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should not return the money which they had given for their freedom. To this the senate agreed. Disgrace to the empire! For the faith of pirates is better than was the senate's. But our revenues have been increased by it-therefore it was expedient. How long will people venture to say that any thing is expedient which is not virtuous ? Now, can odium and infamy be useful to any empire which ought to be supported by glory and the good-will of its allies ? I often disagreed in opinion even with my friend Cato. For he seemed to me too rigidly to defend the treasury and tributes ; to deny all concessions to the farmers of the revenue; and many to our allies, when we ought to have been munificent toward the latter, and to have treated the former as we were accustomed to do our colonists, and so much the more, because such a harmony between the orders' conduced to the safety of the republic. Curio was also in error when he admitted that the cause of the Transpadani was just, but always added, “let expediency prevail.” He should rather have said that it was not just, because not expedient, for the republic, than to say it was not expedient, when he confessed that it was just.
XXIII. The 6th book of Hecaton, “De Officiis," is full of such questions—whether it be the part of a good man, in an exceedingly great scarcity of provisions, not to feed his slaves; he argues on either side, but still in the end he guides our duty rather by utility than humanity. He inquires, if goods must needs be thrown into the sea in a storm, whether ought one to throw overboard a valuable horse or a worthless slave. Here pecuniary interest would incline us one way, humanity another. If a fool should snatch a plank from a wreck, shall a wise man wrest it from him if he is able? He says no, because it is an injustice. What will the master of the ship do? Will he seize the plank as his own ? By no means—no more than he would be willing to toss into the sea one sailing in his ship, because it is his own. For until they are come to the place to which the vessel was chartered, the vessel is not the property of the master, but
i The equestrian order, who were the farmers of the revenue, and the senators, who exacted too rigidly the full amount of the contracts, notwithstanding any event that might render the taxes less valuable to tho farmers. This disgusted the knights with the senate, and threw them into the arms of Cæsar, who procured for them a remission of part of their liabilities.
of the passengers. What, if there be only onc plank, two shipwrecked men, and both wise ? Should neither seize it, or one yield to the other ? One, indeed, should yield to the other, namely, to him whose life was of more consequence either for his own sake or that of the commonwealth. But i: these considerations be equal in both cases? There will lc no dispute ; but one, conquered, as it were, by lot, or by playing at odd or even, should yield to the other. What, if a father should rob temples, or carry a subterraneous passage into the treasury; should his son inform of it to the magistrates ? To do that indeed would be impiety. Nay, he ought even to defend his father if he were accused of it. Is
1 The most noted opponent of this crude and indefensible dogma, which would set up a claim on the score of personal relationship paramount to all the claims of justice, has been answered, as we have already seen, by two ethical philosophers of no mean reputation, Jonathan Edwards, in his “Essay on the Nature of True Virtue," and William Godwin, in his “Inquiry concerning Political Justice." It is the latter who has carried these principles to the greatest extent. Indeed, he appears so far to equalize the relative obligations of mankind as to make gratitude an injustice, and to destroy all peculiarity of claims arising from the closest relationship. Perhaps, however, it is safe to affirm that he has not erred so widely on the one side, as Cicero in the above sentence has erred on the other. The following passage contains the strongest statement of Godwin's views on this point:
“What magic is there in the pronoun 'my' that should justify us in overturning the decisions of impartial truth? My brother, or my father, may be a fool, or a profligate, malicious, lying, or dishonest. If they bo, of what consequence is it that they are mine? 'But through my father I am indebted for existence, he supported me in the helplessness of infancy. When he first subjected himself to the necessity of these cares, he was probably influenced by no particular motives of benevolence to his future offspring. Every voluntary benefit, however, entitles the bestower to some kindness and retribution. Why? because a voluntary benefit is an evidence of benevolent intention, that is, in a certain degree of virtue. It is the disposition of the mind, not the external action separately taken, that entitles to respect. But the merit of this disposition is equal, whether the benefit te bestowed upon me or upon another. I and another man can not both be right in preferring our respective benefactors, for my benefactor can not be at the same time both better and worse than his neighbor. My benefactor ought to be esteemed, not bocause he bestowed a benefit upon me, but because he bestowed it upon a human being. His desert will be in exact proportion to the degree in which that human being was worthy of the distinction preferred.
“Thus every view of the subject brings us back to the consideration of my neighbor's moral worth, and his importance to the general weal, as the only standard to determine the treatment to which he is entitled.
not our country then paramount to all duties ?. Yes, indeed, but it is advantageous to our country itself to have its citizens affectionate toward their parents, What, if a father should endeavor to usurp tyrannic power, or to betray his country? Shall the son be silent? Nay, but he should implore his father not to do it. If he prevail not, he should reproach—he should even threaten. If at last the matter should tend to the ruin of his country, ho should prefer the safety of his country to that of his father.
lle also asks, if a wise man should receive base money unawares for good, shall he, when he shall have come to know it, pay it instead of good, if he owes money to any person? Diogenes affirms this; Antipater denies it—and with him I rather agree. Ought he who knowingly sells wine that will not keep, to acquaint the buyer? Diogenes thinks it unnecessary; Antipater thinks it the characteristic of an honest man. These are, as it were, the controverted laws of the Stoics. In selling a slave, are his faults to be told—not those which, unless you tell, the slave would be returned by the civil law; but these, that he is a liar, a gambler, a pilferer, a drunkard ? These things to the one seem necessary to be told; to the other not. If any person selling gold should suppose he was selling brass, should an honest man acquaint him that it was gold, cr should he buy for a denarius what was worth a thousand deGratitude, therefore, if by gratitude we understand a sentiment of preference which I entertain toward another, upon the ground of my having been the subject of his benefits, is no part either of justico or virtue.
" It may be objected, that my relation, my companion, or my benefactor, will of course in many instances obtain an uncommon portion of my regard: for not being universally capable of discriminating the comparative worth of different men, I shall inevitably judge most favorably of him of whose virtues I have received the most unquestionable proofs; and thus shall be compelled to prefer the man of moral worth whom I know, to another who may possess, unknown to me, an essential superiority.'
"This compulsion, however, is founded in the imperfcction of human nature. It may serve as an apology for my error, but can never change crror into truth. It will always remain contrary to the strict and universal decisions of justice. The difficulty of conceiving this, is owing merely to our confounding the disposition from which an action is chosen with the action itself. The disposition, that would prefer virtue to vice, and a greater degree of virtue to a less, is undoubtedly a subject of approbation; the erroneous exercise of this disposition, by which a wrong object is selected, if unavoidable, is to be deplored, but can by no coloring, and under no denomination, be converted into right.”—Godwin's “Political Justice," vol. i. book ii. chap. ii.
narii ? It is plain now, both what is my view, and what is the controversy between those philosophers whom I have mentioned.
XXIV. Are compacts and promises always to be kept," which are made neither by means of force, nor with criminal intent (as the prætors are accustomed to say)? If any one should give some person a cure for the dropsy, and should covenant with him that he should never afterward use that cure-if by that cure he became well, and in some years afterward fell into the same disease, and could not obtain from him with whom he had covenanted, leave to use it again—what ought to be done ? Since he is an inhuman fellow, who would not give him leave, and no injury would be done to that person by using it, he ought to consult for his life and health. What? If a wise man, being required, by one who would make him his heir, when he would be left by him a large fortune in his will, that before he entered upon the inheritance he should dance openly by daylight in the forum—should promise him that ho would do it, because otherwise he would not have made him his heir; should he do what he promised, or not? I
1 Promises are not binding if performanco is unlawful. Sometimes men promise to commit a wicked act, even to assassination; but a man is not required to commit murder because he has promised to commit it. Thus, in the Christian scriptures, the son who has said, “I will not work" in the vineyard, and "afterward repented and went," is spoken of with approbation, his promise was not binding, because fulfillment would havo been wrong. Cranmer, whose religious firmness was overcome in the prospect of the stake, recanted; that is, he promised to abandon the Protestant faith. Neither was his promise binding; to have regarded it would have been a crime. The offense both of Cranmer and of the son in the parable, consisted not in violating their promises but in making them. Respecting the often discussed question, whether extorted promises are binding, there has been, I suspect, a general want of advertenco to one important point-what is an extorted promise? If by an extorted promise is meant a promise that is made involuntarily," without tho concurrence of the will; if it is the effect of any ungovernable impulse, and made without the consciousness of the party, then it is not a promise. This may happen. Fear or agitation may be so great that a person really does not know what he says or does, and in such a case a man's promises do not bind him any more than the promises of a man in a fit of insanity. But if by an "extorted” promise it is only meant that very powerful inducements were held out to making it, inducements, however, which did not take away the power of choice—then these promiscs are in strictness voluntary, and like all other voluntary engagements they ought to be fulfilled. Dymond's “Principles of Morality," chap. 6.
would wish that he had not promised, and I think that this would have been the part suitable to his dignity. Since he has promised, if he considers it disgraceful to dance in the forum, he will with greater propriety break his word, provided he should not take any thing out of the inheritance, than if he did so; unless, perhaps, he will contribute that money to some great occasion of the state—so that it would not be disgraceful even to dance, since he was about to consult for the interests of his country.'
XXV. But even those promises ought not to be kept, which are hurtful to those very persons to whom you have made them.
To revert to fictitious tales, Sol promised to Phæton, his son, to do whatever he would desire. He desired to be taken up in his father's chariot. IIe was taken up. But before he was well settled, he was burned with the stroke of lightning. How much better would it have been in this case, that the promise of the father had not been kept ? Why should I mention the promise which Theseus exacted from Neptune, to whom when Neptune gave three wishes ho wished for the death of his son Ilippolytus, when he was suspected by his father concerning his step-mother; by obtaining which promise, Theseus was involved in the greatest affliction? Why, that Agamemnon, when he had vowed to Diana the loveliest thing that should be born that year in his kingdom, sacrificed Iphigenia, than whom, indeed, nothing lovelier was born that year? Better that the promise should not be performed, than that a horrible crime should be committed. Therefore, promises are sometimes not to be performed, and deposits are not always to be restored. If any man in sound mind should have intrusted a sword to you, and having gono mad, should ask it back, to restore would be a crime ; not to restore, a duty. What, if he who may have deposited money with you, should levy war against his country, ought you to rc
The following is Cockman's noto upon this passage: “Dancing was esteemed but a scandalous practice, and unbecoming a sober and prudent person among the Romans; wherefore our author tells us in his oration for Murena (chap. 6), nobody almost dances, unless he be drunk or mad, and calls it omnium vitiorum extremum, a vice that no one would bo guilty of till he had utterly abandoned all virtuo; and umbram luxuria, that which follows riot and debauchery, as the shadow follows the body. The meaning, therefore, of this place is, that Crassus would not stick ai the basest actions if he could but fill his coffors by them."