Jean Paul Marat
The History of Despotism is replete with uncommon events : On one side, we survey the bold designs of some ambitious men, their villainous attempts, and the secret springs they put in action to attain illicit power: on the other side, we see the people, whilst reposing under the shade of their own laws, enslaved ; we behold the vain efforts of an unfortunate multitude to shake off oppression, and the numberless evils constantly attendants on slavery. Scenes at once horrible and magnificent, wherein alternately appear peace, plenty, sports, pomp, festivals, dissensions, misery, artifice, treachery, treason, banishments, contests and carnage.
Sometimes Despotism is established at once by the force of arms: but this rapid progress of power to absolute Empire is not the subject of my present work: it is the flow and gradual efforts of policy, which by degrees subject the necks of the people to the yoke, depriving them at the same time both of the means and desire of shaking it off.
From attentively considering the establishment of despotism, it is evident that Slavery is only the effect of time, and the necessary consequence of the defects of political constitutions. Let us endeavour, therefore, to discover how by their means the Magistrate usurps the title of Master, and substitutes his will for the law. Let us review that multiplicity of machines, which the sacrilegious audacity of Princes has recourse to, in order to sap the foundation of liberty: let us follow their dark projects, their crafty proceedings, their secret plots, enter into a detail of their fatal policy, unfold the principles of that deceitful art, and reduce to one point of view the various attacks that have been made upon Public Freedom. But in arranging my observations, I shall less regard the order of time than the connection of the subject.
When once the dangerous trust of public authority is committed to a Prince, and the care of enforcing obedience to the laws to Magistrates, the people see themselves sooner or later subdued by those rulers they have made choice of, and their liberty, their property, their lives at the discretion of those who have been appointed to protect them. No sooner has the Prince cast his eyes upon the trust reposed on him, but he endeavours to forget from what hands he received it: Full of himself and of his power, he supports impatiently the idea of his dependance, and constantly labours to free himself from every sort of restraint.
The people are never voluntary slaves, they yield not to power, but when they believe it to be a duty, or are unable to oppose it. Hence in a state newly founded or reformed, the subjects are not at once enslaved, however imperfect the constitution might be. Despair, that prompted them at first to throw off the yoke, would prompt them to throw it off anew whenever they should feel its weight. To commence with open attacks upon liberty, and to attempt to destroy it by violence, would prove therefore a rash undertaking. When those who govern, daringly dispute the supreme power with open force, and the people perceive their rulers attempting * to enslave them, the latter ever prevail, and the Prince in a moment loses the fruit of all his efforts. At his first attempt the subjects unite against him, and his authority is at stake, if his conduct be not more submissive than imperious. It is not therefore by open attacks Princes first attempt to enslave the people, they take their measures in secrecy, they have recourse to craft: it is by flow but constant efforts, by changes almost imperceptible, by innovations of which it is difficult to observe the consequences, and such as are scarcely taken notice of.
THE first attack Princes make upon the public liberty, is not the violating audaciously the laws, but the causing them to fall into oblivion. To enchain their subjects, they begin by setting them asleep.
Whilst men have their heads heated with ideas of liberty, and whilst the bloody image of Tyranny is still before their eyes, they detest despotism, and watch with inquietude every motion of the Ministry. The Prince at that time is cautious not to form any attacks upon public freedom; he appears the father of his people, and his reign the era of justice. At first his administration is so mildly conducted, that it might be apprehended he has a design of extending Liberty, far from having any intent of ruining it.
Having nothing to dispute relating to their privileges, which are not contested, nor to their liberty which is not attacked, the people gradually become less watchful over the conduct of their rulers, they insensibly discontinue to be upon their guard, and finally lay aside all solicitude, resting tranquil beneath the shade of the laws.
Thus in proportion as the people recede from the stormy times, in which
the constitution took its rise, they gradually lose fight of Liberty. To
set their minds at rest, there is occasion only to let things proceed in
their natural order. But Princes do not always rely on the power of time
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THE entrance of Despotism is sometimes pleasing and joyous: plays, feasts, dances and songs being its cheerful attendants *. But in these feasts and plays, the people perceive not the evils prepared for them; they resign themselves to pleasure, and their joy is unbounded. But whilst the inconsiderate multitude is abandoned to joy, the wise foresee the remote calamities threatening their country, and by which it is at last to be overwhelmed: they perceive the chains concealed with flowers, ready to be fixed on the arms of their countrymen.
TO the power of time and influence of entertainments, is joined an attention to national affairs. Some war * is undertaken, public edifices are built, highways are made, etc. The multitude, judging from appearances alone, believe the Prince is attentive to the welfare of the state only, whilst he is wholly taken up with his projects; they grow careless more and more, and at last they cease to be watchful over their enemy.
While the minds of the people cease to be engaged, the defects of the constitution begin to unfold: the Prince, ever intent upon his own interests, is seeking means to extend his power; but now takes care not to give the least room for disturbing that profound security.
AMUSING the people is not sufficient, the prince endeavours to have them well affected towards him: and what some do to divert the attention of their subjects, others do to gain their affection.
The Roman people, those absolute masters of the earth, were extremely fond of public shows ; and the magnificence of entertainments was a mean made use of, to captivate them, by those who deprived them of their power and liberty.
When Charles II. ascended the throne of Spain, the first business of the minister was to restore plenty to the kingdom, and to indulge the people with shows; never in that country were seen so many bull-fights, plays, and other entertainments after the taste of the nation *.
To conciliate the affections of the people, princes have recourse sometimes to grants, etc. +
+ It must be confessed, that this crafty wile succeeds but too well with the multitude - a stupid animal whose affection largesses ever secure. Whilst from a balcony of the Hotel de ville, Mazarine, on his return to Paris, scattered money among the rabble, it was curious to hear the people passing from the greatest imprecations to the greatest encomiums. Hist. du Card. de Mazarine, Vol. IV.
Caesar used to confer largesses on the people ; and the easy multitude, not perceiving the snare, exhausted their gross imaginations in bestowing encomiums on the despot.
Louis XIV. applied himself to win the hearts of his subjects, by his engaging manners, his prodigality and magnificence. He was careful no one should depart dissatisfied from his presence, he secured by lucrative employments those whom he suspected, and by favours gained to himself even the insatiate croud of courtiers. At court, he amused the people with feasts, fireworks, balls, masquerades, tournaments, shews of every kind. In his campaigns, he repeated the feasts, he visited in his wonted pageantry the towns that had submitted to his power; he invited to his table women of quality, conferred gratifications on the military, scattered gold among the populace, and was applauded to the skys. But it is not by grants only *, that Princes attempt to gain the affections of their subjects.
* Every grant of the Prince to the people ought to be suspected, unless conferred at the time of any sudden calamity. The only method a Prince, who has no designs upon liberty, can make use of to relieve his people, is the lessening of their taxes.
Louis I. of Spain signalized the beginning of his reign by loading with kindness all those who approached him.
Ferdinand VI. on ascending the throne, endeavoured to gain popularity by apparent airs of goodness : he ordered the prisons to be opened to all who had been committed for no capital crimes; he granted a general amnesty to deserters and smugglers, and appointed two days a week for receiving petitions and hearing grievances *, etc.
* Desormeaux, Abreg. Chronol. de l'Hist. d'Espag.
Princes often-times apply themselves by an affected condescension to win the hearts of the subjects.
The people of Venice admire the goodness of their masters, when they see the Doge at the head of the Senate making the yearly procession to St. Maria Formosa, to discharge a promise of one of his predecessors, and not scorning to accept of a straw hat and two bottles of wine, that the artisans of the parish present him for his trouble : when they see the Doge on the 1st of August accepting of a few melons presented to him by the gardeners, and allowing them to kiss him: when they see the Senators assisting with the Doge on Shrove-Tuesday at the slaughter of a bull, or at some other popular entertainment: when they see the grand-council on Corpus Christi day passing in procession through St. Mark's place, each Noble yielding the right hand to a beggar.
How strange soever it may appear, Princes sometimes attain to despotism by means which in appearance tend to produce a contrary effect. In order to increase their authority, some by a refinement of policy assume the character of justice, goodness and mercy; to deceive others, they take the outside of plain dealing. Ximenes, became the idol of the Castillians by an apparent purity of manners, by his charity and munificence: the people not suspecting him, left him to make what attempts upon their liberty he pleased, to keep in pay out of the revenue of his benefices mercenary troops, and augment the regal authority *.
* Bandier, Hist. de Ximenes.
The people of Terra Ferma boast of the lenity of the government of the Seignory, when they see the popularity of the podestates, and the attention given by the inquisitors of state to their complaints against the nobles they hate; and from the opinion they entertain that the whole is done for their advantage alone, they bless the equity of their masters.
At other times, those who govern, that they might conceal their own corruption, attempt to corrupt others; that they might conceal their own ambition, they flatter that of the people, they speak to them perpetually of their rights, affect an extreme zeal for their interests, and raise themselves to tyranny by affecting to protect them.
But in order to enslave mankind, Princes have even affected an aversion
to Empire: Some have laboured to promote the public happiness; and taking
advantage of that moment when the subjects exulted in their well-being,
they pretended themselves tired of the sceptre, and resolved to abdicate;
expecting to be importuned to hold the reins of the Empire. The
greatest of evils this, since the Prince has the blind confidence of
his people, and the means of abusing it.
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THE Majesty of Princes constitutes part of their power *. Hence most of them have assumed a majestic gravity, an imperious air, a pompous attendance +.
* Richelieu was well convinced of this truth, as he strongly
blamed that weak Prince Louis XIII. for having neglected such a material
point. See his Political Testament.
+ It was the magnificence of the first Cosmo di Medici, that gave him so great an ascendancy over the minds of his fellow-citizens: it was this, that notwithstanding the democratic form of government at Florence, notwithstanding the attachment of the people to their privileges, notwithstanding the popularity of those who were at the helm, rendered him the head of the Republic, and so blinded the citizens as to permit him to usurp the supreme authority.
Whenever they appear in public, it is with the attributes of sovereign power. Sometimes they have the the fascia, the sceptre, the sword of justice carried before them: oftentimes they are attended in pomp by all the great officers of the crown or a multitude of courtiers, and always by a formidable band of satellites *.
* Formerly kings used to walk without guards: among their subjects, like the father of a family among his children: But as icon as they had it in their power, they formed to themselves a formidable retinue of guards; and there are few monarchs at present without several regiments of satellites.
They are solicitous likewise to maintain the splendour of their household; and fearing if they ceased to act the masters, the great who approach their presence would cease to act the subjects, they ever affect an imperious tone. To teach the people to approach them with ceremony, and render themselves more and more the object of respect, they have all introduced a degree of state dignity into their court. Some have even prohibited any from either serving them or speaking to them unless on their knees +.
+ Philip II. of Spain expressly commanded this. Desormeaux, Abreg. Chronol. de l'Hist. d'Espag.
The eagerness of being respected, Princes have extended to their civil officers; less attentive to display in the persons of magistrates, the ministers of the laws, than men constituted in dignities.
Among the regulations which James I. enacted in the year 1613, in the council of Scotland, the counsellors were ordered either to ride in the streets with foot-cloths, or to go in coaches; but never to be seen on foot *.
Philip II. of Spain ordered, by a particular decree, all the members of his councils and the chancellors of his kingdoms, never to appear in public unless cloathed with a long robe and unshaven +.
+ Desormeaux, Abreg. Chronol. de I'Hist. d'Espag.
Princes are not less attentive, reciprocally to support their dignity out of their dominions.
Whenever they visit each other, they are received with pomp, treated
with magnificence, indulged with every honour; and that the people might
be the more struck with the importance of a Prince, great marks of distinction
are ever shewn to any individual of a royal family.
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WHEN once the minds of the people are seduced and given up to dissipation, an attempt is made to abase them.
Vigilance, frugality, disinterestedness, love of glory and one's patria*, are the virtues by which people preserve their liberty: accordingly that they might enslave their subjects, Princes who aspired to despotism, have obliged them to renounce those virtues.
In order to subject the necks of the Spartans to the yoke, Philopaemen forced them to quit the austere way of educating their children, and to adopt an effeminating one: Thus he succeeded to extinguish + that elevation of spirit, that greatness of soul, which he so much dreaded.
After Edward I. had united the principality of Wales to his dominions, from a conviction that nothing contributed so much in maintaining the warlike genius and eagerness after glory of his new subjects, as the poetical traditions of their prowess, which were sung in their martial feasts, he ordered a strict perquisition to be made after the Welsh poets, and put them to death ++.
From a like conviction, and actuated by the same motives, did the ministry during the last reign oblige the Highlanders to throw aside their ancient dress, and renounce their martial feasts.
* All, even our best authors, have ever expressed the amor
patriae by the love of one's country, two things which ought to be
carefully distinguished. The one is but the love of one's native land; the
other, is the affection or tie of a country where one enjoys all the
privileges a freeman is entitled to. Turks have no patria, though they do
not want a name for it: The English have a patria, and no word to express it.
+ Plutarch. in Vit. Philopaem.
++ Sir. J. Wynne,.p. 15.
ARTIFICE is generally made use of to abase the people, violence but seldom. Accordingly * places allotted for entertainments and debauchery are ordered to be erected; talents which serve to amuse the people are encouraged; actors, musicians, tumblers, puppet-players, mountebanks of every kind + are patronized, etc. The public being hereby wholly engaged, pry not into the conduct of administration.
* I know none but the Greeks among whom the theatrical and other public entertainments had not such aims: hence they denominated their dramatic poets sotnpol txn polewn, the preservers of cities.
+ Some Princes have even persecuted those who have attempted to reform the people. Charles I. had W. Prynne sentenced to a cruel punishment by the Star-Chamber, for having written against theatrical amusements.
Cyrus, having conquered Lydia, was told that the inhabitants of that country had revolted; but not thinking fit to demolish their cities or secure them with strong garrisons, instituted therein public plays, theatres, taverns, houses of ill fame: by these means the Lydians were rendered so effeminate as never to oppose him *.
Those who governed Athens expended immense sums in support of the theatre.
At Rome, the Emperors oftentimes entertained the people with shows: and a fondness for these pleasures extinguished in the minds of the Romans that idea of liberty which their ancestors so tenderly cherished.
To subdue the spirit of their English subjects, the kings of the house of Stuart countenanced the general dissipation. Under James I. spacious buildings were erected for exhibiting theatrical performances to the multitude. Masks and mummings, drolls and dancings were the chief occupation of life. During Charles I.'s reign, the number of play-books were immense, the multitude of London play-hunters so augmented, that five houses were not sufficient to maintain their troops+. And under Charles II. all ranks of men were given up to dissipation, debauchery and riotous banqueting.
* Herodot. lib. i.
+ Prynne's Histrio-Mastix, p. 5.
Modern Princes are very careful to have theatres constructed in the principal cities of their dominions.
The Venetians especially are careful that the public attention should be continually engaged by entertainments.
It is a matter of wonder how compleatly this artifice answers * the end intended. When a people has once tasted these pleasures, careless of every thing else, they can no more forbear them, and are never so much discontented as when deprived of these their favorite amusements.
* We had once found out the method of turning this artifice against its aim, by performing plays which breathed a high spirit of liberty: But the depravation of the age has at last spread itself over all ranks. Except a few, who retain purity of manners and soundness of judgment, debauchery has corrupted every heart, luxury conquered every mind among us: and in the state of abjection we are reduced to, we have but a frigid admiration for heroism; the image of exalted virtues makes but a slight impression on our languishing souls, their heavenly attractives affect us no more.
Our dramatic authors, depraved as the rest, or degraded to servile flatterers, have complied with the taste of the age; and, to their eternal shame, are busy only in corrupting it still more. Instead of shewing us on the stage wise men, heroes, protectors and benefactors of their country, they shew us lovers, fops, coquets, etc. Instead of disclosing the dark designs of bad Princes, the plot of perfidious citizens, the outrages of wicked men; they disclose only amours, broils of private families, and adventures of taverns. Instead of rendering the theatre a school of virtue, they render it a school of vice.
If now and then some good drama is performed, its impression is wholly destroyed by the entertainment, which follows. The salutary reflections, to which it gave birth, are obliterated by the jests of an Harlequin, the foolings of a Punchinello, or the tricks of a waiting maid: the noble feelings which it has produced, exhale in laughing, and thus the audience is dismissed.
Will it be said that I attribute too great an influence to theatrical representations ? Let it be remembered, that theatres are the only places in this realm, where an author is not allowed to expose his ideas with freedom. Have not our Princes been solicitous to reserve for the inspection of their ministers, whatever is to be performed on the stage ?
The civil war in England of 1641 was not kindled till the theatres were shut: and a people has been seen groaning under the weight of their misfortunes, desire these shows as the only remedy of their evils *.
Thus plays, entertainments, shows, are the allurements of servitude, and the tools of tyranny.
* The inhabitants of Treves, after the plunder of their city.
IF, to that eagerness for dissipation and frivolous
entertainment that the theatre affords, the plays which are performed
contain loose sentiments, base maxims, refined flattery to persons in dignity,
as most of the dramatic productions of foreign nations; if encomiums are
bestowed on the follies and vices of reigning Princes, as in some of those
allegoric pastorals which were performed at the Court of Charles I. or
of Louis XIV; the stage then becomes the most fatal school of servitude.
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BY encouraging the fine arts and the sciences among the Romans, Augustus subjected them to the yoke; and by the same method, his successors subdued the barbarians they had vanquished *.
* It may appear strange, says a celebrated historian, that the progress of the arts and sciences, which among the Greeks and Romans increased every day the number of slaves, became in late times a general source of liberty; and, to clear this phenomenon, he has recourse to a series of vain arguments; whilst a simple distinction is sufficient.
When the rights of mankind are not the subject of our enquiries, study, by fixing the mind on foreign objects, necessarily causes it to lose sight of liberty: but when the sanctuary of learning is opened to a barbarous people, by a natural progression, they must necessarily turn their thoughts to the relations nature and society have established among men. The Romans were acquainted only with matters of war or state, and in order to divert them therefrom, Augustus brought the fine arts into esteem among them. Under feudal government, the people were extremely ignorant; they lost in their fetters even all sense of liberty: but when they had begun to cultivate the sciences, and turn their minds to meditation, they at last reflected their thoughts on themselves, and were made conscious of their rights.
No people was ever so independent as the ancient Germans. Without fixed establishments, continually engaged in some expedition for pillaging, excessively fond of liberty, and ever continuing in arms, they were but little restrained by laws, their Princes had but little authority over them; and even that authority was but little respected. But, when once they had secured their conquests, their Princes in order to extending and securing their power, laboured to inspire them with the love of tranquil employments, to acquaint them with the sweet fruits of industry, to engage them to cultivate the arts of peace, and devote themselves to a contemplative life.
As soon as the crown of England was secured on the head of Alfred, this Prince took great care to inspire his subjects with the love of arts and sciences, and the better to encourage them to apply themselves to study, he set them the example, and was attentive to reward merit *.
Spain, almost continually torn by factions, sedition and civil wars, was, till the reign of Ferdinand V. sunk into barbarity, its inhabitants being only superficially acquainted with war and politics: but in order to extend his power, Ferdinand begun to introduce into his dominions the love of letters, by distributing favours to those who addicted themselves thereto +.
* Asser. p. 13. Flor. Wigorn. p. 588.
+ Zurita. Annal. d'Arag. tom. vi. p. 22.
Philip II. and Philip III. both eager after absolute command, befriended with all their power the arts and sciences, and a great number of Spaniards cultivated them.
Not satisfied with encouraging letters by his liberality, Philip IV. recommended the study of them by his example. And as soon as Philip V. was firmly established on the throne, he erected universities, patronized the literati, and rewarded those who were distinguished for eminent talents.
Francis I. of France encouraged the sciences, erected universities,
and attracted men of learning to his kingdom; his successors, chiefly Louis
XIV. have followed his example.
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NO constitution maintains itself unaltered but by virtue. If this spring
be long unbent, adieu liberty. Instead of concurring to the public welfare,
every one seeks his own interests only; the laws fall into contempt, and
the magistrates themselves are the first in violating them. Thus the people
being abased, an attempt is made to corrupt them.
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EVER by ways strewed with flowers, Princes have begun to drive their subjects to slavery.
At first the subjects are indulged with feasts and shows, but as these entertainments cannot long continue, unless the Prince has the disposal of the spoils of the whole world, a lasting source of corruption is then opened to the people: industry is encouraged, and commerce rendered flourishing *, in order to procure opulence. Now opulence is always attended by luxury.
* This assertion will undoubtedly appear very strange to those, who have their eyes fixed on the feudal government degenerated into despotism, or oligarchy. Princes encourage industry and commerce in their dominions, they will say, in order to increase their revenues, not to abase their subjects: I request the reader to consider, that I do not speak of a people already under the yoke, but of those who are intended to be subjected thereto. Thus, not mentioning the efforts made some centuries ago, in the states of Venice, Genoa, Florence, in France, Spain, England, etc. to encourage industry, arts and commerce among the subjects, let us consider what attempts in that respect have been made by Princes of a free people. The ancient Britons, like the Goths, and other Celtic nations, were almost entirely independant; and as long as they remained split into many small tribes, with no other possessions but their arms and flocks, it proved impossible to their chieftains to become absolute. But in order to subject them, the Romans introduced the arts of peace, commerce and urbanity. Agricola chiefly taught them to procure themselves the conveniences of life, he endeavoured to render their condition pleasing; and the Britons so much submitted themselves to the domination of their new masters, that, once subdued, they gave them no more uneasiness, and lost all desire, even all idea of their former independency. Tacit, in Agricol.
Thus likewise did Alfred, to subdue the Anglo Saxons.
ONE effect of luxury is the extinguishing the heroic virtues; for, when men can attract notice by sumptuous equipages, costly dress, long retinue of servants, they are no more solicitous of attracting it by upright manners, noble sentiments, glorious deeds.
Luxury is immediately attended by a looseness of manners, which is the beginning of their depravation: both sexes meet together in order to render their intercourse more agreeable, and corrupt themselves reciprocally; gallantry is introduced; this produces a frivolous turn of mind, puts a value on trifles, depresses whatever is of any concern; and duty is soon forgotten.
The arts which luxury maintains, and the pleasures it promises, rendering society delightful, hurry us away to effeminacy; they soften our manners, and enervate that haughtiness which endures neither fetters nor restraint.
By concealing with flowers the chains which are prepared for us, they extinguish in our souls the sense of liberty, and make us in love with servitude.
Hence Princes generally neglect nothing which may bring luxury into esteem: they recommend it by their * example; they display every where pageantry and magnificence, and are the first to sow in the minds of their subjects those seeds of corruption +.
* As luxury so much charms the multitude, as to induce them to be guilty of a thousand extravagancies, ever attended with the ruin of the state, Princes, after having countenanced it, were often obliged to restrain it. But by a contrast not uncommon, while they repressed luxury by their proclamations, they encouraged it by their example.
Whilst Louis XIV. prohibited, by his edicts to the lieutenants general
and other officers of his armies who kept an open table, the serving up
of any other dishes, except pottage, roast-meat, and the like, he himself
displayed on his table the productions of all climates. Whilst he
fixed the quantity of gold or silver to be allowed for plate, furniture,
equipage, dress, etc. he himself squandered the public money in magnificent
Let Princes issue out as many proclamations as they please, luxury will not the less prevail. Those ordonances act even against the purpose they are intended for, as they give more value to what they prohibit, and increase the desire of enjoying it. From this very consideration they are sometimes made.
+ The excessive love of pleasure, that possessed the courts of James I. Charles II. Louis XIV. etc. infected all ranks of men. Every day produced some feast, and every night some mask, in which people of fortune engaged: dissipation and luxury took place of simplicity and application.
If Princes recommend not luxury by their example, they at least countenance it, or refuse to restrain it. The Roman Senate, still composed of grave Magistrates, proposed to Augustus the reformation of the manners and of the luxury of women; but though obliged by his office of Censor to attend to it, he ever artfully avoided the importunate request of the Senators +.
Some have gone even so far as to force their subjects to sink into effeminacy. In order to subdue the inhabitants of Cuma, Aristomenes laboured to enervate the courage of the youth: he ordered the boys to let their hair grow, to adorn their heads with flowers, and, like girls, to wear long gowns of various colours; he commanded them, when going to their dancing or singing masters, to be attended by women with umbrellas and fans; in the bath they were to be served with looking-glasses, combs and perfumes: this way of education was continued till they were twenty years of age ++.
Thus by enervating and corrupting the people, luxury subdues them without resistance to the will of an imperious Master; and forces them to purchase, at the price of their liberty, the quiet life and soft pleasures they are permitted to enjoy.
+ Dio Cassius, lib. liv.
++ Dionys. Halicarn. lib. vii.
LUXURY not only enervates the minds, but nothing is better calculated to divide them; when once introduced into a state, the union of its members is destroyed; every one endeavours to attract notice, to become more conspicuous than his neighbour, and rise above the common level. Careless of the good of the public, they then attend to their private interests only; the love of one's patria is extinguished in every heart; the citizen disappears, and the man remains.
Luxury, as it extends itself, ranks superfluity among necessaries. At first the people abandon themselves to dissipation; it becomes habitual to them; pleasures are necessary; and as every one cannot enjoy them equally, they are actuated by various sentiments: on one side are envy, jealousy, hatred; on the other, pride and contempt - new seeds of discord ! *
* How many Princes have fomented these divisions by their ordinances.
In an edict of 1294, Philip the Fair prohibited the burgesses from wearing
ermine, gold and jewels, all which were permitted to the nobility.
To burgesses worth 2000 livres he allowed cloth of 12 pence a yard; to the less rich, cloth of 8 pence; but prelates and barons were permitted to wear cloth of 25 pence a yard. Other Princes have made similar ordinances.
WHEN once men are corrupted by luxury, new desires prey alternately on the mind. If the means of indulging them are wanting, every one busies himself to support the extravagances in which he delights.
The evil grows worse every day, since from much endeavouring to be distinguished, no one at last distinguishes himself any more; but as a rank is taken, and as a desire of attracting the eyes of the public still continues, every nerve is bent in order to get out of that intolerable uniformity. From that time there is no proportion between the wants and the means; every one is eager after riches, and bows down in the temple of Fortune. How many voluntary slaves!
Finally, a multitude of subjects, needy by their new wants, and vexed to be the meanest of all, vainly agitate themselves to get off their humiliating poverty, and are at last reduced to wish for their country's destruction.
Such is the powerful influence of luxury, that oftentimes nothing more is wanting to complete the destruction of liberty, even in countries the most fond of it.
As long as Rome was inhabited by poor citizens, honesty, honour, courage,
and love of liberty, were inclosed within its walls; but when once it
was enriched with the spoils of vanquished nations, these ancient virtues
gave way to a multitude of vices. Notwithstanding the wisdom of the laws,
no sooner were its gates open to the riches of the enemy, but Rome ceased
to acknowledge its degenerated offspring; manners and duties became opposite
to each other; poverty, till then honoured, fell into contempt; gold became
the object of every one's desire; luxury expanded itself with rapidity; all
plunged headlong into voluptuousness: and when pleasures had once
impoverished these Sybarites, a multitude of lavish citizens, ashamed of
their poverty, caballed from ambition, and disturbed public tranquillity;
whilst some powerful men alternately put themselves at the head of the mob,
tore the state to pieces, spilled the blood of the citizens, usurped the
supreme power, and silenced the laws. Thus perished liberty at Sparta, and
thus it will perish among us.
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WHENEVER riches are the price of every thing which attracts consideration, they soon supply the place of birth, virtue, and talents, and are sought after as the summum bonum. Thus, in order to corrupt the subjects, chose at the helm are careful to cherish the people's avarice by keeping up the spirit of gaming among them.
Such is the craft of the cabinet in France, England, Holland, but chiefly at Venice *.
By this artifice people are also prevented from reflecting and knowing their situation.
* Not to mention lotteries, which are so frequent at Venice,
it is a fact, that during the whole Carnival, many public Ridotti are
opened for games of chance; but what will appear more extraordinary, at each
table a member of the great council in his gown fits as banker.
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ANOTHER method, put in practice for subduing the subjects, is the keeping them in idleness, and not controlling their pleasures. They then, careless of liberty, take no concern in public affairs, and are ever busied in contriving the means of indulging their base passions.
When once the people become fond of money, if none is to be got but by giving up their birth-rights, they submit to the yoke, and impatiently wait for their salary.
If the Prince is moreover attentive at times to entertain them, they are base enough to bless their tyrant.
In order to render the Persians good slaves, Cyrus kept them in idleness, plenty, and luxury; and these effeminate men called him their father *.
The Roman emperors, using this crafty policy, oftentimes entertained the people with feasts or shews, and then the deluded multitude exerted themselves in exalting the goodness of their masters +.
The Venetians take great care to maintain their subjects in plenty, to set them free from moral restraint, and indulge them with shews. Far from controlling the pleasures of the citizens, they give encouragement to lewdness, by publicly protecting houses of ill fame; and thus divert the subjects from taking any concern in matters of state. The clergy themselves they allow to be dissolute, and so greatly countenance their scandalous manners ++, that these wretches highly praise the mild government of the Seigniory.
Thus this idle and lewd life, which the people call liberty, is one of the chief causes of their slavery.
* Xenoph. Cyropaed.
+ Tacit. Hist. lib. iv.
++ By countenancing the corruption of the clergy, the senate aims likewise to render the ecclesiastics odious to the people.
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WHILE sports, festivals, merriments, shews, entertainments of every
kind, engross the mind, people by degrees lose sight of liberty, and think
not of it any more. By entirely neglecting to think of liberty, the
true idea of it is obliterated, and false notions take place. To men always
engrossed by their pleasures or private affairs, liberty is soon no more than
the mean of amassing wealth without obstacles, of possessing it with safety,
and making merry without opposition. Thus the love of independency, for want
of fuel, is extinguished in every breast.
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IN a country, where the Prince disposes of benefices, places and dignities, though by their means he ever gets friends, he at first grants none but to deserving persons; but when once he has succeeded in abasing and depraving his subjects, he thinks of getting creatures.
The great, being masters of the lower classes of people, are so in some sort of the state; and with them the Prince begins to share authority: he dazzles the fight of one by a ribbon, seduces another by an employment, temptations are offered every one according to his favourite passions, and men eagerly present their necks to the yoke.
Besides the small number of powerful men, who fill up the first places of the state, he holds by hope those ambitious men who continually seek after favour and preferment. Those he cannot draw in by realities, he prevails upon by promises, regards and caresses; he cajoles his courtiers, who, proud of these marks of consideration, endeavour by their servility to secure them.
To the number of the creatures of Princes, must be added the multitude which courtiers and placemen support by their credit, or captivate by their fortune.
Thus deficient of every principle of honour, and careless of their duty, those at the helm are ever seeking to court the Prince, that they might share his authority; and submit themselves to the yoke, that they might impose it on others. These likewise seek after favour, every one aims to be exalted; men of a mean condition themselves wish to rise, that they might assume an imperious air.
WHEN the Prince has extensive demesnes or disposes of the public money, he makes use of gold to increase the number of his creatures*. As luxury, so the greedy desire of riches possesses every rank, and both the poor and the rich, more fond of money than of liberty, are ever ready to give way to bribery, and set a price on their honour +.
* From Charles V. to Philip V. 50, 000 l. were paid yearly out of the
royal treasury for pensions to the grandees of Spain. Desormeaux,. Abreg.
Chronol. de l'Hist. d'Espag.
+ While poverty was honoured at Rome, the consulship, and other offices of magistracy, were conferred on the most deserving, on those who were most able to command armies, or rule the commonwealth; but when opulence had once depraved the Romans, those only were appointed to the conduct of affairs, who best entertained the people.
How greatly are things already altered! The love of liberty tied the heart of every one fast to his patria, by confounding private in public interest. Now the love of pageantry, of dignities, of gold, breaks off these sacred bands, and concentrates men in their selfish views.
Seeing the discord, avarice, and venality of the people, one might imagine
that already liberty is undone; but of so many men who seek to sell themselves,
the Prince gets only those whom he can purchase; others, with regret, remain
faithful to their country.
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WHILST the desire of acquiring fame burns in the breast of the subjects, and they are greedy after glory alone, liberty is never more secure. They stand unshaken at dangers, disheartened by no obstacle, and restrained by no consideration; less fearing the most horrid torture, than the opprobrium of betraying their country to a tyrant.
Princes accordingly lose no opportunity of changing the object of glory. For fame, which the public dispenses, they substitute honours which they alone distribute; and instead of making dignities the reward of services done the patria, they make honours the salary of services tendered to them. Thus their creatures are covered both with infamy and marks of dignity, and these marks of note are soon valued at the expence of merit, virtue and talents.
Hence arise two opposite effects: men of abject principles seek after
dignities, men of an elevated mind despise them. Disgraced by the use they
are made of, and the persons on whom they are bestowed, to become worthy
of them is no more the pursuit of noble souls. When once honours are
discredited, an incentive to generous actions, to great deeds, is wanting;
and the love of glory, for want of fewel, is extinguished in every heart.
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WHEN the Prince is the only source of consideration, favour becomes the object of every one's desires. To be accounted something, those who approach him exert themselves to please him; the inestimable advantage of being free is therefore sacrificed on all sides to dazzling servitude, and the love of one's patria to ignominious marks of note.
In order to be in favour with the monarch, they speak emphatically of his little merit; they allow him to possess virtues of every kind, and extol the happiness of being under his empire *.
* It is oftentimes the case with both houses of parliament, not to proportion words to things in their addresses of thanks to the throne. How little soever be the desert of the monarch, they always give him overstrained encomiums. Let him do right or wrong, they praise him for every thing, thank him for every thing, and never so much as when he deserves neither thanks nor praises. For the rulers of the British Empire, what a disgraceful part! It will be said, that these fawning addresses are but empty words; but whilst praises are prostituted, what remains to be said to a good king, to a true father of his people? Where are the allurements of virtue, whilst flattery bestows on others the encomiums which belong to virtuous men alone? And so long as this shameful practice endures, what Prince will be afraid of being branded with infamy, or be incited to grace the throne? Fortunately those base flatteries sink into contempt; those venal discourses, censured by the public, are reduced to their just value.
It is not in those addresses, it is said, that one must look for the spirit and love of liberty. So much the worse: flattery and venality are linked together, the one goes rarely without the other, and both are always attended with slavery.
More than that, all who approach him abase themselves, are earnest to cringe at his feet, disdain all those who scorn to imitate them; and proud of their chains, seek for the disgracing privilege of being his laughing stock.
Destitute of virtue, they cannot bear it in others; and exert all their address in ridiculing them: on all occasions they depress glorious deeds, asperse good men, and by the most humiliating epithets stigmatize the lovers of liberty.
At first, their base discourses are despised; but, by constantly repeating the same without blushing, they amaze their adversaries, and humble them by despising their blows. Besides, as such effrontery in facing ridicule imposes upon the multitude, incapable of appraising things at their just value, contempt ends and admiration begins.
On his part, the Prince scarcely rises any to dignities but in proportion as they prove servile. Never sure of his favour, unless ever ready to betray their engagements, they are disgraced from the moment they remember their duty. Mean flatterers, and those wretches who sell their conscience that they might sell their protection, are therefore the only persons who can bear themselves up in such a thorny place. Thus all vices reign at courts; there flattery, perjury, and contempt of all duty, parade with effrontery.
Not being allowed to live as one might wish, every one lives according
to the times, men, and affairs; even the wisest have but a frigid admiration
for virtue, and the best patriots are but little concerned for the public
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IN a free, but newly established government, men who have best served
their country, are ever seated at the helm; and men of avowed honesty ever
fit on the bench. If the Prince is trusted with the power of disposing
of places for the future, it is on condition that he shall prefer none
but deserving persons. But in order to become absolute, far from calling
to him talents and virtue, he imperceptibly removes from office men that
are popular, wise, and incorruptible, and puts in their places men of easy
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HAVING engaged the people to lose sight of their patria, an attempt is made to annihilate the love of it in their hearts. Men united by liberty and for liberty must remain free, as long as they remain united; to be enslaved they therefore ought to be divided, and time never fails to offer an opportunity for it.
Almost in every state, there are from its foundation various ranks of people; nobles ever disdain the plebeians, and plebeians ever hate the nobles, or rather, every one who belongs to any rank, hates or despises those who belong to another: these base passions Princes make use of to sow dissension, and alienate the affections of the people from their patria.
If there is originally no diversity of ranks, those at the helm labour to introduce it: they divide the people into different classes, and to every one assign particular employments, rights or privileges. The one is appointed to magistracies, the other to military services; this to ecclesiastical benefices, that to trade and mechanical arts.
Till the secession of the Romans, the patricians only were nominated to the magistracy; and till the emperors, every order of citizens was not admitted to military service.
None but noblemen were to be admitted into the order of knights templars, and none are to be admitted into that of knights of Malta, but those whose nobility can be proved by many descents.
In France, noblemen, military men, and the king's honorary councellors alone, are free from a land-tax, called la taille.
In order to incite jealousy among his subjects, Philip II. of Spain, settled in 1586, by proclamation, a ceremonial to be observed in regard to the grandees, ministers, and prelates; he likewise fixed the titles by which the citizens were to be stiled, and ordered the refractory to be prosecuted by law.
* The body of the cytadini is composed of the secretaries of the commonwealth, of the notaries, physicians, lawyers, woollen and silk merchants, and of the glass-makers of Maron; that is to say, of the most powerful citizens.
At Venice, the different orders of* cytadini are distinguished the one from the other, and all from the the vulgar, by peculiar privileges. The first order is appointed to the residentship of foreign courts, and to the secretaryship of counsels and embassies; into their families patricians are permitted to marry; sometimes some of them are incorporated into the body of the nobility, instead of those families which become extinct: the other cytadini are permitted to take the gown of the nobles. Thus they are all engaged to unite with the masters of the commonwealth against the rest of the people.
But as if this craft was still insufficient, the administration sows dissention among the rabble of the different wards of the city, and constantly keeps up two opposite parties* by secretly encouraging fighting among them on one particular day of the year.
Of their subjects of Terra Ferma, the burgesses are treated with indulgency, the nobles with severity.
Looking upon the Paduans as the ancient masters of Venice, the seigniory took particular care to keep them disunited. For that purpose, the most powerful families were transported to Venice, and such privileges granted to the students of the university as to incense the jealousy of the citizens.
Princes, not satisfied with dividing the people into various orders, enjoying divers privileges, artfully incite discord in every order by means of odious distinctions*. They grant peculiar prerogatives to individuals, and give pensions to courteous officers, to adulatory academicians, poets, comedians, etc.
* Louis XI. was continually sowing discord among his barons, and to succeed in dividing them, employed the most refined policy.
The Venetians did the same with the nobles of Terra Ferma. Peter Erizza being podestate at Udina, as the nobility of the Frioul were then in very good correspondence among themselves, was ordered to set them at variance; and for that purpose received from the senate the power of granting the title of count or marquis to whom he should think proper. Hence soon arose great jealousies between the families who claimed those titles and those that did obtain them. Amelot de la Houssaye, Gouvern. de Venice.
IN order to sow discord among their subjects, almost all Princes have tolerated different religious sects: some of them have even countenanced particular sectaries; others, with the same views, have persecuted them.
These artifices prove so destructive to liberty, that by their aid many Princes have governed their people in an arbitrary manner. - A truth of which we ourselves have more than once had the sad experience.
When the reformation had extended itself among us, this kingdom was divided into two parties, who alternately having recourse to the king, obliged him oftentimes to hold the balance between them, but to crush them both with their own hands, he made it incline now towards one side, then towards the other.
"As Henry VIII. was a slave to his furious passions, each party flattered themselves that a blind compliance with the king's will would throw him fully into their interests, and they implicitly put themselves into his hands."
While the people were in succeeding times divided into Whigs and Tories,
and as soon as these two factions were made irreconcilable by the artifices
of the court, and could counterbalance the forces of each other, Charles
II. pulled off the mask, dissolved the parliament; and the nation beheld
with astonishment, a king who had received so many mortifications from
the legislative powers, and had been so often obliged to submit, on a sudden,
without fleet, without army, without money, and without foreign assistance,
become absolute master of his kingdom letting his opposers feel the terrible
effects of his vengeance, sacrificing the most spirited patriots to his
rage, and governing his subjects with a tyrannical sway.
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Jean Paul Marat