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store the deposit ? I think not. For you would be acting against your country, which ought to be most dear to you. So, many things which are right by nature become wrong by occasions. To perform promises, to stand to agreements, to restore deposits, the expediency being altered, become contrary to virtue.
Now, indeed, of those things which seem to be profitable, contrary to justice, but with the semblance of prudence, I think enough has been said. But since in the first book we derived duties from the four sources of virtue, we shall be engaged with those same, while we show that those things which seem to be useful are not so as long as they are hostilo to virtue. And indeed of prudence, which craft is apt to imitate, and likewise of justice, which is always expedient, we have already treated. Two parts of virtue remain, of which the one is discerned in the greatness and pre-eminence of an elevated mind; the other in the habit and regulation of continence and temperance.
XXVI. It seemed to Ulysses to be expedient (to act), as the tragic poets, indeed, have represented—for in Homer, the best authority, there is no such suspicion of Ulysses—but the tragedians accused him of wishing to escape from military service by the affectation of insanity. A dishonorable device. But it was advantageous, some persons, perhaps, wil! say, to reign and live at case in Ithaca, with his parents, with his wife, with his son. They may ask, do you think any glory arising from daily toils and perils to be compared with this tranquillity? I think, indeed, this tranquillity is to be despised and rejected, because I think tranquillity which was not honorable, was not even advantageous. For what reproach do you think Ulysses would have heard if he had persevered in that dissembling, when though he performed the greatest achievements in the war, he yet heard this from Ajax ?
“Of the oath, of which he was the originator, as you all know, he alone disregarded the obligation. Madness he feigned; persisted in not joining the army; and had not the clear-sighted wisdom of Palamedes seen through the knavish audacity of the fellow, he would have forever evaded the obligation of his sacred oath."
It was really better for him to buffet, not only with the fvc, but also with the waves, as he did, than to desert Greece', when combining to wage war against the barbarians. But let
us leave both fables and foreign scenes let us come to real history, and that our own. Marcus Atilius Regulus, when in his second consulship taken in Africa by stratagem by Xanthippus, the Lacedæmonian general--but when Hamilcar, the father of Hannibal, was the commander-in-chief-was sent to the senate, bound by an oath, that unless some noble captives were restored to the Carthaginians, he should himself return to Carthage. When he arrived at Rome, ho saw the semblance of advantage, but, as the event declares, judged it a fallacious appearance, which was this—to remain in his country, to stay at home with his wife and his children; and, regarding the calamity which he had experienced as incident to the fortune of war, to retain the rank of consular dignity. Who can deny these things to be profitable ? Whom do you think? Greatness of mind and fortitude deny it.
XXVII. Can you require more creditable authorities? For it is characteristic of these virtues to fear nothing, to despise all human concerns, to think nothing that can happen to a man intolerable. What, then, did he do? He came into the senate—he disclosed his commission-he refused to declare his own sentiments—he said that as long as he was bound by an oath to the enemy he was not a senator. And this, too (ob, foolish man! some person will exclaim, an enemy to his own interests !) he denied to be expedient, namely, that the captives should be restored, for that they were young men and good generals, that he himself was already worn out with years. When his authority had prevailed, the captives were retained, and he returned to Carthage; nor did the love of his country or of his family withhold him. Nor was he then ignorant that he was returning to a most cruel enemy, and to exquisite tortures. But he considered that his oath ought to be observed. Therefore, at the very time when he was undergoing death by want of sleep, he was in a better condition than if he had remained at home an aged captive, and a perjured consular. But ho acted foolishly, since he not only did not advise the sending back the captives, but even spoke against the measure. How foolishly? What, even if it was advantageous to his country? Can that now which is inexpedient for our country be expedient for any citizen?
to a man intolerab disclosed liis commissas long as he wa
XXVIII. Men pervert those things which are the foundations of nature, when they separate expediency from virtue. For we all desire our own interest—we are carried along to it; nor can we by any means do otherwise. For who is there that shuns his own advantage ? or rather, who is there that does not most eagerly pursue it? But because we never can find real advantage except in good report, honor, virtue ; therefore we esteem these things first and chief; we consider the name of utility not so much noble as necessary. What is there, then, somebody will. say, in an oath ? Are wo afraid of angry Jove? But it is a common principle with all philosophers, indeed—not of those only who say that the deity has no labor himself, and imposes none on others—but of those also who are of opinion that the deity is always acting and planning something, that the deity never is angry, nor injurious. But what greater harm could angry Jupiter do to Regulus, than Regulus did to himself? It was, then, no force of religion which prevented so great an advantage. Was it that he might act basely? In the first place, choose the least among evils. Would, then, this trifling turpitudo bring as much evil as that great torture? In the next place, that saying in Accius—" Hast thou broken faith? I neither have plighted nor do plight faith with any of tho faithless”—though it is spoken by an impious king, yet is well spoken. They add, also, that just as we say that some acts seem useful which are not; so they say that some acts seem virtuous which are not so; as for instance, this very act seems virtuous, to return to torture for the sake of obserying an oath, but it is really not virtuous, because whatever is extorted by the violence of enemies, ought not to be fulfilled. They add also that whatever is very advantageous becomes virtuous, even though it did not seem so before. These things are usually urged against Regulus. But let us consider the first objection.
XXIX. We need not dread Jupiter, lest in his wrath le might do us harm, who neither is accustomed to be wroth, nor to do harm. This reasoning, indeed, applies not more against Regulus than against every oath ; but in an oath it cught to be considered, not what is the fear, but what is the for(e. For an oath is a religious affirmation ; but what you solemnly promise, as if the deity were witness, to that you ought to adhere. For it pertains now not to the anger of the gods, which exists not, but to justice and fidelity. For well has Ennius said
"O holy Faith, winged, and the very oath of Jove." lle, then, who violates an oath, violates Faith, which our ancestors, as is recorded in Cato's speech, wished to be in the Capitol, next to Jupiter Greatest and Best. But they argue that even angry Jupiter could not have done more harm to Regulus than Regulus did to himself. Certainly not, ji nothing but pain be an evil. But philosophers of the highest authority assert, not only that it is not the greatest evil, but that it is not an evil at all. I pray you not to despise a witness of theirs, of no slight weight I know not, indeed, but that he is the weightiest-namely, Regulus. For, wbom do we require more creditable than the chief of the Roman people who, for the sake of adhering to duty, underwent voluntary torture ? But as to what they say, choose the least of evils—that is baseness rather than calamity—can there be any evil greater than baseness? And if this implies somcthing of disgust in the deformity of person, how much worso should appear the depravity and foulness of a debased mind ? They,' therefore, who treat of these subjects more boldly,
?" An oath is that whereby we call God to witness the truth of what we say; with a curse upon ourselves, either implied or expressed, should it prove false.”—Milton on Christian Doctrine.
While the sacredness of oaths is still held as a principle of morals, the lawfulness of their administration is doubted by many, and their efficacy perhaps by the majority of modern society. The increased security for the veracity of him who takes them, which they are supposed to afford, is in the case of an honest man unnecessary, and of a dishonest man valueless. The argument of Godwin with relation to oaths of duty and office, appears to admit of a universal application; the same arguments that prove the injustice of tests, may be applied universally to all oaths of duty and office. “If I entered upon the office without an oath, what would be my duty ? Can the oath that is imposed upon me make any alteration in my duty ? -if not, does not the very act of imposing it, by implication, assert a falsehood? Will this falsehood have no injurious effect upon a majority of the persons concerned ? What is the true criterion that I shall faithfully discharge the office that is conferred upon me? Surely my past life, not any protestations I may be compelled to make. If my life have been unimpeachable, this compulsion is an unmerited insult; if it have been otherwise, it is something worse,'-Godwin's “Political Justice,” book vi. chap. v. - 2 Cicero here obviously refers to the Stoics who regarded pleasure and
venture to say that that which is base is the only cvil; but they' who treat of them more timidly, yet do not hesitate to call it the greatest evil. Now, that saying indeed—“I neither have plighted, nor do plight faith with any of the faithless” --was well imagined by the poet, on this account, because when Atreus was being delineated, it was necessary to sustain the character. But if they take this to themselves, that there is no faith which is plighted to the faithless, let them see to it lest it be sought as a subterfuge for perjury.
There are also rights of war, and the faith of an oath is often to be kept with an enemy. For that, which is so sworn that the mind conceives it ought to be done, that should be observed. What is otherwise, if you perform it not,
pain as indifferent. This theory is thus refuted by that most ingenious metaphysician and moralist, Dr. Thomas Browne. “Between mere pleasure and mere virtue there is a competition, in short, of the less with the greater ; but though virtue be the greater, and the greater in every case in which it can be opposed to mere pleasure, pleasure is still good in itself, and would be covetable by the virtuous in every case in which the greater good of virtue is not inconsistent with it. It is, indeed, because pleasure and pain are not in themselves absolutely indifferent that man is virtuous in resisting the solicitations of the one and the threats of the other. And theru is thus a self-coufutation in the principles of stoicism, which it is truly astonishing that the founder of the system, or some one of the ancient and modern commentators on it, should not have discovered. We may praise, indeed, the magnanimity of him who dares to suffer every external evil which men can suffer rather than give his conscience one guilty remembrance; but it is because there is evil to be endured that we may praise him for his magnanimity in bearing the evil, and if there be no ill to be endured, there is no magnanimity that can be called forth to endure it. The bed of roses differs from the burning bull; not merely as a square differs from a circle, or as flint differs from clay, but as that wlich is physically evil; and if they do not so differ as good and evil, there could be as little merit in consenting when virtue required the sacrifice to suffer all the bodily pain which the instrument of torturo could inflict, rather than to rest in guilty indolence on that luxurious couch of flowers, as there could be in the mere preference for any physical purpose of a circular to an angular form, or of the softness of clay to the hardness of flint. Moral excellence is, indeed, in every case, preferable to mero physical enjoyment: and there is no enjoyment worthy of the choice of inan when virtue forbids the desire. But virtue is tho superior only, not the sole power; she has imperial sway, but her sway is imperial only because there are forms of inferior good over which it is her glory to preside.”—Moral Philosophy, Lcct. xcix.
i The Peripatetics.