Jean Paul Marat
THE inconsiderate vanity of the subjects, likewise, gives way to tyranny.
At the death of a despot, the only instant when subjects might display their true sentiments, instead of acclamations, they wear mourning as courtiers.
What hence ? will it be said. Alas, is it not selfevident enough ! By that inconsiderate vanity, you have deprived yourselves of the only mean which remained of being openly revenged of a bad Prince, and the only mean of honouring the memory of a good one; for if you display such marks of respect for a Tiberius, a Louis XI. a Henry VIII. what remains for a Marcus Aurelius, a Louis IX a Henry V. ?
By that inconsiderate vanity, you have wrested from your own hands the only rod which remained to repress the audacity of the successor to the crown, the only reward to encourage him to the pursuit of virtue *.
By that absurd vanity, you have deprived yourselves of the only mean of distinguishing the secret enemies to their country, you have placed yourselves upon a level with the creatures of the court, and you blindly act the part of servile flatterers.
By such inconsiderate marks of respect, you have confounded the real relations of things. For the loss of a Prince who could scarce lisp, the whole state assumes a melancholy face, all is mournful, feasts cease, places of public entertainment are shut: whilst for the loss of the benefactors of the patria, of those who have defended it at the expense of their blood, of those who have enriched it by their knowledge, of those who have honoured it with their virtues, no marks of public grief are seen, feasts continue, and all appear gay. Nay, when an allied Prince dies, the subjects, imitating the court, wear black, whilst in those public calamities, when the plague lays waste the provinces, when the fire of heaven consumes the cities, when famine drives to despair useful labourers, no mourning, no public marks of affliction are seen.
In fine, from that servile spirit, Princes proceed to enforce, as a duty, those exterior marks of veneration; and establishing their tyrannic empire in our very hearts, they command us to bemoan when they bemoan, and to laugh when they laugh.
Henceforth political relations are subverted; the Prince is all, the Nation nothing.
Go to top of Page
IN order to obtain their demand, it is the constant practice of those who solicit any favour from Princes, to tell them, they have a boundless power, as God himself.
In order to share their authority, it is likewise the constant custom of the minister to tell them that they are absolute, that every thing must yield to their will, that they may dispose of the fortune of their subjects, and that every measure to render their power irresistible, is permitted when well planned, or attended with success.
On another side, pensioned lawyers and philosophers, confounding all notions of found politics, continually repeat in their fawning speeches, that Princes alone have a right to command, such subjects none but to obey; they build systems of injustice, and basely prostitute their incense.
Vile authors publish these odious maxims; and, as if endeavouring to go beyond their own meanness, they assert that there is no * covenant between king and people; that Princes * are sole sovereigns; that being above + laws, they forget their dignity when they exact not that obedience which was sworn to them at the altar; that being the fathers of their subjects, they have a right to do what they think most conductive to the interests of the public, without taking advice of the nation, nay, in opposition to the laws ++; that they are accountable to God alone, from whom they have received their authority: then searching into antiquity, they show all nations under the yoke, and allege those horrid abuses in vindication of tyranny.
Poets, in their turn, display these maxims in their verses. Men engaged in the conduct of public affairs begin to spread them, at first with caution, and afterwards with effrontery. The creatures of the Prince, and all those villains who build their fortune on the ruins of their country, join their prostituted voices. Thus dictated by flattery and treason, and repeated by interest, fear, hope, or stupidity, these maxims take place.
By continually hearing that Princes are absolute, the people at last believe it. The credulous father gives with devotion these lessons to his children; and children following blindly the prejudices of their father, royal prerogative establishes itself in every mind, and every one thinks himself bound in duty to submit to the yoke.
Thus there scandalous tenets, servilely propagated and stupidly received, become the firmest support of tyranny.
Go to top of Page
THE people not only suffer themselves to be enchained, but oftentimes offer their necks to the yoke.
When a crafty man gains their confidence, he inspires them with what sentiment he pleases, and masters them at will.
Having assisted at the obsequies of Caesar, Antony ascends the rostra, and holding the bloody gown of the emperor, moves the populace; who instantly ran with the torches of the funeral pile in their hands to set on fire the houses of Cassius and Brutus.
But, considering what Mahomet, and other founders of sects have done, what need is there for any example ?
Not satisfied with being dupes, the people run sometimes to servitude, and lend their own hands to forge their chains. Never thinking that in a free country, every subject has a right to inform against the servants of the public, they ever blindly abandon themselves to their zeal for those who have appeared in their defence; and, yielding to gratitude, ever strike at that very liberty, the defender of which they mean to vindicate.
As Timoleon, charged with misdemeanours by some orators of Syracusa, was summoned to appear before the people to clear himself, his fellow citizens were on the point of tearing his accusers to pieces *.
In order to maintain themselves free, the people ought never to suffer the law to be made delusive; but they oftentimes obstinately violate it in favour of those they respect. Zaleuchus, legislator of the Locrians, having enacted a severe law against adultery, and his own son being soon after convicted of that crime, the people moved by the paternal sorrow, repeatedly entreated his pardon.
How many times, with a view to secure their liberty, have the people trusted in the Prince's own hands a tyrannic sway ? The persecutions of the Protestant subjects under Mary I. rendered her domination odious. Accordingly, when Elizabeth mounted the throne, as she professed the reformed religion, the people, transported by an indiscreet zeal, vested her with an extensive power to extirpate papism; but the fear of religious persecutions was soon changed into fear of civil slavery, and the protestants with regret felt themselves crushed under the weight of that power they had erected to crush their enemies.
Nay, in order to reform the government or vindicate the state, they have trusted a few individuals with a absolute power ! Of this the Decemviri, Marius, and Sylla, are famous instances. Vested with the whole power of the commonwealth, Rome beheld with astonishment the authority it had intrusted them with: in their presence the people cast their eyes done, the laws laid in silence, the names of the proscribed resounded every where, and blood was shed in abundance.
The Dutch, delivered from the domination of their master by the death or William II. again trusted the supreme authority into the hands of his son, murdered the zealous patriots who opposed such a rash step, and again erected a Prince against liberty.
Have we not ourselves many times forged our chains ? When the people, incensed by the tax of three groats imposed by Richard II. on every person, male or female, above fifteen years of age, had risen against their oppressors, resolutely bent to better their condition; they required the abolition of slavery, freedom of commerce in market-towns without tolls or imposts, and a fixed rent on lands, instead of the services due by villenage. All these requests were complied with, and charters to that purpose were granted them. Soon after the nobility and gentry, hearing of these transactions, flocked to London with their adherents and retainers, Richard took the field, the charters of enfranchisement were revoked by parliament, and the inferior class of people were reduced to the same slavish condition as before *.
The parliament, like a vile instrument destined to enlarge royal authority, subjected the whole nation to Henry VIII. in the most scandalous manner.
At first they conferred on the King the title of the only supreme head on earth of the church of England, and invested him with all the real power belonging to it, or rather, acknowledged his pretended inherent power "To visit, repress, redress, reform, correct, restrain, and amend all errors, heresies, abuses, offences, contempt, and enormities, which fall under any spiritual authority and jurisdiction;" and, as if it was not enough to trust him with these terrible weapons, they passed a law by which they ratified all the tenets which the commission, appointed by the crown to choose a religion for the people, should establish with the king's consent, not being ashamed of expressly declaring that they had no other rule in religious concerns but the arbitrary will of their master.
Having thus resigned all their ecclesiastical liberties, they proceeded to an entire surrender of their civil rights; and, without scruple or deliberation, made, by one act, total subversion of the English constitution; - they gave to the king's proclamations the same force as to statutes enacted by parliament *; they even framed this law as if it were only intended to explain the natural extent of royal authority, and to facilitate the execution of it, appointed that any one of the king's counsellors should form a legal court for punishing all disobedience to proclamations. But to prove the more ready to gratify even the most lawless passions of the King, they ratified his divorce from Anne Boleyn, declared the issue of their marriage illegitimate, settled the crown on the king's issue by his new mistress, and in case he should die without children, empowered him, by his will or letters patent, to dispose of the crown. Not satisfied with this scandalous prostitution to the will of the monarch, a species of civil inquisition was established over the kingdom. Whoever refused to answer upon oath to any artic]e of the act of settlement, was declared guilty of high treason.
But there are in our history other instances of baseness still more humiliating.
When Charles II. was recalled to the crown, with what eagerness did every order of the people run to meet him, and endeavour to outvie each other in their assurance of loyalty !
The nobility, papists, and tories united in their insult over an assembly, whose patriotic spirit had hitherto foiled their combined efforts to reduce their country under the yoke of ancient tyranny, and celebrated the happy event. The presbyterians, stupidly imagining they were exulting in their own triumph:, cordially joined their voice; the patriotic party themselves, giving up all those liberties they had purchased at the expense of their blood, imitated the crowd.
Every one was busy in removing whatever might offend the eyes of their new master: the arms of the commonwealth were pulled down, and those of the King put up in their place; the Scotch colours taken at Dunbar and Worcester were removed, and the great seals broken: whatever bore any stamp of liberty, or revived any idea of independence, was destroyed, and public thanksgivings were ordered.
No sooner was the Prince landed, but the people from every quarter of the kingdom flocked to him, the senate of the nation threw themselves at his feet; he entered the capital in pomp amidst public acclamations, rejoicings and illuminations were seen every where, whilst in the transports of their joy, the stupid multitude cursed the names of those who had so long deprived them of a King, threw in the flames the sad remains of the commonwealth, and racked their gross imaginations for invention to insult a government by whose paternal regard they could only hope to have been emancipated from that abject state of servitude they were subject to.
Hardly was the Prince ascended the throne, but the parliament deemed as the most execrable rebels, the opposers of Charles the First's usurpations: they decreed proscription, confiscation or imprisonment against the members of the tribunal that had sentenced the tyrant. By their order the bodies of Cromwell, Ireton, Bradshaw, and Pride, were taken out of their graves, drawn upon an hurdle to Tyburn, hanged there, and then buried under the gallows. By their order, the walls of Gloucester, Coventry, Northampton, Leicester, - towns which had distinguished themselves by their zeal for parliament, were rased to the ground.
Not satisfied with restoring Charles to his prerogative, the parliament proceeded to invest him with unlimited power. Having settled on the King a greater revenue than that of his predecessor, they passed an act declaring the right of disposing of the militia and land forces to be in the king's hands only; recalled, at his desire, the triennial bill; enacted a law to prevent disaffected persons from being admitted into office, to have the succession of corporations perpetuated in the hands of the creatures of the court, and to oblige all their officers to take a new oath of allegiance and supremacy, declaring it unlawful, upon any pretence whatsoever, to rise in arms against the king, or those commissioned by him.
They vested in the crown new prerogatives, and did not cease to enlarge its authority, till they themselves, crushed under the weight of that power they had erected, beheld with trembling the work of their own hands.
But, as if ever fated through want of knowledge or virtue to effect their own misery, one idol was no sooner fallen down, but our forefathers created another, and adored it with greater devotion.
As James II ascended the throne, the parliament earnestly cringed at his feet, and amidst the several tokens of zeal they displayed for him, it was uncertain which of both houses was most earnest to run to slavery. The lower house voted that all the revenue enjoyed by the late King should be granted to his majesty during life; and thus settling upon him an immense revenue, enabled the crown to maintain an army and fleet without the assistance of the people, and subdue those who should dare to oppose: whilst the upper house, at the request of the attorney-general, entirely discharged the earl of Danby, and the popish lords who, upon indictment, had been prisoners in the Tower for the plot, annulled their former order *, and brought in a bill to reverse the attainder of the viscount Stafford in the year 1680.
On their side, all the magistrates, judges, justices of the peace, served the king his own way, and as if those who were appointed to hold the balance of justice would leave no right in the state, they gave it as their opinion, THAT THE LAWS OF ENGLAND ARE THE KING'S LAWS, AND THAT IT IS A PREROGATIVE OF THE CROWN TO DISPENSE WITH THEM.
The clergy of the church of England, likewise, distinguished themselves by their devotion to the maxims of the court. The pulpit every where resounded with the doctrine of passive obedience; and this doctrine was supported in the courts of justice by the judges and lawyers to the utmost of their power.
At length, to render at once the King absolute, all the corporations in the kingdom made a general surrender of their charters, and abandoned themselves to his mercy.
Thus, except a few men of a found understanding, and exalted mind, the people are commonly composed of simple and timid persons, ever ready to accelerate their own servitude.
Go to top of Page
AS soon as the Prince has usurped the supreme power, the object of all public undertakings is no more the welfare of the people, but the display of his authority, of the dignity of his crown, or the gratification of his pride and caprice. Hence he considers the state as his patrimony, and the public money as his revenue; he sells offices and dignities, traffics away towns, provinces, subjects, and disposes at pleasure of all the national forces.
If incensed at such outrages, the people utter aloud complaints, the Prince pulls off the mask, assumes the imperious stile of a master, orders them to be submissive, and to their remonstrances answers, Such is our good pleasure. If he meets with opposition; he speaks but of punishing the audacity of his enemies. Complaints are then useless, and as the Prince has secured his at authority, whatever be his arbitrary mandates, there remains only passive obedience.
Already public liberty exists no more, the Prince is all, and the nation nothing; however certain individuals, corporations, or orders of people, still retain particular privileges, which stand in his way, and as so many barriers, confine his power within certain limits.
When once the legislative power is vested in the crown, the Prince labours to become absolute, beholds with concern the enemies of his iniquitous empire, and makes away with them: he sees with a jealous eye those who still retain personal preeminences, and is earnest to deprive them of their prerogatives; he restrains the privileges of corporations, usurps those of towns, and adds oftentimes mockery to injury. Thus James II. having extorted from his subjects their charters, returned them thanks in a proclamation for the great confidence they had reposed in him; adding, that he, for that mark of honour, thought himself more than ordinarily obliged to continue as he had hitherto begun, to shew the greatest moderation and benignity in the exercise of so great a trust.
When the Prince is arrived at this point, his ambition has no limits; every day he ventures on new steps towards extending his power; every day commits new outrages, and, if he continues to have recourse to pretences, it is less from necessity than salving appearances.
Go to top of Page
THE Prince, having engrossed every power which can be exerted in government, would that he were just; but woe to those who dare still to complain of his tyrannic empire. As he has spared no crime to get possession of the supreme power, he spares none to maintain it. Thus, when once the chains of the people are forged, they are afterwards riveted, and riveted so close, that the fate of their liberty is sealed for ever.
The last blow Princes strike at liberty, is the overturning the constitution under colour of defending it, and the punishing as rebels those who should attempt really to defend it.
Armed with the whole public force, invested with all authority, and interpreters of the laws, they make of them an arm defensive and offensive, which renders them sacred to their subjects, and terrible to their enemies.
If in the courts of judicature, before which the unfortunate victims of his vengeance are dragged, there is still a remain of humanity, they compose tribunals of their creatures *: The sword of tyranny is suspended over every head; and if any one dares to murmur, he is massacred in an instant. The people then live in perpetual anguish, and every one trembling for his life, beholds in silence the outrages of the despot.
When the Prince has exterminated all those powerful men who opposed his usurpations, all those spirited men who refused to submit to his odious empire, all men jealous of their liberty, when he has overthrown all the barriers which set bounds to his ambition, silenced all the laws, and sacrificed every thing to his elevation, he gives then a little respite to the people, grants rewards to his creatures, bestows donations on the armies, procures abundance, and indulges the populace with + shews: - A fallacious image of public happiness !
To rise, an usurper depresses every one; but to support his overgrown power, he must engage the people to be concerned for him; by the mildness of his government alone he may attain this end. Accordingly he seems for a while as is he meant to restore public public liberty *. He makes such regulations, as may prevent the disorders which have caused the ruin of the state, before he was the sole master of it; he restores the magistrates to the functions of their office; sometimes he permits a phantom of the sovereign to subsist, and takes its advice on every law he intends to enact, after he has dictated him its answer.
If he commits any violence to indulge his passions, it is under the forms of justice; if he sacrifices any subject to his resentment, it is by means of the magistrates; and thus gratifies his desires without being loaded with public hatred. But in order that the tribunals be ever blind instruments of his command, he confers no office but to men destitute of principle, and fills the courts with detestable villains +.
At other times, to calm his fears or indulge his avarice, he engages russians to make away with troublesome subjects, and then, to appease the minds of the people, disowns the ministers of his vengeance, lays on them all the blame for the crimes he has committed *, abandons them to their ill fate, or punishes them himself for having obeyed his orders.
Seduced by such artifices, the people rush to servitude, confirm to the Prince his usurpations, abandon themselves to his mercy, and confer on him the power of ordering what he thinks most conducive to the interests of his dominions, without taking advice of any but of himself.
But this appearance of justice soon vanishes. When once the despot has secured his authority, he renounces moderation, he sinks into pleasure, and abandons himself to every sort of debauchery and extravagance. The public revenue becomes the prey of his minions, of musicians, mimics, courtesans, and even of the rabble, who no longer subsist but by his scandalous prodigalities.
To such odious wastefulness is joined licentiousness, the creatures scandalously traffic the power of their master; they sell offices, and even dispensations from discharging the duty of them.
By constantly squandering public money in indulging his passions and caprices, the despot exhausts, at last, his treachery; when exhausted, he labours to fill it again, and recovers by crimes, what he has wasted in extravagances.
Yet he does not begin by violent extortions; he at first employs craft, and covering his wants with the exigencies of government, he lays heavy taxes on the subjects.
These resources being drained, he has recourse to extortions, confiscations and pillaging *.
In order to have a pretence for preying upon his subjects, to the punishments of those who are guilty of high-treason, he adds the forfeiture of their wealth; and, in order to find a multitude of criminals, he denominates high-treason an infinite number of guiltless actions, and is wholly busy in contriving; new crimes, and finding out informers.
At the sight of the outrages of the tyrant, murmurs are revived, plots are formed, and again blood is shed in abundance *.
As he becomes more odious, his alarms increase, and blood is shed in greater abundance.
To the care of personal safety, tyrants join that of securing their empire, and their cruelty augments with their terrors. To secure themselves against attempts, they know of no other mean but proscription, imprisonment, torture; maintaining one cruelty by another, and washing their bloody hands in blood is their sole employment.
To banish their fears, it is not enough to exterminate all jealous men, all malcontents, all suspected persons; if their children, their friends, their relations be not butchered. Thus the blood of the subjects is continually sacrificed to the pretended peace of the state.
Seeing none less worthy of the empire than themselves, they dread subjects who still maintain any virtue, are offended at any one displaying any merit, are jealous of those who enjoy the public esteem, of captains who have any influence over the soldiers, of magistrates who discharge the duties of their office, of placemen who are not deemed infamous; whatever announces a greatness of mind is to them matter of anguish, whatever appears with eclat offends their eyes, whatever excites admiration awakens their jealousy; they are alarmed by the very appearance of audacity, and to banish their terrors, their base hearts suggest murders only.
Dreading even the shadow of independence, they issue out proclamations against freedom of speech, they see with concern those who turn their eyes towards the calamities of their country, are incensed that any one should dare to recollect the fortunate but past days of liberty, or speak with respect of good citizens; they rank the love of the patria among crimes, and punish it as such.
When any one dares to write against tyranny, his performance is ignominiously burnt by public authority *, and himself punished as a malefactor. If he escapes; his head is demanded from foreign powers and he is persecuted till death.
Arrived at this point, they carry their suspicious caution farther; they will not allow any one to turn his eyes on matters of state *, they endeavour to annihilate all notions of public interest, even the very name of the laws.
Not satisfied with punishing those who complain against tyranny, they deter those who might be tempted to follow the same example; and, as they dread no less private discourses than public ones, they impose silence on every one.
In order to prevent their conduct from being inquired into, and to reign peaceably in the name of the laws, it is too little, according to them, to have recourse to terror, but have their eyes ever open on their subjects; they have them continually watched, and this base employment they resign to a band of infamous villains.
Thus, under pretence to secure public tranquillity, and enforce respect to the majesty of the throne, they maintain legions of spies among their subjects, they erect secret tribunals, and inquisitions of every kind, the doors of which are ever open to informers *.
Nay, some Princes have carried distrust so far as to force their subjects to become informers *, and even to accuse themselves, that is to say, to become the victims or satellites of tyranny. Hence every one entertains suspicions, brothers and friends distrust each other. But if any one is so bold as to murmur against oppression, he is instantly apprehended, loaded with chains, dragged into a dungeon, and all desert him like a victim devoted to its ill fate. Thus by crushing those who resist, and deterring those who have a mind to it, none are willing to defend the patria, and there remain in the state only abject slaves, and an insolent master.
Despots, in order the more easily to tyrannise over the people, endeavour to render them stupid. Every discourse or writing which elevates the mind, or tends towards engaging men to reflect, is fatal to its author: as if designing to annihilate every thing that bears the stamp of genius or virtue, these tyrants banish out of their dominions distinguished orators, celebrated philosophers, and brand their works with infamy *.
Nothing is guiltless in the eyes of a despot, ever surrounded with villains who feed his suspicions, cherish his avarice, and incense his pride; villains, protected and enriched with the spoils of unfortunate victims. Henceforth tyranny is unbounded: all those who become suspected by the despot are sacrificed to his cowardise, all those whose riches he covets are sacrificed to his avarice, all those who cringe not at his feet are sacrificed to his pride. They are charged with having insulted the majesty of the Prince, disregarded his authority, uttered disrespectful words of his ministers, etc. The sword is then lifted up against every head, and the state exhibits scenes of horror and slaughter. Thus, at the mercy of a tyrant, every one is sensible that he must not be talked of, and that his safety depends upon his obscurity. Every one conceals his fears, his hopes, his desires; murmurs, complaints, sighs, are no more to be heard; a melancholy silence reigns, consternation seizes every heart; subjects groan in secret, and under the most racking anxieties of mind lament, like malefactors, having death ever before their eyes.
After the despot has sacrificed his subjects to his fears, avarice and pride, he sacrifices them to his lust; he takes away from them their wives, their daughters, their sons, and abandons himself to the most odious debauchery.
The subjects, once subdued, and conscious of the impossibility of shaking off the yoke, think only how to render their condition tolerable, and seek safety in baseness. Unable to be free any longer, they soon despise liberty.
Good patriots, if there are still any, sensible that they should be deserted by every one, venture not on measures which would serve only to bring destruction on themselves. Thus reduced to wish for a better condition, without daring to attempt any thing to rescue the subjects from their misery, and to applaud that which it would prove dangerous to blame, they, as the rest, resolve to be submissive. Hence a base servility prevails among the people, and every one offers incense to the idol they detest *.
When the Prince is the supreme arbiter of the state, to be accounted something every one endeavours to prove the most servile. The courtiers, vile flatterers of his passions and vices, seek with eagerness the privilege of being his sport.
On pretence of maintaining his authority, but really to pay court to him, all who approach him denominate the love of independence licentiousness, rank among crimes patriotic zeal, torture and become the apologists of tyranny.
Writers, on their side, represent the Prince as a sovereign master, and subjects as his slaves; they inculcate that every one must kiss the rod, and take pains to spread that fatal doctrine; whilst, in order to show their zeal, ambitious villains set up as informers, and look every where for victims whose condemnation might be agreeable to the Prince. In fine, to carry infamy to its height, the grave magistrates join their voices to that of the public, and are earnest to outvie courtiers in servility *.
Reduced to such an abject state, the people sink still lower. Extreme ignorance ever produces extreme credulity. When once the subjects are utterly unacquainted with their rights, and used to hear pompous titles, sublime names, divine honours, ever conferred on the despot, they soon consider him as the representative of Deity, his orders as oracles from heaven, and they rank blind submission among their duties.
The despot, then uncontrolled master of his dominions *, ceases to have recourse to pretences in order to varnish over his outrages; but tramples laws under foot, and preys upon the subjects at pleasure. Having taken: away their fortunes, their wives, he takes away their children and sells them by auction +, stains the courts of judicature, disgraces the offices ++, forces the magistrates to prostitute themselves by performing the part of buffoons +++, and crushes every one who opposes his will.
Despots, when their power is no more susceptible of any increase, are only intent how to make their subjects feel its weight; they issue out as laws the most arbitrary mandates; and, far from allowing those they oppress to complain, forbid them even tears and sighs *. Whilst sentencing them to death, they force the unfortunate victims of their rage to pierce their own hearts, approve + of their sufferings, praise their tyrants .... I cannot close these horrid scenes; I shudder with horror, and the pen falls out of my hand.
Promoted by a detestable pride, the tyrant adds oftentimes insult to outrage. Applauding himself that he inspires terror, he walks in public places, where consternation preceeds him. On his appearance, the people cast down their eyes, fall at his feet, and resound in his ears the highest encomiums, whilst he insults whithout pity over the state he keeps oppressed. Nay, vexed at not being able to satiate his rage, he oftentimes regrets his not doing more mischief.
Caligula wished that the Roman people had but one head, that he might have the pleasure to cut it off at a single stroke. But why produce instances of this ? too many unfortunately are known.
In proportion as tyranny advances to its last period, the servility of the subjects proceeds to its lowest degree. How many, whilst crushed under the weight of their yoke, are not satisfied with kissing their chains, but become the vilest apologists of tyranny ?
Nero having committed a horrid parricide, the citizens of Rome immediately flocked to the temples, to thank the gods for an action which demanded their vengeance: the senators themselves ascended the capitol, ordered a thankgiving for the safety of the Prince, placed the birth-day of his mother among the days of ill omen, and offered their incense for a crime they ought to have punished with the utmost severity *.
But what excesses have not tyrants committed ? - After they have engrossed whatever power mortal beings can engross, they affect to be more than men, they have the insolent folly to pass for gods: and as if the abjection of the people would go beyond its own bounds, these slaves are heard conferring on the tyrant titles more pompous than he dares to assume.
Such are commonly the steps by which Princes advance to despotism. Thus Liberty has the fate of all other human things: It yields to Time which destroys every thing, to Vice which corrupts every thing, to Ignorance which confounds every thing, and to Force which crushes every thing.
Go to top of Page
Jean Paul Marat