniſters from appearing before any judge†.
If the Prince entertains ſome ſuſpicions of his creatures, leſt they ſhould reveal the fatal ſecret they have been truſted with, he is before-hand with them, and himſelf charges them with miſdemeanors‡.
[Page 80] If any fatal diſcovery is made, the Prince throws all the blame upon bad counſellors, and requeſts the judges to be tender of his honour. To prepare them in his favour, he affects to reform his adminiſtration*, endeavours to clear himſelf, promiſes redreſs of grievances, entreats them to confide in his word, and without ſhame of being guilty of perjury, calls God to witneſs the ſincerity of his intentions†.
After ſo many fruitleſs attempts to prevent the redreſs of public grievances, if the Prince is at laſt obliged to yield, he ſubmits; but as ſoon as he diſcovers the conſequence of his conceſſions, he endeavours to recal [Page 81] what has been done‡, and again gives ſull ſcope to his illegal proceedings.
THE ſubjects, to keep themſelves free, have no other means but watchfulneſs, ſpirit and virtue; the Prince, to ſubdue them, has ſo many means that he is embarraſſed only in his choice of them: that, however, which he moſtly makes uſe of is cunning. People are eaſily deceived in many things, and thoſe at the helm take advantage of it.
When the oppreſſed ſubjects are about taking ſome reſolution in order to oppoſe the progreſs of tyranny, they always meet with ſome obſtacle. Let them form what deſign they pleaſe, the Prince prevents the execution of it immediately. Let them entreat the redreſs of grievances, their petitions are fruitleſs; the Prince alledges his ſcruples, refuſes to comply, and oftentimes returns mockery to their complaints; he anſwers, "That he is always ready to hear the grievances of his ſubjects; that he is never ſo much concerned as about the well-being of his people," and diſmiſſes them with fair words.
If the ſubjects perſiſt in their reſolution, the Prince perſiſts in his conduct. Ever applying their minds to [Page 83] the maxims of a fraudulent policy, thoſe at the helm learn the art of not being diſheartened by difficulties, of taking advantage of the weakneſs of men, of cajolling into acquieſcence the eaſy multitude; and as it is their method, when they mean to prevail over the people, to promiſe them every thing, with a view of performing none; whilſt the malcontents are earneſt in their requeſt, the Prince amuſes their credulity with fair promiſes, and without any ſhame of breaking his word, repeats this mean artifice.
In the time of la Fronde, public ſafety having been attacked by many arbitrary exiles and impriſonments, the parliament of Paris at laſt obtained from the king a law* for ſecuring the liberty of the ſubject; but ſoon after this law was infringed in the perſon of Chavigni. When the parliament remonſtrated againſt this infraction, they were anſwered by the Queen Regent, "That the impriſonment complained of ought to deter no body, that ſhe paſſed her word for public ſafety, and that her word would be inviolable." She broke, however, that inviolable word not long after, in reſpect to the Princes of Condé and Conti. The parliament remonſtrated again, and again the Regent [Page 84] aſſured them, "That for the future the law ſhould be ſtrictly obſerved *." Thus Princes mock the people.
If incenſed at ſo many falſe promiſes, and weary with ſeeing their hopes ſo many times baffled, the malcontents exclaim loudly for juſtice, the Prince even then attempts to delay; he ſends them deputies to amuſe them, he ſtops the provoked multitude, diverts their fury, or cools it by vain conſultations, till the moment when he can without danger encounter them†.
If he is forced to treat, he at firſt makes them ſuch offers as he knows will be rejected, next he makes propoſals more reaſonable but expreſſed in a vague manner, calculated to conceal his duplicity, and which binding him to no particular obligations, leaves him always maſter of the terms of accommodation; or he adds to clear conceſſions ſome obſcure clauſe which renders them void, if falſe engagements rather are not taken.
Alarmed at the ſeceſſion of the people to the Sacred Mount, the Senate of Rome ſeeing themſelves obliged [Page 85] to treat, made it their only buſineſs to ſtipulate in a vague manner the rights of the tribunes who had been juſt elected, in order to make no grant to the Plebeians, or rather to ſecure a pretence for recovering their grants at more favourable junctures.
In 1641, Charles I. wanting to find, for the legiſlative body, employment of ſuch conſequence as ſhould engroſs their whole attention, and make the people believe he was willing to conſent to whatever ſhould be productive of a perfect reconciliation between him and his parliament, whilſt he was making preparations to vindicate his own terms, ſent them the following meſſage: "That they would with all ſpeed fall into conſideration of all thoſe particulars which they ſhould hold neceſſary, as well for the upholding and maintaining his Majeſty's juſt and regal authority, and for the ſettling his revenues, as for the preſent and future eſtabliſhment of their privileges, the free and quiet enjoying their eſtates and fortunes, the liberty of their perſons, the ſecurity of the true religion now profeſſed in the Church of England, and the ſettling of ceremonies in ſuch a manner as ſhould take away all juſt cauſe of offence. Which when they had digeſted and compoſed into one entire body, that ſo his Majeſty and themſelves might be able to make the more clear judgment on them, it ſhould [Page 86] then appear, by what his Majeſty ſhould do, how far he had been from intending and deſigning any of thoſe things which the too great fears and jealouſies of ſome perſons apprehended, and how ready he would be to exceed the greateſt examples of the moſt indulgent Princes in their acts of grace and favour to their people*."
In the inſurrection of 1647 at Naples, as the people entreated the delivery of the charter of their privileges, the Viceroy, ſolely intent on diſſipating the impending ſtorm, ordered a copy of it to be forged, which he tendered for the original†.
To the fury of the inſurgents empty ſounds only are oftentimes oppoſed. Some men, ſkilled in the art of ſeducing the people, preach to them, and the eaſy multitude yielding to fair words, become the ſport of a few florid orators.
Weary of the oppreſſion of the Senate, the Roman people had juſt abandoned their Lares to go in ſearch of an aſylum far from their cruel country, when Menennius Agrippa, by command of the ſenate, goes to the malcontents on the Sacred Mount, delivers [Page 87] them a tale, and brings them back to their native city*.
Conſidering the eſteem of the public for their leaders as deſtructive of his projects, mercenary ſcribblers are engaged for attempting to vindicate the proceedings of adminiſtration, for aſperſing popular men, and defaming thoſe who are ſo ſpirited as to oppoſe the villainous attempts of power. A proſtituted multitude are directed to go from place to place to ſpread rumours calculated to excite the people to entertain ſuſpicions of the popular leaders, and ruin the confidence of the public towards them†.
As Manlius incited the Romans to ſet themſelves free from the tyranny of the Senate, the Senators had him apprehended; but being obliged to ſet him at [Page 88] liberty in order to ſuppreſs the ſedition, they laboured to make him appear odious to the people. Accordingly they charged him with aſpiring to royalty, they raiſed him ſeveral accuſers from among the populace, and thus turned his adherents into judges and enemies*.
During the minority of Louis XIV. as the parliament of Paris exclaimed aloud againſt the odious exactions made on the ſubjects; with a view of engaging the magiſtrates to defend for the future their own intereſts only, and thus to diſgrace and ruin themſelves in the minds of the people, the Regent encroached upon their rights, by appropriating to government for a while their ſalaries†.
When Barnavelt ſet himſelf againſt Maurice of Naſſau, who attempted to aſſume a monarchic power over Holland, Maurice cauſed him to be charged with being the head of the Arminians; and under that pretence had him dragged into a priſon by his ungrateful fellow citizens, and thence to a ſcaffold.
Another extraordinary artifice ſometimes made uſe of by Princes, in order to confound the deſigns of the ſubjects, is the ſetting againſt popular leaders ſome [Page 89] corrupted men, who, by going much beyond the requeſt of the leaders, labour to make them appear endowed with but little patriotic zeal.
With a view of delivering the people from the oppreſſion of the Nobles, the Tribune C. Gracchus propoſed a law advantageous to the plebeians; but the Senate abſtained with great care from any oppoſition; on the contrary, they engaged L. Druſus to go beyond the requeſt of his colleague, and to publiſh, in the mean while, that Caius was only the tool of the Senate. Deceived by ſuch artifice, the Romans were at a loſs to know which they ought to adhere to, and thus had their hands tied by that falſe protector*.
THE Prince has a thouſand means for attacking liberty, the ſubjects but few for defending it; and it is not eaſy to imagine how narrow is the way whereon they can walk with ſafety. Whilſt he commits with impunity ſo many outrages upon the laws; they, on the contrary, are ruined by the leaſt fault. If the people ſhow themſelves but little reſolute, they are inſulted without pity. If they give proofs of great reſolution, they are provoked beyond the [Page 90] bounds of prudence. If they paſs over thoſe bounds, they are attacked even in their very intrenchments. The Prince in his turn vents complaints; he has recourſe to the courts of juſtice, drags before them thoſe malcontents, who prove the moſt audacious, and cries for vengeance.
When the Prince foreſees that he will be overpowered, he ſometimes feigns to lay down arms, he expreſſes much concern for the public diſtractions, makes a ſhew of diſintereſtedneſs, demands leave to reſign; and oftentimes the eaſy multitude, deceived by this act of hypocriſy, yield to their generous emotions. The Prince being then entreated to continue to hold the [Page 91] reins of empire, at firſt wavers, affects reluctance, aſks time to conſider it, then accepts upon certain terms, and at laſt lays new chains upon the people or adds to their former ones.
IF, when the people loudly reclaim their rights, the Prince has been obliged to make ſome conceſſion in order to diſperſe the ſtorm, he no ſooner diſcovers a favourable turn to his affairs, but he begins to alter his tone, he complains that his juſtice, his religion, and his conſcience have been impoſed upon, he refuſes to fulfil his engagements, and, though the ſubjects are evidently in the right, he attempts to recall affairs into diſpute. In proportion as his party increaſes or diminiſhes, he ſays Yes or No, and without ſhame, without ſcruple, without remorſe, acts that part, till his projects are ſecured.
The French adminiſtration, ſeeing the bad ſtate of the finances, the alienations, even the mortgaging of the crown-lands, was reduced during the diſturbances of la Fronde, to have recourſe to new ways of oppreſſion: but as the people refuſed to pay the taxes, as the provinces were ready to riſe, as the confederates, for want of money, were on the point of breaking [Page 92] off, as the enemy threatened the borders, and the regal army was in want of every thing, the regency entreated the parliament of Paris, that had complained loudly of the late vexations, to conſider the times, and reſolve on the means of providing for the neceſſities of the government. In ſuch junctures the parliament ſtipulated ſomething in favour of public liberty. But no ſooner had the news of the victory of Lens reached the Court, but the regency broke their engagements, and thought only of being revenged of thoſe members of the parliament who were the moſt popular*.
After the Scots had revolted againſt the oppreſſive government of Charles I. they ſent him, at York, a petition for redreſs of grievances, to which the king anſwered, "That he required the petitioners to expreſs the particulars of their deſires, he having been always ready to redreſs their grievances." But in the mean while he was ſtudious to make a trial of the affection of the Yorkſhire gentlemen, he endeavoured to incenſe them, by falſe inſinuations, againſt the Scots, and attempted to call together the lords of England in order to obtain a ſubſidy. Obliged finally to treat, he ordered his commiſſioners not to ſtipulate [Page 93] any important article, he waſted the time in long preliminaries, demanded that both armies ſhould be diſbanded, or at leaſt reduced, kept ſecret intelligence with the enemy's party by means of the traiterous Montroſe, and concluded not till reduced to the laſt extremity. His perfidious duplicity did not end here. Scarcely had the parliament of England met, but Charles entreated them to declare themſelves againſt the Scots; he ſolemnly aſſured them, that he was reſolved to gain the affection of his Engliſh ſubjects, and promiſed redreſs of national grievances. In fine, all his meaſures proving abortive, he returned to the Scots, laboured to bribe the army, to draw them to London, in order to ſeize the Tower and make themſelves maſters of the parliament*.
James II. alarmed at the deſigns of the Prince of Orange, attempted a reconciliation with the Church of England. In a proclamation, he invited his ſubjects to lay aſide all prejudices, jealouſies and animoſities; and, in order to regain their affections, he reſtored the biſhop of London to his ſee, and returned to this city the charter of its privileges. In proportion as his fears increaſed, he took, with reluctancy, ſome other ſteps towards the redreſs of grievances, he diſſolved the High Commiſſion Court, ordered the [Page 94] biſhop of Wincheſter to reſtore Magdalen college according to its ſtatutes, commanded the lord lieutenants of the ſeveral counties to inform of the abuſes committed on the late regulation of corporations, reſtored to corporations their ancient charters; Popiſh juſtices of peace, mayors, recorders, and other magiſtrates were removed, and Proſteſtants put in their places. Thus actuated by neceſſity, he deſtroyed with his own hands the work which himſelf had raiſed, a reform which continued no longer than his danger. Upon the news of the diſperſion of the Prince's fleet by a tempeſt, he revoked ſome of his acts of grace granted to his ſubjects. The biſhop of Wincheſter was recalled on ſome frivolous pretence, and the reſtoration of the college deferred. When the Dutch army had landed, the King, having great confidence in the ſuperiority of his own forces, upon hearing that the city of London were preparing to addreſs him for an accommodation with the Prince of Orange, declared publicly, that he would look upon all thoſe as his enemies, who ſhould pretend to give him ſuch advice. But the Prince's troops being joined by a multitude of ſubjects, and ſome lords petitioning him to call a free parliament, he returned anſwer, "That he moſt paſſionately deſired what they aſked, and promiſed, upon the faith of a king, that he would [Page 95] have a parliament, and ſuch a one as they aſked for, as ſoon as ever the Prince of Orange had quitted this realm." He then publiſhed a proclamation for calling a free parliament; but repenting his reſolution, he cauſed the writs that were to be iſſued to be burnt, and imagining that it would not be poſſible to call a lawful parliament without his concurrence, he threw the great ſeal into the Thames, that nothing might be done legally in his abſence, then left his dominions to go and implore foreign aſſiſtance againſt his people*.
If Princes prepare themſelves to ſubdue their ſubjects by force, they complain of being obliged to have recourſe to violence, as if they had at heart only the welfare of the people: then, to get time for ſecuring their projects, they propoſe ſome ways of accommodation†.
[Page 96] But when once they are conſcious of their ſuperiority, they aſſume the imperious tone of maſters, they have in their mouths only the words—duty and paſſive obedience, they require that the people ſhould confide in their promiſes, and yield without terms, never willing to allow them to be free, but at their pleaſure*.
If they meet with oppoſition, they order troops to inforce obedience to their tyrannical laws, and but too often exert ſevere revenge on their unhappy ſubjects†.
The Queen Regent, having ſo many times violated public faith by breaking her word, reſolved to be revenged on the Frondeurs, by entirely overturning their city. But in order not to be involved in the ſtorm ſhe had gathered, the court left Paris. Twenty-five thouſand men were ordered to block up that city, and every term of accommodation was refuſed‡.
[Page 97] In the revolt of 1647 at Naples, the viceroy availing himſelf of the treaty concluded with Thomaſo Aniello, artfully took out of the hands of the people the ammunition and proviſions neceſſary for ſupplying the caſtles; then, inſtead of the confirmation of the treaty agreed on, he got from Spain a body of troops, and, in concert with Don John of Auſtria, on a ſudden aſſaulted the Neapolitans, and entered their city, carrying every where fire and ſword*.
Philip IV. having waſted the immenſe treaſures of India, in order to carry on the bloody war he had kindled, alienated part of his dominions, and exhauſted Caſtile; as the Catalans refuſed to ſubmit to his exactions, under pretence that they were uſeleſs to the crown, he demanded vaſt ſums of them. Incenſed at ſuch a violation of their privileges, ſome of their repreſentatives had reſolution enough to preſent a ſpirited addreſs to the king; but they were immediately arreſted. Upon the arrival of the news of their impriſonment, the inhabitants of Barcelona took arms, excited an inſurrection in the other parts of the kingdom, and put ſome Caſtilians to the ſword. Then breathing only revenge, Philip commanded a numerous body of troops into Catalonia, with orders to burn down the houſes, to root up the trees, to burtcher [Page 98] all men upwards of fifteen years of age, to mark women with an hot iron on both cheeks: and theſe cruel orders were executed with the moſt ſhocking barbarity*.
It is ignorance which, concealing from them the ambitious deſigns, the ſecret practices, the low artifices of Princes, prevents them from obviating tyranny, from ſtopping the progreſs of lawleſs power, and ruining it entirely.
In order to ſubdue his ſubjects, the Prince labours to blind them. Conſcious of the unlawfulneſs of his own deſigns, and ſenſible of what he has to fear from clear-ſighted men, he endeavours to deprive the people of every means of acquiring knowledge.
How many crafty devices have not Princes employed to oppoſe the progreſs of learning? Some baniſh ſcience out of their dominions; others prohibit their ſubjects from travelling into* foreign countries; others again divert the people from reflecting, by continually [Page 100] entertaining them† with feaſts and ſhews, or keeping up among them the ſpirit of gaming† and all ſtand up againſt men of ſpirit, who dedicate either their voice or their pen to defend the cauſe of liberty.
When Princes cannot reſtrain the people from freely ſpeaking or writing, they oppoſe error to truth. If any exclaim againſt their outrageous enterprizes, they at firſt endeavour to bribe the clamorous patriots, and to extinguiſh their zeal by gifts, but chiefly by promiſes.
If the virtue of the patriots be incorruptible, they oppoſe to them proſtituted ſcribblers, who, ever ready to vindicate tyranny, abuſe, from their obſcure cells, the friends of liberty, exert all their malice in blackening the views of the ſupporters of the rights of the people, and cauſing them to be looked upon as diſturbers of the public tranquillity.
To ſilence the malcontents is indeed to prevent the people from awaking out of their lethargy; [Page 101] but the chief point is to remove the means of extending the complaints, by ſuppreſſing all correſpondence between the ſeveral parts of the ſtate: Princes accordingly labour to reſtrain the liberty of the preſs.
When a book contains very ſtriking notions reſpecting the rights of the people, any bold reflections on the bounds of the regal power, ſome violent ſtrokes againſt tyranny, they immediately prohibit the reading or ſelling of it, under pretence that it contains pernicious maxims againſt religion and good manners*.
They riſe up againſt all writings calculated to keep up the ſpirit of liberty, and denominate libels all performances wherein is attempted to diſcloſe the myſteries of adminiſtration, and under colour of [Page 102] repreſſing licentiouſneſs*, proſecute authors of ſpirit. They go farther: in order to keep the people in ignorance, and to leave no way open to important truths, they appoint inſpectors, cenſors, reviſors, licenſers of the preſs;—thoſe baſe Arguſes who conſtantly guard tyranny.
When any writings againſt their oppreſſive government appear in foreign countries, Princes cauſe the edition of them† to be ſuppreſſed, and let no book be expoſed to ſale in their dominions‡, unleſs it has been previouſly examined by their creatures.
[Page 104] Hiſtory ought to celebrate only the moderation of Princes, their wiſdom, their ſteadineſs in enforcing obedience to the laws, zeal in promoting public happineſs, and tenderneſs for the people; but it celebrates almoſt always only their magnificent follies, their villainous attempts and their outrages. Hiſtory ought to beſtow encomiums on thoſe Princes alone who are ſtudious of governing the people in peace; but it ſeldom applauds any but Princes ſkilled in the art of deſolating the world.
Abaſed by fear, ſeduced by hope, or corrupted by avarice, thoſe who write hiſtory inculcate no averſion to abſolute power, excite in us no horror againſt tyranny; they expatiate on the undertakings of a prince, when great or bold, however pernicious they be to the welfare of mankind, and however wickedly ſupported; they beſtow encomiums on deeds for which the voice of all ages ſhould brand with infamy the names of the authors, and baſely inſinuate the maxims of ſlavery†.
[Page 105] When they treat of governments, they declaim againſt the popular and extol the monarchical. They repreſent the people in a democracy, as being ever ready to yield to the ſeditious ſpeeches of orators earneſt in deceiving them for private views, and the ſtate as a ſhip without anchor on a ſtormy ſea, continually toſſed by contrary winds; whilſt they compare the ſubjects of a powerful monarch, as a numerous family, which reſts happy under the wings of a good father.
When it ſo happens that a province ſhakes off the yoke, they term the inhabitants, rebels, or revolted ſlaves, who ought to be again put into fetters. They deſcribe the ſpirited efforts of a people againſt oppreſſion as a rebellion, a guilty revolt, and the friends of liberty as perturbators of the public peace; they wreſt the views of good patriots, blaſt their reputation, and brand their memory inſtead of reſpecting their virtues*.
If a bad Prince is informed againſt by a virtuous miniſter, according to them, he is an unfortunate maſter, betrayed by a perfidious ſervant †.
[Page 106] But on the Prince whoſe actions they record they always beſtow exaggerated praiſes; they emphatically ſpeak of his little deſerts, extol his pretended penetration, his concern for the glory of the ſtate, and his liberalities; they account a conqueſt as a very fortunate event, and deſcribe it as the greateſt epoch of his reign. Whilſt writing the hiſtory of a great villain, although from the mere force of truth, they make now and then ſome diſagreeable conceſſions; they ever ſpeak ſo faintly of his defects, they ſo greatly palliate his vices, ſo artfully extenuate his criminal attempts, that from their deſcriptions no one can diſtinguiſh the tyrant who ſo much diſgraced human nature.
The miſeries of the people, during any fatal reign, they generally attribute, not to the follies or outrages of thoſe who command, but to the irreſiſtible influence of deſtiny*.
They never give to things the real names. They term the art of governing, that of ſpreading every where terror and deſolation; they call magnificence pageantry and odious prodigality; they cover uſurpations [Page 107] under the fair names of extenſion of power, addition of privileges, and new prerogatives acquired by the crown; extortions, rapacity, robberies, under that of conqueſt; craft, duplicity, treachery, perfidiouſneſs, treaſon, under that of the art of negociating; and outrages, murders, poiſoning, under that of acts of great policy. Thus they ſucceed in deſtroying that impreſſion of horror, which the bare ſight of thoſe actions ever excites in the ſpectator.
But as if the falſe pictures offered in hiſtory were not ſufficient, there is every where a multitude of writers who, actuated by their baſe paſſions, are ever ready to vindicate tyranny. Authors in their dedications, poets in their verſes, orators in their ſpeeches, every one with emulation baſely offers his incenſe; they give Princes the moſt flattering appellations, they call them fathers of the people, benefactors of mankind, the glory of the age, and we are ſo ſilly as to credit them.
It is not my deſign here to unveil the groſs impoſtures of thoſe writers, it is ſufficiently obvious to readers not prepoſſeſſed; but I ſhall offer a few words on their ignorance or inſincerity in thoſe very encomiums, which even men of ſenſe have credited.
Popular government is repreſented by penſioned ſophiſts as ever ſtormy and unſettled. A people is reſtleſs [Page 108] and ſeditious only when leading an idle life, as the Greeks and Romans did; becauſe, for want of private affairs, men are then always prompted to meddle with matters of ſtate: but men, wholly engaged in private employments, are unfortunately already but too much unconcerned about the affairs of adminiſtration.
Beſides, theſe diſturbances ariſe leſs from a popular conſtitution than from its corruption; for if the people are generally inconſiderate, if they oftentimes engage themſelves in falſe ſteps, and ſometimes eagerly purſue their miſery, they are likewiſe, when not bribed, always ready to yield to men whoſe virtue and judgment they reſpect. It is the fault of the conſtitution if ſuch men are not conſtantly ſet at the helm, if ſubjects are deprived of the means of being acquainted with their true intereſts, and if any individual is permitted to be powerful enough to bribe a multitude.
We are told of the frequent factions, ſeditions, and rebellions, in popular governments; but has a people [Page 109] ever took arms but to ſecure their liberty, to oppoſe the pernicious deſigns of ambitious men, and to free themſelves from oppreſſion?
We are terrified at public diſſenſions. From the fires of diſcord, however, all thoſe laws, which were made formerly at Rome in favour of liberty, took their origin; and from the fires of diſcord liberty has ariſen among us.
Men are too eaſily impoſed upon by the noiſe of civil diſcords. During the long diſturbances which agitated Rome from the Tarquins to the Gracchi, there were but few baniſhments, but few impriſonments, and almoſt no blood ſhed; but from thoſe tranquil reigns, which are ſo much boaſted of, let as long a period leſs fertile in tragic ſcenes be pointed out; how many were incomparably more ſo! What miſchiefs were ever cauſed at Rome by the diſſenſions of the Forum, to be compared with the horrors of the calm reigns of Tiberius, Nero, Caligula? What evils were ever ſuffered by any people under popular government, to be compared with thoſe we ſuffered under Henry VII. Mary, Charles I. and James II. And that ſo much extolled calm of monarchical ſtates, what is it, but the ſad ſilence of an unfortunate people, who dare not vent their griefs?
Conqueſts are ever repreſented as the moſt happy events in a reign. But not to ſpeak of thoſe acts of violence and injuſtice which are inſeparable therefrom, what generally are conqueſts, but the ruin of nations, even of conquerors themſelves? How dear the conqueſt of a new province to the ancient ones? If the pride of a monarch is ſometimes indulged by the glory of being accounted a conqueror, how much is the well-being of the ſubjects leſſened thereby! Let the benefits that a ſtate receives from that vain glory be put in compariſon with the evils it is productive of.
What did the ambition of a Charles V. avail, but to deſolate Europe, to ruin his ſubjects, to ſee the conquered provinces wreſted from his hands, and to force him at laſt to bury in a monaſtery his grief and ſhame?
What the ambition of a Philip II. but to kindle war every where, to ſhed torrents of the blood of his ſubjects, to cauſe the ocean to ſwallow up his numerous fleets, to allow no reſt to his people, to ſquander the immenſe treaſures of Spain and India, to ruin his extenſive dominions, and to bury with himſelf the eclat of his crown.
[Page 111] What the ambition of a Charles XII. but to carry terror over Europe, to enlarge his empire, to loſe in a few hours the fruits of nine years victories, and to abandon his own dominions to the ſword of the enemy?
Writers emphatically praiſe the magnificence and liberalities of monarchs; why not rather cenſure thoſe odious prodigalities, which in order that pageantry be diſplayed, and that a few individuals may abound in riches, oblige the greateſt part of the nation to live ſparingly, or linger in miſery. But even were the people the conſtant objects of royal munificence, how is it poſſible to give them much without taking much more from them?
That which is gained with difficulty and labour, or deducted from conveniency and neceſſity, when given with diſcernment; that alone, I ſay, is to be [Page 112] accounted a valuable gift. But let Princes be ever ſo much laviſh of their favours, are they the leſs at eaſe for it? Do they repoſe the leſs on the pillows of luxury? Are they the leſs clad with purple? Is their table the leſs delicate? Are their palaces the leſs magnificent? their groves the leſs voluptuous?
When an hungry ſcribbler gets a penſion, all is well; but the oppreſſed multitude groan in ſilence: and whilſt the ſighs of the unhappy ſufferers remain incloſed within the walls of their wretched habitations, the praiſes given to bad Princes by proſtituted ſycophants fly through every climate on the wings of Fame.
Opinion, reflecting the Stoick within himſelf, ſurrounds his heart with ice, prevents it from palpitating with joy amidſt pleaſures, from being moved to pity at the hearing of doleful cries, from ſhaking for fear among dangers; it concenters all his paſſions in pride, and, confirming him in his paſſive virtue, cauſes him to live without ties, and die without weakneſs.
If we turn our ſight upon antiquity, we ſhall every where ſee the Prince labouring to make the ſubjects look upon himſelf as upon a favourite of Heaven. Zoroaſter publiſhed his law under the name of Oromaſis; Triſmegiſtes, under that of Mercury; Minos made uſe of the name of Jupiter; Lycurgus that of Apollo; Numa that of Egeria, &c. &c.
[Page 114] Every polity has ſome Deity at its head, and how many times has a ridiculous reſpect for the Gods again plunged the people into ſlavery*?
In order to re-enter the citadel of Athens, whence he had been expelled, Piſiſtrates dreſſed a woman like Minerva, then mounted on a chariot with that goddeſs of his own making, he traverſed the city, whilſt ſhe, holding him by the hand, cried aloud to the people, "Here is Piſiſtrates; I bring him back to you, and I command you to receive him:" hearing theſe words, the Athenians again ſubmitted to the tyrant.
Ambitious, timid, or ignorant prieſts, cauſe Princes to be looked upon as the repreſentatives of Deity on the earth, at whoſe feet other men ought to proſtrate themſelves in ſilence; then confounding obedience to the laws with obedience to arbitrary mandates, they continually preach in the name of the Gods paſſive ſubmiſſion and ſervitude.
Inſtead of being connected with the political ſyſtem, the Chriſtian religion is univerſal in its principle; it has nothing excluſive, nothing more peculiar to any country than to another; it embraces equally all mankind in its charity, takes away the bar which ſeparates nations, and unites all Chriſtians in a fraternity.—Such is the true ſpirit of the goſpel.
Liberty depends on the love of the patria; but the reign of Chriſtians is not of this world; their patria is in heaven, and to them earth is a place of pilgrimage only. How then can a people, longing but for things above, be concerned for things below?
All human inſtitutions are grounded on human paſſions, and ſupported by them only; the love of liberty is united to that of well-being, to that of temporal enjoyments: but the Chriſtian doctrine inſpires us with an averſion for thoſe enjoyments, and is continually combating our terreſtrial inclinations. Wholly engroſſed by another life, men are but little concerned about this.
To maintain themſelves free, the people muſt have an eye ever upon government; they muſt watch all [Page 116] its motions, oppoſe all its illegal attempts, and curb its audacity. How can men, whom religion prohibits being ſuſpicious, be thus watchful; how can they put a ſtop to the ſecret practices of the enemies to liberty, how detect them, how even ſuppoſe that ſuch men exiſt? Without ſuſpicion, without cunning, without wrath, without reſentment, a true chriſtian is at the diſcretion of the firſt who forms an attempt upon him.
The ſpirit of the goſpel is a ſpirit of lenity, of charity*, of peace; its diſciples are full of patience [Page 117] and love for their enemies. When ſtruck on one cheek, they muſt offer the other; when ſtripped of their gown, they muſt give their cloak beſides; when forced to march a league, they muſt march two; when perſecuted, they muſt bleſs their perſecutors: they are not allowed even to protect their own lives. Dragged to the altar of death, they have tears only to oppoſe to their tyrant. Ever reſigned, they ſuffer in ſilence, they melt into compaſſion for their enemies, and pray for their executioner. Patience, tears, prayers, bleſſings, are their only arms, and whatever is attempted againſt them, they never diſgrace themſelves with revenge; they groan, and humble themſelves under the hand which ſtrikes them. How then would they take up arms againſt the diſturbers of public peace, how combat the uſurpers of their own rights, how repel by force the enemies of liberty, how ſpill their blood for the ſake of their country? To ſo many diſpoſitions contrary to thoſe of a good patriot, add the expreſs command of obeying the ſupreme powers, good or bad, as being eſtabliſhed by God *
"NOTHING is more neceſſary to a King, than being religious, ſays Ariſtotle in his Politics, for the ſubjects approve of every thing as being juſt, which is ordered by a godly Prince, and the malcontents are not ſo bold as to attempt upon one, whom they believe to be under the protection of the Gods." Accordingly moſt Princes endeavour to be accounted pious.
From a deſire of regaining the affection of his people, Henry II. affected an extreme devotion to the aſhes of Becket, whom he had perſecuted: and victory, crowning ſoon after his arms againſt the Scots, cauſed this Prince to be looked upon as a favourite of Heaven, and the audacity of oppoſing him, to be conſidered as a ſacrilege*
BUT as if it did not ſuffice, that the ſubjects ſhould learn from the Goſpel to kiſs the rod of power with devotion, in order to render them more ſervile from principle, there is a confederacy between prieſts and Princes. Theſe borrow the tongue of the divine, to ſubject the people to deſpotiſm: the others borrow the arm of the magiſtrate, to ſubject them to ſuperſtition.
In 1622, orders were given by James I. "That no preacher, of what title or denomination ſoever, from henceforth ſhould preſume in any auditory within this kingdom, to declare, limit or bound out by way of poſitive doctrine, the power, prerogative, and juriſdiction of ſovereigns, or otherwiſe meddle with matters of ſtate, and the differences between Princes and the people, than as they are inſtructed by precedents in the homilies of obedience."
[Page 120] In order to render his authority abſolute in Scotland, Charles I. reſtored epiſcopacy; and by his command, prieſts publiſhed ſeveral canons containing ſuperſtitious and arbitrary matter; among which ſome aſſerted "That the king's power and prerogative were in every thing equal to thoſe of the Jewiſh kings, abſolute and unlimited; that no one ſhould teach ſchools without a licence from the biſhop of the dioceſe, and that no perſon ſhould be admitted into holy orders, or perform any eccleſiaſtical function, without firſt ſubſcribing theſe canons."
Any word or writing which tended towards ſchiſm was puniſhed by the Commiſſioners. Theſe inquiſitors were not limited to proceed by legal information; rumour, and ſuſpicions were ſufficient grounds. To the party cited before them they adminiſtered an oath by which they were bound to anſwer any queſtion that ſhould be propoſed to them, and a refuſal was puniſhed with impriſonment.
When deſpotiſm eſtabliſhes itſelf by ſlow ſteps, the longer it is eſtabliſhed, the leſs it is felt: it at laſt arrives, however, to ſuch a degree as to force the people to open their eyes. Whenever the Prince audaciouſly attacks rights ſacred to all* mankind; whenever he tramples under foot the objects of public veneration, or exhibits too frequently ſcenes of blood, the minds of men are affected with indignation, ſighs are changed into complaints, a refractory ſpirit prevails among perſons of all ranks, confuſion begins to reign, and murmurs, clamours, and ſeditious ſpeeches are to be heard every where. Then the authority of government every inſtant diminiſhes, its orders are diſregarded, in theſe moments of confuſion no act ſeems illicit, and the Prince in appearance retains a [Page 122] vain title only. But how many means ſtill remain to ſupport his overgrown power?
If the ſubjects, driven to deſpair, at length take a tragic reſolution, it ſeldom avails but to expoſe them. Whilſt the inſurgents loudly crave juſtice, the Prince in his turn vents his complaints againſt them, ſends them deputies, magiſtrates, ſatellites, has the moſt audacious apprehended, treats them as diſturbers of the public peace, and oftentimes the diſorder is hereby ſuppreſſed.
The efforts made by the people for ſecuring their liberty are commonly fruitleſs†. When the violent ſymptoms of univerſal diſſatisfaction break out, unleſs the inſurgents be headed by ſome great perſonage, unleſs the meaſures of an unruly and fluctuating multitude be planned by wiſe men, and carried into execution by ſpirited and audacious ones, the inſurrection inſtead of being a revolt, is but a ſedition—ever eaſily ſuppreſſed, and ever unſucceſsful.
[Page 123] But the engaging as a leader of the inſurgents is dangerous; to head a faction is to draw upon oneſelf all the ſtorm; and the uncertainty of the ſucceſs or the apprehenſions of a miſcarriage, always reſtrain the moſt reſolute*.
Beſides, how difficult oftentimes to excite a people to take up arms! When Manlius endeavoured to free the Romans from the oppreſſion of the ſenate, full of zeal as long as danger was remote, they diſplayed the greateſt audacity; but no ſooner was Manlius apprehended and brought before the dictator, but they loſt all reſolution. In vain did this unfortunate leader entreat their aſſiſtance; neither the ſight of thoſe wounds he had received for the ſake of their country, neither the view of the capitol he had delivered, neither reverence for thoſe temples which he had prevented being prophaned, nor piety for the gods, moved them; they remained inactive ſpectators, and beheld calmly their chief dragged into a dungeon.
[Page 124] When the Sicilians, weary of groaning under the oppreſſive domination of the viceroy Los Velos, had revolted; the inhabitants of Palermo placed at their head one Alexis; but terrified by the warlike preparations of Spain, they baſely attempted to purchaſe their pardon by murdering their captain.
On the day of the firſt Barricades, as the populace flocked together to ſurround the hotel of the preſident Molé,—a traitor to his country, and prepared to break open his doors; Molé himſelf immediately had them opened, and without emotion appeared before the inſurgents. Amazed at this bold ſtep, they retired without noiſe, and ſuffered themſelves to be diſarmed*.
When ſubjects prove ſo little reſolute, the Prince diſregards their clamours, or rather ſilences their complaints by perſiſting in the ſame conduct which raiſed them; and their reſentment exhales in vain murmurs.
But ſuppoſe the ſubjects want not reſolution, their riſing avails little, unleſs it be general. When a city takes arms to defend its privileges, if its example is not followed by the reſt of the nation, mercenary [Page 125] troops ſubdue it, the Prince treats the inhabitants as rebels, and they feel their yoke lay heavier upon them*.
Notwithſtanding the inſurrection be general, yet how ſeldom is there any union between the ſubjects? Commonly the people is divided into many parties, and this want of union is one of the greateſt reſources of tyranny. The Prince then counterballances the reſpective forces of the different parties by each other, he equally avails himſelf of their weakneſs and jealouſies, and cruſhes them with their own hands.
When the repreſentatives of the people of Venice uſurped the ſupreme authority, as the moſt powerful families were divided between empire and ſervitude, and this uſurpation had raiſed a ſpirit of univerſal diſſatisfaction, to diſunite the malcontents, the uſurpers [Page 126] opened anew the door of the council to ſeveral families that had been ſhut out, reſtrained many others by hope, and then audaciouſly faced the reſt.
When the Caſtilians took arms to vindicate their rights violated by their deputies in the Cortes aſſembled in Gallicia, and to obtain ſatisfaction for the outrages committed by the Flemiſh miniſters, Charles V. with a view of dividing the malcontents, iſſued circular letters to all the cities of Caſtile that had revolted, exhorting them in moſt gentle terms to lay down their arms, publiſhed a general amneſty, promiſed ſuch cities as had continued faithful, or ſhould return to obedience, not to exact from them the ſubſidy granted in the late Cortes, and engaged that no office of government ſhould be conferred for the future upon foreigners. On the other hand, he wrote to the nobles, exciting them to appear with vigour in defence of their own rights, againſt the exorbitant claims of the people, and inſtigating them, by a mean jealouſy of that ſpirit of independance which they ſaw riſing among the commons, to vindicate the prerogative of the crown*.
In the Commotions of la Fronde, Mazarine managed for the king, by his intrigues with the marſhall d'Aumont, the party of the great army, and [Page 127] engaged them to depute the earl of Quincé to aſſure his Majeſty, in the name of all the officers, of their devotion to his commands*.
If the intrigues of the cabinet to ſet the malcontents at variance prove fruitleſs; the meaſures fixed upon by the malcontents themſelves to ſecure their liberties, oftentimes produce the deſired effect. For although the ſubjects be all united againſt tyranny, all have not the ſame views. Every claſs among them has peculiar claims, the ſeveral provinces, even the towns of the ſame province have peculiar intereſts. And all theſe different pretenſions are ſo many ſources of diſcord†.
Subjects, though united againſt tyranny, agree very ſeldom in the choice of a chief; but what is more ſurpriſing, that which ought to render them unanimous, ſerves oftentimes to ſet them at variance; and this want of harmony ever ruins the intereſts of the people‡.
If they prove incorruptible, the Prince endeavours to have them delivered up to him, or labours to ſeduce their adherents; and how many times have inſurgents attempted to obtain pardon, or regain favour, with the head of their chief in their hands?
If theſe meaſures are fruitleſs, Princes are acquainted with others,—ſword and poiſon*.
Charles IX. of France, by inceſſantly perſecuting his proteſtant ſubjects, forced them to revolt: as their party encreaſed every day, and terrified the tyrant, too puſillanimous to encounter the inſurgents at the head of his army, he took the reſolution of exterminating them any way, and meditated this horrid project for two years. Having at laſt fixed on the meaſures to carry it into execution, he concluded with them a fraudulent peace, amuſed their chiefs by falſe careſſes, neglected no pains to lull them into a fatal ſecurity, and had them, with ſixty thouſand of their adherents, murdered on the night of St. Bartholomew.
Popular leaders themſelves ſometimes ruin their own party. The great care they take to repreſs licentiouſneſs, and to prevent pillaging, ever renders them odious [Page 130] to the rabble, who having thus no profit by the revolt, are ſoon weary of bearing arms for the ſake of liberty alone‡.
If a popular leader has much to dread from his ſeverity, he has no leſs to dread from his ill ſucceſs. The people, who obeyed him with zeal as long as his efforts were ſucceſsful, loſe their ſpirits, and deſert him as ſoon as fortune declares againſt him.
Delay conſtantly ruins bold undertakings. When once the moment which was to fix fortune is let ſlip, all is loſt; the enemy has time for recovering from his fears, and preparing himſelf againſt the intended ſtroke; and, even in theſe critical moments, the party of tyranny has great advantage over the party of liberty.
Although the Prince has levied war againſt his people, if he finds himſelf unable to attack them, in order to get time, he makes propoſals of accommodation, and, whilſt preparing to cruſh them, complains of being compelled to have recourſe to violence, [Page 131] makes the moſt ſolemn proteſtations of love for the public, and diſplays marks of concern for the national diſturbances*. The people, ſtill dazzled by ſome remains of reſpect for royal Majeſty, or ſeduced by an appearance of grief, almoſt always feel a return of affection, and oftentimes, as children who dare not lift up the hand againſt their parent, let their arms fall out of their hands. The Prince, on the contrary, has ſcarcely ever the tender mercy of a father; but conſidering his oppoſing ſubjects as revolted ſlaves, as ſoon as he has the power in his hands, he makes them feel the moſt terrible effects of his vengeance.
When Charles V. aſcended the Spaniſh throne, notwithſtanding the ſpirit of diſſatisfaction which univerſally prevailed, as the inhabitants of the different kingdoms in Spain ſtill maintained the prejudices of their ancient rivalſhip, and as the remembrance of their long hoſtilities was ſtill recent, their national antipathy prevented their acting in concert. Each kingdom chuſing rather to depend on its own efforts, [Page 132] formed a ſeparate plan, followed ſeparate meaſures, and each party combated for its own liberties. Thus, for want of harmony, all their efforts proved impotent*.
Nay, although the patriots all unite in a common plan, their party is not always triumphant. Who would believe, had not experience proved it, that ſubjects oftentimes combat with leſs courage for their patria, than mercenary ſoldiers for a tyrant?
If ſubjects oftentimes combat with leſs courage for their patria than mercenary ſoldiers for a tyrant, they generally combat with leſs ſucceſs†; for with what diſadvantage muſt undiſciplined citizens, under chiefs unexperienced in war, take the field againſt regular troops, under experienced captains?
Subjects, ſeldom animated with a high ſenſe of their rights, fight but to free themſelves from actual oppreſſion; never willing to purchaſe dearly the ineſtimable advantages of liberty‡. Hence oftentimes, after a few [Page 133] efforts, they lay down their arms; ſoon tired of their own agitations, they long for repoſe, and, in the tranquil leiſure they are permitted to enjoy, they recollect liberty but with the ideas of heavy contributions, fatigues and ſlaughter. The Prince, on the contrary, ever animated with a violent deſire of ſecuring his power and enlarging his authority, combats with ſteadineſs, and ſtands till the laſt extremity.
The efforts made by the people to ſecure their liberty, when fruitleſs, ſerve only to confirm their ſervitude*.
Notwithſtanding his repeated defeats, the Prince oftentimes loſes nothing. Though vanquiſhed and at the mercy of his ſubjects, he maintains that haughtineſs, that imperious air, that arrogance, which he diſplays in his proſperity; he ſpeaks only of his prerogatives, he ſtill preſumes to give law, and generally the people ſuffer themſelves to be deprived of the fruits of their victory†. But if once vanquiſhed, how [Page 134] different the fate of ſubjects! After many vain attempts to ſhake off their yoke, they are treated as ſubdued enemies; the unmerciful Prince dictates his orders with a menacing tone, and the unfortunate wretches ever patiently ſuffer themſelves to be enſlaved; they oftentimes preſent their necks to the yoke, and are earneſt to regain the favour of their Maſter by ignominious ſubmiſſions*.
Amidſt the diſſenſions of the Forum, the people having obtained that a conſul ſhould be elected from among them, the Patricians prevented any cauſe being brought before him, and thus rendered his magiſtracy uſeleſs.
[Page 135] To calm his angry ſubjects, the Prince ſometimes orders his miniſters to retire into ſome port during the ſtorm, or even ſacrifices them to public vengeance; but* the ſame plan of operations is ſtill laid down. In the place of thoſe diſmiſſed or ſacrificed miniſters, others of the ſame ſtamp have been ſubſtituted, and the ſimple multitude is ſatisfied.
The Plebeians had juſt obtained the privilege of ſharing with the Patricians the honour of the Faſcia, when, Rome being afflicted with a famine, Coriolanus made a motion in full ſenate not to aſſiſt the people, unleſs they renounced the rights granted them on the Sacred Mount†.
King John, being obliged by his Barons to ſign Magna Charta, concealed his reſentment till he had found a favourable juncture for annulling his conceſſions. [Page 136] The better to deceive the people, he publicly declared that his adminiſtration was henceforth to run in ſuch a tenor as to give his people no cauſe of complaint, he ſent writs to all his ſheriffs, ordering them to conſtrain every one to ſwear obedience to the twentyfive Barons appointed to ſecure the execution of the ſeveral articles of the great Charter, and then retired into the iſle of Wight to plan the meaſures of a fatal vengeance: from his retreat he ſecretly ſent abroad his emiſſaries to enliſt foreign ſoldiers, and to invite the rapacious Brabançons into his ſervice by the proſpect of ſharing the ſpoils of England: he diſpatched a meſſenger to Rome in order to be abſolved from all his oaths of maintaining the liberties granted to his ſubjects. When the foreign forces arrived, he pulled off the maſk, repealed all his grants to the ſubjects, marched at the head of ravenous mercenaries, laid waſte the lands of the nobles, pillaged their houſes, carried every where fire and ſword, and ſpread devaſtation all over the face of the kingdom*.
Edward I. on his return to England from his expedition into France againſt Philip, being requeſted to ratify ſolemnly the confirmation of the charters to which he had affixed his ſeal, evaded as long as poſſible: [Page 137] at length, being obliged again to comply, he expreſsly added a ſalvo for his royal prerogative,—a clauſe which enervated the force of the whole Charter*. But after ſo many ſolemn engagements contracted, whilſt he could not give full ſcope to his ambition, and whilſt his ſubjects flattered themſelves with having ſecured their liberties, he applied to Rome, and procured an abſolution from all his oaths.
Charles I. having given his aſſent to the petition of rights, repaired in haſte to parliament, and proteſted that he had not intended to give away the profit of tonnage and poundage; ordered this proteſt to be entered in the Journal of the Commons; and again proceeded to ſeize the goods of merchants for denying the arbitrary impoſition of tonnage and poundage. In the next ſeſſion, he ended his ſpeech by blaming the Commons for enquiring into the infraction of the petition of rights, and engaged the Speaker to interrupt all debates on the ſubject. Not ſatisfied with this, and incenſed that parliament had circumſcribed royal power within ſo narrow limits, he reſolved to overthrow them, and to accompliſh his deſign, employed the meaneſt artifices. Accordingly the patriotic party, by the intrigues of the court, diminiſhed [Page 138] every day. As ſoon as the King had ſecured a majority in the Houſe of Commons, and had at his devotion almoſt the whole Houſe of Lords, elated at the accounts of his courtiers reſpecting public affairs, he pulled off the maſk, filled anew the firſt places of government* with his creatures, attempted to ſtrike the fatal blow to his half-vanquiſhed enemies; and in order to abrogate at once all his conceſſions to the people, charged a member of the upper houſe and five of the lower houſe, with miſdemeanor, hightreaſon, and with having extorted by fear all the† acts made to ſecure public liberty, which being proved, as he pretended, rendered them null ipſo facto. This ſcheme proving abortive, Charles ſpared no pains to incite diſcord between the Engliſh and the Scots. To accompliſh this, he at firſt ſtrove to outvie the parliament in courteſy towards the Scots; he forwarded every motion which had been made in their favour; every thing that they demanded for the ſecurity of their civil rights was granted them: he afterwards endeavoured to corrupt their army. Henderſon, the popular covenanting preacher, was appointed his chaplain; the great officers of the army were treated with high marks of favour, and the commiſſaries [Page 139] themſelves bribed. He then ſet out for Scotland, attempted in his journey to engage the army to prove refractory, ſecured a ſtrong party in the Scotch parliament by the intrigues of his creatures, and laboured to induce the Iriſh catholics to riſe againſt England.
Charles II. under colour that there were many conſpirators againſt him, and that there were men who, under pretence that the parliament was at an end by virtue of ſome clauſe in the triennial bill, fancied they might aſſemble themſelves to chuſe new members, deſired the parliament held in 1663, not to leave an act in being which was ſuch a diſgrace to the crown, and they baſely complied with his requeſt.
Whilſt M. AEmilius and Q. Fabius laid waſte the enemies lands, the tribunes M. Furius and Cn. Cornelius, in order to make the Agrarian laws paſs, refuſed to levy the tribute, and incited the people to riſe. But although the army, buſy without, was in want of every thing, and the ſenate dreaded a revolt within, the people at that juncture, in appearance ſo favourable to their claims, obtained only that a conſular-tribune [Page 140] ſhould be ſelected from among the plebeians. Elated with this little ſucceſs, the popular leaders with eagerneſs urged on the execution of their ſcheme, and ſucceeded in having at the next comitia chiefly plebeians elected conſular-tribunes. But while the people reſigned themſelves to joy, and boaſted of their victory, the ſenate was taking ſteps to deprive them of the advantage of it*. At firſt, it engaged ſome of the moſt illuſtrious patricians to ſet up as candidates, expecting that the people would not be ſo daring as to except againſt them; afterwards, exerting their utmoſt efforts to carry on that ſcheme, they vented clamours againſt the paſt comitia, they ſaid the gods were incenſed that the magiſtracies had been proſtituted by rendering them vulgar, and alledged in proof, the ſharpneſs of winter that had juſt been felt, and the plague which raged over the city and the fields. The people, dazzled with the eclat of the candidates, and terrified at the idea of the wrath of the gods, elected conſular-tribunes patricians only, [Page 141] renounced the ſupreme power, and put it, trembling, into the hands of the ſenate.
Soon after, the waters of the lake in the foreſt Albana being much increaſed without any apparent cauſe, this phenomenon engaged the public attention, and the oracle at Delphos was conſulted. Mean while the ſenate induſtriouſly propagated a rumour that the gods were incenſed that the ranks in the commonwealth had been confounded, and that the only means of diſarming their wrath was the abdication of the military tribunes; and an interregnum followed*.
IN every government, a favourable juncture for the recovery of liberty ſometimes offers; people let it generally ſlip, not perceiving it: but the juncture for eſtabliſhing ſlavery, thoſe at the helm ſeize very often. To avail themſelves of the opportunity is their chief care, and their firſt maxim in politics.
I and Time, ſaid Charles V. defy any two others †.
The people have but momentary leaders, and as ſoon as they are deprived of them, their forces are [Page 142] diſperſed; but the council of Princes is laſting: always ſet up againſt liberty, it employs its time in forming projects, concerting meaſures, contriving means of execution; and this is a peculiar advantage.
By watchfulneſs, people ſucceed ſometimes in making the attempts of Princes prove abortive; but how can they conſtantly oppoſe their various attacks? The miniſtry having their eyes ever fixed on the people, ſeize, at length, a favourable moment, and this ſuffices to accompliſh their deſigns.
AS ſoon as the cabinet council is permanent, there is no truce during the ſlow war Princes carry on againſt liberty, not even in the beginning of their reign;—a juncture where the monarch, ſinking under the load of his grandeur, and his heart overflowing with joy, entertains only ſentiments of benevolence and affection, lays aſide all deſigns, and gives ſome reſpite to his unfortunate ſubjects: not even when they wholly reſign to pleaſure or idleneſs; ſince the reins of government, they abandon, are truſted to miniſters who, that they might ſhare the authority of their maſter, ſeek continually to increaſe his power: not even when they have no ambitious projects, unleſs themſelves be at the helm.
WHEN the cabinet is compoſed of powerful men, rivalſhip, jealouſy, pique, and ambition, oftentimes incite them to traverſe each others projects, and make them miſcarry. When it is compoſed of many members, the various turn of their minds generally ſets them at variance, reſpecting deſigns and the means of execution. Hence Princes, impatient to attain abſolute power, have always compoſed their cabinet of few men, and men of new families. Such was the craft of Ferdinand of Arragon, of Philip II. Louis XI. Henry VII. Henry VIII. &c.
It was the purſuit of the ſame projects during the reigns of Louis XIII. and Louis XIV. that ſo much increaſed the power of the crown: for Mazarine punctually followed the maxims of Richelieu, and le Tellier thoſe of Mazarine.
It was the purſuit of the ſame projects that ſo much enlarged the boundaries of the prerogative of the crown of Spain, from Charles V. to this day; for a change of miniſters cauſes no change in the Spaniſh cabinet, and although the hands that hold the reins of government be changed, the mind that directs them is always the ſame*.
It is likewiſe to a want of harmony in the council, that we owe in part the ſlow increaſe of royal power among us; and this want of harmony fortunately ariſes from the conſtitution itſelf. Altho' the king diſpoſes of all offices, as he cannot render himſelf formidable, he is ever obliged to keep fair with his miniſters: thoſe who are in favour are therefore oftentimes traverſed by thoſe who endeavour to ſupplant them. As he cannot ſatisfy all ambitious men, thoſe who are admitted into the cabinet are frequently oppoſed by thoſe who ſeek to ſet themſelves in their place. As the deſigns of the King ſo much the leſs ſucceed, as his party is the more openly attacked, he is oftentimes obliged to truſt the conduct of affairs to thoſe who have moſt offended him, and to diſmiſs thoſe who have ſerved him beſt. In fine, as his favour is limited, and his hatred impotent, new parties ever ſpring up. Happy diſcord! which ſupplies the want of the virtues among us, and like them ſupports liberty.
THE moſt fatal blow Princes ſtrike at liberty, is the ſubduing their ſubjects in the name of the law; and the expedient they moſt willingly employ for it, is the moſt analogous to their vile character—bribery.
Conſidering the legiſlature as a formidable cenſor of his conduct, the Prince labours to have them his dependents, or rather, earneſt to ſee the Sovereign* made his ſlave, he endeavours to have its repreſentatives at his diſpoſal. Thus all the arts, which influence popular aſſemblies, are employed to win thoſe members who oppoſe his projects. Temptations are offered to the vain, the ambitious, the needy, according to their deſires: all thoſe who chuſe to eſpouſe the party of the crown, may now have their price; and the rulers of the empire ſoon proſtitute themſelves to power, ſell the cauſe of liberty to indulge their baſe paſſions, betray their country in contempt of their moſt ſacred engagements, and the legiſlature themſelves become the contemptible tools of tyranny.
[Page 146] As ſoon as a ſenator was elected at Sparta, Ageſilaus preſented him with an ox*.
Charles V. demanding from the cortes of Caſtile a new donative before the time for paying the former was expired, was openly refuſed. But, availing himſelf of a mean ſpirit of jealouſy, which inſtigated the nobles againſt the commons, whom they ſaw endeavouring to ſecure their independence, he employed bribes, promiſes, careſſes, threats, and even force, in order to gain members. Thus having ſecured a majority, he engaged them, in contempt of the fundamental laws of the conſtitution, to vote the grant of the ſubſidy for which he had applied†.
How frequently have been, and ſtill are, ſuch arts employed among us, to corrupt parliament! In that auguſt aſſembly, wherein none ought to be admitted but the real friends of their country, there is no leſs venality than elſewhere. Part of the members are penſioners of the court, or related to penſioned perſons; another part are occaſionally bribed by what they call douceurs; a great number ſeek to get into office, and affect to diſplay their rhetoric againſt the court only in order to oblige it to ſtipulate; a greater number, dependent on the tools of the court, are [Page 147] conſtantly devoted to the miniſter; few are faithful to their conſtituents; and the reſt fluctuate alternately according to circumſtances between duty and temptation. Such are the patres patriae, the rulers of the empire, the guardians of our liberties*.
1.48. CHAP. XLVIII. Of the want of Spirit and Steadineſs in the Repreſentatives to oppoſe miniſterial Attempts.
IF the repreſentatives are not all infatuated with a luſt of dignities, if there be ſome who caſt not longing looks towards office, if there be a few who have even ſuch greatneſs of ſoul as to diſdain a bribe, yet their want of ſpirit and ſteadineſs in oppoſing the miniſterial attempts ever renders their virtue fruitleſs.
[Page 148] Whilſt the creatures of the Prince eagerly purſue ſome illegal ſcheme, let the current run ever ſo ſtrongly, if the patriotic members were determined to ſtrive againſt it to the laſt, although they may not be able to ſtop or turn its courſe, their reſiſtance would at leaſt reſtrain its fury. But inſtead of defending with indefatigable zeal the cauſe of liberty, the languid patriots give way, ſatisfied with having made a feeble reſiſtance or entered a proteſt.
THE Prince, when his deſigns prove abortive, loſes only his time; but when the efforts of the ſubjects to ſhake off their yoke prove unſucceſſful, they generally loſe the means of making a new attempt.
[Page 149] After Princes have plunged their dominions into the calamities of civil war, inſtead of reforming their adminiſtration, and regaining the affections of their injured people, they think only how to ſuppreſs their complaints, and render their efforts fruitleſs: They cannot renounce that ſupreme power, that boundleſs authority, that abſolute empire, which has already coſt them ſo many efforts, ſo many crimes.
From experience, they learn how to prevent inſurrections. In the beginning of a ſtorm, the miſchief is not diſcovered: when it blows with fury, the remedy is not perceived. Thus they have their eyes ever open on the ſlighteſt commotions, careful to appeaſe them as ſoon as raiſed.
Not ſatisfied with this, they oftentimes are intent to extirpate the ſeeds of them. Under colour of ſecuring public tranquillity, they forbid all routs, conventicles, clandeſtine meetings, and tumultuous aſſemblies: Some, even by a more refined craft, will not allow any perſons to crowd about popular men, and are ſo wary as to make away with thoſe who are the darlings of the people.
On his return to Paris, J. J. Rouſſeau uſed to paſs a few moments at a coffee-houſe* in his neighbourhood; [Page 150] but as his preſence attracted great crowds of curious people, he was forbid by the lieutenant of the police to frequent any coffee-houſe.
The watermen at Venice quarrelling one day with the populace, they came to blows. As the magiſtrates could not ſuppreſs the diſorder, a patrician of the houſe of Lauredano interpoſed, and the mutineers yielded to his entreaties; but the inquiſitors of ſtate, dreading the great influence of this nobleman over the people, diſpatched him ſecretly†.
Nay, in order to obviate all inſurrection, it is the craft of thoſe who rule at Venice, to perſecute till death the perſons they have once injured; and that the friends of theſe unfortunate perſons, or ſuch as have eſcaped from their hands, might not conſpire, the Council of the Ten iſſues out from time to time certain proclamations‡, promiſing large ſums to any one who ſhould reveal any crime of ſtate, or bring the head of a proſcript.
Not content with being at the head of affairs, they are anxious to diſpoſe of every thing. Having filled with their creatures the high places of government, they proceed to inveſt in themſelves all offices which ſhare authority, or to ſuppreſs them*. Ever fixing [Page 152] their eyes on thoſe on whom high truſts have been conferred, they wait only for an opportunity to diſpoſſeſs them. When an opportunity offers not itſelf, they ſtart it: they raiſe enemies to the high officers of the ſtate to charge them with negligence or miſdemeanor. If they find any guilty, they utter loud complaints againſt theſe bad ſervants, and ſuppreſs the functions of their office under pretence of reforming abuſes*.
To thoſe, they cannot convict of any miſdemeanor, they give many cauſes of diſguſt, they make them feel the weight of authority, and artfully provoke them to furniſh reaſons for being diſmiſſed, or to reſign a place they can hold no longer: but great care is taken to leave theſe places vacant, or to grant them as commiſſions under pleaſure only†.
[Page 153] But to veil their deſigns, and not to diſcontent every one, Princes ſubſtitute for offices of truſt places without authority, dignities which flatter avarice or pride without feeding ambition, and thus ſecure the concerned party. Thoſe they cannot pay with realities, they pay with promiſes.
When the Prince cannot ſeize all offices and dignities which ſhare authority, and veſt them in the crown, he aſſociates himſelf thereto, places himſelf at the head of orders, corporations, tribunals, and ſoon uſurps all their power*.
At other times, inſtead of ſuppreſſing offices, he lets them become extinct†.
At length, to remain the ſole maſter of the ſtate, he boaſts of being the father of his people, and wholly [Page 154] engaged† with the care of promoting public happineſs, he takes upon himſelf the management of affairs, orders his ſubjects to addreſs directly his perſon, takes cognizance of every thing, examines every thing, and diſpoſes of every thing. The ſimple multitude then beholds with admiration his air of benevolence, his attendance to public affairs, his zeal for their well-being; they expect their felicity therefrom, but perceive not that the Prince conceals his ambitious deſigns under this outſide of goodneſs, and ſeeks only to render himſelf independent.
POWER now advances by rapid ſteps towards deſpotiſm. The Prince, on the point of making any bold attempt, prepares his engines. If he can do [Page 155] without the legiſlature, he carefully abſtains from aſſembling them; if their concurrence is abſolutely neceſſary, he again employs his former arts to influence them, and by bribes, promiſes, threats, ſecures a ſtrong party; when ſecured, he ventures to aſſemble this pretended ſovereign, and makes it reſolve what he pleaſes.
The ſubjects, wholly engaged with their private affairs, or careleſs of public intereſts, take no notice of the blind devotion of the ſenate to the court, and the Prince continues with eagerneſs to urge on the execution of his deſigns. Yet if any one ſhould attempt to open the eyes of the public, the miniſtry, under pretence of maintaining good order, perſecute this zealous patriot; then confounding the cauſe of the crown with that of the laws, they charge him with refractory proceedings, and have him puniſhed as a diſturber of the public peace.
Under colour of ſecuring national intereſts, or vindicating the glory of the ſtate, the Prince arraigns a neighbouring power, demands ſubſidies from his people, [Page 156] raiſes new troops, nominates to military* offices reſtleſs and ſuſpected men, gives ſecret orders to the commanding officers to expoſe them in dangerous ſtations, or has them diſpatched in the dark.
The war being at an end, the people, elated with their victories or depreſſed by their calamities, reſign themſelves to joy, or labour to retrieve their loſſes: and whilſt they, wholly engaged by private affairs, loſe ſight of public ones, the Prince eagerly purſues his ambitious projects.
During the courſe of a long government, liberty is deſtroyed by gradual alterations, and is ever recovered by violent efforts only: but the Prince takes ſuch cautious meaſures that, once ſubdued, the ſubjects may never be enabled to break their yoke again. Under pretence of ſecuring the ſafety of the realm, he undertakes to become abſolute maſter of it. Accordingly [Page 157] he begins by having the old fortreſſes repaired, then proceeds to have new ones conſtructed*, at firſt on the borders, afterwards in the interior part of the country; in fine, he orders citadels to be built in every important town, increaſes the garriſons, and renders the military eſtabliſhment numerous and formidable. Thus under the fair name of public good, the Prince ſeizes, by degrees, every poſt which leaves a communication between the inhabitants of the ſeveral parts of the ſtate, and cuts off every means of ever uniting† their forces again, or appearing in detached [Page 158] parties, without being cut in pieces by mercenary troops*. When once the people can no longer appear in a body, the ſovereign is conſidered as being annihilated.
HAVING incapacitated the inhabitants of the ſeveral provinces from ever uniting their efforts for their common defence, and thoſe of the towns from [Page 159] making any attempt for their own ſafety, Princes accuſtom the people to military expeditions; and, under colour of ſecuring public peace, ſoldiery are by degrees ſubſtituted for civil officers.
Soldiers are appointed to arreſt offenders, ſoldiers are appointed to wait on malefactors going to execution, ſoldiers are appointed to clear highways. In places of public diverſion, in auction rooms, in places of public exhibition, ſentinels are placed at the doors: in all places where the people meet, ſoldiers watch over them, and for fear of any nocturnal attempt, ſoldiers even then ſerve as guard.*
IN order that thoſe men who are placed at the head of the troops, might ſupport the overgrown power of the crown, and not controul it, Princes are not ſatisfied with having ſuppreſſed every military office of too great influence, but divide the army into many ſmall bodies, among which they incite jealouſy [Page 160] by means of peculiar diſtinctions. The command of theſe ſmall bodies they confer on devoted men alone, and the better to ſecure their fidelity, they eſtabliſh in every body ſeveral degrees of command, which officers are promoted to ſlowly by rotation, and rapidly by preferment. Hence every ſubaltern officer not only conſiders him who fills the next ſuperior degree to his own as an obſtacle to advancement, and looks upon him with a jealous eye: but the moſt ambitious among them ſeek to riſe by fawning adulations, vile ſervices, and aſſiduity in courting the Prince; whilſt thoſe who are raiſed labour to ſecure favour by a blind devotion to his commands.
In regard to the high military offices, great care is taken not to confer them on any darling of the people, and never to join them to any civil office. Diſtruſt is ſometimes carried ſo far as to place at the head of the army ſoldiers of fortune only, to change frequently the general officers, to incite between them competition, to ſet inſpectors over them, and never to allow the troops to be long ſtationed in the ſame place*.
When the Prince diſpenſes with commanding the army in perſon; in order to truſt the command without danger into other hands, he gives it to ſeveral, [Page 161] who have never a full power granted them to act as they ſhould think fit; their operations being always inſpected by a council of war, if not directed by the cabinet itſelf. Having modelled the army at will, he careſſes the military, ties them to his intereſt by largeſſes, and renders them the ſole objects of his favour.
THE ſoldier, being in a free country ever ſubject to the laws and reſtrained by the magiſtrates, acknowledges his duty, and preſerves in his new ſtation ſome notions of juſtice; he is taught to reſpect the citizens, and is prevented from being made conſcious of his influence*. Hence the Prince, in order to teach the military to depend on† him only, and [Page 162] render them the devoted inſtruments of his will, ſecures them* from civil power: they are made accountable to him alone; and if they either plot, mutiny, pillage, commit rapes, or murders; always a Martial Court is appointed to judge the delinquents.
AS the military are the inſtruments deſtined to enlarge the Prince's authority, in order to prepare them to act againſt the people in a favourable juncture, they are ſeparated from them†, quartered in barracks; and afterwards inſpired with contempt for every profeſſion except their own. But to render them conſcious of their pre-eminence, many [Page 163] marks of diſtinction are conferred on them*. Uſed to deſpiſe the citizens, they ſoon become deſirous to oppreſs them, and ever ready to fall upon that part of the realm which ſhould attempt to make an inſurrection†.
IT is a favourite maxim with the cabinet, that if the people are too rich, or even too much at eaſe, it will prove impoſſible to keep them ſubmiſſive; whilſt men rendered dependent by their wants, deſtitute of the means of oppoſing reſiſtance, and aſhamed of their poverty, are conſcious of their ſubjection, and much more diſpoſed to obey†. Hence, far from releaſing the people, Princes ever charge them with heavy taxes. But as if this did not ſuffice, among the various means they have recourſe to, in order to impoveriſh their ſubjects, uſury, exactions, and extortions are oftentimes made uſe of.
Such was the craft of the antients, that of the moderns is much more refined: they borrow at large intereſt the money of the public; and theſe depoſitums of the fortunes of the ſubjects, like chains, tie the people two ways. On one ſide, they are a badge [Page 165] of ſubjection, the ſubjects being ever afraid to furniſh a pretence for forfeiture from attempting to revolt: on the other ſide, they are arms in the hands of the Prince which enable him to cruſh thoſe who have truſted him therewith.
Beſides, when a favourable juncture offers, the Prince, either by retaining the intereſt for a long time, repaying the capital when the value of money is below par, or even by retaining the capital itſelf, reduces, by a ſingle ſtroke, his ſubjects to that point of miſery which they could not have been reduced to but gradually, by purſuing the former plan.
In England ſuch ſteps have never been taken, and perhaps never will; yet public loans bind us not the leſs ſtrongly: for by their means the government has intertwined itſelf with the property of the people, in ſuch a manner that it is impoſſible to lay the ax to the root of the former without deſtroying the latter.
As ſoon as the government becomes debtor, thoſe who are creditors, made ſenſible that the ſums intruſted are loſt if government ſecurities fail, are ever ready to ſubſcribe freſh ones, in order to furniſh it with [Page 166] means for defending them. And this newly raiſed money may be employed for a different purpoſe.
If to ſecure a fund for the payment of intereſt, any regulation deſtructive of liberty ſhould be thought abſolutely neceſſary, the party concerned, that is, that part of the nation which is the moſt regarded, would conſent to it, rather than run the riſk of being ruined by a ſtate bankruptcy. If any one ſhould treat this as a chimerical ſuppoſition, let them remember the exciſe laws. Moreover, as by the negociation of loans, and the creation or management of funds, the intereſt of moneyed men is intimately connected with that of the court; not only the factors for adminiſtration and thoſe dealers in the funds, who, for the ſake of a lucrative ſhare in ſome contract, are under miniſterial influence, turn courtiers, and cringe at levees, procure themſelves ſeats in parliament, and aſſiſt the Prince to enſlave their country; but the locuſt tribe of ſubſcribers, brokers, ticket-mongers, and all thoſe who act or ſeek to act that dirty part, on all occaſions appear the avowed advocates of every corrupt miniſter, induce the timid, the weak, the fickle, the ſordid, and the indolent, to follow their example, furniſh their patron with a pretence to urge in excuſe of his miſconduct, raiſes their clamours againſt the complaints of true patriots, ſmother the voice of the nation, [Page 167] and become a dangerous faction in ſupport of tyranny.
Thus having induced their ſubjects to contract many wants by encouraging luxury, it is the craft of Princes to deprive them afterwards of the means of indulging them, or rather to drive them from dependance to ſervitude.
THE Prince, having ſecured the army, now labours to ſecure the legiſlature, or to render its power vain. When on the point of making any bold attempt, if he can do without the concurrence of the repreſentatives of the ſovereign, he carefully abſtains from calling them together. If their concurrence is abſolutely neceſſary, they are not ſuffered to proceed to any other tranſaction, but that for which they have been aſſembled.
Charles V. having ſummoned the cortes of Caſtile to meet at Compoſtella, engaged them to grant him a ſubſidy. With this grant, the cortes laid before the king a repreſentation of thoſe grievances whereof his people craved redreſs; but he having obtained from them all that he could expect, paid no attention to their petition*.
Such was the practice of Charles I. When he was in want of money, he aſſembled parliament, and hurried the bill for ſubſidies: then to prevent them from taking cognizance of the public grievances, he lulled them into ſecurity by fair promiſes, aſſured [Page 169] them that he would be ever careful to preſerve the liberties of his people; engaged the ſpeaker to interrupt every debate foreign to the bill for ſubſidy, expelled out of the houſe the warmeſt patriots, by incapacitating them from ſerving as repreſentatives, or prorogued, if not diſſolved the parliament.
It was by terror that Henry VIII. kept the parliament ſubmiſſive to his will. The members, free only in the ſenate, were, as ſoon as the ſeſſions was prorogued, left defenceleſs to the mercy of this tyrant.
Charles I. intending to have an act paſſed in the parliament of Scotland, for the reſumption of thoſe church lands and titles, which had been alienated in the minority of the former reign, was careful to be preſent at the debate. But meeting with a great oppoſition, he pulled out of his pocket a liſt of all the members that compoſed the houſe, adding, "Gentlemen, I have all your names on this paper, and I will know who will do me ſervice, and who will not, this day." Notwithſtanding the king's [Page 170] threatenings, the bill was rejected by the majority; but the clerk of the regiſter, who gathered the votes, removed this difficulty by declaring that it was carried in the affirmative*.
Princes, in order to influence at will the legiſlative body, oftentimes endeavour to procure a choice of repreſentatives favourable to their deſigns. Thus Henry VIII. and Mary, when they deſired to carry any important point, uſed to write circular letters to the lord lieutenants in the counties, directing a proper choice of members†.
Actuated by the ſame views, James II. artfully reſumed the charters of all corporations in the kingdom, and granted them new ones, drawn up in ſuch a form that it was in a manner left to the king to nominate the repreſentatives.
If this ſuffices not, Princes have ſometimes recourſe to another method. They ſuffer none to fit in the ſenate but thoſe who are known to have no virtue, after having excluded all others who are ſuſpected to have any.
In the exigencies of affairs in 1656, a parliament was ſummoned, but Cromwell finding that the majority of the members returned would be unfavourable to his intereſts, placed guards at the doors of the [Page 171] houſe; and, under pretence of excluding men of corrupted principles, permitted none to enter but ſuch as produced a warrant from his council.
In 1539, Charles V. demanded extraordinary ſubſidies from the cortes of Caſtile; but having vainly employed entreaties, promiſes, and threats, in order to obtain his demand, he diſmiſſed the aſſembly with indignation, and excluded out of theſe aſſemblies the nobles and prelates, under pretence that ſuch as pay no part of the public taxes had no vote to claim in laying them on. Hence none were admitted to the cortes but the deputies of the towns, who being in too ſmall a number, and too feeble to oppoſe the king, were all at his devotion*.
During our civil war of 1641, Charles I. in order to abate the veneration paid to the patriotic repreſentatives, and avail himſelf of the name of the legiſlature, with a view of levying the ſums which were neceſſary to carry on the war, ſummoned the parliament at Oxford; and having collected there all the [Page 172] members of either houſe, who adhered to his intereſts, he endeavoured to inſinuate, that the two houſes ſitting at Weſtminſter were not a legal convention, attempted to prevail with the earl of Eſſex, general of the parliament, to treat with thoſe proſcripts, and engaged that proſtituted aſſembly to paſs ſeveral acts, to grant him ſubſidies, and to declare the faithful members guilty of high treaſon*.
The Prince, by engaging the legiſlature to yield conſtantly to his will, and having hereby abaſed them, has no more recourſe to craft; he aſſumes the ſtile of a maſter, and if he ſtill continues to aſſemble them, it is only to give law.
ARRIVED to this point, Princes eagerly conſummate their iniquitous deſigns. Earneſt to ſee the people their ſlaves, to reduce them to ſervitude, they oftentimes turn againſt them the conſtitution itſelf.
In a government wherein the activity of the legiſlative power depends on the will of the executive one, [Page 173] the legiſlature never can appear but when the Prince gives his orders, and never anſwer but when he interrogates them: in order, therefore, to annihilate their power, they are no longer called together. When once the legiſlature are ſunk into oblivion, the Prince imperceptibly uſurps their functions: he ventures to iſſue, by his own authority, ſome ordinances, at firſt on trifling objects, afterwards on objects more important; he then by degrees repeats this practice, accuſtoms the people to that uſurpation of authority, and at length finds himſelf inveſted with the power of enacting laws.
Thus the kings of France have uſurped ſovereignty. At the origin of that monarchy, royal prerogative was limited to the executive power; the ſupreme power reſided in the general aſſemblies* of the nation, which met annually at ſtated ſeaſons, and in which every freeman had a right† to aſſiſt. Their authority was extended to every department of government. Such as electing kings, granting ſubſidies, enacting laws, redreſſing national grievances, paſſing judgment in the [Page 174] laſt reſort with reſpect to every cauſe*, in a word, whatever related to the general welfare of the nation, was ſubmitted to their deliberation, and determined by their ſuffrages†: the King having only a right to give his aſſent to the public reſolutions, and none to refuſe it‡. Such was the French government under the monarchs of the firſt race.
Notwithſtanding the power and ſplendor which Charlemagne added to the crown by his conqueſts, the general aſſemblies of the nation continued to poſſeſs extenſive authority, under the kings of the ſecond race. They determined which of the royal family ſhould be placed on the throne: the Prince elected, conſulted them regularly with reſpect to every affair of importance to the ſtate, and without their conſent no law was paſſed, and no new tax levied.
Under the degenerate poſterity of Charlemagne, royal authority was reduced almoſt to nothing. Every [Page 175] baron had formed his lands into a ſmall ſtate almoſt independent of the king. The kingdom being thus broken into ſo many ſmall diſtricts, every one of which acknowledged a diſtinct lord, was governed by local cuſtoms, and purſued ſeparate intereſts, hardly any common principle of union remained. Hence the general aſſemblies ſcarcely conſidering the nation as forming one body, could no longer enact common laws; and thus part of the legiſlative power was left inactive.
Under the deſcendants of Hugh Capet, the juriſdiction of theſe aſſemblies extended no further than to the impoſition of new taxes, the determination of the ſucceſſor to the crown, and the ſettling the regency, when the preceeding monarch had not fixed it by his will.
It was left to the king to ſummon the national aſſemblies; but as the ordinary charges of government were ſupported by the crown demeſns, he called them together but ſeldom, and only when he was compelled by his wants or his fears to have recourſe to their aid. Thus the obligation of ſummoning them regularly forming no eſſential point of the conſtitution, in order to render their power null, the Prince artfully avoided aſſembling them.
[Page 176] When the functions of this power had been a long while ſuſpended, the kings aſſumed them, but ventured at firſt on acts of legiſlation with great reſerve, and took every precaution that could prevent the people from being alarmed at the exerciſe of a new power. Concealing their authority as much as they could, they began to iſſue their ordinances, not in a tone of command but of requeſt; they appeared to treat with their ſubjects, they pointed out what was beſt, and allured them to comply with it.
The laſt of the Capitularia collected by Baluze, was iſſued in the year 921, under Charles the Simple. In the middle of the eleventh century, were publiſhed ſome royal ordinances, contained in the collection of Lauriére; but the firſt ordinance extending to the whole kingdom, and being, properly ſpeaking, an act of legiſlation, is that of Philip Auguſtus, iſſued in the year 1190. The eſtabliſhments of St. Louis were not publiſhed as general laws to the whole kingdom, but as a code of laws, to be of authority within the crown domains only. The veneration of the people for this Prince procured this code a favourable reception [Page 177] throughout the whole kingdom, and contributed not a little to reconcile the nation to the uſurpation of the legiſlative authority. The people, accuſtomed to ſee their monarch, by his private authority, iſſue ordinances in points of the greateſt importance, were not ſurpriſed when they ſaw him iſſue them for levying ſubſidies for the ſupport of the government. When Charles VII. and Louis XI. firſt ventured to exerciſe this new power, the minds of the people were ſo well prepared by the gradual incroachments of the crown, that it ſcarce gave riſe to any murmur.
In proportion as kings continued to exerciſe acts of legiſlation, their ſubjects ceaſed to be ſurpriſed; they forgot at laſt that the crown had uſurped the legiſlative authority: and at preſent the idea of this authority having been veſted in the crown during every period of the monarchy, is ſo univerſal in France, that any aſſertion to the contrary would be deemed abſurd.
[Page 178] Juſtice, goodneſs, honour, virtue, are to be relinquiſhed to private men alone, ſay the abetters of tyranny; thoſe at the helm muſt act from other principles. All is permitted to the man who attempts to aſcend a throne; when ſeated thereon, all muſt be ſacrificed to enlarge the boundaries of his prerogative; on the leaſt ground, ſuſpected perſons ought to be made away with; no word, no engagement, no oath, ever ſo ſolemn, ought to be regarded, no blood to be ſpared, when an obſtacle to his obtaining abſolute empire. Theſe horrid leſſons are erected into maxims of policy, and theſe fatal maxims have been a copious ſource of odious crimes, covered with the ſpecious denomination of Acts of great Policy *.
In order to ſeize the ſupreme authority at Syracuſe, Agathocles ſummoned the ſenate and the people, ordered all the ſenators and the moſt conſpicuous citizens to be put to death by his guards, and placed himſelf on the throne.
[Page 179] Alfonſo, ſon of Ferdinand I. with a view to cruſh at once the power of the Neapolitan nobles, and render himſelf abſolute, cut off the barons of the greateſt reputation and influence among them*.
Caeſar Borgia, that he might intirely reduce the Romagna to ſubjection, deputed Renaro Dorca thereto with full power. But fearing the ſhocking cruelties committed againſt the inſurgents had rendered his authority too odious, and deſiring to appeaſe the minds of the people, he joined perfidy to barbarity, diſowned the conduct of his miniſter, and ordered him to be quartered in the public place†.
The Venetians, weary of the long and tyrannic domination of their Prince, reaſſumed, in 1171, the reins of government. They continued, indeed, to elect a doge, but fixed ſuch boundaries to his power, that ſcarce any thing was left him but a title. The ſupreme authority reſided in the people at large: however, as the concurrence of every one to every thing was impoſſible, they transferred the ſovereignty to a council compoſed of 470 citizens, nominated by 12 electors; but that every one might have his turn, there was to be yearly a new election on St. Michael's day. The authority of this council was unbounded, [Page 180] and by leaving it ſo, the people were ſoon reduced to ſubjection by their repreſentatives*. On pretence of [Page 181] reforming abuſes, the doge Pietro Gradenigo overturned the form of government; he had an act paſſed [Page 182] by the criminal quarantia, declaring, that all thoſe who actually compoſed the council, or had compoſed it the four preceding years, ſhould, they or their deſcendants, for the future continue to compoſe it*; thus inveſting the repreſentatives of the people with the whole adminiſtration of affairs, he wreſted all authority out of the hands of the ſovereign†.
Cromwell returning victorious from his expedition into Scotland, was honoured with a deputation from parliament, and other marks of diſtinction. He then entered the capital in triumph, and as every one earneſtly ſought his favour, this crafty diſſembler only thought how to reconcile to himſelf all parties. At firſt he made uſe of his credit to obtain for the royaliſts better terms, he captivated the affections of the preſbyterians by an affected auſterity of manners, ſeduced the bigots by exclaiming againſt the looſeneſs of the miniſters of religion, flattered the army by cauſing them to entertain ſuſpicions about the parliament, and gained the affections of the [Page 183] whole nation by earneſtly ſoliciting a new election of repreſentatives. He afterwards filled with his creatures all military places, and the firſt civil offices, incited the malcontents to riſe, repaired to parliament followed by a band of devoted ſatellites, charged the patriotic members with ambitious deſigns, and expelled them the houſe. No ſooner did Cromwell become ſole maſter of the government by this act of violence, but he formed a cabinet council of the chief officers of the army who were the moſt in his intereſts, placed himſelf at the helm, and had a new parliament elected: but not finding them enough ſubmiſſive, he engaged the proſtituted members to riſe, and to reſign into his hands their authority: in fine, he expelled the patriotic party, and uſurped the ſupreme power under the ſpecious denomination of Protector.
Whilſt the ſenators were aſſembled, Chriſtian III. of Sweden, complained to his guards of the little regard theſe Magiſtrates paid him; aided by them, he then ſecured their perſons, obliged them to reſign their places, which he conferred on his creatures, rewarded his adherents, aſſembled his troops, beſtowed gratifications on the officers, exhorted his ſubjects to be ſubmiſſive, and remained in peaceable poſſeſſion of the ſovereignty.
WHEN the people, incenſed at ſuch outrageous attempts, make an inſurrection, the Prince orders troops to march againſt them, and if his own forces be not ſufficient, he has recourſe to his neighbours*; he then exhorts his ſubjects to return to obedience, threatens to employ force in caſe they ſhould oppoſe, and gives them to underſtand that they muſt ſubmit without terms.
[Page 185] In a free government, when care is not taken from time to time to bring back the conſtitution to its firſt principles, in proportion as the epoch of its origin becomes remote, the people loſe ſight of their rights, they ſoon forget them in part, and afterwards retain no notion of them. The people, by long loſing ſight of their rights, by ever ſeeing the Prince at the helm, and by ever obeying his commands, at length conſider themſelves as mere cyphers, and the Prince as ſole maſter.
The only juſt aim of a political aſſociation, is the happineſs of the people, and whatever be the pretenſions of Princes, all other conſiderations ought to yield to public welfare; but the people are inclined to look upon the Prince's authority alone, as being ſacred; they never believe themſelves authoriſed to oppoſe by force his arbitrary mandates; to prevail with him they believe no means lawful but ſupplications*, and are ever ready to ſubmit to the moſt grievous oppreſſion, rather than puniſh the Lord's anointed.
[Page 186] When ſubjects groan under the yoke of a cruel Prince, hardly any perſon finds fault; but when a whole nation paſſes ſentence upon a tyrant, every one expreſſes his diſapprobation*.
Men, when protected, become proud of the diſgraceful yoke of a deſpot, and are aſhamed of the honourable reſtraint of laws†.
Kings, magiſtrates, commanders of armies, and all thoſe who, adorned with marks of power, hold the reins of the empire or direct public affairs, are objects of public admiration—Like antient idols, ſtupidly admired and adored.
[Page 187] Beſides pageantry, the people reſpect in Princes the advantage of birth*, a fine† ſtature, beauty; and theſe frivolous endowments ſerve not leſs to encreaſe their empire, than they do that of love.
The good ſucceſſes of Princes ſupply their want of merit with the people: for although events be ever ſo much accidental, they always conſider brilliant ſucceſſes as the effects of ability in thoſe who command, and this much contributes to increaſe the veneration the people ſhow to them‡.
We do not paſs the ſame judgment upon Princes as upon private perſons. We only conſider their actions as being bold, great, extraordinary, inſtead of conſidering them as being juſt, good or virtuous. We overlook their diſregard of their word, their want of honour, their treachery, perjury, treaſon, [Page 189] unmercifulneſs, cruelty; we admire their magnificent follies, inſtead of looking upon them with indignation; we praiſe their iniquitous undertakings, inſtead of branding them with infamy; and oftentimes are ſo inconſiderate as to reward with a crown, crimes which merited capital puniſhment.
Let us overlook the encomiums beſtowed on Alexander, Caeſar, Henry VIII. Charles V.; and from the many inſtances recorded in hiſtory, ſelect that of Louis XIV. whom courtiers, poets, academicians, and hiſtorians have ſo greatly cried up, whom inconſiderate men have ſo ſtupidly admired, but whoſe memory good men ought to deteſt.
A good Prince ought to have conſtantly in view the welfare of his people; but, if the conduct of this monarch be attentively enquired into, it will appear, that during the whole courſe of his long reign, he only ſought after what could be undertaken to his own glory: all his deſires, all his diſcourſes, all his actions ever aimed at fame: and to this deplorable folly he continually ſacrificed the happineſs of his ſubjects.
Inſtead of applying the public money to promote the true intereſts of the nation, he diſtributed it to his creatures; ſquandered it in feaſts, balls, tournaments, [Page 190] in making caſcades and waterworks amidſt arid plains, and in forcing nature.
Inſtead of permitting his ſubjects to enjoy the fruits of induſtry and honeſt diligence amidſt the bleſſings of peace, he ſacrificed to the ambition of being diſtinguiſhed as a conqueror, their tranquillity, their well-being, their blood: and, whilſt diſputing the laurels with the enemy, let them ſtarve in the career of his victories*.
To indulge his caprice, his pride, his wants ever new, not content with exhauſting the produce of paſt years, he deſtroyed the promiſes of years to come, deeply involved the public in debt†, and brought the greateſt calamities upon his dominions.
Infatuated with a luſt of power, he attempted to make all bow under him, cruſhed all thoſe who oppoſed his will, and in order to ſhow how unbounded was his authority, exerted his tyrannic empire over even the minds of his people, and armed a ferocious [Page 191] ſoldiery* againſt thoſe ſubjects who refuſed to betray their conſciences.
He erected indeed for the public ſome monuments of oſtentation, hitherto ſo much celebrated; but had he remitted to his people the immenſe ſums they coſt, that money would have incomparably more contributed to the good of the public. Inſtead of a few infirm ſoldiers maintained in the Invalides, a multitude of huſbandmen would have been preſerved from beggary; with thoſe ſums he exacted from them, they had cultivated their fields, improved their ſmall patrimonies, ſecured their ſubſiſtence, and their unhappy iſſue would not now linger in miſery.
For a few idle perſons to paſs away their time in thoſe ſpacious gardens which ſurround his palaces, what a multitude of uſeful labourers were reduced to wretched habitations! what a great number of them buried in the mud†!
He indeed promoted commerce, arts and ſciences; but what are theſe advantages to the miſeries he brought upon his dominions? what are they to the torrents of blood ſhed by his boundleſs ambition, to the indigence in which his overbearing pride plunged [Page 192] his people, to the ſufferings of the multitudes he reduced to beggary? what are they to the calamities inſeparable from that folly of ever keeping on foot a numerous army of idle ſatellites—a folly of which he firſt gave the example, and which, becoming epidemical, has ſeized Princes, and almoſt ruined Europe?
Monarchs are ſo accuſtomed to take advice in all public undertakings from their own paſſions only, and this abuſe is the ſource of ſo many miſeries, that the means of indulging ſuch a fatal preſumption cannot be too ſoon wreſted out of their hands.
The true glory of Princes is the enforcing obedience to the laws, preſerving the bleſſings of peace, and promoting the public welfare: but for our miſfortune, and from our folly, it is not after this glory thoſe at the helm aſpire.
How inconſiderate is mankind! Are not the vices of Princes more than enough to effect our miſery, without inciting them, by a ſtupid admiration of their follies, to aggravate our deplorable condition?
NOT only an extreme propenſity in the people to be dazzled by the falſe luſtre of pageantry, the enſigns or pomp of power, great undertakings and [Page 193] brilliant ſucceſs, but their prejudices oftentimes contribute to confer new prerogatives on Princes.
The vulgar proportionate their reſpect to* power, not merit; they diſregard monarchs who are not abſolute, and reverence deſpots. Obedience on the throne is according to them equally ridiculous and contemptible. Sovereign without Power, Crowned Slave, theſe are the titles they give the Prince who is not powerful enought to cruſh them; but they admire him when he can ſilence the laws.
The deſigns of adminiſtration muſt be private; they cannot be made public without divulging the ſecrets [Page 194] of government, and rendering its undertakings abortive: hence it is inferred, that the ſubject's glory conſiſts in a paſſive obedience to the arbitrary commands of Princes.
The king having a right to appoint miniſters, the people have no right to oppoſe them*.
Certain people entertain the dangerous opinion that the glorious authority of a Prince conſiſts in the ſervility† of his ſubjects: others pretend to the falſe glory of a loyalty proof againſt every conſideration‡: and it is the folly of all nations to exult in the pretended wiſdom of their own laws.
[Page 195] What people did ever deſerve this laſt reproach more than ourſelves? We never ceaſe boaſting of the excellencies of our conſtitution, and by continually extolling it, we are not ſenſible of its defects, and neglect to reform them.
The conſtitution of England is, no doubt, a monument of political wiſdom, if compared to others; yet it is not ſo perfect as we are pleaſed to affirm, nor can it be ſo, conſidering its origin and its revolutions. If traced to its firſt principle, it will be found to be very ſimple, and ſuch as ſuited uncivilized men; good enough for a people who ſubſiſted by pillaging, but containing a thouſand ſources of anarchy.
As ſoon as theſe concealed cauſes unfolded themſelves, the kingdom was tore by domeſtic factions, remained expoſed to foreign invaſion, became the prey of an uſurper, and was reduced to the moſt deplorable ſubjection by its rulers. Under our kings of the houſes of Plantagenet, Tudor, and Stuart, deſpotiſm was attached to the monarchy. The diſpenſing power, the power of rendering arbitrary judgments, of impriſoning, of exacting forced loans and benevolences, of preſſing and quartering ſoldiers, of erecting monopolies, were all exerciſed in their turn.
Weary of groaning under oppreſſion, we have ſometimes attempted to ſhake off our yoke; but all [Page 196] our meaſures to recover liberty, far from being free national tranſactions, were mere acts of violence of the ſtrongeſt party.
Yet if ever the triumphing party ſtipulated for common liberty; unable, in the tumult of arms and the public agitation of mind, to eſtabliſh it on a firm baſis, in order to form a regular adminiſtration of juſtice, they have applied only a palliative remedy to the moſt urgent evils, and brought back the conſtitution to its firſt principles, or nearer its primitive inſtitution.
The only favourable juncture for ſecuring public liberty, was at the acceſſion of the houſe of Brunſwick; as the triumphant part then formed a great majority in the nation, and the Prince* was without ambitious deſigns; but this favourable juncture we let ſlip.
In a well conſtituted government, the people at large is the real ſovereign, to them belongs ſupreme power: but among us the Prince has circumſcribed the boundaries of national* liberties; whilſt the nation ought to have circumſcribed thoſe of royal prerogative. This defect in the conſtitution is capital. Several of our kings have availed themſelves of it to tyrannize over the ſubjects; it proved the cauſe of all the differences between Parliament and James I. Charles I. and Charles II. it was likewiſe in virtue of it that James II. reaſſumed the charters of the city of London, nay, thoſe of all the corporations in the kingdom.
Yet let a veil be drawn over this humiliating origin of our birth-rights. Thus emancipated, had we at leaſt recovered ſovereignty: but we are ſtill no more than an emancipated people; in no national tranſactions does the parliament appear conſcious of their preeminence; in all their addreſſes to the throne, reſpecting affairs of public concern, they ever mention the king's [Page 198] perſon and prerogative in the firſt place; the religion, the laws, and liberty of the kingdom ever in the laſt.
The repreſentatives of the people are admitted into the great council of the nation as truſtees for the people, as well as councellors for the king; but in the oath of fidelity they take at their admiſſion, they conſider themſelves as the king's ſervants only *.
To the people at large only the legiſlative power ought to belong; this power they exerciſe either by themſelves or by repreſentatives: but among us one particular claſs of ſubjects ſhare that power independently of any conſtitutive authority. By birth, they are the king's hereditary councellors, they make one of the three eſtates in conjunction with the lords ſpiritual, and with them, are ſupreme judges in the realm; nay, the arbiters of it: they diſpoſe of the crown, when the throne becomes vacant, and pronounce in laſt reſort upon all cauſes that have been decided in any of the courts of juſtice.
To ſuch extenſive power are annexed high dignity, and many prerogatives equally oppreſſive and [Page 199] inſulting* to other ſubjects. It is for their ſublime virtues and exalted merit, that they are honoured with a coronet? No, the fatal privileges which they claim and arrogate to themſelves, are but the inheritance of the plunders, uſurpations, and violences of their anceſtors.
When the people at large cannot act by themſelves, to them belongs the right of nominating their repreſentatives; but among us this right is peculiar to a ſmall part of the nation†, to the prejudice [Page 200] of the reſt. Nay, of this part of the nation, few individuals have as great influence as the moſt numerous corporations; many ſmall boroughs having a right to ſend repreſentatives in parliament. Let us overlook the monſtrous abuſe that four or five thatched houſes ſhould be upon a level in the great council of the nation with the largeſt cities of the kingdom: but theſe inſignificant boroughts have been privileged by the crown for the purpoſe of corruption, and dependency; for by the influence of the court their members are always choſen.
In a moment of patriotic* fermentation, a law indeed was enacted for voiding all elections of parliament-men, where the elected members had been at any expence in meat, drink, or money, to procure votes: but was any proviſion made by that law for diſcovering and perſecuting ſecret offenders; and do our elections the leſs exhibit ſcenes of ſcandalous tranſactions? Inſtead of ſeeing electors zealous to declare themſelves for merit only, and candidates waiting for their lot with a becoming dignity: a cringing band of ſuitors are ſeen, beſtowing, without ſhame, flatteries and bribes on men they look upon with contempt, the inſtant they have extorted their votes; and a proſtituted herd of voters glutting themſelves without remorſe at lawleſs banquetings.
[Page 201] The people's repreſentatives are the defenders, not the arbiters of the conſtitution. Guardians of the national rights, they ought always to defend and never attack them. Hence, although they may be intruſted with a boundleſs authority to redreſs public grievances, they ought to have only a limited one to enact ſtatutes*: but where are the boundaries fixed to the power of our deputies, in order to ſecure from their attempts the ſanctuary of the laws?
When the repreſentatives are intruſted with an unlimited power, the people ought at leaſt to have a conſtitutional authority to reſtrain or diſown them as ſoon as they abuſe their truſt: By what obligations are our deputies reſtrained to the obſervance of the duties of their office? We have a right, indeed, to watch over their conduct; but when they make iniquitous laws, how are we to diſown them? When they attack our liberties, how repreſs them? By petitioning the Prince? What a fine contrivance, to have recourſe for redreſs of our grievances to the chief author of them! Has he not many times rendered illuſive the right of remonſtrating, by diſregarding our petitions? How [Page 202] then are we to obviate this denial of juſtice? We have no other law, therefore, than the arbitrary commands of our repreſentatives, who may at will neglect our intereſts, attack our liberties and ſell our birth-rights; without being called to any account, or incurring any other damage, than not being choſen another time. Even this trifling reſtraint is wanting in our conſtitution! Have not our commiſſioners taken upon themſelves to determine the duration of their commiſſion? If they are authorized to extend it to ſeven years, why not to twenty, forty, ſixty; why not to render themſelves independent of their conſtituents? Thus we are reduced to the deplorable ſituation of ſeeing our liberties invaded without being able to oppoſe more than vain murmurs, or reduced to the ſituation ſtill more deplorable of vindicating our rights with arms in our hands*.
The repreſentatives of the people, being intruſted with the intereſts of the public, ought to enter into an engagement with their conſtituents: our deputies, when at firſt admitted into the ſenate, take, indeed, an oath of fidelity, but in that oath there is not a ſingle word mentioned about the nation†.
[Page 203] The repreſentatives of the people ought ever to act according to the inſtructions of their conſtituents: but our deputies exerciſe their delegated power without ever conſulting us. When once elected, they take not any more notice of us. We have therefore no hand in the laws enacted by them; and how many times have the reſolves of the houſe been directly oppoſite to the ſentiments of the people they repreſent? What are then our repreſentatives, but our maſters?
The laws enacted in the great council of the nation ought to promote public welfare: but among us what a neglect of national intereſt; how ſeldom does any bill, but of a private nature, paſs? Even to make a motion for theſe bills, friends in the houſe are always neceſſary, and frequently ſuch friends are bought. Has it not been notorious in many inſtances, that parliament-men have been induced for lucre's ſake to proſtitute their abilities, and ſacrifice their country in the furtherance of any job, how dirty and iniquitious ſoever? Open the journal of the Britiſh ſenate, and there you will find many proofs of this ſad truth*.
The repreſentatives of the people ought to attend with diligence the duty of their office: but our [Page 204] deputies either ſit or abſent themſelves juſt as they pleaſe, except in ſome extraordinary juncture; and by their negligence ever make it the more eaſy for the miniſter to carry his point. Neglect of duty is even at preſent an artifice ſeveral of them make uſe of to make their beſt advantage of that power they are truſted with: nay, the moſt infignificant among them, by thus abſenting themſelves, have found out a method to oblige the miniſter to ſtipulate; for in the great council of the nation matters are carried by the number of votes, not by the weight of arguments.
As the people alone have a right to ſelect their repreſentatives, they alone have a right to declare their choice, and to maintain it: but our deputies have arrogated to themſelves the eſſential privilege of judging of returns, nay, of excluding ſuch members as they object to, in ſpite of their conſtituents.
Talents and virtue ought to be the only qualifications required in repreſentatives of the people; and the man whom they grace, whatever be his rank or circumſtances, ought to be preferred to that honourable office: but our deputies conſtrain their conſtituents to ſelect them from among a particular claſs [Page 205] of ſubjects which is not* the leaſt ignorant, nor the leaſt corrupted part of the nation.
Every Engliſhman of an unſpotted character, a good underſtanding, and an independant, though ſmall fortune, might have formerly offered himſelf as candidate: but now neither virtue, patriotic zeal, nor ſervices are regarded; money without merit † opens the door of the ſenate, by which fools and knaves enter commonly in ſuch droves as leave very little room for the admiſſion of worthy men. In order to ſecure its freedom, parliament, it is ſaid, has thus lodged more or leſs power in the ſeveral degrees of ſubjects, as they have greater or leſs intereſt in the common ſtock. I confeſs that thoſe ought to have the care of public affairs, who, ceteris paribus, have the largeſt ſtake in public weal, becauſe the public have then, in the property of wealthy men, a ſecurity for their good conduct, which is wanting in men without fortune; but wealthy men are not always thoſe who have the greateſt concern for public ſafety, and fortune alone is a very bad guarantee. I appeal to [Page 206] precedents. All thoſe members who gave up to Henry VII. Henry VIII. and Mary, the birth-rights of the ſubjects; all thoſe who proſtituted themſelves to the will of James I. Charles II. and James II; all thoſe who had, by their violent proceedings relating to foreign affairs, ſo much diſguſted the whole nation, and given cauſe to the Kentiſh petition*, were they not men of property? all thoſe likewiſe who have lately devoted themſelves to the court, are they not men of property? If ever virtue has ſhone in parliament, it was only when the iniquitous practices of the court, and the very brink of deſtruction; and when the care of public ſafety obliged the electors to be determined in their choice of repreſentatives only by probity, abilities, and patriotic zeal.
The allurements tendered to virtue are not of ſo palpable and ſtriking a kind as the baits of corruption; and none but the wiſe and virtuous are greedy of them: men whoſe whole merit conſiſts in their fortune, covet only to enlarge their eſtate at the expence of their honour, and the intereſt of their country; ever ready to join thoſe at the helm in meaſures ruinous to the people, as long as they find in it their own intereſt.—To ſelect our repreſentatives from among [Page 207] wealthy men, is prudent, if they are not deſtitute of merit: but when luxury, extravagance, ignorance, debauchery, and venality, are their only characteriſtics, why not turn our choice upon the virtuous and wiſe, who grace the other claſſes of ſociety?
Beſides, from ſuch an inconſiderate choice ever reſults a partiality in the laws. When deputies exerciſe acts of legiſlation, they ſeldom make any law which reſtrains themſelves; and often make ſuch as they may turn to their own advantage. We have no need to look for the proofs of this truth in foreign annals, it is unfortunately but too obvious in thoſe of our own country.
To complain that the inferior claſſes of the people receive no advantage from the laws relating to property (ſince being without fortune, they have no ſhare in lucrative eſtabliſhments, and nothing to loſe) would perhaps be deemed too great a preſumption by thoſe opulent Sybarites who, from their elevation, look down with contempt upon the poor, whom they believe not made to ſhare their pleaſures.
Let us then overlook the advantages of ſociety, and confine ourſelves to the proſpect of its diſadvantages. I ſhall not mention here the hearth-money, the gamelaws, and the heavy taxes laid on the neceſſaries of [Page 208] life, ſo oppreſſive to the poor*; there are more important inſtances of oppreſſion.
The act for raiſing the recruits, paſſed in 1703-4, empowers the juſtices of peace to take up ſuch idle perſons as have no calling nor means of ſubſiſtence, and to deliver them to the officers of the army.
In a ſociety originally formed among men much in the ſame circumſtances, and wherein poverty ſhould be conſtantly the conſequence of bad conduct; ſuch an act might have the ſacred character of juſtice. But in a government eſtabliſhed among men, where the ſtrongeſt and moſt artful have invaded almoſt every thing; in a government where poverty is often the conſequence of misfortunes, nay, of the injuſtice of knaves; where the induſtry and diligence of parents cannot always afford their giving any education to their family, or preſerving their morals unſpotted; where, without a proper capital, it is almoſt impoſſible to carry on any lucrative buſineſs, or even to get an honeſt livelihood, and where poverty becomes the everlaſting lot of the poor, what law could be more unjuſt?
Reduced to linger in miſery, are the indigents beſides to be forced to protect, at the expence of their [Page 209] blood, the inheritance, or ſecure the peace of the poſterity of their uſurpers, and at the riſk of their lives, to defend the power of their tyrants? Hear, however, their inſolent oppreſſors giving, without the leaſt remorſe, their advice thereon: Wars ſweep away, four or five times in a century, vagrants, beggars, and ſuch like dregs of mankind.
There are foundations for poor among us, it will be ſaid: but what pen, eloquent enough, could deſcribe with propriety the ſhocking ſcene of a workhouſe, or what man ever ſo ſavage could take a view of it without ſhaking with horror. Diſmal places! wherein the needy is kept alive by unwholeſome food, lays in naſtineſs, breathes an infected air, and groans under the ſevere hand of a warden; wretched habitations! wherein abuſes, diſeaſes and hunger reign conſtantly. Of thoſe who are confined there, how many fall victims to their hard fate; and how few, rather than re-enter therein, unleſs compelled by intolerable neceſſity, prefer not ſtarving at the door of the rich?
The poor, almoſt entirely deſtitute of aſſiſtance againſt hunger, find as little againſt diſeaſe. Who does not know that letters of recommendation are neceſſary among us, to be admitted into hoſpitals? Thus whilſt the door of them is ever open to the ſervants of [Page 210] our gentry and nobility, it is almoſt conſtantly ſhut againſt the needy, the unſupported, the friendleſs wretch.
"The injured member of ſociety, whom the jury acquit, or whom the villain by whoſe machination he was confined dares not appear to proſecute, is dragged back to his dungeon, where he is again confined, without mercy, by the tyrant of the gaol, till he has paid what he demands of him under the ſpecious denomination of fees;" thus unjuſtly condemned to ſuffer puniſhments which ought to be inflicted on profligate malefactors alone, and reduced, in the horrors of his mind, inceſſantly to curſe the day of his birth.
A few, a very few, benevolent members, after having received intimation of theſe cruelties, have indeed ſometimes made a motion to enquire into the ſtate of the gaols, but to no effect. The legiſlators, remote as they are from ſuch a wretched condition, behold without concern thoſe abominable abuſes, and never think them worth being reformed. Who are the friends to the poor in a ſenate compoſed of rich men [Page 211] only; who are the members acquainted with the ſufferings of the needy, the miſery wherein he lingers, and the injuries he undergoes; or if they are acquainted with them, who are the members eager to reſcue and relieve him? But they do not thus forget their own intereſts; and whilſt leaving without pity a vaſt number of their fellow creatures to groan under the weight of the moſt cruel oppreſſion, they, without ſhame, make, alter, and amend acts for ſecuring the property of their dogs.
Be it again ſaid, as long as the members that compoſe the legiſlature are ſelected from among one particular claſs of people, it muſt never be expected to ſee them applying themſelves to promote common welfare: and like the parliament under Mary*, having ſecured their own poſſeſſions, they will be unconcerned for all the reſt.
Sole maſter of calling and diſſolving parliament, if he but refuſes to aſſemble them, legiſlature is annihilated: In ſuch caſe what conſtitutional authority has a right to interpoſe? The law has provided for it, it is ſaid, as it obliges the king, by his own wants, to call a parliament. But ſhould a crafty Prince lay by, during many years, the fruit of his oeconomy, as well as the produce of ſelling the foreſt woods, creating dignities*, granting letters patents for monopoly and grants of concealments, or have recourſe to the expedient of levying loans, and ſhutting the exchequer, who can anſwer that a mean could not be thus contrived for doing without the legiſlature?
Did not Charles I. govern for twelve years together without a parliament? Yes, but he got money by levying arbitrary taxes, and forcing loans. Did not Charles II. become abſolute maſter of his kingdom, without army, without money, without foreign aſſiſtance, and govern us with tyrannic ſway? How little was then wanting to reduce us to perpetual ſervitude? [Page 213] Was it the wiſdom of our conſtitution, or even our virtue, that reſcued the ſtate from the brink of deſtruction?
The king has no legiſlative power, but can procure a legiſlature at his devotion, by his great influence in the election of repreſentatives. When a new parliament is called, beſides the votes procured by the money which is privately diſtributed for that purpoſe, the miniſter diſpoſes of all the votes of the tradeſmen who ſerve his majeſty in the ſeveral towns, and of all thoſe that placemen and other creatures of the court command in the ſeveral boroughs: The lord lieutenants, and other perſons in authority, in the counties and towns, exert, moreover, all their intereſts and addreſs to get ſuch members choſen as are favourable to the deſigns of the crown.
Not ſatisfied with ſecret practices, the adminiſtration even employs violence in order to fill the great council of the nation with court dependants. It is illegal to bring troops into the neighbourhood of an election; [Page 214] but the miniſter byaſſes the electors, by hiring a band of determinate villains to frighten them into a choice of a miniſterial candidate: and of what crime ſoever ſuch villains may be guilty, the Prince is not aſhamed to ſcreen them from puniſhment.
As the place-bill does not regard the upper houſe, by creating peers of the realm ſuch commoners as have greateſt influence in elections, and ſecuring theſe new peers, it is in the power of the court ever to command a majority in the lower houſe.
The king has no demeſnes within the kingdom; but he is the fountain of all honours, and diſpoſes of all places, eccleſiaſtical, civil, and military. Hence a great number of hirelings in parliament; this number he can ever increaſe, it being in his power to multiply places and offices: nay, by only augmenting the number of the officers of his houſhold, he may diſpoſe at his will of the whole ſenate.
[Page 215] Does a commiſſion in the army, the navy, or the militia, vacate a ſeat in parliament? Does even the place of attorney or ſolicitor general, lord lieutenant of the counties, receiver of the king's cuſtoms, keeper of his majeſty's gates, roads, and bridges, director and clerk of the royal hoſpitals, lord of the board of trade and plantations, lord of the admiralty, member of the court of exchequer, and board of green cloth, commiſſioner of the treaſury, groom of their majeſties' bed-chambers, and any other office of the houſhold; nay, does a place of privy councellor, or of ſecretary of ſtate, incapacitate from being a repreſentative? Suppoſe, however, that the place-bill incapacitates perſons who have an office or place of profit under the king, or receive a penſion from the crown, to ſerve as a member of the houſe of commons; does it incapacitate thoſe who receive marks of dignity or titles of honour, does it incapacitate thoſe whoſe relations and friends have places of profit under the court, thoſe who receive ſecret douceurs, thoſe who are dependant on placemen and creatures of the court; does it regard the houſe of peers, although it be well known that the lords diſpoſe of a third part of the houſe of commons? In fine, that great bulwark of parliamentary independence was no ſooner erected than ſubverted by [Page 216] private contracts; no proviſion having been made by that law for diſcovering ſecret offenders.
Beſides the places and dignities, of which the king diſpoſes, the exorbitant ſums aſſigned for the maintenance of his houſhold, the penſions he grants, the douceurs his miniſters manage for his tools in negotiating public loans*, the promiſes with which they feed the hopes of thoſe hungry harpies who ſeek to feaſt on the vitals of their country, the tricks of craft† with which they deceive the ſimple, the ſmiles of the court which lull the vain into obſequiouſneſs, the intereſted but warm rhetoric of his creatures which [Page 217] draws into his party all thoſe who have not an underſtanding clear enough to ſecure their virtue; theſe means, I ſay, enable him to have at his diſpoſal the greateſt number of votes in the great council of the nation, to corrupt the members of the legiſlature gradually, make them ſpeak as he pleaſes, and convert tyranny into law.
The commons nominate their ſpeaker, but their choice is void, unleſs approved by the king; and the influence of a ſpeaker on the proceedings and reſolves of the whole houſe, is too well known, to conſider this prerogative as of no conſequence.
Even the polity of the legiſlature is favourable to the views of the crown. In parliament, every member gives his vote openly: this method of voting is excellent it itſelf; but as the miniſters are admitted into the ſenate, it ſerves but to force the corrupted members to become traitors to their country.
Although the king cannot call to an account the members for freedom of ſpeech in parliament; yet, if any of them, in giving full ſcope to his patriotic zeal, drops a few inconſiderate expreſſions, the creatures of the Prince exclaim againſt this want of conſideration for royal majeſty, and cry out, The Tower, the Tower; on the contrary, if the hirelings retained by [Page 218] the court diſplay in their fawning ſpeeches the moſt odious flatteries, they have nothing to fear but the bitter ſmiles of the friends of liberty.
When the commons have diſregarded their duty, was there ever found any virtue among the lords? But we know too much of their proceedings to turn on that ſide our fond hopes. Even in the moſt critical junctures, and when the commons were ſtruggling againſt the incroachments of the crown under the Stuarts, the lords remained idle, and ſeemed to ſhow little concern at the fears and jealouſies expreſſed by the people. Beſides, there is in their houſe a ſacred tribe, ever blindly devoted from principle to the court.
However, ſuppoſing there were in the upper houſe many virtuous members, as the place-bill does not regard it, by making new peers, the court may always ſecure a majority, as has been oftentimes the caſe.
The legiſlature is indeed a check upon the crown; yet only when it is intirely independent. For as ſoon as ſelfiſh intereſted views prevail among its members, the parliament—the ſtrength and glory of Britain, turns a profligate faction, who, partaking of the Prince's bounty, and hoping to ſhare with him the ſpoils of their country, join thoſe at the helm in their [Page 219] criminal deſigns, and ſupport their deſtructive meaſures; —a band of diſguiſed traitors, who, under the name of guardians, traffic away the national intereſt and the rights of a free-born people.
A King of England will ever endeavour to make his progreſs to abſolute empire by a penſionary parliament. I have ſhewn what conſidence the people may place in the great council of the nation, as long as our ſo much exalted conſtitution ſhall remain as it is. Under Charles II. the parliament was filled with a band of abject penſioners, and the nation wept at the ſight of their ſenators clothed with the badges of ſlavery: what once was ſeen, may be ſeen again; alas, is it not in ſome ſort already the caſe? Peruſe the liſt of the houſe of commons, and you will find it chiefly compoſed of men who have offices, or places of profit under the king. Nor is even this the worſt of the diſmal proſpect which lies before us.
The king has no right to lay any tax, but the crown has the prerogative of diſpoſing of the public money, when depoſited in an aggregated fund in the treaſury. To prevent the miſapplication of public revenue, it has been reſolved to allow out of it ſeparate incomes for the ſupport of the government, and the maintenance of the crown dignity; the reſt is under the [Page 220] command of the parliament, and the commons examine the current ſervice of each year. But as the ſum allotted for ſecret ſervices has not been limited by law, a pretence of ſquandering the nation's money is left to the miniſtry, if not a ſafe and eaſy mean of filling up the king's coffers, and enriching themſelves.
To prevent abuſes, the commons have the right of inquiring into the diſpoſal of public money; but this prerogative of the crown is liable to the controul of the houſe, only when parliament is aſſembled.
The houſe has a right to call the great officers of the crown to an account; but with money which has been embezzled, the miniſter can engage them not to take cognizance of his miſdemeanor and plundering. An enormous defect in our conſtitution this, of which we had lately the ſad experience!
Royal prerogative is not circumſcribed here. The king alone has a right to make war, peace, and treaties, even without conſulting the nation. Independently of that monſtrous abuſe of intruſting a ſole individual with a power to ſacrifice to his caprices the [Page 221] blood of a multitude, of diverting the public attention in a critical juncture, evading the redreſs of national grievances, and making away with many troubleſome patriots, by nominating them to perilous employments; how many other inconveniencies!
The king's deſigns, when they have received the ſanction of both houſes, are ever carried into execution at the nation's expence: the ſum they require may be employed againſt its deſtination: how many inſtances of this under Charles II.?
No war is made but a treaty follows, and few treaties are concluded without money. Thus when the Prince ſells to the enemy the fruits of national victories, or to any power the weight of his influence on the affairs of Europe, the ſums remitted remain in his hands; but the charges of ill ſucceſs are always placed to the account of the public*.
The king is the generaliſſimo† of the army; and though the parliament grants him ſubſidies for a year [Page 222] only; yet during that interval, what could not be done by an audacious monarch, who, having ſecured, for a long time, the affections both of ſoldiers and officers, ſhould on a ſudden pull off the maſk?
The ſoldiers are patriots, it is objected, the officers are men of honour, and thoſe at the head of the army, men of great property. What an objection this! The ſoldiers are patriots; but they are raiſed out of the moſt neceſſitous, the moſt ignorant, the moſt vicious part of the nation. What truſt can be placed in ſuch an abandoned race, whom idleneſs, debauchery, or crimes have driven to enliſt for bread? Is it to be ſuppoſed that mercenaries who ſell themſelves for ſix-pence a day, would not be ready to obey any command of a Prince, who ſhould flatter them with the hope of rendering their condition comfortable with the ſpoils of the citizens?
The officers are men of honour. Such among them who ſhould prove incorruptible, might be removed; yet how few would refuſe to purchaſe the ſmiles of a court at the expence of public liberty, and prefer [Page 223] duty to favour, riches, and dignities? Beſides, when once the ſoldiers are ſecured, what is more eaſy than making officers?
A miniſter can, when he pleaſes, have perſons arbitrarily ſeized, together with their papers and books, or oppreſs them other ways: but when a plaintiff brings an action againſt a miniſter, how difficult for him to obtain juſtice! Although we boaſt of having the beſt digeſted and moſt excellent body of laws, which any nation on the face of the globe could ever [Page 224] poſſeſs; yet our laws are ſo prodigiouſly multiplied, and many of them ſo inaccurate, ſo obſcure, that the ſubtle politics of a jeſuiſtical miniſtry may very often evade the letter of them. Whenever the crown has incroached upon the ſubjects, in how many important points has the matter entirely reſted upon the opinion of the judges? But how clear and indiſputable ſoever the claim of the plaintiff may be; beſides the ſecret dealings of the government to ſupport their arbitrary proceedings, how many means are employed to avoid trying the legality of their proceedings? Caſting eſſoigns, pleading privilege, ſtanding out in contempt of the court, evading the judgment by bills of exception, ſpecial verdicts, motions for a new trial, writs of error, &c. are all made uſe of in their turn. Thus they prevent the cauſe being finally decided, by delaying until the poor proſecutor be overborn, in the long run, by dint of expence, or until an accidental event, if not ſome dark expedient deprive him of any further need of a court of juſtice. However, ſuppoſing it to be as eaſy as it is difficult, to obtain redreſs, the arbitrary proceedings of the government, although condemned, are but little, if the leaſt, reſtrained. Let the encroachments of a miniſter be ever ſo outrageous, inſtead of meeting with a juſt retaliation, or having a ſevere cenſure paſſed on [Page 225] him; the puniſhment he ſuffers is but apparent, for the only ſatisfaction that the injured party can pretend to is damages, which are ever defrayed at the public expence. Thus adminiſtration, having trampled under foot the rights of the ſubjects, mocks the ſword of juſtice.
Theſe are enormous defects in our conſtitution, and more than ſufficient to ruin liberty: yet how many more remain*?
Did they prevent Edward II. from tyrannically exerting the pretended prerogative of the crown; ſuch as the diſpenſing power, the extenſion of the foreſts, the erecting monopolies, the exacting of loans, the ſtopping of juſtice by particular warrants, the renewal of the commiſſion of the trail-baton, the extending the authority of the privy council and ſtar-chamber to the deciſion of private cauſes†, &c.
Did all our laws prevent Charles II. from enſlaving the nation? And whilſt we were groaning under the oppreſſive hand of James II. was it not accidentally that liberty ſprung up from its ruins? If the audacity alone of ſome of our Princes proved ſufficient to ſubject us to ſervitude; how much more ſo when aided by refined artifice? Times have changed, I allow, but the conſtitution is much the ſame.
Be it ſaid, therefore, notwithſtanding all thoſe encomiums beſtowed on our conſtitution, liberty is precarious among us, it depends on the want of genius and audacity of our Princes, and chiefly on that ſpirit of independency which prevails in theſe times all over the nation.
What hence? will it be ſaid. Alas, is it not ſelf-evident enough! By that inconſiderate vanity, you have deprived yourſelves of the only mean which remained of being openly revenged of a bad Prince, and the only mean of honouring the memory of a good one; for if you diſplay ſuch marks of reſpect for a Tiberius, a Louis XI. a Henry VIII. what remains for a Marcus Aurelius, a Louis IX. a Henry V.?
By that inconſiderate vanity, you have wreſted from your own hands the only rod which remained to repreſs the audacity of the ſucceſſor to the crown, the only reward to encourage him to the purſuit of virtue*.
By that abſurd vanity, you have deprived yourſelves of the only mean of diſtinguiſhing the ſecret [Page 228] enemies to their country, you have placed yourſelves upon a level with the creatures of the court, and you blindly act the part of ſervile flatterers.
By ſuch inconſiderate marks of reſpect, you have confounded the real relations of things. For the loſs of a Prince who could ſcarce liſp, the whole ſtate aſſumes a melancholy face, all is mournful, feaſts ceaſe, places of public entertainment are ſhut: whilſt for the loſs of the benefactors of the patria, of thoſe who have defended it at the expence of their blood, of thoſe who have enriched it by their knowledge, of thoſe who have honoured it with their virtues, no marks of public grief are ſeen, feaſts continue, and all appear gay. Nay, when an allied Prince dies, the ſubjects, imitating the court, wear black, whilſt in thoſe public calamities, when the plague lays waſte the provinces, when the fire of heaven conſumes the cities, when famine drives to deſpair uſeful labourers, no mourning, no public marks of affliction are ſeen.
In fine, from that ſervile ſpirit, Princes proceed to enforce, as a duty, thoſe exterior marks of veneration; and eſtabliſhing their tyrannic empire in our very hearts, they command us to bemoan when they bemoan, and to laugh when they laugh.
In order to ſhare their authority, it is likewiſe the conſtant cuſtom of the miniſter to tell them that they are abſolute, that every thing muſt yield to their will, that they may diſpoſe of the fortune of their ſubjects, and that every meaſure to render their power irreſiſtable, is permitted when well planned, or attended with ſucceſs.
On another ſide, penſioned lawyers and philoſophers, confounding all notions of ſound politics, continually repeat in their fawning ſpeeches, that Princes alone have a right to command, and ſubjects none but to obey; they build ſyſtems of injuſtice, and baſely proſtitute their incenſe.
Vile authors publiſh theſe odious maxims; and, as if endeavouring to go beyond their own meanneſs, they aſſert that there is no* covenant between king [Page 230] and people; that Princes* are ſole ſovereigns; that, being above† the laws, they forget their dignity when they exact not that obedience which was ſworn to them at the altar; that being the fathers of their ſubjects, they have a right to do what they think moſt conducive to the intereſts of the public, without taking advice of the nation, nay, in oppoſition to the laws‡; that they are accountable to God alone, from whom they have received their authority: then ſearching into antiquity, they ſhow all nations under the yoke, and alledge thoſe horrid abuſes in vindication of tyranny.
Poets, in their turn, diſplay theſe maxims in their verſes. Men engaged in the conduct of public affairs begin to ſpread them, at firſt with caution, and afterwards with effrontery. The creatures of the Prince, and all thoſe villains who build their fortune on the [Page 231] ruins of their country, join their proſtituted voices. Thus dictated by flattery and treaſon, and repeated by intereſt, fear, hope, or ſtupidity, theſe maxims take place.
By continually hearing that Princes are abſolute, the people at laſt believe it. The credulous father gives with devotion theſe leſſons to his children; and children following blindly the prejudices of their father, royal prerogative eſtabliſhes itſelf in every mind, and every one thinks himſelf bound in duty to ſubmit to the yoke.
[Page 232] Having aſſiſted at the obſequies of Caeſar, Antony aſcends the roſtra, and holding the bloody gown of the emperor, moves the populace; who inſtantly ran with the torches of the funeral pile in their hands to ſet on fire the houſes of Caſſius and Brutus.
Not ſatisfied with being dupes, the people run ſometimes to ſervitude, and lend their own hands to forge their chains. Never thinking that in a free country, every ſubject has a right to inform againſt the ſervants of the public, they ever blindly abandon themſelves to their zeal for thoſe who have appeared in their defence; and, yielding to gratitude, ever ſtrike at that very liberty, the defender of which they mean to vindicate.
As Timoleon, charged with miſdemeanors by ſome orators of Syracuſa, was ſummoned to appear before the people to clear himſelf, his fellow citizens were on the point of tearing his accuſers to pieces*.
In order to maintain themſelves free, the people ought never to ſuffer the law to be made deluſive; but they oftentimes obſtinately violate it in favour of thoſe they reſpect. Zaleuchus, legiſlator of the Locrians, having enacted a ſevere law againſt adultery, and his own [Page 233] ſon being ſoon after convicted of that crime, the people moved by the paternal ſorrow, repeatedly entreated his pardon.
How many times, with a view to ſecure their liberty, have the people truſted in the Prince's own hands a tyrannic ſway? The perſecutions of the Proteſtant ſubjects under Mary I. rendered her domination odious. Accordingly, when Elizabeth mounted the throne, as ſhe profeſſed the reformed religion, the people, tranſported by an indiſcreet zeal, veſted her with an extenſive power to extirpate papiſm; but the fear of religious perſecutions was ſoon changed into fear of civil ſlavery, and the proteſtants with regret felt themſelves cruſhed under the weight of that power they had erected to cruſh their enemies.
Nay, in order to reform the government or vindicate the ſtate, they have truſted a few individuals with an abſolute power! Of this the Decemviri, Marius, and Sylla, are famous inſtances. Veſted with the whole power of the commonwealth, Rome beheld with aſtoniſhment the authority it had intruſted them with: in their preſence the people caſt their eyes down, the laws laid in ſilence, the names of the proſcribed reſounded every where, and blood was ſhed in abundance.
[Page 234] The Dutch, delivered from the domination of their maſter by the death of William II. again truſted the ſupreme authority into the hands of his ſon, murdered the zealous patriots who oppoſed ſuch a raſh ſtep, and again erected a Prince againſt liberty.
Have we not ourſelves many times forged our chains? When the people, incenſed by the tax of three groats impoſed by Richard II. on every perſon, male or female, above fifteen years of age, had riſen againſt their oppreſſors, reſolutely bent to better their condition; they required the abolition of ſlavery, freedom of commerce in market-towns without tolls or impoſts, and a fixed rent on lands, inſtead of the ſervices due by villenage. All theſe requeſts were complied with, and charters to that purpoſe were granted them. Soon after the nobility and gentry, hearing of theſe tranſactions, flocked to London with their adherents and retainers, Richard took the field, the charters of enfranchiſement were revoked by parliament, and the inferior claſs of people were reduced to the ſame ſlaviſh condition as before*.
[Page 235] At firſt they conferred on the King the title of the only ſupreme head on earth of the church of England, and inveſted him with all the real power belonging to it, or rather, acknowledged his pretended inherent power "To viſit, repreſs, redreſs, reform, correct, reſtrain, and amend all errors, hereſies, abuſes, offences, contempt, and enormities, which fall under any ſpiritual authority and juriſdiction;" and, as if it was not enough to truſt him with theſe terrible weapons, they paſſed a law by which they ratified all the tenets which the commiſſion, appointed by the crown to chuſe a religion for the people, ſhould eſtabliſh with the king's conſent, not being aſhamed of expreſly declaring that they had no other rule in religious concerns but the arbitrary will of their maſter.
Having thus reſigned all their eccleſiaſtical liberties, they proceeded to an entire ſurrender of their civil rights; and, without ſcruple or deliberation, made, by one act, a total ſubverſion of the Engliſh conſtitution;—they gave to the king's proclamations the ſame force as to ſtatutes enacted by parliament*; they even framed this law as if it were only intended to explain the natural extent of royal authority, and to facilitate the execution of it, appointed that any one of the king's councellors ſhould form a legal court for puniſhing [Page 236] all diſobedience to proclamations. But to prove the more ready to gratify even the moſt lawleſs paſſions of the King, they ratified his divorce from Anne Boleyn, declared the iſſue of their marriage illegitimate, ſettled the crown on the king's iſſue by his new miſtreſs, and in caſe he ſhould die without children, empowered him, by his will or letters patent, to diſpoſe of the crown. Not ſatisfied with this ſcandalous proſtitution to the will of the monarch, a ſpecies of civil inquiſition was eſtabliſhed over the kingdom. Whoever refuſed to anſwer upon oath to any article of the act of ſettlement, was declared guilty of high treaſon.
The nobility, papiſts, and tories, united in their inſult over an aſſembly, whoſe patriotic ſpirit had hitherto foiled their combined efforts to reduce their country under the yoke of ancient tyranny, and celebrated the happy event. The preſbyterians, ſtupidly imagining they were exulting in their own triumph, cordially joined their voice; the patriotic party themſelves, [Page 237] giving up all thoſe liberties they had purchaſed at the expence of their blood, imitated the crowd.
Every one was buſy in removing whatever might offend the eyes of their new maſter: the arms of the commonwealth were pulled down, and thoſe of the King put up in their place; the Scotch colours taken at Dunbar and Worceſter were removed, and the great ſeals broken: whatever bore any ſtamp of liberty, or revived any idea of independance, was deſtroyed, and public thankſgivings were ordered.
No ſooner was the Prince landed, but the people from every quarter of the kingdom flocked to him; the ſenate of the nation threw themſelves at his feet; he entered the capital in pomp amidſt public acclamations; rejoicings and illuminations were ſeen every where, whilſt in the tranſports of their joy, the ſtupid multitude curſed the names of thoſe who had ſo long deprived them of a King, threw in the flames the ſad remains of the commonwealth, and racked their groſs imaginations for invention to inſult a government by whoſe paternal regard they could only hope to have been emancipated from that abject ſtate of ſervitude they were ſubject to.
Hardly was the Prince aſcended the throne, but the parliament deemed as the moſt execrable rebels, the oppoſers of Charles the Firſt's uſurpations: they [Page 238] decreed proſcription, confiſcation or impriſonment againſt the members of the tribunal that had ſentenced the tyrant. By their order the bodies of Cromwell, Ireton, Bradſhaw, and Pride, were taken out of their graves, drawn upon an hurdle to Tyburn, hanged there, and then buried under the gallows. By their order, the walls of Glouceſter, Coventry, Northampton, Leiceſter,—towns which had diſtinguiſhed themſelves by their zeal for parliament, were raſed to the ground.
Not ſatisfied with reſtoring Charles to his prerogative, the parliament proceeded to inveſt him with an unlimited power. Having ſettled on the King a greater revenue than that of his predeceſſor, they paſſed an act declaring the right of diſpoſing of the militia and land forces to be in the king's hands only; recalled, at his deſire, the triennial bill; enacted a law to prevent diſaffected perſons from being admitted into office, to have the ſucceſſion of corporations perpetuated in the hands of the creatures of the court, and to oblige all their officers to take a new oath of allegiance and ſupremacy, declaring it unlawful, upon any pretence whatſoever, to riſe in arms againſt the king, or thoſe commiſſioned by him.
They veſted in the crown new prerogatives, and did not ceaſe to enlarge its authority, till they themſelves, [Page 239] cruſhed under the weight of that power they had erected, beheld with trembling the work of their own hands.
As James II. aſcended the throne, the parliament earneſtly cringed at his feet, and amidſt the ſeveral tokens of zeal they diſplayed for him, it was uncertain which of both houſes was moſt earneſt to run to ſlavery. The lower houſe voted that all the revenue enjoyed by the late King ſhould be granted to his majeſty during life; and thus ſettling upon him an immenſe revenue, enabled the crown to maintain an army and fleet without the aſſiſtance of the people, and ſubdue thoſe who ſhould dare to oppoſe: whilſt the upper houſe, at the requeſt of the attorney-general, entirely diſcharged the earl of Danby, and the popiſh lords who, upon indictment, had been priſoners in the Tower for the plot, annulled their former order*, and brought in a bill to reverſe the attainder of the viſcount Stafford in the year 1680.
On their ſide, all the magiſtrates, judges, juſtices of the peace, ſerved the king his own way, and as if [Page 240] thoſe who were appointed to hold the balance of juſtice would leave no right in the ſtate, they gave it as their opinion, THAT THE LAWS OF ENGLAND ARE THE KING'S LAWS, AND THAT IT IS A PREROGATIVE OF THE CROWN TO DISPENSE WITH THEM.
The clergy of the church of England, likewiſe, diſtinguiſhed themſelves by their devotion to the maxims of the court. The pulpit every where refounded with the doctrine of paſſive obedience; and this doctrine was ſupported in the courts of juſtice by the judges and lawyers to the utmoſt of their power.
AS ſoon as the Prince has uſurped the ſupreme power, the object of all public undertakings is no more the welfare of the people, but the diſplay of his authority, of the dignity of his crown, or the gratification of his pride and caprice. Hence he conſiders the ſtate as his patrimony, and the public money as his revenue; he ſells offices and dignities, traffics away towns, provinces, ſubjects, and diſpoſes at pleaſure of all the national forces.
If incenſed at ſuch outrages, the people utter aloud complaints, the Prince pulls off the maſk, aſſumes the imperious ſtile of a maſter, orders them to be ſubmiſſive, and to their remonſtrances anſwers, Such is our good pleaſure. If he meets with oppoſition; he ſpeaks but of puniſhing the audacity of his enemies. Complaints are then uſeleſs, and as the Prince has ſecured his authority, whatever be his arbitrary mandates, there remains only paſſive obedience.
Already public liberty exiſts no more, the Prince is all, and the nation nothing; however certain individuals, corporations, or orders of people, ſtill retain [Page 242] particular privileges, which ſtand in his way, and as ſo many barriers, confine his power within certain limits.
When once the legiſlative power is veſted in the crown, the Prince labours to become abſolute, beholds with concern the enemies of his iniquitous empire, and makes away with them: he ſees with a jealous eye thoſe who ſtill retain perſonal preeminences, and is earneſt to deprive them of their prerogatives; he reſtrains the privileges of corporations, uſurps thoſe of towns, and adds oftentimes mockery to injury. Thus James II. having extorted from his ſubjects their charters, returned them thanks in a proclamation for the great confidence they had repoſed in him; adding, that he, for that mark of honour, thought himſelf more than ordinarily obliged to continue as he had hitherto begun, to ſhew the greateſt moderation and benignity in the exerciſe of ſo great a truſt.
When the Prince is arrived at this point, his ambition has no limits; every day he ventures on new ſteps towards extending his power; every day commits new outrages, and, if he continues to have recourſe to pretences, it is leſs from neceſſity than ſalving appearances.
THE Prince, having engroſſed every power which can be exerted in government, would that he were juſt; but woe to thoſe who dare ſtill to complain of his tyrannic empire. As he has ſpared no crime to get poſſeſſion of the ſupreme power, he ſpares none to maintain it. Thus, when once the chains of the people are forged, they are afterwards riveted, and riveted ſo cloſe, that the fate of their liberty is ſealed for ever.
Armed with the whole public force, inveſted with all authority, and interpreters of the laws, they make of them an arm defenſive and offenſive, which renders them ſacred to their ſubjects, and terrible to their enemies.
If in the courts of judicature, before which the unfortunate victims of his vengeance are dragged, there is ſtill a remain of humanity, they compoſe tribunals [Page 244] of their creatures*: The ſword of tyranny is ſuſpended over every head; and if any one dares to murmur, he is maſſacred in an inſtant. The people then live in perpetual anguiſh, and every one, trembling for his life, beholds in ſilence the outrages of the deſpot.
When the Prince has exterminated all thoſe powerful men who oppoſed his uſurpations, all thoſe ſpirited men who refuſed to ſubmit to his odious empire, all men jealous of their liberty, when he has overthrown all the barriers which ſet bounds to his ambition, ſilenced all the laws, and ſacrificed every thing to his elevation, he gives then a little reſpite to the people, grants rewards to his creatures, beſtows donations on the armies, procures abundance, and indulges the populace with† ſhews:—A fallacious image of public happineſs!
To riſe, an uſurper depreſſes every one; but to ſupport his overgrown power, he muſt engage the people to be concerned for him; by the mildneſs of his government alone he may attain this end. Accordingly he ſeems for a while as if he meant to reſtore [Page 245] public liberty*. He makes ſuch regulations, as may prevent the diſorders which have cauſed the ruin of the ſtate, before he was the ſole maſter of it; he reſtores the magiſtrates to the functions of their office; ſometimes he permits a phantom of the ſovereign to ſubſiſt, and takes its advice on every law he intends to enact, after he has dictated him its anſwer.
If he commits any violence to indulge his paſſions, it is under the forms of juſtice; if he ſacrifices any ſubject to his reſentment, it is by means of the magiſtrates; and thus gratifies his deſires without being loaded with public hatred. But in order that the tribunals be ever blind inſtruments of his command, he confers no office but to men deſtitute of principle, and fills the courts with deteſtable villains†
[Page 246] At other times, to calm his fears or indulge his avarice, he engages ruffians to make away with troubleſome ſubjects, and then, to appeaſe the minds of the people, diſowns the miniſters of his vengeance, lays on them all the blame for the crimes he has committed*, abandons them to their ill fate, or puniſhes them himſelf for having obeyed his orders.
Seduced by ſuch artifices, the people ruſh to ſervitude, confirm to the Prince his uſurpations, abandon themſelves to his mercy, and confer on him the power of ordering what he thinks moſt conducive to the intereſts of his dominions, without taking advice of any but of himſelf.
But this appearance of juſtice ſoon vaniſhes. When once the deſpot has ſecured his authority, he renounces moderation, he ſinks into pleaſure, and abandons himſelf to every ſort of debauchery and extravagance. The public revenue becomes the prey of this minions, of muſicians, mimicks, curtezans, and even of the rabble, who no longer ſubſiſt but by his ſcandalous prodigalities.
To ſuch odious waſtefulneſs is joined licentiouſneſs, the creatures ſcandalouſly traffick the power of their [Page 247] maſter; they ſell offices, and even diſpenſations from diſcharging the duty of them.
By conſtantly ſquandering public money in indulging his paſſions and caprices, the deſpot exhauſts, at laſt, his treaſury; when exhauſted, he labours to fill it again, and recovers by crimes, what he has waſted in extravagances.
Theſe reſources being drained, he has recourſe to extortions, confiſcations and pillaging*
In order to have a pretence for preying upon his ſubjects, to the puniſhments of thoſe who are guilty of high-treaſon, he adds the forfeiture of their wealth; and, in order to find a multitude of criminals, he denominates high-treaſon an infinite number of guiltleſs actions, and is wholly buſy in contriving new crimes, and finding out informers.
[Page 248] At the ſight of the outrages of the tyrant, murmurs are revived, plots are formed, and again blood is ſhed in abundance*
To the care of perſonal ſafety, tyrants join that of ſecuring their empire, and their cruelty augments with their terrors. To ſecure themſelves againſt attempts, they know of no other mean but proſcription, impriſonment, torture; maintaining one cruelty by another, and waſhing their bloody hands in blood is their ſole employment.
To baniſh their fears, it is not enough to exterminate all jealous men, all malcontents, all ſuſpected perſons; if their children, their friends, their relations be not butchered. Thus the blood of the ſubjects is continually ſacrificed to the pretended peace of the ſtate.
Seeing none leſs worthy of the empire than themſelves, they dread ſubjects who ſtill maintain any virtue, are offended at any one diſplaying any merit, [Page 249] are jealous of thoſe who enjoy the public eſteem, of captains who have any influence over the ſoldiers, of magiſtrates who diſcharge the duties of their office, of placemen who are not deemed infamous; whatever announces a greatneſs of mind is to them matter of anguiſh, whatever appears with eclat offends their eyes, whatever excites admiration awakens their jealouſy; they are alarmed by the very appearance of audacity, and to baniſh their terrors, their baſe hearts ſuggeſt murders only.
Dreading even the ſhadow of independence, they iſſue out proclamations againſt freedom of ſpeech, they ſee with concern thoſe who turn their eyes towards the calamities of their country, are incenſed that any one ſhould dare to recollect the fortunate but paſt days of liberty, or ſpeak with reſpect of good citizens; they rank the love of the patria among crimes, and puniſh it as ſuch.
When any one dares to write againſt tyranny, his performance is ignominiouſly burnt by public authority†, and himſelf puniſhed as a malefactor. If he [Page 250] eſcapes; his head is demanded from foreign powers, and he is perſecuted till death.
Arrived at this point, they carry their ſuſpicious caution farther; they will not allow any one to turn his eyes on matters of ſtate*, they endeavour to annihilate all notions of public intereſt, even the very name of the laws.
Not ſatisfied with puniſhing thoſe who complain againſt tyranny, they deter thoſe who might be tempted to follow the ſame example; and, as they [Page 251] dread no leſs private diſcourſes than public ones, they impoſe ſilence on every one.
In order to prevent their conduct from being inquired into, and to reign peaceably in the name of the laws, it is too little, according to them, to have recourſe to terror, but have their eyes ever open on their ſubjects; they have them continually watched, and this baſe employment they reſign to a band of infamous villains.
Thus, under pretence to ſecure public tranquillity, and enforce reſpect to the majeſty of the throne, they maintain legions of ſpies among their ſubjects, they erect ſecret tribunals, and inquiſitions of every kind, the doors of which are ever open to informers.*
[Page 252] Nay, ſome Princes have carried diſtruſt ſo far as to force their ſubjects to become informers*, and even to accuſe themſelves, that is to ſay, to become the victims or ſatellites of tyranny. Hence every one entertains ſuſpicions, brothers and friends diſtruſt each other. But if any one is ſo bold as to murmur againſt oppreſſion, he is inſtantly apprehended, loaded with chains, dragged into a dungeon, and all deſert him like a victim devoted to its ill fate. Thus by cruſhing thoſe who reſiſt, and deterring thoſe who have a mind to it, none are willing to defend the patria, and there remain in the ſtate only abject ſlaves, and an inſolent maſter.
[Page 253] Deſpots, in order the more eaſily to tyrannize over the people, endeavour to render them ſtupid. Every diſcourſe or writing which elevates the mind, or tends towards engaging men to reflect, is fatal to its author: as if deſigning to annihilate every thing that bears the ſtamp of genius or virtue, theſe tyrants baniſh out of their dominions diſtinguiſhed orators, celebrated philoſophers, and brand their works with infamy*.
Nothing is guiltleſs in the eyes of a deſpot, ever ſurrounded with villains who feed his ſuſpicions, cheriſh his avarice, and incenſe his pride; villains, protected and enriched with the ſpoils of unfortunate victims. Henceforth tyranny is unbounded: all thoſe who become ſuſpected by the deſpot are ſacrificed to his cowardiſe, all thoſe whoſe riches he covets are ſacrificed to his avarice, all thoſe who cringe not at his feet are ſacrificed to his pride. They are charged with having inſulted the majeſty of the Prince, diſregarded his authority, uttered diſreſpectful words of his miniſters, &c. The ſword is then lifted up againſt every head, and the ſtate exhibits ſcenes of horror and ſlaughter. Thus, at the mercy of a tyrant, every one is ſenſible that he muſt not be talked of, and that his ſafety depends upon his obſcurity. Every one conceals his fears, his hopes, his deſires; murmurs, complaints, ſighs, [Page 254] are no more to be heard; a melancholy ſilence reigns, conſternation ſeizes every heart; ſubjects groan in ſecret, and under the moſt racking anxieties of mind lament, like malefactors, having death ever before their eyes.
After the deſpot has ſacrificed his ſubjects to his fears, avarice and pride, he ſacrifices them to his luſt; he takes away from them their wives, their daughters, their ſons, and abandons himſelf to the moſt odious debauchery.
The ſubjects, once ſubdued, and conſcious of the impoſſibility of ſhaking off the yoke, think only how to render their condition tolerable, and ſeek ſafety in baſeneſs. Unable to be free any longer, they ſoon deſpiſe liberty.
Good patriots, if there are ſtill any, ſenſible that they ſhould be deſerted by every one, venture not on meaſures which would ſerve only to bring deſtruction on themſelves. Thus reduced to wiſh for a better condition, without daring to attempt any thing to reſcue the ſubjects from their miſery, and to applaud that which it would prove dangerous to blame, they, as the reſt, reſolve to be ſubmiſſive. Hence a baſe ſervility prevails among the people, and every one offers incenſe to the idol they deteſt*.
[Page 255] When the Prince is the ſupreme arbiter of the ſtate, to be accounted ſomething every one endeavours to prove the moſt ſervile. The courtiers, vile flatterers of his paſſions and vices, ſeek with eagerneſs the privilege of being his ſport.
On pretence of maintaining his authority, but really to pay court to him, all who approach him denominate the love of independance licenciouſneſs, rank among crimes patriotic zeal, torture and become the apologiſts of tyranny.
Writers, on their ſide, repreſent the Prince as a ſovereign maſter, and ſubjects as his ſlaves; they inculcate that every one muſt kiſs the rod, and take pains to ſpread that fatal doctrine; whilſt, in order to ſhow their zeal, ambitious villains ſet up as informers, and look every where for victims whoſe condemnation might be agreeable to the Prince. [Page 256] In fine, to carry infamy to its height, the grave magiſtrates join their voices to that of the public, and are earneſt to outvie courtiers in ſervility*.
Reduced to ſuch an abject ſtate, the people ſink ſtill lower. Extreme ignorance ever produces extreme credulity. When once the ſubjects are utterly unacquainted with their rights, and uſed to hear pompous titles, ſublime names, divine honours, ever conferred on the deſpot, they ſoon conſider him as the repreſentative of Deity, his orders as oracles from heaven, and they rank blind ſubmiſſion among their duties.
The deſpot, then uncontrouled maſter of his dominions†, ceaſes to have recourſe to pretences in order to varniſh over his outrages; but tramples laws under foot, and preys upon the ſubjects at pleaſure. Having taken away their fortunes, their wives, he takes away their children and ſells them by auction‡, ſtains the [Page 257] courts of judicature, diſgraces the offices*, forces the magiſtrates to proſtitute themſelves by performing the part of buffoons†, and cruſhes every one who oppoſes his will.
Deſpots, when their power is no more ſuſceptible of any increaſe, are only intent how to make their ſubjects feel its weight; they iſſue out as laws the moſt arbitrary mandates; and, far from allowing thoſe they oppreſs to complain, forbid them even tears and ſighs‡. Whilſt ſentencing them to death, they force the unfortunate victims of their rage to pierce their own hearts, approve§ of their ſufferings, praiſe their tyrants......I cannot cloſe theſe horrid ſcenes; I ſhudder with horror, and the pen falls out of my hand.
[Page 258] Prompted by a deteſtable pride, the tyrant adds oftentimes inſult to outrage. Applauding himſelf that he inſpires terror, he walks in public places, where conſternation preceeds him. On his appearance, the people caſt down their eyes, fall at his feet, and reſound in his ears the higheſt encomiums, whilſt he inſults without pity over the ſtate he keeps oppreſſed. Nay, vexed at not being able to ſatiate his rage, he oftentimes regrets his not doing more miſchief.
In proportion as tyranny advances to its laſt period, the ſervility of the ſubjects proceeds to its loweſt degree. How many, whilſt cruſhed under the weight of their yoke, are not ſatisfied with kiſſing their chains, but become the vileſt apologiſts of tyranny?
Nero having committed a horrid parricide, the citizens of Rome immediately flocked to the temples, to thank the gods for an action which demanded their vengeance: the ſenators themſelves aſcended the capitol, ordered a thankſgiving for the ſafety of the Prince, placed the birth-day of his mother among the days of ill omen, and offered their incenſe for a [Page 259] crime they ought to have puniſhed with the utmoſt ſeverity*.
But what exceſſes have not tyrants committed?— After they have engroſſed whatever power mortal beings can engroſs, they affect to be more than men, they have the inſolent folly to paſs for gods: and as if the abjection of the people would go beyond its own bounds, theſe ſlaves are heard conferring on the tyrant titles more pompous than he dares to aſſume.
Such are commonly the ſteps by which Princes advance to deſpotiſm. Thus Liberty has the fate of all other human things: It yields to Time which deſtroys every thing, to Vice which corrupts every thing, to Ignorance which confounds every thing, and to Force which cruſhes every thing.