SECTION 23
That is the best Government, which best provides for War.

OUR author having huddled up all popular and mixed governments into one, has in some measure forced me to explain the various constitutions and principles upon which they are grounded: but as the wisdom of a father is seen, not only in providing bread for his family, or increasing his patrimonial estate, but in making all possible provision for the security of it; so that government is evidently the best, which, not relying upon what it does at first enjoy, seeks to increase the number, strength, and riches of the people; and by the best discipline to bring the power so improved into such order as may be of most use to the publick. This comprehends all things conducing to the administration of justice, the preservation of domestick peace, and the increase of commerce, that the people being pleased with their present condition, may be filled with love to their country, encouraged to fight boldly for the publick cause, which is their own; and as men do willingly join with that which prospers, that strangers may be invited to fix their habitations in such a city, and to espouse the principles that reign in it. This is necessary for several reasons; but I shall principally insist upon one, which is, that all things in their beginning are weak: The whelp of a lion newly born has neither strength nor fierceness. He that builds a city, and does not intend it should increase, commits as great an absurdity, as if he should desire his child might ever continue under the same weakness in which he is born. If it do not grow, it must pine and perish; for in this world nothing is permanent; that which does not grow better will grow worse. This increase also is useless, or perhaps hurtful, if it be not in strength, as well as in riches or number: for everyone is apt to seize upon ill guarded treasures; and the terror that the city of London was possessed with, when a few Dutch ships came to Chatham, shews that no numbers of men, tho naturally valiant, are able to defend themselves, unless they be well arm'd, disciplin'd and conducted. Their multitude brings confusion: their wealth, when 'tis like to be made a prey, increases the fears of the owners; and they, who if they were brought into good order, might conquer a great part of the world, being destitute of it, durst not think of defending themselves.

If it be said that the wise father mention'd by me endeavours to secure his patrimony by law, not by force; I answer, that all defence terminates in force; and if a private man does not prepare to defend his estate with his own force, 'tis because he lives under the protection of the law, and expects the force of the magistrate should be a security to him: but kingdoms and commonwealths acknowledging no superior, except God alone, can reasonably hope to be protected by him only; and by him, if with industry and courage they make use of the means he has given them for their own defence. God helps those who help themselves; and men are by several reasons (suppose to prevent the increase of a suspected power) induced to succour an industrious and brave people: But such as neglect the means of their own preservation, are ever left to perish with shame. Men cannot rely upon any league: The state that is defended by one potentate against another becomes a slave to their protector: Mercenary soldiers always want fidelity or courage, and most commonly both. If they are not corrupted or beaten by the invader, they make a prey of their masters. These are the followers of camps who have neither faith nor piety, but prefer gain before right.[1] They who expose their blood to sale, look where they can make the best bargain, and never fail of pretences for following their interests.

Moreover, private families may by several arts increase their wealth, as they increase in number; but when a people multiplies (as they will always do in a good climate under a good government) such an enlargement of territory as is necessary for their subsistence can be acquired only by war. This was known to the northern nations that invaded the Roman empire; but for want of such constitutions as might best improve their strength and valour, the numbers they sent out when they were overburden'd, provided well for themselves, but were of no use to the countries they left; and whilst those Goths, Vandals, Franks, and Normans enjoyed the most opulent and delicious provinces of the world, their fathers languished obscurely in their frozen climates. For the like reasons, or through the same defect, the Switzers are obliged to serve other princes; and often to employ that valour in advancing the power of their neighbours, which might be used to increase their own. Genoa, Lucca, Geneva, and other small commonwealths, having no wars, are not able to nourish the men they breed; but sending many of their children to seek their fortunes abroad, scarce a third part of those that are born among them die in those cities; and if they did not take this course, they would have no better than the nations inhabiting near the River Niger, who sell their children as the increase of their flocks.

This does not less concern monarchies than commonwealths; nor the absolute less than the mixed: All of them have been prosperous or miserable, glorious or contemptible, as they were better or worse arm'd, disciplin'd, or conducted. The Assyrian valour was irresistible under Nebuchadnezzar, but was brought to nothing under his base and luxurious grandson Belshazzar: The Persians who under Cyrus conquer'd Asia, were like swine exposed to slaughter when their discipline failed, and they were commanded by his proud, cruel, and cowardly successors. The Macedonian army overthrown by Aemilius Paulus was not less in number than that with which Alexander gained the empire of the East; and perhaps had not been inferior in valour, if it had been as well commanded. Many poor and almost unknown nations have been carried to such a height of glory by the bravery of their princes, that I might incline to think their government as fit as any other for disciplining a people to war, if their virtues continued in their families, or could be transmitted to their successors. The impossibility of this is a breach never to be repaired; and no account is to be made of the good that is always uncertain, and seldom enjoy'd. This disease is not only in absolute monarchies, but in those also where any regard is had to succession of blood, tho under the strictest limitations. The fruit of all the victories gained by Edward the first and third, or Henry the fifth of England, perished by the baseness of their successors: the glory of our arms was turned into shame; and we, by the loss of treasure, blood, and territory, suffer'd the punishment of their vices. The effects of these changes are not always equally violent; but they are frequent, and must fall out as often as occasion is presented. It was not possible for Lewis the 13th of France to pursue the great designs of Henry the Fourth: Christina of Sweden could not supply the place of her brave father; nor the present king in his infancy accomplish what the great Charles Gustavus had nobly undertaken: and no remedy can be found for this mortal infirmity, unless the power be put into the hands of those who are able to execute it, and not left to the blindness of fortune. When the regal power is committed to an annual or otherwise chosen magistracy, the virtues of excellent men are of use, but all does not depend upon their persons: One man finishes what another had begun; and when many are by practice rendered able to perform the same things, the loss of one is easily supplied by the election of another. When good principles are planted, they do not die with the person that introduced them; and good constitutions remain, tho the authors of them perish. Rome did not fall back into slavery when Brutus was killed, who had led them to recover their liberty: Others like to him pursued the same ends; and notwithstanding the loss of so many great commanders consumed in their almost continual wars, they never wanted such as were fit to execute whatever they could design. A well-governed state is as fruitful to all good purposes, as the seven-headed serpent is said to have been in evil; when one head is cut off, many rise up in the place of it. Good order being once established, makes good men; and as long as it lasts, such as are fit for the greatest employments will never be wanting. By this means the Romans could not be surprised: No king or captain ever invaded them, who did not find many excellent commanders to oppose him; whereas they themselves found it easy to overthrow kingdoms, tho they had been established by the bravest princes, through the baseness of their successors.

But if our author say true, 'tis of no advantage to a popular state to have excellent men; and therefore he imposes a necessity upon every people to chuse the worst men for being the worst, and most like to themselves; lest that if virtuous and good men should come into power, they should be excluded for being vicious and wicked, &c. Wise men would seize upon the state, and take it from the people.[2] For the understanding of these words, 'tis good to consider whether they are to be taken simply, as usually applied to the Devil and some of his instruments, or relatively, as to the thing in question: If simply, it must be concluded that Valerius, Brutus, Cincinnatus, Capitolinus, Mamercus, Aemilius Paulus, Nasica, and others like to them, were not only the worst men of the city; but that they were so often advanced to the supreme magistracies, because they were so: if in the other sense relating to magistracy and the command of armies, the worst are the most ignorant, unfaithful, slothful, or cowardly; and our author to make good his proposition, must prove, that when the people of Rome, Carthage, Athens, and other states had the power of chusing whom they pleased, they did chuse Camillus, Corvinus, Torquatus, Fabius, Rullus, Scipio, Hamilcar, Hannibal, Hasdrubal, Pelopidas, Epaminondas, Pericles, Aristides, Themistocles, Phocion, Alcibiades, and others like to them, for their ignorance, infidelity, sloth, and cowardice; and on account of those vices, most like to those who chose them. But if these were the worst, I desire to know what wit or eloquence can describe or comprehend the excellency of the best; or of the discipline that brings whole nations to such perfection, that worse than these could not be found among them? And if they were not so, but such as all succeeding ages have justly admir'd for their wisdom, virtue, industry, and valour, the impudence of so wicked and false an assertion ought to be rejected with scorn and hatred.

But if all governments whether monarchical or popular, absolute or limited, deserve praise or blame as they are well or ill constituted for making war; and that the attainment of this end do entirely depend upon the qualifications of the commanders, and the strength, courage, number, affection, and temper of the people out of which the armies are drawn; those governments must necessarily be the best which take the best care that those armies may be well commanded; and so provide for the good of the people, that they may daily increase in number, courage, and strength, and be so satisfied with the present state of things, as to fear a change, and fight for the preservation or advancement of the publick interest as of their own. We have already found that in hereditary monarchies no care at all is taken of the commander: He is not chosen, but comes by chance; and does not only frequently prove defective, but for the most part utterly incapable of performing any part of his duty; whereas in popular governments excellent men are generally chosen; and there are so many of them, that if one or more perish, others are ready to supply their places. And this discourse having (if I mistake not) in the whole series, shewn, that the advantages of popular governments, in relation to the increase of courage, number, and strength in a people, out of which armies are to be formed, and bringing them to such a temper as prepares them bravely to perform their duty, are as much above those of monarchies, as the prudence of choice surpasses the accidents of birth, it cannot be denied that in both respects the part which relates to war is much better perform'd in popular governments than in monarchies.

That which we are by reason led to believe, is confirmed to us by experience. We everywhere see the difference between the courage of men fighting for themselves and their posterity, and those that serve a master who by good success is often render'd insupportable. This is of such efficacy, that no king could ever boast to have overthrown any considerable commonwealth, unless it were divided within itself, or weakened by wars made with such as were also free; which was the case of the Grecian commonwealths when the Macedonians fell in upon them. Whereas the greatest kingdoms have been easily destroy'd by commonwealths; and these also have lost all strength, valour, and spirit after the change of their government. The power and virtue of the Italians grew up, decayed and perished with their liberty. When they were divided into many commonwealths, every one of them was able to send out great armies, and to suffer many defeats before they were subdued; so that their cities were delivered up by the old men, women, and children, when all those who were able to bear arms had been slain: And when they were all brought under the Romans, either as associates or subjects, they made the greatest strength that ever was in the world.

Alexander of Epirus was in valour thought equal, and in power little inferior to Alexander of Macedon: but having the fortune to attack those who had been brought up in liberty, taught to hazard or suffer all things for it, and to think that God has given to men hands and swords only to defend it, he perished in his attempt; whilst the other encountering slavish nations, under the conduct of proud, cruel, and for the most part unwarlike tyrants, became master of Asia.

Pyrrhus seems to have been equal to either of them; but the victories he obtain'd by an admirable valour and conduct, cost him so dear, that he desir'd peace with those enemies who might be defeated, not subdued.

Hannibal wanting the prudence of Pyrrhus, lost the fruits of all his victories; and being torn out of Italy, where he had nested himself, fell under the sword of those whose fathers he had defeated or slain; and died a banish'd man from his ruin'd country.

The Gauls did once bring Rome, when it was small, to the brink of destruction; but they left their carcasses to pay for the mischiefs they had done; and in succeeding times their invasions were mention'd as tumults rather than wars.

The Germans did perhaps surpass them in numbers and strength, and were equal to them in fortune as long as Rome was free. They often enter'd Italy, but they continued not long there, unless under the weight of their chains. Whereas the same nations, and others like to them, assaulting that country, or other provinces under the emperors, found no other difficulty than what did arise upon contests among themselves who should be master of them. No manly virtue or discipline remain'd among the Italians: Those who govern'd them, relied upon tricks and shifts; they who could not defend themselves, hired some of those nations to undertake their quarrels against others. These trinklings could not last: The Goths scorning to depend upon those who in valour and strength were much inferior to themselves, seized upon the city that had commanded the world, whilst Honorius was so busy in providing for his hens, that he could not think of defending it. Arcadius had the luck not to lose his principal city; but passing his time among fiddlers, players, eunuchs, cooks, dancers, and buffoons, the provinces were securely plunder'd and ransack'd by nations, that are known only from their victories against him.

'Tis in vain to say that this proceeded from the fatal corruption of that age; for that corruption proceeded from the government, and the ensuing desolation was the effect of it. And as the like disorder in government has been ever since in Greece and the greatest part of Italy, those countries which for extent, riches, convenience of situation, and numbers of men, are equal to the best in the world, and for the wit, courage, and industry of the natives, perhaps justly preferable to any, have since that time been always exposed as a prey to the first invader. Charles the Eighth of France is by Guicciardini, and other writers, represented as a prince equally weak in body, mind, money, and forces; but as an ill hare is said to make a good dog, he conquer'd the best part of Italy without breaking a lance.[3] Ferdinand and Alfonso of Aragon, kings of Naples, had governed by trepanners, false witnesses, corrupt judges, mercenary soldiers, and other ministers of iniquity; but these could afford no help against an invader; and neither the oppressed nobility, nor people, concerning themselves in the quarrel, they who had been proud, fierce, and cruel against their poor subjects, never durst look an enemy in the face; and the father dying with anguish and fear, the son shamefully fled from his ill governed kingdom.

The same things are no less evident in Spain. No people ever defended themselves with more obstinacy and valour than the Spaniards did against the Carthaginians and Romans, who surpassed them in wealth and skill. Livy calls themgentem ad bella gerenda & reparanda natam,[4] and who generally kill'd themselves when they were master'd and disarm'd, nullam sine armis vitam esse rati.[5] But tho the mixture of Roman blood could not impair their race, and the conjunction of the Goths had improved their force; yet no more was requir'd for the overthrow of them all, than the weakness and baseness of the two lewd tyrants Witiza and Rodrigo, who disdained all laws, and resolved to govern according to their lust. They who for more than two hundred years had resisted the Romans, were entirely subdued by the vile, half naked Moors, in one slight skirmish; and do not to this day know what became of the king who brought the destruction upon them. That kingdom after many revolutions is with many others come to the house of Austria, and enjoys all the wealth of the Indies; whereupon they are thought to have affected an universal monarchy. Sed ut sunt levia aulicorum ingenia,[6] this was grounded upon nothing except their own vanity: They had money and craft; but wanting that solid virtue and strength which makes and preserves conquests, their kings have nothing but Milan that did not come to them by marriage: And tho they have not received any extraordinary disasters in war, yet they languish and consume through the defects of their own government, and are forced to beg assistance from their mortal and formerly despis'd enemies. These are the best hopes of defence that they have from abroad; and the only enemy an invader ought to fear in their desolate territories is that want and famine which testifies the good order, strength and stability of our author's divine monarchy; the profound wisdom of their kings in subtly finding out so sure a way of defending the country; their paternal care in providing for the good of their subjects; and that whatsoever is defective in the prince, is assuredly supplied by the sedulity of a good council.

We have already said enough to obviate the objections that may be drawn from the prosperity of the French monarchy. The beauty of it is false and painted. There is a rich and haughty king, who is bless'd with such neighbours as are not likely to disturb him, and has nothing to fear from his miserable subjects; but the whole body of that state is full of boils, and wounds, and putrid sores: There is no real strength in it. The people is so unwilling to serve him, that he is said to have put to death above fourscore thousand of his own soldiers within the space of fifteen years, for flying from their colours; and if he were vigorously attack'd, little help could be expected from a discontented nobility, or a starving and despairing people. If to diminish the force of these arguments and examples, it be said that in two or three thousand years all things are changed; the ancient virtue of mankind is extinguished; and the love that everyone had to his country is turned into a care of his private interests: I answer, that time changes nothing, and the changes produced in this time proceed only from the change of governments. The nations which have been governed arbitrarily, have always suffer'd the same plagues, and been infected with the same vices; which is as natural, as for animals ever to generate according to their kinds, and fruits to be of the same nature with the roots and seeds from which they come. The same order that made men valiant and industrious in the service of their country during the first ages, would have the same effect, if it were now in being: Men would have the same love to the publick as the Spartans and Romans had, if there was the same reason for it. We need no other proof of this than what we have seen in our own country, where in a few years good discipline, and a just encouragement given to those who did well, produced more examples of pure, compleat, incorruptible, and invincible virtue than Rome or Greece could ever boast; or if more be wanting, they may easily be found among the Switzers, Hollanders and others: but 'tis not necessary to light a candle to the sun.

[1] — Ibi fas ubi maxima merces. Lucan. [Lucan, Pharsalia, bk. 10, li. 408.]

[2] [Patriarcha, ch. 18.]

[3] [Guicciardini, History of Italy, bk. 1.]

[4] [Livy, History of Rome, bk. 24, ch. 42.]

[5] [Ibid., bk. 34, ch. 17.]

[6] []




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