Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

employments, and many others that are uneasy, or ill entertained at home. The forward, the busy, the bold, the sufficient, pursue their game with more passion, endeavour, and application, and thereby often succeed when better men would fail.

In the course of my observation I have found no talent of so much advantage among men, towards their growing great or rich, as a violent and restless passion and pursuit for one or the other, and whoever sets his heart and his thoughts wholly upon some one thing, must have very little wit, or very little luck to fail. Yet all these cover their ends with most worthy pretences, and those noble sayings, that men are not born for themselves, and must sacrifice their lives for the public, as well as their time and their health, In the mean time the noble, the wise, the rich, those that are easy in their conditions, or their minds, those who know most of the world, and of themselves, are not only careless, but often averse from entering into public charges or employments, unless upon the neces sities of their country, commands of their prince, or instances of their friends. What is to be done in this case, when such as offer themselves, and pursue, are not worth having, and such as are more worthy, will neither offer, nor perhaps accept?

In

There is one difficulty more, which sometimes arrives like an ill season or great barrenness of a country: Some ages produce many great men, and few great occasions; other times, on the contrary, rain great occasions, and few or no great men. And that sometimes happens to a country, which was said by the fool of Bredevode, who going about the fields with the motions of one sowing corn, was asked what he sowed? He said, "I sow fools;" the other replied, "why do you not sow wise men ?" "Why," said the fool, c'est que la terre ne les porte pas." some times and places, the races of men may be so decayed, by the infirmities of birth itself, by the diseases or disaffection of parents; may be so depraved by the viciousness or negligence of education, by licentious customs, and luxuries of youth, by ill examples of princes, parents, and magistrates, or corrupt principles, generally infused and received among a people, that it may be hard for the best princes or ministers to find subjects fit for the command of armies, or great charges of the state; and if these are ill supplied, there will be always too just occasion for exception and complaints against the government, though it be never so well framed and instituted.

These defects and infirmities, either natural or accidental, make way for another, which is more

artificial, but of all others the most dangerous. For when, upon any of these occasions, com plaints and discontents are sown among wellmeaning men, they are sure to be cultivated by others that are ill and interested, who cover their own ends under those of the public, and by the good and service of the nation, mean nothing but their own. The practice begins of knaves upon fools, of artificial and crafty men upon the simple and the good; these easily follow, and are caught, while the others lay trains, and pursue a game wherein they design no other share than of toil and danger to their company, but the game and the quarry wholly to themselves.

They blow up sparks that fall in by chance, or could not be avoided; or else throw them in whenever they find the stubble is dry: they find out miscarriages where they are, and forge them often where they are not; they quarrel first with the officers, and then with the prince or state; sometimes with the execution of the laws, and at others with the institutions, how antient and sacred soever. They make fears pass for dangers, and appearances for truth; represent misfortunes for faults, and molehills for mountains; and by the persuasions of the vulgar, and pretences of patriots, or lovers of their country, at the same

time they undermine the credit and authority of the government, and set up their own. This raises a faction between those subjects that would support it, and those that would ruin it; or rather between those that possess the honour and advantages of it, and those that, under pretence of reforming, design only to change the hands it is in, and care little what becomes of the rest.

When, therefore, the fire is kindled, both sides inflame it; all care of the public is laid aside, and nothing is pursued but the interest of the factions; all regard of merit is lost in persons employed, and those only chosen, that are true to the party; and all the talent required is, to be hot, to be heady, to be violent on one side, or the other. When these storms are raised, the wise and good are either disgraced or laid aside, or retire of themselves, and leave the scene free to such as are most eager, or most active to get upon the stage, or find men ready to help them up.

From these seeds grow popular commotions, and at last seditions, which so often end in some fatal periods of the best governments, in strong convulsions and revolutions of state; many times make way for new institutions and forms, never intended by those who first began or promoted them; and often terminate

either in setting up some tyranny at home, or bringing in some conquest from abroad. For the animosities and hatred of the factious grow so great that they will submit to any power, the most arbitrary and foreign, rather than yield to an opposite party at home; and are of the mind of a great man, in one of our neighbouring countries, who upon such a conjunction, said, if he must be eaten up, he would rather it should be by wolves than by rats.

It imports little, from what poor small springs the torrents of faction first arise, if they are fed with care, and improved by industry, and meet with dispositions fitted to embrace and receive them. But whatever the beginnings of factions are, the consequences are the same, and the ends too of those chiefly engaged in them, which is to act the same part in different masks, and to pursue private passions or interests under public pretences.

Upon the survey of these dispositions in mankind, and the conditions of government, it seems much more reasonable to pity than to envy the fortunes and dignities of princes, or great ministers of state; and to lessen or excuse their venial faults, or at least their misfortunes, rather than to increase them, or make them worse by ill colours and representations. For as every prince

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »