« AnteriorContinuar »
suffer the most unreasonable favours to be extorted, and the most important affairs to miscarry, rather than determine for themselves against the opinion of those who are continually about them. This weakness is easily discovered, and every one improves it to his advantage : every request becomes in effect a demand ; it is urged with trou- . blesome importunity, and is granted that importunity may be troublesome no more. The first attempt upon a prince is by flattery; by this designing parasites recommend themselves to favour'; but they are no sooner trusted to serve than they aspire to govern. They rule their lord by the very power they derive from him : their bridle is in his mouth, and their yoke upon his shoulders. He groans under it, and sometimes makes an effort to throw it off. This effort is soon remitted, and he bears the yoke to his grave. He dreads the appearance of being governed, yet tameiy suffers the reality. To be governed is indeed necessary to such princes, for they resemble the feeble branches of a vine, which, not being able to support themselves, always creep round the trunk of some neighbouring tree.
Ib. liv. xxiii, PRINCES that have been accustomed to consider their will only as law, and to give the reins to their passions, may do any thing; but their power of doing any thing is necessarily subverted by its own excess, Their government is capriciously administered without maxim or principle. Their subjects degenerate into slaves, and of these slaves the number is perpetually diminishing. Who shall
dare affront them with truth! who shall stem the torrent of destruction! it swells over all bounds. The wise fly before it, and sigh in secret over the ruin of their country:
Some sudden and violent revolution only can reduce this enormous power within proper bounds; and by that which alone can restrain it, it is frequently destroyed. Nothing is so certain a presage of irremediable destruction as authority pushed to excess; it is like a bow that is overbent, which, if not relaxed, will suddenly fly to pieces. And who shall venture to relax it ?
Ib. liv. xxii.
11 is the intent of the law, that the wisdom and equity of one man shall be the happiness of many, and not that the wretchedness and slavery of many should gratify the pride and luxury of one. The king ought to possess nothing more than the subject, but in proportion as more is necessary to alleviate the fatigue of his station, and impress upon the minds of the people a reverence of that authority by which the laws are executed. In every other respect he should indulge himself less, as well in ease as in pleasure, and should be less disposed to the pomp and the pride of lite than any other man: he ought not to be distinguished from the rest of mankind by the greatness of his wealth, or the variety of his enjoyments, but by superior wisdom, more heroic virtue, and more splendid glory. It is not for himself that the gods have intrusted him with royalty, he is exalted above individuals, only that he may be the servant
of the public ; to the public he owes all his time, the public should engage all his attention, and his love should have no object but the public ; for he deserves dignity, only in proportion as he gives up private enjoyment for the public good.
Ib. liv, zii. The least fault a king commits produces infipite mischief; for it diffuses misery through a whole people, and sometimes for many generations.
Ib. liv. xix. Kings are generally mistrustful and indolent : mistrustful, by perpetually experiencing the arti. fices of the designing and corrupt; and indolent, by the pleasures that solicit them, and a habit of leaving all business to others, without taking the trouble so much as to think for themselves.
Ib. liv. titi. To princes who have been spoiled by flattery, every thing that is sincere and honest appears to be ungracious and austere. Such princes are even weak enough to suspect a want of zeal for their service and respect for their authority, where they do not find a servility that is ready to flatter thein in the abuse of their power. They are offended at all freedom of speech, all generosity of sentiment, which they consider as pride, censoriousness, and sedition ; and they contract a false delicacy, which every thing short of flattery disappoints and disgusts.
Ib. liv. xiv.
SUCH princes are a terror to mankind and mankind a terror to them. They retire from the public eye and immure themselves in the palace. They love darkness and disguise their characters, which however are perfectly known; the malignant curiosity of their subjects penetrates every veil and investigates every secret : but he that is thus known by all knows nobody. The self-interested wretches that surround him rejoice to perceive that he is inaccessible; and a prince that is inaccessible to men is inaccessible to truth. Those who avail themselves of his blindness are busy to calumniate or to banish all that would open his eyes. He lives in a kind of savage and unsociable magnificence, always the dupe of that imposition which he at once dreads and deserves. He that converses only with a small number of men, almost necessarily adopts their passions and their prejudices : and from passions and prejudices the best are not free. He must also receive his knowledge by report, and therefore lie at the mercy of tale bearers, a despicable and detestable race, who are nourished by the poison that destroys others who make what is litt'e great, and what is blameless criminal, who, rather than not impute evil, invent it; and who to answer their own purposes, play upon the causeless. suspicion and unworthy curiosity of a weak and jealous prince.
Ib. liv. r.xiv.
Kings wish to be absolute, and they are sometimes told that their best way to become so, is to make themselves beloved by the people.
maxim is doubtless a very admirable one, and in some respects true, But unhappily it is laughed at in courts.
Du Contrat Social, liv. ii. eb. vi. Pity, benevolence, friendship, are things almost unknown in high stations. Vera, amicitia, rarissime, inveniuntur in iis qui in honoribus reque publica versantur, says Cicero. And indeed courts are the schools where cruelty, pride, dissimulation, and treachery are studied and taught in the most vicious perfection.
BURKE. Vindication of Natural Society, p. 95.
Louis XIV. one day said to a man who had rendered considerable services to Charles II. of Spain, and who had lived familiarly with him : The king of Spain then loved you much ? Ah! sire, replied the poor courtier, who is it that you kings love?
VOLTAIRE. King of Prussia's Correspondence, let. xxii.
It is better and more secure for a prince to be feared than to be loved.
A PRINCE should desire to be esteemed rather merciful than cruel; but with great caution, that his mercy be not abused.
Prince, cb. tua.
How honourable it is for a prince to keep his word, and act rather with integrity than collusion, I presume every body understands, Nevertheless