Thomas Gordon and John Trenchard, Cato’s Letters (1721-23)↩
- Item added: 2 Sept. 2016
- 1st Edit:
Thomas Gordon and John Trenchard, Cato’s Letters, or Essays on Liberty, Civil and Religious, and Other Important Subjects. Four volumes in Two, edited and annotated by Ronald Hamowy (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1995). <http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/737>
Thomas Gordon was the joint author with John Trenchard of these 4 volumes. Almost a generation before Washington, Henry, and Jefferson were even born, two Englishmen, concealing their identities with the honored ancient name of Cato, wrote newspaper articles condemning tyranny and advancing principles of liberty that immensely influenced American colonists. The Englishmen were John Trenchard and Thomas Gordon. Their prototype was Cato the Younger (95-46 B.C.), the implacable foe of Julius Caesar and a champion of liberty and republican principles. Their 144 essays were published from 1720 to 1723, originally in the London Journal, later in the British Journal. Subsequently collected as Cato’s Letters, these “Essays on Liberty, Civil and Religious” became, as Clinton Rossiter has remarked, “the most popular, quotable, esteemed source of political ideas in the colonial period.”
No. 16. John Trenchard, “On the Nature of Political Parties” (Feb. 11, 1721)
NO. 16. SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 11, 1721. The Leaders of Parties, their usual Views. Advice to all Parties to be no longer misled. (Gordon)↩
The wise Sancho Pancha desired that his subjects, in the promised island, might be all blacks, because he would sell them. And this seems to be the first modest, and, as I think, the only reasonable desire of the leaders of all parties; for no man will be at the expence and fatigue of body and conscience, which is necessary to lead a faction, only to be disturbed and annoyed by them.
A very great authority has told us,∗ that “‘Tis worth no man's time to serve a party, unless he can now and then get good jobs by it.” This, I can safely say, has been the constant principle and practice of every leading patriot, ever since I have been capable of observing publick transactions; the primum mobile, the alpha and omega of all their actions: They all professed to have in view only the publick good; yet every one shewed he only meant his own; and all the while the great as well as little mob, the procerum turba mobilium, contended as fiercely for their leaders, as if their happiness or misery depended upon the face, the clothes, or title of the persons who robbed and betrayed them. Thus the highwayman said to the traveller, “Pray, Sir, leave your watch and money in my hands; or else, by G —, you will be robbed.”
Pound a fool in a mortar, and he comes out never the wiser; no experience will make the bulk of mankind so, or put them upon their guard; they will be caught over and over again by the same baits and stale stratagems: No sooner is a party betrayed by one head, but they rail at him, and set up another; and when this has served them in the same manner, they choose a third; and put full confidence in every one of them successively, though they all make the same use of their credulity; that is, put a price upon their calves’ heads, and sell them; which, however, they have the less reason to complain of, because they would have all done the same.
I assure you, Sir, that I have not the least hopes in this letter to make men honester, but I would gladly teach them a little more wit; that is, I would advise any one who is contented to be sold, that he receive the money himself, and take good care of one, whatever becomes of his neighbours; as some discreet persons have lately done. Whatever bargains are struck up amongst the betrayers of their country, we must find the money, and pay both sides. How wise and advantageous would it then be for us, not to interest ourselves in the agreements or squabbles of ambitious men, who are building their fortunes upon our ruin? Once upon a time, a French ambassador desired an audience of the Grand Vizier, and in pompous French fustian notified to him, that his master had won a great victory over the Germans; to which that wise minister answered laconically, “What is it to me, if the whole herd of unbelievers, like dogs, mutually worry one another, so that my master's head be safe?”
This letter of advice is not intended for those who share already in the publick spoils, or who, like jackals, hunt down the lion's prey, that they may have the picking of the bones, when their masters are glutted. But I would persuade the poor, the injured, the distressed people, to be no longer the dupes and property of hypocrites and traitors. But very few can share in the wages of iniquity, and all the rest must suffer; the people's interest is the publick interest; it signifies the same thing: Whatever these betrayers of their country get, the people must lose; and, what is worse, must lose a great deal more than the others can get; for such conspiracies and extortions cannot be successfully carried on, without destroying or injuring trade, perverting justice, corrupting the guardians of the publick liberty, and the almost total dissolution of the principles of government.
Few can receive the advantages arising from publick misfortunes; and therefore methinks few should desire them. Indeed, I can easily see how men of desperate circumstances, or men guilty of desperate crimes, can find their account in a general confusion of all things. I can see how those priests, who aim at tyranny, can find their interest in the loss of publick liberty, in the restraint of the press, and in introducing a religion which destroys Christianity: There are reasons too at hand, why ambitious men should, per fas & nefas, grasp at the possession of immense wealth, high honours, and exorbitant power: But that the gentry, thebody of the people in a free nation, should become tools and instruments of knavesand pick-pockets; should list themselves in their quarrels, and fight their battles;and this too, often at the expence, and by the violation of goodneighbourhood, near relation, private friendship: That men of great estates and quality, for small and trifling considerations, and sometimes none at all, should promote wild, villainous projects, to the ruin of themselves and country, by making precarious their own titles to their lives, estates, and liberties, is something so stupendous, that it must be thought impossible, if daily experience did not convince us that it is more than possible.
I have often seen honest Tories foolishly defending knavish Tories; and untainted Whigs protecting corrupt Whigs, even in instances where they acted against the principles of all Whigs; and by that means depreciated Whiggism itself, and gave the stupid herd occasion to believe that they had no principles at all, but were only a factious combination for preferment and power.
It is high time, at last, for the bubbles of all parties, for Whigs and Tories, for High Church and Low Church, to come to an éclaircissement, and no longer suffer themselves to be bought and sold by their drivers: Let them cease to be calves and sheep, and they will not be used like calves and sheep. If they can be persuaded now and then to confer notes, they will find, that for the most part the differences between them are not material; that they take only different measures to attain the same ends; that they have but one common interest, which is the interest of their country; and that is, to be freed from oppression, and to punish their oppressors: Whose practice, on the contrary, will always be to form parties, and blow up factions to mutual animosities, that they may find protection in those animosities.
Let us not therefore, for the time to come, suffer ourselves to be engaged in empty and pernicious contentions; which can only tend to make us the property and harvest of pickpockets: Let us learn to value an honest man of another party, more than a knave of our own: Let the only contention be, who shall be most ready to spew out their own rogues; and I will be answerable that all other differences will soon be at an end. Indeed, there had been no such thing as party now in England, if we had not been betrayed by those whom we trusted.
Through the villainy and knavish designs of leaders, this nation has lost several glorious opportunities of rescuing the constitution, and settling it upon a firm and solid basis: Let us not therefore, by the like practices, lose the present favourable offer: Let us make earnings of our misfortunes, and accept our calamities as an opportunity thrown into our laps by indulgent providence, to save ourselves; and not again foolishly and ungratefully reject and spurn at the intimations and invitations of heaven, to preserve our prince and country.
Machiavel tells us, that no government can long subsist, but by recurring often to its first principles; but this can never be done while men live at ease and in luxury; for then they cannot be persuaded to see distant dangers, of which they feel no part. The conjunctures proper for such reformations, are when men are awakened by misfortunes, and frighted with the approach and near view of present evils; then they will wish for remedies, and their minds are prepared to receive them, to hear reasons, and to fall into measures proposed by wise men for their security.
The great authority just quoted informs us what measures and expedients are necessary to save a state under such exigencies: He tells us, that as a tyranny cannot be established but by destroying Brutus; so a free government is not to be preserved but by destroying Brutus's sons. Let us therefore put on a resolution equal to the mighty occasion: Let us exert a spirit worthy of Britons, worthy of freemen who deserve liberty. Let us take advantage of the opportunity, while men's resentments boil high, whilst lesser animosities seem to be laid aside, and most men are sick of < party and party-leaders; and let us, by all proper methods, exemplarily punish the parricides, and avowed enemies of all mankind.
Let neither private acquaintance, personal alliance, or party combination, stand between us and our duty to our country: Let all those who have a common interest in the publick safety, join in common measures to defend the publick safety: Let us pursue to disgrace, destruction, and even death, those who have brought this ruin upon us, let them be ever so great, or ever so many: Let us stamp and deep engrave, in characters legible to all Europe at present, and to all posterity hereafter, what vengeance is due to crimes, which have no less objects in view than the ruin of nations, and the destruction of millions: They have made many bold, desperate, and wicked attempts to destroy us; let us strike one honest and bold stroke to destroy them.
Though the designs of the conspirators should be laid as deep as the center, though they should raise hell itself in their quarrel, and should fetch legions of votaries from thence to avow their proceedings; yet let us not leave the pursuit, till we have their skins and estates: We know, by past experience, that there are those amongst us, who will be glad to quit the chase, when our villains, like beavers, drop what they are usually hunted for; but the nation is now too much provoked, and too much injured, to suffer themselves to be again so betrayed.
We have heaven to direct us, a glorious King to lead us, and a wise and faithful Parliament to assist and protect us: Whilst we have such a King, and such a Parliament, every worthy Briton cries out aloud,
Manus haec inimica tyrannis Ense petit placidam, sub libertate quietem.
Considerations upon the state of the nation, and of the civil list; writtenby Mr. Trenchard.
No. 17. John Trenchard, "On wicked and desperate Ministers" (Feb. 128, 1721)
NO. 17. SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 18, 1721. What Measures are actually taken by wicked and desperate Ministers to ruin and enslave their Country. (Trenchard)↩
As under the best princes, and the best servants to princes alone, it is safe to speak what is true of the worst; so, according to my former promise to the publick, I shall take the advantage of our excellent King's most gentle government, and the virtuous administration of an uncorrupt ministry, to warn mankind against the mischiefs which may hereafter be dreaded from corrupt ones. It is too true, that every country in the world has sometimes groaned under that heavy misfortune, and our own as much as any; though I cannot allow it to be true, what Monsieur de Witt has long since observed, that the English court has always been the most thievish court in Europe.
Few men have been desperate enough to attack openly, and barefaced, the liberties of a free people. Such avowed conspirators can rarely succeed: The attempt would destroy itself. Even when the enterprize is begun and visible, the end must be hid, or denied. It is the business and policy of traitors, so to disguise their treason with plausible names, and so to recommend it with popular and bewitching colours, that they themselves shall be adored, while their work is detested, and yet carried on by those that detest it.
Thus one nation has been surrendered to another under the fair name of mutual alliance: The fortresses of a nation have been given up, or attempted to be given up, under the frugal notion of saving charges to a nation; and commonwealths have been trepanned into slavery, by troops raised or increased to defend them from slavery.
It may therefore be of service to the world, to shew what measures have been taken by corrupt ministers, in some of our neighbouring countries, to ruin and enslave the people over whom they presided; to shew by what steps and gradations of mischief nations have been undone, and consequently what methods may be hereafter taken to undo others: And this subject I rather choose, because my countrymen may be the more sensible of, and know how to value the inestimable blessing of living under the best prince, and the best established government in the universe, where we have none of these things to fear.
Such traitors will probably endeavour first to get their prince into their possession, and, like Sejanus, shut him up in a little island, or perhaps make him a prisoner in his court; whilst, with full range, they devour his dominions, and plunder his subjects. When he is thus secluded from the access of his friends, and the knowledge of his affairs, he must be content with such misrepresentations as they shall find expedient to give him. False cases will be stated, to justify wicked counsel; wicked counsel will be given, to procure unjust orders. He will be made to mistake his foes for his friends, his friends for his foes; and to believe that his affairs are in the highest prosperity, when they are in the greatest distress; and that publick matters go on in the greatest harmony, when they are in the utmost confusion.
They will be ever contriving and forming wicked and dangerous projects, to make the people poor, and themselves rich; well knowing that dominion follows property; that where there are wealth and power, there will be always crowds of servile dependents; and that, on the contrary, poverty dejects the mind, fashions it to slavery, and renders it unequal to any generous undertaking, and incapable of opposing any bold usurpation. They will squander away the publick money in wanton presents to minions, and their creatures of pleasure or of burden, or in pensions to mercenary and worthless men and women, for vile ends and traitorous purposes.
They will engage their country in ridiculous, expensive, fantastical wars, to keep the minds of men in continual hurry and agitation, and under constant fears and alarms; and, by such means, deprive them both of leisure and inclination to look into publick miscarriages. Men, on the contrary, will, instead of such inspection, be disposed to fall into all measures offered, seemingly, for their defence, and will agree to every wild demand made by those who are betraying them.
When they have served their ends by such wars, or have other motives to make peace, they will have no view to the publick interest; but will often, to procure such peace, deliver up the strong-holds of their country, or its colonies for trade, to open enemies, suspected friends, or dangerous neighbours, that they may not be interrupted in their domestick designs.
They will create parties in the commonwealth, or keep them up where they already are; and, by playing them by turns upon each other, will rule both. By making the Guelfs afraid of the Ghibelines, and these afraid of the Guelfs, they will make themselves the mediums and balance between the two factions; and both factions, in their turns, the props of their authority, and the instruments of their designs.
They will not suffer any men, who have once tasted of authority, though personally their enemies, and whose posts they enjoy, to be called to an account for past crimes, though ever so enormous. They will make no such precedents for their own punishment; nor censure treason, which they intend to commit. On the contrary, they will form new conspiracies, and invent new fences for their own impunity and protection; and endeavour to engage such numbers in their guilt, as to set themselves above all fear of punishment.
They will prefer worthless and wicked men, and not suffer a man of knowledge or honesty to come near them, or enjoy a post under them. They will disgrace men of virtue, and ridicule virtue itself, and laugh at publick spirit. They will put men into employments, without any regard to the qualifications for those employments, or indeed to any qualifications at all, but as they contribute to their designs, and shew a stupid alacrity to do what they are bid. They must be either fools or beggars; either void of capacity to discover their intrigues, or of credit and inclination to disappoint them.
They will promote luxury, idleness, and expence, and a general depravation of manners, by their own example, as well as by connivance and publick encouragement. This will not only divert men's thoughts from examining their behaviour and politicks, but likewise let them loose from all the restraints of private and publick virtue. From immorality and excesses they will fall into necessity; and from thence into a servile dependence upon power.
In order to this, they will bring into fashion gaming, drunkenness, gluttony, and profuse and costly dress. They will debauch their country with foreign vices, and foreign instruments of vicious pleasures; and will contrive and encourage publick revels, nightly disguises, and debauched mummeries.
They will, by all practicable means of oppression, provoke the people to disaffection; and then make that disaffection an argument for new oppression, for not trusting them any further, and for keeping up troops; and, in fine, for depriving them of liberties and privileges, to which they are entitled by their birth, and the laws of their country.
If such measures should ever be taken in any free country, where the people choose deputies to represent them, then they will endeavour to bribe the electors in the choice of their representatives, and so to get a council of their own creatures; and where they cannot succeed with the electors, they will endeavour to corrupt the deputies after they are chosen, with the money given for the publick defence; and to draw into the perpetration of their crimes those very men, from whom the betrayed people expect the redress of their grievances, and the punishment of those crimes. And when they have thus made the representatives of the people afraid of the people, and the people afraid of their representatives; then they will endeavour to persuade those deputies to seize the government to themselves, and not to trust their principals any longer with the power of resenting their treachery and ill-usage, and of sending honester and wiser men in their room.
But if the constitution should be so stubbornly framed, that it will still preserve itself and the people's liberties, in spite of all villainous contrivances to destroy both; then must the constitution itself be attacked and broken, because it will not bend. There must be an endeavour, under some pretence of publick good, to alter a balance of the government, and to get it into the sole power of their creatures, and of such who will have constantly an interest distinct from that of the body of the people.
But if all these schemes for the ruin of the publick, and their own impunity, should fail them; and the worthy patriots of a free country should prove obstinate in defence of their country, and resolve to call its betrayers to a strict account; there is then but one thing left for such traitors to do; namely, to veer about, and, by joining with the enemy of their prince and country, complete their treason.
I have somewhere read of a favourite and first minister to a neighbouring prince, long since dead, who played his part so well, that, though he had, by his evil counsels, raised a rebellion, and a contest for the crown; yet he preserved himself a resource, whoever got the better: If his old master succeeded, then this Achitophel, by the help of a baffled rebellion, ever favourable to princes, had the glory of fixing his master in absolute power: But, as his brave rival got the day, Achitophel had the merit of betraying his old master to plead; and was accordingly taken into favour.
Happy therefore, thrice happy, are we, who can be unconcerned spectators of the miseries which the greatest part of Europe is reduced to suffer, having lost their liberties by the intrigues and wickedness of those whom they trusted; whilst we continue in full enjoyment of ours, and can be in no danger of losing them, while we have so excellent a King, assisted and obeyed by so wise a Parliament.
No. 33. Thomas Gordon, "On the natural Encroachments of Power" (June 17, 1722)
NO. 33. SATURDAY, JUNE 17, 1721. Cautions against the natural Encroachments of Power. (Gordon)↩
Considering what sort of a creature man is, it is scarce possible to put him under too many restraints, when he is possessed of great power: He may possibly use it well; but they act most prudently, who, supposing that he would use it ill, inclose him within certain bounds, and make it terrible to him to exceed them.
Men that are above all fear, soon grow above all shame. Rupto pudore & metu, suo tantum ingenio utebatur, says Tacitus of Tiberius. Even Nero had lived a great while inoffensively, and reigned virtuously: But finding at last that he might do what he would, he let loose his appetite for blood, and committed such mighty, such monstrous, such unnatural slaughters and outrages, as none but a heart bent on the study of cruelty could have devised. The good counsels of Seneca and Burrhus were, for some time, checks upon his wolfish nature; and doubtless he apprehended, that if he made direct and downright war upon his people, they would use resistance and make reprisals: But discovering, by degrees, that they would bear any thing, and his soldiers would execute every thing, he grew into an open defiance with mankind, and daily and wantonly wallowed in their blood. Having no other rival, he seemed to rival himself, and every day's wickedness was blacker than another.
Yet Nero was not the worst of all men: There have been thousands as bad as he, and only wanted the same opportunity to shew it. And there actually have been many princes in the world who have shed more blood, and done more mischief to mankind, than Nero did. I could instance in a late one, who destroyed more lives than ever Nero destroyed, perhaps an hundred to one. It makes no difference, that Nero committed butcheries out of cruelty, and the other only for his glory: However the world may be deceived by the change of names into an abhorrence of the one, and an admiration of the other; it is all one to a nation, when they are to be slaughtered, whether they be slaughtered by the hangman or by dragoons, in prison or in the field; nor is ambition better than cruelty, when it begets mischief as great.
It is nothing strange, that men, who think themselves unaccountable, should act unaccountably, and that all men would be unaccountable if they could: Even those who have done nothing to displease, do not know but some time or other they may; and no man cares to be at the entire mercy of another. Hence it is, that if every man had his will, all men would exercise dominion, and no man would suffer it. It is therefore owing more to the necessities of men, than to their inclinations, that they have put themselves under the restraint of laws, and appointed certain persons, called magistrates, to execute them; otherwise they would never be executed, scarce any man having such a degree of virtue as willingly to execute the laws upon himself; but, on the contrary, most men thinking them a grievance, when they come to meddle with themselves and their property. Suarum legum auctor & eversor, was the character of Pompey: He made laws when they suited his occasions, and broke them when they thwarted his will. And it is the character of almost every man possessed of Pompey's power: They intend them for a security to themselves, and for a terror to others. This shews the distrust that men have of men; and this made a great philosopher call the state of nature, a state of war; which definition is true in a restrained sense, since human societies and human laws are the effect of necessity and experience: Whereas were all men left to the boundless liberty which they claim from nature, every man would be interfering and quarrelling with another; every man would be plundering the acquisitions of another; the labour of one man would be the property of another; weakness would be the prey of force; and one man's industry would be the cause of another man's idleness.
Hence grew the necessity of government; which was the mutual contract of a number of men, agreeing upon certain terms of union and society, and putting themselves under penalties, if they violated these terms, which were called laws, and put into the hands of one or more men to execute. And thus men quitted part of their natural liberty to acquire civil security. But frequently the remedy proved worse than the disease; and human society had often noenemies so great as their own magistrates; who, where-ever they were trusted with too much power, always abused it, and grew mischievous to those who made them what they were. Rome, while she was free (that is, while she kept her magistrates within due bounds) could defend herself against all the world, and conquer it: But being enslaved (that is, her magistrates having broke their bounds) she could not defend herself against her own single tyrants, nor could they defend her against her foreign foes and invaders; for by their madness and cruelties they had destroyed her virtue and spirit, and exhausted her strength. This shews that those magistrates that are at absolute defiance with a nation, either cannot subsist long, or will not suffer the nation to subsist long; and that mighty traitors, rather than fall themselves, will pull down their country.
What a dreadful spirit must that man possess, who can put a private appetite in balance against the universal good of his country, and of mankind! Alexander and Caesar were that sort of men; they would set the world on fire, and spill its blood, rather than not govern it. Caligula knew that he was hated, and deserved to be hated; but it did not mend him. Oderint dum metuant, was his by-word: All that the monster aimed at, was to be great and terrible. Most of these tyrants died as became them; and, as they had reigned, by violence: But that did not mend their successors, who generally earned the fate of those that went before them, before they were warm in their place. Invenit etiam aemulos infelix nequitia: Quid si floreat vigeatque? “If unfortunate villainy thus finds rivals, what shall we say, when it exalts its head and prospers?”
There is no evil under the sun but what is to be dreaded from men, who may do what they please with impunity: They seldom or never stop at certain degrees of mischief when they have power to go farther; but hurry on from wickedness to wickedness, as far and as fast as human malice can prompt human power. Ubi semel recto deerratum est, in praeceps pervenitur—a rectis in vitia, a vitiis in prava, a pravis in praecipitia, says a Roman historian; who in this speaks the truth, though in other instances he tells many lies; I mean that base flatterer of power, Velleius Paterculus. So that when we see any great mischief committed with safety, we may justly apprehend mischiefs still greater.
The world is governed by men, and men by their passions; which, being boundless and insatiable, are always terrible when they are not controuled. Who was ever satiated with riches, or surfeited with power, or tired with honours? There is a tradition concerning Alexander, that having penetrated to the Eastern Ocean, and ravaged as much of this world as he knew, he wept that there was never another world for him to conquer. This, whether true or no, shews the spirit of the man, and indeed of human nature, whose appetites are infinite.
People are ruined by their ignorance of human nature; which ignorance leads them to credulity, and too great a confidence in particular men. They fondly imagine that he, who, possessing a great deal by their favour, owes them great gratitude, and all good offices, will therefore return their kindness: But, alas! how often are they mistaken in their favourites and trustees; who, the more they have given them, are often the more incited to take all, and to return destruction for generous usage. The common people generally think that great men have great minds, and scorn base actions; which judgment is so false, that the basest and worst of all actions have been done by great men: Perhaps they have not picked private pockets, but they have done worse; they have often disturbed, deceived, and pillaged the world: And he who is capable of the highest mischief, is capable of the meanest: He who plunders a country of a million of money, would in suitable circumstances steal a silver spoon; and a conqueror, who steals and pillages a kingdom, would, in an humbler fortune, rifle a portmanteau, or rob an orchard.
Political jealousy, therefore, in the people, is a necessary and laudable passion. But in a chief magistrate, a jealousy of his people is not so justifiable, their ambition being only to preserve themselves; whereas it is natural for power to be striving to enlarge itself, and to be encroaching upon those that have none. The most laudable jealousy of a magistrate is to be jealous for his people; which will shew that he loves them, and has used them well: But to be jealous of them, would denote that he has evil designs against them, and has used them ill. The people's jealousy tends to preserve liberty; and the prince's to destroy it. Venice is a glorious instance of the former, and so is England; and all nations who have lost their liberty, are melancholy proofs of the latter.
Power is naturally active, vigilant, and distrustful; which qualities in it push it upon all means and expedients to fortify itself, and upon destroying all opposition, and even all seeds of opposition, and make it restless as long as any thing stands in its way. It would do what it pleases, and have no check. Now, because liberty chastises and shortens power, therefore power would extinguish liberty; and consequently liberty has too much cause to be exceeding jealous, and always upon her defence. Power has many advantages over her; it has generally numerous guards, many creatures, and much treasure; besides, it has more craft and experience, less honesty and innocence: And whereas power can, and for the most part does, subsist where liberty is not, liberty cannot subsist without power; so that she has, as it were, the enemy always at her gates.
Some have said, that magistrates being accountable to none but God, ought to know no other restraint. But this reasoning is as frivolous as it is wicked; for no good man cares how many punishments and penalties lie in his way to an offence which he does not intend to commit: A man who does not mean to commit murder, is not sorry that murder is punished with death. And as to wicked men, their being accountable to God, whom they do not fear, is no security to use against their folly and malice; and to say that we ought to have no security against them, is to insult common sense, and give the lie to the first law of nature, that of self-preservation. Human reason says, that there is no obedience, no regard due to those rulers, who govern by no rule but their lust. Such men are no rulers; they are outlaws; who, being at defiance with God and man, are protected by no law of God, or of reason. By what precept, moral or divine, are we forbid to kill a wolf, or burn an infected ship? Is it unlawful to prevent wickedness and misery, and to resist the authors of them? Are crimes sanctified by their greatness? And is he who robs a country, and murders ten thousand, less a criminal, then he who steals single guineas, and takes away single lives? Is there any sin in preventing, and restraining, or resisting the greatest sin that can be committed, that of oppressing and destroying mankind by wholesale? Sure there never were such open, such shameless, such selfish impostors, as the advocates for lawless power! It is a damnable sin to oppress them; yet it is a damnable sin to oppose them when they oppress, or gain by oppression of others! When they are hurt themselves ever so little, or but think themselves hurt, they are the loudest of all men in their complaints, and the most outrageous in their behaviour: But when others are plundered, oppressed, and butchered, complaints are sedition; and to seek redress, is damnation. Is not this to be the authors of all wickedness and falsehood?
To conclude: Power, without control, appertains to God alone; and no man ought to be trusted with what no man is equal to. In truth there are so many passions, and inconsistencies, and so much selfishness, belonging to human nature, that we can scarce be too much upon our guard against each other. The only security which we can have that men will be honest, is to make it their interest to be honest; and the best defence which we can have against their being knaves, is to make it terrible to them to be knaves. As there are many men wicked in some stations, who would be innocent in others; the best way is to make wickedness unsafe in any station.
P. S. This letter is the sequel of that upon human nature; and both are intended for an introduction to a paper which I intend to write upon the restraints which all wise nations put upon their magistrates.
No. 72. Thomas Gordon, "On Government as a Gradation of Tyrants" (April 7, 1722)
NO. 72. SATURDAY, APRIL 7, 1722. In absolute Monarchies the Monarch seldom rules, but his Creatures instead of him. That Sort of Government a Gradation of Tyrants. (GORDON)↩
The advocates for absolute monarchy argue as ignorantly as perversely, and build without a foundation; since, while they contend for unlimited submission to the monarch's will, they must either suppose, that all acts of power proceed from his will, or else that the will of his ministers is also unlimited, and their orders are irresistible. So that either all his servants, instruments, and executioners, are absolute monarchs too; which none but a madman will say: Or that he himself does immediately direct every thing that is done; which no man of common sense will affirm. Indeed such princes have the least share of their own power, andseldom know what is done, or care.
Monsieur Thevenot tells us, that the Grand Seignior minds nothing but his pleasures, the pranks of mutes and buffoons, who are his constant attendants, and always studying new freaks and grimaces to divert him; and the dalliances of women, sent to him from all quarters by his bashaws. His power is absolutely despotick: His will, that is to say, his lust, his maggots, or his rage, is his only law, and the only bounds to the authority of this vicegerent of God. By virtue of his sacred power, he may rob any man, or all men, of their estates, and no man has a right to complain: He may put the best men to the most ignominious and barbarous death, and exalt the vilest criminals to the highest dignities; and no man must ask why. “This unlimited power of the Sultan,” says Monsieur Thevenot, “is founded on the Mahometan religion, which enjoins a blind submission to all his commands, on pain of damnation.”
A blessed and beneficent religion this! and a single sovereignty with a witness! But this monstrous and formidable power, which is holden by him, is directed by his ministers without him. They employ both him and themselves; him, far from his duty, in unmanly pleasures; themselves, in the mismanagement of his affairs, and in prostituting his name and authority, to serve their own views. He wears the crown, and lives in a brothel; they sway the sceptre, suck the people's blood, and fill their own coffers. The Grand Vizier, or first minister, is, in effect, king over his master: He has the custody of the imperial power, and discharges the office of the Grand Seignior: And as to the bashaws, who are likewise so many kings in their provinces, Thevenot says, they abuse their authority, and are more arbitrary than the Sultan himself, their design and business being to raise sudden fortunes by their spoils and oppression: And the Grand Seignior is forced to dissemble his knowledge of this rapine and exorbitancy, for want of power to punish or redress them; for that these menhave the soldiers more at their devotion than he has.
As to the Turkish civil officers and judges, he says they do what they will, and judge as they please; for all their written laws being contained in the Alcoran, which is but a short book, they are so ambiguously expressed, and so loosely delivered, that the cadi, as well as the bashaw, wrests them as he pleases; and, judging without appeal, both these greedy and rapacious officers turn justice into oppression, and make it a stale to their avarice.
Such is the spirit and effects of lawless power, lodged in one man; every officer and creature of his will have it; and, by setting up one tyrant, a thousand are set up. As this power is never to be got or preserved, but by violence and oppression; all men who have any share in executing and ministering, and defending the same, must be oppressors too. As no man is an oppressor for the mere pleasure and security of another, but only for his own sake and gratification; so all the servants of tyranny do, in their master's name, but rob and spoil for themselves; and every servant is a master. All over the Ottoman Empire, there is a great Turk in every town, and he at Constantinople is perhaps the idlest and most harmless of them all; and the exercise of the Turkish government is nothing else but a daily and general plunder, a contention between the governors who shall spoil best and get most. Nor, let them plunder and butcher as they will, is there any redress to the oppressed and expiring people; for though the imperial oppressor often forces his ministerial oppressors to disgorge, and spoils the spoiler of his booty and his life, where he dares; yet, there being no restitution made, the condition of the oppressed is not mended: It is mock-justice, and worse than none; every act of power, every degree of office there, is robbery and violence, and every officer, the leastand lowest, is an irresistible tyrant.
Single and absolute monarchy therefore, or the ruling all by the will of one is nonsense and a contradiction; it is rather a multiplication of monarchs, and in fact the worst sort of oligarchy. Now, suppose we were to obey blindly the will of the prince; are we also to obey blindly the will of his eunuchs, mistresses and janizaries, who oppress without his knowledge, or against his will? Sure the instruments and delegates of tyranny are not also the Lord's anointed. How therefore shall we know their mind from his, which perhaps contradicts theirs? Or how shall we know whether he wills any thing at all, and whether they do not will for him? This is almost always the case; and then here is a monarchy of ministers, and parasites, pathicks, buffoons, women, and butchers, rule for him, and over him.
Is this government too by divine right? If it be, let us rail no longer at anarchy; which, being the absence of all government, though it leaves every man to do what he lists, yet likewise leaves every man a right to defend himself: Besides this sort of anarchy, where every one is absolutely free, will quickly settle into order, and indeed cannot subsist long. But single monarchy, which is a long gradation of tyrants, where many on one side do what they will against the most on the other side; where cruelty and lust revel without control; where wanton and inhuman power has no limits, and heavy and sorrowful oppression no remedy nor end; where the innocent and harmless suffer most, and the worst and vilest thrive best, and where none are secure; where wickedness supports power, and property is the spoil of armies: I say, this absolute monarchy is worse than absolute anarchy, by not being so general. It is a partial anarchy, with worse effects, and no remedy.
All this still further proves, that men and societies have no possible human security but certain and express laws, setting express bounds to the power of their magistrates, ascertaining the measure of power as well as subjection, and restraining alike the exorbitances of both prince and people. It is eternally true, that such as is the nature of the government, such will be the nature of the people; and that as they are happy or miserable, so they will be good or bad, as their government and governors are good or bad; and that their whole integrity and virtue, or all their corruption and baseness, does arise fromthat single source.
“Princes,” says Machiavel,
do, but with little reason, and an ill grace, complain of the transgressions and faults of their subjects, since by the negligence and debauched example of their prince alone, the people are, and must be, debauched: And, if the people of our times are infamous for thefts, and robberies, and plunderings, and preying upon one another, and the like enormities, it is all owing to the exorbitances and rapaciousness of their governors. Romania was a place full of all dissoluteness and iniquity, every day, and every trivial occasion, producing notorious murders and rapines: Which evils were not derived so much from any depravity in the nature of the people (as some would falsely suggest) as from the vile corruption of their princes: For, being poor themselves, and yet ambitious to live in splendor, luxury, and magnificence [the true causes of their poverty!] they were forced upon execrable courses for money, and indeed refused none that could supply them.
To pass by their many other sponging projects: One of their detestable schemes was to make laws against such and such things, and after these laws were published, they themselves would be the first to break them, and to encourage others to do the same: Nor was any man ever rebuked and punished for his unobservance, till they saw enough involved in the same penalty and praemunire; and then, forsooth, the laws were to be executed with all strictness and severity, not out of any zeal for justice, but from a ravenous appetite to be fingering the fines. From whence it followed, that, by grievous mulcts and explications, the people being impoverished, were constrained to use the same violences upon those, who were less potent than they themselves were. By which means the people were not corrected for doing evil, but instructed how to do it. And all these mischiefs proceeded solely from the baseness and iniquity of their princes.
Thus it is that such courts, being continually in a conspiracy against the property and felicity of their people, and preying continually upon them by vile means and pretences, teach their people to conspire against honesty, and to prey upon one another; nay, by robbing them, they make it necessary for them to rob. Thus readily, necessarily, and naturally, is the spirit of the governors transfused into the governed, who are ever taught civil corruption by their superiors, before they practise it themselves.
Father le Compte, giving an account of the government of China, and shewing the wise provision made by the laws to check the great power of the Emperor, says,
Nor is interest a less motive than reputation to the Emperor, to be guided by the ancient customs, and to adhere to the laws, which are framed so much for his advantage, that he cannot violate them, without obvious prejudice to his own authority, nor alter them, without bringing his kingdom into confusion; for such is the temper of the Chinese, that when the Emperor is governed by violence and passion, and grows negligent of his affairs, the same perverse spirit possesses his subjects: Every mandarin thinks himself sovereign of his province or city: The chief ministers sell offices and places to worthless wretches: The vice-roys become so many little tyrants: The governors observe no rule of justice; and the people thus oppressed, are easily stirred up to sedition: Rogues multiply, and commit villainies in companies, and court all occasions to do mischief, and to break the peace. Such beginnings have occasioned fatal consequences, and put China under the command of new masters; so that the Emperor's surest way to preserve his crown, is to observe the laws, and give an entire obedience to them.
An absolute prince and his deputy-tyrants are only the instruments of one another. By their hands he executes his lust, avarice, and rage; by his authority they execute their own. He is their dupe; they are his tools: However they may differ in particular views; they are always strongly united in cruelty and oppression. And therefore, whenever there is any contention amongst them, it is only who shall be the uppermost tyrants; for tyranny is the aim, the darling and the practice of all: And when the superior and subordinate tyrants butcher one another, as they often do; the people, though they see the revenge, yet feel no relief. Whoever bears the iron rod, they feel its sharpness and its weight: For almost every tyrant grows worse and worse; yet generally leaves a successor worse than himself. What unutterable and increasing woe must be the lot of their poor subjects under continual harrows of iron, made daily more poignant and heavy! Nor is the killing of a tyrant any cure, unless the tyranny be killed with him. The nature of this power breaths nothing but destruction, private ruin, and publick desolation; the common maxims of justice and mercy are not known to him, or known only for high treason; the very contrary are constantly practised; and his ministers, to be faithful servants, must be the worst of men, and all of them tyrants like himself.
These kings (of the East) says Monsieur Bernier, see no men about them, but men of nothing; slaves, ignorants, brutes, and such courtiers as are raised from the dust to dignities; who, for want of good education, do almost always retain somewhat of their original, and of the temper of beggars enriched. They are proud, insufferable, cowardly, insensible of honour, perfidious, void of affection, and of all regard for their king and country.
These kings, says he, must ruin all, to find means to defray those prodigious expences, which they cannot avoid, for the support of their great court, which has no other source of subsistence, but their coffers and treasures; and for maintaining constantly the vast number of forces necessary to keep the people in subjection, and to prevent their running away, and to force them to work, in order to draw from them the fruits of their work. For the people being kept continually under the dreadful yoke of oppression, and made to labour through fear, for the benefit of their governors only, and perfectly wild and desperate, and ready to do any act of despair. Captain Perry says the same of the Muscovites; that, made desperate by oppression and want, they run eagerly into tumults, murders, and rebellions: And Dr. Fletcher says, that they are so enraged withhunger and cold, that they beg in a wild and desperate tone, “Give me, andcut me; help me, and kill me,” &c.
I would observe here, how much more easy, as well as glorious, it is to govern freemen than slaves. It is true, that freemen go sometimes much farther in their opposition to unjust power, than slaves go or can go; because they have more spirit, sense, virtue, and force: But that they are with more difficulty governed, is absolutely false. It is indeed difficult to oppress them, and their rebellion is generally no more than their distinguishing of government from oppression; a distinction which their governors but too seldom make, and which slaves, born to oppression, know not how to make. In truth, government is a thing not so much as known in the greatest, by far the greatest part of the earth. Government supposes, on one side, a just execution of rational standing laws, made by the consent of society; and on the other side, a rational subjection to those laws. But what has arbitrary will, wanton and outrageous lust, cruelty and oppression, to do with government, but to destroy it?
But to shew yet further the anarchy of absolute monarchy, I shall insert here what Monsieur Bernier says of the education of such sort of princes. He says, that one of the principal sources of the misery, of the misgovernment, of the dispeopling, and the decay of the eastern empires, proceeds from hence, that the children of their kings are brought up only by women and eunuchs, who generally are no other than wretched slaves from Russia, Circassia, Gurgistan, Mengrelia and Ethiopia; creatures of mean and insolent, servile and ignorant souls.
These princes become kings, without instruction worthy of men, and without knowing what it is to be a king. They are amazed when they come out of the seraglio, as persons coming out of another world, or out of some subterraneous cave, where they had spent their whole lives. They wonder at every thing which they meet, like so many ignorants. They either fear all and believe all, like children; or nothing at all, like idiots. They are commonly high and proud, and seemingly grave: But this their loftiness and gravity is so flat, so distasteful, and so unbecoming them, that it is visibly nothing but brutality and barbarousness, and the effect of some ill-studied documents. Sometimes they run into some childish civilities, still more unsavoury; or into such cruelties as are blind and brutal; or into the vile and mean vice of drunkenness, or into a gross and excessive luxury; and either ruin their bodies and understandings with their concubines, or abandon themselves to the pleasure of hunting, like some carnivorous animals, and prefer a pack of dogs before so many poor people, whom they force to follow them in the pursuit of their game, and suffer to perish with hunger, heat, cold, and misery.
In a word, they always run into one extreme or another, and are entirely irrational or extravagant, according as they are carried away by their temper, or by the first impressions made upon them. And thus remaining, almost all, in utter ignorance of their duty, and of the state of their country, and of all publick concernments, they abandon the reins of the government to some vizier (in English, a first minister), who entertains them in their ignorance, and encourages them in their passions and follies; and their ignorance, passions and follies, are the strongest supports that these viziers can have to maintain their dominions over their masters.
These kings are also frequently given up entirely to these slaves, to their mothers, and to their own eunuchs, who often know nothing but to contrive plots of cruelty to strangle and banish one another; sometimes they murder the king himself: Nor is any one else safe in life or property. Thus far Bernier.
Thus do these princes live shut up in brothels, strangers and enemies to their people; and when an appetite for war is added to their spirit of cruelty and oppression, all the advantage from it to their subjects is, that in the warlike havock a quicker end to put to their miseries, by ending their lives with a gun or a scimitar, instead of famine.
As to the redress of their grievances, and the doing justice upon the authors of them, it is absolutely impracticable in any country which has no states and representatives; and certain and irretrievable misery, as absolute as its government, is entailed upon it to all generations, till there be an utter end either of the government or of the people. The governor of Schiras pays for his government, to the King of Persia, vast sums of ready money, with fine horses, and all the fine things and rarities to be found within his province: Besides these excessive presents to the king, he is obliged to make the like to all the great lords and favourites at court, who are never to be gained but by continual bribes; so that to defray this great and endless expence, the wretched people must suffer great and endless burdens and exactions, and the governor must be a tyrant to preserve his government. Nor can they have any possible relief, though they have sometimes attempted to find it: But when two or three villages at a time have come to complain to the king, they have, after long waiting, been forced away without any redress, with empty purses and hungry bellies, because they who should have given them admission, were bribed to debar them: So that they must stupidly submit to the barbarous extortions of a ravenous vizier. This, says Bernier, is the policy practised by all the governors and kans in the Persian dominions: And he tells us, that one day, when Sha Sefi was hunting (a prince whose justice and punishments were only acts of cruelty), a poor man deputed by a neighbouring village to make some complaint to the king, appeared behind a rock with a paper in his hand: But while the poor wretch was declaring his errand, and praying for justice, his most gracious Majesty, without making any answer, drew his bow, and shootingtwo arrows into his body, instantly slew him.16
Nor was this execrable royal act of his any more agreeable to the genius of that prince than to the genius of that sort of government, which is naturally barbarous and savage. An arbitrary prince is only the most exalted and successful beast of prey in his own dominions, and all the many officers under him are but so many subordinate beasts of prey, who hunt and rob and devour his people for him and themselves; and he and his officers do but constitute a long link of armed tigers terrible to behold, who leap furiously upon every man and every thing that tempts their eye or their appetite.
So that under a tyrant, there is no end of tyrants: From him that sways the scepter to him that carries a musket, all are tyrants, and every one for himself as far as he dare.
If any thing concerning these unintermitting pests of [the] human race, could possibly raise in a human soul any other passion but grief and horror, it would create mirth to hear mention made, as sometimes in books of history and travels there is mention made, of a tyrant's sitting in his seat of justice once in so many days, to hear equally all causes and persons. What mockery! It is really a farce, but a melancholy one, to hear the word justice come out of the mouth of a tyrant; who, by being so, is a settled enemy to the common laws of justice and mercy, and common sense, and to all that is good or lovely, or desirable amongst men. As well may he set apart one day in six to cure all the diseases of his subjects, or to make their clothes, and cook their victuals, if he leave them any to make and cook. As every subject in his dominions is oppressed, and he and his instruments are the oppressors, I know no way upon earth for him to do them any general justice, but to destroy himself and all his deputy tyrants.
No. 96. Thomas Gordon, “On the Behaviour of Political Parties in and out of Power” (Sept. 29, 1722)
NO. 96. SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 29, 1722. Of Parties in England; how they vary, and interchange Characters, just as they are in Power, or out of it, yet still keep their former Names. (GORDON)↩
The English climate, famous for variable weather, is not less famous for variable parties; which fall insensibly into an exchange of principles, and yet go on to hate and curse one another for these principles. A Tory under oppression, or out of a place, is a Whig; a Whig with power to oppress, is a Tory. The Tory damns the Whig, for maintaining a resistance, which he himself never fails to practice; and the Whig reproaches the Tory with slavish principles, yet calls him rebel if he do not practice them. The truth is, all men dread the power of oppression out of their own hands, and almost all men wish it irresistiblewhen it is there.
We change sides every day, yet keep the same names for ever. I have known a man a staunch Whig for a year together, yet thought and called a Tory by all the Whigs, and by the Tories themselves. I have known him afterwards fall in with the Whigs, and act another year like a Tory; that is, do blindly what he was bid, and serve the interest of power, right or wrong: And then all the Tories have agreed to call him a Whig; whereas all the while he was called a Tory, he was a Whig: Afterwards, by joining with the Whigs, he became an apostate from Whiggism, and turned Tory.
So wildly do men run on to confound names and things: We call men opprobriously Tories, for practicing the best part of Whiggism; and honourably christen ourselves Whigs, when we are openly acting the vilest parts of Toryism, such parts as the Tories never attempted to act.
To know fully the signification of words, we must go to their source. The original principle of a Tory was, to let the crown do what it pleased; and yet no people opposed and restrained the crown more, when they themselves did not serve and direct the crown. The original principle of a Whig was, to be no farther for the interest of the crown, than the crown was for the interest of the people. A principle founded upon everlasting reason, and which the Tories have come into as often as temptations were taken out of their way; and a principle which the Whigs, whenever they have had temptations, have as vilely renounced in practice. No men upon earth have been more servile, crouching, and abandoned creatures of power than the Whigs sometimes have been; I mean some former Whigs.
The Tories therefore are often Whigs without knowing it; and the Whigs are Tories without owning it. To prove this, it is enough to reflect upon times and instances, when the asserting of liberty, the legal and undoubted liberties of England, has been called libelling by those professed patrons of liberty, the Whigs; and they have taken extravagant, arbitrary, and violent methods to suppress the very sound of it; whilst the Tories have maintained and defended it, and put checks upon those, who, though they had risen by its name, were eager to suppress the spirit, and had appointed for that worthy end an inquisition, new to the constitution, and threatning its overthrow: An inquisition, where men were used as criminals without a crime, charged with crimes without a name, and treated in some respects as if they had been guilty of the highest.
Parties like or dislike our constitution, just as they are out of power, or in it: Those who are out of power like it, because it gives them the best protection against those who are in power; and those who have been in power have blamed it, for not giving them power enough to oppress all whom they would oppress. No power cares to be restrained, or to have its hands tied up, though it would tie up all hands but its own: Like sects in religion, who all abhor persecution, and disclaim its spirit, while it is over them, but fall almost all into it when they are uppermost. The papists among us make a great outcry against persecution and oppression; because, though they be protected in their lives and estates, their mass-houses are taken from them, and they are taxed double, though they do not pay double: Yet it is most certain, that their religion makes it a sin to tolerate any other religion, and obliges its votaries, on pain of damnation, to burn and destroy all who will not blindly, and against conscience, submit to its absurd and contradictory opinions, and to its impious and inhuman spirit.
The golden rule prevails little in the world; and no man scarce will bear, if he can avoid it, what almost all men will make others bear, if they can. Men who have the government on their side, or are in the government, will never see its excesses while they do not feel them; nay, they will be very apt to complain, that the government wants more power; and some, in those circumstances, have said, and called in God Almighty for a witness and a voucher, that it ought to be irresistible: But when they dislike the government, and the government is jealous of them, their tone is quickly and entirely changed, they are loud with the first against the long hands of power, and its encroachments and oppressions, and often make faults as well as find them.
In King Charles II's reign, at the trial of Mead and Penn, for preaching (a great crime, in those days, out of a church) one of the King's Counsel declared, that he now saw the wisdom, necessity, and equitableness of the Spanish Inquisition, and thought that it would never be well with the church and monarchy, till one was established here; or words to that effect. Now, can any one think that this wicked and impudent man, with all his malice against his country, would not have hated and dreaded the Inquisition as much as any other man, but that he was determined to be of the same side?
I never yet met with one honest and reasonable man out of power who was not heartily against all standing armies, as threatening and pernicious, and the ready instruments of certain ruin: And I scarce ever met with a man in power, or even the meanest creature of power, who was not for defending and keeping them up: So much are the opinions of men guided by their circumstances! Men, when they are angry with one another, will come into any measures for revenge, without considering that the same power which destroys an enemy, may destroy themselves; and he to whom I lend my sword to kill my foe, may with it kill me.
Men are catched, and ruled, and ruined, by a present appetite; and, for present gratification, give up even self-preservation. So weak is reason, when passion is strong! Most of the instruments of arbitrary power have been sacrificed to it as wantonly as they had sacrificed others; and were justly crushed under a barbarous Babel of their own raising. But that has been no lesson to others, who have been for complimenting their prince with a power which made all men, and themselves amongst the rest, depend for their life and property upon his breath; for no other reason, than that it made many others depend at the same time upon theirs.
Nothing is more wild, fickle, and giddy, than the nature of man; not the clouds, nor the winds. We swallow greedily to day what we loathed yesterday, and will loathe again to-morrow; and would hang at night those whom we hugged in the morning. We love men for being of our opinion, when we are in the wrong; and hate them afterwards, if they be in the right. We are enraged at those who will not renounce their sense, to follow us in our anger; and are angry at them for being angry, when we have made them so. We boast of being guided by our own sentiments; but will allow no body to be directed by theirs, if theirs thwart ours. We are governed by our own interest, and rail at those that are. We oppose those who will not purchase our friendship; and when they do, we oppose all that oppose them. Those who are for us with reason on their side, provoke us, if they are not so without reason. We commend human reason, and mean only our own folly. And our religion, however ridiculous, is always the best for all men, who are in a dangerous way, if they be not in our absurd one. If we adhere to our opinions, and will not alter our conduct, we cannot forgive those who will join with us; and if they do, we do not forgive them when we change, if they do not change too.
Thus inconsistent, foolish, and shameless, is the nature of men; selfish and prone to error. Methinks those who were once in our circumstances and sentiments, might, at least, forgive us, if, when they leave us and their own principles for a very bad reason, we still adhere to ours for a very good one: But this piece of plain equity is not to be expected. Men are so partial to themselves, that almost every man, if he could, would set up the arbitrary standard of his own will, and oblige all men blindly to follow it. The story of Procrustes is full of excellent instruction, and a lively emblem of human nature: That tyrant had an iron bed, which he seemed to intend for the standard of human stature; those who were too long for it, had their legs chopped off; those who were too short, had their bodies extended by a rack; and both the long and the short were made to fit the tyrant's bed. What is the Inquisition, what is tyranny, and what is any extravagant power, but Procrustes's bed? And who would not be Procrustes, if he had his will, in some respect or other?
The very name of France used to be an abomination to the Whigs: They hated the country for the sake of its government; and were eternally upbraiding the Tories with a fondness for that government. Who would have expected, after all this, that ever the Whigs, or any of them, could have spoken with patience, much less with approbation, of the French government? Any the least hint of this kind was shameful and unpardonable in a Whig. But there are Whigs, who, not content to shew their dislike and resentment of every thing said or done in behalf of liberty, and the English constitution, have boldly told people how such things would be rewarded in France: That is to say, the government of France is defended by galleys, wheels, racks, and dragoons, and we want the same methods here; for, if they dislike such methods, how come they to mention them? If men commit crimes against the English government, there are English laws to punish them; but if they be guilty of no crime against the laws of England, why are they thought worthy of the arbitrary punishments of France, unless those who think that they are, thirst after the arbitrary power of France? Or, if they mean not thus, why do they talk thus; and, shewing rage without provocation, scatter words without a meaning? I know no sort of Englishmen worthy of French chains, and French cruelty, but such apostate Englishmen as wish for the power and opportunity of inflicting them upon their countrymen, and of governing those by terrors and tortures, who despise weak capacities, and detest vile measures.
And have Whigs at last the face to tell us how they rule in France? Here is an instance of Toryism which every modern Tory, of any sense, disclaims and abhors; and which some modern Whigs have modestly avowed, and are therefore become old Tories. Thus do parties chop and change. One party, by railing with great justice at another, gets into its place; and loses it as justly, by doing the very things against which it railed.
By these means, and by thus acting every one of them contrary to their professions, all parties play the game into one another's hands, though far from intending it; and no party has ever yet found their account in it, whatever their leaders may have done: For the most part, a revolution of five or six years subjects them to oppressions of their own inventing. Others get into their seat, and turn their own hard measures upon them; nor can they complain, with a good grace, that they suffer those evils which they have made others to suffer; and their own conduct having been as bad as that of which they complain, they have not sufficient reputation to oppose the progress ofpublick mischief and miscarriages, which perhaps they began.
It is therefore high time for all parties to consider what is best for the whole; and to establish such rules of commutative justice and indulgence, as may prevent oppression from any party. And this can only be done by restraining the hands of power, and fixing it within certain bounds as to its limits and expence. Under every power that is exorbitant, millions must suffer to aggrandize a few, and men must be strangely partial to themselves and their own expectations, if, in the almost eternal changes and revolutions of ministries they can hope to continue long to be any part of those few.