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always a blcssiug; Mr. Mitford omits no opportunity of assuring us that it is always a curse. The fact is, that a eood Government, like a good coat, is that which fits the body for which it is designed. A man who. upon ab- | stract principles, pronounces a constitution to j be good, without an exact knowledge of the oeople who are to be governed by it, judges as .absurdly as a tailor who should measure the 'Belvidere Apollo for the clothes of all his customers. The demagogues who wished to see Portugal a republic, and the wise critics who revile the Virginians for not having instituted a peerage, appear equally ridiculous to all men of sense and candour.
That is the best government which desires
* to make the people happy, and knows how to
make them happy. Neither the inclination
nor the knowledge will suffice alone, and it is
difficult to find them together.
Pure democracy, and pure democracy alone, satisfies the former condition of this great problem. That the governors may be solicitous only for the interests of the governed, it is necessary that the interests of .the governors and the governed should be the same. This cannot be often the case where power is intrusted to one or to a few. The privileged part of the community will doubtless derive a certain degree of advantage from the general prosperity of the state; but they will derive a greater from oppression and exaction. The king will desire a useless war for his glory, or a parc-aux-cnft for his pleasure. The nobles will demand monopolies and httrts-de-cachet. In proportion as the number of governors is increased the evil is diminished. There are fewer to contribute, and more to receive. The dividend which each can obtain of the public plunder becomes less and less tempting. But the interests of the subjects and the rulers never absolutely coincide till the subjects themselves become the rulers; that is, till the government be either immediately or mediately democratical.
But this is not enough. "Will without power," said the sagacious Casimir to Milor Beefington, "is like children playing at soldiers." The people will always be desirous to promote their own interests; but it maybe doubted, whether, in any community, they were ever sufficiently educated to understand them. Even in this island, where the multitude have long been better informed than in any other part of Europe, the rights of the many have generally been asserted against themselves by the patriotism of the few. Free trade, one of the greatest blessings which a government can confer on a people, is in almost every country unpopular. It may be well doubted, whether a liberal policy with regard to our commercial relations, would find any support from a Parliament elected by universal suffrage. The republicans on the other side of the Atlantic have recently adopted regulations, of which the consequences will, before long, show as,
"How nations link, by darling scheme* oppressed,
The people aTe to be governed for their own good; and, that they maybe governed for their own good, they must not be governed by their own ignorance. There are countries in which
it would be as absurd to establish popular 150vernments. as to abolish all restraints in a school, or to untie all the strait-waistcoats in a mad-house.
Hence it may be concluded, that the happiest state of society is that in which supreme poorer resides in the whole body of a well-informed people. This is an imaginary, perhaps aii unattainable state of things. Yet, in some measure, we may approximate to it; and he alone deserves the name of a great statesman, whose principle it is to extend the pon-er of the people in proportion to the extent of their" knowledge, and to give them every facility for obtaining such a degree of knowledge as may render it safe to trust them with absolute power. In the mean time, it is dangerous to praise or condemn constitutions in the abstract; since, from the desportsm of St. Petersburgh to the democracy of Washington, there is scarcely a form of government which might not, at least in some hypothetical case, be the best possible.
If, however, there be any form of gov eminent which in all ages and nations has always been, and must always be pernicious, it is certainly that which Mr. Mitford, on his usual principle of being wiser than all the rest of the world, has taken under his especial patronage—pure oligarchy. This is closely and indeed inseparably connected with another of his eccentric tastes, a marked partiality fur LacedTnion, and a dislike of Athens. Mr. Mitford's book lias, I suspect, rendered these sentiment in some degree popular; and I shall, therefore, examine them at some length.
The shades in the Athenian character strike the eye more rapidly than those in the Lacedaemonian; not because they are darker, but because they a re-on a brighter ground. The law of ostracism is an instance of this. Nothing can be conceived more odious than the practice of punishing a citizen, simply and professedly, for his eminence;—and nothing in the institutions of Athens is more frequently or more justly censured. Lacedremon was free from this. And why? Lacedsemon did not need itOligarchy is an ostracism of itself,—an ostracism not occasional, but permanent,—not dubious, but certain. Her laws prevented the development of merit, instead of attacking its maturity. They did not cut down the plant in its high and palmy state, but cursed the soil with eternal sterility. In spite of the law of" ostracism, Athens produced, within a hundred and fifty years, the greatest public men tha: ever existed. Whom had Sparta to ostracize t She produced, at most, four eminent men, Brasidas, Gylippus, Lysander, and Agesilaus. Of these, not one rose to distinction within her jurisdiction. It was only when they escaped from the region within which the influence of aristocracy withered every tiling good and noble; it was only when they ceased to be Lacedaemonians that they became great men. Brasidas, among the cities of Thrace, was strictly a democratical leader, the favourite minister and general of the people. The same may be said of Gylippus, at Syracuse. Lysan der, in the Hellespont, and Agesilaus, in Asia, were liberated for a time from the hateful re. straints imposed by the constitution of Lycut
fan. Both acquired fame abroad, and both returned to be watched and depressed at home. This is not peculiar to Sparta. Oligarchy, wherever it has existed, has always stunted the growth of genius. Thus it was at Rome, till about a century before the Christian era; we read of abundance of consuls and dictators who won battles and enjoyed triumphs, but we look in vain for a single man of the first order of intellect,—for a Pericles, a Demosthenes, or a Hannibal. The Gracchi formed a strong democratical party; Marius revived it; the foundations of the old aristocracy were shaken; and two generations fertile in really great men appeared.
Veriice is a still more remarkable instance: in her history we see nothing but the state; aristocracy had destroyed every s°ed of genius and virtue. Her dominion was like herself, lofty and magnificent, but founded on filth and Weeds. God forbid that there should ever again exist a powerful and civilized state, which, atter existing through thirteen hundred eventful years, shall not bequeath to mankind the memory of one great name or one generous action. Many writers, and Mr. Mitford among the number, have admired the stability of the Spartan institutions; in fact, there is little to admire, and less to approve. Oligarchy is the weakest and most stable of governments, and it is stable because it is weak. It has a sort of valetudinarian longevity; it lives in the balance of Sanctorius; it takes no exercise, it exposes itself to no accident, it is seized with a hypochondriac alarm at every new sensation, it trembles at every breath, it lets blood for every inflammation, and thus, without ever enjoying a day of health or pleasure, drags on its existence to a doting and debilitated old age.
The Spartans purchased for their government a prolongation of its existence, by the sacrifice of happiness at home and dignity abroad. They cringed to the powerful; they trampled on the weak; they massacred their Helots; they betrayed their allies; they contrived to be a day too late for the battle of Marathon; they attempted to avoid the battle of Salamis; they suffered the Athenians, to whom they owed their lives and liberties, to be a second time driven from their country by the Persians, that they might finish their own fortifications on the Isthmus; they attempted to. take advantage of the distress to which exertions in their cause had reduced their preservers, in order to make them their slaves; they strove to prevent those who had abandoned their walls to defend them, from rebuilding them to defend themselves; they commenced the Peloponnesian war in violation of their engagements with Athens; they abandoned it in violation of their engagements with their allies; they gave up to the sword whole cities, which had placed themselves under their protection; they bartered for advantages confined to themselves, the interest, the freedom, and the lives of those who had served them most faithfully; they took with equal complacency, and equal infamy, the stripes of Elis and the bribes of Persia; they never showed either resentment or gra'itude. they abstained from no injury.
and they revenged none. Above all, they lookcl on a citizen who served them well as their deadliest enemy. These are the arts which protract the existence of governments.
Nor were the domestic institutions of Laccdsemon less hateful or less contemptible tha:i her foreign policy. A perpetual interference with every part of tht system of human life, a constant struggle against nature and reason,' characterized all her laws. To violate even prejudices which have taken deep root in the minds of a people is scarcely expedient; to think of extirpating natural appetites and passions is frantic: the external symptoms mav be occasionally repressed, but the feeling still exists, and, debarred from its natural objects,* preys on the disordered mind and body of its victim. Thus it is in convents—thus it is among ascetic sects—thus it was among the Lacedaemonians. Hence arose that madness or violence approaching to madness, which, i:i spite of every external restraint, often appeared among the most distinguished citizens of Sparta. Cleomenes terminated his career of raving cruelty, by cutting himself to pieces. Pausanias seems to have been absolutely insane :" he formed a hopeless and profligate scheme; he betrayed it by the ostentation of his behaviour and the imprudence of his measures; and hs alienated, by his insolence, all who might have served or protected aim. Xenophon, a warm admirer of Lacedamion, furnishes us with the strongest evidence to this effect. It is impossible not to observe the brutal and senseless fury which characterizes almost every Spartac with whom he was connected. Clearchus nearly lost his life by his cruelty. Chirisophus deprived his army of the services of a faithful guide by his unreasonable and ferocious severity. But it is needless to multiply instances. Lycurgus, Mr. Mitford's favourite legislator, founded his whole system on a mistaken principle. He never considered that governments were made for men, and not men for governments. Instead of adapting the constitution tc the people, he distorted the minds of the people to suit the constitution, a scheme worthy of the Laputan Academy of Projectors. And this appears' to Mr. Mitford to constitute his peculiar title to admiration. Hear himself: "What to modern eyes most strikingly sets that extraordinary man above all other legislators is, that in so many circumstances, apparently out of the reach of law, he controlled and formed to his own mind the wills and habits of his people." I should suppose that this gentleman had the advantage receiving his education under the ferula of Dr. Pangloss; for his metaphysics are clearly those of the castle of Thunder-tentronckh, "Remarquez bien que les nez or! &tf> fails pour porter des lunettes, aussi avons t.cu.« des lunettes. Les jambes sont visiblement it) stitutecs pour etre chaussees, et nous avons des chausses. Les cochons etant faits pout elre manges, nous mangeons du pore tout" l'annie."
At Athens the laws did not constantly interfere with the tastes of the people. The children were not taken from-their parents by that universal step-mother, the state. They were not starved into thieves, or 'orturcd fnt> bullies; there was no established table at which every one must dine, no established style in which every one must converse. An Athenian might eat whatever he could afford lo buy, and talk as long as he could find people to listen. The government did not tell the people what opinions they were to hold, or what songs they were to sing. Freedom produced excellence. Thus philosophy took its origin. Thus were produced those models of poetry, of oratory, and of the arts, which scarcely fall short of the standard of ideal excellence. Nothing is more conducive lo happiness than the free exercise of the mind, in pursuits congenial to il. This happiness, as► suredly, was enjoyed far more at Athens than at Sparta. The Athenians are acknowledged even by their enemies to have been distinguished, in private life, by their courteous and amiable demeanour. Their levity, at least, was better than Spartan sullenness, and iheir impertinence, than Spartan insolence. Even in courage it may be questioned whether they were inferior to the Lacedaemonians. The great Athenian historian Ras reported a remarkable observation of the great Athenian minister. Pericles maintained that his countrymen, without submitting to the hardships of a Spartan education, rivalled alt the achievements of Spartan valour, and that therefore l he pleasures and amusements which they enjoyed were to be considered as so much clear gain. The infantry of Athens was certainly not equal to that of Laccdxmon; but this seems to have been caused merely by want of practice: the attention of the Athenians was diverted from the discipline of the phalanx to that of the trireme. The Lacedaemonians, in spite of all their boasted valour, were, from the same cause, timid and disorderly in naval action.
But we are told that crimes of great enormity were perpetrated by the Athenian government and the democracies under its protection. It is true that Athens too often acted up to the full extent of the laws of war, in an age when those laws had not been mitigated by causes which have operated in later times. This accusation is, in fact, common to Athens, to Lacedaemon, to all the states of Grcece,and to all states similarly situated. Where communities are very large, the heavier evils of war are felt but by few. The ploughboy sings, the spinning-wheel turns round, the wedding-day is fixed, whether the last battle were lost or won. In little states it cannot be thus; every man feels in his own property and person the effect of a war. Every man is a soldier, and a soldier fighting for his nearest interests. His o.vn trees have been cut down—his own corn has been burnt—his own house has been pillaged— his own relations have been killed. How can he entertain towards the enemies of his country the same feelings with one who has suffered nothing from them, except perhaps the addition of a small sum to the taxes which he pays? Men in such circumstances cannot be generous. They have too much at stake' It is when they are, if I may so express inyae.ll, playing for love, it is when war is a mere game at chess, it is when they are con
'tending for a remote colony, a frontier town, the honours of a flag, a salute or a title, that they can make fine speeches, and do s>>nj otlic.es lo their enemies. The Black Prince | waited behind the chair of his captive; Villars interchanged repartees with Eugene; George II. sent congratulations to Louis XV'., during a war, upon occasion of his escape from the attempt of Damien; and these things are fine and generous, and very gratifying to the author of the Broad Stone of Honour, and all the other wise men who think, like him, that God made the world only for the use of gentlemen. But they spring in general from utter heartlessness. No war ought ever to be undertaken but under circumstances which render all interchange of courtesy belween the combatants impossible. It is a bad thing that men should hate each other, but it is far worse that they should contract the habit of cutting one another's throats without hatred. War is never lenient but where it is wanton; when men are compelled lo fight in self-defence, they must hate and avenge; this may be bad, but it is human nature, it is the clay as it came from the hand of the potter.
It is true that among the dependencies of Athens, seditions assumed a character more ferocious than even in France, during the reign of terror—the accursed Saturnalia of an accursed bondage. It is true that in Athens itself, where such convulsions were scarcely known, the condition of the higher orders was disagreeable; that they were compelled lo contribute large stuns for the service or the amusement of the public, and that they were sometimes harassed by vexatious informers. Whenever such cases occur, Mr. Mitford's skepticism vanishes. The "if," the '• but," the "it is said," the "if we may believe," with which he qualifies every charge against a tyrant or an aristocracy, are at once abandoned. The blacker the story, the firmer is his belief; and he never fails to inveigh with hearty bitterness against democracy as the source of every species of crime.
The Athenians, I believe, possessed more liberty than was good for them Yet 1 will venture to assert, that while the splendour, the intelligence, and the energy of that great people were peculiar to themselves, the crimes with which they are charged arose from causes which were common to them with every other state which then existed. The violence of faction in that age sprang from a cause which has always been fertile in every political and moral evil, domestic slavery.
The effect of slavery is completely to dissolve the connection which naturally exists between the higher and lower classes of free citizens. The rich spend their wealth in purchasing and maintaining slaves. There is no demand for the labour of the poor; the fable of Menenius ceases to be applicable; the belly communicates no nutriment to the members; there is an atrophy in the body politic. The two parties, therefore, proceed lo extremities utterly unknown in countries where they have mutually need of each other. In Rome the oligarchy was too powerful to be subvened by force; and neither the tribunes nor the popular assemblies, thoneh constitutionally omnipotent, could maintain a successful contest attains! men who possessed the whole property of the state. Hence the necessity for measures tending to unsettle the whole frame of society, and to take away every motive of industry; the abolition of debts, and the Agrarian laws —propositions absurdly condemned by men who do not consider the circumstances from which they sprung. They were the desperate remedies of a desperate disease. In Greece the oligarchal interest was not in general so deeply rooted as at Rome. The multitude, therefore, often redressed, by force, grievances which, at Rome, were commonly attacked undor the forms of the constitution. They drove out or massacred the rich, and divided their property. If the superior union or military skill of the rich rendered them victorious, they took measures equally violent, disarmed all in whom they could not confide, often slaughtered great numbers, and occasionally expelled the whole commonalty from the city, and remained, with their slaves, the sole inhabitants.
From such calamities Athens and Laceda;mon alone were almost completely free. At Athens, the purses of the rich were laid under regular contribution for the support of the poor; and this, rightly considered, was as ranch a favour to the givers as to the receivers, since no other measure could possibly have saved their houses from pillage, and their persons from violence. It is singular that Mr. Milford should perpetually reprobate a policy which was the best that could be pursued in such a state of things, and which alone saved Athens from the frightful outrages which were perpetrated at Corcyra.
I.acedtsmon, cursed with a system of slavery more odious than has ever existed in any other country, avoided this evil by aimosl totally annihilating private property. Lj'curgns began by an Agrarian law. He abolished all professions except that of arms; he made the whole of his community a standing army,every member of which had a common right to the services of a crowd of miserable bondmen; he secured the state from sedition at the expense of the Helots. Of all the parts of his system this is the most creditable to his head, and ihe most disgraceful to his heart.
These considerations, and many others of equal importance, Mr. Mitford has neglected; but he has a yet heavier charge to answer. He has made not only illogical- inferences, but false statements. While he never states, without qualifications and objections, the charges which the earliest and best historians have brotteht against his favourite tyrants, Pisistratns, H:ppias, and Gelon, he transcribes, without any hesitation, the grossest abuse of the least authoritative writers against every democracy and every demagogue. Such an accusation should not be made without being supported; and I will therefore select one out ol'many passages which will fully substantiate the charge, and convict Mr. Mitford of wilful misrepresentation, or of negligence scarcely less culpable. Mr. Mitford is speaking of one of the greatest men that ever lived, Demos*
thenes, and comparing him with his rival, jEschines. Let him speak for himself.
"In earliest youth Demosthenes earned an opprobrious nickname by the effeminacy of his dress and manner." Does Mr. Mitford know that Demosthenes denied this charge, and explained the nickname in a perfectly different manner?* And if he knew it, shoulj he not have stated it? He proceeds thus:— "On emerging from minority, by the Athenian law, at five-and-twenty, he earned another opprobious nickname by a prosecution of his guardians, which was considered as a dishonorable attempt to extort money from them." In the first place, Demosthenes was not five, and-twenty years of age. Mr. Milford might have learnt from so common a book as the Archmologia of Archbishop Potter, that, at twenty, Athenian citizens were freed from the control of their guardians, and began to ma nage their own property. The very speech of Demosthenes against his guardians provc.s most satisfactorily that he was under twenty. In his speech against Midias, he says, that when he undertook that prosecution he was quite a boy.f His youth might, therefore, excuse the step, even if it had been considered, as Mr. Mitford says, a dishonourable attempt to extort money. But who considered it as such 1 Not the judges, who condemned the guardians. The Athenian courts of justice were not the purest in the world; but their decisions were at least as likely to be just as tbe abuse of a deadly enemy. Mr. Mitford re'- s for confirmation of his statement to .flSschi s and Plutarch. iEschines by no means beais him out. and Plutarch directly contradicts him. "Not long afle/," says Mr. Mitford, "he took blows publicly in the theatre (I preserve the orthography, if it can be so called, of this historian) from a petulant youth of rank named Meidias." Here are two disgraceful mistakes. In the first place, it was long after; eight years at the very least, probably much more. In the next place, the petulant youth, of whom Mr. Mitford speaks, was fifty years old.* Really Mr. Mitford has less reason to censure the carelessness of his predecessors than to reform his own. After this monstrous inaccuracy with regard to facts, we may be able to judge what degree of credit ought to be given to the vague abuse of such a writer. "The cowardice of Demosthenes in the field afterwards became notorious." Demosthenes was a civil character; war was not his business. In his time the division between military and political offices was beginning to be strongly marked; yet the recollection of the days when every citizen was a soldier was still recent In such states of society a certain degree of disrepute always attaches to sedentary men; but that any leader of the Athenian democracy could have been, as Mr. Mitford says of Demosthenes, a few lines before, remarkable for "an extraordinary deficiency of personal courage" is absolutely impossible. What mercenary warrior of the lime exposed his life to ; renter or.jjwre constant perils 1 Was there ■.' single sttraier at Chceronea who had more cause to tremble for his safety than the orator, vho, in case of defeat, could scarcely hope for :. ercy from the people whom he had misled, ai the prince whom he had opposed? Were not the ordinary fluctuations of popular feeling enough *o deter any coward from engaging in political conflicts? Isocrates, whom Mr. Miti'nd extols because he constantly employed aH tie flowers of his schoolboy rhetoric to decorate oligarchy and tyranny, avoided the judicial and political meetings of Athens from !:iere timidity, and seems to have hated democracy only because he durst not look a popular assembly in the face. Demosthenes was a man of a feeble constitution; his nerves were'weak, but his spirit was high; and the energy and enthusiasm of his feelings supported him through life and in death.
• Spe ih« speech of A>rhines against Tlmarehue • t McifinxvAAiav r,iv xft/iidn
t Whoever will read Ihe. speech at Demn-th-ne* nciiinut Mi.lins will tin.I the statements In Hie text confirmed, and will linvp. moreover, the pleasure of bo. coming acquainted with one of the finest compositions ia tins world. «
So much for Demosthenes. Now for the orator of aristocracy. I do not wish to abuse -Eschines. He may have been an honest man. He was certainly a great man; and I feel a reverence, of which Mr. Mitford seems to have no notion, for great men of every party. Uut when Mr. Mitford says, that the private ■character of ^Eschines was without stain, does he remember what ^Eschines has himself confessed in his speech against Timarchus? I ■ an make allowances, as well as Mr. Mitford, l>r persons who lived under a different system of laws and morals; but let them be made impartially. If Demosthenes is to be attacked, ,in account of some childish improprieties, proved only by the assertion of an antagonist, what shall we say of those maturer vices which that antagonist has himself acknowledged? "Against the private character of -•Eschines," says Mr. Mitford, "Demosthenes seems not to have had an insinuation to oppose." Has Mr. Mitford ever read the speech "f Demosthenes on the embassy? Or can he have forgotten, what was never forgotten by any one else who ever read it, the story which Demosthenes relates with such terrible energy of language concerning the drunken brutality of his rival? True or false, here is something more than an insinuation; and nothing can vindicate the historian who ha« 'verlooked it from the charge'of negligence or of partiality. Hut ^Eschines denied the story. And did not Demosthenes also deny the story respecting Lis childish nickname, which Mr. Mitford has ieverfheles3 told without any qualification? Out the judges, or some part of them, showed, i>y tneir clamour, their disbelief of the relation (•f Demosthenes. And did not the judges, who tried the causebetween Demosthenes and his guardians indicate,in a much clearer manner, their approbation of the prosecution? But Dcinns'henes was a demagogue, and is to be t-lanucred. ^Eschines was an aristocrat, and .is to be panegyrized. Is this a history, or a party-pamphlet?
Thcse^ pasSages, all selected from a single mure ;." Mr. Mitford's work, may give some
notion to those readers who have not tht means of comparing his statements with the original authorities, of his extreme partiality and carelessness. Indeed, whenever this historian mentions Demosthenes, he violates all the laws of candour and even of decency; he weighs no authorities; he makes no allowances; he forgets the Lest-au'.henticaied facts in the history of the times, and the most generally recognised principles of human nature. The opposition of the great orator to the policy of Philip, he represents as neither more nor less than deliberate villany. I hold almost the same opinion with Mr. Mitford respecting the character and the views of that great and accomplished prince. But am I, therefore, to pronounce Demosthenes profligate and insincere? Surely not; do we not perpetually see men of the greatest talents and the purest intentions misled by national or factions prejudices! The most respectable people in England were, little more than forty years ago, in the habit of uttering the bitterest abuse against Washington and Franklin. It is certainly to be regretted that men should err so grossly in their estimate of character. But no person who knows any thing of human nature will impute such errors to depravity.
Mr. Mitford is not more consistent with him self than with reason. Though he is the advocate of all oligarchies, he is also a warm admirer of all kings; and of all citizens who raised themselves to that species of sovereignty which the Greeks denominated tyranny. If monarchy, as Mr. Mitford holds, be in itself a blessing, democracy must be a better form of government than aristocracy, which is always "opposed to the supremacy, and even to the eminence of individuals. On the other hand, it is but one step that separates the demagogue and the sovereign.
If this article had not extended itself to so great a length, I should offer a few observations on some other peculiarities of this writer. —his general preference of the Barbarians to the Greeks,—his predilection for Persians, Carthaginians, Thracians, for all nations, in short, except that great and enlightened nation of which he is the historian. But I will confine myself to a single topic.
Mr. Mitford has remarked, with truth and spirit, that "any history perfectly written, but especially a Grecian history perfectly written, should be a political institute for all nations." It has not occurred to him that a Grecian history, perfectly written, should also be a complete record of the rise and progress of poetry, philosophy, and the arts. Here his work is extremely deficient. Indeed, though it may seem a strange thing to say of a gentleman who has published so many quartos, Mr. Mitford seems to entertain a feeling, bordering on contempt, for literary and speculative pursuits. The talents of action almost exclusively attract his notice, and he talks with verv complacent disdain of the " idle learned." Homer, I indeed, he admires, but principally, I am afraid, because he is convinced thaf Homer cohld neither read nor write. He could not avoid speaking of Socrates; but he has been