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Title: Reflections on the Rise and Fall of the Ancient Republicks - Adapted to the Present State of Great Britain
Author: Montagu, Edward Wortley
Language: English
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Adapted to the Present State of Great Britain.

   Οὐ τί τῷδε, ἢ τῷδε δόξει λογιζόμενος
   Ἀλλὰ τί πέπρακται λέγων.

   Lucian. Histor. Scribend.



Printed and Published by C. P. Wayne.



   PREFACE,                                                i

   INTRODUCTION,                                         vii

   CHAP. i. OF THE REPUBLICK OF SPARTA                     1

   CHAP. ii.                 OF ATHENS                    54

   CHAP. iii.                OF THEBES                   127

   CHAP. iv.                 OF CARTHAGE                 144

   CHAP. v.                  OF ROME                     184

               REPUBLICK                                 249

               COMPARED                                  270


   CHAP. ix. OF THE BRITISH CONSTITUTION                 322


Plutarch takes notice of a very remarkable law of Solon’s,[1] “which
declared every man infamous, who, in any sedition or civil dissension in
the state, should continue neuter, and refuse to side with either
party.” Aulus Gellius,[2] who gives a more circumstantial detail of this
uncommon law, affirms the penalty to be “no less than confiscation of
all the effects, and banishment of the delinquent.” Cicero mentions the
same law to his friend Atticus,[3] and even makes the punishment
capital, though he resolves at the same time not to conform to it under
his present circumstances, unless his friend should advise him to the

Which of these relators has given us the real penalty annexed to this
law by Solon, is scarce worth our inquiry. But I cannot help observing,
that strange as this law may appear at first sight, yet if we reflect
upon the reasons of it, as they are assigned by Plutarch and A. Gellius,
it will not appear unworthy of that great legislator.

The opinion of Plutarch is; “that Solon intended no citizen, as soon as
ever he had provided for the security of his own private affairs, should
be so unfeeling with respect to the publick welfare, as to affect a
brutal insensibility,[4] and not to sympathize with the distress and
calamities of his country: but that he should immediately join the
honester and juster party; and rather risque his all in defence of the
side he had espoused, than keep aloof from danger until he saw which
party proved the stronger.”

The reason given by A. Gellius is more striking, and less liable to
objections than that of Plutarch. “If (says that writer) all the good
men in any state, when they find themselves too weak to stem the torrent
of a furious divided populace, and unable to suppress a sedition at its
first breaking out, should immediately divide, and throw themselves into
the opposite sides, the event in such a case would be that each party,
which they had differently espoused, would naturally begin to cool, and
put themselves under their direction, as persons of the greatest weight
and authority: thus it would be greatly in the power of such men so
circumstanced, to reconcile all differences, and restore peace and
union, while they mutually restrained and moderated the fury of their
own party, and convinced the opposite side, that they sincerely wished
and laboured for their safety, not for their destruction.”

What effect this law had in the Athenian state is no where mentioned.
However, as it is plainly founded upon that relation which every member
bears to the body politick, and that interest which every individual is
supposed to have in the good of the whole community; it is still, though
not in express terms, yet virtually received in every free country. For
those who continue neuter in any civil dissension, under the
denomination of moderate men, who keep aloof and wait quietly in order
to follow the fortune of the prevailing side, are generally stigmatized
with the opprobious name of _time servers_, and consequently neither
esteemed, nor trusted by either party.

As our own country is blessed with the greatest share of liberty, so is
it more subject to civil dissensions than any other nation in Europe.
Every man is a politician, and warmly attached to his respective party;
and this law of Solon’s seems to take place as strongly in Britain, as
ever it did in the most factious times at Athens. Freedom of thought, or
the liberty of the mind, arises naturally from the very essence of our
constitution; and the liberty of the press, that peculiar privilege of
the British subject, gives every man a continual opportunity of laying
his sentiments before the publick. Would our political writers pursue
the salutary intention of Solon, as delivered to us by A. Gellius in his
explication of that extraordinary law, they might contribute greatly to
the establishment of that harmony and union, which can alone preserve
and perpetuate the duration of our constitution. But the opposite views
and interests of parties make the altercation endless; and the victory
over an antagonist is generally the aim, whilst the investigation of
truth only, ought ever to be the real end proposed in all controversial
inquiries. The points which have lately exercised so many pens, turn
upon the present expediency, or absolute insignificancy, of a _militia_;
or, what principles conduce most to the power, the happiness, and the
duration of a free people. The dispute has been carried on, not only
with warmth, but even with virulence. The chicane of sophistry has been
employed, whilst indecent personal reflections, and the unfair charge of
disaffection, have been too often made use of to supply the defect of
argument, and to prejudice the reader, where they despaired of confuting
the writer. Historical facts have been either misrepresented, or
ascribed to wrong principles; the history of ancient nations has been
quoted in general terms, without marking the different periods
distinguished by some memorable change in the manners or constitution of
the same people, which will ever make a wide difference in the

Anxious after truth, and unsatisfied with so many bold assertions
destitute of all proof but the writer’s word, which I daily met with, I
determined coolly and impartially to examine the evidence arising from
ancient history, which both sides so frequently appealed to: for bare
speculative reasoning is no more conclusive in political inquiries than
in physical. Facts and experience alone must decide: and political facts
and experience must alone be learned from history. Determined therefore
to judge for myself, I carefully read over the histories of the most
celebrated republicks of antiquity in their original languages, unbiased
either by comments or translations; a part of history of all others the
most instructive, and most interesting to an Englishman.

As instruction was the sole end of my inquiries, I here venture to offer
the result of them to the candour of the publick, since my only motive
for writing was a most ardent concern for the welfare of my country. The
design therefore of these papers is, to warn my countrymen, by the
example of others, of the fatal consequences which must inevitably
attend our intestine divisions at this critical juncture; and to
inculcate the necessity of that national union, upon which the strength,
the security, and the duration of a free state must eternally depend.
Happy, if my weak endeavours could in the least contribute to an end so
salutary, so truly desirable!

In the numerous quotations from the Greek and Latin historians, which
are unavoidable in a treatise of this nature, I have endeavoured to give
the genuine sense and meaning of the author, to the best of my
abilities. But as every reader has an equal right of judging for
himself, I have subjoined in the margin, the original words of the
author, with the book, page, name, and date of the respective edition, I
made use of, for the ease as well as the satisfaction of the candid and
judicious: for that vague and careless manner, which some writers
affect, of quoting an author by name only, without specifying the
particular passage referred to in evidence, is neither useful, nor
satisfactory to the generality of readers; whilst the unfair method, too
often practised, of quoting disjointed scraps, or unconnected sentences,
is apt to raise strong suspicions, that the real sentiments and
intention of the author are kept out of sight, and that the writer is
endeavouring to palm false evidence upon his readers.

I must take the liberty of offering another reason, which, I confess,
was of more weight with me, because more personally interesting. As the
British state and the ancient free republicks were founded upon the same
principles, and their policy and constitution nearly similar, so, as
like causes will ever produce like effects, it is impossible not to
perceive an equal resemblance between their and our manners, as they and
we equally deviated from those first principles. Unhappily, the
resemblance between the manners of our own times, and the manners of
those republicks in their most degenerate periods, is, in many respects,
so striking, that unless the words in the original were produced as
vouchers, any well-meaning reader, unacquainted with those historians,
would be apt to treat the descriptions of those periods, which he may
frequently meet with, as licentious, undistinguished satire upon the
present age.

The behaviour of some of our political writers makes an apology of this
nature in some measure necessary; on the one hand, that I may avoid the
imputation of pedantry, or being thought fond of an idle ostentatious
parade of learning; on the other, _lest a work calculated to promote
domestick peace and union, should be strained, by the perverseness of
party construction, into an inflammatory libel_.

  [1] Plut. in Vit. Solon. ἄτιμον.

  [2] A. Gellii Noct. Attic. lib. 2. c. 12.

  [3] Epist. ad Attic. lib. 10. epist. 1.

  [4] Μὴ συναλγεῖν, μηδὲ συννοσεῖν.


I am not at all surprised at those encomiums which the philosophers and
poets so lavishly bestow upon the pleasures of a country retirement. The
profusion of varying beauties, which attend the returning seasons,
furnishes out new and inexhaustible subjects for the entertainment of
the studious and contemplative. Even winter carries charms for the
philosophick eye, and equally speaks the stupendous power of the great
author of nature. To search out and adore the Creator through his works,
is our primary duty, and claims the first place in every rational mind.
To promote the publick good of the community of which we are born
members, in proportion to our situation and abilities, is our secondary
duty as men and citizens. I judged therefore a close attention to the
study of history the most useful way of employing that time which my
country recess afforded, as it would enable me to fulfil this
obligation: and upon this principle I take the liberty of offering these
papers as my mite towards the publick good.

In the course of these researches nothing gave me so much pleasure as
the study of ancient history: because it made me so truly sensible of
the inestimable value of our own constitution, when I observed the very
different maxims and conduct, and the strong contrast between the
founders of despotick monarchies, and the legislators of the free states
of antiquity. In the former, that absurd and impious doctrine of
millions created for the sole use and pleasure of one individual, seems
to have been the first position in their politicks, and the general rule
of their conduct. The latter fixed the basis of their respective states
upon this just and benevolent plan, “that the safety and happiness of
the whole community was the only end of all government.” The former
treated mankind as brutes, and lorded it over them by force. The latter
received them as their fellow-creatures, and governed them by reason:
hence whilst we detest the former as the enemies and destroyers; we
cannot help admiring and revering the latter, as the lovers and
benefactors of mankind.

The histories which I considered with the greatest attention, gave me
the highest entertainment, and affected me most, were those of the free
states of Greece, Carthage, and Rome. I saw with admiration the profound
wisdom and sagacity, the unwearied labour and disinterested spirit of
those amiable and generous men, who contributed most towards forming
those states, and settling them upon the firmest foundations. I traced
with pleasure their gradual progress towards that height of power, to
which in process of time they arrived; and I remarked the various steps
and degrees by which they again declined, and at last sunk gradually
into their final dissolution, not without a just mixture of sorrow and

It would be a labour of more curiosity, than of real use at this time,
to give a long detail of the original formation of those states, and the
wise laws and institutions by which they were raised to that envied
degree of perfection; yet a concise account of the primitive
constitution of each state may be so far necessary, as it will render
the deviations from that constitution more intelligible, and more fully
illustrate the causes of their final subversion. But to point out and
expose the principal causes, which contributed gradually to weaken, and
at length demolish and level with the ground, those beautiful fabricks
raised by the publick virtue, and cemented by the blood of so many
illustrious patriots, will, in my opinion, be more interesting and more

When I consider the constitution of our own country, I cannot but think
it the best calculated for promoting the happiness, and preserving the
lives, liberty, and property of mankind, of any yet recorded in profane
history. I am persuaded too, that our wise ancestors, who first formed
it, adopted whatever they judged most excellent and valuable in those
states when in their greatest perfection; and did all that human wisdom
could do for rendering it durable, and transmitting it pure and entire
to future generations. But as all things under the sun are subject to
change, and children are too apt to forget and degenerate from the
virtues of their fathers, there seems great reason to fear, that what
has happened to those free states may at length prove the melancholy
fate of our own country; especially when we reflect, that the same
causes, which contributed to their ruin, operate at this time so very
strongly amongst us. As I thought therefore that it might be of some use
to my country at this dangerous crisis, I have selected the interesting
examples of those once free and powerful nations, who by totally
deviating from those principles upon which they were originally founded,
lost first their liberty, and at last their very existence, so far as to
leave no other vestiges remaining of them as a people, but what are to
be found in the records of history.

It is an undoubted truth, that our own constitution has at different
times suffered very severe shocks, and been reduced more than once to
the very point of ruin: but because it has hitherto providentially
escaped, we are not to flatter ourselves that opportunities of recovery
will always offer. To me therefore the method of proof drawn from
example, seemed more striking, as well as more level to every capacity,
than all speculative reasoning: for as the same causes will, by the
stated laws of sublunary affairs, sooner or later invariably produce
the same effects, so whenever we see the same maxims of government
prevail, the same measures pursued, and the same coincidences of
circumstances happen in our own country, which brought on, and attend
the subversion of those states, we may plainly read our own fate in
their catastrophe, unless we apply speedy and effectual remedies, before
our case is past recovery. It is the best way to learn wisdom in time
from the fate of others; and if examples will not instruct and make us
wiser, I confess myself utterly at a loss to know what will.

In my reflections, which naturally arose in the course of these
researches, truth and impartiality have been my only guides. I have
endeavoured to show the principal causes of that degeneracy of manners,
which reduced those once brave and free people into the most abject
slavery. I have marked the alarming progress which the same evils have
already made, and still continue to make amongst us, with that honest
freedom which is the birthright of every Englishman. My sole aim is to
excite those who have the welfare of their country at heart, to unite
their endeavours in opposing the fatal tendency of those evils, whilst
they are within the power of remedy. With this view, and this only, I
have marked out the remote as well as immediate causes of the ruin of
those states, as so many beacons warning us to avoid the same rocks upon
which they struck, and at last suffered shipwreck.

Truth will ever be unpalatable to those who are determined not to
relinquish error, but can never give offence to the honest and
well-meaning amongst my countrymen. For the plain-dealing remonstrances
of a friend differ as widely from the rancour of an enemy, as the
friendly probe of the physician from the dagger of the assassin.




All the free states of Greece were at first monarchical,[5] and seem to
owe their liberty rather to the injudicious oppressions of their
respective kings, than to any natural propensity in the people to alter
their form of government. But as they had smarted so severely under an
excess of power lodged in the hands of one man, they were too apt to run
into the other extreme, democracy; a state of government the most
subject of all others to disunion and faction.

Of all the Grecian states, that of Sparta seems to have been the most
unhappy, before their government was new modelled by Lycurgus. The
authority of their kings and their laws (as Plutarch informs us) were
alike trampled upon and despised. Nothing could restrain the insolence
of the headstrong encroaching populace; and the whole government sunk
into anarchy and confusion. From this deplorable situation the wisdom
and virtue of one great man raised his country to that height of power,
which was the envy and the terror of her neighbours. A convincing proof
how far the influence of one great and good man will operate towards
reforming the most bold licentious people, when he has once thoroughly
acquired their esteem and confidence! Upon this principle Lycurgus
founded his plan of totally altering and new moulding the constitution
of his country. A design, all circumstances considered, the most daring,
and the most happily executed, of any yet immortalized in history.[6]

Lycurgus succeeded to the moiety of the crown of Sparta at the death of
his elder brother; but his brother’s widow declaring herself with child,
and that child proving to be a son, he immediately resigned the regal
dignity to the new born infant, and governed as protector and guardian
of the young prince during his minority. The generous and disinterested
behaviour of Lycurgus upon this occasion endeared him greatly to the
people; who had already experienced the happy effect of his wise and
equitable administration. But to avoid the malice of the queen-mother
and her faction, who accused him of designs upon the crown, he prudently
quitted both the government and his country. In his travels during this
voluntary exile, he drew up and thoroughly digested his great scheme of
reformation. He visited all those states which at that time were most
eminent for the wisdom of their laws, or the form of their constitution.
He carefully observed all the different institutions, and the good or
bad effects which they respectively produced on the manners of each
people. He took care to avoid what he judged to be defects; but selected
whatever he found calculated to promote the happiness of a people; and
with these materials he formed his so much celebrated plan of
legislation, which he very soon had an opportunity of reducing to
practice. For the Spartans, thoroughly sensible of the difference
between the administration of Lycurgus and that of their kings, not only
earnestly wished for his presence, but sent repeated deputations to
entreat him to return, and free them from those numerous disorders under
which their country at that time laboured. As the request of the people
was unanimous, and the kings no ways opposed his return, he judged it
the critical time for the execution of his scheme. For he found affairs
at home in the distracted situation they had been represented, and the
whole body of the people in a disposition proper for his purpose.

Lycurgus began his reform with a change in the constitution, which at
that time consisted of a confused medley of hereditary monarchy divided
between two families, and a disorderly democracy, utterly destitute of
the balance of a third intermediate power, a circumstance so essential
to the duration of all mixed governments. To remedy this evil, he
established a senate with such a degree of power, as might fix them the
inexpugnable barrier of the constitution against the encroachments
either of kings or people. The crown of Sparta had been long divided
between two families descended originally from the same ancestor, who
jointly enjoyed the succession. But though Lycurgus was sensible that
all the mischiefs which had happened to the state, arose from this
absurd division of the regal power, yet he made no alteration as to the
succession of the two families. Any innovation in so nice a point might
have proved an endless source of civil commotions, from the pretensions
of that line which should happen to be excluded. He therefore left them
the title and the ensignia of royalty, but limited their authority,
which he confined to the business of war and religion. To the people he
gave the privilege of electing the senators, and giving their sanction
to those laws which the kings and senate should approve.

When Lycurgus had regulated the government, he undertook a task more
arduous than any of the fabled labours of Hercules. This was to new
mould his countrymen, by extirpating all the destructive passions, and
raising them above every weakness and infirmity of human nature. A
scheme which all the great philosophers had taught in theory, but none
except Lycurgus was ever able to reduce to practice.

As he found the two extremes, of great wealth and great indigence, were
the source of infinite mischiefs in a free state, he divided the lands
of the whole territory into equal lots proportioned to the number of the
inhabitants. He appointed publick tables, at which he enjoined all the
citizens to eat together without distinction; and he subjected every
man, even the kings themselves, to a fine if they should violate this
law by eating at their own houses.[7] Their diet was plain, simple, and
regulated by the law, and distributed amongst the guests in equal
portions. Every member was obliged monthly to contribute his quota for
the provision of his respective table. The conversation allowed at these
publick repasts, turned wholly upon such subjects as tended most to
improve the minds of the younger sort in the principles of wisdom and
virtue. Hence, as Xenophon observes, they were schools not only for
temperance and sobriety, but also for instruction. Thus Lycurgus
introduced a perfect equality amongst his countrymen. The highest and
the lowest fared alike as to diet, were all lodged and clothed alike,
without the least variation either in fashion or materials.

When by these means he had exterminated every species of luxury, he next
removed all temptation to the acquisition of wealth, that fatal source
of the innumerable evils which prevailed in every other country. He
effected this with his usual policy, by forbidding the currency of gold
and silver money, and substituting an iron coinage of great weight and
little value, which continued the only current coin through the whole
Spartan dominions for several ages.

To bar up the entrance of wealth, and guard his citizens against the
contagion of corruption, he absolutely prohibited navigation and
commerce, though his country contained a large extent of sea coast
furnished with excellent harbours. He allowed as little intercourse as
possible with foreigners, nor suffered any of his countrymen to visit
the neighbouring states, unless when the publick business required it,
lest they should be infected with their vices. Agriculture, and such
mechanick trades as were absolutely necessary for their subsistence, he
confined to their slaves the Helots; but he banished all those arts
which tended either to debase the mind, or enervate the body. Musick he
encouraged, and poetry he admitted, but both subject to the inspection
of the magistrates.[8] Thus by the equal partition of the lands, and the
abolition of gold and silver money, he at once preserved his country
from luxury, avarice, and all those evils which arise from an irregular
indulgence of the passions, as well as all contentions about property,
with their consequence, vexatious lawsuits.

To ensure the observance of his laws to the latest posterity, he next
formed proper regulations for the education of their children, which he
esteemed one of the greatest duties of a legislator. His grand maxim was
“that children were the property of the state, to whom alone their
education was to be intrusted.” In their first infancy, the nurses were
instructed to indulge them neither in their diet, nor in those little
froward humours which are so peculiar to that age; to inure them to bear
cold and fasting; to conquer their first fears by accustoming them to
solitude and darkness; and to prepare them for that stricter state of
discipline, to which they were soon to be initiated.

When arrived at the age of seven years, they were taken from the nurses,
and placed in their proper classes. The diet and clothing of all were
the same, just sufficient to support nature, and defend them from the
inclemency of the seasons; and they all lodged alike in the same
dormitory on beds of reeds, to which for the sake of warmth they were
all allowed in winter to add the down of thistles. Their sports and
exercises were such as contributed to render their limbs supple, and
their bodies compact and firm. They were accustomed to run up the
steepest rocks barefoot; and swimming, dancing, hunting, boxing, and
wrestling, were their constant diversions. Lycurgus was equally
solicitous in training up the youth to a habit of passive courage as
well as active. They were taught to despise pain no less than danger,
and to bear the severest scourgings with the most invincible constancy
and resolution. For to flinch under the strokes, or to exhibit the least
sign of any sense of pain, was deemed highly infamous.

Nor were the minds of the Spartan youth cultivated with less care. Their
learning, as Plutarch informs us, was sufficient for their occasions,
for Lycurgus admitted nothing but what was truly useful. They carefully
instilled into their tender minds the great duties of religion, and the
sacred indispensable obligation of an oath, and trained them up in the
best of sciences, the principles of wisdom and virtue. The love of
their country seemed to be almost innate; and this leading maxim, “that
every Spartan was the property of his country, and had no right over
himself,” was by the force of education incorporated into their very

When they arrived to manhood they were enrolled in their militia, and
allowed to be present in their publick assemblies: privileges which only
subjected them to a different discipline. For the employments and way of
living of the citizens of Sparta were fixed, and settled by as strict
regulations as in an army upon actual service. When they took the field,
indeed, the rigour of their discipline with respect to diet and the
ornament of their persons was much softened, so that the Spartans were
the only people in the universe, to whom the toils of war afforded ease
and relaxation. In fact, Lycurgus’s plan of civil government was
evidently designed to preserve his country free and independent, and to
form the minds of his citizens for the enjoyment of that rational and
manly happiness, which can find no place in a breast enslaved by the
pleasures of the senses, or ruffled by the passions; and the military
regulations which he established, were as plainly calculated for the
protection of his country from the encroachments of her ambitious
neighbours.[9] For he left no alternative to his people, but death or
victory; and he laid them under a necessity of observing those
regulations, by substituting the valour of the inhabitants in the place
of walls and fortifications for the defence of their city.

If we reflect that human nature is at all times and in all places the
same, it seems to the last degree astonishing, how Lycurgus could be
able to introduce such a self-denying plan of discipline amongst a
disorderly licentious people: a scheme, which not only levelled at once
all distinction, as to property, between the richest and the poorest
individual, but compelled the greatest persons in the state to submit to
a regimen which allowed only the bare necessaries of life, excluding
every thing which in the opinion of mankind seems essential to its
comforts and enjoyments. I observed before that he had secured the
esteem and confidence of his countrymen, and there was, besides, at that
time a very lucky concurrence of circumstances in his favour. The two
kings were men of little spirit, and less abilities, and the people were
glad to exchange their disorderly state for any settled form of
government. By his establishment of a senate consisting of thirty
persons who held their seats for life, and to whom he committed the
supreme power in civil affairs, he brought the principal nobility into
his scheme, as they naturally expected a share in a government which
they plainly saw inclined so much to an aristocracy. Even the two kings
very readily accepted seats in his senate, to secure some degree of
authority. He awed the people into obedience by the sanction he procured
for his scheme from the oracle at Delphos, whose decisions were, at that
time, revered by all Greece as divine and infallible. But the greatest
difficulty he had to encounter was to procure the equal partition of the
lands. The very first proposal met with so violent an opposition from
the men of fortune, that a fray ensued, in which Lycurgus lost one of
his eyes. But the people, struck with the sight of the blood of this
admired legislator, seized the offender, one Alcander, a young man of a
hot, but not disingenuous disposition, and gave him up to Lycurgus to be
punished at discretion. But the humane and generous behaviour of
Lycurgus quickly made a convert of Alcander, and wrought such a change,
that from an enemy he became his greatest admirer and advocate with the

Plutarch and the rest of the Greek historians leave us greatly in the
dark as to the means by which Lycurgus was able to make so bitter a
pill, as the division of property, go down with the wealthy part of his
countrymen. They tell us indeed, that he carried his point by the gentle
method of reasoning and persuasion, joined to that religious awe which
the divine sanction of the oracle impressed so deeply on the minds of
the citizens. But the cause, in my opinion, does not seem equal to the
effect. For the furious opposition which the rich made to the very
first motion for such a distribution of property, evinces plainly, that
they looked upon the responses of the oracle as mere priestcraft, and
treated it as the _esprits-forts_ have done religion in modern times; I
mean as a state engine fit only to be played off upon the common people.
It seems most probable, in my opinion, that as he effected the change in
the constitution by the distribution of the supreme power amongst the
principal persons, when he formed his senate; so the equal partition of
property was the bait thrown out to bring over the body of the people
entirely to his interest. I should rather think that he compelled the
rich to submit to so grating a measure, by the assistance of the poorer
citizens, who were vastly the majority.

As soon as Lycurgus had thoroughly settled his new polity, and by his
care and assiduity imprinted his laws so deeply in the minds and manners
of his countrymen, that he judged the constitution able to support
itself, and stand upon its own bottom, his last scheme was to fix, and
perpetuate its duration down to latest posterity, as far as human
prudence and human means could effect it. To bring his scheme to bear,
he had again recourse to the same pious artifice which had succeeded so
well in the beginning. He told the people in a general assembly, that he
could not possibly put the finishing stroke to his new establishment,
which was the most essential point, until he had again consulted the
oracle. As they all expressed the greatest eagerness for his undertaking
the journey, he laid hold of so fair an opportunity to bind the kings,
senate, and people, by the most solemn oaths, to the strict observance
of his new form of government, and not to attempt the least alteration
in any one particular until his return from Delphos. He had now
completed the great design which he had long in view, and bid an eternal
adieu to his country. The question he put to the oracle was “whether the
laws he had already established, were rightly formed to make and
preserve his countrymen virtuous and happy?” The answer he received was
just as favourable as he desired. It was “that his laws were excellently
well calculated for that purpose; and that Sparta should continue to be
the most renowned city in the world, as long as her citizens persisted
in the observance of the laws of Lycurgus.” He transmitted both the
question and the answer home to Sparta in writing, and devoted the
remainder of his life to voluntary banishment. The accounts in history
of the end of this great man are very uncertain. Plutarch affirms, that
as his resolution was never to release his countrymen from the
obligation of the oath he had laid them under, he put a voluntary end to
his life at Delphos by fasting. Plutarch extols the death of Lycurgus in
very pompous terms, as a most unexampled instance of heroic patriotism,
since he bequeathed, as he terms it, his death to his country, as the
perpetual guardian to that happiness, which he had procured for them
during his lifetime. Yet the same historian acknowledges another
tradition, that Lycurgus ended his days in the island of Crete, and
desired, as his last request, that his body should be burnt, and his
ashes thrown into the sea;[10] lest, if his remains should at any time
be carried back to Sparta, his countrymen might look upon themselves as
released from their oath as much as if he had returned alive, and be
induced to alter his form of government. I own, I prefer this latter
account, as more agreeable to the genius and policy of that wise and
truly disinterested legislator.

The Spartans, as Plutarch asserts, held the first rank in Greece for
discipline and reputation full five hundred years, by strictly adhering
to the laws of Lycurgus; which not one of their kings ever infringed for
fourteen successions quite down to the reign of the first Agis. For he
will not allow the creation of those magistrates called the ephori, to
be any innovation in the constitution, since he affirms it to have been,
“not a relaxation, but an extension, of the civil polity.”[11] But
notwithstanding the gloss thrown over the institution of the ephori by
this nice distinction of Plutarch’s, it certainly induced as fatal a
change into the Spartan constitution, as the tribuneship of the people,
which was formed upon that model, did afterwards into the Roman. For
instead of enlarging and strengthening the aristocratical power, as
Plutarch asserts, they gradually usurped the whole government, and
formed themselves into a most tyrannical oligarchy.

The ephori (a Greek word signifying inspectors or overseers) were five
in number, and elected annually by the people out of their own body. The
exact time of the origin of this institution and of the authority
annexed to their office, is quite uncertain. Herodotus ascribes it to
Lycurgus; Xenophon to Lycurgus jointly with the principal citizens of
Sparta. Aristotle and Plutarch fix it under the reign of Theopompus and
Polydorus, and attribute the institution expressly to the former of
those princes about one hundred and thirty years after the death of
Lycurgus. I cannot but subscribe to this opinion as the most probable,
because the first political contest we meet with at Sparta happened
under the reign of those princes, when the people endeavoured to extend
their privileges beyond the limits prescribed by Lycurgus. But as the
joint opposition of the kings and senate was equally warm, the creation
of this magistracy out of the body of the people, seems to have been the
step taken at that time to compromise the affair, and restore the
publick tranquility: a measure which the Roman senate copied afterwards,
in the erection of the tribuneship, when their people mutinied, and made
that memorable secession to the _mons sacer_. I am confirmed in this
opinion by the relation which Aristotle gives us of a remarkable dispute
between Theopompus and his wife upon that occasion.[12] The queen much
dissatisfied with the institution of the ephori, reproached her husband
greatly for submitting to such a diminution of the regal authority, and
asked him if he was not ashamed to transmit the crown to his posterity
so much weaker and worse circumstanced, than he received it from his
father. His answer, which is recorded amongst the laconick _bons mots_,
was, “no, for I transmit it more lasting.”[13] But the event showed that
the lady was a better politician, as well as truer prophet, than her
husband. Indeed the nature of their office, the circumstances of their
election, and the authority they assumed, are convincing proofs that
their office was first extorted, and their power afterwards gradually
extended, by the violence of the people, irritated too probably by the
oppressive behaviour of the kings and senate. For whether their power
extended no farther than to decide, when the two kings differed in
opinion, and to overrule in favour of him whose sentiments should be
most conducive to the publick interest, as we are told by Plutarch in
the life of Agis; or whether they were at first only select friends,
whom the kings appointed as deputies in their absence, when they were
both compelled to take the field together in their long wars with the
Messenians, as the same author tells us by the mouth of his hero
Cleomenes, is a point, which history does not afford us light enough to
determine. This however is certain, from the concurrent voice of all the
ancient historians, that at last they not only seized upon every branch
of the administration, but assumed the power of imprisoning, deposing,
and even putting their kings to death by their own authority. The kings
too, in return, sometimes bribed, sometimes deposed or murdered the
ephori, and employed their whole interest to procure such persons to be
elected, as they judged would be most tractable. I look therefore on the
creation of the ephori as a breach in the Spartan constitution, which
proved the first inlet to faction and corruption. For that these evils
took rise from the institution of the ephori is evident from the
testimony of Aristotle, “who thought it extremely impolitick to elect
magistrates, vested with the supreme power in the state, out of the body
of the people;[14] because it often happened, that men extremely
indigent were raised in this manner to the helm, whom their very poverty
tempted to become venal. For the ephori, as he affirms, had not only
been frequently guilty of bribery before his time, but, even at the very
time he wrote, some of those magistrates, corrupted by money, used their
utmost endeavours, at the publick repasts, to accomplish the destruction
of the whole city. He adds too, that as their power was so great as to
amount to a perfect tyranny, the kings themselves were necessitated to
court their favour by such methods as greatly hurt the constitution,
which from an aristocracy degenerated into an absolute democracy. For
that magistracy alone had engrossed the whole government.”

From these remarks of the judicious Aristotle, it is evident that the
ephori had totally destroyed the balance of power established by
Lycurgus. From the tyranny therefore of this magistracy proceeded those
convulsions which so frequently shook the state of Sparta, and at last
gradually brought on its total subversion. But though this fatal
alteration in the Spartan constitution must be imputed to the intrigues
of the ephori and their faction, yet it could never, in my opinion, have
been effected without a previous degeneracy in their manners; which must
have been the consequence of some deviation from the maxims of Lycurgus.

It appears evidently from the testimony of Polybius and Plutarch, that
the great scheme of the Spartan legislator was, to provide for the
lasting security of his country against all foreign invasions, and to
perpetuate the blessings of liberty and independency to the people. By
the generous plan of discipline which he established, he rendered his
countrymen invincible at home. By banishing gold and silver, and
prohibiting commerce and the use of shipping, he proposed to confine
the Spartans within the limits of their own territories; and by taking
away the means, to repress all desires of making conquests upon their
neighbours. But the same love of glory and of their country which made
them so terrible in the field, quickly produced ambition and a lust of
domination; and ambition as naturally opened the way for avarice and
corruption. For Polybius truly observes, that as long as they extended
their views no farther than the dominion over their neighbouring states,
the produce of their own country was sufficient for what supplies they
had occasion for in such short excursions.[15] But when, in direct
violation of the laws of Lycurgus, they began to undertake more distant
expeditions both by sea and land, they quickly felt the want of a
publick fund to defray their extraordinary expenses. For they found by
experience, that neither their iron money, nor their method of trucking
the annual produce of their own lands for such commodities as they
wanted (which was the only traffick allowed by the laws of Lycurgus)
could possibly answer their demands upon those occasions. Hence their
ambition, as the same historian remarks, laid them under the scandalous
necessity of paying servile court to the Persian monarchs for pecuniary
supplies and subsidies, to impose heavy tributes upon the conquered
islands, and to exact money from the other Grecian states, as occasions

Historians unanimously agree, that wealth with its attendants, luxury
and corruption, gained admission at Sparta in the reign of the first
Agis. Lysander, alike a hero and a politician; a man of the greatest
abilities and the greatest dishonesty that Sparta ever produced;
rapacious after money, which at the same time he despised, and a slave
only to ambition, was the author of an innovation so fatal to the
manners of his countrymen. After he had enabled his country to give law
to all Greece by his conquest of Athens, he sent home that immense mass
of wealth, which the plunder of so many states had put into his
possession. The most sensible men amongst the Spartans, dreading the
fatal consequences of this capital breach of the institutions of their
legislator, protested strongly before the ephori against the
introduction of gold and silver, as pests destructive to the publick.
The ephori referred it to the decision of the senate, who, dazzled with
the lustre of that money, to which until that time they had been utter
strangers, decreed “that gold and silver money might be admitted for the
service of the state; but made it death, if any should ever be found in
the possession of a private person.” This decision Plutarch censures as
weak and sophistical.[16] As if Lycurgus was only afraid simply of
money, and not of that dangerous love of money which is generally its
concomitant; a passion which was so far from being rooted out by the
restraint laid upon private persons, that it was rather inflamed by the
esteem and value which was set upon money by the publick. Thus, as he
justly remarks, whilst they barred up the houses of private citizens
against the entrance of wealth by the terror and safeguard of the law,
they left their minds more exposed to the love of money and the
influence of corruption, by raising an universal admiration and desire
of it, as something great and respectable. The truth of this remark
appears by the instance given us by Plutarch, of one Thorax, a great
friend of Lysander’s, who was put to death by the ephori, upon proof
that a quantity of silver had been actually found in his possession.

From that time Sparta became venal, and grew extremely fond of subsidies
from foreign powers. Agesilaus, who succeeded Agis, and was one of the
greatest of their kings, behaved in the latter part of his life more
like the captain of a band of mercenaries, than a king of Sparta. He
received a large subsidy from Tachos, at that time king of Egypt, and
entered into his service with a body of troops which he had raised for
that purpose. But when Nectanabis, who had rebelled against his uncle
Tachos, offered him more advantageous terms, he quitted the unfortunate
monarch and went over to his rebellious nephew, pleading the interest of
his country in excuse for so treacherous and infamous an action.[17] So
great a change had the introduction of money already made in the
manners of the leading Spartans!

Plutarch dates the first origin of corruption, that disease of the body
politick, and consequently the decline of Sparta, from that memorable
period, when the Spartans having subverted the domination of Athens,
glutted themselves (as he terms it) with gold and silver.[18] For when
once the love of money had crept into their city, and avarice and the
most sordid meanness grew up with the possession, as luxury, effeminacy
and dissipation did with the enjoyment of wealth, Sparta was deprived of
many of her ancient glories and advantages, and sunk greatly both in
power and reputation, until the reign of Agis and Leonidas.[19] But as
the original allotments of land were yet preserved (the number of which
Lycurgus had fixed and decreed to be kept by a particular law) and were
transmitted down from father to son by hereditary succession, the same
constitutional order and equality still remaining, raised up the state
again, however, from other political lapses.

Under the reign of those two kings happened the mortal blow, which
subverted the very foundation of their constitution. Epitadeus, one of
the ephori, upon a quarrel with his son, carried his resentment so far
as to procure a law which permitted every one to alienate their
hereditary lands, either by gift or sale, during their lifetime, or by
will at their decease. This law produced a fatal alteration in the
landed property. For as Leonidas, one of their kings, who had lived a
long time at the court of Seleucus, and married a lady of that country,
had introduced the pomp and luxury of the east at his return to Sparta,
the old institutions of Lycurgus, which had fallen into disuse, were by
his example soon treated with contempt.[20] Hence the necessity of the
luxurious, and the extortion of the avaricious, threw the whole property
into so few hands, that out of seven hundred, the number to which the
ancient Spartan families were then reduced, about one hundred only were
in possession of their respective hereditary lands allotted by
Lycurgus.[21] The rest, as Plutarch observes, lived an idle life in the
city, an indigent abject herd, alike destitute of fortune and
employment; in their wars abroad, indolent dispirited dastards; at home
ever ripe for sedition and insurrections, and greedily catching at every
opportunity of embroiling affairs in hope of such a change as might
enable them to retrieve their fortunes. Evils, which the extremes of
wealth and indigence are ever productive of in free countries.

Young Agis, the third of that name, and the most virtuous and
accomplished king that ever sat upon the throne of Sparta since the
reign of the great Agesilaus, undertook the reform of the state, and
attempted to re-establish the old Lycurgic constitution, as the only
means of extricating his country out of her distresses, and raising her
to her former dignity and lustre. An enterprise attended not only with
the greatest difficulties, but, as the times were so corrupt, with the
greatest danger.[22] He began with trying the efficacy of example, and
though he had been bread in all the pleasures and delicacy which
affluence could procure, or the fondness of his mother and grandmother,
who were the wealthiest people in Sparta, could indulge him in, yet he
at once changed his way of life as well as his dress, and conformed to
the strictest discipline of Lycurgus in every particular. This generous
victory over his passions, the most difficult and most glorious of all
others, had so great an effect amongst the younger Spartans, that they
came into his measures with more alacrity and zeal than he could
possibly have hoped for.[23] Encouraged by this success, Agis brought
over some of the principal Spartans, amongst whom was his uncle
Agesilaus, whose influence he made use of to persuade his mother, who
was sister to Agesilaus, to join his party.[24] For her wealth, and the
great number of her friends, dependants, and debtors, made her extremely
powerful, and gave her great weight in all publick transactions.

His mother, terrified at first at her son’s rashness, condemned the
whole as the visionary scheme of a young man, who was attempting a
measure not only prejudicial to the state, but quite impracticable. But
when the reasonings of Agesilaus had convinced her that it would not
only be of the greatest utility to the publick but might be effected
with great ease and safety, and the king himself entreated her to
contribute her wealth and interest to promote an enterprise which would
redound so much to his glory and reputation;[25] she and the rest of her
female friends at last changed their sentiments. Fired then with the
same glorious emulation, and stimulated to virtue; as it were by some
divine impulse, they not only voluntarily spurred on Agis, but summoned
and encouraged all their friends, and incited the other ladies to engage
in so generous an enterprise.[26] For they were conscious (as Plutarch
observes) of the great ascendency which the Spartan women had always
over their husbands, who gave their wives a much greater share in the
publick administration, than their wives allowed them in the management
of their domestic affairs. A circumstance which at that time had drawn
almost all the wealth of Sparta into the hands of the women, and proved
a terrible, and almost unsurmountable obstacle to Agis. For the ladies
had violently opposed a scheme of reformation, which not only tended to
deprive them of those pleasures and trifling ornaments, which, from
their ignorance of what was truly good and laudable, they absurdly
looked upon as their supreme happiness, but to rob them of that respect
and authority which they derived from their superior wealth. Such of
them therefore as were unwilling to give up these advantages, applied to
Leonidas, and entreated him, as he was the more respectable man for his
age and experience, to check his young hotheaded colleague, and quash
whatever attempts he should make to carry his designs into execution.
The older Spartans were no less averse to a reformation of that nature.
For as they were deeply immersed in corruption, they trembled at the
very name of Lycurgus, as much as runaway slaves, when retaken, do at
the sight of their master.

Leonidas was extremely ready to side with and assist the rich, but durst
not openly oppose Agis for fear of the people, who were eager for such a
revolution. He attempted therefore to counteract all his attempts
underhand, and insinuated to the magistrates, that Agis aimed at setting
up a tyranny, by bribing the poor with the fortunes of the rich; and
proposed the partition of lands and the abolition of debts as the means
for purchasing guards for himself only, not citizens, as he pretended,
for Sparta.

Agis, however, pursued his design, and having procured his friend
Lysander to be elected one of the ephori, immediately laid his scheme
before the senate. The chief heads of his plan were: “that all debts
should be totally remitted; that the whole land should be divided into a
certain number of lots; and that the ancient discipline and customs of
Lycurgus should be revived.” Warm debates were occasioned in the senate
by this proposal, which at last was rejected by a majority of one
only.[27] Lysander in the meantime convoked an assembly of the people,
where after he had harangued, Mondroclidas and Agesilaus beseeched them
not to suffer the majesty of Sparta to be any longer trampled upon for
the sake of a few luxurious overgrown citizens, who imposed upon them at
pleasure.[28] They reminded them not only of the responses of ancient
oracles, which enjoined them to beware of avarice, as the pest of
Sparta, but also of those so lately given by the oracle at Pasiphae,
which, as they assured the people, commanded the Spartans to return to
that perfect equality of possessions, which was settled by the law first
instituted by Lycurgus.[29] Agis spoke last in this assembly, and to
enforce the whole by example, told them in a very few words, “that he
offered a most ample contribution towards the establishment of that
polity, of which he himself was the author. That he now resigned his
whole patrimony into the common stock, which consisted not only of rich
arable and pasture land, but of six hundred talents besides in coined
money. He added, that his mother, grandmother, friends and relations,
who were the most wealthy of all the citizens of Sparta, were ready to
do the same.”

The people, struck with the magnanimity and generosity of Agis, received
his offer with the loudest applause, and extolled him, as the only king
who for three hundred years past had been worthy of the throne of
Sparta. This provoked Leonidas to fly out into the most open and violent
opposition from the double motive of avarice and envy. For he was
sensible, that if this scheme took place, he should not only be
compelled to follow their example, but that the surrender of his estate
would then come from him with so ill a grace, that the honour of the
whole measure would be attributed solely to his colleague. Lysander,
finding Leonidas and his party too powerful in the senate, determined to
prosecute and expel him for the breach of a very old law, which forbid
any of the royal family to intermarry with foreigners, or to bring up
any children which they might have by such marriage, and inflicted the
penalty of death upon any one who should leave Sparta to reside in
foreign countries.

After Lysander had taken care that Leonidas should be informed of the
crime laid to his charge, he with the rest of the ephori, who were of
his party, addressed themselves to the ceremony of observing a sign from
heaven.[30] A piece of state craft most probably introduced formerly by
the ephori to keep the kings in awe, and perfectly well adapted to the
superstition of the people. Lysander affirming that they had seen the
usual sign, which declared that Leonidas had sinned against the gods,
summoned him to his trial, and produced evidence sufficient to convict
him. At the same time he spirited up Cleombrotus, who had married the
daughter of Leonidas, and was of the royal blood, to put in his claim to
the succession. Leonidas, terrified at these daring measures, fled, and
took sanctuary in the temple of Minerva: he was deposed therefore for
non-appearance, and his crown given to his son-in-law Cleombrotus.

But as soon as the term of Lysander’s magistracy expired, the new
ephori, who were elected by the prevailing interest of the opposite
party, immediately undertook the protection of Leonidas. They summoned
Lysander and his friends to answer for their decrees for cancelling
debts, and dividing the lands, as contrary to the laws, and treasonable
innovations; for so they termed all attempts to restore the ancient
constitution of Lycurgus. Alarmed at this, Lysander persuaded the two
kings to join in opposing the ephori; who, as he plainly proved, assumed
an authority which they had not the least right to, as long as the
kings acted together in concert. The kings, convinced by his reasons,
armed a great number of the youth, released all who were prisoners for
debt, and thus attended went into the forum, where they deposed the
ephori, and procured their own friends to be elected into that office,
of whom Agesilaus the uncle of Agis was one. By the care and humanity of
Agis, no blood was spilt on this memorable occasion. He even protected
his antagonist Leonidas against the designs which Agesilaus had formed
upon his life, and sent him under a safe convoy to Tegea.

After this bold stroke, all opposition sunk before them, and every thing
succeeded to their wishes; when the single avarice of Agesilaus, that
most baneful pest, as Plutarch terms it, which had subverted a
constitution the most excellent, and the most worthy of Sparta that had
ever yet been established, overset the whole enterprise. By the
character which Plutarch gives of Agesilaus, he appears to have been
artful and eloquent, but at the same time effeminate, corrupt in his
manners, avaricious, and so bad a man, that he engaged in this projected
revolution with no other view but that of extricating himself from an
immense load of debt, which he had most probably contracted to support
his luxury.[31] As soon therefore as the two kings, who were both young
men, agreed to proceed upon the abolition of debts, and the partition of
lands, Agesilaus artfully persuaded them not to attempt both at once,
for fear of exciting some terrible commotion in the city. He assured
them farther that if the rich should once be reconciled to the law for
cancelling the debts, the law for dividing the lands would go down with
them quietly and without the least obstruction. The kings assented to
his opinion, and Lysander himself was brought over to it, deceived by
the same specious, though pernicious reasoning: calling in therefore all
the bills, bonds, and pecuniary obligations, they piled them up, and
burnt them all publickly in the forum, to the great mortification of the
moneyed men, and the usurers. But Agesilaus in the joy of his heart
could not refrain from joking upon the occasion, and told them with a
sneer, that whatever they might think of the matter, it was the
brightest and most cheerful flame, and the purest bonfire, he had ever
beheld in his lifetime.[32] Agesilaus had now carried his point, and his
conduct proves, that the Spartans had learned the art of turning publick
measures into private jobs, as well as their politer neighbours. For
though the people called loudly for the partition of lands, and the
kings gave orders for it to be done immediately, Agesilaus contrived to
throw new obstacles in the way, and protracted the time by various
pretences, until Agis was obliged to march with the Spartan auxiliaries
to assist their allies the Achæans. For he was in possession of a most
fertile and extensive landed estate at the very time when he owed more
than he was worth; and as he had got rid of all his incumbrances at once
by the first decree, and never intended to part with a single foot of
his land, it was by no means his interest to promote the execution of
the second.

The Spartan troops were mostly indigent young men, who elate with their
freedom from the bonds of usury, and big with the hopes of a share in
the lands at their return, followed Agis with the greatest vigour and
alacrity, and behaved so well in their march, that they reminded the
admiring Greeks of the excellent discipline and decorum for which the
Spartans were formerly so famous under the most renowned of their
ancient leaders. But whilst Agis was in the field, affairs at home took
a very unhappy turn in his disfavour. The tyrannical behaviour of
Agesilaus, who fleeced the people with insupportable exactions, and
stuck at no measure, however infamous or criminal, which would bring in
money, produced another revolution in favour of Leonidas. For the
people, enraged at being tricked out of the promised partition of the
lands, which they imputed to Agis and Cleombrotus, and detesting the
rapaciousness of Agesilaus, readily joined that party which conspired to
restore Leonidas. Agis finding affairs in this desperate situation at
his return, gave up all for lost, and took sanctuary in the temple of
Minerva, as Cleombrotus had done in the temple of Neptune.

Though Cleombrotus was the chief object of Leonidas’s resentment, yet he
spared his life at the intercession of his daughter Chelonis, the wife
of Cleombrotus; but condemned him to perpetual exile. The generous
Chelonis gave a signal instance, upon this occasion, of that heroick
virtue, for which the Spartan ladies were once so remarkably eminent.
When her father was expelled by the intrigues of Lysander, she followed
him into exile, and refused to share his crown with Cleombrotus. In this
calamitous reverse of fortune, she was deaf to all entreaties, and
rather chose to partake of the miseries of banishment with her husband,
than all the pleasures and grandeur of Sparta with her father. Plutarch
pays the ladies a fine compliment, upon this occasion, when he says,
“that unless Cleombrotus should have been wholly corrupted by false
ambition, he must have deemed himself more truly happy in a state of
banishment with such a wife, than he could have been upon a throne
without her.”[33]

But though Cleombrotus escaped death, yet nothing but the blood of Agis
could satisfy the vindictive rage of the ungrateful Leonidas, who, in
the former revolution, owed his life to that unfortunate prince’s
generosity. After many ineffectual attempts to entice Agis from his
asylum, three of his intimate friends in whom he most confided, who used
to accompany and guard him to the baths and back again to the temple,
betrayed him to his enemies. Amphares, the chief of these, and the
contriver of the plot, was one of the new ephori created after the
deposition of Agesilaus. This wretch had lately borrowed a quantity of
valuable plate, and a number of magnificent vestments, of Agis’s mother
Agesistrata, and determined to make them his own by the destruction of
Agis and his family; at their return therefore in their usual friendly
manner from the baths, he first attacked Agis by virtue of his office,
whilst Demochares and Arcesilaus, the other two, seized and dragged him
to the publick prison. Agis supported all these indignities with the
utmost magnanimity: and when the ephori questioned him, whether
Agesilaus and Lysander did not constrain him to do what he had done, and
whether he did not repent of the steps he had taken; he undauntedly took
the whole upon himself, and told them that he gloried in his scheme,
which was the result of his emulation to follow the example of the great
Lycurgus. Stung with this answer, the ephori condemned him to die by
their own authority, and ordered the officers to carry him to the place
in the prison where the malefactors were strangled. But when the
officers and even the mercenary soldiers of Leonidas refused to be
concerned in so infamous and unprecedented an action as laying hands
upon their king, Demochares threatening and abusing them greatly for
their disobedience, seized Agis with his own hands, and dragged him to
the execution room, where he was ordered to be dispatched immediately.
Agis submitted to his fate with equal intrepidity and resignation,
reproving one of the executioners who deplored his calamities, and
declaring himself infinitely happier than his murderers. The unfeeling
and treacherous Amphares attended the execution, and as soon as Agis was
dead, he admitted his mother and grandmother into the prison, who came
to intercede that Agis might be allowed to make his defence before the
people. The wretch assured the mother, with an insulting sneer, that her
son should suffer no heavier punishment than he had done already; and
immediately ordered her mother Archidamia, who was extremely old, to
execution. As soon as she was dead, he bid Agesistrata enter the room,
where, at the sight of the dead bodies, she could not refrain from
kissing her son, and crying out, that his too great lenity and
good-nature had been their ruin. The savage Amphares, laying hold of
those words, told her, that as she approved of her son’s actions she
should share his fate. Agesistrata met death with the resolution of an
old Spartan heroine, praying only that this whole affair might not prove
prejudicial to her country.

Thus fell the gallant Agis in the cause of liberty and publick virtue,
by the perfidy of his mercenary friends, and the violence of a corrupt
and most profligate faction. I have given a more particular detail of
the catastrophe of this unfortunate prince as transmitted to us by
Plutarch, because it furnishes convincing proofs, how greatly the
introduction of wealth had corrupted and debased the once upright and
generous spirit of the Spartans.

Archidamas, the brother of Agis, eluded the search made for him by
Leonidas, and escaped the massacre by flying from Sparta. But Leonidas
compelled his wife Agiatis, who was a young lady of the greatest beauty
in all Greece, and sole heiress to a vast estate, to marry his own son
Cleomenes, though Agiatis had but just lain-in of a son, and the match
was entirely contrary to her inclinations. This event however produced a
very different effect from what Leonidas intended, and after his death
proved the ruin of his party, and revenged the murder of Agis.[34] For
Cleomenes, who was very young, and extremely fond of his wife, would
shed sympathizing tears whenever she related the melancholy fate of
Agis, and occasionally desire her to explain his intentions, and the
nature of his scheme, to which he would listen with the greatest
attention. From that time he determined to follow so glorious an
example, but kept the resolution secret in his own breast until the
means and opportunity should offer. He was sensible that an attempt of
that nature would be utterly impracticable whilst his father lived; who,
like the rest of the leading citizens, had wholly given himself up to a
life of ease and luxury. Warned too by the fate of Agis, he knew how
extremely dangerous it was even once to mention the old frugality and
simplicity of manners, which depended upon the observance of the
discipline and institutions of Lycurgus. But as soon as ever he
succeeded to the crown at the death of his father, and found himself the
sole reigning king of Sparta without a colleague, he immediately applied
his whole care and study to accomplish that great change which he had
before projected. For he observed the manners of the Spartans in general
were grown extremely corrupt and dissolute, the rich sacrificing the
publick interest to their own private avarice and luxury; the poor, from
their extreme indigence, averse to the toils of war, careless and
negligent of education and discipline; whilst the ephori had engrossed
the whole royal power, and left him in reality nothing but the empty
title: circumstances greatly mortifying to an aspiring young monarch,
who panted eagerly after glory, and impatiently wished to retrieve the
lost reputation of his countrymen.

He began by sounding his most intimate friend, one Xenares, at a
distance only, inquiring what sort of a man Agis was, and which way, and
by whose advice, he was drawn into those unfortunate measures. Xenares,
who attributed all his questions to the curiosity natural to a young
man, very readily told him the whole story, and explained ingenuously
every particular of the affair as it really happened. But when he
remarked that Cleomenes often returned to the charge, and every time
with greater eagerness, more and more admiring and applauding the scheme
and character of Agis, he immediately saw through his design. After
reproving him, therefore, severely for talking and behaving thus like a
madman, Xenares broke off all friendship and intercourse with him,
though he had too much honour to betray his friend’s secret. Cleomenes,
not in the least discouraged at this repulse, but concluding that he
should meet with the same reception from the rest of the wealthy and
powerful citizens, determined to trust none of them, but to take upon
himself the whole care and management of his scheme.[35] However, as he
was sensible that the execution of it would be much more feasible, when
his country was involved in war, than in a state of profound peace, he
waited for a proper opportunity; which the Achæans quickly furnished him
with. For Aratus, the great projector of the famous Achæan league, into
which he had already brought many of the Grecian states, holding
Cleomenes extremely cheap, as a raw unexperienced boy, thought this a
favourable opportunity of trying how the Spartans stood affected
towards that union. Without the least previous notice therefore, he
suddenly invaded such of the Arcadians as were in alliance with Sparta,
and committed great devastations in that part of the country which lay
in the neighbourhood of Achaia.

The ephori, alarmed at this unexpected attack, sent Cleomenes at the
head of the Spartan forces to oppose the invasion. The young hero
behaved well, and frequently baffled that old experienced commander. But
his countrymen growing weary of the war, and refusing to concur in the
measures he proposed for carrying it on, he recalled Archidamus the
brother of Agis from banishment, who had a strict hereditary right to
the other moiety of the kingdom; imagining that when the throne was
properly filled according to law, and the regal power preserved entire
by the union of the two kings, it would restore the balance of
government and weaken the authority of the ephori. But the faction which
had murdered Agis, justly dreading the resentment of Archidamus for so
atrocious a crime, took care privately to assassinate him upon his

Cleomenes now more than ever intent upon bringing his great project to
bear, bribed the ephori with large sums to intrust him with the
management of the war.[36] His mother Cratesiclea not only supplied him
with money upon this occasion, but married one Megistonus, a man of the
greatest weight and authority in the city, purposely to bring him over
to her son’s interest. Cleomenes taking the field, totally defeated the
army of Aratus, and killed Lydiadas the Megalopolitan general. This
victory, which was entirely owing to the conduct of Cleomenes, not only
raised the courage of his soldiers, but gave them so high an opinion of
his abilities, that he seems to have been recalled by his enemies,
jealous most probably of his growing interest with the army. For
Plutarch, who is not very methodical in his relations, informs us, that
after this affair, Cleomenes convinced his father-in-law, Megistonus, of
the necessity of taking off the ephori, and reducing the citizens to
their ancient equality according to the institutions of Lycurgus, as the
only means of restoring Sparta to her former sovereignty over
Greece.[37] This scheme therefore must have been privately settled in
Sparta. For we are next told, that Cleomenes again took the field,
carrying with him such of the citizens as he suspected were most likely
to oppose him. He took some cities from the Achæans that campaign, and
made himself master of some important places, but harrassed his troops
so much with many marches and countermarches, that most of the Spartans
remained behind in Arcadia at their own request, whilst he marched back
to Sparta with his mercenary forces and such of his friends as he could
most confide in. He timed his march so well that he entered Sparta
whilst the ephori were at supper, and despatched Euryclidas before with
three or four of his most trusty friends and a few soldiers to perform
the execution. For Cleomenes well knew that Agis owed his ruin to his
too cautious timidity, and his too great lenity and moderation. Whilst
Euryclidas therefore amused the ephori with a pretended message from
Cleomenes, the rest fell upon them sword in hand, and killed four upon
the spot, with above ten persons more who came to their assistance.
Agesilaus the surviver of them fell, and counterfeiting himself dead,
gained an opportunity of escaping. Next morning as soon as it was light,
Cleomenes proscribed and banished fourscore of the most dangerous
citizens, and removed all the chairs of the ephori out of the forum,
except one which he reserved for his own seat of judicature. He then
convoked an assembly of the people, to whom he apologized for his late
actions. He showed them, in a very artful and elaborate speech, “the
nature and just extent of the power of the ephori, the fatal
consequences of the authority they had usurped of governing the state by
their own arbitrary will, and of deposing and putting their kings to
death without allowing them a legal hearing in their own defence.[38]
He urged the example of Lycurgus himself, who came armed into the forum
when he first proposed his laws, as a proof that it was impossible to
root out those pests of the commonwealth, which had been imported from
other countries, luxury, the parent of that vain expense which runs such
numbers in debt, usury, and those more ancient evils, wealth and
poverty, without violence and bloodshed: that he should have thought
himself happy, if like an able physician he could have radically cured
the diseases of his country without pain: but that necessity had
compelled him to do what he had already done, in order to procure an
equal partition of the lands, and the abolition of their debts, as well
as to enable him to fill up the number of the citizens with a select
number of the bravest foreigners, that Sparta might be no longer exposed
to the depredations of her enemies for want of hands to defend her.”

To convince the people of the sincerity of his intentions, he first gave
up his whole fortune to the publick stock; Megistonus, his
father-in-law, with his other friends, and all the rest of the citizens,
followed his example. In the division of the lands, he generously set
apart equal portions for all those citizens he had banished, and
promised to recall them as soon as the publick tranquillity was
restored. He next revived the ancient method of education, the
gymnastick exercises, publick meals, and all other institutions of
Lycurgus; and lest the people, unaccustomed to the denomination of a
single king, should suspect that he aimed at establishing a tyranny, he
associated his brother Euclidas with him in the kingdom. By training up
the youth in the old military discipline, and arming them in a new and
better manner, he once more recovered the reputation of the Spartan
militia, and raised his country to so great a height of power, that
Greece in a very short time saw Sparta giving law to all

The Achæans, humbled by repeated defeats, and begging peace of Cleomenes
upon his own terms, the generous victor desired only to be appointed
general of their famous league, and offered upon that condition to
restore all the cities and prisoners he had taken. The Achæans gladly
consenting to such easy terms, Cleomenes released and sent home all the
persons of rank amongst his prisoners, but was obliged by sickness to
defer the day appointed for the convention, until his return from
Sparta. This unhappy delay was fatal to Greece.[40] For Aratus, who had
enjoyed that honour thirty-three years, could not bear the thought of
having it wrested from him by so young a prince, whose glory he envied
as much as he dreaded his valour. Finding therefore all other methods
ineffectual, he had recourse to the desperate remedy of calling in the
Macedonians to his assistance, and sacrificed the liberty of his own
country, as well as that of Greece, to his own private pique and
jealousy. Thus the most publick-spirited assertor of liberty, and the
most implacable enemy to all tyrants in general, brought back those very
people into the heart of Greece, whom he had driven out formerly purely
from his hatred to tyranny, and sullied a glorious life with a blot
never to be erased, from the detestable motives of envy and revenge. A
melancholy proof, as Plutarch moralizes upon the occasion, of the
weakness of human nature, which with an assemblage of the most excellent
qualities is unable to exhibit the model of a virtue completely perfect.
A circumstance which ought to excite our compassion towards those
blemishes which we unavoidably meet with in the most exalted characters.

Cleomenes supported this unequal war against the Achæans and the whole
power of Macedon with the greatest vigour, and by his success gave many
convincing proofs of his abilities; but venturing a decisive battle at
Sallasia, he was totally defeated by the superior number of his enemies,
and the treachery of Damoteles, an officer in whom he greatly confided,
who was bribed to betray him by Antigonus. Out of six thousand Spartans,
two hundred only escaped, the rest with their king Euclidas were left
dead on the field of battle. Cleomenes retired to Sparta, and from
thence passed over to Ptolemy Euergetes king of Egypt, with whom he was
then in alliance, to claim the assistance he had formerly promised. But
the death of that monarch, which followed soon after, deprived him of
all hopes of succour from that quarter. The Spartan manners were as
odious to his successor Ptolemy Philopater, a weak and dissolute prince,
as the Spartan virtue was terrible to his debauched effeminate
courtiers. Whenever Cleomenes appeared at court, the general whisper
ran, that he came as a lion in the midst of sheep; a light in which a
brave man must necessarily appear to a herd of such servile dastards.
Confined at last by the jealousy of Ptolemy, who was kept in a perpetual
alarm by the insinuations of his iniquitous minister Sosybius, he with
about twelve more of his generous Spartan friends broke out of prison
determined upon death or liberty. In their progress through the streets,
they first slew one Ptolemy, a great favourite of the king, who had been
their secret enemy; and meeting the governor of the city, who came at
the first noise of the tumult, they routed his guards and attendants,
dragged him out of his chariot, and killed him. After this they ranged
uncontrouled through the whole city of Alexandria, the inhabitants
flying every where before them, and not a man daring either to assist or
oppose them. Such terror could thirteen brave men only strike into one
of the most populous cities in the universe, where the citizens were
bred up in luxury, and strangers to the use of arms! Cleomenes,
despairing of assistance from the citizens, whom he had in vain summoned
to assert their liberty, declared such abject cowards fit only to be
governed by women. Scorning therefore to fall by the hands of the
despicable Egyptians, he with the rest of the Spartans fell desperately
by their own swords, according to the heroism of those ages.[41]

The liberty and happiness of Sparta expired with Cleomenes.[42] For the
remains of the Spartan history furnishes us with very little after his
death, besides the calamities and miseries of that unhappy state,
arising from their intestine divisions. Machanidas, by the aid of one of
the factions which at that time rent that miserable republick, usurped
the throne, and established an absolute tyranny. One Nabis, a tyrant,
compared to whom even Nero himself may be termed merciful, succeeded at
the death of Machanidas, who fell in battle by the hand of the great
Philopœmen. The Ætolians treacherously murdered Nabis, and endeavoured
to seize the dominion of Sparta; but they were prevented by Philopœmen,
who partly by force, partly by persuasion, brought the Spartans into the
Achæan league, and afterwards totally abolished the institutions of
Lycurgus.[43] A most inhuman and most iniquitous action, as Plutarch
terms it, which must brand the character of that hero with eternal
infamy. As if he was sensible that as long as the discipline of Lycurgus
subsisted, the minds of the Spartan youth could never be thoroughly
tamed, or effectually broke to the yoke of foreign government. Wearied
out at last by repeated oppressions, the Spartans applied to the Romans
for redress of all their grievances; and their complaints produced that
war which ended in the dissolution of the Achæan league, and the
subjection of Greece to the Roman domination.

I have entered into a more minute detail of the Spartan constitution, as
settled by Lycurgus, than I at first proposed; because the maxims of
that celebrated lawgiver are so directly opposite to those which our
modern politicians lay down as the basis of the strength and power of a

Lycurgus found his country in the most terrible of all situations, a
state of anarchy and confusion. The rich, insolent and oppressive; the
poor groaning under a load of debt, mutinous from despair, and ready to
cut the throats of their usurious oppressors. To remedy these evils, did
this wise politician encourage navigation, strike out new branches of
commerce, and make the most of those excellent harbours, and other
natural advantages which the maritime situation of his country afforded?
Did he introduce and promote arts and sciences, that by acquiring
and diffusing new wealth amongst his countrymen, he might make his
nation, in the language of our political writers, secure, powerful, and
happy? just the reverse. After he had new-modelled the constitution, and
settled the just balance between the powers of government, he abolished
all debts, divided the whole land amongst his countrymen by equal lots,
and put an end to all dissensions about property by introducing a
perfect equality. He extirpated luxury and a lust of wealth, which he
looked upon as the pests of every free country, by prohibiting the use
of gold and silver; and barred up the entrance against their return by
interdicting navigation and commerce, and expelling all arts, but what
were immediately necessary to their subsistence. As he was sensible that
just and virtuous manners are the best support of the internal peace and
happiness of every kingdom, he established a most excellent plan of
education for training up his countrymen, from their very infancy, in
the strictest observance of their religion and laws, and the habitual
practice of those virtues which can alone secure the blessings of
liberty and perpetuate their duration. To protect his country from
external invasions, he formed the whole body of the people, without
distinction, into one well armed, well disciplined national militia,
whose leading principle was the love of their country, and who esteemed
death in its defence, the most exalted height of glory to which a
Spartan was capable of attaining. Nor were these elevated sentiments
confined solely to the men; the colder breasts of the women caught fire
at the glorious flame, and glowed even with superior ardour. For when
their troops marched against an enemy, “to bring back their shields, or
to be brought home upon them,” was the last command which the Spartan
mothers gave their sons at parting.[44]

Such was the method which Lycurgus took to secure the independency and
happiness of his country; and the event showed, that his institutions
were founded upon maxims of the truest and justest policy. For I cannot
help observing upon the occasion, that from the time of Lycurgus to the
introduction of wealth by Lysander in the reign of the first Agis, a
space of five hundred years, we meet with no mutiny amongst the people,
upon account of the severity of his discipline, but on the contrary the
most religious reverence for, and the most willing and cheerful
obedience to the laws he established. As on the other hand, the wisdom
of his military institutions is evident from this consideration; that
the national militia alone of Sparta, a small insignificant country as
to extent, situated in a nook only of the Morea, not only gave laws to
Greece, but made the Persian monarchs tremble at their very name, though
absolute masters of the richest and most extensive empire the world
then knew.

I observe farther, that the introduction of wealth by Lysander, after
the conquest of Athens, brought back all those vices and dissensions
which the prohibition of the use of money had formerly banished; and
that all historians assign that open violation of the laws of Lycurgus,
as the period from which the decadence of Sparta is to be properly
dated. I observe too, with Plutarch, that though the manners of the
Spartans were greatly corrupted by the introduction of wealth, yet that
the landed interest (as I may term it) which subsisted as long as the
original allotments of land remained unalienable, still preserved their
state; notwithstanding the many abuses which had crept into their
constitution. But that as soon as ever the landed estates became
alienable by law, the moneyed interest prevailed, and at last totally
swallowed up the landed, which the historians remark as the
death’s-wound of their constitution. For the martial virtue of the
citizens not only sunk with the loss of their estates, but their number,
and consequently the strength of the state, diminished in the same
proportion. Aristotle, who wrote about sixty years after the death of
Lysander, in his examen of the Spartan republick, quite condemns that
law which permitted the alienation of their lands.[45] For he affirms,
that the same quantity of land which, whilst equally divided, supplied
a militia of fifteen hundred horse, and thirty thousand heavy armed
foot, could not in his time furnish one thousand; so that the state was
utterly ruined for want of men to defend it.[46] In the reign of Agis
the 3d, about a hundred years after the time of Aristotle, the number of
the old Spartan families was dwindled (as I remarked before) to seven
hundred; out of which about one hundred rich overgrown families had
engrossed the whole land of Sparta, which Lycurgus had formerly divided
into thirty-nine thousand shares, and assigned for the support of as
many families. So true it is, that a landed interest diffused through a
whole people is not only the real strength, but the surest bulwark of
the liberty and independency, of a free country.

From the tragical fate of the third Agis we learn, that when abuses
introduced by corruption are suffered by length of time to take root in
the constitution, they will be termed by those whose interest it is to
support them, essential parts of the constitution itself; and all
attempts to remove them will ever be clamoured against by such men, as
attempts to subvert it: As the example of Cleomenes will teach us, that
the publick virtue of one great man may not only save his falling
country from ruin, but raise her to her former dignity and lustre, by
bringing her back to those principles on which her constitution was
originally founded. Though the violent remedies made use of by Cleomenes
never ought to be applied, unless the disease is grown too desperate to
admit of a cure by milder methods.

I shall endeavour to show in its proper place, that the constitution
established by Lycurgus, which seemed to Polybius to be rather of divine
than of human institution, and was so much celebrated by the most
eminent philosophers of antiquity, is much inferior to the British
constitution as settled at the revolution.[47] But I cannot quit this
subject without recommending that excellent institution of Lycurgus
which provided for the education of the children of the whole community
without distinction. An example which under proper regulations would be
highly worthy of our imitation, since nothing could give a more
effectual check to the reigning vices and follies of the present age, or
contribute so much to a reformation of manners, as to form the minds of
the rising generation by the principles of religion and virtue. Where
the manners of a people are good, very few laws will be wanting; but
when their manners are depraved, all the laws in the world will be
insufficient to restrain the excesses of the human passions. For as
Horace justly observes....

   _Quid legis sine moribus
     Vanæ proficiunt._ Ode 24. lib. 3.

  [5] Dion. Halicarn. p. 248. edit. Rob. Steph. 1546.

  [6] Plutarch relates this affair greatly to the honour of
  Lycurgus in the beginning of his life.


      Ἄγιδος γοῦν τοῦ βασιλέως
      ἐζημίωσαν αὐτόν

  Plut. vita Lycur. pag. 46. lit. c. Edit. Xiglandri.

  [8] Lycurgus was the first who collected the entire works of
  Homer; which he brought into Greece out of Asia-Minor.

  [9] Plutarch has taken no notice of them. But Xenophon has
  fully explained them in his treatise on the Spartan republick,
  p. 542, and seq.

  [10] Plut. Vit. Lycurg. ad finem.

  [11] Plut. ibid. p. 58. A. Ἡ γὰρ τῶν Ἐφόρων κατάστασις, &c.

  [12] De Rebuspubl. cap. 11. p. 154. vol. 2. Edit Basil. 1550.

  [13] Οὐ δῆτα φάναι παραδίδωμι γὰρ πολυχρονιωτέραν.

  [14] Arist. de. Rebuspubl. lib. 2. c. 7. p. 122. lit. 1. vol.

  [15] Polyb. lib. 6. p. 685. vol. 1. edit. Isaac Gronov. 1670.

  [16] Plut. in Vit. Lysand. p. 442. lit. E.

  [17] Plut. it Vit. Agesi. p. 617. lit. C.

  [18] In Vit. Agid. p. 796. lit. C.

  [19] Ibid. p. 797. lit. C.

  [20] In Vit Agid. p. 797. lit. A.

  [21] Ibid. lit. E.

  [22] Vita Agid. p. 797. lit. B.

  [23] Ibid. lit. C.

  [24] Ibid. p. 798. lit. B.

  [25] Something seems plainly to be wanting in this passage,
  which is strangely obscure and intricate. It is evident that
  Agis employed his uncle Agesilaus to persuade his mother, who
  was Agesilaus’s sister, τὴν μητέρα πείθειν, ἀδελφὴν οὖσαν τοῦ
  Ἀγησιλάου. The king himself entreats his mother to assist him,
  &c αὐτὸς δὲ ὁ βασιλεὺς ἐδεῖτο τῆς μητρός. And after he has
  enumerated the advantages which would result from his scheme,
  Plutarch abruptly adds οὕτω μετέπεσον ταῖς γνώμαις αἱ γυναῖκες
  &c. in the plural number, though he had just before mentioned
  Agis’s mother only, as the woman applied to on this occasion.
  It is evident therefore that his grandmother and all their
  female friends and relations must have been present that time,
  though not mentioned, and that they were the only Spartan
  ladies who came heartily into his scheme. For when Agis
  afterwards offers his whole fortune to the publick, he assures
  the people that his mother and grandmother, τὰς μητέρας, and
  his friends and relations, who were the richest families in
  Sparta, were ready to do the same. As Agis certainly includes
  the wives of his friends and relations, and mentions no other
  women, I have taken that speech for my guide in giving the
  sense of this whole passage, in which I could get no assistance
  from any of the commentators.

  [26] In Vit. Agid. p. 798. lit. D.

  [27] Vit. Agid. p. 800. lit. A.

  [28] Ibid. 799. lit. A.

  [29] This is an oracle mentioned by Plutarch, about which the
  learned are not agreed: however, it seems to have given its
  responses in dreams.

  [30] The reader may be glad perhaps to find here the ceremony
  made use of upon this occasion. Vit. Agid. p. 800. lit. B.
  δι’ ἐτῶν ἐννέα λαβόντες οἱ Ἔφοροι, &c. Every ninth year the
  ephori taking the opportunity of a clear and still night, when
  the moon did not appear, sat silently and observed the sky with
  great attention, and if they saw a star shoot, they judged the
  kings had offended the gods; and removed them from government,
  until an oracle came from Delphos which was favourable to them.

  [31] Plut. Vit. Agid. p. 798. lit. A.

  [32] Ibid. p. 801. lit. B.

  [33] Vit. Agid. p. 803. lit. A.

  [34] Plut. Vit. Cleom. p. 805. lit. B.

  [35] Plut. Vit. Cleom. p. 809. lit. A.

  [36] Plut. Vit. Cleom. p. 807. lit. B.

  [37] Vit. Cleom. p. 808. lit. A.

  [38] Vit. Cleom. p. 809. lit. A.

  [39] Parallel. inter Agid. et Cleom. et T. et C. Gracch. p.
  844. lit. D.

  [40] Vit. Cleom. p. 811. lit. C.

  [41] Plut. Vit. Cleom. p. 822. lit. E.

  [42] Polyb. lib. 4. p. 479.

  [43] Plut. Vit. Philopœm. p. 365. lit. E.

  [44] To bring back their shields, implied victory; to be
  brought home upon them, a glorious death in defence of their
  country; because the Spartans, if possible, brought back and
  buried all who fell in battle in their native country.

  [45] Aristot. de Rebuspubl. lib. 2. cap. 7. fol. 122. lit.

  [46] Ἡ πόλις ἀπώλετο διὰ τὴν ὀλιγανθρωπίαν. Aristot. ibid.

  [47] Ὥστε θειοτέραν τὴν ἐπινοίαν ἢ κατ’ ἄνθρωπον
  αὐτὸν νομίζειν. Polyb. lib. 6. p. 683.



The republick of Athens, once the seat of learning and eloquence, the
school of arts and sciences, and the centre of wit, gaiety, and
politeness, exhibits a strong contrast to that of Sparta, as well in her
form of government, as in the genius and manners of her inhabitants.

The government of Athens, after the abolition of monarchy, was truly
democratick, and so much convulsed by those civil dissensions, which are
the inevitable consequences of that kind of government, that of all the
Grecian states, the Athenian may be the most strictly termed the seat of
faction. I observe that the history of this celebrated republick is
neither very clear nor interesting until the time of Solon. The laws of
Draco (the first legislator of the Athenians who gave his laws in
writing) affixed death as the common punishment of the most capital
crimes, or the most trivial offences; a circumstance which implies
either the most cruel austerity in the temper of the lawgiver, or such
an abandoned profligacy in the manners of the people, as laid him under
a necessity of applying such violent remedies. As the historians have
not clearly decided which of these was the case, I shall only remark,
that the humanity of the people, so natural to the human species, was
interested upon the occasion, and the excessive rigour of the laws
obstructed the very means of their being carried into execution. A plain
proof that a multiplicity of rigorous penal laws are not only
incompatible with the liberty of a free state, but even repugnant to
human nature. For the natural equity of mankind can easily distinguish
between the nature and degree of crimes; and the sentiments of humanity
will naturally be excited when the punishment seems to be too rigorous
in proportion to the demerits of the offender. The chief reason, in my
opinion, why so many offenders in our nation escape with impunity for
want of prosecution, is because our laws make no distinction, as to the
punishment, between the most trifling robbery on the highway, and the
most atrocious of all crimes, premeditated murder.

The remedy which Draco proposed by his laws, proving worse than the
disease, the whole body of the people applied to Solon, as the only
person equal to the difficult task of regulating their government. The
supreme power of the state was at that time vested in nine magistrates,
termed archons or governors, elected annually by the people out of the
body of the nobility. But the community in general was split into three
factions, each contending for such a form of government as was most
agreeable to their different interests. The most sensible amongst the
Athenians, dreading the consequence of these divisions, were willing, as
Plutarch informs us, to invest Solon with absolute power; but our
disinterested philosopher was a stranger to that kind of ambition, and
preferred the freedom and happiness of his countrymen to the splendour
of a crown.[48] He continued the archons in their office as usual, but
limited their authority by instituting a senate of four hundred persons
elected by the people, by way of ballot, out of the four tribes into
which the community was at that time divided. He revived and improved
the senate and court of Areopagus, the most sacred and most respectable
tribunal, not only of Greece, but of all which we ever read of in
history.[49] The integrity and equity of this celebrated court was so
remarkable, that not only the Greeks, but the Romans, sometimes,
submitted such causes to their determination which they found too
intricate and difficult for their own decision. To prevent all suspicion
of partiality either to plaintiff or defendant, this venerable court
heard all causes and passed their definitive sentence in the dark, and
the pleaders on either side were strictly confined to a bare
representation of the plain truth of the fact, without either
aggravation or embellishment. For all the ornament of fine language, and
those powers of rhetorick which tended to bias the judgment by
interesting the passions of the judges, were absolutely prohibited.
Happy if the pleaders were restricted to this righteous method in our
own courts of judicature, where great eloquence and great abilities are
too often employed to confound truth and support injustice!

It is evident from history that Solon at first proposed the institutions
of Lycurgus as the model for his new establishment. But the difficulty
which he met with in the abolition of all debts, the first part of his
scheme, convinced him of the utter impracticability of introducing the
laconick equality, and deterred him from all farther attempts of that
nature. The laws of Athens gave the creditor so absolute a power over
his insolvent debtor, that he could not only oblige the unhappy wretch
to do all his servile drudgery, but could sell him and his children for
slaves in default of payment. The creditors had made so oppressive an
use of their power, that many of the citizens were actually obliged to
sell their children to make good their payments; and such numbers had
fled their country to avoid the effects of their detestable inhumanity,
that, as Plutarch observes, the city was almost unpeopled by the
extortion of the usurers.[50] Solon, apprehensive of an insurrection
amongst the poorer citizens, who openly threatened to alter the
government, and make an equal partition of the lands, thought no method
so effectual to obviate this terrible evil, as to cancel all debts, as
Lycurgus had done formerly at Sparta. But some of his friends, to whom
he had privately communicated his scheme, with an assurance that he did
not propose to meddle with the lands, were too well versed in the art of
jobbing to neglect so fair an opportunity of making a fortune. For they
stretched their credit to the utmost in loans of large sums from the
moneyed men, which they immediately laid out in the purchase of landed
estates. A precedent which the treacherous Agesilaus copied too
successfully afterwards at Sparta. The cheat appeared as soon as the
edict for abolishing all debts was made publick: but the odium of so
flagitious a piece of roguery was thrown wholly upon Solon; as the
censure of the publick for all frauds and exactions committed by
officers in the inferior departments will naturally fall upon the
minister at the helm, however disinterested and upright.

This edict was equally disagreeable to the rich and to the poor. For the
rich were violently deprived of all that part of their property which
consisted in their loans, and the poor were disappointed of that share
of the lands which they so greedily expected. How Solon drew himself out
of this difficulty, historians have no where informed us. All we can
learn from them is, that the decree was at last received and submitted
to, and that Solon was still continued in his office with the same
authority as before.

This experiment gave Solon a thorough insight into the temper of his
countrymen, and most probably induced him to accommodate his subsequent
regulations to the humour and prejudices of the people. For as he wanted
the authority which naturally arises from royal birth, as well as that
which is founded on the unlimited confidence of the people, advantages
which Lycurgus possessed in so eminent a degree, he was obliged to
consult rather what was practicable, than what was strictly right; and
endeavour, as far as he was able, to please all parties. That he
acknowledged this, seems evident from his answer to one who asked him
“whether the laws he had given the Athenians were the best he could
possibly have made?”[51] “They are the best,” replied Solon, “which the
Athenians are capable of receiving.” Thus whilst he confined the
magistracies and the executive part of the government solely to the
rich, he lodged the supreme power in the hands of the poorer citizens.
For though every freeman whose fortune did not amount to a particular
census or estimate, was excluded from all state offices by the laws of
Solon; yet he had a legal right of giving his opinion and suffrage in
the Εκκλησια or assembly of the people, which was wholly composed of
this inferior class of citizens. But as all elections, and all cases of
appeal from the superior courts were determined by the voices of this
assembly; as no law could pass without their approbation, and the
highest officers in the republick were subject to their censure, this
assembly became the _dernier resort_ in all causes, and this mob
government, as it may be justly termed, was the great leading cause of
the ruin of their republick. Anacharsis the Scythian philosopher, who at
that time resided with Solon, justly ridiculed this excess of power
which he had lodged in the people.[52] For when he had heard some points
debated, first in the senate, and afterwards decided in the assembly of
the people, he humourously told Solon, that at Athens “wise men debated,
but fools decided.” Solon was as sensible of this capital defect as
Anacharsis; but he was too well acquainted with the licentiousness and
natural levity of the people, to divest them of a power, which he knew
they would resume by violence at the first opportunity. The utmost
therefore he could do was to fix his two senates as the moorings of the
constitution.[53] That of four hundred, to secure the state against the
fluctuating temper and tumultuous fury of the people;[54] that of the
areopagus, to restrain the dangerous encroachments of the great and
wealthy.[55] He repealed all the laws of Draco, those against murder
alone excepted; rightly judging, as Plutarch remarks, that it was not
only most iniquitous, but most absurd, to inflict the same punishment
upon a man for being idle, or stealing a cabbage or an apple out of a
garden, as for committing murder or sacrilege.[56] But as the account
handed down to us of the laws which Solon established is extremely lame
and imperfect, I shall only mention the sarcasm of Anacharsis upon that
occasion, as a proof of their insufficiency to answer that end for which
Solon designed them. For that philosopher comparing the corrupt manners
of the Athenians with the coercive power of Solon’s laws, resembled the
latter to cobwebs which would entangle only the poor and feeble;[57] but
were easily broke through by the rich and powerful. Solon is said to
have replied,[58] “that men would readily stand to those mutual
compacts, which it was the interest of neither party to violate; and
that he had so rightly adapted his laws to the reason of his countrymen,
as to convince them how much more advantageous it was to adhere to what
was just, than to be guilty of injustice.” The event, as Plutarch truly
observes, proved more correspondent to the opinion of Anacharsis, than
to the hopes of Solon. For Pisistratus, a near relation of Solon’s,
having artfully formed a strong party among the poorer citizens, by
distributing bribes under the specious pretence of relieving their
necessities, procured a guard of fifty men armed with clubs only for the
safety of his person, by the help of which he seized the citadel,
abolished the democracy, and established a single tyranny in spite of
all the efforts of Solon.[59]

This usurpation proved the source of endless faction, and brought
innumerable calamities upon the republick. Pisistratus was expelled more
than once by the opposite party, and as often brought back in triumph
either by the fraud or force of his prevailing faction. At his death he
left the kingdom to his two sons Hipparchus and Hippias. The former of
these was assassinated by Harmodius and Aristogiton for a personal
injury they had received;[60] Hippias was soon after driven out of
Athens by the Spartans at the instigation of some of his discontented
countrymen. Despairing of recovering his former sovereignty by any other
means, he fled to Darius for assistance, and was the cause of the first
invasion of Greece by the Persians, in which he died fighting against
his country in the ever memorable battle of Marathon. But the most fatal
evil which resulted from the usurpation of Pisistratus, was, that
perpetual fear of seeing the supreme power again lodged in the hands of
a single person.[61] For this fear kept the jealousy of the people in a
constant alarm, and threw them at last into the hands of the factious
demagogues. Hence superior merit was frequently represented as an
unpardonable crime, and a kind of high treason against the
republick.[62] And the real patriots were rendered suspected to the
people, just as the demagogues were influenced by envy or private pique,
or even bribed by ambitious or designing men, who aspired at the very
thing of which the others were unjustly accused. The history of Athens
abounds with instances of the levity and inconstancy of that unsteady
people. For how frequently do we find their best and ablest citizens
imprisoned or sentenced to banishment by the ostracism, in honour of
whom the same people had just before erected statues:[63] nay not
unfrequently raising statues to the memory of those illustrious and
innocent men, whom they had illegally doomed to death in the wantonness
of their power;[64] at once the monuments of their injustice and too
late repentance! This evil was the natural consequence of that capital
error in Solon’s polity, when he entrusted the supreme power to the
giddy and fluctuating populace. A defect which (as I observed before)
was the great leading cause of the loss of that liberty which they had
so licentiously abused. For as the removal of all the honest citizens
either by death or banishment paved an easy way for usurpation and
tyranny; so it was a measure invariably pursued, in the democratick
governments of Greece, by all those ambitious men who aimed at
subverting the liberties of their country. This truth is so clearly
explained, and so incontestably proved, by the great Thucydides, that
whilst I peruse the annals of that admirable historian, I cannot help
grieving over the tragick pages stained with the blood of so many
patriot citizens, who fell a sacrifice to the dire ambition and avarice
of faction. What a striking detail does he give us of the most
calamitous situation of all the Grecian republicks during the
Peloponnesian war! How does he labour for expression in his pathetick
enumeration of the horrible consequences of faction, after his
description of the destructive sedition at Corcyra! A contempt of all
religion, the open violation of the most sacred ties and compacts;
devastations, massacres, assassinations, and all the savage horrors of
civil discord inflamed even to madness, are the perpetual subjects of
his instructive history. Calamities of which he himself was at once an
eyewitness and a most faithful recorder.

Thucydides truly ascribes this destructive war to the mutual jealousy
which then subsisted between the Spartans and Athenians.[65][66] The
most stale frivolous pretences were trumped up by the Spartans, and as
strongly retorted by the Athenians. Both states made the interests or
grievances of their allies, the constant pretext for their mutual
altercations, whilst the real cause was that ambitious scheme which each
state had formed of reducing all Greece under its respective dominion.
But an event which both states seemed to have waited for, quickly blew
up the latent sparks of jealousy into the most violent flame.[67] The
Thebans privately entered the city of Platæa in the night (a small state
at that time allied to Athens) which had been betrayed to them by a
treacherous faction, who were enemies to the Athenians. But the honester
part of the Platæans recovering from their surprise, and taking notice
of the small number of the Thebans, quickly regained possession of their
city by the slaughter of most of the invaders. The Platæans immediately
applied to the Athenians for assistance; the Thebans to the
Spartans.[68] Both states entered eagerly into the quarrel between their
respective allies, and engaged as principals in that destructive war
which at last involved all Greece in the common calamity. Wherever the
fortune of the Spartan prevailed, an oligarchical aristocracy was
established, and the friends to a popular government destroyed or
banished. Where the Athenians were victors, democracy was settled or
restored, and the people glutted their revenge with the blood of the
nobility. Alternate revolts, truces violated as soon as made, massacres,
proscriptions, and confiscations, were the perpetual consequences, in
all the petty republicks, of the alternate good or bad success of those
two contending rivals. In a word, all Greece seems to have been seized
with an epidemick madness; and the polite, the humane Grecians treated
one another, during the whole course of this unnatural war, with a
ferocity unknown even to the most savage barbarians. The real cause,
assigned by Thucydides, of all these atrocious evils, was, “the lust of
domination arising from avarice and ambition:” for the leading men in
every state, whether of the democratick or aristocratick party, affected
outwardly the greatest concern for the welfare of the republick, which
in reality was made the prize for which they all contended.[69] Thus,
whilst each endeavoured by every possible method to get the better of
his antagonist, the most audacious villanies, and the most flagrant acts
of injustice were equally perpetrated by both sides. Whilst the moderate
men amongst the citizens, who refused to join with either side, were
alike the objects of their resentment or envy, and equally destroyed
without mercy by either faction.[70]

Historians unanimously agree, that the Athenians were instigated to this
fatal war by the celebrated Pericles. Thucydides, who was not only
cotemporary with Pericles, but actually bore a command in that war, does
real honour to that great man’s character; for he assigns his desire of
humbling the Spartans, and his zeal for the glory and interest of his
country, as the real motives of his conduct upon that occasion.[71] But,
as a detail of this tedious and ruinous war is wholly foreign to my
purpose, I shall only remark, that if ever union and harmony are
necessary to the preservation of a state, they are more essentially so
when that state is engaged in a dubious war with a powerful enemy. For
not only the continuation, but the event, of that long war, so fatal to
the Athenians, must (humanly speaking) be wholly attributed to the
disunion of their counsels, and the perpetual fluctuation in their
measures, occasioned by the influence of the ambitious and factious
demagogues. Not the calamities of war, nor the most dreadful plague,
ever yet recorded in history, were able to fix the volatile temper of
that unsteady people.[72] Elate beyond measure with any good success,
they were deaf to the most reasonable overtures of peace from their
enemies, and their views were unbounded. Equally dejected with any
defeat, they thought the enemy just at their doors, and threw the whole
blame upon their commanders, who were always treated as unpardonably
criminal when unsuccessful. The demagogues, who watched every turn of
temper in that variable people, took care to adapt every circumstance
that offered to their own ambitious views, either of gaining or
supporting an ascendency in the state, which kept up a perpetual spirit
of faction in that unhappy republick. Thus, in the beginning of the
Peloponnesian war, Cleon, a noisy seditious demagogue, declaimed
violently against Pericles, and was the constant opposer of all his
measures:[73] but the firmness and superior abilities of that great man
enabled him to baffle all his antagonists. When Pericles was carried off
by that fatal pestilence which almost depopulated Athens, the nobility,
jealous of that sway which Cleon had acquired over the people, set up
Nicias in opposition. Nicias was honest, and a real lover of his
country, but a man of no great abilities; and though an experienced
officer, yet cautious and diffident even to timidity.[74] In his temper
he was mild, humane, and averse to bloodshed, and laboured to put an end
to a war which spread such general destruction: but all his measures
were opposed by the turbulent Cleon; for when the Spartans proposed an
accommodation, Cleon persuaded the Athenians to insist upon such high
terms that the treaty broke off, and war was again renewed with the same
inveterate fury: but the incendiary Cleon, the chief obstacle to all
pacifick measures, falling in battle in the tenth year of that war,
negociations were again set on foot, and a peace for fifty years
concluded between the Athenians and the Spartans by the unwearied
endeavours of Nicias.[75] But whilst Nicias was intent upon the
enjoyment of that repose which he had procured, a new and infinitely
more formidable rival started up, and again involved his country and all
Greece in the same calamities by his restless and insatiable ambition.

Alcibiades now appeared upon the stage; a man composed of a motley
mixture of virtues and vices, of good and bad qualities; one who could
assume even the most opposite characters; and with more ease, than a
chameleon can change its colours, appear a very contrast to himself just
as his interest or ambition required.[76] This state Proteus was
strongly piqued at the growing power and reputation of Nicias. His lust
of power was too great to bear either a superior or an equal;[77] and he
determined at all events to supplant him, alike regardless either of the
equity of the means, or of the consequences of it to his country. The
Athenians were not a little displeased with the Spartans, who had not
been very punctual in fulfilling the conditions of the treaty.[78]
Alcibiades finding his countrymen in a humour very proper for his
purpose, inflamed them violently against Nicias, whom he publickly
accused as a secret friend and wellwisher to that people. Nicias
endeavoured to ward off the blow, and prevent his countrymen from coming
to an open rupture; but the intrigues of Alcibiades prevailed, who
procured himself to be elected general, and fresh hostilities to be
commenced against the allies of Sparta.[79]

The seventeenth year of this memorable war is remarkable for that fatal
expedition against Sicily, which gave a mortal blow to the Athenian
grandeur, and affords a signal instance of the terrible consequences of
faction. The Egestians, a small state in Sicily, applied to the
Athenians for assistance against the oppressions of the Syracusans.
Alcibiades, looking upon it as an object worthy of his ambition,
undertook the cause of these suppliants, and knew so well how to flatter
the vanity of his countrymen, that a large armament was decreed by the
people for that purpose, and Nicias, Alcibiades, and Lamachus, a daring
but able officer, were elected generals.[80] Nicias was the only person
who had the honesty or courage to oppose a measure which he judged not
only rash, but to the last degree impolitick; but the Athenians were
deaf to all his remonstrances. The relief of the Egestians was only the
pretext; for the entire dominion of Sicily, as Thucydides assures us,
was the real object they had in view when they gave orders for that
powerful armament.[81] Alcibiades had promised them an easy conquest of
that island, which he looked upon only as a prelude to much greater
enterprises; and the besotted people had already swallowed up Italy,
Carthage, and Africa in their idle imaginations.[82] Both factions
concurred in the vigorous prosecution of this measure, though from very
different motives: the friends of Alcibiades, from the view of
aggrandizing their chief by that vast accession of wealth and glory
which they hoped for from this expedition: his enemies, from the hopes
of supplanting him in his absence, and gaining the lead in the
administration.[83] Thus the true interest of the state was equally
sacrificed to the selfish and private views of each party! But, in the
midst of these vast preparations, an odd accident threw the whole city
into confusion, and at once alarmed the superstition and jealousy of the
people. The terms, or statues of Mercury, were all defaced in one and
the same night by some unknown persons; nor could the Athenians ever
discover the real authors of this reputed sacrilege.[84] Proclamations
were issued with a free pardon, and reward for any of the accomplices
who could make a discovery, and the information of strangers and slaves
was allowed as legal evidence; but no information could be procured as
to the true authors of that particular fact; a circumstance which to me
does not appear at all surprising: for it was evidently, in my opinion,
a piece of party-craft played off against Alcibiades by the opposite
faction, who knew that to attack the established religion, was to touch
the master-spring of the passions of their countrymen.[85] Some slaves
indeed, and other low persons (suborned, as Plutarch asserts, by
Androcles,[86] one of the demagogues) deposed, that long before that,
some statues had been mutilated, and the most sacred mysteries of their
religion ridiculed, in a drunken frolick by some wild young fellows, and
that Alcibiades was of the party.[87] This information, which, according
to Plutarch, was a palpable contrivance of his enemies, enabled them to
fix the odium of the last action upon Alcibiades.[88] The demagogues of
the opposite faction greatly exaggerated the whole affair to the people.
They accused him of a treasonable design against the popular government,
and produced his contemptuous ridicule of the sacred mysteries, and the
mutilation of Mercury’s statues, in support of their charge; as they
urged his well known libertinism, and licentious life as a proof that he
must be the author of those insults upon their religion. Alcibiades not
only denied the charge, but insisted upon being brought immediately to a
legal trial; declaring himself ready to undergo the punishment inflicted
by the laws, if he should be found guilty.[89] He beseeched the people
not to receive any informations against him in his absence, but rather
to put him to death upon the spot if they judged him to be the
offender. He urged too, how impolitick it would be to send him with the
command of so great an army, whilst he lay under the imputation of a
crime of that nature, before they had taken thorough cognizance of the
affair: but his accusers dreading the effect which his interest with the
army, and his well known influence over the allied troops, which had
engaged in the expedition from their personal attachment to him, might
have upon the people, if he should be brought to immediate trial,
procured other demagogues of their party to dissuade the people from a
measure which they judged would disconcert their scheme. These men
pleaded the dangerous delay which such a proceeding might occasion, and
urged the necessity of dispatch in an enterprise of such vast
importance. They proposed therefore that the fleet should sail
immediately, but that Alcibiades should return when a day was appointed
for his trial.[90] For their intention was, as Thucydides remarks, to
recall and bring him to his trial when the popular prejudice ran strong
against him, which they knew they could easily spirit up in his absence.
It was decreed, therefore, that Alcibiades should depart immediately
upon the expedition.

This mighty armament, which carried the flower of the Athenian forces,
was the most splendid, the best fitted out, and the most expensive, that
had ever sailed from any of the Grecian ports to that very time.[91]
But the first thing we meet with in this expedition, is (what might
naturally be expected) a disagreement between the three generals as to
the manner of beginning their operations.[92] Alcibiades indeed brought
them both over to his opinion; but whilst he was disputing with his
colleagues in Sicily, his enemies at Athens were by no means idle. The
affair of the statues, and the pollution of the sacred mysteries, were
again brought upon the carpet. The people, naturally suspicious, never
inquired into the character of the informers, or the validity of the
evidence, but admitted all that offered without distinction; and, giving
easy credit to the most abandoned wretches, apprehended several of the
most eminent citizens, and committed them to prison.[93] One of these
persuaded another of his fellow prisoners, who was most liable to
suspicion, to take the crime upon himself, and to impeach some others as
his accomplices.[94] Urging this as a reason, that whether what he
confessed should be true or false, he would at least secure his own
pardon, and calm the present suspicions of the people. Andocides, for
that was the name of this person according to Plutarch, though it is
omitted by Thucydides, was prevailed upon by this kind of reasoning to
acknowledge himself guilty of defacing the statues, and to inform
against some others as accomplices in the same act of impiety.[95] Upon
this declaration the informer received his pardon, and all those who
were not mentioned in his information their liberty:[96] but processes
were made out against as many as he had named, and all who were
apprehended were tried, condemned, and executed upon his single
evidence. Those who escaped by flight were sentenced to die, and a price
set upon their heads by a publick proclamation. Whether the persons
condemned were guilty or innocent was not at all clear, according to
Thucydides. Plutarch tells us, that the friends and acquaintance of
Alcibiades, who fell into the hands of the people, were severely handled
on this occasion.[97] It is certain therefore that the information was
chiefly levelled at him by the artifice of the opposite faction; for
Thucydides informs us almost in the very next sentence, that the people
received the information against Alcibiades with all the fury of
prejudice, at the instigation of such of his enemies as had accused him
before he sailed upon the expedition.[98] And since they now had not the
least doubt of his being concerned in the affair of defacing the
statues, they were more than ever convinced that he was equally guilty
of the pollution of the mysteries, and that both those crimes were
committed by him and his associates with the same design of subverting
the popular government. For a body of Spartan troops happened to make an
incursion, in that very juncture, as far as the Isthmus, upon some
design or other against the Bœotians. This unlucky incident confirmed
the people in their suspicions that this was a scheme concerted
beforehand with Alcibiades, covered with the specious pretext of
attacking the Bœotians;[99] and that if the plot had not been happily
discovered in time, and the execution of it prevented by the death of
the conspirators, their city would most inevitably have been betrayed to
the Spartans.[100] Thus on every side suspicions fell strongly upon
Alcibiades, and the people determining to put him to death, sent a
private express to Sicily to recall him and such of his friends as were
named in the information. The officers dispatched in the Salaminian
galley, which was sent on that occasion, were ordered to acquaint
Alcibiades, that he was desired to return with them to Athens to clear
himself of those things which were objected to him before the people;
but they received a strict charge not to offer to take him or his
friends into custody; not only from the dread of some mutiny amongst
their own soldiers upon his account, but for fear the allied troops,
whom his influence had engaged, should desert and abandon the
enterprise.[101] Alcibiades obeyed the summons, and taking his friends,
who were included in the information, into his own ship, left Sicily in
company with the Salaminian galley, seemingly as if returning to Athens;
but, whether he only suspected, or, which is more probable, had received
intelligence of the measures taken by his enemies in his absence, he,
with his friends, went ashore at Thuria, and gave the Athenian officers
the slip, not caring to stand the sentence of the credulous and
prejudiced people.[102] The officers finding all their search after him
quite fruitless, returned to Athens without him, and the Athenians
passed sentence of death upon him and all those who accompanied him, and
confiscated their estates for non-appearance.[103] Thus, instead of
uniting their joint efforts to promote the success of an enterprise upon
which they had staked their all, the infatuated Athenians were intent
upon nothing but the cabals and intrigues of faction; and the folly of
the people, managed by their ambitious and selfish demagogues, deprived
the state of the only commander from whom they could rationally hope for
success in that hazardous expedition. A measure which occasioned the
total ruin both of their fleet and army, and gave a fatal shock to
their republick; for the soldiers were not only greatly dispirited at
the loss of a chief, in whose abilities they placed the most entire
confidence, but Alcibiades, in revenge for his usage, took refuge
amongst the Spartans, and prevailed upon them to send such supplies to
the Syracusans as completed the destruction of the Athenians in that
country.[104] Nicias was taken and put to death by the enemy; not a
single ship returned, and few of the men escaped either slaughter or
captivity.[105] The news of this terrible defeat threw the city into the
utmost consternation.[106] They at first gave up all hopes, and imagined
they should quickly see the enemy’s fleet in the Pyræum whilst they were
in this exhausted and defenceless condition. However, the dread of the
impending danger had this good effect that it made the populace
extremely tractable, and ready to support their magistrates in whatever
measures they judged most conducive to the common safety.[107] Nor could
any thing but union and harmony amongst themselves have possibly saved
them in the midst of so many enemies, with which they were surrounded.
For all the Greeks in general were highly elated, as Thucydides tells
us, with the ill success of the Athenians in Sicily.[108] Those who had
hitherto observed a strict neutrality in this war wanted no
solicitations to join in crushing that unhappy people, but rather
thought it glorious to have a share in a war which they concluded would
be but of short duration. The Spartan allies were more than ever
desirous of delivering themselves from the calamities of war which they
had so long suffered; whilst those states, which until that time had
received laws from the Athenians, exerted themselves above their
strength to support the revolt which they were then meditating. They
judged of the situation of affairs from the blind impulse of passion,
regardless of the dictates of reason, and fancied the next campaign
would finish the ruin of the Athenians. The Spartans, promising
themselves the certain dominion over all Greece, if the Athenians were
once reduced, made vast preparations for the war, to which all their
allies contributed their utmost; all got ready for opening the campaign
the spring following.[109]

The Athenians, now harmony was restored in the state, recovered their
spirits, and begun to act with vigour.[110] They applied themselves to
the re-establishment of their marine, the repairs of their
fortifications, and the care of storing their magazines with the
greatest diligence and economy, retrenching all such expenses as they
judged useless or superfluous. The good effects of this unanimity were
visible when the campaign opened, for they found themselves in a
condition to make head against their numerous enemies, though
strengthened by a new alliance with the Persians, and assisted with
Persian money; and they even gained some considerable advantages. An
event too happened, which greatly disconcerted the measures of their
enemies, and raised their state once more to its former power and
lustre. Alcibiades, a thorough libertine, who never stuck at the most
infamous means of gratifying his passions, debauched Timæa, the wife of
Agis, king of Sparta, his great friend and protector.[111] Dreading the
resentment of that prince for so shameful a breach of friendship and
hospitality, as well as the jealousy of the Peloponnesians, who had sent
private orders to Astyochus, the Lacedemonian admiral, to cut him off,
he fled to Tissaphernes, at that time governor of the provinces in the
lower Asia under the Persian monarch.[112] Alcibiades, who was a
consummate master in the art of address, quickly insinuated himself into
his good graces, and explained to him the true interest of the Persians
with respect to the Grecian republicks.[113] He showed him the bad
policy of raising one state to a superiority over all the rest, which
would deprive his master of all his allies, and oblige him to contend
alone with the whole power of Greece. He advised him to permit every
state to enjoy its own separate independent government; and
demonstrated, that by keeping them thus divided, his master might set
them together by the ears, and, by playing them one against another,
crush them all at last without the least danger. He added too, that an
alliance with the Athenians would be more advantageous to the Persian
interest, and preferable to that which he had made with the
Lacedæmonians. The crafty Persian was too able a politician not to
relish his advice; he paid the Peloponnesians their subsidy so ill, and
put off a naval engagement so long, under pretence of waiting for the
Phœnician fleet, that he wasted the strength of their navy, which was
far superior to the Athenian, and ruined all their measures.[114]

Whilst Alcibiades resided with Tissaphernes, and gave the Persians the
best instructions he could for regulating their conduct, he at the same
time formed a scheme for procuring the repeal of his sentence, and
liberty to return once more to his native country.[115] He judged the
best way to obtain this favour would be to convince the Athenians of his
intimacy with Tissaphernes. To effect this, he wrote to the chief
officers of the Athenian forces, which then lay at Samos, directing them
to inform all those of the greatest weight and authority how desirous he
was of revisiting Athens if the government should be once lodged in the
hands of a small number of the principal citizens; but that he could by
no means think of returning whilst the democracy subsisted, and the
state was governed by a parcel of abandoned wretches, who had so
scandalously driven him out of his country. Upon that condition he
promised to procure the friendship of Tissaphernes, and declared himself
ready to accept a share with them in the administration. The event
answered his expectations; for the officers and the leading men, both of
the sea and land forces, which were at Samos, were eagerly bent upon
subverting the democracy. Thus the treaty was set on foot at Samos, and
the scheme laid for altering the government.[116] The principal men were
in hopes of a share in the administration, and the inferior people
acquiesced from the expectation of large subsidies from the Persians.
Phrynicus, one of the generals, alone opposed it, sensible that
Alcibiades cared as little for an aristocratick government as for a
democracy, and had no other point in view (which, as Thucydides
acknowledges, was the real truth) than to procure such a change in the
present administration as might enable his friends to recall him. The
terms, however, which Alcibiades offered, were agreed to by the rest,
and Pisander, one of the leading men, was sent to Athens to manage the

Pisander at first met with violent opposition from the people;[118] and
the enemies of Alcibiades in particular clamoured loudly against the
violation of the laws, when his return was proposed, which they chiefly
dreaded. But Pisander applied so artfully to the fears of the people,
and showed them so plainly that it was the only resource they had left
which could possibly save the state, that they at last agreed to it,
though with great reluctance.[119] He therefore, with ten others, was
appointed to settle the affair with Tissaphernes and Alcibiades as they
should judge most conducive to the interest of the republick; but
Tissaphernes, who dreaded the power of the Peloponnesians, was not so
ready to enter into a convention with the Athenians, as they were taught
to believe.[120] Alcibiades therefore, to save his credit, and conceal
from the Athenians his inability to make good what he had promised,
insisted, in the name of Tissaphernes, upon such high terms that the
treaty broke off, and the deputies returned to Samos, enraged at the
trick which they thought had been put upon them by Alcibiades.
Determined however, at all events, to pursue their scheme, Pisander,
with some of the deputies, returned to Athens, where their party had
already made a considerable progress, for they had privately
assassinated such of the leading men as were averse to an aristocracy,
and though they permitted the senate and people to assemble and vote as
usual, yet they would not allow any thing to be decreed but what they
thought proper;[121] besides, none but those of their own faction durst
venture to harangue the people; for if any one attempted to speak in
opposition, he was sure to be dispatched at the first convenient
opportunity; nor was any inquiry made after the assassins, or any
process issued out against those who were strongly suspected of the
murders. The people were so terrified with these bloody executions, that
they acquiesced to whatever was proposed, and every man thought himself
happy if no violence was offered him, even though he continued quiet and
silent. They were deprived even of the power of bewailing the common
calamity to each other, in order to concert measures for revenge: for
the faction had artfully spread so strong and so universal a diffidence
amongst the popular party, that no one durst venture to confide in his
neighbour, but each man suspected every other as an accomplice of the
crimes which were daily perpetrated.

In this situation Pisander found the city at his arrival,[122] and
immediately prepared to finish what his friends had so successfully
begun: convoking therefore an assembly of the people, the aristocratick
faction openly declared their resolution to abolish the ancient form of
government, and to lodge the supreme power in the hands of four hundred
of the nobility, who should govern the state in the manner they thought
best, with the power of assembling five thousand of the citizens to
consult with as oft as they thought proper. Pisander was the man who
acquainted the people with this definitive resolution,[123] but Antiphon
was the person who formed the plan, and was chief manager of the whole
affair: a man, according to the testimony of Thucydides, who knew him
personally, master of the greatest abilities, and of by far the most
nervous eloquence of any of his contemporaries. Thus the oligarchy was
established, and the Athenians deprived of that liberty which they had
enjoyed near one hundred years from the expulsion of Hippias: during
which whole space they had been subject to none, but had been
accustomed, above half that time, to lord it over others; for as soon as
this decree had passed in the assembly without opposition,[124] the
chiefs of the conspiracy artfully permitted such citizens as were upon
duty, but had not been let into the secret, to go wherever they pleased;
but directed their own friends to continue under arms, and disposed them
in such a manner as might best favour their enterprise: for the
Athenians kept at that time a constant guard upon their walls, as the
Spartan army was encamped in their neighbourhood. When they had made
their disposition, the four hundred nobles with poignards concealed
under their habits, and attended by an hundred and twenty daring young
fellows, whom they employed in their assassinations, surrounded the
senators,[125] and paying them what was due upon their salaries,
commanded them to depart the court. The senators tamely submitting,[126]
and not the least stir happening amongst the citizens, they proceeded to
elect magistrates out of their own body, and performed all the religious
ceremonies usually practised upon those occasions. When they had thus
got possession of the government, they did not think proper to recall
those whom the people had formerly banished, for fear of being obliged
to include Alcibiades in the number, whose enterprising genius they
dreaded extremely; but they behaved most tyrannically to the citizens,
putting some to death, throwing some into prison, and banishing others.

The spirit of liberty however is not so easily extinguished. Pisander
had brought mercenary troops with him out of some of the cities which he
passed through on his return to Athens, who were of great service to the
new governors in their enterprise:[127] but the forces at Samos
consisted of Athenian citizens, jealous even of the least attempt upon
the liberty of their country, and declared enemies to every species of
tyranny. The first news which these brave fellows received of the
usurpation, brought such exaggerated accounts of the cruelty and
insolence of the four hundred, that they were with great difficulty
restrained from cutting every one to pieces who was in the interest of
the oligarchy. However,[128] they took the command from their former
generals, and cashiered every officer they suspected, substituting
others in their places; the chief of whom were Thrasybulus and
Thrasyllus. Alcibiades was recalled,[129] and unanimously declared their
captain general both by the sea and land forces; which gave such a turn
to affairs at Athens, that the four hundred were deposed, in spite of
all their efforts to continue in power, and the publick tranquillity
once more established.

The people confirmed Alcibiades in the command, and committed the whole
management of the war to his conduct.[130] But his soul was too great to
receive his recall from banishment, and even his high post as an act of
favour.[131] He determined to merit both by some signal service, and not
to revisit Athens until he could return with glory. His usual success
attended him in this war, and he seemed to bring victory with him
wherever he appeared; for he gained so many victories both by sea and
land, and distressed the Peloponnesians so much by his address and
conduct, that he once more retrieved the dominion of the sea, and
returned triumphant to Athens.[132] His entry was splendidly
magnificent, adorned with the trophies of two hundred ships of war,
which he had destroyed or taken, and a vast number of prisoners.[133]
His reception was attended with all the honours and applause he had so
justly merited. The people, conscious of the late happy change in their
affairs under the administration of Alcibiades, lamented with tears
their miscarriage in Sicily, and other subsequent calamities; all which
they imputed to their own fatal error in not trusting the sole command
to so able and successful a commander.

The fortune however of this great man was perpetually fluctuating, and
seemed to be ever on the extreme; and Plutarch remarks,[134] that if
ever man owed his ruin to his own glory, it must be Alcibiades; for the
people were so prepossessed with the opinion of his courage and conduct,
that they looked upon him as absolutely invincible. Whenever therefore
he failed in any one point, they imputed it entirely to his neglect, or
want of will; for they could imagine nothing so difficult, but what they
thought him able to surmount, if he applied to it with earnestness and
vigour. Thus, in the same campaign, he sailed to the isle of Andros
with a powerful fleet, where he defeated the joint forces of the
inhabitants and Spartans; but, as he did not take the city, he gave his
enemies a fresh handle for renewing their usual accusations; for the
people already fancied themselves masters of Chios and the rest of
Ionia, and were extremely out of humour because his conquests did not
keep pace with their heated imaginations. They made no allowance for the
wretched state of their finances, which frequently obliged him to quit
his army to go in search of money to pay, and provisions to subsist, his
forces, whilst their enemies had a constant resource for all their wants
in the treasures of Persia. To one of these excursions, which necessity
obliged him to make in order to raise money, he properly owed his ruin:
for leaving the command of the fleet to one Antiochus, an able seaman
indeed, but rash, in every other respect unequal to such a charge, he
gave him the most positive orders not to fight the enemy upon any
account whatsoever during his absence; but the vain Antiochus treated
his orders with so much contempt, that he sailed out with a few ships to
brave the Spartan admiral Lysander, which brought on a general
engagement. The event was, the death of Antiochus, the defeat of the
Athenians, who lost many of their ships, and a trophy erected by the
Spartans in honour of their victory. Alcibiades, at the first news of
this misfortune, returned to Samos with precipitation, and endeavoured
to bring Lysander to a decisive action; but the wary Spartan knew too
well how different a man he had now to deal with, and would by no means
hazard a second engagement.

In the mean time one Thrasybulus,[135] who bore a mortal enmity to
Alcibiades, posted to Athens, and impeached him as the cause of the late
defeat, affirming that he committed the care of the fleet to his
potcompanions, whilst he rambled at pleasure amongst the provinces,
raising money, and living in a state of riot and dissipation with wine
and women. A violent charge, besides, was brought against him for
fortifying a place near Bizanthe,[136] as a retreat upon occasion, which
his enemies urged as a proof that he either was not able, or not
willing, to reside in his native country.

Jealousy and inconstancy were the characteristicks of the Athenian
people. They gave implicit belief to the suggestions of his enemies, and
discharged, as Plutarch tells us, the fury of their gall upon the
unfortunate Alcibiades, whom they deprived immediately of the command.

Thucydides,[137] speaking of the behaviour of his countrymen to
Alcibiades upon the impeachment brought against him for defacing the
statues, imputes their ruin to that jealousy which they constantly
harboured both of his ambition and abilities. For though he had done the
state many great and signal services, yet his way of life made him so
odious to every individual, that the command was taken from him and
given to others, which not long after drew on the destruction of the

For Tydeus,[138] Menander, and Adimantus, the new generals, who lay with
the Athenian fleet, in the river Ægos, were so weak as to sail out every
morning at daybreak to defy Lysander, who kept his station at Lampsacus;
and, at their return from this idle bravado, spent the rest of the day
without order or discipline, or keeping any look-out, from an affected
contempt of the enemy. Alcibiades, who was at that time in the
neighbourhood, and thoroughly sensible of their danger, came and
informed them of the inconveniences of the place where their fleet then
lay, and the absurdity of suffering their men to go ashore and ramble
about the country. He assured them too, that Lysander was an experienced
and vigilant enemy, who knew how to make the most of every advantage:
but they, vain of their new power, despised his advice, and treated him
with the utmost rudeness. Tydeus, in particular, ordered him to be gone,
and told him insolently, that not he, but they were now commanders, and
knew best what to do. The event happened as Alcibiades had foreseen.
Lysander attacked them unexpectedly whilst they lay in their usual
disorder, and gained so complete a victory, that of all their fleet
eight vessels alone escaped, which fled at the first onset. The able
Spartan, who knew as well how to make use of, as to gain, a victory,
soon after compelled Athens itself to surrender at discretion. As soon
as he was master of the city,[139] he burnt all their shipping, placed a
garrison in their citadel, and demolished the rest of their
fortifications. When he had thus reduced them to a state of absolute
subjection, he abolished their constitution, and left them to the mercy
of thirty governors of his own choosing, well known in history by the
appellation of the Thirty Tyrants.

This tyranny, though of very short duration, was to the last degree
inhuman. The tyrants sacrificed all whom they suspected to their fear,
and all who were rich to their avarice. The carnage was so great, that,
according to Xenophon,[140] the thirty put more Athenians to death in
eight months only, than had fallen in battle, against the whole force of
the Peloponnesians, during ten years of the war. But the publick virtue
of Thrasybulus[141] could not bear to see his country enslaved by such
inhuman monsters: collecting therefore about seventy determined
citizens, who, like him, had fled to Thebes for refuge, he first seized
upon Phyle,[142] a strong fort near Athens; and, strengthened by the
accession of fresh numbers, which flocked in to him from every side, he
got possession of the Pyræum.[143] The thirty tyrants endeavoured to
retake it, but were repulsed, and Critias[144] and Hippomachus, two of
their number, slain in the attempt. The people now, weary of the
tyrants,[145] drove them out of the city, and chose ten magistrates, one
out of each tribe, to supply their places. The tyrants applied to their
friend Lysander, who sailed and invested the Pyræum, and reduced
Thrasybulus, and his party, to an extreme want of necessaries, for they
were yet confined to the Pyræum, as the people, though they had deposed
the tyrants, yet refused to receive them into the city; but
Pausanias,[146] one of the kings of Sparta, who commanded the land
forces in this expedition, jealous of the reputation which that great
man had acquired, gained over two of the ephori, who accompanied him,
and granted peace to the Athenians notwithstanding all the opposition of
Lysander. Pausanias returned to Sparta with his army, and the
tyrants,[147] despairing of assistance, began to hire foreign troops,
and were determined to re-establish themselves by force in that power of
which they had been so lately deprived. But Thrasybulus, informed of
their design, marched out with all his forces, and, drawing them to a
parley, punished them with that death their crimes so justly merited.
After the execution of the tyrants, Thrasybulus proclaimed a general act
of indemnity and oblivion, and by that salutary measure restored peace
and liberty to his country without further bloodshed.

The conclusion of the Peloponnesian war may properly be termed the
period of the Athenian grandeur; for though, by the assistance of the
Persians, they made some figure after that time, yet it was of but short
duration. The manners of the people were greatly degenerated, and the
extreme scarcity of virtuous characters, so visible in their subsequent
history, marks at once the progress and the degree of their degeneracy.
Conon, who escaped with eight ships only when they were so totally
defeated by Lysander, had convinced the Persian monarch how much his
interest was concerned in supporting the Athenians, and obtained the
command of a powerful armament in their favour. Whilst the artful
Tithraustus,[148] general of the Persian forces in Asia, raised a
strong confederacy against the Spartans by properly distributing large
sums amongst the leading men of the Grecian republicks. Conon[149]
totally defeated the Spartan fleet commanded by Pisander, and, by the
help of the Persian money, rebuilt[150] the strong walls and other
fortifications of Athens, which Lysander had demolished. The
Spartans,[151] jealous of the rising power of the Athenians who seemed
to aspire at recovering their former grandeur, made such advantageous
offers to the Persians by their admiral Antalcidas, that they once more
drew them over to their party. Conon[152] was recalled and imprisoned
upon the suggestions of Antalcidas, that he had embezzled the money
allotted for the re-establishment of Athens, and was no friend to the
Persian interest. The Athenians now sent Thrasybulus, their great
deliverer, with a fleet of forty sail to annoy the Spartans: he reduced
several cities which had revolted to the enemy, but was slain by the
Rhodians in an unsuccessful attempt upon their island. Conon,[153]
according to Justin, was executed at Susa by the Persians. Xenophon, who
lived at the same time, is silent as to his death; but, whatever might
be his fate, it is certain he is no more mentioned in history. After the
death of these two great men we meet with none but Chabrias, Iphicrates,
and Timotheus, the son of Conon, whose characters are worthy of our
notice, until the time of Demosthenes and Phocion. The martial spirit of
the Athenians subsided in proportion as luxury and corruption gained
ground amongst them. The love of ease, and a most insatiable fondness
for diversions, now took place of those generous sentiments which before
knew no other object but the liberty and glory of their country. If we
trace the rise of publick virtue up to its first source, and show the
different effects arising from the prevailing influence of the different
ruling passions, we may justly account for the fatal and amazing change
in that once glorious republick. A short digression therefore, on that
subject, may perhaps be neither unuseful nor unentertaining.

Of all human passions, ambition may prove the most useful, or the most
destructive to a people. The ...

   _... Digito ... monstrari et dicier hic est_;[154]

the fondness for admiration and applause seems coeval with man, and
accompanies us from the cradle to the grave. Every man pants after
distinction, and even in this world affects a kind of immortality. When
this love of admiration and applause is the only end proposed by
ambition, it then becomes a primary passion; all the other passions are
compelled to be subservient, and will be wholly employed on the means
conducive to that end. But whether this passion for fame, this eagerness
after that imaginary life, which exists only in the breath of other
people, be laudable or criminal, useful or frivolous, must be determined
by the means employed, which will always be directed to whatever happens
to be the reigning object of applause. Upon this principle, however the
means may differ, the end will be still the same; from the hero down to
the boxer in the bear-garden; from the legislator who new-models a
state, down to the humbler genius who strikes out the newest cut for a
coat-sleeve. For it was the same principle directing to the same end,
which impelled Erostratus to set fire to the temple of Diana, and
Alexander to set the world in a flame so quickly after.

There is no mark which so surely indicates the reigning manners of a
people at different periods, as that quality or turn of mind, which
happens to be the reigning object of publick applause. For as the
reigning object of applause will necessarily constitute the leading
fashion, and as the leading fashion always takes rise among the great or
leading people; if the object of applause be praiseworthy, the example
of the great will have a due influence upon the inferior classes; if
frivolous or vicious, the whole body of the people will take the same
cast, and be quickly infected by the contagion. There cannot, therefore,
be a more certain criterion, by which we may form our judgment of the
national virtue or national degeneracy of any people, in any period of
their existence, than from those characters, which are the most
distinguished in every period of their respective histories. To analyze
these remarkable characters, to investigate the end proposed by all
their actions, which opens to us all their secret springs; and to
develop the means employed for the acquisition of that end, is not only
the most entertaining, but, in my opinion, by much the most useful, part
of history. For as the reigning object of applause arises from the
prevailing manners of a people, it will necessarily be the reigning
object of desire, and continue to influence the manners of succeeding
generations, until it is opposed, and gradually gives way to some new
object. Consequently the prevailing manners of any people may be
investigated without much difficulty, in my opinion, if we attend to the
increase or decrease of good or bad characters, as recorded in any
period of their history; because the greater number will generally
endeavour to distinguish themselves by whatever happens at that time to
be the reigning object of applause. Hence too we may observe the
progressive order, in which the manners of any people prepared the way
for every remarkable mutation in their government. For no essential
mutation can ever be effected in any government (unless by the violence
of external force) until the prevailing manners of the people are ripe
for such a change. Consequently, as like causes will ever produce like
effects; when we observe the same similarity of manners prevailing
amongst our own people, with that which preceded the last fatal mutation
of government in any other free nation; we may, at such a time, give a
shrewd guess at the approaching fate of our constitution and country.
Thus in the infancy and rise of the Grecian republicks, when necessity
of self-defence had given a manly and warlike turn to the temper of the
people, and the continuance of the same necessity had fixed it into a
habit, the love of their country soon became the reigning object of
publick applause. As this reigning object consequently became the chief
object of desire to every one who was ambitious of publick applause, it
quickly grew to be the fashion. The whole people in those states glowed
with the generous principle of publick virtue to the highest degree of
enthusiasm. Wealth had then no charms, and all the bewitching pleasures
of luxury were unknown, or despised. And those brave people courted and
embraced toils, danger, and even death itself, with the greatest ardour,
in pursuit of this darling object of their universal wishes. Every man
planned, toiled, and bled, not for himself, but for his country. Hence
the produce of those ages was a race of patriot statesmen and real
heroes. This generous principle gave rise to those seminaries of manly
bravery and heroick emulation, the Olympick, Isthmian, and other publick
games. To obtain the victory at those scenes of publick glory was
esteemed the utmost summit of human felicity, a wreath of wild olive,
laurel or parsley (the victor’s prize) that _palma nobilis_, as Horace
terms it, which

   _Terrarum dominos evehit ad Deos_,

was infinitely more the object of emulation in those generous times,
than coronets and garters are of modern ambition. Let me add too, that
as the former were invariably the reward of merit only, they reflected a
very different lustre upon the wearer. The honours acquired at these
games quickly became the darling themes of the poets, and the charms of
musick were called in to give additional graces to poetry. Panegyrick
swelled with the most nervous strokes of eloquence, and decked up with
all the flowers of rhetorick, was joined to the fidelity and dignity of
history; whilst the canvass glowing with mimick life, and the animated
marble contributed all the powers of art to perpetuate the memory of the
victors. These were the noble incentives, which fired the Grecian youth
with the glorious emulation of treading in the steps of those
publick-spirited heroes, who were the first institutors of these
celebrated games. Hence that refined taste for arts and sciences arose
in Greece, and produced those masterpieces of every kind, the
inimitable remains of which not only charm, but raise the justest
admiration of the present times.

This taste raised a new object of applause, and at last supplanted the
parents which gave it birth. Poetry, eloquence, and musick became
equally the subjects of emulation at the publick games, were allotted
their respective crowns, and opened a new road to fame and immortality.
Fame was the end proposed and hoped for by all; and those who despaired
of attaining it by the rugged and dangerous paths of honour, struck into
the new and flowery road,[155] which was quickly crowded with the
servile herd of imitators. Monarchs turned poets,[156] and great men,
fiddlers; and money was employed to bias the judges at the publick games
to crown wretched verses and bungling performers with the wreaths
appropriated only to superior merit. This taste prevailed more or less
in every state of Greece (Sparta alone excepted) according to the
different turn of genius of each people; but it obtained the most ready
admission at Athens, which quickly became the chief seat of the muses
and graces.

Thus a new object of applause introducing a new taste, produced that
fatal alteration in the manners of the Athenians, which became a
concurrent cause of the ruin of their republick. For though the manners
of the Athenians grew more polite, yet they grew more corrupt, and
publick virtue ceased gradually to be the object of publick applause and
publick emulation. As dramatick poetry affected most the taste of the
Athenians; the ambition of excelling in that species of poetry was so
violent, that Æschylus died with grief, because in a publick contention
with Sophocles the prize was adjudged to his antagonist.[157] But though
we owe the finest pieces of that kind now extant to that prevailing
taste, yet it introduced such a rage for theatrical entertainments as
fatally contributed to the ruin of the republick.

Justin informs us that the publick virtue of Athens declined immediately
after the death of Epaminondas.[158] No longer awed by the virtue of
that great man, which had been a perpetual spur to their ambition, they
sunk into a lethargy of effeminate indolence. The publick revenues
appropriated for the service of the fleet and army were squandered in
publick festivals and publick entertainments. The stage was the chief
object of the publick concern, and the theatres were crowded whilst the
camp was a desert. Who trod the stage with the greatest dignity, or who
excelled most in the conduct of the drama; not who was the ablest
general, or most experienced admiral, was the object of the publick
research and publick applause. Military virtue and the science of war
were held cheap, and poets and players engrossed those honours due only
to the patriot and the hero; whilst the hard-earned pay of the soldier
and the sailor was employed in corrupting the indolent pleasure-taking
citizen. The fatal consequence of this degeneracy of manners, as Justin
assures, was this: that the able Philip, taking advantage of the
indolence and effeminacy of the Athenians, who before took the lead in
defence of the liberty of Greece, drew his beggarly kingdom of Macedon
out of its primitive obscurity, and at last reduced all Greece under the
yoke of servitude. Plutarch, in his inquiry whether the Athenians were
more eminent in the arts of war or in the arts of peace, severely
censures their insatiable fondness for diversions.[159] He asserts, that
the money idly thrown away upon the representation of the tragedies of
Sophocles and Euripides alone, amounted to a much greater sum than had
been expended in all their wars against the Persians, in defence of
their liberty and common safety. That judicious philosopher and
historian, to the eternal infamy of the Athenians, records a severe but
sensible reflection of a Lacedemonian who happened to be present at
these diversions. The generous Spartan, trained up in a state where
publick virtue still continued to be the object of publick applause
could not behold the ridiculous assiduity of the choragi, or magistrates
who presided at the publick shows, and the immense sums which they
lavished in the decorations of a new tragedy, without indignation. “He
therefore, frankly told the Athenians, that they were highly criminal in
wasting so much time, and giving that serious attention to trifles,
which ought to be dedicated to the affairs of the publick.[160] That it
was still more criminal to throw away upon such bawbles as the
decorations of a theatre, that money which ought to be applied to the
equipment of their fleet, or the support of their army. That diversions
ought to be treated merely as diversions, and might serve to relax the
mind at our idle hours,[161] or when over a bottle; if any kind of
utility could arise from such trifling pleasures. But to see the
Athenians make the duty they owed to their country give way to their
passion for the entertainments of the theatre, and to waste unprofitably
that time and money upon such frivolous diversions, which ought to be
appropriated to the affairs and the necessities of the state, appeared
to him to be the height of infatuation.”

Could we raise the venerable philosopher from the grave to take a short
survey of the present manners of our own countrymen, would he not find
them an amazingly exact copy of those of the Athenians, in the times
immediately preceding their subjection to Macedon? Would he not see the
same series of daily and nightly diversions, adapted to the taste of
every class of people, from the publick breakfasting (that bane to the
time and industry of the tradesman) up to our modern orgies, the
midnight-revels of the masquerade? If he censured the Athenians for
throwing away so much time and attention upon the chaste and manly
scenes of Sophocles and Euripides, what must he have thought of that
strange _Shakespearomania_ (as I may term it) which prevailed so lately,
and so universally amongst all ranks and all ages? Had he inquired of
those multitudes who so long crowded both theatres at the representation
of Romeo and Juliet, what were the striking beauties which so strongly
and so repeatedly engaged their attention, could a tenth part of the
affected admirers of that pathetick poet, have given him a more
satisfactory answer than, “that it was the fashion?” would he not be
convinced that fashion was the only motive, when he saw the same people
thronging with the same eagerness, and swallowing the ribaldry of modern
farce, and the buffoonery of pantomime with the same fury of applause?
must he not have pronounced, that they as much exceeded the Athenians in
thoughtless levity and folly, as they sunk beneath them in taste and
judgment? For Plutarch does not find fault with the fine taste of the
Athenians for the noble compositions of those incomparable poets; but
for that excess of passion for the theatre, which, by setting up a new
object of applause, had almost extinguished that publick virtue, for
which they had been so greatly eminent; and made them more solicitous
about the fate of a new tragedy, or the decision of the pretensions of
two rival players, than about the fate of their country. But what idea
must he have of the higher class of our people, when he saw those who
should be foremost in a time of distress and danger, to animate the
drooping spirit of their countrymen by the lustre of their example,
attentive only to the unmanning trills of an opera; a degree of
effeminacy which would have disgraced even the women of Greece, in times
of greatest degeneracy. If he was informed that this species of
diversion was so little natural to the rougher genius, as well as
climate of Britain, that we were obliged to purchase and fetch over the
worst performers of Italy at the expense of vast sums; what opinion must
he form of our understanding? but if he was to see the insolence of
these hirelings, and the servile prostration of their paymasters to
these idols of their own making, how must such egregious folly excite
his contempt and indignation! In the midst of these scenes of
dissipation, this varying round of unceasing diversions, how must he be
astonished at the complaint of poverty, taxes, the decay of trade, and
the great difficulty of raising the necessary supplies for the publick
service, which would strike his ear from every quarter! would not his
censure upon our inconsistent conduct be just the same which the honest
Spartan passed upon the infatuated Athenians? when a national militia of
sixty thousand men only was asked for, would he not have blushed for
those who opposed a measure (once the support and glory of every free
state in Greece) and whittled it down to half the number from a
pretended principle of economy? but could his philosophick gravity
refrain a smile, when he saw the same people lavishing their thousands
in subscriptions to balls, concerts, operas, and a long train of
expensive et cætera’s, yet so wonderous frugal in pounds, shillings, and
pence, in a measure so essential to the very safety of the nation? If
therefore he saw a people bending under an accumulating load of debt,
almost to bankruptcy, yet sinking more and more into a luxury, known in
his time only to the effeminate Persians, and which required the wealth
of Persia to support it: involved in a war, unsuccessful until measures
were changed with ministers; yet indulging in all the pleasures of pomp
and triumph, in the midst of national losses and national dishonour: ...
contracting daily fresh debts of millions, to carry on that war, yet
idly consuming more wealth in the useless pageantry of equipage, dress,
table, and the almost innumerable articles of expensive luxury, than
would support their fleets and armies; he could not help pronouncing
such a people mad past the cure of Hellebore, and self-devoted to

This strange degeneracy of the Athenian manners, which Plutarch so
severely censures, was first introduced (as that great man informs us)
by Pericles.[162] That ambitious man determined to supplant his rival
Cimon, who, by the _eclat_ of his victories, and the services he had
done the publick, was considered as the first man in Athens, and
supported his popularity by the distribution of a large fortune.
Pericles, greatly inferior in point of fortune, and no way able to
contend with him in liberality and magnificence, struck out a new method
of gaining over the people to his party. He procured a law, by which
every citizen was entitled to a gratuity out of the publick money, not
only for attending at the courts of judicature, and assemblies of the
states; but even at the entertainments of the theatre, and the publick
games and sacrifices on their numerous days of festivity. Thus Pericles
bought the people with their own money; a precedent which has been so
successfully followed by corrupt and ambitious statesmen in all
succeeding ages. To this piece of state-craft, not to superior
abilities, late ministers owed their long reigns, which enabled them to
reduce corruption into system.

The consequence of this corruption, as we may gather from the writings
of Demosthenes, was, that in a few years time the Athenians were no more
the same people. The annual fund, appropriated to the publick service
for the army and navy, was wholly diverted to the support of the
theatre. Their officers regarding nothing but their rank and pay,
instead of patriots, were degenerated into mere mercenaries.[163] The
emulation, of who should serve their country best, no longer subsisted
amongst them; but of who should obtain the most lucrative command. The
people tasting the sweets of corruption, and enervated by the luxury of
a city, which was one perpetual scene of festivals and diversions, grew
averse to the toils and dangers of war, which now seemed an
insupportable slavery, and beneath the dignity of free citizens. The
defence of the state was committed to mercenary hirelings, who behaved
so ill that their affairs were in the utmost disorder. Of all their
leading men, Demosthenes and Phocion were alone proof against the gold
of Macedon; the rest were Philip’s known and avowed pensioners.
Demosthenes, at this alarming juncture, laid before the people the
ambitious views of Philip, and the distressed situation of their
country, with the utmost freedom. He employed all the energy and pathos
of eloquence, to rouse them out of that lethargy of indolence and
inattention to the publick safety, into which their own luxury, and the
flatteries of their corrupt demagogues, had thrown them.

He demonstrated to them, that the glorious principle, which had so long
preserved the liberty of Greece, and had enabled them to triumph over
the whole force and opulence of the mighty power of Persia, was that
common hatred, that general detestation of corruption, which prevailed
so universally amongst their generous forefathers.[164] That, in those
times of publick virtue, to receive presents from any foreign power was
deemed a capital crime. That if any man should be found so shamefully
profligate, as to sell himself to any one, who had designs upon the
liberty of Greece; or should endeavour to introduce corruption into his
own country; death without mercy would have been his punishment here,
and his memory branded with indelible and eternal infamy hereafter. That
the statesmen and generals of those happier times, were absolute
strangers to that most criminal and infamous kind of traffick; which was
grown so common and so universal, that honour, fame, character, the
liberty and welfare of their country were all set to sale, and sold
publickly by auction to the best bidder.[165] He then made use of his
utmost art, backed with the greatest strength of reasoning, to persuade
the people, to give up that fund to the support of the army and navy
(the service to which it had been originally appropriated) which from
the time of Pericles had been applied solely to defray the expenses of
the theatre. He showed next the folly and danger of confiding the
defence of the state to mercenary forces, who had already served them so
ill. He informed them, that their allies the Olynthians earnestly
insisted, that the troops sent to their assistance might no longer be
composed of venal hirelings as before, but of native Athenians, animated
with a zeal for the glory of their country, and warm in the interest of
the common cause. Both these motions were opposed by the corrupt party
who adhered to Philip. The people were unwilling to give up that fund,
even to the most pressing exigencies of the state, which enabled them to
gratify their favourite passion; thus the opposition of the people
quashed the former of these motions. But though the urgent, and repeated
remonstrances of Demosthenes prevailed in favour of the latter, yet the
demagogues, who omitted no opportunity of convincing Philip, how well he
employed his money, took care to reduce the promised succours to a very
small number, and to procure Chares, a creature of their own, to be
placed at the head of the expedition.[166] Small as those succours were,
yet they did the Olynthians essential service. But as all the eloquence
of Demosthenes could not prevail upon his countrymen to make more
vigorous efforts, the city of Olynthus fell the year following into the
hands of Philip by the treachery of Euthycrates and Lasthenes, two of
the leading citizens.[167] Philip still continued his encroachments
upon the allies of Athens; sometimes cajoling, sometimes bullying the
Athenians; just as he found either method most conducive to his purpose,
in which he was punctually seconded by the corrupt demagogues. But at
last the joint attack which he made upon the cities of Perynthus and
Byzantium, from whose territories the Athenians drew their chief
supplies of corn, at once opened their eyes, and roused them from their
indolence. They equipped a very large armament with great expedition;
but the Philippick faction had still influence enough with the people,
to obtain the command of it for their friend Chares. The conduct of this
general was exactly answerable to the opinion and hopes of his friends,
who had procured him that employment. Chares, voluptuous, yet sordidly
avaricious; vain and assuming, yet without either courage or capacity;
rapacious, and intent only upon enriching himself at the expense either
of friend or foe, was refused admittance by the inhabitants of
Byzantium; who from experience were too well acquainted with his
character. Enraged at such an unexpected affront; this doughty general
employed his time in parading along the coasts, detested by his allies
whom he plundered, and despised by his enemies whom he had not the
courage to face. The Athenians, sensible of their folly, displaced
Chares, and gave the command to Phocion. The able and honest Phocion was
received with open arms by the Byzantines, and quickly convinced his
countrymen, that he was more than a match for Philip. He not only drove
that ambitious monarch out of the territories of the allies; but
compelled him to retire with great loss and precipitation into his own
dominions, where Phocion made several glorious and successful
incursions. Philip now throwing off the masque, marched his army towards
Athens, with a resolution to humble that people, who were the chief
obstacle to his ambitious views. Demosthenes alone took the lead upon
this occasion, and persuaded his countrymen to join the Thebans with all
the force they could raise, and make head against the invader. Philip
finding his measures quite disconcerted by this confederacy, sent an
embassy to Athens to propose terms of peace, and to profess his desire
of living in amity with the Athenians. Phocion, anxious about the
success of a war, which he knew his countrymen had not virtue enough to
support, and where the loss of a single battle must be fatal to the
state, pleaded strongly for pacifick measures. But the flaming zeal of
Demosthenes prevailed. Phocion was not only insulted, but excluded from
all share in the command of the army by the infatuated people. Chares,
so notorious for his cowardice and incapacity, who (as Diodorus Siculus
informs us[168]) knew no more the duty of a general than the meanest
private soldier in the army, and one Lysicles, a man of daring courage,
but rash and ignorant, were appointed commanders in chief. As
Demosthenes had pushed on the people to this war, and was at that time
at the head of affairs, this fatal step must be entirely attributed to
his private pique at Phocion for opposing his measures. Phocion had more
than once beaten Philip with much inferior forces, and was indisputably
the ablest general of the age, and the only man whom Philip was afraid
of. The conduct therefore of Demosthenes was so rash and weak in the
management of this war,[169] that Plutarch resolves the whole into a
certain divine fatality; which, in the circumvolution of mundane
affairs, had limited the freedom of Greece to that particular point of
time. The battle of Chæronea, which ensued quickly after, gave the
Athenians a too fatal proof of the superior foresight and sagacity of
Phocion, and their own superlative folly in the choice of their
generals. The battle was fought with equal bravery and obstinacy on both
sides, and the confederates behaved as well as men could do upon the
occasion; but their defeat was owing entirely to the incapacity of the
Athenian commanders. This was so apparent,[170] that Philip observing a
capital blunder committed by Lysicles in the heat of the action,[171]
turned about coolly, and remarked to his officers, “that the Athenians
knew not how to conquer.” This fault in point of generalship quickly
turned the scale in favour of the abler Philip, who knew his trade too
well to let slip so material an advantage. The Athenians were totally
routed, and that fatal day put a period to the liberty and independency
of Greece.[172]

Thus fell the Athenians, and their fall involved the rest of Greece in
one common ruin. The decadence of this once glorious and free state was
begun by Pericles, who first introduced venality amongst the people for
the support of luxury; continued by the venal orators, who encouraged
that corruption to maintain their influence over the people; but
finished by that fatal disunion between the only two men, whose publick
virtue and abilities could have saved their country from destruction.

Athens, however, by her fall, has left us some instructions highly
useful for our present conduct. Warned by her fate we may learn ... that
the most effectual method which a bad minister can take, to tame the
spirit of a brave and free people, and to melt them down to slavery, is
to promote luxury, and encourage and diffuse a taste for publick
diversions ... that luxury, and a prevailing fondness for publick
diversions, are the never-failing forerunners of universal idleness,
effeminacy, and corruption ... that there cannot be a more certain
symptom of the approaching ruin of a state than when a firm adherence
to party is fixed upon as the only test of merit, and all the
qualifications requisite to a right discharge of every employment, are
reduced to that single standard ... that these evils take root, and
spread by almost imperceptible degrees in time of peace and national
affluence; but, if left to their full and natural effects without
controul, they will inevitably undermine and destroy the most
flourishing and best founded constitution ... that in times of peace and
affluence, luxury, and a fondness for diversions, will assume the
specious names of politeness, taste, and magnificence. Corruption will
put on different masks. In the corruptors it will be termed able
management, encouraging the friends of the administration, and cementing
a mutual harmony, and mutual dependence between the three different
estates of the government.[173] In the corrupted it will be denominated
loyalty, attachment to the government, and prudence in providing for
one’s own family. That in such times these evils will gain a fresh
accession of strength from their very effects; because corruption will
occasion a greater circulation of the publick money; and the dissipation
of luxury, by promoting trade,[174] will gild over private vices with
the plausible appearance of publick benefits ... that when a state so
circumstanced, is forced into a war with any formidable power, then, and
not until then, these baleful evils will show themselves in their true
colours, and produce their proper effects. The counsels in such a state
will be weak and pusillanimous, because the able and honest citizens,
who aim solely at the publick welfare, will be excluded from all share
in the government from party motives ... their measures will terminate
in poor shifts, and temporary expedients, calculated only to amuse, or
divert the attention of the people from prying too closely into their
iniquitous conduct. Their fleets and armies will be either employed in
useless parade, or will miscarry in action from the incapacity of their
commanders, because, as all the chief posts will be filled up with the
creatures of the prevailing faction, such officers will be more intent
upon enriching themselves than annoying the enemy; and will act as shall
be judged most conducive to the private interest of their party, not to
the publick service of their country. For they will naturally imagine,
that the same power, which placed them in the command, will have weight
enough to screen them from the resentment of an injured people ... their
supplies for the extraordinary expenses of the war will be raised with
difficulty; ... because, as so great a part of the publick money will be
absorbed by the number of pensions and lucrative employments, and
diverted to other purposes of corruption, the funds destined for the
publick service will be found greatly deficient. If the rich are
applied to, in such depraved times, to contribute their superfluous
wealth towards the publick expenses, their answer will be the same which
Scopas the rich Thessalian made to a friend, who asked him for a piece
of furniture, which he judged wholly useless to the possessor, because
it was quite superfluous.[175] “You mistake, my friend; the supreme
happiness of our lives consists in those things which you call
superfluous, not in those things which you call necessaries.” The
people, accustomed to sell themselves to the best bidder, will look upon
the wages of corruption as their birthright, and will necessarily rise
in their demands, in proportion as luxury, like other fashions, descends
from the higher to the lower classes. Heavy and unequal taxes must
consequently be imposed to make up this deficiency; and the operations
of the war must either be retarded by the slowness in collecting the
produce, or the money must be borrowed at high interest and excessive
premiums, and the publick given up a prey to the extortion of usurers.
If a venal and luxurious Demades should be at the head of the ruling
party,[176] such an administration would hardly find credit sufficient
to support their measures, as the moneyed men would be averse to
trusting their property in such rapacious hands;[177] for the chain of
self-interest, which links such a set of men together, will reach from
the highest quite down to the lowest officer of the state; because the
higher officers, for the mutual support of the whole, must connive at
the frauds and rapines of the inferior, or screen them if detected.

If therefore the united voice of a people, exhausted by the oppressions
of a weak and iniquitous administration, should call a truly
disinterested patriot to the helm, such a man must be exposed to all the
malice of detected villany, backed by the whole weight of disappointed
faction. Plutarch has handed down to us a striking instance of this
truth in the case of Aristides, which is too remarkable to be omitted.

When Aristides was created quæstor, or high treasurer of Athens, he
fairly laid before the Athenians what immense sums the publick had been
robbed of by their former treasurers,[178] but especially by
Themistocles, whom he proved to be more criminal than any of the others.
This warm and honest remonstrance produced such a powerful coalition
between these publick plunderers, that when Aristides, at the expiration
of his office, (which was annual and elective) came to give up his
accompts to the people, Themistocles publickly impeached him of the same
crime, and, by the artifice of his corrupt party, procured him to be
condemned and fined; but the honester, and more respectable part of the
citizens highly resenting such an infamous method of proceeding, not
only acquitted Aristides honourably, and remitted his fine, but, to show
their approbation of his conduct, elected him treasurer for the
following year. At his entrance upon his office the second time, he
affected to appear sensible of his former error, and, by winking at the
frauds of the inferior officers, and neglecting to scrutinize into their
accompts, he suffered them to plunder with impunity. These state-leeches
thus gorged with the publick money, grew so extremely fond of Aristides,
that they employed all their interest to persuade the people to elect
him a third time to that important office. On the day of election, when
the voices of the Athenians were unanimous in his favour, this real
patriot stood up with honest indignation, and gave the people this
severe, but just reprimand. “When,” says he, “I discharged my duty in
this office the first time, with that zeal and fidelity which every
honest man owes to his country, I was vilified, insulted, and condemned.
Now I have given full liberty to all these robbers of the publick here
present to pilfer, and prey upon your finances at pleasure, I am, it
seems, a most upright minister, and a most worthy citizen. Believe me, O
Athenians! I am more ashamed of the honour, which you have so
unanimously conferred upon me this day, than of that unjust sentence
which you passed upon me with so much infamy the year before. But it
gives me the utmost concern, upon your account, when I see that it is
easier to merit your favour and applause by flattering, and conniving at
the rogueries of a pack of villains, than by a frugal and uncorrupt
administration of the publick revenues.” He then disclosed all the
frauds and thefts, which had been committed that year in the treasury,
which he had privately minuted down for that purpose. The consequence
was, that all those, who just before had been so loud in his praise,
were struck dumb with shame and confusion; but he himself received those
high encomiums, which he had so justly merited, from every honest
citizen. It is evident from this whole passage, as related by Plutarch,
that Aristides might have made his own fortune, at the expense of the
publick, with the same ease, and to as great a degree, as any of his
predecessors had done before, or any ministers in modern states have
done since. For the rest of the officers, who seemed to think their
chief duty consisted in making the most of their places, showed
themselves extremely ready to conceal the speculation of their chief,
because it gave them a right to claim the same indulgence from him in
return. A remark not restricted to the Athenians alone, but equally
applicable to every corrupt administration under every government.
History, both ancient and modern, will furnish us with numerous
instances of this truth, and posterity will probably make the same
remark, when the genuine history of some late administrations shall see
the light in a future age.

If the Athenians were so corrupt in the time when Aristides lived, ought
we to wonder at that amazing height to which that corruption arrived in
the time of Demosthenes, when left to its full effects for so long a
term of years? Could the state of Athens at that time have been
preserved by human means; the indefatigable zeal of Demosthenes, joined
to the strict economy, the inflexible integrity, and superior abilities
of Phocion, might have raised her once more to her ancient lustre. But
the event showed, that luxury, corruption and faction, the causes of her
ruin, had taken too deep root in the very vitals of the republick. The
Grecian history indeed affords us ever memorable instances of republicks
bending under the yoke of foreign or domestick oppression, yet freed and
restored to their former liberty and dignity by the courage and virtue
of some eminent patriot-citizen. But if we reflect upon the means, by
which these great events were so successfully conducted, we shall always
find, that there yet remained in the people a fund of publick virtue
sufficient to support their chiefs in those arduous enterprises. The
spirit of liberty in a free people may be cramped and pressed down by
external violence; but can scarce ever be totally extinguished.
Oppression will only increase its elastick force, and when roused to
action by some daring chief, it will break out, like fired gunpowder,
with irresistible impetuosity. We have no occasion to look back to
antiquity for convincing proofs of this most important truth. Our own
history is but one continued scene of alternate struggles between
encroaching princes, aiming at absolute power, and a brave people
resolutely determined to vindicate their freedom. The genius of liberty
has hitherto rose superior in all those conflicts, and acquired strength
from opposition. May it continue to prevail to the end of time! The
United Provinces are a striking proof that the spirit of liberty, when
animated and conducted by publick virtue, is invincible. Whilst under
the dominion of the house of Austria, they were little better than a
poor assemblage of fishing towns and villages. But the virtue of one
great man not only enabled them to throw off that inhuman yoke, but to
make a respectable figure amongst the first powers in Europe. All the
different states in Europe, founded by our Gothic ancestors, were
originally free. Liberty was as truly their birthright as it is ours,
and though they have been wormed out of it by fraud, or robbed of it by
violence, yet their inherent right to it still subsists, though the
exercise of that right is superseded, and restrained by force. Hence no
despotick government can ever subsist without the support of that
instrument of tyranny and oppression, a standing army. For all illegal
power must ever be supported by the same means by which it was at first
acquired. France was not broke into the yoke of slavery until the
infamous administrations of Richelieu and Mazarin. But though loyalty
and zeal for the glory of their prince seem to form the characteristick
of the French nation, yet the late glorious stand against the arbitrary
impositions of the crown, which will immortalize the parliament of
Paris, proves that they submit to their chains with reluctance. Luxury
is the real bane of publick virtue, and consequently of liberty, which
gradually sinks in proportion as the manners of a people are softened
and corrupted. Whenever, therefore, this essential spirit, as I may term
it, of a free nation is totally dissipated, the people become a mere
_caput mortuum_, a dead inert mass, incapable of resuscitation, and
ready to receive the deepest impressions of slavery. Thus the publick
virtue of Thrasybulus, Pelopidas, and Epaminondas, Philopœmen, Aratus,
Dion, &c. restored their respective states to freedom and power, because
though liberty was suppressed, yet the spirit of it still remained, and
acquired new vigour from oppression. Phocion and Demosthenes failed,
because corruption had extinguished publick virtue, and luxury had
changed the spirit of liberty into licentiousness and servility.

That luxury and corruption, encouraged and propagated by a most
abandoned faction, have made an alarming progress in our nation, is a
truth too evident to be denied. The effects have been too sensibly felt
during the course of the late and present wars, which, until the last
campaign, were the most expensive, and the least successful of any we
ever yet engaged in. But a late signal change must convince our enemies,
that we have a fund of publick virtue still remaining capable of
vindicating our just rights, and raising us out of that calamitous
situation, into which we were plunged, under some late administrations.
When the publick imagined the helm in the hands of corruption,
pusillanimity and ignorance, they transferred it to a virtuous citizen,
possessed, in their opinion, of the zeal and eloquence of Demosthenes,
joined to the publick economy, incorrupt honesty, and immovable
fortitude of Aristides and Phocion. The numerous disinterested marks of
approbation, so lately given from every part of this kingdom,
demonstrate the resolution and ability of the publick to support that
minister, as long as he pursues his upright plan of conduct with
undeviating firmness.

From the time of Phocion, the Athenian history affords little more than
a detail of scandalous decrees, and despicable instances of the levity
and servile adulation of that abject people.[179] Reduced at last to a
province of the Romans, Athens contributed her taste for arts and
sciences towards polishing, and her passion for theatrical performances
towards corrupting the manners of that warlike people.

  [48] Vita Solon, p. 85. lit. D.

  [49] The time of the first institution of this court (so
  denominated from Ἄρειος πάγος, i. e. Hill of Mars, an eminence
  where they always assembled) is quite uncertain; nor are the
  historians at all agreed about the number of the members of
  which it was composed. However this was the supreme court,
  which had cognizance of wilful murders, and all matters which
  were of the greatest consequence to the republick. Suidas. They
  had also cognizance of all matters of religion, as we find by
  the instance of St. Paul.

  [50] Plut. 85. lit. A.

  [51] Plut. in Vit. Solon, p. 86. lit. C.

  [52] Plut. in Vit. Solon, p. 81. lit. B.

  [53] Plut. in Vit. Solon, p. 88. lit. D.

  [54] The new Senate, which he had instituted.

  [55] Which he had revived. Vide note p. 76.

  [56] Ibid. p. 87. lit. E.

  [57] Ibid. p. 81. lit. A.

  [58] Ibid. p. 81.

  [59] Solon in his letter to Epimenides, says 400, which seems
  most probable. Diog. Laert.

  [60] Thucyd.

  [61] Thucid. lib. 6. p. 415. sect. 60.

  [62] Xenoph. de Republ. Athen. p. 55. Edit. Luvenel. Bas. 1572.

  [63] Miltiades, Themistocles, Aristides, Cimon, Thucydides the
  historian, &c.

  [64] Socrates, Phocion, &c.

  [65] Thucyd. edit. Duker. lib. 1. p. 58. sect. 88.

  [66] Thucyd. lib. 1. p. 82. sect. 127, 128.

  [67] Thucyd. lib. 2. p. 98. sect. 2, 3, 4, et sequent.

  [68] Thucyd. lib. 2. p. 101, &c. sect. 6.

  [69] Thucyd. Πάντων δ’ αὐτῶν αἴτιον ἡ ἀρχὴ διὰ πλεονεξίαν καὶ
  φιλοτιμίαν. lib. 3. p. 218. sect. 82.

  [70] Τὰ δὲ μέσα τῶν πολιτῶν ὑπ’ ἀμφοτέρων, ἢ ὅτι οὐ
  ξυνηγωνίζοντο, ἢ φθόνῳ τοῦ περιεῖναι διεφθείροντο Thucyd. p.

  [71] Thucyd. lib. 1 p. 91. sect. 140.

  [72] Thucyd. lib. 2. p. 127. sect. 47. et seq.

  [73] Plut. in Vit. Pericl. p. 171. lit. E.

  [74] Plut. in Vit. Nic. p. 524. lit. B.

  [75] Hence, as Plutarch informs us, it was termed the Nician
  peace, lib. 5.

  [76] Plut. in Vit. Alcib. p. 203. lit. B.

  [77] Plut. Vit. Alcib. p. 197. lit. C.

  [78] Thucyd. lib. 5. p. 339. sect. 35, 42.

  [79] Thucyd. lib. 5. p. 350. sect. 52.

  [80] Thucyd. lib. 6. p. 383. sect. 8.

  [81] Thucyd. lib. 6. p. 381. sect. 6.

  [82] Plut. in Vita Alcibid. Item. Thucyd. in orat. Alcib. ad
  Lacedæm. lib. 6. p. 436. sect. 90.

  [83] Thucyd. lib. 6. 395, 396. sect. 28, 29.

  [84] Thucyd. The terms were statues of Mercury, placed at the
  doors of their houses, made of square stones of a cubical form.

  [85] A similar measure was taken in the latter end of queen
  Anne’s reign.

  [86] Plut. in Vit. Alcib. p. 200. lit. D.

  [87] Thucyd. lib. 6. 395. sect. 28.

  [88] Thucyd. ibid.

  [89] Thucyd. ibid. sect. 29. passim.

  [90] Thucyd. lib. 6. 395. sect. 23. ad finem.

  [91] Thucyd. lib. 6. p. 396. sect. 31.

  [92] Thucyd. lib. 6. p. 408. sect. 47, 48, 49.

  [93] Thucyd. lib. 6. p. 411. sect. 53.

  [94] Ibid. p. 415. sect. 60.

  [95] Plut. in Vit. Alcib. p. 202.

  [96] Thucyd. p. 416. sect. 60.

  [97] Plut. in Vit. Alcib. p. 201. lit. C.

  [98] Thucyd. lib. 6. p. 416. sect. 61.

  [99] Thucyd. lib. 6. p. 416. sect. 61.

  [100] Ibid.

  [101] This vessel may properly be termed the Athenian
  State-packet-boat, and was never sent out but upon very
  extraordinary occasions. Plut.

  [102] Thucyd. lib. 6. p. 417. sect. 61.

  [103] Thucyd. ibid.

  [104] Plut. in Vit. Alcib. p. 202.

  [105] Thucyd. lib. 7. p. 505. ad finem.

  [106] Thucyd. lib. 8. p. 506. &c.

  [107] Thucyd. ibid. p. 507.

  [108] Thucyd. ibid. p. 508. sect. 2.

  [109] Thucyd. lib. 8. sect. 2....3.

  [110] Thucyd. ibid. sect. 4.

  [111] Plut. in Vit. Alcib. p. 203.

  [112] Thucyd. lib. 8. p. 531. sect. 45.

  [113] Thucyd. ibid. sect. 46.

  [114] Thucyd. ibid. p. 531. sect. 45.

  [115] Thucyd. ibid. sect. 47.

  [116] Thucyd. ibid. sect. 48.

  [117] Thucyd. ibid. sect. 49.

  [118] Thucyd. ibid. sect. 53.

  [119] Thucyd. ibid. sect. 54.

  [120] Thucyd. ibid. sect. 56.

  [121] Thucyd. ibid. 66.

  [122] Thucyd. ibid. 67.

  [123] Thucyd. ibid. 68.

  [124] Thucyd. ibid. 69.

  [125] Solon’s new senate of four hundred.

  [126] Thucyd. ibid. 70.

  [127] Thucyd. lib. 8. p. 543, sect. 65.

  [128] Thucyd. lib. 8. p. 551. sect. 76.

  [129] Thucyd. ibid. p. 553. sect. 81.

  [130] Thucyd. ibid. p. 567. sect. 97.

  [131] Plut. in Vit. Alcib. p. 206.

  [132] Plut. ibid. p. 207, 208.

  [133] Plut. ibid. p. 209.

  [134] Ibid. p. 211.

  [135] The son of Thrason; the other of that name is called by
  Thucydides, the son of Lycus. Thucyd. lib. 8. p. 549. sect. 75.

  [136] A city in Thrace.

  [137] Thucyd. lib. 6. p. 387. sect. 15.

  [138] Plut. in Vit. Alcib. p. 211-212.

  [139] Plut. in Vit. Lysand. p. 441.

  [140] Τριάκοντα πλήους ἀπεκτόνασιν Ἀθηναίων ἐν ὀκτὼ μησὶν, ἢ
  πάντες Πελοπόννησιοι δέκα ἔτη πολεμοῦντες. Xenoph. Hellenic.
  lib. 2. p. 370. Edit. Lewencl. Basil.

  [141] Most probably the son of Lycus, mentioned by Thucydides,
  who had so great a share in deposing the Four Hundred, and
  restoring the ancient constitution.

  [142] Xenoph. ibid. p. 367.

  [143] Xenoph. ibid. p. 368.

  [144] Xenoph. ibid. 370.

  [145] Xenoph. ibid. 371.

  [146] Xenoph. ibid. 372.-373.

  [147] Xenoph. ibid. p. 375.

  [148] Xenoph. lib. 3. p. 392.

  [149] Xenoph. lib. 4. p. 404.

  [150] Ibid. p. 420.

  [151] Ibid.

  [152] Ibid. 421.

  [153] Justin. in Vit. Conon.

  [154] Persius, sat. 1.

  [155] Lucian, p. 328. Edit. Bourdel. 1615.

  [156] Dionysius the tyrant of Syracuse.

  Diodor. Sicul. lib. 14. p. 318, 319.

  [157] Plut. in Vit. Cim. p. 483.

  [158] Justin. p. 67. Edit. Elziv.

  [159] Plut. de Glor. Athen. p. 349. Vol. 2.

  [160] Plut. Symposiac. p. 710.

  [161] Ἐν πότῳ καὶ ἀνέσει.

  [162] Plut. in Vit. Pericl. p. 156.

  [163] Plut. in Vit. Phocion, p. 744. Item Demos. Olynth. 2. p.
  25. Edit. Wolf. 1604.

  [164] Demost. Orat. in Philip. 3. p. 86, 92.

  [165] Demost. ibid.

  [166] Plut. in Vit. Phocion, p. 747.

  [167] Diodor. Sicul. lib. 16. p. 450.

  [168] Diodor. Sicul. lib. 16. p. 476.

  [169] Plut. in Vit. Demost. p. 854.

  [170] Polyæn. Stratagem, lib. 4. c. 3. p. 311.

  [171] Polyænus calls this general Stratocles.

  [172] Hic dies universæ Greciæ et gloriam dominationis, et
  vetustissimam libertatem finivit. Justin. lib. 9. p. 79. Edit.

  [173] Thus Demades termed the gratuities given to the people
  out of the publick money, the glue or cement of the different
  parts of the republick. Plut. Quæst. Platon. p. 1011.

  [174] Fable of the bees.

  [175] Ἀλλὰ μὴν τούτοις ἐσμὲν ἡμεῖς εὐδαίμονες καὶ μακάριοι τοῖς
  περιττοῖς, ἀλλ’ οὐκ ἐκείνοις τοῖς ἀναγκαίοις. Plut. de Cupidit.
  p. 527.

  [176] Demades, according to Plutarch, by the dissoluteness of
  his life, and conduct in the administration, shipwrecked the
  Athenian republick. Plut. in Vit. Phocion, p. 741.

  [177] Plut. Apotheg. p. 188.

  [178] Plut. in Vit. Aristid. p. 320.

  [179] Plut. in Vit. Demet. p. 893 ... 94 ... 900.



The accounts of the earlier ages of this ancient republick are so
enveloped in fable, that we must rather apply for them to the poets than
to the historians. Pausanias gives us a list of sixteen kings of this
country, down from Cadmus inclusive, who evidently belong to the
fabulous times of the heroes.[180] He seems indeed to acknowledge as
much, since he confesses, that as he could find no better account of
their origin, he was obliged to take up with fable.[181] After the death
of Xanthus,[182] the last of those kings, the Thebans, as the same
author relates, disgusted at monarchy, changed the form of their
government into a republick. But it is in vain to search for the cause,
or manner how this revolution was effected either in Pausanias, or any
other historian. All we can learn of the Thebans or Bœotians from
history,[183] is, that they were remarkable for their dulness and
stupidity, even to a proverb,[184] that, until the time of Pelopidas and
Epaminondas, they made as poor a figure in the art of war as in the
sciences: that their form of government was democratick, and that, as
usually happens in that kind of government, they were divided into

After the famous peace of Antalcidas, by which the honour and true
interest of Greece was sacrificed to the ambition of the Spartans,
whatever state refused to come into their measures, was condemned to
feel the effects of their resentment. They had compelled the Thebans to
accede to that treaty, though it deprived them of the dominion over
Bœotia; and afterwards, by the perfidy of the aristocratick faction, got
possession of their citadel, and reduced them to a state of absolute
subjection. This was the wretched state of the Thebans, until they were
delivered both from foreign and domestick slavery, and raised to a
height of power superior to every other state of Greece by the virtue of
Pelopidas and Epaminondas. I have selected therefore this revolution as
the most interesting, and most worthy of our attention; because it
exhibits a convincing proof, that a brave and warlike people are not the
produce of any particular spot,[185] but are the growth of every place
and country, where the natives are trained up in a true sense of shame
at mean and base actions, and inspired with that manly courage which
arises from the emulation after what is just and honourable. And that
those who are taught to dread infamy more than the greatest dangers,
prove the most invincible, and the most formidable to an enemy. It
instructs us too, that the most depressed, and most abject state may be
extricated from the calamities of oppression, and raised to superior
dignity and lustre by a very small number of virtuous patriots, whilst
the spirit of liberty yet remains, and the people second the efforts of
their leaders with unanimity and vigour.

The Thebans, by a fatal error in politicks, had chosen Ismenias and
Leontidas, who were at that time heads of two opposite parties, their
supreme annual magistrates. Ismenias was a steady assertor of the
liberty and just rights of the people, and laboured to preserve a due
balance in the powers of the constitution. Leontidas wanted to engross
the whole power into his own hands, and to govern, by a small, but
select number of his own creatures. It was impossible for union and
harmony to subsist between two men, who had views so diametrically
opposite. Leontidas therefore, who found his party the weakest,
bargained by a private convention with Phæbidas, the Spartan general, to
deliver up his country to the Lacedæmonians upon condition that the
government should be lodged in himself, and such as he should think
proper to intrust. The agreement was made, and Leontidas conveyed
Phæbidas with a strong body of troops into the citadel, at a time when
the poor Thebans, wholly unapprehensive of any danger from the Spartans,
with whom they had lately concluded a peace, were celebrating a publick
religious festival. Leontidas, now sole governor, gave an immediate
loose to his passions. He seized his colleague Ismenias, and, by the
assistance of the Spartans, procured him to be tried, condemned and
executed, for caballing against the state. A pretence however stale, yet
constantly urged by every iniquitous administration against all who have
the resolution to oppose their measures. The party of Ismenias, upon the
first news of the imprisonment of their chief, fled the city, and were
afterwards banished by a publick decree. A strong proof of the fatal
lengths a faction will run, which is composed of those profligate
wretches whose sole aim is their own private emolument! Yet such a
faction, in all free states, when once luxury and corruption are
introduced, is generally the most numerous, and most prevalent. Athens,
not long before, had been betrayed to the Spartans in the same manner,
and on the same infamous terms by a detestable faction, composed of the
most abandoned of her citizens, and groaned under the same species of
tyranny until she was freed by the great Thrasybulus. And, I believe, we
have not yet forgot the strong apprehensions we were lately under, that
a certain free state, upon the continent, was on the point of being sold
to a powerful neighbour by a similar faction, and by a like iniquitous
contract. We must remember too, after what manner that scheme was
defeated by the glorious efforts of patriotism and publick spirit. I
shall make no apology for this digression, because I thought the remark
too apposite to be omitted.

The honest citizens, who had fled Athens, enraged to see their country
thus tricked out of her liberty, and groaning under the most ignominious
servitude, determined to set her free, or perish in so glorious an
attempt. The scheme was well concerted, and as boldly executed by
Pelopidas, who entering the city with a small number of the most
resolute of his party in disguise, destroyed Leontidas and his colleague
Archias, with the most dangerous of his faction; and, by the assistance
of Epaminondas and his friends,[186] with the additional aid of a large
body of Athenians, recovered the citadel. The Spartans,[187] at the
first news of this surprising event, entered the Theban territories with
a powerful army to take vengeance of the authors of this rebellion, as
they termed it, and to reduce Thebes to its former subjection. The
Athenians, conscious of their own weakness, and the mighty power of
Sparta, which they were by no means able to cope with, not only
renounced all friendship with the Thebans, but proceeded with the utmost
severity against such of their citizens as favoured that people. Thus
the Thebans, deserted by their allies, and destitute of friends,
appeared to the rest of Greece as devoted to inevitable destruction. In
this desperate situation of affairs, the virtue and abilities of these
two great men shone forth with greater lustre. They began by training
their countrymen to the use of arms as well as the shortness of the time
would permit, and inspiring them with a hatred of servitude, and the
generous resolution of dying in defence of the liberty and glory of
their country. As they judged it imprudent to hazard a decisive battle
against the best troops in the world, with their new raised militia,
they harrassed the Spartans with daily skirmishes to instruct their men
in military discipline, and the trade of war. By this method they
animated the minds of their people with the love of glory, and inured
their bodies to the fatigues of war by exercise and labour, whilst they
acquired experience and courage by those frequent encounters. Thus, as
Plutarch remarks, when these able generals, by never engaging rashly,
but watching every favourable opportunity, had fleshed the Thebans, like
young stag-hounds, upon their enemies, and rendered them staunch by
tasting the sweets of victory, and bringing them off in safety, they
made them fond of the sport, and eager after the most arduous
enterprises. By this able management they defeated the Spartans at
Platea and Thespia,[188] where they killed Phæbidas who had before so
treacherously surprised their citadel, and again routed them at
Tenagra, the Spartan general himself falling by the hand of Pelopidas.
Flushed with this success, the Thebans feared no enemy, however superior
in number; and the battle of Tegyra soon after raised the reputation of
their arms to a degree unknown before.[189] In this action the brave
Pelopidas, with a small body of horse, and no more than three hundred
foot, broke through, and dispersed a body of Spartans consisting of
above three times that number, made a terrible slaughter of the enemy,
killed both their generals upon the spot, took the spoils of the dead,
raised a trophy on the field of battle, and brought his little army home
in triumph. Here the astonished Greeks first saw the Spartans defeated
by a much inferior number, and by an enemy too whom they had always held
in the greatest contempt. They had never, until that time, been beaten
by equal, and rarely by much superior numbers, and, until that fatal
day, were justly reputed invincible. But this action was only the
prelude to that decisive stroke at Leuctra, which gave a fatal turn to
the Spartan affairs, and stripped them of that dominion which they had
so long exercised over the rest of Greece. For this series of success,
though it greatly elated the Thebans, yet rather enraged than
discouraged the Spartans. The Athenians, jealous of the growing power of
Thebes, struck up a peace with their ancient rivals, in which all the
Grecian states were included, except the Thebans, who were given up a
sacrifice to the Spartan vengeance. Cleombrotus, joint king with
Agesilaus, entered Bœotia with the largest, and finest army the Spartans
had ever sent into the field. The great Epaminondas engaged them at
Leuctra with a body of six thousand Thebans, which scarce equalled a
third part of their enemies, but the admirable disposition he made,
joined to the skill and dexterity of Pelopidas, and the bravery of their
troops supplied the defect of numbers. Cleombrotus was slain on the
spot, his army totally routed, and the greatest slaughter made of the
native Spartans that had ever happened until that day, with the loss
only of three hundred Thebans. Diodorus Siculus gives a concise account
of this action in these remarkable words,[190] “that Epaminondas, being
reduced to the necessity of engaging the whole confederate force of the
Lacedæmonians, and their allies, with only a handful of his city
militia, gained so complete a victory over those hitherto invincible
warriors, that he slew their king Cleombrotus, and cut off the Spartan
division, which was opposed to him, almost to a man.”

This victory gave so happy a turn to the affairs of the Thebans, that
their alliance was now as much courted as before it had been despised
and shunned. The Arcadians applied to them for succours against the
Spartans. Epaminondas and Pelopidas were sent with a powerful army to
their assistance. At the head of the joint forces these two great men
entered Laconia, and appeared with a hostile army at the gates of
Sparta. The first sight of that kind ever seen by that haughty people.
The masterly conduct of Agesilaus, and the desperate valour of the
Spartans saved the city, but could not prevent the ravage of their
territories by the two Theban generals, who restored the Messenians to
their kingdom, of which the Spartans had deprived them near three
hundred years before, defeated the Athenians, who came to the assistance
of the Spartans, and returned home with glory.

The Theban arms were now so terrible, and their power grown so
formidable, that whilst some states applied to them for protection, and
others for assistance, the Macedonians referred the disputes about the
succession to that crown to their decision, and gave hostages as a
security that they would abide by their determination. The chief of
these hostages was the famous Philip, father of Alexander the Great, who
employed his time so well, under those two able masters, in the art of
war, that from them he acquired that military knowledge which proved
afterwards so fatal to all Greece in general. Thus the publick virtue of
two private citizens not only restored Thebes to her former liberty,
but raised her to a much more respectable rank than she had ever held
before amongst the Grecian republicks.

But this eminent, and newly acquired degree of power was but of short
duration. Pelopidas had freed the Thessalians from the insults of
Alexander the Pherean; but going to him afterwards, accompanied only by
Ismenias, to compose some differences, he was not only unjustly made
prisoner, but treated with the most spiteful cruelty by that perfidious
tyrant. The Thebans, enraged at this treacherous act, sent an army
against the tyrant, under the command of two new generals, who returned
with loss and dishonour. The command was again committed to Epaminondas,
who, by the terror of his name alone, brought the tyrant to reason, and
procured the release of his friend Pelopidas and Ismenias. But the
tyrant soon after renewing his usual depredations upon the Thessalians,
Pelopidas was once more sent with forces to their assistance. The two
armies came soon to action, when Pelopidas, blinded by resentment, and
eager after revenge, rushed into the right wing, where the tyrant
commanded in person, and fell, covered with wounds, in the midst of his
surrounding enemies. His death however was not unrevenged, for his
troops, quite furious at the loss of a general they so much revered and
loved, routed the enemy, and sacrificed three thousand of them to his

Though the death of this truly great man was an irretrievable loss to
Thebes, yet Epaminondas still survived, and whilst he lived, the good
fortune and power of his country remained unaltered. But new
disturbances breaking out not long after, Epaminondas, at the head of
his Thebans, broke again into Peloponnesus, eluded the vigilance of
Agesilaus, and advanced into the very suburbs of Sparta. But as they had
just before received intelligence of his approach by a messenger from
Agesilaus, they were so well prepared for his reception, that he judged
proper to retire, and, in his return, fell unexpectedly upon the
Spartans and their allies at Mantinea. The disposition of his forces
upon this occasion is esteemed a masterpiece of generalship; nor was his
valour inferior to his conduct. He routed and made a terrible slaughter
of the Spartans, but, pushing on too eagerly to complete his victory, he
received a mortal wound in his breast, and was carried to his tent. As
soon as he recovered his speech, and was satisfied that his shield was
safe, and the Thebans were victors, he ordered the broken part of the
weapon to be drawn out of his wound, and died rejoicing at the good
fortune of his country. Thus fell the incomparable Epaminondas, who, as
Polybius observes, overcame his enemies, but was overcome by
fortune.[191] The same judicious historian,[192] in his remarks on the
different constitutions of the ancient republicks, observes, “that the
flourishing state of the Thebans was but of short duration, nor was
their decay gradual, because their sudden rise was not founded on right
principles. He affirms that the Thebans took the opportunity of
attacking the Spartans when the imprudence and haughtiness of that
people had made them quite odious to their allies; and that they had
acquired amongst the Greeks their high reputation for valour by the
virtue and abilities of one or two great men, who knew how to make the
best use of those unexpected incidents, which so fortunately offered. He
adds, that the sudden change in their affairs made it quickly appear to
all, that their remarkable success was not owing to the system of their
government, but to the publick virtue of those who were at the head of
the administration. For that the power and grandeur of the Thebans
arose, flourished, and fell with Epaminondas and Pelopidas is too
evident, he says, to be denied. Whence he concludes, that the splendid
figure the Thebans at that time made in the world must not be ascribed
to their civil polity, but to those two great men only.” I have hitherto
considered them only in the light of virtuous citizens, and able
generals; perhaps a short sketch of their characters as
patriot-statesmen may not be unacceptable nor uninstructing.

Pelopidas and Epaminondas were both descended from ancient and worthy
families. Pelopidas inherited a large fortune, which he enjoyed with
honour to himself and utility to his friends, and by avoiding the two
extremes of avarice and dissipation, showed that he was the master of,
not the slave to riches. The patrimony of Epaminondas on the contrary
was extremely small, yet equal to his utmost wants or desires. Devoted
wholly to the sciences and the study of history and philosophy, which
mend the heart, whilst they instruct the head, he preferred the sweets
of retirement and study to a life of pleasure and ostentation. He
avoided all lucrative employments and state honours, with as much
assiduity, as they were courted and intrigued for by others: nor did he
accept of the highest office in the state, until he was called to it by
the united cry of the people, and the exigencies of the publick. When
dragged out of his retirement, and placed by force, as it were, at the
head of affairs, he convinced his countrymen, as Justin informs us, that
he was fully equal to the task, and seemed rather to give lustre to,
than receive any from the dignity of his employment.[193] He excelled in
the art of speaking, and was the most consummate orator of his time;
persuasion hung upon his tongue, and he was the master of the passions
of his auditors by his eloquence, and of his own by philosophy. With
this truly great man Pelopidas was joined as colleague, who, when he
could not prevail upon his friend Epaminondas to share the enjoyment of
his own fortune with him, copied him in the humble virtues of private
life. Thus both became the admiration of their countrymen for their
temperance and moderation, as well as their plainness in dress; and
frugality at their table. But the most striking part of their character,
was that unexampled union and perfect harmony which subsisted between
these two great men, and ended only with their lives. They filled at one
and the same time the two highest posts in the state. The whole
management of publick affairs was intrusted to their conduct, and all
business passed through their hands. Yet during all that time, no latent
spark of envy, jealousy or ambition, no private or selfish views or
difference of sentiments (the fatal, but too general sources of disunion
amongst statesmen) could in the least affect their friendship, or ever
make any impression upon an union, which was founded upon the immovable
basis of publick virtue. Animated, as Plutarch observes, and directing
all their actions by this principle only, they had no other in view but
that of the publick; and instead of enriching or aggrandizing their own
families, the only emulation between them was, which should contribute
most to the advancement of the dignity and happiness of his country. To
crown all, they both died gloriously in defence of that independency,
which they had acquired and preserved to the state, and left the Thebans
free, great, and flourishing.

It is natural to think, that men of such superior merit, and so
eminently disinterested, could never possibly be the objects of party
resentment. Yet we are assured in history, that they were frequently
persecuted by a virulent faction composed of the selfish, those leeches
whom these two virtuous men prevented from fattening upon the blood of
the publick, and of the envious, from that strong antipathy which bad
men naturally bear to the good.[194] For envy, that passion of low
uncultivated minds, has a greater share in party opposition than we are
apt to imagine. A truth of which we have strong proof in that celebrated
passage, recorded by Plutarch,[195] between Aristides and the Athenian
countrymen. Though the virtue of these great men triumphed over all the
malicious efforts of these domestick enemies; yet they had power enough
at one time to impeach and bring them both to a publick trial for a
breach of formality relative to their office, though that very act had
enabled them to render the most signal services to their country.[196]
They were tried however, but honourably acquitted. At another time,
whilst Pelopidas was detained prisoner by Alexander the Pherean, this
malignant faction had weight enough to exclude Epaminondas from the
office of polemarque or general, and to procure for two of their
friends, the command of that army which was sent to punish the tyrant
for his treachery. But the new generals made such wretched work of it,
when they came to face the enemy, that the whole army was quickly thrown
into the utmost confusion, and compelled for their own preservation, to
put Epaminondas at their head, who was present at the action only as a
volunteer: for the malice of his enemies had excluded him from the least
shadow of trust or power. This able man, by a _manœuvre_ peculiar to
himself, extricated the Theban troops out of those difficulties in which
the ignorance and incapacity of their generals had involved them,
repulsed the enemy, and by a fine retreat brought the army safe to
Thebes. His countrymen, now sensible of their error, and how greatly
they had been imposed upon by the faction, immediately recalled him to
the highest offices in the state, which he continued to execute until
his death, with the greatest honour to himself, and emolument, as well
as glory, to his country. As the management of publick affairs, after
the death of these two illustrious patriots fell by the intrigues of
faction, into the hands of men of a quite different character, we need
not wonder that the Thebans sunk alike in power and reputation until
Thebes itself was totally destroyed by Alexander the Great, and their
country, with the rest of Greece, swallowed up at last by the insatiable
ambition of the Romans.

  [180] Pausan, Grec. Descript. lib. 9. c. 5 p. 718. Edit.

  [181] Οὐ γάρ τι ἠδυνάμην ἐς αὐτοὺς παρευρεῖν, ἕπομαι τῷ μύθῳ.
  Id. Ibid.

  [182] Ibid. p. 723

  [183] Thebes was the capital of Bœotia.

  [184] Bœotum in crasso jurares aere natum. Hor. epis. 1. lib.
  2. lin. 244.

  [185] Plut. in Vit. Pelopid. p. 287.

  [186] Diodor. Sicul. lib. 15. p. 470.

  [187] Plut. in Vit. Pelop. p. 284. et sequent.

  [188] Plut. in Vit. Pelop. p. 285.

  [189] Id. p. 286, 287.

  [190] Διὸ καὶ συναναγκαθεὶς ὀλίγοις πολιτικοῖς, &c. Diodor.
  Sicul. lib. 15. p. 477. Edit. Henr. Stephani.

  [191] Polyb. Comparat. Epaminond. et Hannib. lib. 9. p. 762.

  [192] Id. lib. 6. p. 678....79.

  [193] Justin. lib. 6. p. 74.

  [194] Plutarch, Justin, Corn. Nepos.

  [195] When Aristides had acquired the surname of Just he became
  the object of the Athenian envy, and the Ostracism was demanded
  against him. Whilst the people were preparing their shells, a
  country voter, who could neither read nor write, brought his
  shell to Aristides, and desired him to write the name of
  Aristides upon it. Aristides, not a little surprised at his
  request, asked him what injury that Aristides had done him. Me!
  none, replied the fellow, for I do not so much as know the man
  by sight, but it galls me to the soul to hear him every where
  called the Just.... Plut. in Vit. Aristid. p. 322, 323.

  [196] They kept the field and attacked Sparta, when the time of
  their office was near expired, by which means they were in
  office more than the regular time.



Of all the free states whose memory is preserved to us in history,
Carthage bears the nearest resemblance to Britain, both in her commerce,
opulence, sovereignty of the sea, and her method of carrying on her land
wars by foreign mercenaries. If to these we add the vicinity of the
Carthaginians to the Romans, the most formidable and most rapacious
people at that time in Europe, and the specifick difference, as I may
term it, of the respective military force of each nation, the situation
of Carthage with respect to Rome, seems greatly analogous to that of
Britain with respect to France, at least for this last century.
Consequently, the dreadful fate of that republick, once the most
flourishing state in the universe, and the most formidable rival Rome
ever had to cope with, must merit our highest attention at this
juncture: both as the greatness of her power arose from, and was
supported by commerce, and as she owed her ruin more to her own
intestine divisions, than to the arms of the Romans.

We know very little of this opulent and powerful people until the time
of the first Punick war. For as not one of their own historians has
reached our times, we have no accounts of them but what are transmitted
to us by their enemies. Such writers consequently deserve little credit,
as well from their ignorance of the Carthaginian constitution, as their
inveterate prejudice against that great people. Hence it is that we know
so little of their laws, and have but an imperfect idea of their
constitutional form of government.

The government of Carthage, if we may credit the judicious Aristotle,
seems to have been founded on the wisest maxim of policy. For he
affirms, the different branches of their legislature were so exactly
balanced,[197] that for the space of five hundred years, from the
commencement of the republick down to his time, the repose of Carthage
had never been disturbed by any considerable sedition, or her liberty
invaded by any single tyrant: the two fatal evils to which every
republican government is daily liable, from the very nature of their
constitution. An additional proof too may be drawn from this
consideration, that Carthage was able to support herself upwards of
seven hundred years in opulence and splendour in the midst of so many
powerful enemies, and during the greater part of that time, was the
centre of commerce of the known world, and enjoyed the uninterrupted
sovereignty of the sea without a rival.

The genius of the Carthaginians was warlike as well as commercial, and
affords undeniable proof, that those qualities are by no means
incompatible to the same people. It is almost impossible indeed to
discover the real character of this great people. The Roman historians,
their implacable enemies, constantly paint them in the blackest colours,
to palliate the perfidious and merciless behaviour of their own
countrymen towards that unfortunate republick. A fact so notorious, that
neither Livy, nor any other of their writers, with all their art, were
able to conceal it. The Greek historians, whose countrymen had suffered
so greatly by the Carthaginian arms in Sicily and all the other islands
in the Mediterranean, betray as strong a prejudice against them as the
Roman. Even the respectable Polybius, the only author amongst them who
deserves any degree of credit, is plainly partial, when he speaks of the
Carthaginian manners. The Romans continually charge them with the want
of publick faith, and have handed down the _Punica fides_ as a proverb.
I shall take notice of this scandalous charge in another place, where I
shall show how much more justly it may be retorted upon the Romans.

As the desire of gain is the chief spur to commerce, and as the greatest
men in Carthage never thought it beneath them to engage in that
lucrative employment, all the historians have represented the whole body
of the people as so insatiably fond of amassing wealth, that they
esteemed even the lowest and dirtiest means lawful, that tended to the
acquisition of their darling object. “Amongst the Carthaginians,” says
Polybius, when he compares the manners of that people with those of the
Romans, “nothing was infamous that was attended with gain.[198] Amongst
the Romans nothing so infamous as bribery,[199] and to enrich themselves
by unwarrantable means.” He adds in proof of his assertion, that, “at
Carthage all the dignities, and highest employments in the state were
openly sold.[200] A practice, he affirms, which at Rome was a capital
crime.” Yet but a few pages before, where he inveighs bitterly against
the sordid love of money, and rapacious avarice of the Cretans, he
remarks that, “they were the only people in the world to whom no kind of
gain appeared either infamous or unlawful.”[201] In another place where
he censures the Greeks for aspersing Titus Flamius the Roman general, as
if he had not been proof against the gold of Macedon, he affirms, “that
whilst the Romans preserved the virtuous manners of their forefathers,
and had not yet carried their arms into foreign countries, not a single
man of them would have been guilty of a crime of that nature.”[202] But
though he can boldly assert, as he says, “that in his time many of the
Romans, if taken man by man, were able to preserve he trust reposed in
them inviolable as to that point, yet he owns he durst not venture to
say the same of all.” Though he speaks as modestly as he can to avoid
giving offence, yet this hint is sufficient to convince us, that
corruption was neither new nor uncommon at that time amongst the Romans.
But as I shall resume this subject in a more proper place, I shall only
observe from Polybius’s own detail of the history of the Carthaginians,
that unless when the intrigues of faction prevailed, all their great
posts were generally filled by men of the most distinguished merit.

The charge of cruelty is brought against them with a very ill grace by
the Romans, who treated even monarchs themselves, if they were so
unhappy as to become their prisoners of war, with the utmost inhumanity,
and threw them to perish in dungeons, after they had exposed them in
triumph to the insults of their own populace.[203]

The story indeed of Regulus has afforded a noble subject for Horace,
which he has embellished with some of the most beautiful strokes of
poetry, and that fine ode has propagated and confirmed the belief of it,
more perhaps than the writings of all their historians. But as neither
Polybius nor Diodorus Siculus makes the least mention of such an event
(though the Greeks bore an equal aversion to the Carthaginians) and as
the Roman writers from whom we received it, differ greatly in their
accounts of it, I cannot help joining in opinion with many learned men,
that it was a Roman forgery.

The Greek writers accuse them of barbarism and a total ignorance of the
_belles lettres_, the study of which was the reigning taste of Greece.
Rollin contemptuously affirms, that their education in general amounted
to no more than writing and the knowledge of merchants accounts; that a
Carthaginian philosopher would have been a prodigy amongst the learned;
and then asks, “what would they have thought of a geometrician or
astronomer of that nation?” Rollin seems to have put this question too
hastily, since it is unanimously confessed; that they were the best ship
builders, the ablest navigators, and the most skilful mechanicks at that
time in the world: that they raised abundance of magnificent structures,
and very well understood the art of fortification; all which (especially
as the use of the compass was then unknown) must of necessity imply a
more than common knowledge of astronomy, geometry, and every other
branch of mathematicks. Let me add too that their knowledge in
agriculture was so eminent;[204] that the works of Mago the Carthaginian
upon that subject were ordered to be translated by a decree of the
senate for the use of the Romans and their colonies.

That the education of their youth was not confined to the mercantile
part only, must be evident from that number of great men, who make such
a figure in their history; particularly Hannibal, perhaps the greatest
captain which any age has ever yet produced, and at the same time the
most consummate statesman, and disinterested patriot. Painting,
sculpture, and poetry, they seem to have left to their more idle and
more luxurious neighbours the Greeks, and applied their wealth to the
infinitely nobler uses of supporting their marine, enlarging and
protecting their commerce and colonies. What opinion even the wiser part
of the Romans had of these specious arts, and how unworthy they judged
them of the close attention of a brave and free people, we may learn
from the advice which Virgil gives his countrymen by the mouth of his
hero’s father Anchises.[205] I have endeavoured here to clear the much
injured character of this great people from the aspersions and gross
misrepresentations of historians, by proofs drawn from the concessions
and self-contradictions of the historians themselves.

The state of Carthage bears so near a resemblance to that of our own
nation, both in their constitution (as far as we are able to judge of
it) maritime power, commerce, party divisions, and long as well as
bloody war which they carried on with the most powerful nation in the
universe, that their history, I again repeat it, affords us, in my
judgment, more useful rules for our present conduct than that of any
other ancient republick. As we are engaged in a war (which was until
very lately unsuccessful) with an enemy, less powerful indeed, but
equally rapacious as the Romans, and acting upon the same principles, we
ought most carefully to beware of those false steps both in war and
policy, which brought on the ruin of the Carthaginians. For should we be
so unhappy as to be compelled to receive law from that haughty nation,
we must expect to be reduced to the same wretched situation in which the
Romans left Carthage at the conclusion of the second Punick war. This
island has been hitherto the inexpugnable barrier of the liberties of
Europe, and is as much the object of the jealousy and hatred of the
French as ever Carthage was of the Romans. As they are sensible that
nothing but the destruction of this country can open them a way to their
grand project of universal monarchy, we may be certain that _delenda est
Britannia_ will be as much the popular maxim at Paris, as _delenda est
Carthago_ was at Rome.... But I shall wave these reflections at present,
and point out the real causes of the total ruin of that powerful

Carthage took its rise from a handful of distressed Tyrians who settled
in that country by permission of the natives, like our colonies in
America, and actually paid a kind of rent, under the name of tribute,
for the very ground on which their city was founded. As they brought
with them the commercial genius of their mother country they soon
arrived at such a state of opulence by their frugality and indefatigable
industry, as occasioned the envy of their poorer neighbours. Thus
jealousy on the one hand, and pride naturally arising from great wealth
on the other, quickly involved them in a war. The natives justly feared
the growing power of the Carthaginians, and the latter feeling their own
strength, wanted to throw off the yoke of tribute, which they looked
upon as dishonourable and even galling to a free people. The contest was
by no means equal. The neighbouring princes were poor and divided by
separate interests, the Carthaginians were rich and united in one common
cause. Their commerce made them masters of the sea, and their wealth
enabled them to bribe one part of their neighbours to fight against the
other, and thus by playing one against the other alternately, they
reduced all at last to be their tributaries, and extended their
dominions near two thousand miles upon that continent. It may be
objected that the conduct of the Carthaginians in this case was highly
criminal. I grant it: but if we view all those master strokes of policy,
and all those splendid conquests which shine so much in history, in
their true colours, they will appear to be nothing more than fraud and
robbery, gilded over with those pompous appellations. Did not every
nation that makes a figure in history rise to empire upon the ruin of
their neighbours? did not France acquire her present formidable power,
and is she not at this time endeavouring to worm us out of our American
settlements by the very same means? but though the motives are not to be
justified, yet the conduct of the Carthaginians upon these occasions,
will afford us some very useful and instructive lessons in our present

It is evident that the mighty power of these people was founded in and
supported by commerce, and that they owed their vast acquisitions, which
extended down both sides of the Mediterranean quite into the main ocean,
to a right application of the publick money, and a proper exertion of
their naval force. Had they bounded their views to this single point,
viz. the support of their commerce and colonies, they either would not
have given such terrible umbrage to the Romans, who, as Polybius
observes, could brook no equal, or might safely have bid defiance to
their utmost efforts. For the immense sums which they squandered away in
subsidies to so many foreign princes, and to support such numerous
armies of foreign mercenaries, which they constantly kept in pay, to
complete the reduction of Spain and Sicily, would have enabled them to
cover their coasts with such a fleet as would have secured them from any
apprehension of foreign invasions. Besides ... the Roman genius was so
little turned for maritime affairs, that at the time of their first
breach with Carthage they were not masters of one single ship of war,
and were such absolute strangers to the mechanism of a ship, that a
Carthaginian galley driven by accident on their coasts gave them the
first notion of a model. But the ambition of Carthage grew as her wealth
increased; and how difficult a task is it to set bounds to that restless
passion! thus by grasping at too much, she lost all. It is not probable
therefore that the Romans would ever have attempted to disturb any of
the Carthaginian settlements, when the whole coast of Italy lay open to
the insults and depredations of so formidable a maritime power. The
Romans felt this so sensibly in the beginning of the first Punick war,
that they never rested until they had acquired the superiority at sea.
It is evident too, that the Romans always maintained that superiority:
for if Hannibal could possibly have passed by sea into Italy, so able a
general would never have harrassed his troops by that long and seemingly
impossible march over the Alps, which cost him above half his army; an
expedition which has been, and ever will be, the wonder of all
succeeding ages. Nor could Scipio have landed without opposition so
very near the city of Carthage itself, if the maritime force of that
people had not been at the very lowest ebb.

The Carthaginians were certainly greatly weakened by the long
continuance of their first war with the Romans, and that savage and
destructive war with their own mercenaries, which followed immediately
after. They ought therefore, in true policy, to have turned their whole
attention, during the interval between the first and second Punick wars,
to the re-establishment of their marine; but the conquest of Spain was
their favourite object, and their finances were too much reduced to be
sufficient for both. Thus they expended that money in carrying on a
continental war, which would have put their marine on so formidable a
footing, as to have enabled them to regain once more the dominion of the
sea; and the fatal event of the second Punick war convinced them of the
false step they had taken, when it was too late to retrieve it.

I have here pointed out one capital error of the Carthaginians as a
maritime power, I mean their engaging in too frequent, and too extensive
wars on the continent of Europe, and their neglect of their marine. I
shall now mention another, which more than once brought them to the very
brink of destruction. This was ... their constantly employing such a
vast number of foreign mercenary troops, and not trusting the defence of
their country, nay not even Carthage itself wholly, to their own native

The Carthaginians were so entirely devoted to commerce, that they seem
to have looked upon every native employed in their armies as a member
lost to the community; and their wealth enabled them to buy whatever
number of soldiers they pleased from their neighbouring states in Greece
and Africa, who traded (as I may term it) in war as much as the Swiss
and Germans do now, and were equally ready to sell the blood and lives
of their subjects to the best bidder. From hence they drew such
inexhaustible supplies of men, both to form and recruit their armies,
whilst their own natives were at leisure to follow the more lucrative
occupations of navigation, husbandry, and mechanick trades. For the
number of native Carthaginians, which we read of, in any of their
armies, was so extremely small as to bear no proportion to that of their
foreign mercenaries. This kind of policy, which prevails so generally in
all mercantile states, does, I confess, at first sight appear extremely
plausible. The Carthaginians, by this method, spared their own people,
and purchased all their conquests by the venal blood of foreigners: and,
in case of a defeat, they could with great ease and expedition recruit
their broken armies with any number of good troops, ready trained up to
their hands in military discipline. But alas, these advantages were
greatly over-balanced by very fatal inconveniences. The foreign troops
were attached to the Carthaginians by no tie, but that of their pay.
Upon the least failure of that, or if they were not humoured in all
their licentious demands, they were just as ready to turn their arms
against the throats of their masters. Strangers to that heartfelt
affection, that enthusiastick love of their country which warms the
hearts of free citizens, and fires them with the glorious emulation of
fighting to the last drop of blood in defence of their common mother;
these sordid hirelings were always ripe for mutiny and sedition, and
ever ready to revolt and change sides upon the least prospect of greater

But a short detail of the calamities, which they drew upon themselves by
this mistaken policy, will better show the dangers which attend the
admission of foreign mercenaries into any country, where the natives are
unaccustomed to the use of arms. A practice which is too apt to prevail
in commercial nations.

At the conclusion of the first Punick war the Carthaginians were
compelled, by their treaty with the Romans, to evacuate Sicily. Gesco
therefore, who then commanded in that island, to prevent the disorders
which might be committed by such a multitude of desperate fellows,
composed of so many different nations, and so long inured to blood and
rapine, sent them over gradually in small bodies, that his countrymen
might have time to pay off their arrears, and send them home to their
respective countries. But either the lowness of their finances, or the
ill timed parsimony of the Carthaginians totally defeated this salutary
measure,[206] though the wisest that, as their affairs were at that time
circumstanced, could possibly have been taken. The Carthaginians
deferred their payment until the arrival of the whole body, in hopes of
obtaining some abatement in their demands by fairly laying before them
the necessities of the publick. But the mercenaries were deaf to every
representation and proposal of that nature. They felt their own
strength, and saw too plainly the weakness of their masters. As fast as
one demand was agreed to, a more unreasonable one was started; and they
threatened to do themselves justice by military execution if their
exorbitant demands were not immediately complied with. At last, when
they were just at the point of an accommodation with their masters, by
the mediation and address of Gesco, two desperate ruffians, named
Speudius and Mathos,[207] raised such a flame amongst this unruly
multitude as broke out instantly into the most bloody, and destructive
war ever yet recorded in history. The account we have of it from the
Greek historians must strike the most callous breast with horror; and
though it was at last happily terminated by the superior conduct of
Hamilcar Barcas, the father of the great Hannibal, yet it continued near
four years, and left the territories around Carthage a most shocking
scene of blood and devastation. Such was, and ever will be the
consequence, when a large body of mercenary troops is admitted into the
heart of a rich and fertile country, where the bulk of the people are
denied the use of arms by the mistaken policy of their governors. For
this was actually the case with the Carthaginians, where the total
disuse of arms amongst the lower class of people, laid that opulent
country open, an easy and tempting prey to every invader. This was
another capital error, and consequently another cause which contributed
to their ruin.

How must any nation but our own, which with respect to the bulk of the
people, lies in the same defenceless situation; how, I say, must they
censure the mighty state of Carthage, spreading terror, and giving law
to the most distant nations by her powerful fleets, when they see her at
the same time trembling, and giving herself up for lost at the landing
of any invader in her own territories?

The conduct of that petty prince Agathocles, affords us a striking
instance of the defenceless state of the territories of Carthage. The
Carthaginians were at that very time masters of all Sicily, except the
single city of Syracuse, in which they had cooped up that tyrant both
by land and sea. Agathocles, reduced to the last extremity, struck
perhaps the boldest stroke ever yet met with in history.[208] He was
perfectly well acquainted with the weak side of Carthage, and knew that
he could meet with little opposition from a people who were strangers to
the use of arms, and enervated by a life of ease and plenty. On this
defect of their policy he founded his hopes; and the event proved that
he was not mistaken in his judgment. He embarked with only thirteen
thousand men on board the few ships he had remaining, eluded the
vigilance of the Carthaginian fleet by stratagem, landed safely in
Africa, plundered and ravaged that rich country up to the very gates of
Carthage, which he closely blocked up, and reduced nearly to the
situation in which he had left his own Syracuse. Nothing could equal the
terror into which the city of Carthage was thrown at that time, but the
panick which, in the late rebellion, struck the much larger, and more
populous city of London, at the approach of a poor handful of
Highlanders, as much inferior even to the small army of Agathocles in
number, as they were in arms and discipline. The success of that able
leader compelled the Carthaginians to recall part of their forces out of
Sicily to the immediate defence of Carthage itself; and this occasioned
the raising of the siege of Syracuse, and ended in the total defeat of
their army, and death of their general in that country. Thus
Agathocles, by this daring measure, saved his own petty state, and,
after a variety of good and ill fortune, concluded a treaty with the
Carthaginians, and died at Syracuse at a time when, from a thorough
experience of their defenceless state at home, he was preparing for a
fresh invasion.

Livy informs us, that this very measure of Agathocles set the precedent
which Scipio followed with so much success in the second Punick war,
when that able general, by a similar descent in Africa, compelled the
Carthaginians to recall Hannibal out of Italy to their immediate
assistance, and reduced them to that impotent state, from which they
never afterwards were able to recover.[209] How successfully the French
played the same game upon us, when they obliged us to recall our forces
out of Flanders to crush the rebellion, which they had spirited up with
that very view, is a fact too recent to need any mention of particulars.
How lately did they drive us to the expense, and I may say the ignominy,
of fetching over a large body of foreign mercenaries for the immediate
defence of this nation, which plumes herself so much upon her power and
bravery? How greatly did they cramp all our measures, how much did they
confine all our military operations to our own immediate self-defence,
and prevent us from sending sufficient succours to our colonies by the
perpetual alarm of an invasion?

Though we may in part truly ascribe the ruin of Carthage to the two
above-mentioned errors in their policy, yet the cause which was
productive of the greatest evils, and consequently the more immediate
object of our attention at this dangerous juncture, was party disunion;
that bane of every free state, from which our own country has equal
reason to apprehend the same direful effects, as the republicks of
Greece, Rome, and Carthage experienced formerly.

By all the lights, which we receive from history, the state of Carthage
was divided into two opposite factions; the Hannonian and the Barcan, so
denominated from the respective leaders, who were heads of the two most
powerful families in Carthage. The Hannonian family seems to have made
the greatest figure in the senate; the Barcan in the field. Both were
strongly actuated by ambition, but ambition of a different kind. The
Barcan family seems to have had no other object in view but the glory of
their country, and were always ready to give up their private
animosities, and even their passion for military glory to the publick
good. The Hannonian family acted from quite opposite principles,
constantly aiming at one point; the supporting themselves in power, and
that only. Ever jealous of the glory acquired by the Barcan family,
they perpetually thwarted every measure proposed from that quarter, and
were equally ready to sacrifice the honour and real interest of their
country to that selfish view. In short, the one family seems to have
produced a race of heroes, the other of ambitious statesmen.

The chiefs of these two jarring families, best known to us in history,
were Hanno and Hamilcar Barcas, who was succeeded by his son Hannibal,
that terror of the Romans. The opposition between these two parties was
so flagrant, that Appian does not scruple to call the party of Hanno,
the Roman faction;[210] and that of Barcas, the popular, or the
Carthaginian, from the different interests which each party espoused.

The first instance, which we meet with in history, of the enmity
subsisting between the heads of these factions, was in that destructive
war with the Mercenaries, from which I have made this explanatory

Hanno was first sent with a powerful, and well provided army against
these mutinous desperadoes; but he knew little of his trade, and made
perpetual blunders. Polybius,[211] who treats his character, as a
soldier, with the utmost contempt, informs us, that he suffered himself
to be surprised, a great part of his fine army to be cut to pieces, and
his camp taken, with all the military stores, engines, and all the other
apparatus of war.

The Carthaginians, terrified and distressed by the bad conduct of their
general, were now compelled, by the necessity of their affairs, to
restore Hamilcar to the chief command of their forces, from which he
must have been excluded before by the influence of the Hannonian
faction. That able commander with his small army (for his whole force
amounted to no more than ten thousand men) quickly changed the face of
the war, defeated Spendius in two pitched battles, and pushed every
advantage to the utmost, which the incapacity of the rebel-generals
threw in his way. Sensible that he was too weak alone to cope with the
united forces of the rebels (which amounted to seventy thousand men) he
ordered Hanno (who had still influence enough to procure himself to be
continued in the command of a separate body) to join him, that they
might finish this execrable war by one decisive action.[212] After they
were joined, the Carthaginians soon felt the fatal effects of disunion
between their generals. No plan could now be followed, no measure could
be agreed on;[213] and the disagreement between these two leading men
arose to such a height at last, that they not only let slip every
opportunity of annoying the enemy, but gave them many advantages against
themselves, which they could not otherwise have hoped for. The
Carthaginians,[214] sensible of their error, and knowing the very
different abilities of the two generals, yet willing to avoid the
imputation of partiality, empowered the army to decide which of the two
they judged most proper for their general, as they were determined to
continue only one of them in the command. The decision of the army
was,[215] that Hamilcar should take the supreme command, and that Hanno
should depart the camp. A convincing proof that they threw the whole
blame of that disunion, and the ill-success, which was the consequence
of it, entirely upon the envy and jealousy of Hanno. One Hannibal, a man
more tractable, and more agreeable to Hamilcar, was sent in his room.
Union was restored, and the happy effects which attended it were quickly
visible. Hamilcar now pushed on the war with his usual vigilance and
activity, and soon convinced the generals of the rebels how greatly he
was their master in the art of war. He harrassed them perpetually, and,
like a skilful gamester,[216] (as Polybius terms him) drew them artfully
every day into his snares, and obliged them to raise the siege of
Carthage. At last he cooped up Spendius with his army in so
disadvantageous a place, that he reduced them to such an extremity of
famine as to devour one another, and compelled them to surrender at
discretion, though they were upwards of forty thousand effective men....
The army of Hamilcar, which was much inferior to that of Spendius in
number, was composed partly of mercenaries and deserters, partly of the
city militia, both horse and foot (troops which the enemies to the
militia-bill would have called raw and undisciplined, and treated as
useless) of which the major part of his army consisted.[217] The rebel
army was composed chiefly of brave and experienced veterans, trained up
by Hamilcar himself in Sicily during the late war with the Romans, whose
courage was heightened by despair. It is worthy of our observation
therefore, that these very men who, under the conduct of Hamilcar, had
been a terror to the Romans, and given them so many blows in Sicily
towards the latter end of the first Punick war, should yet be so little
able to cope with an army so much inferior in number, and composed in a
great measure of city militia only, when commanded by the same general.
Polybius,[218] who esteems Hamilcar by far the greatest captain of that
age, observes, that though the rebels were by no means inferior to the
Carthaginian troops in resolution and bravery, yet they were frequently
beaten by Hamilcar by mere dint of generalship. Upon this occasion he
cannot help remarking the vast superiority which judicious skill and
ability of generalship has over long military practice,[219] where this
so essentially necessary skill and judgement is wanting. It might have
been thought unpardonable in me, if I had omitted this just remark of
Polybius, since it has been so lately verified by his Prussian majesty
in those masterly strokes of generalship, which are the present
admiration of Europe. Hamilcar, after the destruction of Spendius and
his army, immediately blocked up Mathos, with the remaining corps of the
rebels, in the city of Tunes. Hannibal, with the forces under his
command, took post on that side of the city which looked towards
Carthage. Hamilcar prepared to make his attack on the side which was
directly opposite; but the conduct of Hannibal, when left to himself,
was the direct contrast to that of Hamilcar, and proves undeniably, that
the whole merit of their former success was entirely owing to that abler
general. Hannibal, who seems to have been little acquainted with the
true genius of those daring veterans, lay secure, and careless in his
camp, neglected his out-guards, and treated the enemy with contempt, as
a people already conquered. But Mathos observing the negligence and
security of Hannibal,[220] and well knowing that he had not Hamilcar to
deal with, made a sudden and resolute sally, forced Hannibal’s
intrenchments, put great numbers of his men to the sword, took Hannibal
himself, with several other persons of distinction prisoners, and
pillaged his camp. This daring measure was so well concerted, and
executed with so much rapidity, that Mathos, who made good use of his
time, had done his business before Hamilcar, who lay encamped at some
distance, was in the least apprized of his colleague’s misfortune.
Mathos fastened Hannibal, whilst alive, on the same gibbet to which
Hamilcar had lately nailed the body of Spendius: A terrible, but just
reward for the shameful carelessness in a commanding officer, who had
sacrificed the lives of such a number of his fellow citizens by his own
indolence and presumptuous folly. For Mathos crucified thirty of the
first nobility of Carthage, who attended Hannibal in this expedition. A
commander who is surprised in the night-time, though guilty of an
egregious fault, may yet plead something in excuse; but, in point of
discipline, for a general to be surprised by an enemy just under his
nose in open daylight, and caught in a state of wanton security, from an
over-weening presumption on his own strength, is a crime of so capital a
nature as to admit neither of alleviation nor pardon. This dreadful and
unexpected blow threw Carthage into the utmost consternation, and
obliged Hamilcar to draw off his part of the army to a considerable
distance from Tunes. Hanno had again influence enough to procure the
command, which he was compelled before by the army to give up to
Hamilcar. But the Carthaginians, sensible of the fatal consequences of
disunion between the two generals, especially at such a desperate
crisis, sent thirty of the most respectable amongst the senators to
procure a thorough reconciliation between Hamilcar and Hanno before they
proceeded upon any operation;[221] which they effected at last, though
not without difficulty. Pleased with this happy event, the Carthaginians
(as their last, and utmost effort) sent every man in Carthage,[222] who
was able to bear arms, to re-enforce Hamilcar, on whose superior
abilities they placed their whole dependance. Hamilcar now resumed his
operations, and, as he was no longer thwarted by Hanno, soon reduced
Mathos to the necessity of putting the whole issue of the war upon one
decisive action, in which the Carthaginians were most completely victors
by the exquisite disposition and conduct of Hamilcar.

I hope the enemies to a militia will at least allow these new levies,
who composed by far the greatest part of Hamilcar’s army upon this
occasion, to be raw, undisciplined, and ignorant of the use of arms;
epithets which they bestow so plentifully upon a militia. Yet that able
commander, with an army consisting chiefly of this kind of men, totally
destroyed an army of desperate veterans, took their general, and all who
escaped the slaughter prisoners, and put an end to the most ruinous, and
most inhuman war ever yet mentioned in history. These new levies had
courage (a quality never yet, I believe, disputed to the British
commonality) and were to fight _pro aris et focis_, for whatever was
dear and valuable to a people; and Hamilcar, who well knew how to make
the proper use of these dispositions of his countrymen, was master of
those abilities which Mathos wanted. Of such infinite advantage is it to
an army to have a commander superior to the enemy in the art of
generalship; an advantage which frequently supplies a deficiency even in
the goodness of troops, as well as in numbers.

The enmity of Hanno did not expire with Hamilcar, who fell gloriously in
the service of his country, in Spain some years after. Hannibal the
eldest son, and a son worthy of so heroick a father, immediately became
the object of his jealousy and hatred. For when Asdrubal (son-in-law to
Hamilcar) had been appointed to the command of the army in Spain, after
the death of that general, he desired that Hannibal, at that time but
twenty-two years of age, might be sent to Spain to be trained up under
him in the art of war. Hanno opposed this with the utmost virulence in a
rancorous speech (made for him by Livy) fraught with the most infamous
insinuations against Asdrubal, and a strong charge of ambition against
the Barcan family. But his malice, and the true reason of his
opposition, varnished over with a specious concern for the publick
welfare, were so easily seen through, that he was not able to carry a
point which he so much wished for.

Asdrubal not long after being assassinated by a Gaul,[223] in revenge
for some injury he had received, the army immediately appointed Hannibal
to the command; and sending advice to Carthage of what they had done,
the senate was assembled, who unanimously confirmed the election then
made by the soldiers.[224] Hannibal in a short time reduced all that
part of Spain which lay between New Carthage and the river Iberus,
except the city of Saguntum, which was in alliance with the Romans. But
as he inherited his father’s hatred to the Romans, for their infamous
behaviour to his country at the conclusion of the war with the
mercenaries,[225] he made great preparations for the siege of Saguntum.
The Romans (according to Polybius) receiving intelligence of his
design,[226] sent ambassadors to him at New Carthage, who warned him of
the consequences of either attacking the Saguntines, or crossing the
Iberus, which, by the treaty with Asdrubal, had been made the boundary
of the Carthaginian and Roman dominions in that country. Hannibal
acknowledged his resolution to proceed against Saguntum, but the reasons
he assigned for his conduct were so unsatisfactory to the ambassadors,
that they crossed over to Carthage to know the resolution of their
senate upon that subject. Hannibal in the mean time, according to the
same author,[227] sent advice to Carthage of this embassy, and desired
instructions how to act, complaining heavily that the Saguntines
depending upon their alliance with the Romans, committed frequent
depredations upon the Carthaginian subjects.

We may conclude that the ambassadors met with as disagreeable a
reception from the Carthaginian senate as they had done from Hannibal,
and that he received orders from Carthage to proceed in his intended
expedition. For Polybius,[228] reflecting upon some writers, who
pretended to relate what passed in the Roman senate when the news
arrived of the capture of Saguntum, and even inserted the debates which
arose when the question was put, whether, or no, war should be declared
against Carthage, treats their whole accounts as absurd and fictitious.
“For how, says he, with indignation, could it possibly be, that the
Romans, who had denounced war the year before at Carthage, if Hannibal
should invade the Saguntine territories, should now after that city was
taken by storm assemble to deliberate, whether war should be commenced
against the Carthaginians or not.” Now as this declaration of war was
conditional, and not to take place unless Hannibal should attack the
Saguntines, it must have been made before that event happened, and
consequently must be referred to the embassy above-mentioned. And as
Hannibal undertook the siege of Saguntum notwithstanding the Roman
menaces, he undoubtedly acted by orders from the Carthaginian senate.

When the Romans received the news of the destruction of Saguntum, they
dispatched another embassy to Carthage (as Polybius relates) with the
utmost expedition;[229] their orders were to insist that Hannibal and
all who advised him to commit hostilities against the Saguntines should
be delivered up to the Romans, and in case of a refusal, to declare
immediate war. Their demand was received by the Carthaginian senate with
the utmost indignation, and one of the senators, who was appointed to
speak in the name of the rest, begun in an artful speech to recriminate
upon the Romans, and offered to prove, that the Saguntines were not
allied to the Romans when the peace was made between the two nations,
and consequently could not be included in the treaty. But the Romans cut
the affair short, and told them that they did not come there to dispute,
but only to insist upon a categorical answer to this plain question:
whether they would give up the authors of the hostilities, which would
convince the world that they had no share in the destruction of
Saguntum, but that Hannibal had done it without their authority; or,
whether by protecting them, they chose to confirm the Romans in the
belief, that Hannibal had acted with their approbation? As their demand
of Hannibal was refused, war was declared by the Romans,[230] and
accepted with equal alacrity and fierceness by the majority of the
Carthaginian senate.

Livy affirms that the first embassy was decreed by the Roman
senate,[231] but not sent until Hannibal had actually invested Saguntum,
and varies from Polybius in his relation of the particulars. For
according to Livy,[232] Hannibal received intelligence of the Roman
embassy, but he sent them word, that he had other business upon his
hands at that time than to give audience to ambassadors, and that he
wrote at the same time to his friends of the Barcan faction to exert
themselves, and prevent the other party from carrying any point in
favour of the Romans.

The ambassadors, thus denied admittance by Hannibal, repaired to
Carthage and laid their demands before the senate. Upon this occasion
Livy introduces Hanno inveighing bitterly in a formal harangue against
the sending Hannibal into Spain, a measure which he foretells, must
terminate in the utter destruction of Carthage.[233] And after
testifying his joy for the death of his father Hamilcar, whom he
acknowledges he most cordially hated, as he did the whole Barcan family,
whom he terms the fire-brands of the state, he advises them to give up
Hannibal, and make full satisfaction for the injury then done to the
Saguntines. When Hanno had done speaking, there was no occasion, as Livy
observes, for a reply.[234] For almost all the senate were so entirely
in the interest of Hannibal, that they accused Hanno of declaiming
against him, with more bitterness and rancour than even the Roman
ambassadors, who were dismissed with this short answer, “that not
Hannibal, but the Saguntines, were the authors of the war, and that the
Romans treated them with great injustice, if they preferred the
friendship of the Saguntines before that of their most ancient allies
the Carthaginians.” Livy’s account of the second embassy, which followed
the destruction of Saguntum, differs so very little from that of
Polybius, both as to the question put by the Romans, the answer given by
the Carthaginian senate, and the declaration of war which was the
consequence, that it is needless to repeat it.[235]

If what Hanno said in the speech above-mentioned, had been his real
sentiments from any consciousness of the superior power of the Romans,
and the imprudence of engaging in a war of that consequence before his
country had recovered her former strength, he would have acted upon
principles worthy of an honest and prudent patriot. For Polybius,[236]
after enumerating the superior excellencies of Hannibal as a general, is
strongly of opinion, that if he had begun with other nations, and left
the Romans for his last enterprise, he would certainly have succeeded in
whatever he had attempted against them, but he miscarried by attacking
those first, whom he ought to have reserved for his last enterprise. The
subsequent behaviour of Hanno, during the whole time that Italy was the
seat of war, evidently proves, that his opposition to this war proceeded
entirely from party motives, and his personal hatred to the Barcan
family, consequently is by no means to be ascribed to any regard for the
true interest of his country. Appian informs us,[237] that when Fabius
had greatly streightened Hannibal by his cautious conduct, the
Carthaginian general sent a pressing message to Carthage for a supply
both of men and money. But according to that author, he was flatly
refused, and could obtain neither, by the influence of his enemies, who
were averse to that war, and cavilled perpetually at every enterprise
which Hannibal undertook. Livy,[238] in his relation of the account,
which Hannibal sent to the Carthaginian senate of his glorious victory
at Cannæ by his brother Mago, with the demand for a large re-enforcement
of men as well as money, introduces Hanno (in a speech of his own which
he gives us on that occasion) strongly opposing that motion, and
persisting still in his former sentiments in respect both to the war and
to Hannibal. But the Carthaginians, elated with that victory, which was
the greatest blow the Romans ever received in the field since the
foundation of their republick, and thoroughly sensible (as Livy informs
us) of the enmity which Hanno and his faction bore to the Barcan family,
immediately decreed a supply of forty thousand Numidians, and
twenty-four thousand foot and horse to be immediately levied in Spain,
besides elephants, and a very large sum of money. Though Hanno at that
time had not weight enough in the senate to prevent that decree, yet he
had influence enough by his intrigues to retard the supply then voted,
and not only to get it reduced to twelve thousand foot and twenty-five
hundred horse, but even to procure that small number to be sent to Spain
upon a different service. That Hanno was the true cause of this cruel
disappointment, and the fatal consequences which attended it, is equally
evident from the same historian. For Livy tells us,[239] “that when
orders were sent to him by the Carthaginian senate to quit Italy, and
hasten to the immediate defence of his own country, Hannibal inveighed
bitterly against the malice of his enemies, who now openly and avowedly
recalled him from Italy, out of which they had long before endeavoured
to drag him, when they tied up his hands by constantly refusing him any
supply either of men or money. That Hannibal affirmed he was not
conquered by the Romans, whom he had so often defeated, but by the
calumny and envy of the opposite faction in the senate. That Scipio
would not have so much reason to plume himself upon the ignominy of his
return, as his enemy Hanno, who was so implacably bent upon the
destruction of the Barcan family, that since he was not able to crush it
by any other means, he had at last accomplished it, though by the ruin
of Carthage itself.”

Had that large supply been sent to Hannibal with the same unanimity and
despatch with which it was voted, it is more than probable, that so
consummate a general would have soon been master of Rome, and
transferred the empire of the world to Carthage. For the Romans were so
exhausted after the terrible defeat at Cannæ, that Livy is of opinion,
that Hannibal would have given the finishing blow to that republick, if
he had marched directly to Rome from the field of battle, as he was
advised to do by his general of horse Maherbal.[240] That many of the
nobility upon the first news of this fatal event, were in actual
consultation about the means of quitting Italy, and looking out for a
settlement in some other part of the world, and he affirms, that the
safety both of the city and empire of Rome must be attributed (as it was
then firmly believed at Rome) to the delay of that single day only, on
which Maherbal gave that advice to Hannibal. Appian confirms the
distressful situation of the Roman affairs at that juncture, and informs
us, that including the slaughter at Cannæ, in which the Romans had lost
most of their ablest officers, Hannibal had put to the sword two hundred
and fifty thousand of their best troops in the space of two years only,
from the beginning of the second Punick war inclusive.[241] It is easy,
therefore, to imagine how little able the Roman armies, consisting
chiefly of new levies, would have been to face such a commander as
Hannibal, when supported by the promised re-enforcement of sixty-four
thousand fresh men, besides money and elephants in proportion. For
Hannibal, though deprived of all supplies from Carthage by the malice of
the Hannonian faction, maintained his ground above fourteen years more
after his victory at Cannæ, in spite of the utmost efforts of the
Romans. A truth which Livy himself acknowledges with admiration and
astonishment at his superior military capacity. From that period
therefore, after the battle of Cannæ, when Hannibal was first
disappointed of the promised supplies from Carthage, we ought properly
to date the fall of that republick, which must be wholly imputed to the
inveterate malice of the profligate Hanno and his impious faction, who
were determined, as Hannibal observed before, to ruin the contrary
party, though by means which must be inevitably attended with the
destruction of their country. Appian insinuates,[242] that Hannibal
first engaged in this war more from the importunity of his friends, than
even his own passion for military glory and hereditary hatred to the
Romans. For Hanno and his faction (as Appian tells us) no longer
dreading the power of Hamilcar and Asdrubal his son-in-law,[243] and
holding Hannibal extremely cheap upon account of his youth, began to
persecute and oppress the Barcan party with so much rage and hatred,
that the latter were obliged by letter to implore assistance from
Hannibal, and to assure him that his own interest and safety was
inseparable from theirs. Hannibal (as Appian adds) was conscious of the
truth of this remark, and well knew that the blows, which seemed
directed at his friends, were levelled in reality at his own head, and
judged that a war with the Romans, which would be highly agreeable to
the generality of his countrymen, might prove the surest means of
counter-working his enemies, and preserving himself and his friends from
the fury of a pliant and fickle populace, already inflamed against his
party by the intrigues of Hanno. He concluded therefore, according to
Appian, that a war with so formidable and dangerous a power, would
divert the Carthaginians from all inquiries relative to his friends, and
oblige them to attend wholly to an affair, which was of the last
importance to their country. Should Appian’s account of the cause of
this war be admitted as true, it would be a yet stronger proof of the
calamitous effects of party disunion; though it would by no means excuse
Hannibal. For Hanno and his party would be equally culpable for driving
a man of Hannibal’s abilities to such a desperate measure, purely to
screen himself and his party from their malice and power. But the blame
for not supporting Hannibal after the battle of Cannæ, when such support
would have enabled him to crush that power, which by their means
recovered strength sufficient to subvert their own country, must be
thrown entirely upon Hanno and his party. It was a crime of the blackest
dye, and an act of the highest treason against their country, and
another terrible proof of the fatal effects of party disunion. Nor was
this evil peculiar to Carthage only, but was equally common in the Roman
and Grecian republicks. Nay, could we trace all our publick measures up
to their first secret springs of action, I do not doubt (notwithstanding
the plausible reasons which might have been given to the publick to
palliate such measures) but we should find our own country rashly
engaged in wars detrimental to her true interests, or obliged to submit
to a disadvantageous peace, just as either was conducive to the private
interest of the prevailing party. Will not our own annals furnish us
with some memorable instances of the truth of this assertion too recent
to be denied? was not the treatment which the great duke of Marlborough
received from Bolingbroke, the English Hanno, parallel to that which the
victorious Hannibal met with from the Carthaginian, after the battle of
Cannæ? did not Bolingbroke, from the worst of party motives, displace
that ever victorious general, desert our allies, and sacrifice the brave
and faithful Catalans, and the city of Barcelona, in at least as
shameful a manner as the Romans did their unhappy friends at Saguntum?
did not the same minister by the fatal treaty of Utrecht, rob the nation
of all those advantages, which she had reason to hope for from a long
and successful war? did he not by the same treaty, give our mortal enemy
France time to retrieve her affairs, and recover from that low state to
which the duke of Marlborough had reduced her, and even to arrive at
that power, at present so terrible to us and to all Europe?

To what can we attribute the late ill conducted war with Spain, but to
the ambition of party. How was the nation stunned with the noise of
Spanish depredations from the press! how loudly did the same outcry
resound in parliament! yet when the leaders of that powerful opposition
had carried their point by their popular clamours; when they had pushed
the nation into that war; when they had drove an overgrown minister from
the helm, and nestled themselves in power, how quickly did they turn
their backs upon the honest men of their party, who refused to concur in
their measures! how soon did they convince the nation, by screening that
very minister who had been so many years the object of their resentment,
and by carrying on their own war (as I may term it) with the same or
greater lukewarmness than what they had so lately exclaimed against in
the same minister. They convinced, I say, the whole nation, that the
welfare of the publick, and the protection of our trade, had not the
least share in the real motives of their conduct.

But as the Carthaginian history, during this period, is intimately
blended with the Roman, to avoid repetition, I am obliged to defer my
farther remarks upon the conduct of this people, until I speak of the
difference between the civil and military polity, and manners of both
those nations.

  [197] Arist. de Republ. lib. 2. cap. 9. lit. 4.

  [198] Polyb. lib. 6. p. 692.

  [199] Id. ibid.

  [200] Ibid.

  [201] Polyb. lib 6. p. 681.

  [202] Excerpt. ex Polyb. de virtutibus et vitiis, p. 1426.

  [203] Perses, &c.

  [204] Varro.


      Excudent alii spirantia mollius æra:
    Credo equidem, vivos ducent de marmore vultus.

    Virg. Æneid. lib. 6.

   Tu regere imperio populos, Romane, memento
   (Hæ tibi erunt artes) pacique imponere morem
   Parcere subjectis, &c. Ibid.

  [206] Polyb. lib. 1. p. 92...3.

  [207] Polyb. p. 98...9.

  [208] Diodor. Sicul. lib. 20. p. 735...36.

  [209] Livy. lib. 28. p. 58...9.

  [210] Appian, de Bell. Punick. p. 36.

  [211] Polyb. lib. 1. p. 104....5.

  [212] Polyb. lib. 1. p. 115.

  [213] Ibid. lib. 1. p. 115.

  [214] Polyb. lib. 1. p. 115.

  [215] Idem. ibid. 117.

  [216] Polyb. Ἀγαθὸς πεττευτὴς ibid. p. 119.

  [217] Id. ibid. Πολιτικοὺς ἱππεῖς καὶ πεζοὺς p. 120.

  [218] Polyb. lib. 1. p. 119.

  [219] Polyb. lib. 1. p. 119.

  [220] Polyb. Id. ibid. p. 121.

  [221] Polyb. lib. 1. p. 122.

  [222] Τοὺς ὑπολοίπους τῶν ἐν ταῖς ἡλικίαις καθοπλίσαντες (οἷον
  ἐσχάτην τρέχοντες ταύτην) ἐξαπέστελλον πρὸς τὸν Βάρκαν Polyb.
  lib. 1. p. 122.

  [223] Polyb. lib. 2. p. 172.

  [224] Μιᾷ γνώμῃ. Polyb. lib. 3. p. 234.

  [225] This will be explained in another place.

  [226] Lib. 3. p. 236.

  [227] Id. ibid. p. 237.

  [228] Polyb. lib. 3. 243....44.

  [229] Polyb. id. ibid.

  [230] Polyb. lib. 3. p. 259.

  [231] Livy, lib. 21. p. 132.

  [232] Ib. p. 135.

  [233] Liv. lib. 21. p. 135. 36.

  [234] Id. ibid.

  [235] Liv. lib. 3. p. 142....43.

  [236] Polyb. lib. 11. p. 888....89.

  [237] Appian. de Bell. Annib. 323. Edit. Hen. Steph.

  [238] Lib. 23 p. 265....66.

  [239] Liv. lib. 30. p. 135.

  [240] Lib. 22, p. 240.

  [241] Appian. de Bell. Hannib. p. 328.

  [242] Iberic. p. 259.

  [243] Appian. id. ibid.



Though there is a concurrence of several causes which bring on the ruin
of a state, yet where luxury prevails, that parent of all our fantastick
imaginary wants, ever craving and ever unsatisfied, we may justly assign
it as the leading cause: since it ever was and ever will be the most
baneful to publick virtue. For as luxury is contagious from its very
nature, it will gradually descend from the highest to the lowest ranks,
until it has ultimately infected a whole people. The evils arising from
luxury have not been peculiar to this or that nation, but equally fatal
to all wherever it was admitted. Political philosophy lays this down as
a fundamental and incontestable maxim,[244] that all the most
flourishing states owed their ruin, sooner or later, to the effects of
luxury; and all history, from the origin of mankind, confirms this truth
by the evidence of facts to the highest degree of demonstration. In the
great despotick monarchies it produced avarice, dissipation,
rapaciousness, oppression, perpetual factions amongst the great, whilst
each endeavoured to engross the favour of the prince wholly to himself;
venality, and a contempt of all law and discipline both in the military
and civil departments. Whilst the people, following the pernicious
example of their superiors, contracted such a dastardly effeminacy,
joined to an utter inability to support the fatigues of war, as quickly
threw them into the hands of the first resolute invader. Thus the
Assyrian empire sunk under the arms of Cyrus with his poor but hardy
Persians. The extensive and opulent empire of Persia fell an easy
conquest to Alexander and a handful of Macedonians; and the Macedonian
empire, when enervated by the luxury of Asia, was compelled to receive
the yoke of the victorious Romans.

Luxury, when introduced into free states, and suffered to be diffused
without controul through the body of the people, was ever productive of
that degeneracy of manners, which extinguished publick virtue, and put a
final period to liberty. For as the incessant demands of luxury quickly
induced necessity, that necessity kept human invention perpetually on
the rack to find out ways and means to supply the demands of luxury.
Hence the lower classes at first sold their suffrages in privacy and
with caution; but as luxury increased, and the manners of the people
grew daily more corrupt, they openly set them up to sale to the best
bidder. Hence too the ambitious amongst the higher classes, whose
superior wealth was frequently their only qualification, first purchased
the most lucrative posts in the state by this infamous kind of
traffick, and then maintained themselves in power by that additional
fund for corruption, which their employments supplied, until they had
undone those they had first corrupted.

But of all the ancient republicks, Rome in the last period of her
freedom was the scene where all the inordinate passions of mankind
operated most powerfully and with the greatest latitude. There we see
luxury, ambition, faction, pride, revenge, selfishness, a total
disregard to the publick good, and an universal dissoluteness of
manners, first make them ripe for, and then complete their destruction.
Consequently that period, by showing us more striking examples, will
afford us more useful lessons than any other part of their history.

Rome, once the mighty mistress of the universe, owed her rise, according
to Dionysius of Halicarnassus, the most curious and most exact inquirer
into the Roman antiquities, to a small colony of the Albans under the
conduct of Romulus, the supposed grandson of Numitor king of Alba. That
the Albans derived their origin from the Greeks seems highly probable
from the nature of the Alban and Roman monarchical government, which
appears to be plainly copied from Lycurgus.

The government first instituted by Romulus, the founder of this
extraordinary empire, was that perfect sort, as it is termed by
Dionysius and Polybius, which consisted of a due admixture of the regal,
aristocratick, and democratick powers. As this great man received the
crown as a reward for his superior merit, and held it by the best of all
titles, the willing and unanimous choice of a free people; and as he is
universally allowed to be the sole institutor of their first form of
government, I cannot help ranking him amongst the most celebrated
lawgivers and heroes of antiquity. Romulus’s plan of government, though
formed upon the model of Lycurgus, was evidently, in some respects,
superior to the Spartan. For the executive power in the Roman government
was lodged in one man only; the number of the senators was much greater,
and though the whole body of the Romans was formed into one regular
militia, yet the lowest class of the people were directed to apply
themselves to agriculture, grazing, and other lucrative employments; a
practice wholly prohibited to the free Spartans. The great employments
of the state were solely confined to the Patricians, or aristocratick
part; but the Plebeians, or commonalty, had in return the power of
choosing magistrates, enacting laws, and determining about all wars when
proposed by the king. But still their decrees were not final, for the
concurrence of the senate was absolutely necessary to give a sanction to
whatever the people had determined.

Whether the Romans would have continued the regal power in their
founder’s family by hereditary succession, cannot possibly be
determined, because, when Romulus was put to death by the Patricians for
aiming at more power than was consistent with their limited monarchy, he
left no children. This however is certain, that their monarchy continued
to be elective, and was attended with those disorders which are the
usual effects of that capital error in politicks, until the usurpation
of Tarquinius Superbus.

After the death of Romulus, Numa, a man of a very different genius, was
invited to the throne by the unanimous consent of the whole body of the
Romans. This worthy prince reclaimed his subjects from their savage
fondness for war and plunder, and taught them the arts of peace, and the
happiness of civil and social life, by instructing them in the great
duties of religion, or piety towards their gods, and the laws of justice
and humanity, which contained their duty towards their fellow creatures.
The long reign of this wise and good prince was the most remarkable, and
the most happy period of time Rome ever knew from her foundation to her
dissolution. For during the whole term of forty-three years, which was
the extent of his reign, the harmony of the Roman state was neither
interrupted by any civil dissension at home, nor the happiness of the
people disturbed by any foreign war or invasion. After the death of
Numa, who died universally lamented as the father of the people, Tullus
Hostilius, a man of real merit, was legally elected king, but, after a
victorious reign of thirty-two years, was destroyed with his whole
family by lightning, according to some authors, but, according to
others, was murdered by Ancus Marcius, grandson to Numa by his only
daughter, who looked upon his own right to the crown as prior to Tullus,
or his family. Ancus Marcius however received the crown by a free
election of the people, and died a natural death after a reign of
twenty-four years, in which he restored such of the religious
institutions of his grandfather Numa as had been neglected during the
reign of his predecessor. He greatly enlarged the city of Rome itself,
and made it a seaport by fortifying the haven at the mouth of the river

Lucius Tarquinius, a man of Greek extraction by his father’s side, and
admitted to the privilege of a Roman citizen under the reign of Ancus
Marcius, was raised to the throne for his uncommon merit, and showed
himself worthy of that high trust, which was reposed in him by the
Romans. He increased the number of the senators to three hundred,
greatly enlarged their territories, and beautified the city; and, after
an illustrious reign of thirty-eight years, was assassinated in his
palace by the contrivance of the two sons of Ancus Marcius, who hoped
after his death to recover the kingdom, which their father had been
possessed of. But their scheme was far from succeeding, for Tarquinius
was so well beloved by his people, that the persons who committed the
murder, were executed, and the sons of Ancus banished, and their estates
confiscated. Tullius Servius, who had married the daughter of
Tarquinius, succeeded to the crown by the artful management of his
mother-in-law, and by the favour of the people, though without the
concurrence either of the senate or Patricians. Tullius was certainly a
man of real merit, and, as I think, superior in point of abilities to
all the Roman kings, Romulus alone excepted. But as he seemed to affect
a democracy, and was chiefly supported by the people, he was always
disagreeable to the Patricians, who looked upon his advancement to the
crown as an illegal intrusion. But as he did most signal services to his
country, during a glorious reign of four and forty years, I cannot help
taking notice of some of his institutions, without the knowledge of
which it is hardly possible to form a perfect idea of the Roman

Tullius ordered all the Romans to register their names and ages, with
those of their parents, wives and children, and the place of their
abode, either in the city or the country. At the same time he enjoined
them to give in upon oath a just valuation of their effects, on pain of
being whipped and sold for slaves if they failed in registering all
these particulars. From this register he formed his plan for a regular
and general militia, which was invariably followed by the Romans, until
the time of Marius. To effect this he divided the whole body of the
citizens into six classes. The first class consisted of those whose
possessions amounted to a hundred _minæ_.[245] These he armed in the
completest manner, and divided into eighty centuries; forty of which,
composed of the younger men, were appointed to take the field in time of
war; the other forty were assigned for the defence of the city. To these
eighty centuries of heavy armed foot he added eighteen centuries of
horse, selected out of those who had the largest estates, and were of
distinguished birth. Thus the first class contained ninety-eight
centuries. The second, third, and fourth classes consisted each of
twenty centuries only, and were composed of citizens, whose effects were
estimated at seventy-five, fifty, and five and twenty _minæ_; and their
arms were lighter according to their respective classes. To the second
class he added two centuries of armourers and axe-men. To the fourth
class two centuries of trumpeters and blowers on the horn, which
contained the martial musick of the army. The fifth class consisted of
those who were worth twelve _minæ_ and a half, which he divided into
thirty centuries, armed with darts and slings only, and were properly
irregulars. The sixth class, which was by much the most numerous, was
comprehended in one century only, and consisted of the poorest
citizens, who were exempted from all kind of taxes, as well as all
service in the army.

By this wise disposition the burthen of the war fell chiefly upon those
who were best able to support it. Thus, for instance, if he wanted to
raise twenty thousand men, he divided that number amongst the centuries
of the first five classes, and ordered each century to furnish its
respective quota. He then calculated the sum necessary for the support
of the war, which he divided in the same manner amongst the centuries,
and ordered every man to pay in proportion to his possessions. Hence the
rich, who were fewer in number, but divided into more centuries, were
not only obliged to serve oftener, but to pay greater taxes. For Tullius
thought it just, that they who had the greatest property at stake should
bear the greatest share of the burden, both in their persons and
fortunes: as he judged it equitable, that the poor should be exempted
from taxes, because they were in want of the necessaries of life; and
from the service; because the Roman soldiers served at that time at
their own expense; a custom which continued long after. For the Roman
soldiers received no pay, as Livy informs us,[246] until the three
hundred and forty-eighth year from the foundation of the city.... As the
rich, by this regulation, were subjected to the greatest share of the
expense and danger, Tullius made them an ample recompense by throwing
the chief power of the government into their hands, which he effected by
the following scheme, too artful for the penetration of the common

By the fundamental constitution of the Romans, the electing magistrates,
both civil and military, the enacting or repealing laws, and the
declaring war, or concluding peace, were all determined by the suffrages
of the people. But as the people voted by their curiæ,[247] into ten of
which every tribe was divided, the meanest citizen had an equal vote
with the greatest: consequently as the poor were much more numerous than
the rich, they carried every point by a sure majority. Tullius altered
this method, assembled the people, and took their votes by centuries,
not by curiæ. This artful measure turned the scale, and transferred the
majority to the rich. For as the votes of the first class were first
taken, the votes of that class, which contained ninety-eight centuries,
if unanimous, always constituted a majority of three votes, which
decided the question without taking the votes of the five succeeding
classes, as they were in that case wholly useless.

Tullius had married his two daughters to Tarquinius and Aruns, the
grandsons of his predecessor, whose guardianship he had undertaken
during their minority. But what tie is strong enough to restrain
ambition! his younger daughter Tullia, the most ambitious, and most
detestable of her sex, unable to prevail upon her husband Aruns to join
in deposing her father, applied to her brother-in-law Tarquinius, whose
temper was congenial with her own, and offered to be his wife if he
would assert his just right, as she termed it, and attempt to supplant
her father. The offer was accepted, and the incestuous match agreed
upon, which was soon after completed by the death of her husband and
sister, who were privately despatched, that there might be no obstacle
remaining. Tarquinius, now the worthy husband of such a wife, attempted
in the senate to procure the deposition of Tullius, but failing in his
design, at the instigation of his impious wife, he procured the old king
to be openly assassinated in the street before his palace, and the
unnatural Tullia drove her chariot in triumph over the body of her
murdered father. By this complicated scene of adultery, murder, and
parricide, Tarquin, surnamed the Proud, forced his way to the throne,
and to usurpation added the most execrable and avowed tyranny. The
Patricians,[248] who had favoured his usurpation, either from their
hatred to Tullius and the Plebeians, or from the hopes of sharing in the
government, with which, according to Dionysius, they had been privately
allured, were the first who felt the bloody effects of his arbitrary
temper. Not only the friends of Tullius, and those whom he suspected as
uneasy under his usurpation, but all who were distinguished by their
superior wealth fell a sacrifice to his suspicion or avarice. All such
were accused, by his profligate emissaries, of many fictitious crimes,
but particularly of a conspiracy against his person; the common pretence
of all tyrants. As the tyrant himself sat as judge, all defence was
useless. Some received sentence of death, some of banishment, and the
estates of both were alike confiscated. The greater number of those that
were accused, knowing the true motives of the tyrant’s conduct, and
despairing of safety, voluntarily left the city; but some of the
greatest note were privately murdered by his orders, whose bodies could
never be found. When he had sufficiently thinned the senate by the
death, or banishment of its most valuable members, he filled up the
vacant seats with his own creatures. But as he allowed nothing to be
proposed or done there, but in conformity to his orders, he reduced it
to an empty form, without the least shadow of power. The Plebeians, who
beheld with pleasure the sufferings of the Patricians, which they
esteemed a just punishment for their behaviour under the reign of
Tullius, were quickly treated with much greater severity.[249] For the
tyrant not only abolished all the laws which Tullius had established to
secure them against the oppressions of the Patricians, but loaded them
with ruinous taxes, and prohibited all their publick religious
assemblies, that they might have no opportunity of meeting to form
secret conspiracies. Proceeding then upon the constant maxim of all
tyrants, that idleness in the people is the parent of sedition, he
exhausted them so much by the slavish drudgery, in which he kept them
constantly employed at the publick works, that the Patricians rejoiced
in their turn at the heavier miseries of the Plebeians, whilst neither
of them endeavoured to put a period to their common calamities. After
the Romans had groaned five and twenty years under this cruel and
ignominious bondage, the rape committed by Sextus, the eldest son of
Tarquin, upon Lucretia, the wife of Collatinus, an eminent Patrician,
and near relation of the Tarquin family, produced a coalition of both
orders, which ended in the expulsion of Tarquin and his sons, and a
solemn abjuration of monarchical government.

The tyranny of Tarquin had made the very name of king so odious to the
Romans in general, that the Patricians, who were the chief conductors of
this revolution, found it no difficult matter to establish an
aristocracy upon the ruins of monarchy.[250] Two magistrates were
appointed, termed consuls, vested with the regal power, whose office was
annual and elective. The senate was filled up out of the most eminent
of the Plebeians, after they had first been created Patricians, and the
people restored to their right of holding assemblies, of giving their
votes and doing whatever they were entitled to by former customs. But
the power of the people was rather nominal than real. For though the
consuls were annually elected by the suffrages of the people, a
privilege which carried the appearance of a democracy, yet as the votes
were taken by centuries, not by tribes, the Patricians were generally
masters of the election. It is remarkable that, after the expulsion of
Tarquin, Dionysius constantly terms the new government an aristocracy.
It evidently appears too through the whole remaining part of his
history, that there was a selfish and haughty faction amongst the
Patricians, who affected a tyrannical oligarchy, and aimed at reducing
the Plebeians to a state of servitude. Valerius, surnamed Poplicola, the
most humane patriot of all those who were concerned in banishing the
Tarquins, introduced some beneficent laws, which, according to
Dionysius, gave great relief to the Plebeians. For by one he made it
capital for any person to exercise any magistracy over the Romans,
unless that office should be received from the people: as he ordered by
another, that no Roman should be punished without a legal trial; and
that if any Roman should be condemned by any magistrate to be fined,
whipped, or put to death, the condemned person might appeal from the
sentence of that magistrate to the people, and should be liable to no
punishment until his fate had been determined by their suffrages. A
plain proof that the Plebeians until that time laboured under grievances
not very consistent with their pretended liberty. Another proof may be
drawn from the wretched state of the Plebeians, under the cruel
oppressions arising from the avarice and extortions of the Patricians,
which first gave birth to those perpetual seditions, which fill the
history of that republick. For as the Roman soldiers, who were all free
citizens, not only paid their proportion of the taxes, but were obliged
to serve in the field at their own expense during the whole campaign,
this frequently obliged them to borrow money at high interest of the
Patricians, who had engrossed by far the greater part of publick wealth.
But as the Roman territories were often ravaged by their neighbours in
those wars, which Tarquin perpetually incited to procure the recovery of
his crown, the loss fell heaviest upon the Plebeians, who were
frequently stript of all their effects, and reduced to the utmost
poverty. Hence unable to pay the principal of their debts, joined to an
accumulated load of usury upon usury, they were surrendered by the
judges to the discretion of their creditors. These unfeeling wretches
confined their debtors in chains, tortured their bodies with whips, and
treated them with such inhumanity, that great numbers of the Romans were
in as bad a situation as the poor Athenians when Solon first undertook
the administration. The effects of this detestable treatment of people,
who had been taught to call themselves free, appeared about twelve years
after the erection of their new government. For when the Tarquins had
raised up a confederacy of thirty cities of the Latins against them, the
Plebeians peremptorily refused to enlist until a vote was passed for the
abolition of their debts. As persuasions had no effect, the senate met
upon the occasion. Valerius, the son of the humane Poplicola, pleaded
strongly in favour of the people, but was violently opposed by Appius
Claudius, a haughty and imperious man, who is termed by Dionysius an
abettor of the oligarchy, and head of that faction, which were enemies
to the people. The moderate men amongst the senators proposed, that the
debts should be paid out of the publick treasury; a measure which would
preserve the poor for the service of the state, and prevent any
injustice to the creditors. Salutary as this measure must seem, the
opposition was so great that nothing was agreed to, and the result of
the debates was, “that no decree should be made at present relating to
this affair, but that as soon as the war should be concluded with
success, the consuls should lay it before the senate, and take their
vote upon the occasion. That in the mean time no debt should be sued
for, and that the execution of all laws, except those relating to the
war, should be suspended.” This decree did not wholly quiet the ferment
amongst the people. Several of the poorer sort demanded an immediate
abolition of their debts, as the condition for their taking a share in
the dangers of the war, and looked upon this delay rather as an
imposition. The senate, who, as the event showed, were determined never
to grant their request, and yet were afraid of new commotions, resolved
to abolish the consulship, and all other magistracies for the present,
and to invest a new magistrate with absolute and unlimited power, and
subject to no account for his actions. This new officer was termed the
dictator, and the duration of his office was limited to six months, at
the end of which term the consuls were to resume their former authority.
The chief reason, as Dionysius informs us, which induced the senate to
make use of this dangerous expedient, was to evade that law which
Poplicola had procured in favour of the Plebeians, which made it death
for a magistrate to punish a Roman without a legal trial, or before he
was condemned by the people.[251] The senate then made a decree for the
election of a dictator, and the Plebeians ignorant, as Dionysius
observes, of the importance of that decree, not only confirmed the
resolutions of the senate, but gave up to them the power of choosing the
person who should be invested with that dignity. Titus Lartius, one of
the consuls, was nominated by his colleague according to the form at
that time agreed upon in the senate. When the dictator appeared in all
the pomp and grandeur of his new office, he struck a terror into the
most turbulent, and the people, thus tricked out of that law which was
their only protection, immediately submitted. Lartius, who seems to have
been one of the greatest men of his time, ordered in a general register
of all the Romans, and formed his army after that wise method first
instituted by Servius Tullius. When he took the field he persuaded the
Latins, by his singular address, to disband their forces and conclude a
truce, and thus diverted the impending storm without fighting. He then
returned home, and resigned his office before the time was expired,
without having exercised any one act of severity upon a single Roman. A
noble instance of moderation and publick virtue!

At the expiration of the truce, which was made for one year only, the
Latins took the field with a powerful army. Aulus Posthumius was created
dictator by the Romans, and a decisive battle was fought near the lake
Regillus, in which the Romans were completely victors. Sextus Tarquin
was killed upon the spot, and old Tarquin the father died soon after. As
soon as this war was ended, the senate, regardless of their promise,
ordered all those suits for debt to be determined according to law,
which had been suspended during the war. This faithless proceeding
raised such violent commotions amongst the people, that a foreign war
was judged the best expedient to divert the storm which threatened the
aristocracy. The haughty Appius Claudius, and Publius Servilius, a man
of a very different character, were nominated consuls by Posthumius and
his colleague, which seems a manifest invasion of the rights of the
people.[252] A war was resolved upon against the Volscians, but the
Plebeians again refused to obey the summons for enlisting. Servilius
adhered to the maxims of Valerius, and advised an immediate decree for
the abolition of the debts. But he was furiously opposed by the
inexorable Appius,[253] who called him a flatterer of the people, and
declared that it would be giving up the government to the people when
they had it in their power to live under an aristocracy. After much time
was spent in these debates, Servilius, who was a popular man, prevailed
upon the Plebeians, by his entreaties, and raised an army of volunteers,
with which he marched against the enemy. The Volscians, who placed their
chief dependance upon the disunion which prevailed amongst the Romans,
submitted to whatever terms the consul should think proper to impose,
and delivered three hundred hostages chosen out of their principal
families, as a security for their behaviour. But this submission was far
from real, and was calculated only to amuse the Romans and gain time for
their military preparations. War was once more decreed against the
Volscians; but whilst the senate was deliberating about the number of
the forces proper to be employed, a man advanced in years appeared in
the forum and implored the assistance of the people. Famine sat pictured
in his pale and meagre face,[254] and the squalid hue of his dress
indicated the extremes of poverty and wretchedness. This man, who was
not unknown to the people, and, according to report, had borne a command
in the army, first showed several honourable scars in his breast,
remains of the wounds he had received in the service of his country, and
then informed them: “that he had been present in eight and twenty
battles, and frequently received rewards bestowed only upon superior
bravery: that in the Sabine war his cattle were driven off by the enemy,
his estate plundered, and his house reduced to ashes: that under these
unhappy circumstances he was compelled to borrow money to pay the
publick taxes; that this debt, accumulated by usury, reduced him to the
sad necessity of selling the estate descended to him from his ancestors,
with what little effects he had remaining: but that all this proving
insufficient, his devouring debts, like a wasting consumption, had
attacked his person, and he, with his two sons, were delivered up as
slaves, and led away to the slaughterhouse by his creditors.” When he
had said this, he threw off his rags, and showed his back yet bleeding
from the scourge of his merciless master. This sight inflamed the people
greatly, but the debtors breaking out of their creditor’s houses, most
of whom were loaded with chains and fetters, raised their fury even to
madness. If any one desired them to take up arms in defence of their
country, the debtors showed their chains,[255] as the reward they had
met with for their past services, and asked with indignation, whether
such blessings were worth fighting for. Whilst numbers of them openly
declared that it was much more eligible to be slaves to the Volscians
than the Patricians. The senate, quite disconcerted by the violence of
the tumult, entreated Servilius to take the management of the people.
For an express was just arrived from the Latins, with advice that a
numerous army of the enemy had already entered their territories.
Servilius remonstrated to the people the consequences of disunion at so
critical a juncture, and pacified them by the assurance that the senate
would confirm whatever concessions he should make; he then ordered the
crier to proclaim that no citizen who voluntarily enlisted should be
subject to the demands or insults of his creditors whilst the army
continued in the field. The people now flocked in with cheerfulness, and
the levies were soon completed. Servilius took the field and defeated
the Volscians, made himself master of their camp, took several of their
cities, and divided the whole plunder amongst his soldiers. At the news
of this success the sanguinary Appius ordered all the Volscian hostages
to be brought into the forum,[256] there to be whipped and publickly
beheaded. And when at his return Servilius demanded a triumph, he loudly
opposed it, called him a factious man, and accused him of defrauding the
treasury of the booty, and prevailed upon the senate to deny him that
honour. Servilius, enraged at this usage, entered the city in triumph
with his army, amidst the acclamations of the people, to the great
mortification of the Patricians.

Under the following consulship the Sabines prepared to invade the
Romans, and the people again refused to serve unless the debts were
first abolished. Lartius, the first dictator, pleaded strongly for the
people, but the inflexible Appius proposed the nomination of a dictator,
as the only remedy against the mutiny. His motion was carried in the
senate by a majority of voices, and Manius Valerius, a brother to the
great Poplicola, was created dictator. Valerius, who was a man of great
honour, engaged his word to the Plebeians, that if they would serve
cheerfully upon this occasion, he would undertake the senate should
reward them by quieting the contests relating to their debts, and
granting whatever they could reasonably desire, and commanded at the
same time that no citizen should be sued for debt during his
administration. The people had so often experienced the publick virtue
of the Valerian family, and no longer apprehensive of being again
imposed upon, offered themselves in such crowds, that ten legions of
four thousand men each were levied, the greatest army of natives the
Romans had ever brought into the field. The dictator finished the
campaign with glory, was rewarded with a triumph, and discharged the
people from farther service. This step was not at all agreeable to the
senate,[257] who feared the people would now claim the performance of
the dictator’s promises. Their fears were just; for Valerius kept his
word with the people, and moved the senate that the promise they had
made to him might be taken into consideration. But the Appian faction
opposed it with the utmost virulence, and exclaimed against his family
as flatterers of the people, and introducers of pernicious laws.
Valerius, finding his motion over-ruled, reproached the senate for their
behaviour, and foretold the consequences which would attend it; and
quitting the senate abruptly called assembly of the people. After he had
thanked them for their fidelity and bravery, he informed them of the
usage he had met with in the senate, and declared how greatly both he
and they had been imposed upon, and resigning his office, submitted
himself to whatever treatment the people should think proper. The people
heard him with equal veneration and compassion, and attended him home
from the forum with repeated acclamations. The Plebeians now kept no
measures with the senate, but assembled openly, and consulted about
seceding from the Patricians. To prevent this step, the senate ordered
the consuls not to dismiss their armies, but to lead them out into the
field, under pretence that the Sabines were again preparing for an
invasion. The consuls left the city and encamped nearly together; but
the soldiers, instigated by one Sicinnius Bellutus, seized the arms and
ensigns to avoid violating their military oath, seceded from the
consuls, and after they had appointed Sicinnius commander in chief,
encamped on a certain eminence near the river Anio, which from that
event was always termed the _mons sacer_, or the holy mountain.

When the news of this secession was brought to Rome, the confusion was
so great, that the city had the appearance of a place taken by storm,
and the Appian faction were severely reproached as the cause of this
desertion. Their enemies at the same time making inroads up to the very
gates of Rome, increased the general consternation, as the Patricians
were terribly afraid they would be joined by the seceders. But the
soldiers behaved with so much decency and moderation, that the senate
after long debates sent deputies to invite them to return, with the
promise of a general amnesty. The offer was received with scorn, and the
Patricians were charged with dissimulation, in pretending ignorance of
the just demands of the Plebeians, and the true cause of their
secession. At the return of the deputies, the affair was again debated
in the senate. Agrippa Menenius, a man respectable for his superior
wisdom and thorough knowledge of the true principles of government, and
who was alike an enemy to tyranny in the aristocracy, and licentiousness
in the people, advised healing measures, and proposed to send such
persons as the people could confide in with full power to put an end to
the sedition in the manner they should judge most proper, without
farther application to the senate. Manius Valerius, the last dictator,
spoke next, and reminded the senate, “that his predictions of the evils
which would result from their breach of promise were now verified, that
he advised a speedy accommodation with the people, lest the same evils,
if suffered to make a farther progress, should become incurable: that in
his opinion the demands of the people would rise higher than the bare
abolition of debts, and that they would insist upon such security as
might be the firm guardian of their rights and liberty for the future.
Because the late institution of the dictatorship had superseded the
Valerian law which was before the only guardian of their liberty, and
the late denial of a triumph to the consul Servilius, who had deserved
that honour more than any man in Rome, evidently proved, that the people
were deprived of almost all those privileges they had formerly enjoyed,
since a consul and a dictator who showed the least concern for the
interests of the people, were treated with abuse and ignominy by the
senate: that he did not impute these arbitrary measures to the most
considerable and respectable persons amongst the Patricians, but to a
combination of proud and avaricious men wholly intent upon unwarrantable
gain; who by advancing large sums at excessive interest, had enslaved
many of their fellow-citizens, and by their cruel and insulting
treatment of their unhappy debtors, had alienated the whole body of the
Plebeians from the aristocracy: that these men, by forming themselves
into a faction, and placing Appius, a known enemy to the people and
abettor of the oligarchy, at their head, had under his patronage,
reduced the commonwealth to its present desperate situation.” He
concluded by seconding the motion of Menenius for sending ambassadours
to put a speedy end to the sedition upon the best terms they should be
able to obtain.

Appius, finding himself thus personally attacked, rose up and replied to
Valerius in a hot inflammatory speech full of the most virulent
invectives. He denied that he was ever guilty of enslaving his debtors:
“he denied too, that those who had acted in that manner could be charged
with injustice, since they had done no more than the laws allowed. He
affirmed that the imputation of being an enemy to the people, and
favouring oligarchy, arose from his steady adherence to the aristocracy,
and equally affected all those of superior worth, who like him disdained
to be governed by their inferiors, or to suffer the form of government
which they had inherited from their ancestors[258] to deviate into the
worst of all constitutions, a democracy. He recriminated upon Valerius,
and charged him with aiming at tyranny, by courting the most profligate
of the citizens, as the most effectual and shortest way of enslaving his
country. He termed the seceders, vile, mean wretches, a thoughtless
senseless multitude, whose present arrogance had been first inspired by
that old man, as he contemptuously called Valerius. He declared
absolutely against sending ambassadours, or making the least
concession, and advised rather to arm the slaves and send for assistance
from their allies the Latins, than submit to any thing that might
derogate from the power and dignity of the Patricians. He proposed, if
the seceders should appear in arms against them, to put their wives and
children to death before their faces by the most severe and ignominious
tortures. But if they would submit at discretion to the senate, he
advised to treat them with moderation.” This speech produced a violent
tumult in the senate, and the young Patricians who adhered to Appius
behaved with so much insolence, that the consuls threatened to exclude
them from the publick counsels, by a law which should fix the age for
the qualification of every senator. Nothing was determined at that time,
but in a few days, the moderate party, supported by the firmness of the
consuls, prevailed against the still inflexible Appius, and ten
ambassadours, at the head of whom were Menenius and Valerius, were sent
with full powers to treat with the seceders. After many debates,
Menenius in the name of the senate promised full redress of all their
grievances with respect to the debts, and offered to confirm this
promise by the solemn oaths of all the ambassadours. His offer was upon
the point of being accepted, when Lucius Junius, who affected the
surname of Brutus, a bold and able Plebeian, interposed and insisted
upon such a security from the senate as might protect the Plebeians for
the future from the power of their enemies, who might find an
opportunity of wreaking their vengeance on the people for the step they
had taken. When Menenius desired to know what security he required,
Junius demanded leave for the people to choose annually a certain number
of magistrates out of their own body, vested with the power of
defending their rights and liberties, and protecting their persons from
injury and violence. As this new and unexpected demand seemed of too
great consequence to be granted by the ambassadours, Valerius with some
others were sent to take the opinion of the senate upon that subject.
Valerius laid this demand before the senate, and gave his opinion that
the favour should be granted, and Appius, as usual, opposed it with
outrageous fury. But the majority, determined at all events to put a
period to the secession, ratified all the promises made by the
ambassadours, and granted the desired security. The seceders held their
assembly in the camp, and taking the votes by curiæ, elected five
persons for their annual magistrates, who were termed tribunes of the
people. By a law made immediately after the election, the persons of the
tribunes were rendered sacred; and the people obliged themselves to
swear by whatever was held most sacred that they and their posterity
would preserve it inviolably.

The erection of the tribunitial-power, which happened about seventeen
years after the expulsion of the kings, is certainly the æra from which
the liberty of the Roman people ought properly to be dated. All the
neighbouring states were at that time subject to aristocracy, where the
people had little or no share in the government, and it appears
evidently from the Roman historians that the Romans intended to
establish the same form of government at Rome after the abolition of
monarchy. For the senate, as Livy informs us,[259] gave a loose to that
unbounded joy which the death of Tarquin inspired, and begun to oppress
and injure the people, whom until that time they had courted with the
utmost assiduity. But Sallust is more full and explicit. For he
affirms,[260] “that after the expulsion of the kings, as long as the
fear of Tarquin and the burdensome war with the Etrurians kept the
Romans in suspense, the government was administered with equity and
moderation. But as soon as ever the dread of those impending dangers was
removed, the senate begun to domineer over the people and treat them as
slaves; inflicting death or scourging after the arbitrary manner of
despotick tyrants; expelling them from their lands, and arrogating the
whole power of government to themselves, without communicating the least
share of it to the Plebeians.” Thus the people, before the creation of
this magistracy, were amused with the name of liberty, whilst in fact
they had only changed the tyranny of one, for the more galling yoke of
three hundred. But the tribunicial-power proved an invincible obstacle
to the arbitrary schemes of the aristocratick faction, and at last
introduced that due admixture of democracy, which is so essentially
necessary to the constitution of a well regulated republick.

As a minute detail of a history so well known as that of the Romans
would be quite superfluous, I shall only observe, that the democratick
power in that republick did not arrive at its just state of
independence, until the Plebeians were not only entitled to the highest
posts and dignities, equally with the Patricians, but until the
plebiscita or decrees made by the people in their assembly by
tribes,[261] were confirmed to be equally binding as those made in their
assembly by centuries. This law was first made when the tyranny of the
decemvirs was abolished by the second secession of the people to the
Sacred Mountain, but was perpetually violated by the over-bearing power
of the aristocracy. But an event similar to that which occasioned the
first secession of the people, to which they properly owed the origin of
their liberty, was the cause of the third and last secession, which
fully completed that liberty, and gave the fatal blow to the arbitrary
aristocratick faction. Veturius, the son of Titus Veturius, who had been
consul and died insolvent, borrowed a sum of money of one Plotius to
defray the expenses of his father’s funeral. As the father was greatly
indebted to the same Plotius, he demanded of young Veturius the payment
of both debts which his father and he himself had contracted. As the
unhappy young man was utterly unable to satisfy the demand, Plotius
seized his unfortunate debtor, and confined him to the work of a slave,
until he had discharged both principal and interest. Veturius bore his
servitude with patience, and did his utmost to please his creditor. But
as he refused to gratify the detestable passion of the infamous Plotius
he treated him with the utmost inhumanity to force him to a compliance.
One day he had the good fortune to escape out of the house of his
merciless creditor, and fled to the forum, where he showed his back torn
with stripes and his body covered with blood, and explained the reason
of his shocking treatment. The people, enraged at so dreadful a
spectacle, demanded an absolute security against that law, which gave
the creditors such a shameful power over their insolvent debtors. For
though that law had been abolished near forty years before upon a like
occasion, yet the Patricians, by their superior power, had again revived
it. The consuls reported the affair to the senate, who committed Plotius
to prison, and ordered all those who were in custody for debt to be set
at liberty. The Plebeians, not satisfied with these trifling
concessions, insisted upon the absolute abolition of that inhuman law;
but they were opposed with equal animosity by the Patricians. Despairing
therefore of gaining their point by entreaties and remonstrances, they
retired in a body to the Janiculum, resolutely determined never to enter
the city, until they had received full satisfaction. The senate, alarmed
at this secession, had recourse to their last resource in all desperate
cases, the creation of a dictator. Q. Hortensius was nominated dictator
upon this occasion, a man of great temper and prudence, and a real
friend to liberty. As he was vested with absolute power by virtue of his
office, he totally abolished that law which had given such just cause of
uneasiness, and notwithstanding all the opposition of the senate,
revived and confirmed two laws which had been formerly made, though
constantly violated by the Patricians. One was, “that the decrees made
by the Plebeians should be equally obligatory to the Patricians:” the
other, “that all laws passed in the senate should be laid before the
comitia, or assemblies of the people, either to be confirmed or
rejected.” Thus the liberty, which the Plebeians had acquired by the
first secession, was confirmed in the plainest and strongest manner by
the last, which happened about two hundred and six years after. For the
Patricians, from that memorable æra, had scarce any other advantage
over the Plebeians, except what arose from their superior wealth, and
that respect which is naturally paid by inferiors to men of superior

It is evident, from that sudden change which the Plebeians experienced
in the behaviour of the Patricians at the death of Tarquin, that if the
senate could have supported themselves in that arbitrary power, which
they so visibly aimed at, the condition of the people would have been
just like that of the Polish peasants under their imperious lords. For
in that detestable aristocracy, the Patricians, not content with the
wealth of the republick, which centered chiefly in their own body, used
their utmost efforts to engross the entire possession of the lands. The
secession of the people, and the creation of the tribunes, defeated the
scheme they had formed for establishing an aristocratick tyranny. But
the frequent attempts to revive the Agrarian law prove undeniably that
the Patricians never lost sight of their ambitious views of aggrandizing
their families by an illegal usurpation of the conquered lands. Spurius
Cassius, a Patrician, was the first author of this law, about eight
years after the secession, with a view of raising himself to the regal
power by conciliating the affection and interest of the people. The law
itself was certainly just, and founded upon that equality in the
distribution of the land, which was a part of the constitution, as
settled by their founder Romulus. The plea therefore of Cassius, “that
the lands, which had been conquered by the blood and valour of the
people, should be taken from the rich and applied to the service of the
publick,” was founded upon the strictest equity, as well as the
fundamental principles of their constitution. Even Appius, the most
inveterate enemy to the people, acknowledged the justice of his
proposal, since he moved that commissioners should be appointed by the
senate to fix the boundaries of the land in question, and sell, or let
it out in farms for the benefit of the publick. This advice was
unanimously approved of, and the senate passed a decree, that ten of the
most ancient consular senators should be appointed commissioners to
carry this scheme into execution. This decree at once pacified the
people and ruined Cassius. For as he had proposed to divide two thirds
of the lands between the Latins and Hernici, whose assistance he at that
time courted, the people gave him up to the resentment of the senate,
who condemned him for plotting to introduce a single tyranny, and
ordered him to be thrown down the Tarpeian precipice.

This was the first rise of the famous agrarian law, which occasioned
such frequent contests between the senate and the people, and stirred up
the first civil war in Rome, which ended in the murder of both the
Gracchi, about three hundred and fifty years after. For the senate not
only evaded the nomination of the commissioners, as they had promised in
their decree, but, whenever that affair was brought upon the carpet,
they acted with an insincerity and artifice which are highly
inconsistent with the so much vaunted probity of the Roman senate.
Unless therefore we attend to the true reasons, upon which the agrarian
law was originally founded, we can never form a right judgment of the
perpetual dissensions between the senate and the tribunes upon that
subject. For though the chief blame, in all these contests, is most
commonly thrown upon the turbulent and seditious temper of the tribunes,
yet, if the real cause of those dissensions is impartially examined, we
shall find that most of them took rise from the avarice and injustice of
the Patricians. But though the tribunitial power was sometimes made
subservient to the interested views of some ambitious tribunes, yet no
argument can justly be drawn from the abuse of that power against its
real utility. For how much it was dreaded as the bulwark of the liberty
of the people, is evident from this consideration: that it was reduced
almost to nothing by Sylla, and afterwards totally absorbed by Augustus
and the succeeding emperors, who never looked upon the people as
thoroughly enslaved until they had annexed the tribunitial power to the
imperatorial dignity.

I remarked before, that when the highest dignities and employments in
the republick were laid open to the Plebeians, and the decrees of the
people had the same force, and affected the Patricians in the same
manner as those which were issued by the senate, the democratick power
was raised to an equality with the aristocratick. But as a third power,
or estate (as we term it) was wanting, capable of preserving the
requisite æquilibrium between the other two, it was impossible from the
very nature of the republican constitution, that the equality between
the two powers could be long supported. The concessions made by
Hortensius quieted indeed the civil dissensions; and it is remarkable
too, that after peace was restored to the republick, the progress of the
Roman conquests was so amazingly rapid, that in little more than two
hundred years from that period they had subjugated the most opulent
empires in the universe. But the same conquests, which raised the
republick to the summit of her grandeur, threw too much weight into the
democratick scale, and, by totally corrupting the Roman manners, brought
on the final ruin of their liberty and constitution. For as every
conquered province created successively a new government, these new
dignities immediately became new objects of avarice and ambition. But as
the command of the armies, the government of provinces, and the highest
posts in the state, were disposed of by the suffrages of the people; the
candidates for those lucrative employments left no means unattempted to
secure a majority. Hence, as the poor Plebeians were extremely numerous,
the man who was able to distribute the greatest largesses, or divert the
mob with the finest shows, was generally the most successful. When the
interest of the candidates was nearly equal, force was frequently made
use of to decide the contest; and it was not uncommon to see the
forum[262] covered with the slaughtered bodies of the electors. The
generals who were elected fleeced the provinces to enable themselves to
keep up their interest at home with the people, and connived at the
rapines of their soldiers to secure their affections. Hence at Rome
liberty degenerated into the most outrageous licentiousness, whilst the
soldiers gradually wore off that parental love for their country, which
was once the characteristick of the Romans, and attached themselves
wholly to the fortunes of their generals. Hence the most succesful
leaders began to look upon themselves no longer as servants, but as
masters of the republick, and each endeavoured to support his
pretensions by force of arms. The faction of Sylla and Marius filled the
city alternately with slaughter and rapine, as the fortune of their
respective leaders prevailed in the course of that destructive contest.
And Rome frequently felt the calamitous effects of war in her own
bowels, at a time when her victorious arms abroad were adding new
provinces to her dominions. These factions were far from expiring with
their leaders, but broke out again with the same baleful fury under the
first and second triumvirate. Each of these, strictly speaking, were no
more than coalitions of the same factions, where three chiefs united
their several parties to crush every other. When they had accomplished
this, and satiated their ambition, their avarice, and their private
resentments, by the most bloody proscriptions, they quarrelled about the
division of power, like captains of banditti about the division of
booty, with whom they agreed in principle, and differed only in degree.
These quarrels occasioned those civil wars, which gave the finishing
blow to the Roman republick. The ablest and most dangerous man, in each
triumvirate, proved at last the conqueror; and Julius Cæsar first put
those chains upon his country, which Augustus riveted beyond a
possibility of removal.

All the historians, from whom we have received any account of the Roman
affairs, agree unanimously in fixing their conquest of Antiochus the
Great, as the æra from whence we are to date the rise of luxury and
corruption amongst them. Livy assures us, that luxury was first
introduced into their city by the army of Manlius at their return from
Asia. They, he informs us, were the first who made Rome acquainted with
the finely ornamented couches, the rich carpets, the embroidered
hangings, and other expensive productions of the looms of Asia, with all
those elegant tables of various forms and workmanship, which were
esteemed so essential a part of that magnificence which they affected in
their furniture. They introduced wenches, who sung and played upon
different instruments, with dancers of anticks, to heighten the mirth
and indulgence of the table. To show to what height they carried the
expense and luxury of the table, he adds, with indignation, that a cook,
who, by their frugal and temperate ancestors, was looked upon, from his
very office, as the vilest slave in the household, was now esteemed an
officer of mighty consequence, and cookery was erected into an art,
which before was looked upon as the most servile kind of drudgery. Yet
new and strange as these first specimens might seem, Livy assures us,
that they were but trifles when compared to their succeeding luxury.
Before that fatal æra the Romans were poor, but they were contented and
happy, because they knew no imaginary wants: and whilst their manners
were virtuous, poverty itself was honourable, and added a new lustre to
every other virtue. But when once they had contracted a relish for the
luxury of Asia, they quickly found that the wealth of Asia was necessary
to support it; and this discovery as quickly produced a total change in
their manners. Before that time the love of glory, and a contempt of
wealth, was the ruling passion of the Romans. Since that time money was
the only object of their applause and desire. Before, ambition impelled
them to war, from a thirst of dominion; now avarice, for the sake of
plunder to support the expense of luxury. Before, they seemed a race of
heroes; they were now a gang of insatiable robbers. Formerly, when they
had reduced a people to obedience, they received them as their allies;
they now made the conquered nations their slaves. They fleeced the
provinces, and oppressed their friends. As the great offices, which
entitled the possessors to the command of armies, and the government of
provinces, were disposed of by the votes of the people, no method was
left unattempted to secure a majority of suffrages. The candidates for
these employments, not only exhausted their own fortunes, but strained
their credit to the utmost, to bribe the people with shows and
donatives. To this infamous period we must fix the rise of that torrent
of corruption, which so quickly deluged the Roman republick. The
successful candidates set out for their government, like hungry
emaciated wolves, to fatten upon the blood of the miserable provinces.
Cicero makes heavy complaints of the rapine and extortion of these
rapacious oppressors; and his orations against Verres, when accused by
the Sicilians, give us a complete idea of the behaviour of a Roman
governour in his province. The complaints of the oppressed provincials
were incessant; but every governour had his friends amongst the leading
men, whom he secured by a share of the plunder, and the weight of their
whole interest was applied to screen the criminal. Laws indeed were made
against this crime of peculation, but they were easily eluded, because
the judges, who were chosen out of the body of the people, were as
corrupt as the offenders, and were frequently their associates in
villany. Thus corruption made its way into the very vitals of the
republick. Every thing was venal, and the venality had made so rapid a
progress, even in the time of Jugurtha, which was about eighty years
after the defeat of Antiochus, as to occasion the severe sarcasm of that
prince, recorded by Sallust, which places the corruption of the Romans
in a stronger point of view, than the most laboured and pathetick
description of their historians. “That Rome had carried her venality to
so great a height, as to be ready to sell herself to destruction, if she
could but find a purchaser.” When the Romans had beggared the monarchs,
whom they vouchsafed to style their friends, and drained the provinces
until they had scarce any thing left to plunder; the same principle
which had induced them to pillage the universe, impelled them now to
prey upon one another.[263] Marius and Sylla were the first Romans who
set the fatal precedent, and were the first who bridled Rome with a
standing army. The civil power was compelled to give way to the
military, and from that period we may truly date the ruin of the Roman
liberty. The state continued to fluctuate between despotism and anarchy,
until it terminated irretrievably under the Cæsars, in the most
absolute, and most infernal tyranny that any people were ever yet
cursed with. Marius opened the bloody scene, and glutted his followers
with the blood and wealth of the friends of Sylla. Sylla repaid the
Marian faction in the same coin with usury. Battles were fought in the
very streets; and Rome, more than once, experienced all the horrors of a
city taken by storm from her own citizens. Personal resentment and
revenge for injuries received, were the pretence on both sides, but
plunder and confiscations seem to have been the chief motives. For the
rich were equally looked upon as enemies, and equally proscribed by both
factions, and they alone were safe who had nothing worth taking.

If we connect the various strokes, interspersed through what we have
remaining of the writings of Sallust, which he levelled at the vices of
his countrymen, we shall be able to form a just idea of the manners of
the Romans in the time of that historian. From the picture, thus
faithfully exhibited, we must be convinced, that not only those shocking
calamities, which the republick suffered during the contest between
Marius and Sylla, but those subsequent, and more fatal evils, which
brought on the utter extinction of the Roman liberty and constitution,
were the natural effects of that foreign luxury, which first introduced
venality and corruption. Though the introduction of luxury from Asia
preceded the ruin of Carthage in point of time, yet, as Sallust informs
us, the dread of that dangerous rival restrained the Romans within the
bounds of decency and order.[264] But as soon as ever that obstacle was
removed,[265] they gave a full scope to their ungoverned passions. The
change in their manners was not gradual, and by little and little, as
before, but rapid and instantaneous. Religion, justice, modesty,
decency, all regard for divine or human laws, were swept away at once by
the irresistible torrent of corruption. The nobility strained the
privileges annexed to their dignity,[266] and the people their liberty,
alike into the most unbounded licentiousness. Every one made the
dictates of his own lawless will his only rule of action. Publick
virtue, and the love of their country, which had raised the Romans to
the empire of the universe, were extinct. Money,[267] which alone could
enable them to gratify their darling luxury, was substituted in their
place. Power, which alone could enable them to gratify their darling
dominion, honours, and universal respect, were annexed to the possession
of money. Contempt, and whatever was most reproachful, was the bitter
portion of poverty; and to be poor, grew to be the greatest of all
crimes in the estimation of the Romans. Thus wealth and poverty
contributed alike to the ruin of the republick. The rich employed their
wealth in the acquisition of power,[268] and their power in every kind
of oppression and rapine, for the acquisition of more wealth. The
poor,[269] now dissolute and desperate, were ready to engage in every
seditious insurrection, which promised them the plunder of the rich, and
set up both their liberty and their country to sale to the best bidder.
The republick,[270] which was the common prey to both, was thus rent to
pieces between the contending parties. As an universal selfishness is
the genuine effect of universal luxury, so the natural effect of
selfishness is to break through every tie, both divine and human, and
to stick at no kind of excesses in the pursuit of wealth, its favourite
object. Thus the effects of selfishness will naturally appear in
irreligion,[271] breach of faith, perjury, a contempt of all the social
duties, extortion, frauds in our dealings, pride, cruelty, universal
venality and corruption. From selfishness arises that vicious ambition
(if I may be allowed the term) which Sallust rightly defines, “the lust
of domination.”[272] Ambition as a passion, precedes avarice; for the
seeds of ambition seem almost to be innate. The desire of pre-eminence,
the fondness for being distinguished above the rest of our
fellow-creatures, attends us from the cradle to the grave. Though as it
takes its complexion, so it receives its denomination from the different
objects it pursues, which in all are but the different means of
attaining the same end. But the lust of domination, here mentioned by
Sallust, though generally confounded with ambition, is in reality a
different passion, and is, strictly speaking, only a different mode of
selfishness. For the chief end which we propose, by the lust of
domination, is to draw every thing to centre in ourselves, which we
think will enable us to gratify every other passion. I confess it may be
alleged, that self-love and selfishness both arise from the general law
of self-preservation, and are but different modes of the same
principle. I acknowledge, that if we examine strictly all those heroick
instances of love, friendship, or patriotism, which seem to be carried
to the most exalted degree of disinterestedness, we shall probably find
the principle of self-love lurking at the bottom of many of them. But,
if we rightly define these two principles, we shall find an essential
difference between our ideas of self-love, and selfishness. Self-love,
within its due bounds, is the practice of the great duty of
self-preservation, regulated by that law which the great author of our
being has given for that very end. Self-love therefore is not only
compatible with the most rigid practice of the social duties, but is in
fact a great motive and incentive to the practice of all moral virtue.
Whereas selfishness, by reducing every thing to the single point of
private interest, a point which it never loses sight of, banishes all
the social virtues, and is the first spring of action, which impels to
all those disorders, which are so fatal to mixed government in
particular, and to society in general. From this poisonous source
Sallust deduces all those evils,[273] which spread the pestilence of
corruption over the whole face of the republick, and changed the mildest
and most upright government in the universe into the most inhuman, and
most insupportable tyranny. For as the lust of domination can never
possibly attain its end without the assistance of others, the man, who
is actuated by that destructive passion, must, of necessity, strive to
attach to himself a set of men of similar principles, for the
subordinate instruments. This is the origin of all those iniquitous
combinations, which we call factions. To accomplish this,[274] he must
put on as many shapes as Proteus; he must ever wear the mask of
dissimulation, and live a perpetual lie. He will court the friendship of
every man, who is capable of promoting, and endeavour to crush every
man, who is capable of defeating his ambitious views. Thus his
friendship and his enmity will be alike unreal, and easily convertible,
if the change will serve his interest. As private interest is the only
tie which can ever connect a faction,[275] the lust of wealth, which was
the cause of the lust of domination, will now become the effect, and
must be proportional to the sum total of the demands of the whole
faction; and, as the latter know no bounds, so the former, will be alike
insatiable. For when once a man is inured to bribes in the service of
faction,[276] he will expect to be paid as well for acting for, as for
acting against the dictates of his conscience. A truth, which every
minister must have experienced, who has been supported by a faction, and
which a late great minister (as he frankly confessed) found to be the
case with him during his long administration. But how deeply soever a
state may be immersed in luxury and corruption, yet the man who aims at
being the head of a faction for the end of domination,[277] will at
first cloak his real design under an affected zeal for the service of
the government. When he has established himself in power, and formed his
party, all who support his measures will be rewarded as the friends; all
who oppose him will be treated as enemies to the government. The honest
and uncorrupt citizen will be hunted down as disaffected, and all his
remonstrances, against mal-administration, will be represented as
proceeding from that principle. The cant term, _disaffection_, will be
the watch-word of the faction; and the charge of disaffection, that
constant resource of iniquitous ministers, that infallible sign that a
cause will not stand the test of a fair inquiry, will be perpetually
employed by the tools of power to silence those objections which they
want argument to answer. The faction will estimate the worth of their
leader,[278] not by his services to his country, for the good of the
publick will be looked upon as obsolete and chimerical; but his ability
to gratify, or screen his friends, and crush his opponents. The leader
will fix the implicit obedience to his will, as the test of merit to his
faction: consequently all the dignities, and lucrative posts will be
conferred upon persons of that stamp only, whilst honesty and publick
virtue will be standing marks of political reprobation. Common justice
will be denied to the latter in all controverted elections, whilst the
laws will be strained, or over-ruled in favour of the former. Luxury is
the certain forerunner of corruption, because it is the certain parent
of indigence: consequently a state so circumstanced will always furnish
an ample supply of proper instruments for faction. For as luxury
consists in an inordinate gratification of the sensual passions,[279]
the more the passions are indulged they grow the more importunately
craving, until the greatest fortune must sink under their insatiable
demands. Thus luxury necessarily produces corruption. For as wealth is
essentially necessary to the support of luxury, wealth will be the
universal object of desire in every state where luxury prevails:
consequently all those who have dissipated their private fortunes in the
purchase of pleasure, will be ever ready to enlist in the cause of
faction for the wages of corruption. A taste for pleasure immoderately
indulged, quickly strengthens into habit, eradicates every principle of
honour and virtue, and gets possession of the whole man. And the more
expensive such a man is in his pleasures, the greater lengths he will
run for the acquisition of wealth for the end of profusion. Thus the
contagion will become so universal, that nothing but an uncommon share
of virtue can preserve the possessor from infection. For when once the
idea of respect and homage is annexed to the possession of wealth
alone,[280] honour, probity, every virtue and every amiable quality
will be held cheap in comparison, and looked upon as awkward and quite
unfashionable. But as the spirit of liberty will yet exist in some
degree in a state which retains the name of freedom, even though the
manners of that state should be generally depraved, an opposition will
arise from those virtuous citizens, who know the value of their
birthright, _liberty_, and will never submit tamely to the chains of
faction. Force then will be called in to the aid of corruption,[281] and
a standing army will be introduced. A military government will be
established upon the ruins of the civil, and all commands and
employments will be disposed of at the arbitrary will of lawless power.
The people will be fleeced to pay for their own fetters, and doomed,
like the cattle, to unremitting toil and drudgery for the support of
their tyrannical masters. Or, if the outward form of civil government
should be permitted to remain, the people will be compelled to give a
sanction to tyranny by their own suffrages, and to elect oppressors
instead of protectors.

From this genuine portrait of the Roman manners, it is evident to a
demonstration, that the fatal catastrophe of that republick (of which
Sallust himself was an eye witness) was the natural effect of the
corruption of their manners. It is equally as evident from our author,
and the rest of the Roman historians, that the corruption of their
manners was the natural effect of foreign luxury, introduced and
supported by foreign wealth. The fatal tendency of these evils, was too
obvious to escape the notice of every sensible Roman, who had any regard
for liberty, and their ancient constitution. Many sumptuary laws were
made to restrain the various excesses of luxury; but these efforts were
too feeble to check the over-bearing violence of the torrent. Cato
proposed a severe law, enforced by the sanction of an oath, against
bribery and corruption at elections; where the scandalous traffick of
votes was established by custom as at a publick market. But, as Plutarch
observes,[282] he incurred the resentment of both parties by that
salutary measure. The rich were his enemies, because they found
themselves precluded from all pretensions to the highest dignities; as
they had no other merit to plead but what arose from their superior
wealth. The electors abused, cursed, and even pelted him as the author
of a law which deprived them of the wages of corruption, and reduced
them to the necessity of subsisting by labour.[283] But this law, if it
really passed, had as little effect as any of the former; and like the
same laws in our own country, upon the same occasion, was either evaded
by chicane, or over-ruled by power. Our own septennial scenes of
drunkenness, riot, bribery, and abandoned perjury, may serve to give us
an idea of the annual elections of the Romans in those abominable
times.[284] Corruption was arrived at its last stage, and the depravity
was universal. The whole body of the unhappy republick was infected, and
the distemper was utterly incurable. For those excesses which formerly
were esteemed the vices of the people,[285] were now, by the force of
custom fixed into habit, become the manners of the people. A most
infallible criterion, by which we may ascertain the very point of time,
when the ruin of the any free state, which labours under these evils,
may be naturally expected.

The conspiracies of Catiline and Cæsar against the liberty of their
country, were but genuine effects of that corruption, which Sallust has
marked out to us, as the immediate cause of the destruction of the
republick. The end proposed by each of these bad men, and the means
employed for that end, were the same in both. The difference in their
success arose only from the difference of address and abilities in the
respective leaders. The followers of Catiline, as Sallust informs us,
were the most dissolute, the most profligate, and the most abandoned
wretches, which could be culled out of the most populous and most
corrupt city of the universe.[286] Cæsar, upon the same plan, formed his
party, as we learn from Plutarch out of the most infected, and most
corrupt members of the very same state.[287] The vices of the times
easily furnished a supply of proper instruments. To pilfer the publick
money,[288] and to plunder the provinces by violence, though
state-crimes of the most heinous nature, were grown so familiar by
custom, that they were looked upon as no more than mere
office-perquisites. The younger people, who are ever most ripe for
sedition and insurrection, were so corrupted by luxury,[289] that they
might be deservedly termed, “an abandoned race, whose dissipation made
it impracticable for them to keep their own private fortunes; and whose
avarice would not suffer their fellow-citizens to enjoy the quiet
possession of theirs.”

It is not at all strange that Rome thus circumstanced should fall a
victim to the corruption of her own citizens: nor that the empire of the
universe, the toil and labour of ages, to which the Romans had waded
through seas of blood, should be destined to feed the detestable vices
of a few monsters, who were a disgrace even to human nature. The total
change of the Roman constitution, the unlimited tyranny of the emperors,
and the abject slavery of the people, were all effects of the same
cause, extended in degree by a natural progression. The Romans in fact
were no more; the name indeed subsisted, but the idea affixed to that
name, was as totally changed as their ancient constitution. In the time
of Pyrrhus the Roman senate appeared an assembly of kings to his
ambassadour Cyneas. When the east had felt the force of the Roman arms,
the most despotick princes received the orders of a Roman senate, and
executed them with as prompt obedience, as a slave would do the commands
of his master. A deputy from the Roman senate made a haughty monarch
tremble at the head of a victorious army, compelled him to resign all
his conquests, and return ingloriously home, by a single motion of his

What an elevated idea must this give us of the Roman manners, whilst
that haughty people retained their freedom! Nothing is more grand;
nothing more striking. Shift but the scene, and view the manners of the
Romans when enslaved. Nothing is so abjectly servile, nothing so
despicable. We see the Roman senate deifying the worst of mankind;
wretches, who had sunk even below humanity, and offering the adoration
of incense to these idols of their own making, who were more
contemptible than the very stone and wooden representatives of their
deities. Instead of giving law to monarchs, and deciding the fate of
nations, we see the august Roman senate run trembling like slaves at the
summons of their master Domitian,[291] to debate in form about the
important business of dressing a turbot!! The majesty of the Roman
people, which received the tributary homage of the universe, expired
together with their liberty. That people, who disposed of the highest
offices in the government, the command of armies, provinces and
kingdoms, were sunk into a herd of dispirited slaves. Their total
insignificancy screened them from the fatal effects of the caprices of
their tyrants. They dragged on a wretched being in a state of idleness
and poverty in the midst of slavery, and the utmost extent of their
wishes amounted to no more, than bread for their daily subsistence, and
diversions for their amusement.[292] The emperors supplied the one by
their frequent largesses of corn, and gratified the other by their
numerous publick shows. Hence historians observe, that the most infamous
of their tyrants were as fond of rareeshows, as the mob themselves, and
as they were by much the most profuse of all their emperors, their
deaths were always most regretted by the people. So striking is the
contrast between a state when blessed with liberty, and the same state
when reduced to slavery by the corruption of its people!

As I have already made some reflections upon that passion for theatrical
entertainments, which prevailed at Athens, I cannot help observing, that
after the introduction of luxury, the fondness for that kind of
diversion amongst the Romans, was at least equal to that of the
Athenians. The Romans seem to have been strangers to every kind of
stage-plays for the first four hundred years. Their first attempts of
that kind were rude and simple, and not unlike the ancient mummery at
our country wakes, or Christmas gambols. The regular drama was imported
together with the luxury of Greece, but every species of this kind of
entertainment, whether tragedy, comedy, farce, or pantomime, was
comprehended under the general denomination of stage-plays,[293] and the
different performers alike ranged under the general term of
players.[294] The profession itself was reckoned scandalous, and proper
only for slaves, and if once a Roman citizen appeared upon the stage, he
immediately forfeited his right of voting, and every other privilege of
a free man. Upon this account Cicero seems to lament the fate of his
friend Roscius, when he tells us, “that he was so superior to all, as a
player,[295] that he alone seemed worthy of appearing upon the stage:
but of so exalted a character, as a man, that of all men he deserved
least to be doomed to so scandalous a profession.” Suetonius, speaking
of the licentiousness and insolence of the players, takes notice of an
ancient law, which empowered the prætors and œdiles to whip those
players publickly, who gave the least offence, or did not perform to
the satisfaction of the people. Though Augustus[296] as the same
historian informs us, exempted players from the ignominy of that law,
yet he took care to restrain them within the bounds of decency and good
manners.[297] For he ordered Stephanio, a celebrated comedian, to be
whipped publickly through all the theatres, and afterwards banished him,
for presuming privately to keep a Roman matron disguised under the habit
of his boy. Upon a complaint from the prætor he made Hylas the pantomime
be lashed openly in the court of his own palace, to which place the
offender had fled for refuge; and banished Pylades, one of the most
eminent players, not only from Rome but even from Italy, for affronting
one of the audience who had hissed him upon the stage. But these
restraints seem to have expired with Augustus. For we find the pride and
insolence of the players carried to so great a height in the reign of
his successor Tiberius, as to occasion their total banishment. The
fondness of the populace for the entertainments of the theatre, and the
folly of the degenerate nobility, were the causes of this alteration.
For both Pliny and Seneca assure us, that persons of the very first rank
and fashion were so scandalously mean, as to pay the most obsequious
court to the players, to dangle at their levees, to attend them openly
in the streets like their slaves; and treat them like the masters,
instead of the servants of the publick.[298] Every eminent player had
his party, and these ridiculous factions interested themselves so warmly
in the cause of their respective favourites, that the theatres became a
perpetual scene of riot and disorder. The nobility mingled with the mob
in these absurd conflicts;[299] which always ended in bloodshed, and
frequently in murder. The remonstrances and authority of the magistrates
had so little effect, that they were obliged to have recourse to the
emperor. Bad as Tiberius was, yet he was too wise to tolerate such
shameful licentiousness. He laid the case before the senate, and
informed them, that the players were the cause of those scandalous riots
which disturbed the repose of the publick: that they spread lewdness
and debauchery through all the chief families; that they were arrived
to such a height of profligacy and insolence, through the protection of
their factions, that the authority of the senate itself was requisite to
restrain them within proper bounds. Upon this remonstrance they were
driven out of Italy as a publick nuisance;[300] and Suetonius informs
us, that all the frequent and united petitions of the people could never
prevail upon Tiberius to recall them.

Augustus affected an extreme fondness for all kinds of diversion; he
invited the most celebrated players of every denomination into Italy,
and treated the people, at an immense expense, with every kind of
entertainment, which the theatre or circus could furnish. This is
remarked as an instance of that refined policy of which he was so
thorough a master. For that artful prince was not yet firmly settled in
his newly usurped power. He well knew, that if he gave the people time
to cool and reflect, they might possibly thwart the execution of his
ambitious schemes. He therefore judged that the best expedient to
prepare them for the yoke of slavery would be, to keep them constantly
intoxicated by one perpetual round of jollity and diversions. That this
was the opinion of thinking people, at that time, is evident from that
remarkably pertinent answer of Pylades the player to Augustus,
transmitted to us by Dion Cassius. Pylades, as I have already observed,
had been banished by Augustus for a misdemeanor, but pardoned and
recalled to gratify the humour of the people. At his return, when
Augustus reproved him for quarrelling with one Bathyllus, a person of
the same profession, but protected by his favourite Mæcenas; Pylades is
reported to have made this bold and sensible answer. “It is your true
interest, Cæsar, that the people should idle away that time upon us and
our affairs, which they might otherwise employ in prying too narrowly
into your government.”[301]

I am far from being an enemy to the stage. On the contrary, I think the
stage under proper regulations might be rendered highly useful. For of
all our publick diversions, the stage, if purged from the obscenity of
farce, and the low buffoonery of pantomime, is certainly capable of
affording infinitely the most rational, and the most manly
entertainment. But when I see the same disorders in our own theatres,
which were so loudly complained of in the time of Tiberius; when the
ridiculous contests between contending players are judged to be of such
mighty importance, as to split the publick into the same kind of
factions; when these factions interest themselves so warmly in the
support of the supposed merit of their respective favourites, as to
proceed to riots, blows, and the most extravagant indecencies; I cannot
help wishing for the interposition of the reforming spirit of Augustus.
And when I see the same insatiable fondness for diversions, the same
unmeaning taste (so justly ridiculed by Horace in his countrymen)
prevail in our own nation,[302] which mark the most degenerate times of
Greece and Rome, I cannot but look upon them as a certain indication of
the frivolous and effeminate manners of the present age.

  [247] Romulus had divided the whole people into thirty curiæ,
  ten of which composed a tribe. At their comitia or general
  assemblies, the people divided into their respective curiæ and
  gave their votes man by man. The majority of votes in each
  curia passed for the voice of the whole curia, and the majority
  of the curiæ for the general determination of the whole people.

  Tullius on the contrary took their votes only by centuries, the
  whole number of which amounted to one hundred and ninety-three,
  into which he had subdivided the six classes. But as the first
  class alone, which was composed wholly of the rich, contained
  ninety-eight of these centuries, if the centuries of the first
  class were unanimous, which, as Dionysius informs us, was
  generally the case, they carried every point by a sure majority
  of three.... If they disagreed, Tullius called the centuries of
  the second class, and so on until ninety-seven centuries agreed
  in one opinion, which made a majority of one. If the numbers
  continued equal, that is ninety-six on each side of the
  question, after the five first classes had voted; Tullius
  called up the sixth class which was composed wholly of the
  poorest people, and contained but one century, and the vote of
  this century determined the question.... But this case, as
  Dionysius observes, happened so very rarely; that even the
  votes of the fourth class were seldom called for, and thus the
  votes of the fifth and sixth were generally useless.
  Consequently when the people voted by their curiæ, where the
  vote of every individual was taken, the poor who were much the
  most numerous, might always be secure of a great majority....
  But when the votes were taken by centuries, according to the
  new method instituted by Tullius, that numerous body of the
  poor, which composed the single century of the sixth class, and
  consequently had but one vote, became wholly insignificant.

  [244] Dionys. Halicarn. cap. 2. p. 137. Edit. Wechel.

  [245] About three hundred pounds.

  [246] Liv. lib. 4. p. 276.

  [248] Dionys. Halicarn. lib. 4. p. 182. edit. 1546.

  [249] Dionys. Halicarn. id. ibid.

  [250] Dionys. Halicarn. lib. 5. p. 205.

  [251] Dionys. Halicarn. lib. 5. p. 247.

  [252] Dionys. Halicarn. lib. 6. p. 255.

  [253] Dionys. Halicarn. lib. 6. p. 266.

  [254] I have chiefly followed Livy in his beautiful relation of
  this affair, as the description he gives of this unhappy
  object, is not only much more striking than that of Dionysius,
  but one of the most pathetick I ever met with in history. Liv.
  lib. 2. p. 92.

  [255] Dionys. Halicarn. lib. 61. p. 268.

  [256] Dionys. Halicarn. lib. 6. p. 270.

  [257] Dionys. Halicarn. lib. 6. p. 276...77.

  [258] It is remarkable that Appius terms the aristocracy, which
  at that very time was hardly seventeen years standing, the form
  of government which they had inherited from their ancestors.

  [259] Liv. lib. 2. p. 91.

  [260] Sallust. Fragment. apud Augustin. de civitate Dei. lib.
  2. cap. 18. edit. Froben. 1569.

  [261] In the comitia tributa or assemblies by tribes the people
  voted in the same manner, as in the comitia curiata or
  assemblies by curiæ. The majority of single votes in every
  tribe constituted the voice of that tribe, and the majority of
  the tribes decided the question. But the Patricians conscious
  of their superiority in the comitia centuriata or assemblies by
  centuries, constantly refused to obey the plebiscita or decrees
  made by the people in their assemblies by tribes, which they
  insisted were binding to the Plebeians only. After the
  abolition of the decemvirate the people obtained a law: ...
  “that all laws passed in their assemblies by tribes should have
  equal force with those made in the assemblies by centuries, and
  should be equally obligatory to all the Romans without

  [262] The place of election.

  [263] Proscriptiones innoxiorum ob divitias, cruciatus virorum
  illustrium, vastam urbem fuga et cædibus, bona civium miserorum
  quasi Cimbricam prædum, venum aut dono datam. Sall. Frag. p.

  [264] Ante Carthaginem deletam ... metus hostilis in bonis
  artibus civitatem retinebat. Sall. Bell. Jug. p. 80.

  [265] Postquam remoto metu Punico mores non paulatim ut antea,
  sed torrentis modo præcipitati. Sall. Frag. p. 139.

  ... Rapere, consumere, sua parvi pendere, aliena cupere,
  pudorem, pudicitiam, divina humana promiscua, nihil pensi,
  neque moderati habere. De Bell. Cat. pag. 8.

  [266] Cæpere nobilitas dignitatem, populus libertatem in
  lubidinem vertere. Bell. Jug. p. 80.

  [267] Postquam divitiæ honori esse cœperunt, et eas gloria,
  imperium, potentia sequebatur hebescere virtus, paupertas
  probro haberi, innocentia pro malevolentia duci cæpit. Bell.
  Cat. p. 8.

  [268] Ita cum potentia avaritia sine modo, modestiaque
  invadere, polluere, et vastare omnia, nihil pensi neque sancti
  habere. p. 81.

  Sibi quisque ducere, trahere rapere. De Bell. Jug. p. 81.

  [269] Eos paulatim expulsos agris, inertia atque inopia
  incertas domos habere subegit: cæpere alienas opes petere,
  libertatem suam cum Republica venalem habere. Sall. Orat. 2. ad
  Cæsarem de Repub. Ordinand. p. 197.

  [270] Ita omnia in duas partes abstracta sunt: respublica, quæ
  media fuerat, dilacerata. De Bell. Jug. p. 80.

  [271] Pecuniæ cupido fidem, probitatem ceterasque bonas artes
  subvertit; pro his superbiam, crudelitatem deos negligere,
  omnia venalia habere edocuit. De Bell. Cat. p. 7.

  [272] Cupido Imperii, id. p. 7.

  [273] Primo pecuniæ, dein imperii cupido crevit, ea quasi
  materies omnium malorum fuere.... Post ubi contagio, quasi
  pestilentia, invasit, civitas immutata, imperium ex justissimo
  atque optumo, crudele intolerandumque factum. De Bell. Cat. p.

  [274] Aliud clausum in pectore, aliud promptum in lingua
  habere, amicitias, inimicitiasq; vultum, quam ingenium bonum
  habere. Ibid.

  [275] Malitia præmiis exercetur; ubi ea demseris, nemo omnium
  gratuito malus est. p. 200.

  [276] Nam, ubi malos præmia sequuntur, haud facile quisquam
  gratuito bonus est. Sall. Orat. Philip. contra Lapid. p. 145.

  [277] Pauci potentes, quorum in gratia plerique concesserant,
  sub honesto patrum, aut plebis nomine dominationes affectabant,
  bonique et mali cives appellati, non ob merita in rempublicam
  (omnibus pariter corruptis) sed uti quisque locupletissimus et
  injuria validior, quia præsentia defendebat, pro bono
  ducebatur. Frag. p. 139.

  [278] Iidem illi factiosi regunt, dant, adimunt quæ lubet;
  innocentes circumveniunt: suos ad honorem extollunt. Non
  facinus, non probrum, aut flagitium obstat, quo minus
  magistratus expetant: quod commodum est, trahunt, rapiunt:
  postremo tamquam urbe capta, lubidine ac licentia sua pro
  legibus utuntur. Sall. Or. 2. ad Cæsar. p. 196.

  [279] Divitiis, quas honeste habere licebat, per turpitudinem
  abuti properabant. Lubido stupri, ganeæ, cæterique cultus non
  minor incesserat.... Vescendi causa, terra mariq; omnia
  exquirere; dormire priusquam somni cupido esset: non famam, aut
  sitim, neq; frigus, neq; lassitudinem operiri; sed ea omnia
  luxu ante capere. Hæc juventutem, ubi familiares opes
  defecerant, ad facinora incedebant. Animus imbutus malis
  artibus haud facile lubidinibus carebat: eo profusius omnibus
  modis quæstui atque sumtui deditus erat. Sall. de Bell. Cat. p.

  [280] Ubi divitiæ claræ habentur, ibi omnia bona vilia sunt,
  fides, probitas, pudor, pudicitia. Sall. Orat. 2. ad Cæs. p.

  [281] Itaque omnes concessere jam in paucorum dominationem, qui
  per militare nomen, ærarium, exercitum, regnum, provincias
  occupavere, et arcem habent ex spoliis vestris: cum interim
  more pecudum vos multitudo singulis habendos, fruendosque
  præbetis, exsuti omnibus, quæ majores reliquere: nisi quia
  vosmet ipsi per suffragia, uti præsides olim, nunc dominos
  destinatis. Salt. Frag. Orat. Lepid. ad Pleb. p. 160.

  [282] Διαφθειρομένου δὲ τοῦ δήμου ταῖς δωροδοκίαις ὑπὸ τῶν
  φιλαρχούντων, καὶ χρωμένων τῷ δεκάζεσθαι καθάπερ ἐργασίᾳ
  συνήθει τῶν πολλῶν, βουλόμενος ἐκκόψαι παντάπασι τὸ νόσημα
  τοῦτο τῆς πόλεως, ἔπεισε δόγμα θέσθαι τὴν σύγκλητον, ὅπως οἱ
  κατασταθέντες ἄρχοντες, εἰ μηδένα κατήγορον ἔχοιεν, αὐτοὶ
  παριόντες ἐξ ἀνάγκης εἰς ἔνορκον δικαστήριον εὐθύνας διδῶσιν.
  Plut. in Vit. Cat. p. 126.

  [283] Ἕωθεν οὖν ἐπὶ τὸ βῆμα τοῦ Κάτωνος, προελθόντος, ἀθρόοι
  προσπεσόντες ἐβόων, ἐβλασφήμουν, ἔβαλλον. Plut. ibid.


   Hinc rapti fasces pretio: sectorque favoris
   Ipse sui populus: lethalisque ambitus urbi
   Annua venali referens certamina campo.

   Lucan. Pharsal. lib. 1. Edit. 1506.

  [285] Mala sua, quod malorum ultimum est, amant ... et definit
  esse remedio locus, ubi quæ fuerant vitia, mores sunt. Senec.
  Ep. 39. p. 100.

  [286] In tanta tamque corrupta civitate, Catilina omnium
  flagitiosorum, atque facinorosorum circum se, tamquam
  stipatorum catervas habebat. Sall. de Bell. Cat. p. 9.

  [287] Καίσαρος]——τὰ νοσοῦντα καὶ διεφθαρμένα τῆς πολιτείας μέρη
  ταράττοντος καὶ συνάγοντος πρὸς αὑτὸν. Plut. in Vit. Cat. Min.
  p. 241.

  [288] Peculatus ærarii, et per vim sociis ereptæ pecuniæ, quæ
  quamquam gravia sunt, tamen consuetudine jam pro nihilo
  habentur. Sall. de Bell. Jug. p. 73.

  [289] Adeo juventus luxu atque avaritia corrupta est, uti
  merito dicatur, genitos esse, qui neque ipsi habere possent res
  familiares, neque alios pati. Sall. Frag. pag. 139.

  [290] Popilius to Antiochus Epiph. Livy. lib. 45. p. 672.

  [291] Juv. Sat. 4.


              ... Ex quo suffragia nulli
    Vendimus, effugit Curas. Nam qui dabat olim
    Imperium, fasces, legiones, omnia, nunc se
    Continet, atque duas tantum res anxius optat
    Panem et Circenses.

    Juv. Sat. 10. lin. 77.

    Otium cum servitio.

    Sall. Frag. p. 341.

  [293] Ludi Scenici.

  [294] Histriones.

  [295] Etenim cum artifex ejusmodi sit; ut solus dignus videatur
  esse, qui in scena spectetur: tum vir ejusmodi est, ut solus
  dignus videatur, qui eo non accedat. Orat. pro Rosc. Edit.
  Glasg. p. 43.

  [296] Divus Augustus immunes verberum histriones quondam
  responderat. Tacit. c. 14. p. 42. Edit. Glasg.

  Coercitionem in histriones magistratibus in omni tempore et
  loco lege vetere permissam ademit. Suet. in Vit. Aug. p. 163.

  [297] Histrionum licentiam adeo compescuit, ut Stephanionem
  Togatorium, cui in puerilem habitum circumtonsam matronam
  ministrasse compererat, per tria theatra virgis cœsum
  relegaverit. Hylam pantomimum querente prætore, in atrio domus
  suæ, nemine excluso, flagellis verberaverit: et Hyladem urbe
  atque Italia submoverit, quod spectatorem a quo exsibilabatur,
  demonstrasset digito, conspicuumque fecisset. Ibid.

  [298] Ostendam nobilissimos juvenes mancipia pantomimorum.
  Senec. Epist. 47. p. 118.

  [299] Variis dehinc et sæpius irritis prætorum questibus,
  postremo Cæsar de immodestia histrionum retulit; multa ab iis
  in publicum seditiose, fœda per domos tentari ... eo
  flagitiorum et virium venisse, ut auctoritate patrum coercendum
  sit. Pulsi tum histriones Italia. Tacit. Annal. 4. p. 134.

  [300] Cæde in theatro per discordiam admissa, capita factionum
  et histriones propter quos dissidebatur, relegavit: nec ut
  revocaret unquam ullis populi precibus potuit evinci. Suet. in
  Tib. c. 37.

  [301] Συμφέρει σοὶ, Καῖσαρ, περὶ ἡμᾶς τὸν δῆμον
  ἀποδιατρίβεσθαι. Dion. Cass. lib. 54. p. 533.


    Verum equitis quoque jam migravit ab aure voluptas
    Omnis, ad incertos oculos, et gaudia vana.

    Hor. epist. 1. lib. 2. lin. 187.

    Tanto cum strepitu ludi spectantur, et artes,
    Divitiæque peregrinæ: quibus oblitus actor
    Quum stetit in scena, concurrit dextera lævæ:
    Dixit adhuc aliquid? nil sane. Quid placet ergo?
    Lana Tarentino violas imitata veneno.

    Ibid. lin. 203.



Dionysius of Halicarnassus observes,[303] that Romulus formed his new
government in many respects after the model of that of Sparta, which
accounts for that great resemblance, we evidently meet with between the
Roman and Spartan constitutions. I may add too, that we cannot help
observing as great a resemblance for some ages at least between the
manners of both those people. For we find the same simplicity in their
houses, diet and apparel; the same contempt for wealth, and quite to the
last period of liberty, the same warlike genius. Publick spirit and the
love of their country was carried in both states to the highest pitch of
enthusiasm; it was deaf to the voice of nature itself; and that amiable
virtue wore a kind of savage aspect at Rome and Sparta. But the
alteration of their manners which alike preceded the loss both of the
Spartan and Roman liberty, will admit of no kind of comparison either as
to degree or progress. Luxury and corruption stole in by very slow
degrees, and were never carried to any remarkable height amongst the
Spartans. But, as Sallust beautifully expresses it,[304] the Roman
manners were precipitated at once to the depth of corruption after the
manner of a resistless torrent. I observe that the destruction of
Carthage is fixed upon by that elegant historian, as the æra from which
the rise of this rapid degeneracy is to be dated. He assigns too the
removal of the dread occasioned by that dangerous rival, as the cause of
this sudden and astonishing change. Because according to his reasoning,
they could then give a full loose to the impetuous fury of their
passions, without restraint or fear. But the cause here assigned is by
no means equal to the effect. For though it might contribute in some
measure to accelerate the progress of luxury, and consequently the
corruption of their manners; yet the real cause of their sudden
degeneracy was widely different.

The Romans founded their system of policy, at the very origin of their
state, upon that best and wisest principle, “the fear of the gods, a
firm belief of a divine superintending providence, and a future state of
rewards and punishments:” their children were trained up in this belief
from tender infancy, which took root and grew up with them by the
influence of an excellent education, where they had the benefit of
example as well as precept.[305] Hence we read of no heathen nation in
the world, where both the publick and private duties of religion were so
strictly adhered to, and so scrupulously observed as amongst the Romans.
They imputed their good or bad success to their observance of these
duties, and they received publick prosperities or publick calamities, as
blessings conferred, or punishments inflicted by their gods. Their
historians hardly ever give us an account of any defeat received by that
people,[306] which they do not ascribe to the omission, or contempt of
some religious ceremony by their generals. For though the ceremonies
there mentioned, justly appear to us instances of the most absurd, and
most extravagant superstition, yet as they were esteemed essential acts
of religion by the Romans, they must consequently carry all the force of
religious principle. We neither exceeded, says Cicero,[307] speaking of
his countrymen, the Spaniards in number, nor did we excel the Gauls in
strength of body, nor the Carthaginians in craft, nor the Greeks in arts
or sciences. But we have indisputably surpassed all the nations in the
universe in piety and attachment to religion,[308] and in the only
point, which can be called true wisdom, a thorough conviction, that all
things here below are directed, and governed by divine providence. To
this principle alone Cicero wisely attributes the grandeur and good
fortune of his country. For what man is there, says he, who is convinced
of the existence of the gods, but must be convinced at the same time,
that our mighty empire owes its origin,[309] its increase, and its
preservation, to the protecting care of their divine providence. A plain
proof that these continued to be the real sentiments of the wiser
Romans, even in the corrupt times of Cicero. From this principle
proceeded that respect for, and submission to their laws, and that
temperance, moderation, and contempt for wealth, which are the best
defence against the encroachments of injustice and oppression. Hence too
arose that inextinguishable love for their country, which, next to the
gods, they looked upon as the chief object of veneration. This they
carried to such a height of enthusiasm,[310] as to make every human tie
of social love, natural affection, and self-preservation give way to
this duty to their dearer country. Because they not only loved their
country as their common mother, but revered it as a place which was dear
to their gods; which they had destined to give laws to the rest of the
universe,[311] and consequently favoured with their peculiar care and
protection. Hence proceeded that obstinate and undaunted courage, that
insuperable contempt of danger, and death itself in defence of their
country, which complete the idea of the Roman character as it is drawn
by historians in the virtuous ages of the republick. As long as the
manners of the Romans were regulated by this first great principle of
religion, they were free and invincible. But the atheistical doctrine of
Epicurus,[312] which insinuated itself at Rome, under the respectable
name of philosophy, after their acquaintance with the Greeks, undermined
and destroyed this ruling principle. I allow that luxury, by corrupting
manners, had weakened this principle, and prepared the Romans for the
reception of atheism, which is the never-failing attendant of luxury.
But as long as this principle remained, it controlled manners, and
checked the progress of luxury in proportion to its influence. But when
the introduction of atheism had destroyed this principle, the great bar
to corruption was removed, and the passions at once let loose to run
their full career without check, or control. The introduction therefore
of the atheistical tenets attributed to Epicurus,[313] was the real
cause of that rapid depravity of the Roman manners, which has never
been satisfactorily accounted for, either by Sallust, or any other

The learned, I know, are not a little divided in their opinions about
Epicurus. But a disquisition into what were, or were not the real tenets
of that philosopher, would be wholly foreign to my purpose. By the
doctrine of the Epicureans, I mean that system which Lucretius has
dressed up in his poem with all the beauties of poetry, and all the
elegance of diction. This, like the rest of the atheistick systems,
which are attributed to most of the Grecian philosophers, is pregnant
with the wildest absurdities that ever entered into the human
imagination. Epicurus, if Lucretius has given us his genuine tenets,
ascribes the formation of the universe to the fortuitous concourse of
senseless atoms of matter.[314] His master, Democritus, from whom he
borrowed his system, asserts the same. But Epicurus has exceeded him in
absurdity. For Democritus, if we may credit Plutarch, endowed his atoms
with a certain living-intelligence, which Epicurus scorns to make use
of. He boldly deduces life, intelligence, and free-will itself, from the
direct, oblique, and other various motions of his inanimate atoms. He
admits a sort of insignificant beings, whom he terms gods; but as he
would not allow them to have any hand in the formation of his universe,
so neither will he suffer them to have the least share in the conduct of
it. He has showed them plainly, that he could do without them, and, as
he has made them so egregiously insignificant as to be able to do
neither good nor harm, he has packed them off at a distance, to live an
indolent, lazy life, and to divert themselves just as they think proper.
Thus he has got rid of the troublesome doctrine of a divine
superintending Providence. Sometimes he forgets himself, and seems to
deny their very existence. For he tells us in one place, that the whole
universe contains nothing but matter and empty space, or what arises
from the casual concurrence of these two principles:[315] consequently
that no third nature, different from these two, can possibly be proved
to exist either by the cognizance of our senses, or by the utmost
efforts of our reasoning faculty. He teaches, that the soul is composed
of the finest, and most subtile atoms, consequently discerptible and
mortal. That the identity of man consists in the union of these finer
corpuscles with the grosser ones, which compose the body. That, at their
disunion by death, the soul evaporates, and is dissipated in the upper
regions, from whence it first distilled, and the same man exists no
more.[316] Nay he is so amazingly absurd as to assert, that if the
soul,[317] after its separation, should still retain its consciousness,
and, after a length of time, by some lucky jumble of his atoms, should
happen to animate another body, this new compound would be quite a
different man: consequently, that this new man would be no more
interested in the actions of the former, than the former would be
responsible for the behaviour of the latter, or for that of any future
man, who might happen hereafter to be produced by another casual
assemblage of the atoms of the same soul, united to those of another
body. This doctrine is plainly stolen from the Pythagorean system of the
transmigration of souls; but mutilated, and miserably perverted to the
purposes of atheism. The absurdities in this wild philosophy are so
self-evident, that to attempt a refutation of them, would be an affront
to common sense. Yet, from this source, these philosophers draw their
pretended consolations against the fear of death. That at death the
identity of the man absolutely ceases, and we totally lose our
existence.[318] Yet, from these excellent comforters, our modern
scepticks have revived their senseless tenet of annihilation to serve
the cause of libertinism. The grand _desideratum_, in libertinism, is,
to be able to give an unbounded loose to the sensual passions, to their
very utmost extent, without any impertinent hints from a certain
disagreeable monitor, called conscience, and the dread of an
after-reckoning. Now as both these terrors are removed by this system of
annihilation, it is no wonder that libertines, who abound in a corrupt
licentious age, should fly eagerly to so comfortable a doctrine, which
at once silences those enemies to their pleasures. This is the creed
introduced by the sect of Epicurus amongst the Romans, which easily
accounts for that sudden, and universal revolution in their manners. For
manners can never be so effectually, and so speedily depraved, as by a
total extinction of all religious principle; and all religious principle
must be necessarily subverted wherever this doctrine of annihilation is
received.[319] I allow that Lucretius gives us some excellent maxims
from Epicurus, and inveighs in many places against the vices of his
countrymen. But the cheat is too gross and palpable, and only proves,
that he has gilt over the pill of atheism to make it go down more
smoothly.[320] For how can a superstructure stand when the foundation is
taken away; and of what service is the best system of morality when the
sanction of future rewards and punishments, the great motive which
should enforce the practice, is removed by the denial of a Providence,
and the doctrine of annihilation? Cicero informs us, that all the fine
things, which Epicurus asserts of the existence of his gods, and their
excellent nature, are mere grimace, and only thrown out to screen him
from censure.[321] For he could not be ignorant, that the laws of his
country punished every man with the utmost severity, who struck at that
fundamental principle of all religion, the existence of a Deity.
Cicero therefore, who had thoroughly examined his tenets, affirms him,
by his own principles, to have been a downright atheist.[322] For in
reality, a man who should assert the existence of such idle gods, as are
neither capable of doing good or hurt, must, if he expects to be
believed, be a greater fool than the man, “who says in his heart there
is no God at all.” Yet this strange system, though fraught with such
absurdities and contradictions as could scarce be palmed upon the genius
of a Hottentot, has been implicitly swallowed by too many of those
gentlemen, who affect to call themselves the _esprits forts_ of the
present age. These are the atheistical tenets of Epicurus, preserved by
Lucretius in his beautiful poem, which, like poison, conveyed in sweets,
please and murder at the same time.

The Greeks were early infected with this execrable doctrine, and shew
the effect it had upon their manners by their violation of publick
faith, and contempt for the most sacred ties of religion. Trust, says
Polybius, but a single talent to a Greek, who has been used to finger
the publick money, and though you have the security of ten counterparts,
drawn up by as many publick notaries, backed by as many seals, and the
testimony of twice as many witnesses, yet, with all these precautions,
you cannot possibly prevent him from proving a rogue.[323] Whilst the
Romans, who, by their various offices, are intrusted with large sums of
publick money, pay so conscientious a regard to the religion of their
office-oath, that they were never known to violate their faith, though
restrained only by that single tie. How greatly they deviated from this
rectitude of manners, after these infidel tenets had taken root amongst
them, we may learn from Cicero, in his orations and epistles. Sallust
too will inform us, how extremely common the crime of perjury was grown,
in that severe reproach, which Lucius Philippus, a patrician, makes to
Lepidus, the consul, before the whole senate. That he neither stood in
awe of men or gods, whom he had so frequently injured, and defied by his
villanies and perjuries.[324]

Polybius gives it as his real opinion, that nothing shows the superior
excellence of the civil government of the Romans, to that of other
people, so much as those religious sentiments with respect to their
gods, which they constantly inculcated and supported.[325] He affirms
too his real sentiments to be, that the chief support and preservation
of the Roman republick arose from that awful fear of the gods, which was
so much ridiculed, and exploded by the Grecians. I have taken the
liberty to render τοῖς ἄλλοις ἀνθρώποις, the Grecians, who are evidently
pointed at in this passage.[326] For so just and accurate a writer as
Polybius could not be ignorant, that the Grecians were the only people
in the world at that time, who had been debauched into atheism by the
pernicious tenets of Epicurus. Polybius firmly believed the existence of
a Deity, and the interposition of a divine superintending Providence,
though he was an enemy to superstition. Yet when he observed the good
effects produced amongst the Romans by their religion,[327] though
carried even to the highest possible degree of superstition, and the
remarkable influence it had upon their manners in private life, as well
as upon their publick counsels, he concludes it to be[328] the result of
a wise, and consummate policy in the ancient legislators. He therefore
very justly censures those as wrong-headed, and wretchedly bungling
politicians, who at that time endeavoured to eradicate the fear of an
after-reckoning, and the terrors of an hell, out of the minds of a
people. Yet how few years ago did we see this miserably mistaken policy
prevail in our own country, during the whole administration of some late
power-engrossing ministers. Compelled at all events to secure a majority
in parliament to support themselves against the efforts of opposition,
they found the greatest obstacle to their schemes arise from those
principles of religion, which yet remained amongst the people. For
though a great number of the electors were not at all averse to the
bribe, yet their consciences were too tender to digest perjury. To
remove this troublesome test at elections, which is one of the bulwarks
of our constitution, would be impracticable. To weaken or destroy those
principles, upon which the oath was founded, and from which it derived
its force and obligation, would equally answer the purpose, and destroy
all publick virtue at the same time. The bloody and deep felt effects of
that hypocrisy, which prevailed in the time of Cromwell, had driven
great numbers of the sufferers into the contrary extreme. When therefore
so great a part of the nation was already prejudiced against whatever
carried the appearance of a stricter piety, it is no wonder that shallow
superficial reasoners, who have not logick enough to distinguish between
the use and abuse of a thing, should readily embrace those atheistical
tenets, which were imported, and took root in the voluptuous, and
thoughtless reign of Charles the second. But that solid learning, which
revived after the restoration, easily baffled the efforts of open and
avowed atheism, which from that time has taken shelter under the less
obnoxious name of deism. For the principles of modern deism, when stript
of that disguise which has been artfully thrown over them, to deceive
those who hate the fatigue of thinking, and are ever ready to admit any
conclusion in argument, which is agreeable to their passions, without
examining the premises, are in reality the same with those of Epicurus,
as transmitted to us by Lucretius. The influence therefore, which they
had upon the manners of the Greeks and Romans, will readily account for
those effects which we experience from them in our own country, where
they so fatally prevail. To patronise and propagate their principles,
was the best expedient which the narrow selfish policy of those
ministers could suggest. For their greatest extent of genius never
reached higher, than a fertility in temporary shifts and expedients, to
stave off the evil day of national account, which they so much dreaded.
They were sensible that the wealth and luxury, which are the general
effects of an extensive trade in a state of profound peace, had already
greatly hurt the morals of the people, and smoothed the way for their
grand system of corruption. Far from checking this licentious spirit of
luxury and dissipation, they left it to its full and natural effects
upon the manners, whilst, in order to corrupt the principles of the
people, they retained, at the publick expense, a venal set of the most
shameless miscreants that ever abused the liberty of the press, or
insulted the religion of their country. To the administration of such
ministers, which may justly be termed the grand æra of corruption, we
owe that fatal system of bribery, which has so greatly affected the
morals of the electors in almost every borough in the kingdom. To that
too we may justly attribute the present contempt, and disregard of the
sacred obligation of an oath, which is the strongest bond of society,
and the best security and support of civil government.

I have now, I hope, satisfactorily accounted for that rapid, and
unexampled degeneracy of the Romans, which brought on the total
subversion of that mighty republick. The cause of this sudden, and
violent change of the Roman manners, has been just hinted at by the
sagacious Montesquieu, but, to my great surprise, has not been duly
attended to by any one historian I have yet met with.[329] I have showed
too, how the same cause has been working the same effects in our own
nation, as it invariably will in every country where those fatally
destructive principles are admitted. As the real end of all history is
instruction, I have held up a just portrait of the Roman manners, in the
times immediately preceding the loss of their liberty, to the inspection
of my countrymen, that they may guard in time against those calamities
which will be the inevitable consequence of the like degeneracy. The
unpromising aspect of our affairs, at the time of the sudden and
unexpected alliance between the houses of Bourbon and Austria, gave the
first rise to these reflections. But as the interests and situation of
this kingdom, with respect to France, are so greatly analogous to those
of Carthage with respect to Rome, I shall proceed to compare the
different manners, policy, and military conduct of those two rival
nations. By thus comparing the different policy of these warlike people,
whose views and interests were as diametrically opposite, and as
irreconcilable as those of Great Britain and France, we may learn the
superior advantages which each enjoyed, and the different disadvantages
arising from their different policy, which each people laboured under,
during their long and inveterate contests. The result, which I most
sincerely wish from this inquiry, is, that we may avoid those egregious
blunders on the side of the Romans, which reduced them to the very brink
of ruin, and those more capital defects on the part of the
Carthaginians, which terminated in the utter destruction of their very
being as a people.

  [303] Dionys. Halicarn. lib. 2. 65.

  [304] Mores majorum non paulatim ut antea, sed torrentis modo
  precipitati. Sallust. Fragment. p. 139.

  [305] Nulla umquam res publica sanctior, nec bonis exemplis
  dititor fuit. Liv. in Præfat.

  [306] Dionys. Halicarn. Lib. 2. p. 61, 62.

  [307] —Tamen nec numero Hispanos, nec robore Gallos, nec
  calliditate Pœnos, nec artibus Græcos.

  [308] Sed pietate ac religione, atque hac una sapientia, quod
  deorum immortalium numine omnia regi gubernarique perspeximus,
  omnes gentes nationesque superavimus. Cic. de. Harus. resp. p.

  [309] Quis est qui——cum deos esse intellexerit, non intelligat
  eorum numine hoc tantum imperium esse natum, et auctum et
  retentum. Ibid. p. 188.

  [310] Cari sunt parentes, cari liberi, propinqui et familiares:
  sed omnes omnium caritates patria una complexa est. Cic. de

  [311] Pro qua patria, mori, et cui nos totos dedere, et in qua
  nostra omnia ponere, et quasi consecrare debemus. Cic. de Leg.

  [312] That the fundamental principles of the stoicks tended to
  atheism I readily grant: but as the real philosophers of that
  sect inculcated a thorough contempt for what are called the
  good things of this life, and were extremely austere in their
  morals; their doctrines seem to have had a very different
  influence upon the manners of the people wherever they were
  received, from those of the Epicureans.—Brutus and Cato the
  inflexible champions of liberty, and almost the only virtuous
  characters in that corrupt period, were rigid stoicks.—Julius
  Cæsar who subverted the constitution of his country, was a
  thorough Epicurean, both in principle and practice. His
  principles we plainly see in his sophistical speech in Sallust,
  where he urges the total extinction of our being at death, as
  an argument for sparing the lives of Cataline’s accomplices.
  For he audaciously affirms to the senate:—“that death as a
  punishment was so far from being an evil; that it released us
  from all our sorrows, when labouring under distress and misery:
  that it put a final period to all the evils of this life,
  beyond which there was no longer room either for grief or joy.”
  Thus as the learned Dr. Warburton justly remarks, “he took
  occasion, with a licentiousness until then unknown to that
  august assembly, to explain and enforce the avowed principles
  of Epicurus (of whose sect he was) concerning _the mortality of
  the soul_.” Divine legation part 2d. pages, 111, 112, last
  edition. That his manners were notoriously infamous we may
  learn from the history of his life in Suetonius, where he is
  termed _the husband of every woman, and the wife of every man_.
  Omnium mulierum virum, et omnium virorum mulierem. Sueton. in
  vit. Jul. Cæsar, c. 52. ad finem.

  [313] I here mean the tenets of the _Epicurean atheists_ as
  they are termed by the very learned Mr. Baxter in his treatise
  of the immortality of the soul; where he has confuted them at
  large in the first volume of that admirable work.

  Inquiry into the nature of the human soul. Vol. 1. p. 355.

  [314] It has been remarked; that the disciples of the ancient
  Greek philosophers have blended so many of their own opinions
  with the doctrine of their masters, that it is often difficult
  to distinguish the genuine tenets of the latter, from the
  spurious ones which have been interpolated by their
  followers.... Thus Epicurus taught that the summum bonum or
  supreme good consisted in pleasure. His defenders insist: that
  he placed it in that refined pleasure which is inseparable from
  the practice of virtue. His enemies affirm; that he meant the
  grosser pleasure which arises wholly from the sensual
  passions.... His friends reply; that this notion was first
  broached by the dissolute part of his disciples, who most
  injuriously fathered it upon Epicurus, and then alleged his
  authority as a plea for their debaucheries; ... they add, that
  the true Epicureans, who adhered rigidly to the genuine tenets
  of their master, always treated these spurious disciples as
  sophists and impostors. But even allowing this to be a true
  state of the case; yet that the materiality and dissolution of
  the human soul at death was a genuine tenet of Epicurus, is a
  truth which the most sanguine of his admirers are not able to
  deny. As this pernicious tenet therefore was equally held, and
  publickly taught by both these kinds of Epicureans, a very
  small knowledge of human nature will enable us to decide, which
  of the two opposite notions of pleasure was most likely to
  prevail, and gain the greatest number of proselytes amongst a
  luxurious and corrupt people.

  The dissolute manners of the Romans in the last period of their
  republick, prove evidently, in my opinion, that the sensual
  doctrines of the later Epicureans were almost universally
  received. And if the evidence of Horace in his humourous
  description of the manners of those philosophers is to be
  depended upon, they seem to have engrossed the _name_ of the
  _sect_ wholly to themselves.

    Me pinguem et Nitidum, bene curata cute, vises.
    Cum ridere voles, _Epicuri de Grege porcum_.

    Hor. Epist. 4. lib. 1.


    Omnis, ut est igitur per se natura duabus
    Consistit rebus; nam corpora sunt et inane.
    Ergo præter inane et corpora tertia per se.
    Nulla potest rerum in numero natura relinqui
    Nec quæ sub sensus cadat ullo tempore nostros
    Nec ratione animi quam quisquam possit apisci.


    Et nebula ac fumus quoniam discedit in auras;
    Crede animam quoque diffundi, multoque perire
    Ocius, et citius dissolvi corpora prima,
    Cum semel omnibus e membris ablata recessit.


    Et si jam nostro sentit de corpore, postquam
    Distracta est animi natura, animæque potestas:
    Nil tamen hoc ad nos; qui cætu conjugioque
    Corporis atque animæ consistimus uniter apti.


    Nil igitur mors est, ad nos neque pertinet hilum,
    Quandoquidem natura animi mortalis habetur:
    —Ubi non erimus: cum corporis atque animai
    Discidium fuerit, quibus e sumus uniter apti,
    Scilicet haud nobis quicquam, qui non erimus tum,
    Accidere omnino poterit, sensumque movere.

  [319] Epicurus vero ex animis hominum extraxit radicitus
  religionem, quum Diis immortalibus et opem et gratiam sustulit.
  Cic. de Nat. Deor. p. 76 and 77.

  [320] At etiam liber est Epicuri de sanctitate. Ludimur ab
  homine non tam faceto, quam ad scribendi licentiam libero. Quæ
  enim potest esse sanctitas, si Dii humana non curant? Cic. de
  Nat. Deor. p. 78.

  [321] The principles of the new academy, that doubting sect,
  which Cicero had espoused, led so directly to scepticism, that
  he keeps us in a state of perpetual doubt and uncertainty as to
  his opinions. Mr. Baxter in his Inquiry into the nature of the
  Human Soul, vol. 2. p. 70. complaining of Cicero’s
  inconsistencies and self-contradictions, observes, that—“as
  philosophers he teaches men to be scepticks, or to maintain
  _that truth is not to be perceived_.” And afterwards adds—“But
  it is long since it hath been observed of this _great man_,
  that his _academical writings are at variance_ with his other
  works; and that he may be confuted out of himself, and in his
  own words.”

  Dr. Warburton expatiates largely upon the great difficulties
  there are in getting to Cicero’s _real sentiments_. I shall
  mention only two of them and in his own words. “A fourth
  difficulty arises from Tully’s purpose in writing his works of
  philosophy; which was, not to deliver his own opinion on any
  point of ethicks or metaphysicks; but to explain to his
  countrymen in the most intelligible manner, whatsoever the
  Greeks had taught concerning them. In the execution of which
  design, no sect could so well serve his turn as the _new
  academy_, whose principle it was, _not to interfere with their
  own opinions_, &c. But the principal difficulty proceeds from
  the _several_ and _various_ characters he _sustained_ in his
  life and writings; which habituated him to feign and dissemble
  his opinions. Here (though he acted neither a weak nor an
  unfair part) he becomes perfectly inscrutable. He may be
  considered as an orator, a statesman, and a philosopher;
  characters all equally _personated_, and no one more the _real
  man_ than the other; but each of them taken up and laid down,
  for the occasion. This appears from the numerous
  inconsistencies we find in him throughout the course of his
  sustaining them, &c.” And afterwards, p. 171, the Dr. adds—“We
  meet with numbers of the like contradictions delivered in his
  own person, and under his philosophical character,” of which he
  gives us several instances. In the note upon the word
  personated, p. 169. the Dr. observes, “that as a philosopher,
  his end and design in writing was not to deliver his own
  opinion; but to explain the Grecian philosophy; on which
  account he blames those as too curious, who were for having his
  own sentiments. In pursuance of his design, he brings in
  Stoicks, Epicureans, Platonists, Academicks, new and old, in
  order to instruct the Romans in their various opinions, and
  several ways of reasoning. But whether it be himself or others
  that are brought upon the stage, it is the _academick_ not
  Cicero; it is the Stoick, the Epicurean, not Balbus, nor
  Velleius, who deliver their opinions.” See Warburton’s Divine
  Legation, part 2. book 3. last edition, where the character of
  Cicero, as drawn by that very learned and able writer, p. 165,
  &c. is the best clew I know of to guide us through his
  philosophical works. See also, Critical Inquiry into the
  opinions and practice of the ancient philosophers, passim.

  [322] Verius est igitur nimirum illud quod familiaris omnium
  nostrum Posidonius disseruit in libro quinto de natura deorum,
  nullos esse deos Epicuro videri: quæque is de Diis immortalibus
  dixerit, invidiæ detestandæ gratia dixisse, p. 78.

  [323] Οἱ τὰ κοινὰ χειρίζοντες παρὰ μὲν τοῖς Ἕλλησιν, ἐὰν
  τάλαντον μόνον πιστευθῶσιν ἀντιγραφεῖς ἔχοντες δέκα, καὶ
  σφραγῖδας τοσαύτας, καὶ μάρτυρας διπλασίους, οὐ δύνανται τηρεῖν
  τὴν πίστιν. παρὰ δὲ Ῥωμαίοις, κατά τε τὰς ἀρχὰς καὶ πρεσβείας
  πολύ τι πλῆθος χρημάτων χειρίζοντες δι’ αὐτῆς τῆς κατὰ τὸν
  ὅρκον πίστεως, τηροῦσι τὸ καθῆκον.

  Polyb. lib. 6. p. 693.

  I have called ἀντιγραφεῖς, notary publick, because that office
  answers the idea much better, in my opinion, than
  _contrarotulator_, from which may possibly be derived our
  comptroller, which, I think, is by no means what is here meant.

  [324] Te neque hominum neque deorum pudet, quos perfidia et
  perjurio violasti. Sall. Fragm. Orat. L. Phil. Cont. Lep. p.

  [325] Μεγίστην δέ μοι δοκεῖ διαφορὰν ἔχειν τὸ Ῥωμαίων πολίτευμα
  πρὸς τὸ βέλτιον ἐν τῇ περὶ θεῶν διαλήψει. καί μοι δοκεῖ τὸ παρὰ
  τοῖς ἄλλοις ἀνθρώποις ὀνειδιζόμενον, τοῦτο συνέχειν τὰ Ῥωμαίων
  πράγματα· λέγω δὲ τὴν] δεισιδαιμονίαν. Polyb. lib. 6. p. 692.

  [326] There is indeed little occasion for an apology for this
  translation. The judicious critick will easily see, that in
  this passage there is a plain contrast drawn between the
  manners of the Grecians and the Romans in the time of Polybius.
  The cause of that difference this able writer justly ascribes
  to that δεισιδαιμονία, or awful fear of the gods, so strongly
  inculcated amongst the Romans, and so much despised and
  ridiculed amongst the Grecians, who were at that time greatly
  tinctured with the atheism of Epicurus. The instance he selects
  in proof, drawn from the very different effect of an oath upon
  the manners of those two people, must convince us beyond a
  doubt, that by the words τοῖς ἄλλοις ἀνθρώποις ὀνειδιζόμενον,
  he plainly characterizes his own countrymen. As by “οἱ νῦν εἰκῇ
  καὶ ἀλόγως ἐκβάλλειν αὐτὰ”, they who now (that is, in his time)
  inconsiderately and absurdly reject those great sanctions of
  religion, he evidently points at such of the leading men
  amongst the Romans, as in his time had embraced the pernicious
  tenets of Epicurus. For though he had stigmatized the
  Carthaginians immediately before their avarice and lust of
  gain, yet no man knew better than Polybius, that the
  Carthaginians rather exceeded the Romans in superstition. That
  they were sincere too in their belief, is evident from that
  most horrible method, by which they expressed their
  δεισιδαιμονία, which was their frequent sacrifices of great
  numbers of their own children (those of the very first families
  not excepted) to their god Moloch, who, by the Greeks and
  Romans, was termed Chronos and Saturn.

  I thought this remark might not be unuseful, because as none of
  the commentators have taken any notice of it, so neither
  Casaubon, nor any translator I have yet met with, seems to have
  given us the true spirit and meaning of this remarkable

  [327] Ἐπὶ τοσοῦτον γὰρ ἐκτετραγῴδηται καὶ παρεισῆκται τοῦτο τὸ
  μέρος παρ’ αὐτοῖς εἴς τε τοὺς κατ’ ἰδίαν βίους, καὶ τὰ κοινὰ
  τῆς πόλεως, ὥστε μὴ καταλιπεῖν ὑπερβολήν. Ibid.

  [328] Διόπερ οἱ παλαιοὶ δοκοῦσί μοι τὰς περὶ θεῶν ἐννοίας, καὶ
  τὰς περὶ τῶν ἐν ᾅδου διαλήψεις οὐκ εἰκῇ καὶ ὡς ἔτυχεν εἰς τὰ
  πλήθη παρεισαγαγεῖν, πολὺ δὲ μᾶλλον οἱ νῦν εἰκῇ καὶ ἀλόγως
  ἐκβάλλειν αὐτὰ. Lib. 6. p. 693.

  [329] But as soon as Epicurus and his followers began to weaken
  the foundation and principles of religion, by calling them in
  question, all manner of immorality came rolling in like a
  mighty torrent, and threw down the banks of law and sobriety.
  Lawrence, M. A.



The origin of both these people seems alike to have been extremely low.
Romulus, according to Dionysius of Halicarnassus, could form no more
than three thousand foot and three hundred horse out of his whole
people, where every individual was obliged to be a soldier. The Tyrians,
who accompanied Dido in her flight from her brother Pymalion, could be
but few in number from the very circumstances of their escape from an
avaricious and vigilant tyrant.

Romulus, to supply this defect, not only opened an asylum for all
fugitives, whom he admitted as subjects, but in all his conquests over
the neighbouring states, annexed the lands to his own small territory,
and incorporated the prisoners amongst his own Roman citizens. By this
masterly policy, notwithstanding the number of men he must necessarily
have lost during a warlike reign of thirty-seven years, he left at his
death, according to Dionysius, forty-five thousand foot and a thousand
horse. As the same policy was pursued under the republican as under the
regal government, the Romans, though involved in continual wars, found
themselves not inferior in number even to those nations, who were
reputed the most populous. Dionysius, from whom I have taken this
account, extols the policy of the Romans in this point as greatly
superior to that of the Grecians. The Spartans, says that judicious
historian, were obliged to give up their dominion over Greece by their
single defeat at Leuctra; as the loss of the battle of Chæronea reduced
the Thebans and Athenians to the sad necessity of yielding up the
government of Greece, as well as their liberty, to the Macedonians.
These misfortunes Dionysius imputes to the mistaken policy of the
Grecians, who were, in general, unwilling to communicate the privileges
of their respective states to foreigners. Whereas the Romans, who
admitted even their enemies to the rights of citizenship, derived
additional strength even from their misfortunes. And he affirms, that
after the terrible defeat of Cannæ, where out of eighty-six thousand
little more than three thousand three hundred and seventy men escaped,
the Romans owed the preservation of their state, not to the benevolence
of fortune, as some, he says, imagine, but to the number of their
disciplined militia, which enabled them to encounter every danger. I am
sensible that the remarks of Dionysius, which have been adopted by many
of our modern writers, are extremely just in relation to the Thebans and
Athenians. Because as the former of these people endeavoured to extend
their dominions by arms, the latter both by arms and commerce, both
states ought, like the Romans, to have attracted as many foreigners as
possibly they could, to enable them to execute plans which require an
inexhaustible supply of people. But the exclusion of foreigners ought
not, in my opinion, to be censured as a defect in the Spartan
constitution. Because it is evident, from the testimony of Polybius and
Plutarch, that the great end which Lycurgus proposed by his laws, was
not to increase the wealth or power of his countrymen, but to preserve
the purity of their manners; as his military regulations, according to
the same authors, were not calculated for making conquests and serving
the purposes of ambition, but for the defence and security of his
republick. I observe too in proof of my opinion, that the Spartans
gradually lost their virtue, and afterwards their liberty, only so far
as they deviated from the institutions of their legislator.... But I
return from the digression into which this subject unavoidably led me.

In our researches back into the remote times of antiquity, we must lay
hold of whatever helps we are able to meet with. If Justin therefore is
to be credited, Dido not only received considerable assistance from a
colony of Tyrians which she found settled in Utica, but admitted great
numbers of the natives who settled with her in the new city, and
consequently became Carthaginians.[330] I may add too in proof of this
account, that unless the Carthaginians had long pursued this wise
policy, it is scarce possible by the course of nature, that the Tyrians
alone could have multiplied by propagation to so prodigious a degree,
as to be able to furnish men sufficient to raise and carry on that
extensive commerce, and plant those numerous colonies which we meet with
in the earlier ages of their history.

As to their constitution, Rome and Carthage were both republicks, both
free, and their form of government nearly similar, as far as we can
collect from history. Two supreme magistrates,[331] annually elected,
the senate, and the people, formed the body politick in each republick.
The annual elections of their chief magistrates were a permanent source
of division and faction alike in both; a defect which Lycurgus guarded
against in the Spartan government, where the chief magistracy was
perpetual and hereditary. The senate in both nations was composed out of
the most respectable and greatest men in each republick. At Rome the
consuls chose the senators with the approbation of the people, but at
last the censors arrogated that power to themselves. At Carthage, as
Aristotle informs us, the senators were elected; but as he has no where
told us who were the electors, it is most probable, that the right of
election was the inherent privilege of the people, since he censures
that republick as too much leaning towards democracy. At Rome, in the
virtuous times of that republick, birth and merit alone entitled the
possessor to a place in the senate, as well as the chief offices in the
state. At Carthage, though birth and merit seem to have been
qualifications indispensably necessary, yet even these could not
succeed,[332] unless the candidate was at the same time master of such a
fortune as would enable him to support his dignity with lustre.[333]
This Aristotle censures as a defect. For he looks upon all that merit,
which was unsupported by the proper proportion of wealth, as so much
lost to the Carthaginians; and he lays down that maxim in their
government, as the real cause of that undue respect for wealth, and that
lust of gain, which prevailed so much in that republick. But the
sentiments of this philosopher, like those of his master Plato, are, I
fear, too ideal to be reduced to practice. For he does not seem to
attend to the different genius of different nations, but aims at
adjusting the balance of power in his republick by the nice standard of
philosophick theory. The genius of nations differs perhaps as much as
their climate and situation, which seem (at least in some degree) to be
the natural cause of that difference. The republicks of Sparta and Rome
were both military, and military glory stamped the primary character of
both these people. The republick of Carthage, like that of their
ancestors, the Tyrians, was commercial. Hence the lust of gain marked
their ruling character. Their military character arose from the
necessity of defending that wealth which their commerce had acquired.
Hence military glory was but a secondary passion, and generally
subservient to their lust of gain. Unless we attend to the different
ruling passion, which forms the different character of each republick,
we shall never be able to make such a comparison as will do equal
justice to each people. At Sparta and Rome wealth was despised, when put
in competition with honour, and poverty joined with merit formed the
most estimable of all characters. Quite different maxims prevailed at
Carthage. Wealth with them was the chief support of merit, and nothing
was so contemptible as poverty. Hence the Carthaginians, who were well
acquainted with the power and influence of wealth, required the
additional qualifications of an ample fortune in all candidates for the
senatorial dignity, and publick employments. For they judged that such
men would be less exposed to the temptations of corruption, and at the
same time more anxious for the welfare of a state, in which they were so
deeply interested by their private property. That this was the real
state of the case, at Carthage, notwithstanding the suggestions of
Aristotle and the Greek and Roman historians, may, I think, be fairly
proved from the behaviour of their senate and the choice of their
officers, which ought certainly to be admitted as the best evidence. For
we constantly find all their publick employments filled up with men of
the greatest families, and (unless when the intrigues of faction
sometimes prevailed) of the greatest abilities. We find in general the
same firm and steady attachment to the service of their country, and the
same indefatigable zeal for extending the territories and power of their
republick. Nor does the most partial historian charge any one of them
with sacrificing the honour and interest of his country to any foreign
power for money: a practice which was shamefully common amongst the
Roman generals in the time of Jugurtha. Hence we may, I think, assign
the true reason, why the greatest families in Carthage (as we are
informed by historians) thought it no way derogatory to their honour to
engage in commerce. For as this is most probably to be understood of the
younger sons of their nobility, the true motive seems to arise, not from
avarice, as their enemies object, but from a view of raising such a
fortune, as might qualify them for admission into the senate, or any of
the great employments. Hence too it is evident, that a regulation which
might be highly useful and salutary in an opulent commercial republick,
would be greatly injurious to such military republicks as Rome and
Sparta, by corrupting their manners. We need no other proof than the
fate of those two republicks, who both owed their ruin to the
introduction of that wealth, which was unknown to their virtuous
ancestors. The Carthaginian senate seems to have been much more numerous
than the Roman. For at Carthage there was a select standing committee
established, of one hundred and four of the most respectable members, to
keep a watchful eye over the great families, and repress any attempts
which their ambition might make to subvert the constitution.[334] To
this committee all their commanding officers by sea and land, without
exception, were obliged to give a strict account of their conduct at the
end of every campaign. We may therefore properly term it the
Carthaginian court-martial. Out of this venerable body another select
committee was formed of five members only, who were most conspicuous for
their probity, ability, and experience. These served without fee or
salary; as glory, and the love of their country, were esteemed motives
sufficient to engage men of their superior rank and character, to serve
the publick with zeal and fidelity.[335] For which reason they were
not chosen by lot, but elected by merit. Their power was very extensive.
Their office was for life, and they filled up any vacancy in their own
body, out of the one hundred and four, and all vacancies in that grand
committee, out of the rest of the senate, by their own authority and at
their own discretion.[336] They were the supreme judges besides in all
causes whatsoever without appeal. The institution of this grand
committee, in my opinion, exceeded every thing in the Roman policy. For
it preserved their state from all those violent concussions, which so
frequently shook, and at last totally subverted the Roman
republick.[337] But the power of the committee of five was exorbitant,
and dangerous to the lives and fortunes of their fellow-citizens. The
proof is from fact. For at the conclusion of the second Punick war, they
had made so arbitrary an use of their power, and were grown so odious to
the people, that the great Hannibal regulated that amongst other abuses,
and procured a law, which made that office annual and elective, with a
clause forbidding any future alteration. Whether the Carthaginian
senators enjoyed their seats for life, or whether they were liable to be
expelled for any misdemeanour, and by whom, are points in which history
is quite silent. At Rome, as the censors had the power of promoting to
that dignity, so they had equally the power of expelling any member for
bad manners, by the single ceremony of leaving out his name when they
called over the list of the senate. I cannot help thinking this a great
defect in the Roman polity: since it threw the power of garbling and
modelling the senate into the hands of two men, who were liable to be
corrupted to serve the ends of faction. A power which ought never to be
lodged in so few hands in a country which enjoys the blessings of
liberty. For how serviceable soever it might have been, as a curb to
licentiousness in the earlier ages of that republick; yet Cicero, in his
oration for A. Cluentius, inveighs bitterly against the abuse of the
censorial power in his time, and gives several instances where it was
made subservient to the ends of faction in modelling the senate. And he
seems to fear that the censors list may bring as many calamities upon
the citizens as the late most inhuman proscription; and that the point
of the censors pen may prove as terrible as the sword of their late
dictator. C. Nepos, in the life of Hamilcar, takes notice of an officer
of the same nature amongst the Carthaginians, to whose inspection the
greatest men in that republick seem to have been subject. But it does
not appear from history, whether his power extended so far as to expel a
senator. Should a bad prince, or a wicked minister, ever be invested
with the power of weeding the house, and modelling the parliament at
pleasure, there would be an end of our constitution and liberty.

In the Roman senate all questions were decided (as in our parliament) by
a majority of voices. At Carthage no law could pass, unless the senate
were unanimous, like the Polish diet. One single veto from any one
member, took the question out of the hands of the senate, and gave up
the ultimate decision to the people, who were the _dernier resort_ of
all power. This Aristotle censures as inclining more towards democracy
than was consistent with the just rules of a well regulated
republick.[338] Because the magistrates were not only obliged to open
all the different opinions and debates of the senators upon the
question, in the hearing of the people, who were the absolute and
decisive judges in all these cases of appeal; but any one, even the
lowest fellow in the mob, might freely give his opinion in opposition
just as he thought proper. A source of endless discord, anarchy, and
confusion! A kind of polity, as Aristotle observes, unknown in any other
form of republican government.

In this point, I think the Roman polity far preferable to the
Carthaginian, except in those abuses of the tribunitial power, which so
frequently happened towards the decline of that republick. But when any
one turbulent, seditious tribune, instigated by ambition, or corrupted
by a faction (which in those times was generally the case) could by his
single veto, stop all proceedings of the senate, and haul the case
before the people; nay when he could drag the supreme magistrates, the
consuls themselves, to prison, by his sole authority, and could commit
the most outrageous, and most shameful acts of licentiousness with
impunity, because their office rendered their persons sacred by law, I
esteem the Carthaginian polity infinitely more eligible. For that fear
and jealousy of ceding any part of the authority, which is so natural to
men in power, would always be a strong motive to union in a Carthaginian
senate; because it would naturally induce any member, rather to give up
his private opinion, than suffer an essential part of their power to
devolve to the people. But the Roman tribunitial power, which was in
constant opposition to the senatorial, drew at last by much too great a
weight into the democratick scale, and in the last period of their
liberty was a principal leading cause of the ruin of that republick. For
as the senate was unsupported by a third power so essentially requisite
to preserve the balance of government in its due æquipoise, the tribunes
perpetually fomented and kept up those terrible feuds, which brought on
anarchy, and terminated in absolute insupportable tyranny.

The condition of the Roman populace before the erection of the
tribunitial power, seems, in my judgement, to have been little better
than that state of vassalage, which the peasants groan under in Poland.
The relation between patron and client amongst the Romans, seems to be
something analogous to the relation between lord and vassal, with this
difference, that the client had the free choice of his patron, which the
vassal has not with respect to the lord. At least it is certain, if we
may credit the Roman historians, that their people were subject to
equal, if not greater exactions and oppressions from the Patricians. How
heavy these were, we may learn from the numerous mutinies,
insurrections, and that great secession, which compelled the Patricians
to create the tribunitial office in their favour. This new office
occasioned a great revolution in their new government, and produced
those perpetual conflicts between the aristocratick and democratick
powers, which fill the history of that republick. The Patricians had
recourse frequently to their only resource a dictator with absolute
power, to defend them from the insolence of the tribunes. But this was
only a temporary expedient. The people renewed their attacks, until they
had abolished the distinct prerogatives arising from birth and family,
and laid open all honours, even the consulship, and dictatorship, the
supreme magistracy of all, to the free admission of their own body. The
people were highly elated with these repeated victories, as they
imagined them, over their old enemies the Patricians, but they were
quickly sensible, that in fact, they were only the dupes of their
ambitious leaders. The most opulent and powerful of the Plebeians, by
serving the high offices of the state, acquired the title of nobles, in
contradistinction to those, who were descended from the Patrician
families, who still retained their ancient appellation. These new
nobles, many of whom had crept into the senate, sided constantly with
the Patricians in all disputes and contests with their former friends,
the people, and were generally their greatest enemies. The Patricians,
strengthened by this new acquisition of power, were frequently too hard
for the tribunes. In those memorable contests with the two Gracchi, who
endeavoured in their tribuneship to revive the Agrarian law (calculated
to divide the conquered lands among the poor citizens) the dispute seems
to have lain wholly between the rich and the poor: for the nobles and
rich Plebeians were as unwilling to part with their land, as the
Patricians. This strengthened the Patricians so much, that they were
able in each of those contests, to quell the efforts of the people by
force, and quash the whole affair by the death of both the Gracchi.

It has been a general remark of most writers, both ancient and modern,
that the Roman republick owed its preservation to the firmness and
wisdom of the senate, and the subordinate obedience of the people: and
that the republick of Carthage must ascribe its ruin to that ascendency,
which the people had usurped over the authority of the senate. The
reverse of this seems to be the truth. We meet with but one instance in
history, where the power of the Carthaginian people over-ruled the
authority of their senate, so far as to compel them to act contrary to
their opinion. This was that shameful violation of the law of nations in
seizing the transports which were bringing necessaries to Scipio’s camp,
during the truce he had granted that they might send ambassadours to
Rome to negotiate a peace with the Roman senate. For though they
threatened violence to the senate, if they submitted to those hard terms
which were imposed by Scipio after the defeat at Zama; yet they were
easily reduced to obedience by Hannibal, and resigned the whole affair
to the decision of the senate. The Roman history, on the contrary, is
one continued detail of animosities, and frequently most bloody
contests, between the senate and the people in their perpetual struggles
for power. And the frequent elections of that low Plebeian Marius to the
consular dignity, in opposition to the Patricians, (the malignant
effects of the over-bearing power of the people) opened that scene of
blood and anarchy, which ended only in the utter subversion of their
liberty and constitution.

The judicious Montesquieu observes, “that the Carthaginians grew rich
much sooner than the Romans, and consequently sunk much sooner into
corruption.” He adds too; “that whilst merit alone entitled the
possessor to the great employments at Rome, every thing which the
publick at Carthage had the power of bestowing, was venal.”... The
former part of this assertion is too general to be admitted without
proper restrictions; the latter is a plain transcript from Polybius. The
Carthaginians must have been rich several ages before the Romans. For
both Herodotus and Thucydides (who was but thirteen years younger) take
notice of them as a very formidable maritime power, a circumstance which
could only arise from their naval genius and extensive commerce. Yet we
find no instance of their being corrupt, until the conclusion of the
second Punick war, when Hannibal reformed those shameful abuses, which
had crept into the management of the publick revenue, and restrained
that power which the committee of five had usurped over the lives and
fortunes of their fellow-citizens. As for the quotation out of Polybius,
whose country was at that time a province to the Romans, with whom he
resided only as a state prisoner; I esteem it as no more than a
compliment to the Romans’ vanity at the expense of the Carthaginians,
whose very name was odious to that people. Or very probably he might
bring that charge against the Carthaginians, as a hint to show the
consequences of the same species of corruption, which, even in his time,
had found entrance amongst the Romans.

As to religion, both nations were equally superstitious. If many of the
religious ceremonies amongst the Romans were absurd and childish, it
must be owned that the Carthaginian worship, like that of their
ancestors the Canaanites, from whom they received it, was truly
diabolical.[339] But it is by no means candid to judge of the natural
bent and temper of a people, from effects produced in their minds by
superstition. For the same superstition which enjoins such horrid rites,
will naturally place the chief efficacy of the sacrifice in the zeal and
sincerity of the offerer. Consequently the highest degree of merit in
such oblations, will consist in stifling every human affection, and
over-ruling nature. Thus in the Carthaginian idolatry, the softer sex,
as more susceptible of tenderness for their offspring, were required to
attend in person. They were even compelled,[340] upon this dreadful
occasion, to affect all the joy and cheerfulness of festivity, because,
as Plutarch informs us, if a sigh or a tear escaped them, the merit of
the offering would be absolutely lost, and themselves liable to a fine.
That the Carthaginians were no more void of parental affection than
other nations, is evident from that pious fraud they had so long
practised,[341] of secretly buying up poor children, whom they
substituted as victims to their bloody deity instead of their own. But
after a great defeat which they received from Agathocles, they
attributed their ill fortune to the resentment of their god for their
repeated sacrilege. They sacrificed two hundred children of the first
families in Carthage,[342] and three hundred other persons offered
themselves as voluntary victims to atone for a crime, to which the
highest degree of guilt was affixed by their impious religion. The Roman
superstition must in general be acquitted of the charge of inhumanity.
The only tendency towards it, was in the custom of inhuming alive such
of the vestal virgins, as had violated their vow of chastity.[343] But
the bloody and frequent shows of the gladiators, which were the delight
of the Romans, fix an indelible blot on the character of a brave
people.[344] Historians in general brand the Carthaginians with cruelty
and inhumanity. If the charge is just, it must be chiefly attributed to
that execrable custom of human sacrifices, which always prevailed
amongst that people. Nor do I in the least doubt, but that savage
ferocity, which the Romans were so guilty of in war, was in a great
measure owing to those barbarous spectacles, where wounds, and murder in
cold blood, made the most agreeable part of the entertainment.

As to publick virtue or love of their country, the Carthaginians were no
way inferior to the Romans. The intrepid behaviour of the Philæni,[345]
two Carthaginian brothers, who consented to be buried alive to enlarge
the boundaries of their country, equals the most heroick instance of
that kind of enthusiasm, which the Roman story can boast of. The fate of
Macheus, Bomilcar, Hanno, and others, afford undeniable proof, that
neither birth, dignity, nor the greatest services, could screen that man
from the most ignominious death, who made the least attempt to subvert
the liberty of his country. I have before taken notice of the _punica
fides_, or that proverbial want of sincerity, which has been so often
objected by the Roman historians: but I cannot help observing with the
more impartial Montesquieu,[346] “that the Romans never made peace with
sincerity and good faith, but always took care to insert such conditions
as, in the end, proved the ruin of the people with whom they treated:
that the peace they granted was no more than a politick suspension of
arms, until an opportunity offered of completing their conquests: that
it was their invariable maxim to foment divisions among the neighbouring
powers, and by siding alternately with either party, as they found it
most conducive to their own interest, play one against the other, until
they had reduced all equally into provinces: that they frequently
employed the subtilty and ambiguity of terms in their own language, to
finesse and chicane in their treaties.” Thus they cheated the Ætolians
by the ambiguous phrase of yielding themselves up to the faith of the
Roman people.[347] The poor Ætolians imagined, that the term implied
only alliance. But the Romans soon convinced them, that what they meant
by it, was absolute subjection. They destroyed Carthage under sanction
of the most vile equivocation,[348] pretending, “that though they
promised that deluded people to preserve their state, they did not mean
to grant them their city, which word they had purposely omitted.” Maxims
which the French have steadily and too successfully pursued, and are
still pursuing!... Montesquieu very judiciously observes “... that the
Romans were ambitious from the lust of domination: the Carthaginians
from the lust of gain.” This accounts for the different reception which
commerce met with in the two nations. At Carthage commerce was esteemed
the most honourable of all employments. At Rome commerce was held in
contempt. It was there looked upon as the proper occupation of slaves
only, and disgraceful to a free citizen. Thus the one loved war for the
sake of glory and acquiring dominion; the other looked upon war as a
means of acquiring wealth, and extending commerce. The Romans plundered
the vanquished enemy to make a parade with their wealth in the triumphal
procession. The Carthaginians fleeced not only their enemies, but their
tributary provinces, and oppressed their allies, to feed their own
private avarice, as well as that of the publick. The oppressions of the
Carthaginian generals in Spain lost them all their allies. The wiser
policy of Scipio attached those allies unalterably to the Romans. The
exactions of their rapacious governors in the African provinces, were
the sources of perpetual revolts, upon the approach of any invader, from
a desire of changing masters. When Scipio landed, he was joined by all
those provinces, who looked upon the Romans as their deliverers. As soon
as luxury had introduced avarice and corruption amongst the Romans,
their generals and governours pursued the same destructive maxims, which
was one leading cause of the final ruin of both the western and eastern

There cannot be a stronger proof of a weak or a corrupt administration,
than when indigent and necessitous men are appointed to the government
of distant provinces, from no other motive than party merit, and with no
other view than to raise a fortune at the expense of the people. Whether
the wretched and defenceless condition in which the French found our
colonies at the beginning of this war, ought not to be ascribed chiefly
to this cause, is a question I shall wave at present. Because the evils
we have already suffered from former misconduct, will, I hope, be now
removed, by a total alteration of measures under an able and honest

It is remarkable, that not one of the historians who reproach the
Carthaginians with corruption, were ever able to accuse them of luxury
and effeminacy. The Carthaginians, to their immortal honour, stand
single upon the records of history, “the only people in the universe,
upon whom immense wealth was never able to work its usual effects.” The
Romans, corrupted by wealth, quickly lost all pretensions both to
publick and private virtue, and from a race of heroes, degenerated into
a nation of the most abject slaves. The Carthaginian virtue was so far
from degenerating that it shone brighter in the last period of their
history, than in any of the former. Even the behaviour of their women in
that long and brave defence of their city against the whole Roman power,
equalled, or rather exceeded, that of the Roman matrons in those times,
when they were most celebrated for publick virtue. When the Romans were
masters of the city, one small part only excepted, and that part
actually in flames, the generous wife of Asdrubal the chief
commander,[349] closed the scene by as desperate an act of heroick
bravery, as can be met with in history. After she had upbraided her
husband as a coward and a traitor for submitting to Scipio, she declared
her determined resolution of dying free, and not surviving the fate of
her country. She first stabbed both her children, and threw them into
the flames; then leaped in after their bodies, and buried herself in the
ruins of Carthage.

The sententious Montesquieu remarks,[350] “that when Carthage made war
with her opulence against the Roman poverty, her great disadvantage
arose from what she esteemed her greatest strength, and on which she
placed her chief dependence. The reason, as he judiciously observes, is
evident. Gold and silver may be easily exhausted, but publick virtue,
constancy, and firmness of mind, fortitude and poverty, are
inexhaustible.” The Carthaginians in their wars employed foreign
mercenaries. The Roman armies were composed of their own natives. A
defeat or two at sea obstructed the Carthaginian commerce, and stopped
the spring which supplied their publick exchequer. The loss of a battle
in Africa, where their country was quite open, and destitute of
fortresses, and the natives as much strangers to the use of arms as our
own country people, reduced them to submit to whatever terms the victors
thought proper to impose. Regulus, in the first Punick war, cooped up
the Carthaginians in their capital, after he had given them one defeat
by sea, and one by land. The Romans, after receiving four successive
defeats from Hannibal, the last of which was the fatal battle of Cannæ,
where they lost most of their best officers, and all their veteran
troops, would hearken to no terms of accommodation, and even sent
re-enforcements to Spain and other places, though Hannibal was at their
gates. The reason is plain. The citizens of Carthage consisted chiefly
of unarmed, and undisciplined tradesmen. The citizens of Rome, without
distinction, composed a regular body of disciplined militia.... A short
comparison between the Roman and Carthaginian polity, with respect to
the military of each people, will easily point out to us the true cause
which gave the Romans their manifest superiority.

I have already taken notice of some capital defects of the
Carthaginians, both in their marine and military departments.
Montesquieu imputes several capital errors to the Romans, but he
attributes their preservation after the defeat at Cannæ, when they were
at the very brink of ruin, to the force of their institution. He seems
to place this force in the superior wisdom and firmness of the Roman
senate. A short inquiry into their conduct, during the second Punick
war, will show that the cause of their preservation at that time must be
ascribed to a very different principle, and that Montesquieu too hastily
adopted that opinion from the Greek and Roman historians.

If we examine the boasted behaviour of the Roman senate, from the first
attack of Saguntum to the memorable battle of Cannæ, we shall find it to
consist of one continued series of blunders, which carry all the marks
of weak, factious, and divided counsels. The Romans had certain
intelligence of Hannibal’s design of attacking them in Italy. This was
no secret in Spain, where every preparation, and every motion of
Hannibal’s was directed to that point of view. The Romans were certainly
jealous of such a design, when they sent ambassadours to Hannibal, to
inform him, that if he passed the Iberus, and attacked the Saguntines,
they should look upon it as a declaration of war. When they had received
an evasive answer from Hannibal, they crossed over to Africa, and made
the same declaration to the Carthaginian senate. When Hannibal laid
siege to Saguntum, did the Romans act up to their formidable
declaration, or did they send a single man to the assistance of those
faithful allies? just the reverse; they wasted nine months, the time the
siege lasted, in useless debates, and fruitless embassies. They
sacrificed that faithful and heroick people, together with their own
interest and character, by their folly and irresolution.[351] For if
they had sent a powerful army at first, they might have saved Saguntum,
or at least confined the war to Spain, and prevented it from penetrating
into their own bowels. After Hannibal had laid Saguntum in ashes, did
the boasted wisdom and firmness of the Roman senate appear in more
vigorous, or more politick measures? They again employed a whole winter
in a wise embassy to Carthage, to just as little purpose as the former,
and gave Hannibal all the time he could wish to prepare for his
expedition. When Hannibal was on his march for Italy, instead of
shutting up the passages of the Alps, which would easily have defeated
that daring enterprise, they ordered the consul Scipio, with his army,
to oppose his passage over the Rhone. The consul came just in time
enough to learn, that such dilatory measures would never check the
progress of so active and vigilant an enemy, who had already passed that
river, and was on his march for the Alps.[352] The consul immediately
re-embarked his troops, and hastened to meet him in his descent from
those mountains. But Hannibal was already near the banks of the Po,
where the consul attacked him, but was defeated and dangerously wounded.
The senate, alarmed at Hannibal’s passage over the Alps, which they had
taken no precaution to prevent, sent in a great fright for the other
consul Sempronius, with his army, out of Sicily. He arrived, and joined
his wounded colleague Scipio, who was an able officer, and having
learnt, by experience, how dangerous an enemy they had to cope with,
advised caution and prudence in all their operations. But Sempronius,
vain, rash and ignorant, was deaf to all salutary advice, which he
ridiculed as the effect of fear. Hannibal, who never inquired into the
number of his enemies, but studied only the foibles of their commanders,
directed all his operations upon that principle. He applied therefore to
the foible of Sempronius, which he was soon master of, drew him into a
snare, and cut off almost his whole army. The senate was dreadfully
frighted at this second defeat; but to mend the matter, they suffered
Flaminius, a man more vain, more headstrong, and more rash than
Sempronius, to be chosen consul, and sent against Hannibal. As he acted
upon the same principles, he ran headlong into the trap laid for him by
his artful enemy, and lost his life together with his whole army. Though
this terrible blow threw the Romans into inexpressible consternation,
yet it seems to have brought them to their senses. For they at last
created the celebrated Fabius dictator, who was the only Roman commander
capable of opposing Hannibal. Yet even here they could not help giving
another instance of their folly, by forcing Minucius upon him for his
general of horse, a man of the same character with Sempronius or
Flaminius. Fabius acted upon a quite different plan. He knew the danger
and folly of opposing new raised troops to veterans, flushed with
repeated victories, and commanded by so consummate a general. He
therefore opposed art to art, watched every motion of his enemy, and cut
off his foragers. Hannibal, whose army was composed chiefly of soldiers
of fortune out of different nations, connected to him by no other tie
than the hopes of plunder, and their esteem for his personal abilities,
was sensible, that such a conduct in his enemy would quickly put an end
to all his hopes in Italy. He tried therefore every art he was master of
to bring Fabius to a battle; but the wary Roman convinced him, that he
knew his trade too well to deviate from that plan, which alone could
save his country. Though Hannibal did justice to those fine strokes of
his antagonist, yet they were too delicate for the eyes of the Romans.
They were disgusted at his conduct, because they wanted capacity to
understand it, and gave credit to the idle boasts of Minucius, though
they had already suffered so severely by trusting men of his genius.
Yet, by the most unaccountable folly, they raised Minucius to an
equality of power with Fabius; and Rome, for the first time, saw two
dictators vested with unlimited authority. The wiser Fabius, though
amazed at the stupidity of his countrymen, adhered steadily to his first
plan. He gave up half the army to the command of his new colleague, but
was determined to preserve the other moiety at least, upon which so much
depended. Hannibal was sensible that the Romans could not have done him
a more essential piece of service, unless they had recalled Fabius. He
immediately threw out a bait for Minucius, which that rash, unthinking
commander as greedily bit at. He fell into the trap laid for him by the
crafty Hannibal; was enveloped by the Carthaginians, and must inevitably
have perished, with all the troops under his command, if Fabius had not
flown to his assistance, repulsed the enemy, and rescued him from the
most imminent danger of death or captivity. Though Fabius had been so
ill used by his countrymen in general, and by his colleague Minucius in
particular, yet he showed, by this generous action, a greatness of soul
superior to private resentment, and every selfish passion, which he was
always ready to sacrifice to the publick welfare. Minucius indeed felt
the force of the obligation, as well as of his own incapacity: he nobly
acknowledged it in the strongest terms, and returned to his former post
and duty to his abler commander. But this heroick behaviour of Fabius
seems to have made no more impression upon his countrymen, than his
masterly conduct. Two new consuls were chosen, to whom he resigned his
authority and army, and retired to Rome neglected and unemployed. The
new consuls followed the advice of Fabius, and avoided coming to action,
which distressed Hannibal extremely. But the following year exhibits
such a masterpiece of folly and stupidity in that Roman senate, whose
firmness and wisdom are so much boasted of by historians, and such
infatuation in the body of the Roman people as would seem incredible,
if the facts, as handed down to us by their own historians themselves,
did not prove it beyond a possibility of doubt or contradiction.
Determined to drive Hannibal out of Italy, and put a speedy end to so
ruinous a war, they raised one of the mightiest armies they had ever yet
brought into the field, and employed in it every officer of note or
distinction at that time in Rome, the great Fabius alone excepted. This
was the last stake of the Romans, upon which their all was ventured. But
where does the boasted wisdom of the senate appear in the management of
this affair, which was of the last importance? Of the two consuls,
Paulus Æmilius, the one, was a respectable man, and an experienced
officer: Terentius Varro, the other, was a fellow of the lowest
extraction, who, by noise and impudence, had raised himself to the
tribuneship, was afterwards made prætor, and, by the assistance of one
Bebius, his relation, at that time a tribune of the people, had forced
himself into the consular dignity. This wretch, who had but just talents
sufficient for a captain of the mob, who had never seen an action (nor
perhaps an army) in his life, had the impudence to censure the conduct
of Fabius, and to boast in the senate, that he would immediately drive
Hannibal out of Italy. The wise senate were not only so weak as to
believe, but, in opposition to all the remonstrances of Fabius, even to
trust such an empty coxcomb with an equal share in the command. They
even gave the consuls orders to fight the enemy without delay, so great
was their confidence in the gasconading Varro. Hannibal at that time
was so greatly distressed for want of provisions, that his Spanish
troops begun to mutiny, and talked openly of revolting to the Romans,
and he himself had thoughts of retiring into Gaul for his own personal
safety. Æmilius, who endeavoured in every point to follow the advice of
Fabius, declined fighting, and was convinced by his intelligence, that
Hannibal could not subsist his troops above ten days longer. But Varro
was alike deaf to reason or persuasion. Debates at last run so high
between the consuls, that repeated expresses were sent to the senate by
Æmilius for fresh orders. Had the senate acted with that prudence, which
has been so loudly celebrated by historians, they would certainly have
created Fabius dictator at that critical juncture, which would have put
an end to the differences and authority of the consuls. For how could
they reasonably hope for success, whilst the army was commanded by two
generals, vested with equal power, who differed as widely in opinion as
in temper? But their chief view at that time seems to have been to
mortify Fabius, and to that favourite point they wilfully sacrificed the
publick honour and safety.[353] Æmilius at last returned to Rome, and
laid the whole affair before the senate. But Varro’s party proved the
majority, and orders were renewed for fighting, but not immediately.
Æmilius still declined fighting, and followed the advice of Fabius, but
the alternate command of the two consuls, which took place every day,
defeated all his measures. Varro, on the day of his command, marched the
army so close to the enemy, that it was impossible to retire without
fighting. This imprudent step brought on the famous battle of Cannæ,
where Hannibal, whose whole force scarce equalled the moiety of the
Romans, gave them the most remarkable defeat we ever read of in their
history. Polybius, and after him the rest of the historians, impute this
defeat to the great superiority of the Carthaginian army in horse, and
the ignorance of Varro in pitching upon a plain open country for the
field of battle, where Hannibal could employ his cavalry to the best
advantage. That the Carthaginian horse was superior to the Roman in
goodness, is readily admitted. But if we compute the number of the
cavalry of the Romans, and that of their allies, as given us by Polybius
himself, we shall find the difference in each army amounted but to four
thousand; so small an advantage therefore, in point of number, could
never possibly have turned the scale in favour of Hannibal when the
Romans had such prodigious odds in the number of their infantry, who
showed themselves no way inferior to Hannibal’s foot, either in bravery
or intrepidity. The true reason was, the infinite superiority of
Hannibal in point of generalship. That consummate leader, by a most
exquisite disposition of his troops, a _manœvre_ much too fine for the
eyes of the Roman generals, caught their whole infantry fairly in a trap
(though in a plain level country) where they were almost to a man cut to
pieces, or taken. Æmilius, and all the other general officers, with
seventy thousand Romans, lay dead upon the field of battle after a
brave and obstinate resistance.[354] The infamous Varro, that base
minded fellow, as Polybius terms him,[355] who commanded the cavalry of
the allies on the left wing, behaved like a true bully in the face of
danger. He fled almost at the first attack, and rather chose to live
with infamy than die with honour. When the fatal news reached the city
of Rome, both senate and people gave up all hopes of safety. Fabius
alone took the lead, and acted with his usual firmness and calmness upon
this occasion. He placed guards at the gates to prevent the desertion of
the citizens, who were flying in great numbers to escape the conquerors,
whom they expected every moment. He confined the women to their houses,
who had filled the city with lamentations. He manned the walls and
outworks, and took every other precaution which the shortness of the
time would admit of. All resigned themselves implicitly to his conduct,
and he acted for the time as sole governor. Many of the senators, and
principal of the Roman nobility, were in actual consultation about
leaving Italy, and retiring elsewhere for safety. But they were
prevented, as Livy informs us, by the terrible threats of young Scipio,
and compelled to stay and share the fate of their country.[356] Hannibal
has been greatly censured for not attacking Rome itself immediately
after the battle, and is accused of not knowing how to make the proper
use of a victory, though he knew so well how to conquer. The candid
Montesquieu acquits him of this charge. His reasons are, that though
Rome at that time was in the highest degree of consternation, yet the
effects of fear upon a warlike people, inured to arms like the Romans,
and a low undisciplined rabble, who are strangers to the use of arms,
are very different. In the former, who are conscious of their own
strength, it almost always changes into the most desperate courage. In
the latter, who feel their own weakness too sensibly, it dispirits so
much as to render them incapable of resistance. Hence he gives it as his
real opinion, that Hannibal would have failed of success if he had
undertaken the siege of that city. His proof is, because the Romans at
that very time were able to send sufficient succours, drawn from their
own citizens, to every part where they were then wanted. Thus Rome was
saved, not by the wisdom or firmness of the senate, but the prudence and
magnanimity of one old officer, whom they despised and hated, and the
intrepidity of a boy of eighteen, joined, as I observed before from
Dionysius, to the force of that part of their institution, which formed
the whole body of their citizens into a militia, ever ready, and capable
of taking the field as soldiers. All the Roman armies, which were
opposed to Hannibal, were drawn out of this militia. Nor do we meet with
one instance of cowardice, or ill-behaviour amongst the men, but rather
of intrepidity even to rashness, which used to be the characteristick of
the British nation. Polybius, who was at least as able a judge of the
military as any man of that age, and who lived very near the time of the
Hannibalick war (as he terms it) is loud in his praises of the Roman
troops, whose infantry he prefers greatly to the Carthaginian
mercenaries.[357] Nor does he once impute any of their defeats to the
fault of their men, but invariably to the folly and incapacity of their

Upon the whole, the great defect in the Carthaginian military
institution consisted in the want of a national militia, which, as
Polybius observes, was the reason of their employing foreign
mercenaries. The capital defects in the Romans lay in that equality of
power with which each consul was vested in the field, and the short
duration of their command, as their office was only annual. Every battle
which the Romans lost to Hannibal except the first, may be fairly
ascribed to the former of these causes. The defeats of Trebia and
Thrasymene were plainly occasioned by the jealousy of one of the
consuls, lest the other should share with him in the glory of beating
Hannibal; as the want of harmony, and difference of opinion between the
two consuls, was the primary cause of the dreadful defeat at Cannæ. To
the latter cause we may justly attribute the long duration of the
Hannibalick war. When the great man, who entered Italy with no more
than twenty thousand foot and six thousand horse, maintained his ground
above sixteen years, without any assistance from Carthage, against the
whole united force and efforts of the Romans, by the mere strength of
his own extraordinary genius. For as every man, who had interest
sufficient to obtain the consulship, was immediately vested with the
command of an army, however qualified or not, so he was obliged to
resign his command at the end of the year, before he had well time to be
thoroughly acquainted with the true method of dealing with his enemy.
Thus every new successive commander, amongst the Romans, had the same
task to begin afresh at the opening of every campaign. I know that
political writers ascribe this mistaken policy to that jealousy, and
fear of lodging so much power in so few hands for any length of time,
which is so natural to all republican governments. And that the office
of dictator was contrived as a remedy against any abuse, or
inconveniency, which might at any time arise from the consular power.
But the event showed, that the remedy was much worse than the disease.
Whilst publick virtue existed, the office of dictator was frequently
useful. But when luxury had introduced corruption, the _pro tempore_
dictator soon came to be perpetual, and the perpetual dictator
terminated in a perpetual and despotick emperor.

At Carthage their military institution was entirely different. The power
of the generals in the field was absolute and unlimited; and, if their
conduct was approved of, generally continued to the end of whatever war
they were engaged in. They had no occasion for the dangerous resource of
a dictator. The watchful eye of their standing court-martial, the
committee of one hundred and four of their ablest senators, was a
perpetual, and never-failing check upon their ambition, or ill behavior
of their generals.[358] The sacred cohort amongst the Carthaginians,
consisted of a large body of volunteers of the richest and greatest
families of the nation. This wise and noble institution was one of the
chief supports of the Carthaginian state; and as it was the constant
seminary of their officers and commanders, might very probably be one
cause why luxury and effeminacy could never obtain footing in that
warlike republick. For we always find this generous body giving the most
signal instances of bravery and conduct,[359] and bearing down all
before them.... Nor did they ever quit the field of battle, until they
were deserted by the rest of the army, and even then generally retired
in excellent order.

The Romans were gradually trained up, from the very infancy of their
republick, in long and obstinate wars with their Italian neighbours, who
were masters of the same arms and disciplines, and were no way their
inferiors in bravery. Nor did they perfect themselves in the art of
war, until they learned it by bloody experience from Pyrrhus, the most
consummate captain of that age. The Carthaginians were only exercised in
war with the wild undisciplined Africans, or the irregular Spaniards,
nor were they able with their numerous fleets and prodigious armies to
complete the reduction of that part of Sicily, which was inhabited by
Grecian colonies, who retained their native arms and discipline. Hence
arose the great superiority of the Romans, both in soldiers and
commanders. Though the Barcan family produced some great officers, who
at least equalled the ablest generals Rome could ever boast of.

It is evident from the course of this inquiry, that the ruin of the
Roman republick arose wholly from internal causes. The ruin of Carthage
was owing remotely to internal, but immediately to external. The
Plebeian faction reduced Rome to the verge of ruin at the battle of
Cannæ, and a complication of factions completed the subversion of that
republick under the two triumvirates. The envy and jealousy of the
Hannonian faction deprived Carthage of all the fruits of Hannibal’s
amazing victories and progress, and paved the way for the utter excision
of their very name and nation by the Roman arms. Such are the direful
effects of faction, when suffered to run its natural lengths without
control, in the most flourishing and best constituted government!...

  [330] Justin. lib. 18. c. 5.

  [331] Termed consuls by the Romans, _susetes_ by the

  [332] Οὐ γὰρ μόνον ἀριστίνδην, ἀλλὰ καὶ πλουτίνδην οἴονται δεῖν
  αἱρεῖσθαι τοὺς ἄρχοντας. Arist. de Repub. lib. 2. p. 234. c.

  [333] Αἱροῦνται γὰρ εἰς δύο ταῦτα βλέποντες (τὸν πλοῦτον, scil.
  καὶ τὴν ἀρετὴν) καὶ μάλιστα τὰς μεγίστας, τούς τε Βασιλεῖς καὶ
  τοὺς στρατηγοὺς. Ibid. p. 335.

  [334] Ἔχει δὲ πολιτεία τῶν Καρχηδονίων παραπλήσια τῇ Λακωνικῇ
  πολιτείᾳ τὰ μὲν συσσίτια τῶν ἑταιριῶν τοῖς φιδιτίοις· τὴν δὲ
  τῶν ἑκατὸν καὶ τεττάρων ἀρχὴν, τοῖς Ἐφόροις, πλὴν οὐ χεῖρον. Οἱ
  μὲν γὰρ, ἐκ τῶν τυχόντων εἰσὶ. Ταύτην δ’ αἱροῦνται τὴν ἀρχὴν
  ἀριστίνδην. Ibid. p. 334.

  [335] Τὸ δ’ ἀμίσθους καὶ μὴ κληρωτὰς ἀριστοκρατικὸν θετέον, καὶ
  εἴτε τοιοῦτον ἕτερον. Ibid.

  [336] Τὸ δὲ τὰς πενταρχίας κυρίας οὔσας πολλῶν καὶ μεγάλων, ὑφ’
  αὑτῶν αἱρετὰς εἶναι, καὶ τὴν τῶν ἑκατὸν ταύτας αἱρεῖσθαι τὴν
  μεγίστην ἀρχήν. ἔτι δὲ ταύτας πλείονα ἄρχειν χρόνον τῶν ἄλλων
  (καὶ γὰρ ἐξεληλυθότες ἄρχουσι, καὶ μέλλοντες) ὀλιγαρχικὸν.

  [337] Σημεῖον δὲ πολιτείας συντεταγμένης, τὸ τὸν δῆμον ἔχουσαν,
  διαμένειν ἐν τῇ τάξει τῆς πολιτεῖας, καὶ μήτε στάσιν, ὅτι γὰρ
  ἄξιον εἰπεῖν, γεγενῆσθαι, μήτε Τύραννον. Ibid.

  [338] Τὸ μὲν προσάγειν, τὸ δὲ μὴ προσάγειν πρὸς τὸν δῆμον, οἱ
  Βασιλεῖς κύριοι μετὰ τῶν γερόντων, ἂν ὁμογνωμονῶσι πάντες. εἰ
  δὲ μή, καὶ τούτων ὁ δῆμος. Ἃ δὲ ἂν εἰσφέρωσιν οὗτοι οὐ
  διακοῦσαι μόνον ἀποδιδόασι τῷ δήμῳ τὰ δόξαντα τοῖς ἄρχουσιν,
  ἀλλὰ κύριοι κρίνειν εἰσὶ· καὶ τῷ βουλομένῳ τοῖς εἰσφερομένοις
  ἀντειπεῖν ἔξεστιν. Ὅπερ ἐν ταῖς ἑτέραις πολιτείαις οὐκ ἔστι.
  Ibid. pag. 334.

  [339] The idol to whom the Carthaginians sacrificed their
  children was the Molock of the Canaanites, from whom they were
  lineally descended. This idol was the Chronos of the Greeks,
  and Saturn of the Latins.

  [340] Plut. de Superstit. p. 171.

  [341] Diodor. Sicul. lib. 20. p. 739.

  [342] Id. ibid.

  [343] This institution has been adopted since, by the Greek and
  Latin churches. The only difference in the punishment is, that
  the ancient vestals were buried alive, the modern vestals are
  immured between four walls.

  [344] Polybius informs us, that when the Romans took a city by
  storm, they not only put all the men to the sword, but even
  quartered the dogs, and hewed off the limbs of every other
  living creature they found in the place.

  Πολλάκις ἰδεῖν ἐστιν ἐν ταῖς τῶν Ῥωμαίων καταλήψεσι τῶν πόλεων,
  οὐ μόνους τοὺς ἀνθρώπους πεφονευμένους, ἀλλὰ τοὺς κύνας
  δεδιχοτομένους, καὶ τῶν ἄλλων ζώων μέλη παρακεκομμένα. Polyb.
  lib. 10. p. 820.

  [345] Sallust. de Bell. Jugurth. p. 126....27.

  [346] Grandeur des Romains, p. 68, &c.

  [347] In fidem populi Romani sese dedere. Vide Polyb. Exerpt.
  Legat. p. 1114, 15.

  [348] Ibid. p. 1349, 50.

  [349] Appian. de Bell. Pun. p. 82.

  [350] Grandeur des Romains, p. 34.

  [351] When the Roman ambassadours, soon after the loss of
  Saguntum, solicited an alliance with the Volsicani, a people of
  Spain, that people seemed astonished at the effrontery of the
  Romans, and bid them go and seek for allies amongst those
  nations who had never heard of the destruction of Saguntum,
  which, as they assured them, would be a melancholy and striking
  warning to the Spaniards how they ever placed any confidence in
  the good faith and friendship of the Romans. Liv. lib. 21. c.
  19. p. 144.

  [352] Polyb. lib. 3. p. 270. et seq.

  [353] It has been asked—for what reason? I answer, Livy
  will inform us in the 22d book of his history.—“The studied
  delay of Fabius (who industriously avoided fighting) which
  according to that historian, gave such just cause of uneasiness
  to Hannibal, was treated at Rome with the utmost contempt by
  the citizens of every rank both military and civil;
  particularly after the general of the horse Minucius had gained
  some slight advantage over Hannibal during his absence.”—He
  adds, “that two unlucky incidents concurred to augment the
  displeasure of the citizens against the dictator. One was the
  artful behaviour of Hannibal; who wasted all the country around
  with fire and sword, the estate of Fabius alone excepted, which
  he carefully preserved, in hopes that such a different
  treatment might be thought the effect of some clandestine
  correspondence between the two commanders.”—The other was—his
  settling an exchange of prisoners with Hannibal by his own
  proper authority, and by the same cartel which had subsisted
  between the Roman and Carthaginian generals in the first Punick
  war. By that it was agreed: that if any prisoners should remain
  on either side, after the exchange of man for man was finished,
  such prisoners should be redeemed at the rate of two pounds and
  a half of silver for each soldier. When the exchange was made,
  two hundred and forty-seven Roman prisoners remained to be
  ransomed.—But as the senate hesitated greatly at passing a
  decree for the payment of the stipulated sum, because the
  dictator had not consulted them upon the occasion; he sold
  those very lands which Hannibal had left untouched, and
  discharged the debt due from the publick out of his own private
  fortune.—Whether these were the only reasons or not; yet, they
  had evidently such an effect upon the Romans, that Fabius seems
  to have been at that time the object of their resentment, which
  they never failed to give proofs of upon every occasion.—Thus
  when Fabius opened the campaign, his cautious conduct was so
  disagreeable to the officers as well as soldiers, who listened
  wholly to the idle boasts of Minucius; that if the choice of
  their commander had depended upon the voices of the military
  men, Minucius, as Livy affirms, would undoubtedly have been
  preferred to Fabius. The same historian tells us; that when
  Fabius returned to Rome to preside as dictator at their
  religious ceremonies the tribunes of the people inveighed so
  bitterly against him in their publick harangues, that he
  refrained from coming to their assemblies.—Even what he spoke
  in the senate met with a very indifferent reception, especially
  when he extolled the conduct and abilities of Hannibal, and
  enumerated the repeated defeats they had received for the two
  last years through the rashness and incapacity of their own
  commanders.—When Fabius returned to the camp he received a
  much more mortifying proof of their displeasure. For they
  raised Minucius to an equality with him in the command, an act
  for which there had been no precedent since the first erection
  of the dictatorial office.—Nor did their enmity to Fabius
  subside until after the fatal defeat at Cannæ. For the
  worthless Varro obtained not only the consulship, but what is
  still more extraordinary, even the confidence of the greater
  part of the senate, and almost the whole army by railing at
  Fabius and Fabian measures, and out boasting Minucius. I have
  showed above from Polybius what trust the majority of the
  senate reposed in Varro. But I cannot omit a remarkable
  instance, which Livy gives us, of the absurd and fatal
  partiality of the military men to Varro, in opposition to
  Æmilius, who avowedly followed the advice of Fabius.—In a
  council of war, says that historian, held a little before the
  battle of Cannæ, when each consul persisted firmly in his
  former opinion; Æmilius adhering to Fabius’s plan for avoiding
  fighting; Varro to his resolution of engaging the enemy
  immediately; Servilius one of the consuls of the former year
  was the only one who joined Æmilius, the rest declared for

  [354] Above eighty thousand, according to Dionysius of

  [355] Polyb. lib. 3. p. 370.

  [356] Liv. lib. 22. p. 242.

  [357] Polyb. lib. 6. p. 688.

  [358] Our method of trying delinquents, either in the land or
  sea service, by a court-martial composed of their respective
  officers, has been judged liable to many objections, and has
  occasioned no little discontent in the nation. For as their
  inquiry is restricted to a particular set of articles in each
  service, I don’t see how a commanding officer, vested with a
  discretionary power of acting, can strictly or properly come
  under their cognizance, or be ever liable to their censure,
  unless he is proved guilty of a direct breach of any one of
  those articles. But as a commander in chief may easily avoid an
  offence of that nature, and yet, upon the whole of his conduct
  in any expedition, be highly culpable; a court-martial, thus
  circumscribed in their power of inquiry, can never be competent
  judges in a cause where they are denied a proper power of
  examining into the real demerits of the supposed offender. Much
  has been said about trying offences of this nature, like other
  criminal cases, by juries: a scheme which, at the very first
  sight, must appear absurd and impracticable to the rational and

  As therefore instruction is the true end and use of all
  history, I shall take the liberty of offering a scheme, drawn
  from that wise and salutary institution of the Carthaginians,
  which is,—“that a select standing committee be appointed, to
  be composed of an equal number of members of both houses,
  chosen annually by balloting, with a full power of inquiring
  into the conduct of all commanders in chief, without any
  restraint of articles of war; and that, after a proper
  examination, the committee shall refer the case, with their
  opinion upon it, to the decision of his majesty.”

  This scheme seems to me the least liable to objections of any I
  have yet met with. For if the numbers are chosen by balloting,
  they will be less liable to the influence of party. If they are
  chosen annually, and refer the case to the decision of the
  crown, which is the fountain of justice as well as mercy, they
  will neither encroach upon the royal prerogative, nor be liable
  to that signal defect in the Carthaginian committee, which sat
  for life, and whose sentence was final without appeal.

  [359] Diodor. Sicul. lib. 20. p. 739.



Polybius remarks,[360] that the best form of government is that which is
composed of a due admixture of monarchy, aristocracy and democracy. He
affirms that his assertion may not only be proved from reason, but from
the evidence of fact, and cites the Spartan constitution in proof, which
was modelled upon that very plan by Lycurgus. He adds too, that to
perpetuate the duration of his government,[361] he united the peculiar
excellencies of all the best governments in one form, that neither of
the three parts, by swelling beyond its just bounds, might ever be able
to deviate into its original inborn defects: but that whilst each power
was mutually drawn back by the opposite attraction of the other two,
neither power might ever preponderate, but the balance of government
continue suspended in its true æquipoise.

From the observance of this nice adjustment of the balance of
government, he foretells the duration or fall of all mixed governments
in general. He adds, that as all government arises originally from the
people; so all mutations in government proceed primarily from the
people also. For when once a state has struggled through many and great
difficulties, and emerged at last to freedom and wealth, men begin to
sink gradually into luxury, and to grow more dissolute in their morals.
The seeds of ambition will spring up, and prompt them to be more fond of
contending for superiority in the magistracy, and carrying their point,
in whatever they had set their hearts upon, than is consistent with the
welfare of the community: when once these evils are got to a head in a
country so circumstanced, the change must necessarily be for the worse;
because the principle of such change will rise from the gratification,
or disappointment of the ambition of the chief citizens, with respect to
honours and preferments; and from that insolence and luxury arising from
wealth, by which the morals of the private people will be totally
corrupted. Thus the change in government will be primarily effected by
the people. For when the people are galled by the rapine and oppression
of those in power, arising from a principle of avarice; and corrupted,
and elated with an undue opinion of their own weight, by the flatteries
of the disappointed, which proceed from a principle of ambition, they
raise those furious commotions in the state, which unhinge all
government. These commotions first reduce it to a state of anarchy,
which at last terminates in absolute monarchy and tyranny.

I have here given the sentiments of Polybius (and almost in his own
words) from that excellent dissertation on government, preserved to us
in the sixth book of his history, which I would recommend to the perusal
of my countrymen. He there traces government up to its first origin. He
explains the principles, by which different governments arose to the
summit of their power and grandeur, and proves, that they sunk to ruin
by a more or less rapid progress, in proportion as they receded more or
less from the first principles on which they were originally founded. He
survived the ruin of all the Grecian republicks, as well as Carthage,
and lived (as he more than once tells us) to see the Romans masters of
the known world. Blest with parts and learning superior to most men of
his time, joined to the most solid judgment, and the experience of
eighty-two years; no man better understood the intrinsick nature of
government in general. No man could with more certainty foretel the
various mutations, which so frequently happen in different forms of
government, which must be ever in a fluctuating state, from the
complicated variety of the human passions. Nor can any man give us
better hints, than he has done, for guarding against the effects of
those dangerous passions, and preserving the constitution of a free
people in its full force and vigour. Of all the legislators (which he
knew of) he prefers Lycurgus, whom he looks upon rather as divinely
inspired, than as a mere man. He esteems the plan of government, which
he established at Sparta, the most perfect, and proposes it as a general
model worthy the imitation of every other community; and he remarks,
that the Spartans, by adhering to that plan, preserved their liberty
longer than any other nation of the known world.

I cannot help observing upon this occasion, that our own constitution as
settled at the revolution, so nearly coincides with Lycurgus’s general
plan of government (as laid down by Polybius) where the monarchy was for
life, and hereditary, that it seems, at first sight, to have been formed
by that very model. For our plan of government intended to fix and
preserve so just a proportion of the monarchick, aristocratick, and
democratick powers, by their representatives, king, lords, and commons;
that any two of those powers might be able jointly to give a check to
the other, but not to destroy it, as the destruction of any one power
must necessarily induce a different form of government. This is the true
basis of the British constitution, the duration of which must absolutely
depend upon the just equilibrium preserved between these three powers.
This consequently is the unerring test, by which every unbiassed and
attentive considerer may judge, whether we are in an improving state, or
whether, and by what degrees, we are verging towards ruin. But as I aim
at reformation not satire; as I mean no invidious reflections, but only
to give my sentiments with that honest freedom, to which every Briton is
entitled by birthright, I shall just state from Polybius, the means by
which all mixed governments have originally deviated from those first
principles, which were the basis of their rise and grandeur: how by this
deviation they tended towards their decline, and that those means
acquiring additional force from that very decline, necessarily produced
those evils, which accelerated the destruction of every free people. As
the remarks of this most judicious historian, are founded upon long
experience, drawn from undeniable facts, to many of which he himself was
eyewitness,[362] they will not only carry greater weight, but will
enable us to form a right judgment of our own situation, as it is at
present circumstanced.

Polybius observes, that of all the mixed governments ever known to him,
that of Lycurgus alone was the result of cool reason and long study. The
form of the Roman republick, on the contrary, was the production of
necessity. For the Romans came at the knowledge of the most proper
remedies for all their political evils, not by dint of reasoning, but by
the deep felt experience of the many and dangerous calamities, with
which they had so long and so often struggled. I do not in the least
doubt, but that excellent form of government established by our rude
Gothick ancestors, wherever their arms prevailed, arose from the same
cause, necessity founded upon experience. Every mixed government
therefore, where the three powers are duly balanced, has a _resource_
within itself against all those political evils to which it is liable.
By this _resource_, I mean, that joint coercive force, which any two of
these powers are able to exercise over the other. But as nothing but
necessity can authorize the exercise of this power, so it must be
strictly regulated by those principles, on which the government was
founded. For if by an undue exercise of this power, any one of the three
should be diminished, or annihilated, the balance would be destroyed,
and the constitution alter proportionally for the worse. Thus in
Denmark, where the monarchy was limited and elective, the people,
exasperated by the oppressions of the nobility, who had assumed an
almost despotick power, out of a principle of revenge threw their whole
weight into the regal scale. Frederick the third, (the then reigning
monarch) strengthened by this accession of power and the assistance of
the people, compelled the nobility to surrender their power and
privileges. In consequence of this fatal step taken by the people, the
monarchy, in the year 1660, became absolute and hereditary. Lord
Molesworth observes upon this occasion, in his account of Denmark, that
the people of Denmark have since felt by sad experience, that the little
finger of an absolute prince is heavier than the loins of a hundred

The late revolution of government in Sweden, though arising from the
same principles, took a very different turn. Charles the twelfth, brave
even to enthusiasm, and as insatiably fond of glory as the ambitious
Alexander, had quite tired out and exhausted his people, by his
destructive expeditions. But when that fortunate shot from the town of
Frederickshal gave repose to his own country as well as to a great part
of Europe, the states of Sweden, no longer awed by a warlike monarch
(who had usurped a despotick power) and a veteran army, again resumed
the exercise of their own inherent powers. Stimulated by a desire of
vengeance for the evils they had already suffered, and the fear of
smarting again under the same evils, they beheaded Gortz, the minister
of their late monarch’s oppressions, and left the crown no more than the
bare shadow of authority. For though they continued the monarchy for
life and hereditary, yet they imposed such rigid terms upon their
succeeding kings, as reduced them to a state of dependance and impotence
nearly equal to a doge of Genoa or Venice. We see, in both these
instances, the revolution in government effected by the union of two
powers of the government against the third. The catastrophe indeed in
both nations was different, because that third power which was obnoxious
to the other two, was different in each nation. In the former of these
instances, the people, fired with resentment against the nobility, and
instigated by secret emissaries of the crown, blindly gave up their
whole power to the king, which enabled him to deprive the nobility (the
second estate) of their share of power, and bring the whole to centre
in the crown. Thus the government in Denmark was changed into absolute
monarchy. In the latter, the senate took the lead during the
_interregnum_, which followed the death of Charles, and changed the
government into aristocracy. For though the outward form of government
indeed is preserved, yet the essence no longer remains. The monarchy is
merely titular, but the whole power is absorbed by the senate,
consequently the government is strictly aristocratick. For the people
were by no means gainers by the change, but remain in the same state of
servitude, which they so much complained of before. Thus in all
revolutions in mixed governments, where the union of two injured powers
is animated by the spirit of patriotism, and directed by that salutary
rule before laid down, which forbids us to destroy, and only enjoins us
to reduce the third offending power within its proper bounds, the
balance of government will be restored upon its first principles, and
the change will be for the better. Thus when the arbitrary and
insupportable encroachments of the crown under James the second, aimed
so visibly at the subversion of our constitution, and the introduction
of absolute monarchy; necessity authorized the lords and commons (the
other two powers) to have _recourse_ to the joint exercise of that
restraining power, which is the inherent _resource_ of all mixed
governments. But as the exercise of this power was conducted by
patriotism, and regulated by the above-mentioned rule, the event was the
late happy revolution; by which the power of the crown was restrained
within its proper limits, and the government resettled upon its true
basis, as nearly as the genius of the times would admit of. But if the
passions prevail, and ambition lurks beneath the mask of patriotism, the
change will inevitably be for the worse. Because the restitution of the
balance of government, which alone can authorize the exercise of the two
joint powers against the third, will be only the pretext, whilst the
whole weight and fury of the incensed people will be directed solely to
the ends of ambition. Thus if the regal power should be enabled to take
the lead by gaining over the whole weight of the people, the change will
terminate in absolute monarchy; which so lately happened in Denmark, as
it had happened before in almost all the old Gothick governments. If the
aristocratick power, actuated by that ambition, which (an extreme few
instances excepted) seems inseparable from the regal, should be able to
direct the joint force of the people against the crown, the change will
be to an aristocratick government, like the present state of Sweden, or
the government of Holland, from the death of William the third, to the
late revolution in favour of the stadtholder. If the power of the people
impelled to action by any cause, either real or imaginary, should be
able to subvert the other two, the consequence will be, that anarchy,
which Polybius terms, the ferine and savage dominion of the people.[363]
This will continue until some able and daring spirit, whose low birth
or fortune precluded him from rising to the chief dignities of the state
by any other means, puts himself at the head of the populace inured to
live by plunder and rapine, and drawing the whole power to himself,
erects a tyranny upon the ruins of the former government; or until the
community, tired out and impatient under their distracted situation,
bring back the government into its old channel. This is what Polybius
terms the circumvolution of governments;[364] or the rotation of
governments within themselves until they return to the same point. The
fate of the Grecian and Roman republicks terminated in the former of
these events. The distracted state of government in this nation, from
1648, to the restoration of Charles the second, ended happily in the
latter, though the nation for some years experienced the former of these
catastrophes under the government of Cromwell.

I have here given a short, but plain general analysis of government,
founded upon experience drawn from historical truths, and adapted to the
general capacity of my countrymen. But if any one desires to be
acquainted with the philosophy of government, and to investigate the
ratio and series of all these mutations, or revolutions of governments
within themselves, I must (with Polybius) refer him to Plato’s

The plan of a good and happy government, which Plato lays down, by the
mouth of Socrates, in the former part of that work, is wholly ideal, and
impossible to be executed, unless mankind could be new moulded. But the
various revolutions of government (described above) which he treats of
in the latter part, was founded upon facts, facts which he himself had
been eyewitness to in the numerous republicks of Greece and Sicily, and
had fatally experienced in his own country Athens. The divine
philosopher, in that part of his admirable treatise, traces all these
mutations up to their first source, “the intemperance of the human
passions,” and accounts for their various progress, effects and
consequences, from the various combinations of the same perpetually
conflicting passions. His maxims are founded solely upon the sublimest
truths, his allusions beautiful and apposite, and his instructions alike
applicable to publick or private life, equally capable of forming the
statesman or the man.

  [360] Polyb. Hist. lib. 6. p. 628.

  [361] Id. ibid. p. 638-9.

  [362] Polyb. lib. 3. p. 223.

  [363] Δημοκρατία θηριώδης. Polyb. p. 638.

  [364] Πολιτειῶν ἀνακύκλωσις. Polyb. p. 637.



Xenophon observes,[365] that if the Athenians, together with the
sovereignty of the seas, had enjoyed the advantageous situation of an
island, they might with great ease have given law to their neighbours.
For the same fleets which enabled them to ravage the seacoasts of the
continent at discretion, could equally have protected their own country
from the insults of their enemies as long as they maintained their naval
superiority. One would imagine, says the great Montesquieu,[366] that
Xenophon in this passage was speaking of the island of Britain. The
judicious and glorious exertion of our naval force under the present
ministry, so strongly confirms Xenophon’s remark, that one would imagine
their measures were directed, as well as dictated, by his consummate
genius. We are masters both of those natural and acquired advantages,
which Xenophon required to make his countrymen invincible. We daily feel
their importance more and more, and must be sensible that our liberty,
our happiness, and our very existence as a people, depend upon our naval
superiority supported by our military virtue and publick spirit.
Nothing, humanly speaking, but luxury, effeminacy and corruption, can
ever deprive us of this envied superiority. What an accumulated load of
guilt therefore must lie upon any future administration, who, to serve
the ends of faction, should ever precipitate Britain from her present
height down to the abject state of Athens, by encouraging those evils to
blast all publick virtue in their unlimited progress.

As Britain is so confessedly superior to all the maritime powers of the
ancients by the advantages of situation; so the British constitution, as
settled at the revolution, is demonstrably far preferable to, and better
formed for duration, than any of the most celebrated republicks of
antiquity. As the executive power is vested in a single person, who is
deemed the first branch in the legislature; and as that power is for
life and hereditary; our constitution is neither liable to those
frequent convulsions, which attended the annual elections of consuls,
nor to that solecism in politicks, two supreme heads of one body for
life, and hereditary, which was the great defect in the Spartan
institution. As the house of commons, elected by, and out of the body of
the people, is vested with all the power annexed to the tribunitial
office amongst the Romans; the people enjoy every advantage which ever
accrued to the Roman people by that institution, whilst the nation is
secure from all those calamitous seditions, in which every factious
tribune could involve his country at pleasure. And as all our questions
in parliament are decided by a majority of voices; we can never be
subject to that capital defect in the Carthaginian constitution, where
the single _veto_, of one discontented senator, referred the decision of
the most important affair to a wrong-headed, ungovernable populace. The
house of peers is placed in the middle of the balance, to prevent the
regal scale from preponderating to despotism or tyranny; or the
democratical to anarchy and its consequences. The equitable intent of
our laws is plainly calculated, like those of Solon, to preserve the
liberty and property of every individual in the community; and to
restrain alike the richest or the poorest, the greatest or the meanest,
from doing or suffering wrong from each other. This is the wise and
salutary plan of power established at the revolution. Would we always
adhere steadily to this plan, and preserve the just æquilibrium, as
delivered down to us by our great ancestors, our constitution would
remain firm and unshaken to the end of time.

I have already showed in the course of these papers that, since that
ever memorable æra, we suffered some breaches to be made in the most
interesting part of this constitution, not by the hand of open violence,
but by the insidious, and consequently more dangerous arts of
corruption. The great increase in our commerce after the peace of
Utrecht, brought in a vast accession of wealth; and that wealth revived,
and gradually diffused that luxury through the whole nation, which had
lain dormant during the dangerous reign of James the second, and the
warlike reigns of William and Ann. To this universal luxury, and this
only, we must impute that amazing progress of corruption, which seized
the very vitals of our constitution. If therefore we impartially compare
the present state of our own country with that of Rome and Carthage, we
shall find, that we resemble them most when in their declining period.

To the commercial maxims of the Carthaginians, we have added their
insatiable lust of gain, without their economy, and contempt of luxury
and effeminacy. To the luxury and dissipation of the Romans, we have
joined their venality, without their military spirit: and we feel the
pernicious effects of the same species of faction, which was the great
leading cause to ruin in both those republicks. The Roman institution
was formed to make and to preserve their conquests. Abroad invincible,
at home invulnerable, they possessed all the resources requisite for a
warlike nation within themselves. The military spirit of their people,
where every citizen was a soldier, furnished inexhaustible supplies for
their armies abroad, and secured them at home from all attempts of
invasion. The Carthaginian was better calculated to acquire than to
preserve. They depended upon commerce for the acquisition of wealth, and
upon their wealth for the protection of their commerce. They owed their
conquests to the venal blood and sinews of other people, and, like
their ancestors the Phœnicians, exhibited their money-bags as symbols of
their power. They trusted too much to the valour of foreigners, and too
little to that of their own natives. Thus whilst they were formidable
abroad by their fleets and mercenary armies, they were weak and
defenceless at home. But the event showed, how dangerous it is for the
greatest commercial nation to rely on this kind of mercantile policy;
and that a nation of unarmed undisciplined traders can never be a match,
whilst they are so circumstanced, for a nation of soldiers. About two
centuries ago a handful (comparatively speaking) of rude irregular
Tartars subdued, and still enjoy the dominion of China, the most
populous, and the richest commercial empire in the universe. And a
neighbouring mercantile republick, by adhering too closely to these
maxims, is at this time neither respected by her friends, nor feared by
her enemies.

The English constitution was originally military, like that of every
kingdom founded by our Gothick ancestors. Henry the seventh gave the
first spur to commerce by diffusing property more equally amongst the
commons at the expense of the nobility. From that time, the ancient
military spirit of this nation has gradually dwindled to the low ebb, at
which we now find it. But the great epocha of our marine, as well as
commerce, ought properly to be fixed to the glorious reign of Elizabeth.
The colonies settled during the peaceful reign of James the first, laid
the foundation of our present extensive commerce. The civil wars between
Charles the first and the parliament, revived and diffused the ancient
military spirit through the whole body of the people; and the able
Cromwell made the English name more respectable in Europe, than it ever
had been under any of our monarchs. Our naval glory seems to have
reached its summit under that period; for though our marine is greatly
increased both in the number and strength of our shipping, yet we have
by no means surpassed the commanders and seamen of that time either in
bravery or ability. The reason is evident. Publick virtue then existed
in its full force, and zeal for the national glory was the great spur to
action. The commanders sailed in quest of honour, not lucre, and
esteemed the glory of the capture as an adequate reward for the most
hazardous enterprises. Luxury was as much unknown to the highest class,
as spirituous liquors were to the lowest. Discipline, sobriety, and an
awful sense of religion, were strictly kept up amongst the private
seamen; whilst the humane usage of the officers taught them to obey from
love, and a just sense of their duty, not from the slavish principle of
fear only. The immortal Blake esteemed five hundred pounds for a ring,
and the publick thanks of parliament, a glorious recompense for all
those illustrious actions, which made Africa and Europe tremble, and
raised the English flag to the summit of glory. Inferior merit, in
later times, has been rewarded with coronets and great lucrative

Luxury with its fatal effects was imported by Charles the second at the
restoration. The contagious influence of that bane to publick virtue and
liberty, corrupted our manners, enervated our bodies, and debased our
minds, whilst our military spirit subsided, in proportion as the love of
pleasure increased. Charles the second nurtured in the high principles
of prerogative, was diffident of a militia composed of the whole body of
the people. He obtained a standing force of about four or five thousand
men under the specious denomination of guards and garrisons; which he
increased afterwards to eight thousand, and suffered the militia
gradually to decay, until it became almost useless. A policy fatal to
liberty, which has been too successfully copied, since that reign, by
every iniquitous minister, who support himself by faction. James the
second, devoted to bigotry, and influenced by the most weak, as well as
the most wicked counsels, that ever prevailed in this kingdom, at one
stroke disarmed the people, and established a large standing army. As
the militia were unwilling to act against Monmouth and his followers,
whom they looked upon as the protectors of their religion and liberties,
James, concealing the true reason, declared to his parliament, that he
had found the militia useless and unserviceable by experience, and
insisted upon such supplies, as would enable him to support those
additional troops, which he should find necessary for his security. And
he had actually increased his army to thirty thousand men at the time of
the revolution. The whole reigns of William the third and Ann are
distinguished by war abroad and factions at home. Yet though we entered
into both those wars as principals, the military spirit of our people
was not much improved; our national troops composed by a small part of
the allied armies, and we placed our chief dependance upon foreign

Frequent attempts have been made since that time to revive a national
disciplined militia, which have been as constantly defeated by
corruption and the malignity of faction. Our late fears of an invasion,
and the introduction of so large a body of foreign troops, a measure
highly unpopular and distasteful, procured at last the long wished for
act for a militia. Mutilated as it was, and clogged with almost
insuperable difficulties by the same faction, who durst no openly oppose
it at that dangerous juncture, the real well-wishers to their country
were glad to accept it. They looked upon it as a foundation laid for a
much more useful and extensive militia; which time and opportunity might
enable them to perfect. Much has been said, and many assertions boldly
thrown out of the utter impracticability of a national militia. But this
is either the language of corruption or of effeminacy and cowardice. The
Romans, in the first Punick war, found themselves unable to contend
with the Carthaginians for want of a marine. Yet that magnanimous
people, without any other knowledge of the mechanism of a ship, than
what they acquired from a galley of their enemies, thrown by accident
upon their coasts, without either shipwright or seamen, built, manned,
and fitted out a fleet under the consul Duilius, in three months time,
which engaged and totally defeated the grand fleet of Carthage, though
that republick had enjoyed the sovereignty of the sea unrivaled for time
immemorial. This effort of the Roman magnanimity gives a higher idea of
the Roman genius, than any other action recorded in their history. And
by this alone we must be convinced, “that nothing is insurmountable to
the unconquerable hand of liberty, when backed by publick virtue, and
the generous resolution of a brave and willing people.” The difficulties
and obstacles in either case, I mean of making a fleet or establishing a
good militia, will admit of no comparison. The Romans may almost be said
to have created a fleet out of nothing. We have nothing more to do than
to rouse and diffuse that martial spirit through the nation, which the
arts of ministerial policy have so long endeavoured to keep dormant.
Great indeed has been the outcry of the danger of trusting arms in the
dissolute hands of the scum and refuse of the nation in these licentious
times. These I consign to the proper severity of the martial discipline
of an army; for of this kind of people, the bulk of every army in Europe
is at this time composed. I speak to the nobility and gentry, the
traders and yeomanry of this kingdom, to all those who are possessed of
property, and have something to lose, and from the interest of their
respective shares, are equally concerned in the preservation of the
whole. Of such as these the Roman armies were composed who conquered
Italy. Every Roman soldier was a citizen possessed of property, and
equally interested in the safety of the republick. The wisdom of the
Romans in the choice of their soldiers never appeared in so conspicuous
a light as after the defeat at Cannæ. Every citizen pressed to take up
arms in defence of his country, and not only refused his pay, but
generously gave up what gold and silver he was master of, even to the
most trifling ornaments, for the publick service. The behaviour of the
women too, to their immortal honour, was equally great and
disinterested. Such is the spirit, which a truly brave and free people
will ever exert in a time of distress and danger. Marius was the first
man who broke through that wise maxim, and raised his forces out of the
sixth class, which consisted only of the dregs and refuse of the people.
Marius too gave the first stab to the constitution of his country.
People of property are not only the chief support, but the best and
safest defence of a free and opulent country; and their example will
always have a proper influence upon their inferiors.

Nothing but an extensive militia can revive the once martial spirit of
this nation, and we had even better once more be a nation of soldiers,
like our renowned ancestors, than a nation of abject crouching slaves to
the most rapacious, and most insolent people in the universe. Let us not
be too much elated, and lulled into a fatal security from some late
successes, in which our national forces had no share. Nothing is so
common as unexpected vicissitudes in war. Our enemies have many and
great resources; our heroick ally, in case of a reverse of fortune, few
or none. Our haughty and implacable enemy, unaccustomed to insults in
their own territories, will think the blot in their honour indelible,
until they have returned the affront upon our coasts with redoubled
vengeance. Whilst a pretender to this crown exists, France will never
want a plausible pretext for invading this kingdom. Their last attempt
answered the proposed end so well, that we may be certain, so politick
an enemy, instigated by revenge, will omit no opportunity of playing the
same successful engine once more against us. The French are now
perfectly well acquainted with our weak side. The violent shock our
national credit received by the inroad of a few Highlanders only, into
the heart of this country, has taught them the infallible method of
distressing us in that essential point. Should therefore our measures
for annoying that nation be ever so wisely planned, yet we can never
hope to execute them with proportionate vigour, whilst we remain
defenceless at home. If the bare alarm only of an invasion frightened us
so lately into the expense, as well as ignominy, of importing foreign
mercenaries for our own defence, the French know by experience, that an
actual attempt would compel us to recall our fleets and forces, and
again expose our commerce, colonies, and our only ally to their mercy.
No man, I believe, is so weak as to imagine, that France will be
deterred from such an attempt by the danger which may attend it. For if
we reflect upon the number of her troops, the risk of ten or twenty
thousand men, can hardly be deemed an object worthy the attention of so
formidable a power. For should they all perish in the attempt, yet
France would be amply repaid by the advantages she would draw from that
confusion, which they would necessarily occasion. The traitor who lately
pointed out the proper time, as well as place for an invasion, and the
fatal effects it would have upon publick credit, whatever success might
attend it, furnishes us with a convincing proof, that France never loses
sight of so useful a measure. A consideration which greatly enforces the
necessity of national union, and a national militia. The unequalled
abilities of one man[367] (humanly speaking) have given a turn to the
affairs of Germany, as happy, as it was amazing; and hope begins to dawn
upon our late despairing nation. The wise and vigorous measures of our
present patriot-ministry have conciliated not only the esteem, but the
universal confidence of the people. Under the present ministry we laid
the foundation of this long wished for, though long despaired of,
militia. If we support their administration with unanimity and vigour,
we may fix this great national object, upon that extensive and useful
plan, which was designed and hoped for by every lover of his country.
The fate therefore of the militia depends absolutely upon the present
crisis. For if we supinely neglect this auspicious opportunity, future
efforts will be just as ineffectual, as the point we have already
carried with so much labour and assiduity. For the same function, which
has invariably opposed every attempt for a national militia, are avowed
enemies to the present ministers, from that antipathy, which private
interest and the lust of power for selfish ends, will ever bear to
patriotism and publick virtue. Should therefore the evil genius of this
nation again prevail, and the same faction once more seize the helm of
government, we must give up all hopes of a militia as well as every
other national measure.

Let us throw but one glance upon the present situation of these once
glorious republicks, and we cannot help reflecting upon the final and
direful catastrophe, which will eternally result from the prevalence of
ambitious and selfish faction supported by corruption.

Greece, once the nurse of arts and sciences, the fruitful mother of
philosophers, lawgivers and heroes, now lies prostrate under the iron
yoke of ignorance and barbarism ... Carthage, once the mighty sovereign
of the ocean, and the centre of universal commerce, which poured the
riches of the nations into her lap, now puzzles the inquisitive
traveller in his researches after even the vestiges of her ruins.... And
Rome, the mistress of the universe, which once contained whatever was
esteemed great or brilliant in human nature, is now sunk into the
ignoble seat of whatever is esteemed mean and infamous.

Should faction again predominate and succeed in its destructive views,
and the dastardly maxims of luxury and effeminancy universally prevail
amongst us ... such too will soon be the fate of Britain.

  [365] Xenophon, de Republ. Athen.

  [366] Esprit des loix, vol. 2. p. 3.

  [367] The king of Prussia.

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