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INSTEAD of wondering that so many kings, unfit and unworthy to be trusted with the government of mankind, appear in the world, I have been tempted to wonder that there are any tolerable, when I have considered the flattery that environs them most commonly from the cradle, and the tendency of all those false notions that are instilled into them by precept and by example, by the habits of courts, and by the interested selfish views of courtiers. They are bred to esteem themselves of a distinct and superior species among men, as men are among animals.
Louis the Fourteenth was a strong instance of the effect of this education, which trains up kings to be tyrants, without knowing that they are so. That oppression under which he kept his people, during the whole course of a long reign, might proceed, in some degree, from the natural haughtiness of his teinper ; but it proceeded, in a greater degree, from the principles and habits of his education. By this he had been brought to look on his kingdom as a patrimony that descended to him from his ancestors, and that was to be considered
in no other light : so that when a very considerable man had discoursed to him at large of the iniserable condition to which his people was reduced, and had frequently used this word, l’etat, (the state ;] though the king approved the substance of all he had said, yet he was shocked at the frequent repetition of this word, and complained of it as of a kind of irdecency to himself.
This capital error, in which almost every prince is confirmed by his education, has so great extent and so general influence, that a right to do every thing iniquitous in government may be derived from it. But, as if this was not enough, the characters of princes are spoiled many more ways by their education.
Idea of a Patriot King. I AM not at all surprised that in monarchies, especially in our own, there should be so few princes worthy of esteem. Incircled by .corrupters, knaves, and hypocrites, they açcustom themselves to look upon their fellow creatures with disdain, and to set no value on any but the sycophants, who caress their vices, and live in perpetual inac, tivity and idleness. Such is generally the condition of a monarch. Great men are always șcarce, and great kings still more so.
MONTESQUIEU. Three Letters to the Chevalier de Bruant, Let, i
Louis XIV. at once the greatest and meanest of inankind, would have excelled all the monarchs, in the universe, if he had not been corrupted in his youth by base and ambitious natterers. А
şlave during his whole life to pride and vain glory, he never in reality loved his subjects even for a moment; yet expected at the same time, like a true despotic prince, that they should sacrifice themselves to his will and pleasure. Intoxicated with power and grandeur, he imagined the whole world was created solely to promote his happiness. He was feared, cbeyeri, idolized, hatcd, mortified, and abandoned. He lived like a Sultan and died like a woman.
It is therefore impossible there should ever be a great man among our kings, who are made brutes and fools of all their lives, by a set of infamous wretches, who surround and beset them from the cradle to the grave.
Ib. Let, ii.
The king of Prussia being at supper with the English ambassador, asked him what he thought of monarchs ? He replied, in general I think them a worthless race; they are ignorant and debauched by flattery. The only thing in which they succeed, is riding a horse ; and at the same time, of all those that approach them, the horse is the only one that does not flatter them; for he breaks their necks if they do not govern him well.
I CONGRATULATE your nation on the good choice Louis XVI. has made of his ministers. Your monarch has the best intentions ; he wishes to do good ; the creatures therefore most to be feared are those pests of the court, who will en
deavour to corrupt, and by degrees to vitiate his mind. He is young; he is unacquainted with the refined tratagems which courtiers will employ to wind him as they wish, and thus to gratify their interest, their hatred, and their ambition.
KING OF PRUSSIA.
Correspondence with Voltaire, let. 436. We have been informed here of the dismission of some of the French ministers. At this I am not astonished. I figure Louis XVI. to myself as a young sheep surrounded by old wolves; he will be happy should he escape their jaws.
Ib. let. 455. PRINCES in their infancy, childhood, and youth, are said to discover prodigious parts and wit, to speak things that surprise and astonish : strange, so many hopeful princes, and so many shameful kings! If they happen to die young, they would have been prodigies of wisdom and virtue ; if they live, they are often prodigies indeed, but of another
Swift. Tboughts on Various Subjetts, Works, vol. v. P. 365, How dangerous a situation is royalty, in which the wisest are often the tools of deceit! A throne is surrounded by the train of subtlety and self-interest : Integrity retires, because she will not be introduced by importunity or flattery : Virtue, conscious of her own dignity, waits at a distance till she is sought, and princes seldoin know where she may be found ; but Vice and her attendants are impudent and fraudful, insinuating and offi
ciousi, skilful in dissimulation, and ready to renounce all principles, and to violate every tie when it becomes necessary to the gratification of the appetites of a prince. How wretched is the man who is thus perpetually exposed to the attempts of guilt, by which he inust inevitably perish, if he do not renounce the music of adulation, and learn not to be offended by the plainness of truth!
Telemaque, liv. ü, The children of royalty, whose passions have been flattered and whose wishes prevented in their earliest youth, expect that every thing should be managed so as to coincide with their desires, and that the laws of nature should be subservient to their will ; yet have they not the resolution to look in the face of misfortune. They avoid it, not in tenderness to others, nor from a principle of benevolence that fears to give pain, but from a regard to their own convenience and gratification. They cannot bear to be surrounded with mournful and discontented countenances, and are touched with the miseries of men, only as objects disagreeable to their eye. They will not bear of misfortune, because it is a disgustful subject ; and lest their fancy should be offended, they must be told that all is prosperity and happiness: they are surrounded with delights, and will neither see nor hear any thing that may interrupt their joy. If misconduct is to be reproyed or error detected, importunity repressed, false claims opposed, they will always depute another for the purpose, rather than declare their own will. They will tamely