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But pride sometimes happily interposes to stem the tide of corruption. The poor are not ashamed to take a bribe from the rich; nor weak states from those that are powerful, disguised only under the name of subsidy or pension. Both France and England have been in the practice of securing the alliance of neighbouring princes by pensions; and it is natural in the ministers of a pensioned prince, to receive a gratification for keeping their master to his engagements. England never was at any time so inferior to France, as to suffer her king openly to accept a pension from the French king, whatever private transactions might be between the kings themselves. But the ministers of England thought it no disparagement, to receive pensions from France. Every minister of Edward IV. of England received a pension of Louis XI.; and they made no difficulty of granting a receipt for the sum. The old Earl of Warwick, says Commines, was the only exception: he took the money, but refused a receipt. Cardinal Wolsey had a pension both from the Emperor and from the King of France and his master Henry was vain to find his minister so much regarded by the first powers in Europe. During the reigns of Charles II. and of his brother James, England made so despicable a figure, that the ministers accepted pensions from Louis XIV. A king deficient in virtue is never well served. King Charles, most disgracefully, accepted a pension from France:
what scruple could his ministers have? Britain, governed by a king eminently virtuous and patriotic, makes at present so great a figure, that even the lowest minister would disdain a pension from any foreign prince. Men formerly were so blind, as not to see that a pension creates a bias in the minister, against his master and his country. At present, men clearly see, that a foreign pension to a minister is no better than a bribe; and it would be held so by all the world.
In a nation enriched by conquest or commerce, where selfish passions always prevail, it is difficult to stem the tide of immorality: the decline of virtue may be retarded by wholesome regulations; but no regulations will ever restore it to its meridian vigour. Marcus Aurelius, Emperor of Rome, caused statues to be made of all the brave men
who figured in the Germanic war. It has long been a practice in China, to honour persons eminent for virtue, by feasting them annually at the Emperor's expence. A late Emperor made an improvement: he ordered reports to be sent him annually, of men and women, who when alive had been remarkable for public spirit or private virtue, in order that monuments might be erected to their memory. The following report is one of many that were sent to the Emperor. "Accord
ing to the order of your Majesty, for erecting 66 monuments to the honour of women, who have "been celebrated for continence, for filial piety,
"or for purity of manners, the viceroy of Can"ton reports, that in the town of Sinhoei, a beau"tiful young woman, named Leang, sacrificed her "life to save her chastity. In the fifteenth year "of our Emperor Canghi, she was dragged by pirates into their ship; and having no other way to escape their brutal lust, she threw herself headlong into the sea. Being of opinion, that "to prefer honour before life is an example wor"thy of imitation, we purpose, according to your
Majesty's order, to erect a triumphal atch for "that young woman, and to engrave her story upon a large stone, that it may be preserved in "perpetual remembrance." At the foot of the report is written, The Emperor approves. Pity it is, that such regulations should ever prove abortive, for their purpose is excellent. But they would need angels to carry them on. Every deviation from a just selection enervates them; and frequent deviations render them a subject of ridicule. But how are deviations to be prevented, when men arė the judges? Those who distribute the rewards have friends or flatterers; and those of greater merit will be neglected. Like the censorian power in Rome, such regulations, after many abuses, will sink into contempt.
Two errors, which infested morality in dark times, have occasioned much injustice; and I aṁ not certain, that they are yet entirely eradicated. The first is an opinion, That an action derives its Q& quality
quality of right and wrong from the event, without regard to intention. The other is, That the end justifies the means; or, in other words, That means otherwise unlawful, may be lawfully employed to bring about a good end. With an account of these two errors, I shall close the present historical sketch.
That intention is the circumstance which qualifies an action and its author, to be criminal or innocent, is made evident in the first part of the present sketch; and is now admitted to be so by every moral writer. But rude and barbarous nations seldom carry their thoughts beyond what falls under their external senses; they conclude an action to be right that happens to do good, and an action to be wrong that happens to do harm; without ever thinking of motives, of will, of intention, or of any circumstance that is not obvious to eye-sight. From many passages in the Old Testament it appears, that the external act only, with its consequences, was regarded. Isaac, imitating his father Abraham, made his wife Rebecca pass for his sister. Abimelech, King of the Philistines, having discovered the imposture, said to Isaac, "What is this thou hast done unto us? One of "the people might lightly have lain with thy "wife, and thou shouldest have brought guiltiness
upon us." Jonathan was condemned to die for transgressing a prohibition he had never heard
Genesis, chap. xxvi.
of*. A sin of ignorance, i. e. an action done without ill intention, required a sacrifice of expiation †. Saul, defeated by the Philistines, fell on his own sword: the wound not being mortal, he prevailed on a young Amalekite to pull out the sword, and to dispatch him with it. Josephus says, that David ordered the criminal to be delivered up to justice as a regicide.
The Greeks appear to have wavered greatly about intention, sometimes holding it essential to a crime, and sometimes disregarding it as a circumstance of no moment. Of these contradictory opinions, we have pregnant evidence in the two tragedies of Oedipus; the first taking it for granted, that a crime consists entirely in the external act and its consequences; the other holding intention to be indispensable. Oedipus had killed his father Laius, and married his mother Jocasta; but without any criminal intention, being ignorant of his relation to them. And yet history informs us, that the gods punished the Thebans with pestilence, for suffering a wretch so grossly criminal to live. Sophocles, author of both tragedies, puts the following words in the mouth of Tiresias the prophet:
That Oedipus, in shameful bonds united,
* 1 Samuel, xiv. 44.
Book 3. of Antiquities.
+ Leviticus, chap. iv.