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viously to the appointment of any of the authors to any public office, the inspectors are bound to look over their register, and produce, as a set-off against a candidate's claims, any unsuccessful prediction he may have made. Many a man there is to whom important public trusts are committed, who, wherever such an institution had been established, would be found to have formally recorded, under the influence of self-conceit, his own incapacity.
'Men mark when they hit, and never mark when they miss.'
This remark, as well as the proverb, 'What is hit is history; what is missed is mystery, ' would admit of much generalization. The most general statement would be nearly that of the lawmaxim, ' De non apparentibus et non existentibus, eadem est ratio:' for in all matters, men are apt to treat as altogether non-existent, whatever does not come under their knowledge or notice.
No doubt, if all the pocket-books now existing could be inspected, some thousands of memoranda would be found of dreams, visions, omens, presentiments, &c., kept to observe whether they are fulfilled; and when one is, out of some hundreds of thousands, this is recorded; the rest being never heard of. So Bion, when shown the votive offerings of those who had been saved from shipwreck, asked, 'Where are the records of those who were drowned in spite of their vows V
Mr. Senior has remarked in his Lectures on Political Economy, that the sacrifice of vast wealth, on the part of a whole people, for the gain—and that, comparatively, a trifling gain—of a handful of monopolists, is often submitted to patiently,1 from the gain being concentrated and the loss diffused. But this would not have occurred so often as it has, were it not that this diffusion of the loss causes its existence—that is, its existence as a loss so increased—to be unperceived. If a million of persons are each virtually taxed half-a-crown a year in the increased price of some article, through the prohibition of free-trade, perhaps not above a shilling of this goes to those who profit by the monopoly. But this million of shillings, amounting to £50,000
See'Annotations' on Essay XXIII.
per annum, is divided, perhaps, among fifty persons, who clearly perceive whence their revenue is derived; and who, when an income of £1000 is at stake, will combine together, and use every effort and artifice to keep up the monopoly. The losers, on the other hand, not only have, each, much less at stake, but are usually ignorant that they do lose by this monopoly; else they would not readily submit to pay half-a-crown, or even one shilling, as a direct pension to fifty men who had no claim on them.
Again, an English gentleman who lives on his estate, is considered as a public benefactor, not only by exerting himself—if he does so—in promoting sound religion, and pure morality, and useful knowledge, in his neighbourhood, but also because his income is spent in furnishing employment to his neighbours, as domestics, and bakers, aud carpenters, &c. If he removes and resides in France, his income is, in fact, spent on English cutlers and clothiers; since it is their products that are exported to France, and virtually exchanged—though in a slightly circuitous way,—for the services of French domestics, bakers, and carpenters. But the Sheffield cutlers are not aware even of his existence; while the neighbours of the resident proprietor trace distinctly to him the profits they derive from him.
Again, one who unprofitably consumes in feasts, and fireworks, and fancy-gardens, &c., the labour of many men, is regarded as a public benefactor, in furnishing employment to so many; though it is plain, that all unproductive consumption diminishes by just so much of the wealth of the country. He, on the contrary, who hoards up his money as a miser, is abused; though in fact he is (though without any such design) contributing to the public wealth, by lending at interest all he saves; which finds its way, directly or indirectly, to canals, commerce, manufactures, and other productive courses of expenditure. But this benefit to the Public no one can trace; any more than we can trace each of the drops of rain that find their way into the sea. On the other hand, the advantage to the individuals to whom the other is a customer, they distinctly trace to him.
Again, the increased knowledge of 'accidents and offences,' conveyed through newspapers, in a civilized country, leads some to fancy that these evils occur more frequently, because they hear of them more, than in times of' primitive simplicity.' But 'there are no more particles of dust in the sun-beam than in the rest of the room; though we see them better. '
All these, and a multitude of other cases, come under the general formula above stated: the tendency to overrate the amount of whatever is seen and known, as compared with what is unknown, or less known, unseen, and indefinite.
Under this head will come the general tendency to underrate the preventive effects of any measure or system, whether for good or for evil. E.g. in the prevention of crime, it is plain that every instance of a crime committed, and of a penalty actually inflicted, is an instance of failure in the object for which penalties were denounced. We see the crimes that do take place, and the punishments; we do not see the crimes that would be committed if punishment were abolished.
ESSAY XXXVI. OF AMBITION.
AMBITION is like choler, which is a humour that maketh men active, earnest, full of alacrity, and stirring, if it be not stopped; but if it be stopped, and cannot have its way, it becometh adust,1 and thereby malign and venomous; so ambitious men, if they find the way open for their rising, and still get forward, they are rather busy than dangerous; but if they be checked in their desires, they become secretly discontent,2 and look upon men and matters with an evil eye, and are best pleased when things go backward; which is the worst property in a servant of a prince or State. Therefore, it is good for princes, if they use ambitious men, to handle it so as they be still progressive and not retrograde; which, because it cannot be without inconvenience, it is good not to use such natures at all; for if they rise not with their service, they will take order3 to make their service fall with them. But since we have said, it were good not to use men of ambitious natures, except it be upon necessity, it is fit to speak in what cases they are of necessity. Good commanders in the wars must be taken, be they never so ambitious; for the use of their service dispenseth4 with the rest; and to take a soldier without ambition is to pull off his spurs. There is also great use of ambitious men in being screens to princes in matters of danger and envy; for no man will take that part except he be like a seeled5 dove, that mounts and mounts, because he cannot see about him. There is use also of ambitious men in pulling down the greatness of any subject that overtops; as Tiberius used Macro in the pulling down of Sejanus. Since, therefore, they must be used in such cases, there resteth1 to speak how they are to be bridled, that they may be less dangerous. There is less danger of them, if they be of mean birth, than if they be noble; and if they be rather harsh of nature, than gracious and popular, and if they be rather new raised, than grown cunning2 and fortified in their greatness. It is counted by some a weakness in princes to have favourites, but it is, of all others, the best remedy against ambitious great ones; for when the way of pleasuring3 and displeasuring4 lieth by the favourite, it is impossible any other should be over great. Another means to curb them, is to balance them by others as proud as they; but then there must be some middle counsellors to keep things steady, for without that ballast, the ship will roll too much. At the least, a prince may animate and inure5 some meaner persons to be scourges to ambitious men. As for the having of them obnoxious6 to ruin, if they be of fearful natures, it may do well, but if they be stout and daring, it may precipitate their designs, and prove dangerous. As for the pulling of them down, if the affairs require it, and that it may not be done with safety suddenly, the only way is, the interchange continually of favours and
1 Adust. Fiery.
'The same adust complexion has impelled Charles to the convent, Philip to the field.'—Pope. 3 Discontent. Discontented.'
'For e'er with goodness men grow discontent, Where states are ripe to fall, and virtue spent.'—Daniel. 3 Order. Measures.
'While I take order for mine own affairs.'—Shakespere.
* Dispense with. To excuse.
'To save a brother's life, Nature dispenseth with the deed.'
* Seel. To seal up the eyes; to hoodwink; to blind. (A term of falconry.)
'To seel her father's eyes up, close as oak.'—Shakespere.
1 Rest. To remain.
'Fallen he is; and now What rests but that the mortal sentence pass On his transgression.'—Milton.
s Cunning. Experienced; skilful. 'Esau was a cunning hunter.'—Gen. xrv. 27. 3 Pleasure (not used as a verb). To please; to gratify. 'Promising both to give him cattle, and to pleasure him otherwise.'—2 Maccabees xii. 11.'Nay, the birds' rural music, too, Is as melodious and as free As if they sang to pleasure you.'—Cowley.
* Displeasure. To displease.
s Inure. To make use of. (From an old word—'ure.') 'Is the warrant sufficient for any man's conscience to build such proceedings upon, as are and have been put in ure for the establishment of that cause.'—Hooker.
• Obnoxious. Liable to; in peril of; subject to.
'But what will not ambition and revenge