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morality among them entire from taint or corruption. I give an illustrious instance. Instead of a tax upon trade or riches, every merchant puts privately into the public chest what he thinks ought to be his contribution: the total sum seldom falls short of expectation; and among that numerous body of men, not one is suspected of contributing less than his proportion. But luxury has not yet got footing in that city. A climate not kindly and a soil not fertile, enured the Swiss to temperance and to virtue. Patriotism continues their ruling passion they are fond of serving their country; and are honest and faithful to each other: a lawsuit among them is a wonder; and a door is seldom shut, unless to keep out cold.
The hurtful effects of the hoarding-appetite upon individuals, make no figure compared with what it has upon the public, in every state enriched by conquest or by commerce; which I have had more than one opportunity to mention. Overflowing riches unequally distributed, multiply arti ficial wants beyond all bounds: they eradicate patriotism: they foster luxury, sensuality, and selfishness, which are commonly gratified at the expence even of justice and honour. The Athenians were early corrupted by opulence; to which every thing was made subservient. "It is an oracle," says the chorus in the Agamemnon of Eschylus, that is not purchased with money." During the infancy of a nation, vice prevails from imbe
cility in the moral sense: in the decline of a nation, it prevails from the corruption of affluence.
In a small state, there is commonly much virtue at home, and much violence abroad. The Romans were to their neighbours more baneful than famine or pestilence; but their patriotism produced great integrity at home. An oath when given to fortify an engagement with a fellow-citizen, was more sacred at Rome than in any other part of the world*. The censorian office cannot succeed but among a virtuous people; because its rewards and punishments have no influence but upon those who are ashamed of vice t. As soon as Asiatic opulence and luxury prevailed in Rome, selfishness, sensuality, and avarice, formed the character of the Romans; and the censorian power was at an end. Such relaxation of morals ensued, as to make a law necessary, prohibiting the custody of an infant to be given to the heir, for fear of murder. And for the same reason, it was held unlawful to make a covenant de hæreditate viventis. These regulations prove the Romans to have been grossly corrupt. Our law is different in both articles;
• L'Esprit des loix, liv. 8. ch. 13.
+ In the fifteenth century, the French clergy from the pulpit censured public transactions, and even the conduct of their king, as our British clergy did in the days of Charles I. and II. They assumed the privilege of a Roman censor; but they were not men of such authority as to do any good in a cor rupted nation.
because it entertains not the same bad opinion of the people whom it governs *. Domitius Enobarbus and Appius Pulcher were consuls of Rome in the 699th year; and Memmius and Calvinus were candidates for succeeding them in that office. It was agreed among these four worthy gentlemen, that they should mutually assist each other. The consuls engaged to promote the election of Memmius and Calvinus: and they, on the other hand, subscribed a bond, obliging themselves, under a penalty of about L. 3000 Sterling, to procure three augurs, who should attest, that they were present in the comitia when a law passed investing the consuls with military command in their provinces; and also obliging themselves to produce three persons of consular rank, to depose, that they were in the number of those who signed a decree, conferring on the consuls the usual proconsular appointments. And yet the law made in the comitia, and the decree in the senate, were pure fictions. Infamous as this transaction was, Memmius, to answer some political purpose, was not ashamed to divulge it to the senate. This
* In the beginning of the present century, attorneys and agents were so little relied on for honesty and integrity, as to be disqualified by the Court of Session from being factors on the estates of bankrupts, (Act of Sederunt, 23 November 1710). At present, the factors chosen are commonly of that profession, writers or agents; and it appears from experience, that they make the best factors. Such improvement in morals, in so short a time, has not many parallels.
same Memmius, however, continued to be Cicero's correspondent, and his professed friend. Proh tempora! proh mores! But the passion for. power and riches was at that time, prevalent; and the principles of morality were very little regarded.
It cannot be dissembled, that selfishness, sensuality, and avarice, must in England be the fruits of great opulence, as in every other country; and that morality cannot maintain its authority against such undermining antagonists. Customhouse-oaths have become so familiar among us, as to be swallowed without a wry face; and is it certain, that bribery and perjury in electing parliament-members, are not approaching to the same cool state? In the infancy of morality, a promise makes but a slight impression: to give it force, it is commonly accompanied with many ceremonies; and in treaties between sovereigns, even these ceremonies are not relied on without a solemn oath. When morality arrives at maturity, the oath is thought unnecessary; and at present, morality is so much on the decline, that a solemn oath is no more relied on than a simple promise was originally. Laws have been made to prevent such immorality, but in vain because none but patriots have an interest to support them; and when patriotism is banished by corruption, there is no remaining spring in government to make them effectual. The statutes made against gaming, and against bribery
* See Historical Law Tracts, Tract ii.
corruption in elections, have no authority over a degenerate people. Nothing is studied, but how to evade the penalties; and supposing statutes to be made without end for preventing known evasions, new evasions will spring up in their stead, The misery is, that such laws, if they prove abortive, are never innocent with regard to consequences; for nothing is more subversive of morality as well as of patriotism, than a habit of disregarding the laws of our country *.
Lying and perjury are not in every case equally criminal; at least are not commonly reckoned so. Lying or perjury, in order to injure a man, is held highly criminal; and the greater the hurt, the greater the crime. To relieve from punishment, few boggle at a lie or at perjury; sincerity is not even expected; and hence the practice of torture. Many men are not scrupulous about oaths, when they have no view but to obtain justice to themselves: the Jacobites, that they might not be deprived of their privileges as British subjects, made no great difficulty to swallow oaths to the present government though in them it was perjury. It is dangerous to withdraw the smallest peg in the moral edifice; for the whole will totter and tumble. Men creep on to vice by degrees. Perjury, in order to support a friend, has become customary of late years; witness fictitious qualifications in the electors of parliament-men, which are made effectual by perjury; yet such is the degeneracy of the present times, that no man is the worse thought of upon that account. We must not flat
ter ourselves that the poison will reach no farther. A man,
who boggles not at perjury to serve a friend, will in time become such an adept, as to commit perjury in order to ruin a friend when he becomes an enemy.