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bullies; there was no established table attending for a remote colony, a frontier town, which every one must dine, no established the honours of a flag, a salute or a title, that
style in which every one must converse. Athenian might eat whatever he could afford to 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 proHuced 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 to ha piness than the free exercise of the mind, in pursuits congenial to it. This happiness, assuredly, 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 their impertinence, than Spartan insolence. Even in courage it may be questioned whether they were inserior to the Lacedaemonians. The great Athenian historian has reported a remarkable observation of the great Athenian minister. Pericles maintained that his countrymen, without submitting to the hardships of a Spartan education, rivalled all the achievements of Spartan valour, and that therefore the 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 Iacedaemon ; 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 Greece, 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 own 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
An they can make fine speeches, and do good
offices to 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 between 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 to 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 to contribute large sums for the service or the amusement of the public, and that they were sometimes iros 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 to extremities utterly unknown in countries where they have mutually need of each other. In Rome the assemblies, though constitutionally omnipotent, could maintain a successful contest against 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 under 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 Lacedæmon 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 much 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. Mitford 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. Lacedæmon, cursed with a system of slavery more odious than has ever existed in any other country, avoided this evil by almost totally annihilating private property. Lycurgus 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 the 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 brought against his favourite tyrants, Pisistratus, Hippias, 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 of 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
inyself, playing for love, it is when war is a oligarchy was too powerful to be subverted by inere game at chess, it is when they are con- force; and neither the tribunes nor the popular
thenes, and comparing him with his rival, AEschines. 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, should 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. Mitford might have learnt from so common a book as the Archaeologia 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 proves 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. 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 the abuse of a deadly enemy. Mr. Mitford ref “s for confirmation of his statement to Æschil 's and Plutarch. AEschines by no means bears him out, and Plutarch directly contradicts him. “Not long after,” 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. at merce
* See the speech of Æschines against Timarchus.
+ MeunaxvAAtov ww wouldn.
t Whoever will read the speech of Demosthenes against Midias will find the statements in the text confirmed, and will have, moreover, the pleasure of becoining acquainted with one of the finest compositions in the world.
nary warrior of the time exposed his life to greater or more constant perils? Was there a single soldier at Choeronea who had more cause to tremble for his safety than the orator, who, in case of defeat, could scarcely hope for mercy from the people whom he had misled, or the prince whom he had opposed? Were not the ordinary fluctuations of popular feeling enough to deter any coward from engaging in political conflicts? Isocrates, whom Mr. Mitford extols because he constantly employed all the flowers of his schoolboy rhetoric to decorate oligarchy and tyranny, avoided the judicial and political meetings of Athens from mere 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. So much for Demosthenes. Now for the orator of aristocracy. I do not wish to abuse AEschines. 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. But when Mr. Mitford says, that the private character of AEschines was without stain, does he remember what Æschines has himself conofessed in his speech against Timarchus? I can make allowances, as well as Mr. Mitford, for persons who lived under a different system of laws and morals; but let them be made impartially. If Demosthenes is to be attacked, on 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 1 “Against the private character of AEschines,” says Mr. Mitford, “Demosthenes seems not to have had an insinuation to oppose.” Has Mr. Mitford ever read the speech of 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 has rverlooked it from the charge of negligence or of partiality. But AEschines denied the story. And did not Demosthenes also deny the story respecting his childish nickname, which Mr. Mitford has nevertheless told without any qualification? But the judges, or some part of them, showed, by their clamour, their disbelief of the relation of Demosthenes. And did not the judges, who tried the cause between Demosthenes and his guardians indicate, in a much clearer manner, their approbation of the prosecution? But Demos'henes was a demagogue, and is to be slandered. AEschines was an aristocrat, and is to be panegyrized. Is this a history, or a party-pamphlet? These passages, all selected from a single page ... Mr. Mitford's work, may give some
notion to those readers who have not the 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 best-authenticated 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 aecomplished prince. But am I, therefore, to pronounce Demosthenes profigate and insincere? Surely not; do we not perpetually see men of the greatest talents and the purest intentions misled by national or factious 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 anything of human nature will impute such errors to depravity. 'Mr. Mitford is not more consistent with himself 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 very comlacent disdain of the “idle learned.” Homer, indeed, he admires, but principally, I am afraid, because he is convinced that Homer could neither read nor write. He could not |avoid speaking of Socrates; but he has been far more solicitous to trace his death to political causes, and to deduce from it consequences unfavourable to Athens and to popular government, than to throw light on the character and doctrines of the wonderful man,
“From whose mouth issued forth Mellifluous streams that watered all the schools Of Academics, old and new, with those Surnamed Peripatetics, and the sect Epicurean, and the Stoic severe.”
He does not seem to be aware that Demosthenes was a great orator; he represents him sometimes as an aspiring demagogue, sometimes as an adroit negotiator, and always as a great rogue. But that in which the Athenian -excelled all men of all ages, that irresistible eloquence, which, at the distance of more than two thousand years, stirs our blood and brings tears into our eyes, he passed by with a few phrases of commonplace commendation. The origin of the drama, the doctrines of the sophists, the course of Athenian education, the state of the arts and sciences, the whole domestic system of the Greeks, he has almost completely neglected. Yet these things will appear, to a reflecting man, scarcely less worthy of attention than the taking of Sphacteria, or the discipline of the targeteers of Iphicrates. This, indeed, is a deficiency by no means culiar to Mr. Mitford. Most people seem to magine that a detail of public occurrences— the operation of sieges—the changes of administrations—the treaties—the conspiracies—the rebellions—is a complete history. Differences of definition are logically unimportant, but practically they sometimes produce the most momentous effects: thus it has been in the present case; historians have, almost without exception, confined themselves to the public transactions of states, and have left to the negligent administration of writers of fiction a province at least equally extensive and valuable. All wise statesmen have agreed to consider the prosperity or adversity of nations as made up of the happiness or misery of individuals, and to reject as chimerical all notions of a public interest of the community, distinct from the interest of the component parts. It is therefore strange that those whose office it is to supply statesmen with examples and warnings, should omit, as too mean for the dignity of history, circumstances which exert the most extensive influence on the state of society. In general, the under current of human life flows steadily on, unruffled by the storms which agitate the surface. The happiness of the many commonly depends on causes independent of victories or defeats, of revolutions or restorations,—causes which can be regulated by no laws, and which are recorded in no archives. These causes are the things which it is of main importance to us to know, not how the Lacedaemonian phalanx was broken at Leuctra—not whether Alexander died of poison or by disease. History, without these, is a shell without a kernel; and such is almost all the history which is extant in the world. Paltry skirmishes and plots are reported with absurd
and useless minuteness: but improvements the most essential to the comforts of human life extend themselves over the world, and introduce themselves into every cottage, before any annalist can condescend from the dignity of writing about generals and ambassadors, to take the least notice of them. Thus the pro gress of the most salutary inventions and dis coveries is buried in impenetrable mystery, mankind are deprived of a most useful species of knowledge, and their benefactors of their honest fame. In the mean time every child knows by heart the dates and adventures of a long line of barbarian kings. The history of nations, in the sense in which I use the word, is often best studied in works not professedly historical. Thucydides, as far as he goes, is an excellent writer, yet he affords us far less knowledge of the most important particulars relating to Athens, than Plato or Aristophanes. The little treatise of Xenophon in Domestic Economy contains more historical information than all the seven books of his Hellanics. The same may be said of the Satires of Horace, of the Letters of Cicero, of the novels of Le Sage, of the memoirs of Marmontel. M others might be mentioned, but these suffi. ciently illustrate my meaning. I would hope that there may yet appear a writer who may despise the present narrow limits, and assert the rights of history over every part of her natural domain. Should such a writer engage in that enterprise, in which I cannot but consider Mr. Mitford as having failed, he will record, indeed, all that is interesting and important in military and political transactions; but he will not think any thing too trivial for the gravity of history, which is not too trivial to promote or diminish the happiness of man. He will portray in vivid colours the domestic society, the manners, the amusements, the conversation of the Greeks. He will not disdain to discuss the state of agriculture, of the mechanical arts, and of the conveniences of life. The progress of painting, of sculpture, and of architecture, will form an important part of his plan. But above all, his attention will be given to the history of that splendid literature from which has sprung all the strength, the wisdom, the freedom, and the glory of the western world. Of the indifference which Mr. Mitford shows on this subject, I will not speak, for I cannot speak with fairness. It is a subject in which I love to forget the accuracy of a judge, in the veneration of a worshipper and the gratitude of a child. If we consider merely the subtlety of disquisition, the force of imagination, the perfect energy and elegance of expression, which characterize the great works of Athenian genius, we must pronounce them intrinsically most valuable; but what shall we say when we reflect that from hence have sprung, directly or indirectly, all the noblest creations of the human intellect; that from hence were the vast accomplishments and the brilliant fancy of Cicero, the withering fire of Juvenal; the plastic imagination of Dante; the humour of Cervantes; the comprehension of Bacon; the wit of Butler; the supreme and universaexcellence of Shakspeare? All the triumphs of truth and genius over prejudice and power, in every country and in every age, have been the triumphs of Athens. Wherever a few great minds have made a stand against violence and fraud, in the cause of liberty and reason, there has been her spirit in the midst of them; inspiring, encouraging, consoling :by the lonely lamp of Erasmus; by the restless bed of Pascal; in the tribune of Mirabeau; in the cell of Galileo ; or, the scaffold of Sidney. But who shall estimate her influence on private happiness? Who shall say how many thousands have been made wiser, happier, and better, by those pursuits in which she has taught mankind to engage; to how many the studies which took their rise from her have been wealth in poverty, liberty in bondage,_ health in sickness, society in solitude. Her power is indeed manifested at the bar; in the senate; in the field of battle; in the schools of §. But these are not her glory, herever literature consoles sorrow, or assuages pain,_wherever it brings gladness to eyes which fail with wakefulness and tears, and ache for the dark house and the long sleep, —there is exhibited, in its noblest form, the immortal influence of Athens. The dervise, in the Arabian tale, did not hesitate to abandon to his comrade the camels with their load of jewels and gold, while he re tained the casket of that mysterious juice, which enabled him to behold at one glance all
the hidden riches of the universe. Surely it is no exaggeration to say, that no external advantage is to be compared with that purification of the intellectual eye, which gives us to contemplate the infinite wealth of the mental world; all the hoarded treasures of the primeval dynasties, all the shapeless ore of its yet unexplored mines. This is the gift of Athens to man. Her freedom and her power have for more than twenty centuries been annihilated; her people have degenerated into timid slaves; her language into a barbarous jargon; her temples have been given up to the successive depredations of Romans, Turks, and Scotchmen; but her intellectual empire is imperishable. And, when those who have rivalled her greatness shall have shared her fate: when civilization and knowledge shall have fixed their abode in distant continents; when the sceptre shall have passed away from England; when, perhaps, travellers from distant regions shall in vain labour to decipher on some mouldering pedestal the name of our proudest chief; shall hear savage hymns chanted to some misshapen idol over the ruined dome of our proudest temple: and shall see a single naked fisherman wash his nets in the river of the ten thousand masts, her influence and her glory will still survive, fresh in eternal youth, exempt from mutability and decay, immortal as the intellectual principle from which they derived their origin, and over which they exercise their control.