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minds in their schemes, they are not lefs to be valued for their endeavours to give them a right direction, and moderate their too great ardour. The ftudy of history will teach the legiflator by what means ftates have become powerful; and in the private citizen, they will inculcate the love of liberty and order. The writings of fages point out a private path of virtue; and fhow that the best empire is felf-government, and that fubduing our paflions is the no-. bleft of conquests.
The true fpirit of heroifm acts by a generous impulfe, and wants neither the experience of history, nor the doctrines of philofophers to direct it. But do not arts and sciences render men effeminate, luxurious and inactive ? and can you deny that wit and learning are often made fubfervient to very bad purposes?
I will own that there are fome natures fo happily formed they scarcely want the affiftance of a mafter, and the rules of art, to give them force or grace in every thing they do. But thefe favoured geniufes are few. As learning flourishes only where eafe, plenty, and mild government fubfift; in fo rich a foil, and under fo foft a climate, the weeds of luxury will fpring up among the flowers of art but the fpontaneous weeds would grow more rank, if they were allowed the undisturbed poffeffion of the field. Letters keep a frugal, temperate nation from growing ferocious, a rich one from becoming entirely fenfual and debauched. Every gift of Heaven is fometimes abufed; but good fenfe and fine talents, by a natural law, gravitate towards virtue. Accidents may drive them out of their proper direction; but such accidents are an alarming omen, and of dire portent to the times. For if virtue cannot keep to her allegiance thofe men, who in their hearts confefs her divine right, and know the value of her laws, on whose fidelity and obedience can the depend? May fuch geniuses never defcend to flatter vice, encourage folly, or propagate irreligion; but exert all their powers in the fervice of virtue, and celebrate the noble choice of thofe, who, like Hercules, preferred her to pleasure !
MARCUS AURELIUS PHILOSOPHUS AND SERVIUS TULLIUS.
An abfolute and a limited monarchy compared.
Yes, Marcus, though I own you to have been the first of mankind in virtue and goodnefs; though while you gov erned, philofophy fat on the throne, and diffufed the benign influences of her adminiftration over the whole Roman empire, yet as a king, I might, perhaps, pretend to a merit even fuperior to yours.
That philofophy you afcribe to me has taught me to feel my own defects, and to venerate the virtues of other Tell me, therefore, in what confifted the fuperiority of your merit, as a king.
It confifted in this, that I gave my people freedom. I diminished, limited the kingly power, when it was placed in my hands. I need not tell you, that the plan of govern ment inftituted by me was adopted by the Romans, when they had driven out Tarquin, the deftroyer of their liberty; and gave its form to that republic, composed of a due mixture of the regal, ariftocratical and democratical powers, the ftrength and wisdom of which fubdued the world. Thus all the glory of that great people, who for many ages excelled the rest of mankind, in the arts of policy, belongs originally to me.
There is much truth in what you fay. But would not the Romans have done better, if, after the expulfion of Tarquin, they had vefted the regal power in a limited monarch, inftead of placing it in two annual elective magistrates, with the title of confuls? This was a great deviation from your plan of government, and 1 think an unwife one. a divided royalty is a folecifm, and abfurdity in politics. Nor was the regal power, committed to the administration of confuls, continued in their hands long enough, to enable them to finish any act of great moment. From hence arofe a neceffity of prolonging their commands beyond the legal term; of fhortening the interval prefcribed by the laws be
tween the elections to thofe officers; and of granting extraordinary commiffions and powers, by all which the republic was in the end destroyed.
The revolution which enfued upon the death of Lucretia was made with fo much anger, that it is no wonder the Romans, abolished in their fury the name of king, and defired to weaken a power, the exercise of which had been fo grievous; though the doing of this was attended with all the inconveniences you have justly observed. But if anger acted too violently in reforming abufes, philofophy might have wifely corrected that error. Marcus Aurelius might have new-modelled the conftitution of Rome. He might have made it a limited monarchy, leaving to the emperors all the power that was neceffary to govern a wide extended empire, and to the fenate and people all the liberty that could be confiftent with order and obedience to govern ment; a liberty purged of faction, and guarded against anarchy.
I should have been happy indeed, if it had been in my power to do fuch good to my country. But Heaven will not force its bletlings on men, who by their vices are become incapable of receiving them. Liberty, like power, is only good for thofe who poffefs it, when it is under the conftant direction of virtue. No laws can have force enough to hinder it from degenerating into faction and anarchy, where the morals of a nation are depraved; and continued habits of vice will eradicate the very love" it out of the hearts of a people. A Marcus Brutus, in my time, could not have drawn to his standard a fingle legion of Romans. But further, it is certain that the fpirit of liberty is abfolutely incompatible with the fpirit of conquelt. To keep great conquered nations in fubjection and obedience, great ftanding armies are neceffary. The gen erals of thofe armies will not long remain fubjects and whoever acquires dominion by the fword, muft rule by the fword. If he does not deftroy liberty, liberty will destroy
Do you then justify Augustus for the change he made in the Roman government?
I do not; for make that change.
Auguftus had no lawful authority to His power was ufurpation and breach of truft. But the government which he feized with a violent hand, came to me by a lawful and established rule of fucceffion.
Can any length of establishment make defpotifm lawful? Is not liberty an inherent, inalienable right of mankind?
They have an inherent right to be governed by laws, not by arbitrary will. But forms of government may, and must be occafionally changed, with the confent of the people. When I reigned over them, the Romans were governed by laws.
Yes, because your moderation, and the precepts of that philofophy in which your youth had been tutored, inclined you to make the laws the rule of your government, and the bounds of your power. But if you had defired to govern otherwife, had they power to restrain you?
They had not the imperial authority in my time had no limitations.
I did ;murder.
Rome therefore was in reality as much enflaved under you as under your fon; and you left him the power of tyrannifing over it by hereditary right.
and the conclufion of that tyranny was his
Unhappy father! unhappy king! what a deteftable thing is abfolute monarchy, when even the virtues of Marcus Aurelius could not hinder it from being destructive to his family, and pernicious to his country, any longer than the period of his own life! But how happy is that kingdom, in which a limited monarch prefides over a state
fo juftly poifed,* that it guards itself from fuch evils, and has no need to take refuge in arbitrary power against the dangers of anarchy: which is almost as bad a refource, as it would be for a fhip to run itself on a rock, in order to efcape from the agitation of a tempeft.
THERON AND ASPASIO.
On the excellence of the Holy Scriptures.
I FEAR my friend fufpects me to be fomewhat wavering, or defective, in veneration for the Scriptures.
No, Theron, I have a better opinion of your taste and difcernment, than to harbour any fuch fufpicion.
The Scriptures are certainly an inexhaustible fund of materials, for the moft delightful and ennobling difcourfe and meditation. When we confider the Author of thofe facred books, that they came originally from Heaven, were dictated by Divine Wisdom, have the fame confummate excellence as the works of creation; it is really furprising that we are not often fearching, by ftudy, by meditation, or converfe, into one or other of thofe important volumes.
I admire, I must confefs, the very language and compo fition of the Bible. Would you fee history in all her fimplicity, and all her force; most beautifully eafy, yet irrefiftibly ftriking? See her, or rather feel her energy, touching the nicest movements of the foul, and triumphing over our paffions, in the inimitable narrative of Jofeph's life. The reprefentation of Efau's bitter diftrefs; the converfation pieces of Jonathan and his gallant friend;
[*The young American reader will here be naturally remind ed of the superior excellence of the Federal Constitution; which combines the advantages of the three great forms of government without their inconveniences; it preserves a happy balance amongst them, and contains within itself the power of recurring to first principles, and of rectifying all disorders.]