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Burke was one of the greatest political thinkers whom England has produced, and all his writings, like his speeches, are characterised by the welding together of knowledge, thought, and feeling. Unlike most orators he is more successful as a writer than as a speaker. He rose too far above the heads of his audience, which the continued splendour of his declamation, his inordinate copiousness, and his excessive vehemence, often passing into fury, at length wearied, and even disgusted: but in his writings are found some of the grandest examples of a fervid and richly elaborated eloquence. Though he was never admitted to the Cabinet, he guided and influenced largely the policy of his party, while by his efforts in the direction of economy and order in administration at home, and on behalf of kindly and just government in India, as well as by his contributions to political philosophy, he laid his country and indeed the world under lasting obligations. This is volume one out of twelve of his works, this volume containing A Vindication of Natural Society, A Philosophical Inquiry into the Origin of our Ideas and others.
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The Works of Edmund Burke
The Works of E. Burke Volume 1
Jazzybee Verlag Jürgen Beck
86450 Altenmünster, Loschberg 9
A VINDICATION OF NATURAL SOCIETY .9
A PHILOSOPHICAL INQUIRY INTO THE ORIGIN OF OUR IDEAS OF THE SUBLIME AND BEAUTIFUL. 44
A SHORT ACCOUNT OF A LATE SHORT ADMINISTRATION.148
OBSERVATIONS ON A LATE PUBLICATION, INTITULED "THE PRESENT STATE OF THE NATION.". 150
THOUGHTS ON THE CAUSE OF THE PRESENT DISCONTENTS.243
TO THE READER.
The late Mr. Burke, from a principle of unaffected humility, which they who were the most intimately acquainted with his character best know to have been in his estimation one of the most important moral duties, never himself made any collection of the various publications with which, during a period of forty years, he adorned and enriched the literature of this country. When, however, the rapid and unexampled demand for his "Reflections on the Revolution in France" had unequivocally testified his celebrity as a writer, some of his friends so far prevailed upon him, that he permitted them to put forth a regular edition of his works. Accordingly, three volumes in quarto appeared under that title in 1792, printed for the late Mr. Dodsley. That edition, therefore, has been made the foundation of the present, for which a form has been chosen better adapted to public convenience. Such errors of the press as have been discovered in it are here rectified: in other respects it is faithfully followed, except that in one instance an accident of little moment has occasioned a slight deviation from the strict chronological arrangement, and that, on the other hand, a speech of conspicuous excellence, on his declining the poll at Bristol, in 1780, is here, for the first time, inserted in its proper place.
As the activity of the author's mind, and the lively interest which he took in the welfare of his country, ceased only with his life, many subsequent productions issued from his pen, which were received in a manner corresponding with his distinguished reputation. He wrote also various tracts, of a less popular description, which he designed for private circulation in quarters where he supposed they might produce most benefit to the community, but which, with some other papers, have been printed since his death, from copies which he left behind him fairly transcribed, and most of them corrected as for the press. All these, now first collected together, form the contents of the last two volumes. They are disposed in chronological order, with the exception of the "Preface to Brissot's Address," which having appeared in the author's lifetime, and from delicacy not being avowed by him, did not come within the plan of this edition, but has been placed at the end of the last volume, on its being found deficient in its just bulk.
The several posthumous publications, as they from time to time made their appearance, were accompanied by appropriate prefaces. These, however, as they were principally intended for temporary purposes, have been omitted. Some few explanations only, which they contained, seem here to be necessary.
The "Observations on the Conduct of the Minority" in the Session of 1793 had been written and sent by Mr. Burke as a paper entirely and strictly confidential; but it crept surreptitiously into the world, through the fraud and treachery of the man whom he had employed to transcribe it, and, as usually happens in such cases, came forth in a very mangled state, under a false title, and without the introductory letter. The friends of the author, without waiting to consult him, instantly obtained an injunction from the Court of Chancery to stop the sale. What he himself felt, on receiving intelligence of the injury done him by one from whom his kindness deserved a very different return, will be best conveyed in his own words. The following is an extract of a letter to a friend, which he dictated on this subject from a sick-bed.
BATH, 15th Feb., 1797.
"My Dear Laurence,—
"On the appearance of the advertisement, all newspapers and all letters have been kept back from me till this time. Mrs. Burke opened yours, and finding that all the measures in the power of Dr. King, yourself, and Mr. Woodford, had been taken to suppress the publication, she ventured to deliver me the letters to-day, which were read to me in my bed, about two o'clock.
"This affair does vex me; but I am not in a state of health at present to be deeply vexed at anything. Whenever this matter comes into discussion, I authorize you to contradict the infamous reports which (I am informed) have been given out, that this paper had been circulated through the ministry, and was intended gradually to slide into the press. To the best of my recollection I never had a clean copy of it but one, which is now in my possession; I never communicated that, but to the Duke of Portland, from whom I had it back again. But the Duke will set this matter to rights, if in reality there were two copies, and he has one. I never showed it, as they know, to any one of the ministry. If the Duke has really a copy, I believe his and mine are the only ones that exist, except what was taken by fraud from loose and incorrect papers by S——, to whom I gave the letter to copy. As soon as I began to suspect him capable of any such scandalous breach of trust, you know with what anxiety I got the loose papers out of his hands, not having reason to think that he kept any other. Neither do I believe in fact (unless he meditated this villany long ago) that he did or does now possess any clean copy. I never communicated that paper to any one out of the very small circle of those private friends from whom I concealed nothing.
"But I beg you and my friends to be cautious how you let it be understood that I disclaim anything but the mere act and intention of publication. I do not retract any one of the sentiments contained in that memorial, which was and is my justification, addressed to the friends for whose use alone I intended it. Had I designed it for the public, I should have been more exact and full. It was written in a tone of indignation, in consequence of the resolutions of the Whig Club, which were directly pointed against myself and others, and occasioned our secession from that club; which is the last act of my life that I shall under any circumstances repent. Many temperaments and explanations there would have been, if I had ever had a notion that it should meet the public eye."
In the mean time a large impression, amounting, it is believed, to three thousand copies, had been dispersed over the country. To recall these was impossible; to have expected that any acknowledged production of Mr. Burke, full of matter likely to interest the future historian, could remain forever in obscurity, would have been folly; and to have passed it over in silent neglect, on the one hand, or, on the other, to have then made any considerable changes in it, might have seemed an abandonment of the principles which it contained. The author, therefore, discovering, that, with the exception of the introductory letter, he had not in fact kept any clean copy, as he had supposed, corrected one of the pamphlets with his own hand. From this, which was found preserved with his other papers, his friends afterwards thought it their duty to give an authentic edition.
The "Thoughts and Details on Scarcity" were originally presented in the form of a memorial to Mr. Pitt. The author proposed afterwards to recast the same matter in a new shape. He even advertised the intended work under the title of "Letters on Rural Economics, addressed to Mr. Arthur Young"; but he seems to have finished only two or three detached fragments of the first letter. These being too imperfect to be printed alone, his friends inserted them in the memorial, where they seemed best to cohere. The memorial had been fairly copied, but did not appear to have been examined or corrected, as some trifling errors of the transcriber were perceptible in it. The manuscript of the fragments was a rough draft from the author's own hand, much blotted and very confused.
The Third Letter on the Proposals for Peace was in its progress through the press when the author died. About one half of it was actually revised in print by himself, though not in the exact order of the pages as they now stand. He enlarged his first draft, and separated one great member of his subject, for the purpose of introducing some other matter between. The different parcels of manuscript designed to intervene were discovered. One of them he seemed to have gone over himself, and to have improved and augmented. The other (fortunately the smaller) was much more imperfect, just as it was taken from his mouth by dictation. The former reaches from the two hundred and forty-sixth to near the end of the two hundred and sixty-second page; the latter nearly occupies the twelve pages which follow. No important change, none at all affecting the meaning of any passage, has been made in either, though in the more imperfect parcel some latitude of discretion in subordinate points was necessarily used.
There is, however, a considerable member for the greater part of which Mr. Burke's reputation is not responsible: this is the inquiry into the condition of the higher classes, which commences in the two hundred and ninety-fifth page. The summary of the whole topic, indeed, nearly as it stands in the three hundred and seventy-third and fourth pages, was found, together with a marginal reference to the Bankrupt List, in his own handwriting; and the actual conclusion of the Letter was dictated by him, but never received his subsequent correction. He had also preserved, as materials for this branch of his subject, some scattered hints, documents, and parts of a correspondence on the state of the country. He was, however, prevented from working on them by the want of some authentic and official information, for which he had been long anxiously waiting, in order to ascertain, to the satisfaction of the public, what, with his usual sagacity, he had fully anticipated from his own personal observation, to his own private conviction. At length the reports of the different committees which had been appointed by the two Houses of Parliament amply furnished him with evidence for this purpose. Accordingly he read and considered them with attention: but for anything beyond this the season was now past. The Supreme Disposer of All, against whose inscrutable counsels it is vain as well as impious to murmur, did not permit him to enter on the execution of the task which he meditated. It was resolved, therefore, by one of his friends, after much hesitation, and under a very painful responsibility, to make such an attempt as he could at supplying the void; especially because the insufficiency of our resources for the continuance of the war was understood to have been the principal objection urged against the two former Letters on the Proposals for Peace. In performing with reverential diffidence this duty of friendship, care has been taken not to attribute to Mr. Burke any sentiment which is not most explicitly known, from repeated conversations, and from much correspondence, to have been decidedly entertained by that illustrious man. One passage of nearly three pages, containing a censure of our defensive system, is borrowed from a private letter, which he began to dictate with an intention of comprising in it the short result of his opinions, but which he afterwards abandoned, when, a little time before his death, his health appeared in some degree to amend, and he hoped that Providence might have spared him at least to complete the larger public letter, which he then proposed to resume.
In the preface to the former edition of this Letter a fourth was mentioned as being in possession of Mr. Burke's friends. It was in fact announced by the author himself, in the conclusion of the second, which it was then designed to follow. He intended, he said, to proceed next on the question of the facilities possessed by the French Republic, from the internal state of other nations, and particularly of this, for obtaining her ends,—and as his notions were controverted, to take notice of what, in that way, had been recommended to him. The vehicle which he had chosen for this part of his plan was an answer to a pamphlet which was supposed to come from high authority, and was circulated by ministers with great industry, at the time of its appearance, in October, 1795, immediately previous to that session of Parliament when his Majesty for the first time declared that the appearance of any disposition in the enemy to negotiate for general peace should not fail to be met with an earnest desire to give it the fullest and speediest effect. In truth, the answer, which is full of spirit and vivacity, was written the latter end of the same year, but was laid aside when the question assumed a more serious aspect, from the commencement of an actual negotiation, which gave rise to the series of printed letters. Afterwards, he began to rewrite it, with a view of accommodating it to his new purpose. The greater part, however, still remained in its original state; and several heroes of the Revolution, who are there celebrated, having in the interval passed off the public stage, a greater liberty of insertion and alteration than his friends on consideration have thought allowable would be necessary to adapt it to that place in the series for which it was ultimately designed by the author. This piece, therefore, addressed, as the title originally stood, to his noble friend, Earl Fitzwilliam, will be given the first in the supplemental volumes which will be hereafter added to complete this edition of the author's works.
The tracts, most of them in manuscript, which have been already selected as fit for this purpose, will probably furnish four or five volumes more, to be printed uniformly with this edition. The principal piece is an Essay on the History of England, from the earliest period to the conclusion of the reign of King John. It is written with much depth of antiquarian research, directed by the mind of an intelligent statesman. This alone, as far as can be conjectured, will form more than one volume. Another entire volume also, at least, will be filled with his letters to public men on public affairs, especially those of France. This supplement will be sent to the press without delay.
Mr. Burke's more familiar correspondence will be reserved as authorities to accompany a narrative of his life, which will conclude the whole. The period during which he flourished was one of the most memorable of our annals. It comprehended the acquisition of one empire in the East, the loss of another in the West, and the total subversion of the ancient system of Europe by the French Revolution, with all which events the history of his life is necessarily and intimately connected,—as indeed it also is, much more than is generally known, with the state of literature and the elegant arts. Such a subject of biography cannot be dismissed with a slight and rapid touch; nor can it be treated in a manner worthy of it, from the information, however authentic and extensive, which the industry of any one man may have accumulated. Many important communications have been received; but some materials, which relate to the pursuits of his early years, and which are known to be in existence, have been hitherto kept back, notwithstanding repeated inquiries and applications. It is, therefore, once more earnestly requested, that all persons who call themselves the friends or admirers of the late Edmund Burke will have the goodness to transmit, without delay, any notices of that or of any other kind which may happen to be in their possession or within their reach, to Messrs. Rivingtons,—a respect and kindness to his memory which will be thankfully acknowledged by those friends to whom, in dying, he committed the sacred trust of his reputation.
 Prefixed to the first octavo edition: London, F. and C. Rivington, 1801: comprising Vols. I.-VIII. of the edition in sixteen volumes issued by these publishers at intervals between the years 1801 and 1827.
 Comprising the last four papers of the fourth volume, and the whole of the fifth volume, of the present edition.
 The former comprising the matter included between the paragraph commencing, "I hear it has been said," &c., and that ending with the words, "there were little or no materials"; and the latter extending through the paragraph concluding with the words, "disgraced and plagued mankind."
 At the paragraph commencing with the words, "In turning our view from the lower to the higher classes," &c.
 In the first half of the paragraph commencing, "If, then, the real state of this nation," &c.
TO THE SECOND OCTAVO EDITION.
A new edition of the works of Mr. Burke having been called for by the public, the opportunity has been taken to make some slight changes, it is hoped for the better.
A different distribution of the contents, while it has made the volumes, with the exception of the first and sixth, more nearly equal in their respective bulk, has, at the same time, been fortunately found to produce a more methodical arrangement of the whole. The first and second volumes, as before, severally contain those literary and philosophical works by which Mr. Burke was known previous to the commencement of his public life as a statesman, and the political pieces which were written by him between the time of his first becoming connected with the Marquis of Rockingham and his being chosen member for Bristol. In the third are comprehended all his speeches and pamphlets from his first arrival at Bristol, as a candidate, in the year 1774, to his farewell address from the hustings of that city, in the year 1780. What he himself published relative to the affairs of India occupies the fourth volume. The remaining four comprise his works since the French Revolution, with the exception of the Letter to Lord Kenmare on the Penal Laws against Irish Catholics, which was probably inserted where it stands from its relation to the subject of the Letter addressed by him, at a later period, to Sir Hercules Langrishe. With the same exception, too, strict regard has been paid to chronological order, which, in the last edition, was in some instances broken, to insert pieces that wore not discovered till it was too late to introduce them in their proper places.
In the Appendix to the Speech on the Nabob of Arcot's Debts the references were found to be confused, and, in many places, erroneous. This probably had arisen from the circumstance that a larger and differently constructed appendix seems to have been originally designed by Mr. Burke, which, however, he afterwards abridged and altered, while the speech and the notes upon it remained as they were. The text and the documents that support it have throughout been accommodated to each other.
The orthography has been in many cases altered, and an attempt made to reduce it to some certain standard. The rule laid down for the discharge of this task was, that, whenever Mr. Burke could be perceived to have been uniform in his mode of spelling, that was considered as decisive; but where he varied, (and as he was in the habit of writing by dictation, and leaving to others the superintendence of the press, he was peculiarly liable to variations of this sort) the best received authorities were directed to be followed. The reader, it is trusted, will find this object, too much disregarded in modern books, has here been kept in view throughout. The quotations which are interspersed through the works of Mr Burke, and which were frequently made by him from memory, have been generally compared with the original authors. Several mistakes in printing, of one word for another, by which the sense was either perverted or obscured, are now rectified. Two or three small insertions have also been made from a quarto copy corrected by Mr. Burke himself. From the same source something more has been drawn in the shape of notes, to which are subscribed his initials. Of this number is the explanation of that celebrated phrase, "the swinish multitude": an explanation which was uniformly given by him to his friends, in conversation on the subject. But another note will probably interest the reader still more, as being strongly expressive of that parental affection which formed so amiable a feature in the character of Mr. Burke. It is in page 203 of Vol. V., where he points out a considerable passage as having been supplied by his "lost son". Several other parts, possibly amounting altogether to a page or thereabout, were indicated in the same manner; but, as they in general consist of single sentences, and as the meaning of the mark by which they were distinguished was not actually expressed, it has not been thought necessary to notice them particularly.
 London, F. and C. Rivington, 1803. 8 vols.
 In "Reflections on the Revolution in France,"—indicated by foot-note in loco.
Before the philosophical works of Lord Bolingbroke had appeared, great things were expected from the leisure of a man, who, from the splendid scene of action in which his talents had enabled him to make so conspicuous a figure, had retired to employ those talents in the investigation of truth. Philosophy began to congratulate herself upon such a proselyte from the world of business, and hoped to have extended her power under the auspices of such a leader. In the midst of these pleasing expectations, the works themselves at last appeared in full body, and with great pomp. Those who searched in them for new discoveries in the mysteries of nature; those who expected something which might explain or direct the operations of the mind; those who hoped to see morality illustrated and enforced; those who looked for new helps to society and government; those who desired to see the characters and passions of mankind delineated; in short, all who consider such things as philosophy, and require some of them at least in every philosophical work, all these were certainly disappointed; they found the landmarks of science precisely in their former places: and they thought they received but a poor recompense for this disappointment, in seeing every mode of religion attacked in a lively manner, and the foundation of every virtue, and of all government, sapped with great art and much ingenuity. What advantage do we derive from such writings? What delight can a man find in employing a capacity which might be usefully exerted for the noblest purposes, in a sort of sullen labor, in which, if the author could succeed, he is obliged to own, that nothing could be more fatal to mankind than his success?
I cannot conceive how this sort of writers propose to compass the designs they pretend to have in view, by the instruments which they employ. Do they pretend to exalt the mind of man, by proving him no better than a beast? Do they think to enforce the practice of virtue, by denying that vice and virtue are distinguished by good or ill fortune here, or by happiness or misery hereafter? Do they imagine they shall increase our piety, and our reliance on God, by exploding his providence, and insisting that he is neither just nor good? Such are the doctrines which, sometimes concealed, sometimes openly and fully avowed, are found to prevail throughout the writings of Lord Bolingbroke; and such are the reasonings which this noble writer and several others have been pleased to dignify with the name of philosophy. If these are delivered in a specious manner, and in a style above the common, they cannot want a number of admirers of as much docility as can be wished for in disciples. To these the editor of the following little piece has addressed it: there is no reason to conceal the design of it any longer.
The design was to show that, without the exertion of any considerable forces, the same engines which were employed for the destruction of religion, might be employed with equal success for the subversion of government; and that specious arguments might be used against those things which they, who doubt of everything else, will never permit to be questioned. It is an observation which I think Isocrates makes in one of his orations against the sophists, that it is far more easy to maintain a wrong cause, and to support paradoxical opinions to the satisfaction of a common auditory, than to establish a doubtful truth by solid and conclusive arguments. When men find that something can be said in favor of what, on the very proposal, they have thought utterly indefensible, they grow doubtful of their own reason; they are thrown into a sort of pleasing surprise; they run along with the speaker, charmed and captivated to find such a plentiful harvest of reasoning, where all seemed barren and unpromising. This is the fairy land of philosophy. And it very frequently happens, that those pleasing impressions on the imagination subsist and produce their effect, even after the understanding has been satisfied of their unsubstantial nature. There is a sort of gloss upon ingenious falsehoods that dazzles the imagination, but which neither belongs to, nor becomes the sober aspect of truth. I have met with a quotation in Lord Coke's Reports that pleased me very much, though I do not know from whence he has taken it: "Interdum fucata falsitas (says he), in multis est probabilior, at sæpe rationibus vincit nudam veritatem." In such cases the writer has a certain fire and alacrity inspired into him by a consciousness, that, let it fare how it will with the subject, his ingenuity will be sure of applause; and this alacrity becomes much greater if he acts upon the offensive, by the impetuosity that always accompanies an attack, and the unfortunate propensity which mankind have to the finding and exaggerating faults. The editor is satisfied that a mind which has no restraint from a sense of its own weakness, of its subordinate rank in the creation, and of the extreme danger of letting the imagination loose upon some subjects, may very plausibly attack everything the most excellent and venerable; that it would not be difficult to criticise the creation itself; and that if we were to examine the divine fabrics by our ideas of reason and fitness, and to use the same method of attack by which some men have assaulted revealed religion, we might with as good color, and with the same success, make the wisdom and power of God in his creation appear to many no better than foolishness. There is an air of plausibility which accompanies vulgar reasonings and notions, taken from the beaten circle of ordinary experience, that is admirably suited to the narrow capacities of some, and to the laziness of others. But this advantage is in a great measure lost, when a painful, comprehensive survey of a very complicated matter, and which requires a great variety of considerations, is to be made; when we must seek in a profound subject, not only for arguments, but for new materials of argument, their measures and their method of arrangement; when we must go out of the sphere of our ordinary ideas, and when we can never walk surely, but by being sensible of our blindness. And this we must do, or we do nothing, whenever we examine the result of a reason which is not our own. Even in matters which are, as it were, just within our reach, what would become of the world, if the practice of all moral duties, and the foundations of society, rested upon having their reasons made clear and demonstrative to every individual?
The editor knows that the subject of this letter is not so fully handled as obviously it might; it was not his design to say all that could possibly be said. It had been inexcusable to fill a large volume with the abuse of reason; nor would such an abuse have been tolerable, even for a few pages, if some under-plot, of more consequence than the apparent design, had not been carried on.
Some persons have thought that the advantages of the state of nature ought to have been more fully displayed. This had undoubtedly been a very ample subject for declamation; but they do not consider the character of the piece. The writers against religion, whilst they oppose every system, are wisely careful never to set up any of their own. If some inaccuracies in calculation, in reasoning, or in method, be found, perhaps these will not be looked upon as faults by the admirers of Lord Bolingbroke; who will, the editor is afraid, observe much more of his lordship's character in such particulars of the following letter, than they are likely to find of that rapid torrent of an impetuous and overbearing eloquence, and the variety of rich imagery for which that writer is justly admired.
Shall I venture to say, my lord, that in our late conversation, you were inclined to the party which you adopted rather by the feelings of your good nature, than by the conviction of your judgment? We laid open the foundations of society; and you feared that the curiosity of this search might endanger the ruin of the whole fabric. You would readily have allowed my principle, but you dreaded the consequences; you thought, that having once entered upon these reasonings, we might be carried insensibly and irresistibly farther than at first we could either have imagined or wished. But for my part, my lord, I then thought, and am still of the same opinion, that error, and not truth of any kind, is dangerous; that ill conclusions can only flow from false propositions; and that, to know whether any proposition be true or false, it is a preposterous method to examine it by its apparent consequences.
These were the reasons which induced me to go so far into that inquiry; and they are the reasons which direct me in all my inquiries. I had indeed often reflected on that subject before I could prevail on myself to communicate my reflections to anybody. They were generally melancholy enough; as those usually are which carry us beyond the mere surface of things; and which would undoubtedly make the lives of all thinking men extremely miserable, if the same philosophy which caused the grief, did not at the same time administer the comfort.
On considering political societies, their origin, their constitution, and their effects, I have sometimes been in a good deal more than doubt, whether the Creator did ever really intend man for a state of happiness. He has mixed in his cup a number of natural evils, (in spite of the boasts of stoicism they are evils,) and every endeavor which the art and policy of mankind has used from the beginning of the world to this day, in order to alleviate or cure them, has only served to introduce new mischiefs, or to aggravate and inflame the old. Besides this, the mind of man itself is too active and restless a principle ever to settle on the true point of quiet. It discovers every day some craving want in a body, which really wants but little. It every day invents some new artificial rule to guide that nature which, if left to itself, were the best and surest guide. It finds out imaginary beings prescribing imaginary laws; and then, it raises imaginary terrors to support a belief in the beings, and an obedience to the laws.—Many things have been said, and very well undoubtedly, on the subjection in which we should preserve our bodies to the government of our understanding; but enough has not been said upon the restraint which our bodily necessities ought to lay on the extravagant sublimities and eccentric rovings of our minds. The body, or as some love to call it, our inferior nature, is wiser in its own plain way, and attends its own business more directly than the mind with all its boasted subtlety.
In the state of nature, without question, mankind was subjected to many and great inconveniences. Want of union, want of mutual assistance, want of a common arbitrator to resort to in their differences. These were evils which they could not but have felt pretty severely on many occasions. The original children of the earth lived with their brethren of the other kinds in much equality. Their diet must have been confined almost wholly to the vegetable kind; and the same tree, which in its flourishing state produced them berries, in its decay gave them an habitation. The mutual desires of the sexes uniting their bodies and affections, and the children which are the results of these intercourses, introduced first the notion of society, and taught its conveniences. This society, founded in natural appetites and instincts, and not in any positive institution, I shall call natural society. Thus far nature went and succeeded: but man would go farther. The great error of our nature is, not to know where to stop, not to be satisfied with any reasonable acquirement; not to compound with our condition; but to lose all we have gained by an insatiable pursuit after more. Man found a considerable advantage by this union of many persons to form one family; he therefore judged that he would find his account proportionably in an union of many families into one body politic. And as nature has formed no bond of union to hold them together, he supplied this defect by laws.
This is political society. And hence the sources of what are usually called states, civil societies, or governments; into some form of which, more extended or restrained, all mankind have gradually fallen. And since it has so happened, and that we owe an implicit reverence to all the institutions of our ancestors, we shall consider these institutions with all that modesty with which we ought to conduct ourselves in examining a received opinion; but with all that freedom and candor which we owe to truth wherever we find it, or however it may contradict our own notions, or oppose our own interests. There is a most absurd and audacious method of reasoning avowed by some bigots and enthusiasts, and through fear assented to by some wiser and better men; it is this: they argue against a fair discussion of popular prejudices, because, say they, though they would be found without any reasonable support, yet the discovery might be productive of the most dangerous consequences. Absurd and blasphemous notion! as if all happiness was not connected with the practice of virtue, which necessarily depends upon the knowledge of truth; that is, upon the knowledge of those unalterable relations which Providence has ordained that every thing should bear to every other. These relations, which are truth itself, the foundation of virtue, and consequently the only measures of happiness, should be likewise the only measures by which we should direct our reasoning. To these we should conform in good earnest; and not think to force nature, and the whole order of her system, by a compliance with our pride and folly, to conform to our artificial regulations. It is by a conformity to this method we owe the discovery of the few truths we know, and the little liberty and rational happiness we enjoy. We have something fairer play than a reasoner could have expected formerly; and we derive advantages from it which are very visible.
The fabric of superstition has in this our age and nation received much ruder shocks than it had ever felt before; and through the chinks and breaches of our prison, we see such glimmerings of light, and feel such refreshing airs of liberty, as daily raise our ardor for more. The miseries derived to mankind from superstition under the name of religion, and of ecclesiastical tyranny under the name of church government, have been clearly and usefully exposed. We begin to think and to act from reason and from nature alone. This is true of several, but by far the majority is still in the same old state of blindness and slavery; and much is it to be feared that we shall perpetually relapse, whilst the real productive cause of all this superstitious folly, enthusiastical nonsense, and holy tyranny, holds a reverend place in the estimation even of those who are otherwise enlightened.
Civil government borrows a strength from ecclesiastical; and artificial laws receive a sanction from artificial revelations. The ideas of religion and government are closely connected; and whilst we receive government as a thing necessary, or even useful to our well-being, we shall in spite of us draw in, as a necessary, though undesirable consequence, an artificial religion of some kind or other. To this the vulgar will always be voluntary slaves; and even those of a rank of understanding superior, will now and then involuntarily feel its influence. It is therefore of the deepest concernment to us to be set right in this point; and to be well satisfied whether civil government be such a protector from natural evils, and such a nurse and increaser of blessings, as those of warm imaginations promise. In such a discussion, far am I from proposing in the least to reflect on our most wise form of government; no more than I would, in the freer parts of my philosophical writings, mean to object to the piety, truth, and perfection of our most excellent Church. Both, I am sensible, have their foundations on a rock. No discovery of truth can prejudice them. On the contrary, the more closely the origin of religion and government is examined, the more clearly their excellences must appear. They come purified from the fire. My business is not with them. Having entered a protest against all objections from these quarters, I may the more freely inquire, from history and experience, how far policy has contributed in all times to alleviate those evils which Providence, that perhaps has designed us for a state of imperfection, has imposed; how far our physical skill has cured our constitutional disorders; and whether it may not have introduced new ones, curable perhaps by no skill.
In looking over any state to form a judgment on it, it presents itself in two lights; the external, and the internal. The first, that relation which it bears in point of friendship or enmity to other states. The second, that relation which its component parts, the governing and the governed, bear to each other. The first part of the external view of all states, their relation as friends, makes so trifling a figure in history, that I am very sorry to say, it affords me but little matter on which to expatiate. The good offices done by one nation to its neighbor; the support given in public distress; the relief afforded in general calamity; the protection granted in emergent danger; the mutual return of kindness and civility, would afford a very ample and very pleasing subject for history. But, alas! all the history of all times, concerning all nations, does not afford matter enough to fill ten pages, though it should be spun out by the wire-drawing amplification of a Guicciardini himself. The glaring side is that of enmity. War is the matter which fills all history, and consequently the only or almost the only view in which we can see the external of political society is in a hostile shape; and the only actions to which we have always seen, and still see all of them intent, are such as tend to the destruction of one another. "War," says Machiavel, "ought to be the only study of a prince"; and by a prince, he means every sort of state, however constituted. "He ought," says this great political doctor, "to consider peace only as a breathing-time, which gives him leisure to contrive, and furnishes ability to execute military plans." A meditation on the conduct of political societies made old Hobbes imagine, that war was the state of nature; and truly, if a man judged of the individuals of our race by their conduct when united and packed into nations and kingdoms, he might imagine that every sort of virtue was unnatural and foreign to the mind of man.
The first accounts we have of mankind are but so many accounts of their butcheries. All empires have been cemented in blood; and, in those early periods, when the race of mankind began first to form themselves into parties and combinations, the first effect of the combination, and indeed the end for which it seems purposely formed, and best calculated, was their mutual destruction. All ancient history is dark and uncertain. One thing, however, is clear,—there were conquerors, and conquests in those days; and, consequently, all that devastation by which they are formed, and all that oppression by which they are maintained. We know little of Sesostris, but that he led out of Egypt an army of above 700,000 men; that he overran the Mediterranean coast as far as Colchis; that in some places he met but little resistance, and of course shed not a great deal of blood; but that he found in others a people who knew the value of their liberties, and sold them dear. Whoever considers the army this conqueror headed, the space he traversed, and the opposition he frequently met, with the natural accidents of sickness, and the dearth and badness of provision to which he must have been subject in the variety of climates and countries his march lay through, if he knows anything, he must know that even the conqueror's army must have suffered greatly; and that of this immense number but a very small part could have returned to enjoy the plunder accumulated by the loss of so many of their companions, and the devastation of so considerable a part of the world. Considering, I say, the vast army headed by this conqueror, whose unwieldy weight was almost alone sufficient to wear down its strength, it will be far from excess to suppose that one half was lost in the expedition. If this was the state of the victorious, and from the circumstances it must have been this at the least; the vanquished must have had a much heavier loss, as the greatest slaughter is always in the flight, and great carnage did in those times and countries ever attend the first rage of conquest. It will, therefore, be very reasonable to allow on their account as much as, added to the losses of the conqueror, may amount to a million of deaths, and then we shall see this conqueror, the oldest we have on the records of history, (though, as we have observed before, the chronology of these remote times is extremely uncertain), opening the scene by a destruction of at least one million of his species, unprovoked but by his ambition, without any motives but pride, cruelty, and madness, and without any benefit to himself (for Justin expressly tells us he did not maintain his conquests), but solely to make so many people, in so distant countries, feel experimentally how severe a scourge Providence intends for the human race, when he gives one man the power over many, and arms his naturally impotent and feeble rage with the hands of millions, who know no common principle of action, but a blind obedience to the passions of their ruler.
The next personage who figures in the tragedies of this ancient theatre is Semiramis; for we have no particulars of Ninus, but that he made immense and rapid conquests, which doubtless were not compassed without the usual carnage. We see an army of about three millions employed by this martial queen in a war against the Indians. We see the Indians arming a yet greater; and we behold a war continued with much fury, and with various success. This ends in the retreat of the queen, with scarce a third of the troops employed in the expedition; an expedition which, at this rate, must have cost two millions of souls on her part; and it is not unreasonable to judge that the country which was the seat of war must have been an equal sufferer. But I am content to detract from this, and to suppose that the Indians lost only half so much, and then the account stands thus: in this war alone (for Semiramis had other wars) in this single reign, and in this one spot of the globe, did three millions of souls expire, with all the horrid and shocking circumstances which attend all wars, and in a quarrel, in which none of the sufferers could have the least rational concern.
The Babylonian, Assyrian, Median, and Persian monarchies must have poured out seas of blood in their formation, and in their destruction. The armies and fleets of Xerxes, their numbers, the glorious stand made against them, and the unfortunate event of all his mighty preparations, are known to everybody. In this expedition, draining half Asia of its inhabitants, he led an army of about two millions to be slaughtered, and wasted by a thousand fatal accidents, in the same place where his predecessors had before by a similar madness consumed the flower of so many kingdoms, and wasted the force of so extensive an empire. It is a cheap calculation to say, that the Persian empire, in its wars against the Greeks and Scythians, threw away at least four millions of its subjects; to say nothing of its other wars, and the losses sustained in them. These were their losses abroad; but the war was brought home to them, first by Agesilaus, and afterwards by Alexander. I have not, in this retreat, the books necessary to make very exact calculations; nor is it necessary to give more than hints to one of your lordship's erudition. You will recollect his uninterrupted series of success. You will run over his battles. You will call to mind the carnage which was made. You will give a glance at the whole, and you will agree with me, that to form this hero no less than twelve hundred thousand lives must have been sacrificed; but no sooner had he fallen himself a sacrifice to his vices, than a thousand breaches were made for ruin to enter, and give the last hand to this scene of misery and destruction. His kingdom was rent and divided; which served to employ the more distinct parts to tear each other to pieces, and bury the whole in blood and slaughter. The kings of Syria and of Egypt, the kings of Pergamus and Macedon, without intermission worried each other for above two hundred years; until at last a strong power, arising in the west, rushed in upon them and silenced their tumults, by involving all the contending parties in the same destruction. It is little to say, that the contentions between the successors of Alexander depopulated that part of the world of at least two millions.
The struggle between the Macedonians and Greeks, and, before that, the disputes of the Greek commonwealths among themselves, for an unprofitable superiority, form one of the bloodiest scenes in history. One is astonished how such a small spot could furnish men sufficient to sacrifice to the pitiful ambition of possessing five or six thousand more acres, or two or three more villages; yet to see the acrimony and bitterness with which this was disputed between the Athenians and Lacedemonians; what armies cut off; what fleets sunk and burnt; what a number of cities sacked, and their inhabitants slaughtered and captived; one would be induced to believe the decision of the fate of mankind, at least, depended upon it! But those disputes ended as all such ever have done, and ever will do; in a real weakness of all parties; a momentary shadow, and dream of power in some one; and the subjection of all to the yoke of a stranger, who knows how to profit of their divisions. This, at least, was the case of the Greeks; and surely, from the earliest accounts of them, to their absorption into the Roman empire, we cannot judge that their intestine divisions, and their foreign wars, consumed less than three millions of their inhabitants.
What an Aceldama, what a field of blood Sicily has been in ancient times, whilst the mode of its government was controverted between the republican and tyrannical parties, and the possession struggled for by the natives, the Greeks, the Carthaginians, and the Romans, your lordship will easily recollect. You will remember the total destruction of such bodies as an army of 300,000 men. You will find every page of its history dyed in blood, and blotted and confounded by tumults, rebellions, massacres, assassinations, proscriptions, and a series of horror beyond the histories perhaps of any other nation in the world; though the histories of all nations are made up of similar matter. I once more excuse myself in point of exactness for want of books. But I shall estimate the slaughters in this island but at two millions; which your lordship will find much short of the reality.
Let us pass by the wars, and the consequences of them, which wasted Grecia-Magna, before the Roman power prevailed in that part of Italy. They are perhaps exaggerated; therefore I shall only rate them at one million. Let us hasten to open that great scene which establishes the Roman empire, and forms the grand catastrophe of the ancient drama. This empire, whilst in its infancy, began by an effusion of human blood scarcely credible. The neighboring little states teemed for new destruction: the Sabines, the Samnites, the Æqui, the Volsci, the Hetrurians, were broken by a series of slaughters which had no interruption, for some hundreds of years; slaughters which upon all sides consumed more than two millions of the wretched people. The Gauls, rushing into Italy about this time, added the total destruction of their own armies to those of the ancient inhabitants. In short, it were hardly possible to conceive a more horrid and bloody picture, if that the Punic wars that ensued soon after did not present one that far exceeds it. Here we find that climax of devastation, and ruin, which seemed to shake the whole earth. The extent of this war, which vexed so many nations, and both elements, and the havoc of the human species caused in both, really astonishes beyond expression, when it is nakedly considered, and those matters which are apt to divert our attention from it, the characters, actions, and designs of the persons concerned, are not taken into the account. These wars, I mean those called the Punic wars, could not have stood the human race in less than three millions of the species. And yet this forms but a part only, and a very small part, of the havoc caused by the Roman ambition. The war with Mithridates was very little less bloody; that prince cut off at one stroke 150,000 Romans by a massacre. In that war Sylla destroyed 300,000 men at Cheronea. He defeated Mithridates' army under Dorilaus, and slew 300,000. This great and unfortunate prince lost another 300,000 before Cyzicum. In the course of the war he had innumerable other losses; and having many intervals of success, he revenged them severely. He was at last totally overthrown; and he crushed to pieces the king of Armenia, his ally, by the greatness of his ruin. All who had connections with him shared the same fate. The merciless genius of Sylla had its full scope; and the streets of Athens were not the only ones which ran with blood. At this period, the sword, glutted with foreign slaughter, turned its edge upon the bowels of the Roman republic itself; and presented a scene of cruelties and treasons enough almost to obliterate the memory of all the external devastations. I intended, my lord, to have proceeded in a sort of method in estimating the numbers of mankind cut off in these wars which we have on record. But I am obliged to alter my design. Such a tragical uniformity of havoc and murder would disgust your lordship as much as it would me; and I confess I already feel my eyes ache by keeping them so long intent on so bloody a prospect. I shall observe little on the Servile, the Social, the Gallic, and Spanish wars; nor upon those with Jugurtha, nor Antiochus, nor many others equally important, and carried on with equal fury. The butcheries of Julius Cæsar alone are calculated by somebody else; the numbers he has been the means of destroying have been reckoned at 1,200,000. But to give your lordship an idea that may serve as a standard, by which to measure, in some degree, the others; you will turn your eyes on Judea; a very inconsiderable spot of the earth in itself, though ennobled by the singular events which had their rise in that country.
This spot happened, it matters not here by what means, to become at several times extremely populous, and to supply men for slaughters scarcely credible, if other well-known and well-attested ones had not given them a color. The first settling of the Jews here was attended by an almost entire extirpation of all the former inhabitants. Their own civil wars, and those with their petty neighbors, consumed vast multitudes almost every year for several centuries; and the irruptions of the kings of Babylon and Assyria made immense ravages. Yet we have their history but partially, in an indistinct, confused manner; so that I shall only throw the strong point of light upon that part which coincides with Roman history, and of that part only on the point of time when they received the great and final stroke which made them, no more a nation; a stroke which is allowed to have cut off little less than two millions of that people. I say nothing of the loppings made from that stock whilst it stood; nor from the suckers that grew out of the old root ever since. But if, in this inconsiderable part of the globe, such a carnage has been made in two or three short reigns, and that this great carnage, great as it is, makes but a minute part of what the histories of that people inform us they suffered; what shall we judge of countries more extended, and which have waged wars by far more considerable?
Instances of this sort compose the uniform of history. But there have been periods when no less than universal destruction to the race of mankind seems to have been threatened. Such was that when the Goths, the Vandals, and the Huns, poured into Gaul, Italy, Spain, Greece, and Africa, carrying destruction before them as they advanced, and leaving horrid deserts every way behind them. Vastum ubique silentium, secreti colles; fumantia procul tecta; nemo exploratoribus obvius, is what Tacitus calls facies victoriæ. It is always so; but was here emphatically so. From the north proceeded the swarms of Goths, Vandals, Huns, Ostrogoths, who ran towards the south, into Africa itself, which suffered as all to the north had done. About this time, another torrent of barbarians, animated by the same fury, and encouraged by the same success, poured out of the south, and ravaged all to the northeast and west, to the remotest parts of Persia on one hand, and to the banks of the Loire or farther on the other; destroying all the proud and curious monuments of human art, that not even the memory might seem to survive of the former inhabitants. What has been done since, and what will continue to be done while the same inducements to war continue, I shall not dwell upon. I shall only in one word mention the horrid effects of bigotry and avarice, in the conquest of Spanish America; a conquest, on a low estimation, effected by the murder of ten millions of the species. I shall draw to a conclusion of this part, by making a general calculation of the whole. I think I have actually mentioned above thirty-six millions. I have not particularized any more. I don't pretend to exactness; therefore, for the sake of a general view, I shall lay together all those actually slain in battles, or who have perished in a no less miserable manner by the other destructive consequences of war from the beginning of the world to this day, in the four parts of it, at a thousand times as much; no exaggerated calculation, allowing for time and extent. We have not perhaps spoke of the five-hundredth part; I am sure I have not of what is actually ascertained in history; but how much of these butcheries are only expressed in generals, what part of time history has never reached, and what vast spaces of the habitable globe it has not embraced, I need not mention to your lordship. I need not enlarge on those torrents of silent and inglorious blood which have glutted the thirsty sands of Afric, or discolored the polar snow, or fed the savage forests of America for so many ages of continual war. Shall I, to justify my calculations from the charge of extravagance, add to the account those skirmishes which happen in all wars, without being singly of sufficient dignity in mischief, to merit a place in history, but which by their frequency compensate for this comparative innocence? shall I inflame the account by those general massacres which have devoured whole cities and nations; those wasting pestilences, those consuming famines, and all those furies that follow in the train of war? I have no need to exaggerate; and I have purposely avoided a parade of eloquence on this occasion. I should despise it upon any occasion; else in mentioning these slaughters, it is obvious how much the whole might be heightened, by an affecting description of the horrors that attend the wasting of kingdoms, and sacking of cities. But I do not write to the vulgar, nor to that which only governs the vulgar, their passions. I go upon a naked and moderate calculation, just enough, without a pedantical exactness, to give your lordship some feeling of the effects of political society. I charge the whole of these effects on political society. I avow the charge, and I shall presently make it good to your lordship's satisfaction. The numbers I particularized are about thirty-six millions. Besides those killed in battles I have said something, not half what the matter would have justified, but something I have said concerning the consequences of war even more dreadful than that monstrous carnage itself which shocks our humanity, and almost staggers our belief. So that, allowing me in my exuberance one way for my deficiencies in the other, you will find me not unreasonable. I think the numbers of men now upon earth are computed at five hundred millions at the most. Here the slaughter of mankind, on what you will call a small calculation, amounts to upwards of seventy times the number of souls this day on the globe: a point which may furnish matter of reflection to one less inclined to draw consequences than your lordship.
I now come to show that political society is justly chargeable with much the greatest part of this destruction of the species. To give the fairest play to every side of the question, I will own that there is a haughtiness and fierceness in human nature, which will cause innumerable broils, place men in what situation you please; but owning this, I still insist in charging it to political regulations, that these broils are so frequent, so cruel, and attended with consequences so deplorable. In a state of nature, it had been impossible to find a number of men, sufficient for such slaughters, agreed in the same bloody purpose; or allowing that they might have come to such an agreement (an impossible supposition), yet the means that simple nature has supplied them with, are by no means adequate to such an end; many scratches, many bruises undoubtedly would be received upon all hands; but only a few, a very few deaths. Society and politics, which have given us these destructive views, have given us also the means of satisfying them. From the earliest dawnings of policy to this day, the invention of men has been sharpening and improving the mystery of murder, from the first rude essays of clubs and stones, to the present perfection of gunnery, cannoneering, bombarding, mining, and all those species of artificial, learned, and refined cruelty, in which we are now so expert, and which make a principal part of what politicians have taught us to believe is our principal glory.
How far mere nature would have carried us, we may judge by the example of those animals who still follow her laws, and even of those to whom she has given dispositions more fierce, and arms more terrible than ever she intended we should use. It is an incontestable truth that there is more havoc made in one year by men of men, than has been made by all the lions, tigers, panthers, ounces, leopards, hyenas, rhinoceroses, elephants, bears and wolves, upon their several species, since the beginning of the world; though these agree ill enough with each other, and have a much greater proportion of rage and fury in their composition than we have. But with respect to you, ye legislators, ye civilizers of mankind! ye Orpheuses, Moseses, Minoses, Solons, Theseuses, Lycurguses, Numas! with respect to you be it spoken, your regulations have done more mischief in cold blood, than all the rage of the fiercest animals in their greatest terrors, or furies, has ever done, or ever could do!
These evils are not accidental. Whoever will take the pains to consider the nature of society will find that they result directly from its constitution. For as subordination, or, in other words, the reciprocation of tyranny and slavery, is requisite to support these societies; the interest, the ambition, the malice, or the revenge, nay, even the whim and caprice of one ruling man among them, is enough to arm all the rest, without any private views of their own, to the worst and blackest purposes: and what is at once lamentable, and ridiculous, these wretches engage under those banners with a fury greater than if they were animated by revenge for their own proper wrongs.
It is no less worth observing, that this artificial division of mankind into separate societies is a perpetual source in itself of hatred and dissension among them. The names which distinguish them are enough to blow up hatred and rage. Examine history; consult present experience; and you will find that far the greater part of the quarrels between several nations had scarce any other occasion than that these nations were different combinations of people, and called by different names: to an Englishman, the name of a Frenchman, a Spaniard, an Italian, much more a Turk, or a Tartar, raises of course ideas of hatred and contempt. If you would inspire this compatriot of ours with pity or regard for one of these, would you not hide that distinction? You would not pray him to compassionate the poor Frenchman, or the unhappy German. Far from it; you would speak of him as a foreigner; an accident to which all are liable. You would represent him as a man; one partaking with us of the same common nature, and subject to the same law. There is something so averse from our nature in these artificial political distinctions, that we need no other trumpet to kindle us to war and destruction. But there is something so benign and healing in the general voice of humanity that, maugre all our regulations to prevent it, the simple name of man applied properly, never fails to work a salutary effect.
This natural unpremeditated effect of policy on the unpossessed passions of mankind appears on other occasions. The very name of a politician, a states
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