Men living under Popular or Mix'd Governments, are more careful of the publick Good, than in Absolute Monarchies.

OUR author delighting in strange things, does in the next place, with an admirable sagacity, discover two faults in popular governments, that were never found by any man before him; and these are no less than ignorance and negligence. Speaking of the care of princes to preserve their subjects, he adds, On the contrary in a popular state, every man knows the publick good doth not wholly depend upon his care, but the commonwealth may be well enough governed by others, tho he only tend his private business. And a little below, Nor are they much to be blamed for their negligence, since it is an even wager their ignorance may be as great. The magistrates amongst the people being for the most part annual, do always lay down their office before they understand it; so as a prince of a duller understanding must needs excel them.[1] This is bravely determin'd, and the world is beholden to Filmer for the discovery of the errors that have hitherto been epidemical. Most men had believed, that such as live in free states, are usually pleas'd with their condition, desire to maintain it; and every man finding his own good comprehended in the publick, as those that sail in the same ship, employs the talent he has in endeavouring to preserve it, knowing that he must perish if that miscarry. This was an encouragement to industry; and the continual labours and dangers to which the Romans and other free nations exposed themselves, have been taken for testimonies that they thought themselves concerned in the businesses that passed among them, and that everyone did not neglect them through an opinion that they would be done well enough by others. It was also thought that free cities, by frequent elections of magistrates, became nurseries of great and able men, every man endeavouring to excel others, that he might be advanced to the honor he had no other title to than what might arise from his merit or reputation; in which they succeeded so well, that one of them may be justly said to have produced more eminent men, than all the absolute monarchies that have been in the world. But these were mistakes. Perhaps Brutus, Valerius, and other Roman senators or magistrates, for the space of three hundred years, might have taken some care of the commonwealth, if they had thought it wholly depended upon one of them. But believing it would be well enough governed by others, they neglected it. Camillus, Cincinnatus, Papirius, Fabius, Rullus and Maximus, Scipio Africanus, Hamilcar, Hannibal, Pericles, Themistocles, Alcibiades, Epaminondas, Philopoemen, and others, might have proved able men in affairs of war or government; but they were removed from their offices before they understood them, and must needs be excelled in both by princes, tho of duller understanding. This may be enough to excuse them for performing their duty so slackly and meanly: But 'tis strange that Tacitus, and others, should so far overlook the reason, and so grossly mistake the matter of fact, as not only to say, that great and excellent spirits failed when liberty was lost, and all preferments given to those who were most propense to slavery; but that there wanted men even to write the history, inscitia reipublicae ut alienae.[2] They never applied themselves to understand affairs depending upon the will of one man, in whom they were no otherwise concern'd, than to avoid the effects of his rage; and that was chiefly to be done, by not falling under the suspicion of being virtuous. This was the study then in request; and the most cunning in this art were called scientes temporum:[3] No other wisdom was esteemed in that and the ensuing ages, and no more was requir'd, since the paternal care, deep wisdom, and profound judgment of the princes provided for all; and tho they were of duller understandings, they must needs excel other magistrates, who having been created only for a year, left their offices before they could understand the duties of them. This was evidenced by that tenderness and sincerity of heart, as well as the great purity of manners observed in Tiberius; the clemency, justice, solid judgment and frugality of Caligula; the industry, courage and sobriety of Claudius; the good nature and prudent government of Nero; the temperance, vivacity and diligence of Vitellius; the liberality of Galba and Vespasian; together with the encouragement given by Domitian, Commodus, Heliogabalus, and many others, to all manner of virtues and favours conferred upon those that excelled in them. Our author giving such infallible proof of his integrity and understanding, by teaching us these things that would never have come into our heads, ought to be credited, tho that which he proposes seem to be most absurd. But if we believe such as lived in those times, or those who in later ages have perused their writings, we cannot but think the princes beforementioned, and the greatest part of those who possessed the same place, not only to have been void of all virtue, and to have suffer'd none to grow up under them but in baseness, sottishness and malice, to have been equal to the worst of all beasts. Whilst one prince polluted with lust and blood, sat in his grotto at Capri,[4] surrounded with an infamous troop of astrologers, and others were govern'd by whores, bardashes, manumised slaves, and other villains, the empire was ruin'd through their negligence, incapacity and wickedness; and the city that had flourish'd in all manner of virtue, as much or more than any that has been yet known in the world, produced no more; the discipline was dissolved that nourish'd it; no man could hope to advance a publick good, or obviate an evil by his diligence and valour; and he who acquired reputation by either, could expect no other reward than a cruel death. If Germanicus and Corbulo, who were born when liberty was expiring, be brought for examples against the first part of my assertion, their ends will justify the latter; and no eminent Roman family is known to have brought forth a man that deserved to be named in history since their time. This is as probable in reason, as true in fact. Men are valiant and industrious, when they fight for themselves and their country; they prove excellent in all the arts of war and peace, when they are bred up in virtuous exercises, and taught by their fathers and masters to rejoice in the honors gained by them: they love their country, when the good of every particular man is comprehended in the publick prosperity, and the success of their achievements is improved to the general advantage: They undertake hazards and labours for the government, when 'tis justly administered; when innocence is safe, and virtue honour'd; when no man is distinguish'd from the vulgar, but such as have distinguish'd themselves by the bravery of their actions; when no honor is thought too great for those who do it eminently, unless it be such as cannot be communicated to others of equal merit: They do not spare their persons, purses, or friends, when the publick powers are employ'd for the publick benefit, and imprint the like affections in their children from their infancy. The discipline of obedience in which the Romans were bred, taught them to command: and few were admitted to the magistracies of inferior rank, till they had given such proof of their virtue as might deserve the supreme. Cincinnatus, Camillus, Papirius, Mamercus, Fabius Maximus, were not made dictators, that they might learn the duties of the office; but because they were judged to be of such wisdom, valour, integrity and experience, that they might be safely trusted with the highest powers; and whilst the law reigned, not one was advanced to that honour, who did not fully answer what was expected from him. By this means the city was so replenished with men fit for the greatest employments, that even in its infancy, when three hundred and six of the Fabii, Quorum neminem, says Livy, ducem sperneret quibuslibet temporibus senatus,[5] were killed in one day, the city did lament the loss, but was not so weakened to give any advantage to their enemies: and when every one of those who had been eminent before the second Punic War, Fabius Maximus only excepted had perished in it, others arose in their places, who surpassed them in number, and were equal to them in virtue. The city was a perpetual spring of such men as long as liberty lasted; but that was no sooner overthrown, than virtue was torn up by the roots, the people became base and sordid, the small remains of the nobility slothful and effeminate, and their Italian associates becoming like to them, the empire whilst it stood, was only sustained by the strength of foreigners.

The Grecian virtue had the same fate, and expired with liberty: instead of such soldiers as in their time had no equals, and such generals of armies and fleets, legislators and governors, as all succeeding ages have justly admired, they sent out swarms of fiddlers, jesters, chariot-drivers, players, bawds, flatterers, ministers of the most impure lusts; or idle, babbling, hypocritical philosophers not much better than they. The emperors' courts were always crowded with this vermin; and notwithstanding the necessity our author imagines that princes must needs understand matters of government better than magistrates annually chosen, they did for the most part prove so brutish as to give themselves and the world to be governed by such as these, and that without any great prejudice, since none could be found more ignorant, lewd, and base than themselves.

'Tis absurd to impute this to the change of times; for time changes nothing; and nothing was changed in those times but the government, and that changed all things. This is not accidental, but according to the rules given to nature by God, imposing upon all things a necessity of perpetually following their causes. Fruits are always of the same nature with the seeds and roots from which they come, and trees are known by the fruits they bear: As a man begets a man, and a beast a beast, that society of men which constitutes a government upon the foundation of justice, virtue, and the common good, will always have men to promote those ends; and that which intends the advancement of one man's desires and vanity, will abound in those that will foment them. All men follow that which seems advantageous to themselves. Such as are bred under a good discipline, and see that all benefits procured to their country by virtuous actions, redound to the honour and advantage of themselves, their children, friends, and relations, contract from their infancy a love to the publick, and look upon the common concernments as their own. When they have learnt to be virtuous, and see that virtue is in esteem, they seek no other preferments than such as may be obtained that way; and no country ever wanted great numbers of excellent men, where this method was established. On the other side, when 'tis evident that the best are despised, hated, or mark'd out for destruction; all things calculated to the humour or advantage of one man, who is often the worst, or govern'd by the worst; honours, riches, commands, and dignities disposed by his will, and his favour gained only by a most obsequious respect, or a pretended affection to his person, together with a servile obedience to his commands, all application to virtuous actions will cease; and no man caring to render himself or his children worthy of great employments, such as desire to have them will by little intrigues, corruption, scurrility and flattery endeavour to make way to them; by which means true merit in a short time comes to be abolish'd, as fell out in Rome as soon as the Caesars began to reign.

He who does not believe this, may see whether the like did not happen in all the other commonwealths of Italy and Greece; or if modern examples are thought to be of more value, let him examine whether the noblemen of Venice, who are born and bred in families that never knew a master, who act for themselves, and have a part in all the good or evil that befalls the commonwealth, and know that if it be destroy'd, they must perish, or at least that all changes are to their prejudice, do neglect the publick interests, as thinking that the whole not depending upon any one of them, things will be well enough governed, tho they attend only their private benefit. Let it be observed whether they do better understand the common concernments, than the great men of France or Spain, who never come to the knowledge of anything, unless they happen to be favour'd by the king or his ministers, and know themselves never to be more miserable than when their master is most prosperous. For my own part, I cannot think it necessary to allege any other proof of this point than that when Maximilian the emperor, Lewis the twelfth of France, the fierce Pope Julius the second, and Ferdinand the subtle, powerful, and bold king of Spain, had by the league of Cambray combin'd against the Venetians, gained the battle of La Ghirad'adda, taken Alviano their general prisoner, deprived them of all their dominion on the terra firma, and prepared to assault the city, it was, under God, solely preserved by the vigour and wisdom of their nobility, who tho no way educated to war, unless by sea, sparing neither persons nor purses, did with admirable industry and courage first recover Padua, and then many other cities, so as at the end of that terrible war they came off without any diminution of their territories.[6] Whereas Portugal having in our age revolted from the house of Austria, no one doubts that it had been immediately reduced, if the great men of Spain had not been pleased with such a lessening of their master's power, and resolved not to repair it by the recovery of that kingdom, or to deprive themselves of an easy retreat when they should be oppressed by him or his favourites. The like thought was more plainly express'd by the mareschal de Bassompierre, who seeing how hardly Rochelle was pressed by Lewis the 13th, said, he thought they should be such fools to take it:[7] but 'tis believ'd they would never have been such fools; and the treachery only of our countrymen did enable the Cardinal Richelieu to do it (as for his own glory, and the advancement of the popish cause he really intended) and nothing is to this day more common in the mouth of their wisest and best men, tho papists, than the acknowledgment of their own folly in suffering that place to fall, the king having by that means gotten power to proceed against them at his pleasure. The brave Monsieur de Turenne is said to have carried this to a greater height in his last discourse to the present king of France: "You think, said he, you have armies, but you have none; the one half of the officers are the bawdy-house companions of Monsieur de xxx, or the creatures of his whore Madam de xxx: the other half may be men of experience, and fit for their employments; but they are such as would be pleased with nothing more than to see you lose two or three battles, that coming to stand in need of them, you might cause them to be better used by your ministers than of late they have been." It may easily be imagin'd how men in such sentiments do serve their master; and nothing is more evident than that the French in this age have had so great advantages, that they might have brought Europe, and perhaps Asia, under their power, if the interest of the nation had been united to that of the government, and the strength, vigour, and bravery of the nobility employ'd that way. But since it has pleased God to suffer us to fall into a condition of being little able to help ourselves, and that they are in so good terms with the Turk as not to attack him, 'tis our happiness that they do not know their own strength, or cannot without ruin to themselves turn it to our prejudice.

I could give yet more pregnant testimonies of the difference between men fighting for their own interests in the offices to which they had been advanced by the votes of numerous assemblies, and such as serve for pay, and get preferments by corruption or favour, if I were not unwilling to stir the spleen of some men by obliging them to reflect upon what has passed in our own age and country; to compare the justice of our tribunals within the time of our memory, and the integrity of those who for a while manag'd the publick treasure; the discipline, valour, and strength of our armies and fleets; the increase of our riches and trade; the success of our wars in Scotland, Ireland, and at sea, the glory and reputation not long since gained, with that condition into which we are of late fallen. But I think I shall offend no wise or good man, if I say, that as neither the Romans nor Grecians in the time of their liberty ever performed any actions more glorious than freeing the country from a civil war that had raged in every part, the conquest of two such kingdoms as Scotland and Ireland, and crushing the formidable power of the Hollanders by sea; nor ever produced more examples of valor, industry, integrity, and in all respects compleat, disinterested, unmoveable and incorruptible virtue, than were at that time seen in our nation: So neither of them upon the change of their affairs did exceed us in weakness, cowardice, baseness, venality, lewdness, and all manner of corruption. We have reason therefore not only to believe that all princes do not necessarily understand the affairs of their people, or provide better for them than those who are otherwise chosen; but that, as there is nothing of greatness, power, riches, strength, and happiness, which we might not reasonably have hoped for, if we had rightly improved the advantages we had, so there is nothing of shame and misery which we may not justly fear, since we have neglected them.

If any man think that this evil of advancing officers for personal respects, favour or corruption, is not of great extent, I desire him to consider, that the officers of state, courts of justice, church, armies, fleets and corporations, are of such number and power as wholly to corrupt a nation when they themselves are corrupted; and will ever be corrupt, when they attain to their offices by corruption. The good management of all affairs, civil, military, and ecclesiastical, necessarily depends upon good order and discipline; and 'tis not in the power of common men to reform abuses patronized by those in authority, nor to prevent the mischiefs thereupon ensuing; and not having power to direct publick actions to the publick good, they must consequently want the industry and affection that is required to bring them to a good issue. The Romans were easily beaten under the decemviri, tho immediately before the erection, and after the extinction of that power, none of their neighbours were able to resist them. The Goths who with much glory had reigned in Spain for about three hundred years, had neither strength nor courage under their lewd and odious King Rodrigo, and were in one day subdued with little loss of blood by the Saracens, and could not in less than eight hundred years free their country from them. That brave nation having of late fallen under as base a conduct, has now as little heart or power to defend itself: Court-parasites have rendered valour ridiculous; and they who have ever shew'd themselves as much inclin'd to arms as any people of the world, do now abhor them, and are sent to the wars by force, laid in carts, and bound like calves brought to the shambles, and left to starve in Flanders as soon as they arrive. It may easily be judged what service can be expected from such men, tho they should happen to be well commanded: but the great officers, by the corruption of the court, think only of enriching themselves; and increasing the misery of the soldiers by their frauds, both become equally useless to the state.

Notwithstanding the seeming prosperity of France, matters there are not much better managed. The warlike temper of that people is so worn out by the frauds and cruelties of corrupt officers, that few men list themselves willingly to be soldiers; and when they are engaged or forced, they are so little able to endure the miseries to which they are exposed, that they daily run away from their colours, tho they know not whither to go, and expect no mercy if they are taken. The king has in vain attempted to correct this humour by the severity of martial law; but mens' minds will not be forced, and tho his troops are perfectly well arm'd, cloth'd, and exercised, they have given many testimonies of little worth. When the prince of Condé had by his own valour, and the strength of the king's guards, broken the first line of the prince of Orange's army at the battle of Seneffe, and put the rest into disorder, he could not make the second and third line of his own army to advance and reinforce the first, by which means he lost all the fair hopes he had conceived of an entire victory.[8] Not long after, the marechal de Crequi was abandoned by his whole army near Trier, who ran away, hardly striking a stroke, and left him with sixteen horse to shift for himself. When Monsieur de Turenne, by the excellency of his conduct and valour, had gain'd such a reputation amongst the soldiers, that they thought themselves secure under him, he did not suffer such disgraces; but he being kill'd, they return'd to the usual temper of forced and ill-used soldiers: half the army was lost in a retreat, little differing from a flight; and the rest, as they themselves confess, saved by the bravery of two English regiments. The prince of Condé was soon after sent to command; but he could not with all his courage, skill and reputation, raise their fallen spirits, nor preserve his army any other way, than by lodging them in a camp near Schlestadt, so fortified by art and nature that it could not be forc'd.

To these we may add some examples of our own. In our late war the Scots foot, whether friends or enemies, were much inferior to those of the parliament, and their horse esteemed as nothing. Yet in the year 1639 and 1640, the king's army, tho very numerous, excellently armed and mounted, and in appearance able to conquer many such kingdoms as Scotland, being under the conduct of courtiers, and affected as men usually are towards those that use them ill, and seek to destroy them, they could never resist a wretched army commanded by Leven; but were shamefully beaten at Newborn, and left the northern counties to be ravaged by them.[9]

When Van Tromp set upon Blake in Foleston-Bay,[10] the parliament had not above thirteen ships against threescore, and not a man that had ever seen any other fight at sea, than between a merchant ship and a pirate, to oppose the best captain in the world, attended with many others in valour and experience not much inferior to him. Many other difficulties were observ'd in the unsettled state: Few ships, want of money, several factions, and some who to advance particular interests betray'd the publick. But such was the power of wisdom and integrity in those that sat at the helm, and their diligence in chusing men only for their merit was blessed with such success, that in two years our fleets grew to be as famous as our land armies; the reputation and power of our nation rose to a greater height, than when we possessed the better half of France, and the kings of France and Scotland were our prisoners. All the states, kings and potentates of Europe, most respectfully, not to say submissively, sought our friendship; and Rome was more afraid of Blake and his fleet, than they had been of the great king of Sweden, when he was ready to invade Italy with a hundred thousand men. This was the work of those, who, if our author say true, thought basely of the publick concernments;[11] and believing things might be well enough managed by others, minded only their private affairs. These were the effects of the negligence and ignorance of those, who being suddenly advanced to offices, were removed before they understood the duties of them. These diseases which proceed from popular corruption and irregularity, were certainly cured by the restitution of that integrity, good order and stability that accompany divine monarchy. The justice of the war made against Holland in the year 1665; the probity of the gentleman, who without partiality or bribery, chose the most part of the officers that carried it on; the wisdom, diligence and valour manifested in the conduct, and the glory with which it was ended, justifies all that our author can say in its commendation. If any doubt remains, the subtlety of making the king of France desire that the Netherlands might be an accession to his crown; the ingenious ways taken by us to facilitate the conquest of them; the industry of our ambassadors in diverting the Spaniards from entering into the war till it was too late to recover the losses sustain'd;[12] the honourable design upon the Smyrna fleet, and our frankness in taking the quarrel upon ourselves; together with the important figure we now make in Europe, may wholly remove it; and in confirmation of our author's doctrine, shew, that princes do better perform the offices that require wisdom, industry and valour, than annual magistrates; and do more seldom err in the choice of officers, than senates and popular assemblies.

[1] [Patriarcha, ch. 19.]

[2] Tacit. Annal. 1. 1. [Tacitus, Annals, bk. 1, ch. 1, and Histories, bk. 1, ch. 1.]

[3] []

[4] [Tiberius.]

[5] [Livy, History of Rome, bk. 2, ch. 49.]

[6] Paol. Paruta. hist. Venet. Guicciard. [Paolo Poruta, Istoria Veneziana, (1605); Guicciardini, History of Italy, bk. 8.]

[7] Je croy qu'enfin nous serons assez fous pour prendre la Rochelle. Mem. de Bassompierre. [François de Bassompierre, Memoires du Mareschal de Bassompierre (1666).]

[8] [Battle of Seneffe, 1674, in war between France and the Netherlands. Seneffe is a Belgian village near Brussels.]

[9] [Alexander Leslie, Earl of Leven.]

[10] [English admiral Robert Blake defeated Martin Tromp, admiral of the Dutch navy, in 1652, while Parliament was ruling without a king.]

[11] [Patriarcha, ch. 18.]

[12] [The Thirty Years War.]