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Political disquisitions : or, An enquiry into public errors, defects, and abuses (Volume 3) online

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: "5HELF N


D I S QJJ I S I T I O N S, &c.

TIV jrm ^oj-cv, K, T. >. After treating of our duty to the
Cods, it is proper to teach that which we owe to our Country. For our
Country is, as it were, afecondary God, and the firft andgreateft Parent.
It is to be preferred to Parents, Wives, Children, Friends, and all
things, the Gods only excepted. And if our Country perifhes, it is as
impoflible to fave an Individual, as to preferve one of the fingers of a
mortified hand. HIERCL





An ENQJJIRY into public ERRORS,
DEFECTS, and ABUSES. Illuftrated by,
and eftablifhed upon FACTS and RE MARKS,
extracted from a Variety of AUTHORS,
ancient and modern.


To draw the timely ATTENTION of GOVERN-
MENT and PEOPLE to a due Confideration
of the Neceflity, and the Means, of RE-
the STATE.

By J. B. Gent. Author of the DIGNITY of HUMAN-
NATURE, and other Tracts.



Printed for E D w A R D and CHARLES DILLY.





TTfrHEN the Author wrote the
General Preface to thefe Difqui-
fitions, he propofed to lay before the
Public more than three volumes of
the materials he had collected. What
thefe three volumes contain, is the
rnoft interefling to the Public ; and his
health daily breaking, difqualifies him
for proceeding farther at prefent.




Of Manners.

CHAP. I. Page i.
Importance of Manners in a State,

CHAP. II. Page 59.
Luxury hurtful to Manner s^ and dangerous to States.

CHAP. III. Page 98.

Of the public Diverfions, and of Gaming^ and their In-
fluence on Manners.

CHAP. IV. Page 119.
Of Duels.

CHAP. V. Page 130.

Of Lewdnefs.

CHAP. VI. Page 150.
Influence of Education upon Manners.

CHAP. VII. Page 159. '
Of Punijhments,


CHAP. VIII. Page 172.

Me Statefmen apply themfehes to forming the Manners of

the People.

CHAP. IX. Page 246.

Of the Liberty of Speech and Writing on Political Sub"



AddreJJedto the independent Part of the People of GREAT-




Of Manners.

, c H : A p. ; i.

' Importance of Manners in a State.

THIS work profeffes .itfelf to be an inquiry into
public errors, deficiencies, and abufes* And
furely there is no grofler error, no deficiency more fa-
tal, no abufe more fhameful, than a nation's lofing the!
proper delicacy of fentiment with regard to right and
Wrong, and deviating into a general corruption of
manners. Has ambition raifed a tyrant, a Cafar^ or
a Charley to defpotic power ? The fword of a Bru-
iicS) or the axe in the hand of the man in the mafk, in
a moment fets the people free. Has an ariftocracy of
thirty tyrants, as at Athens^ feized the liberties of a coun-
try ? A bold Thrajybulus a may be found, who com-



ing upon them in their fecure hour, fhall, by means
perhaps feemingly very inadequate, blaft all their
fchemes, and overthrow the edifice of tyranny they had
fet up, burying them in its ruins. The people thus
fet free, if the fpirit of liberty be not extinct among
them, and their manners generally corrupt, will pre-
ferve their recovered liberties. If their manners be fo
univerfally debauched, as to render them uncapable
of liberty, they will, as the degenerate Romans^ upon
the fall of Julius^ fet up an Auguftus in his place. It
is impoffible to pronounce with certainty concerning
any country, as the angel did of the devoted cities,
that the decline of manners in it is univerfal and irre-
trievable. But where that is the cafe, the ruin of that
country is unavoidable, the difeafe is incurable. For
vice prevailing would deftroy not only a kingdom, or
an empire, but the whole moral dominion of the
Almighty throughout the infinitude of fpace.

The excellent Montefquleu a teaches the necefli-
ty of manners, in order to gain the effect propofed
by laws ; and brings feveral inftances where the man-
ners defeated the purpofe of laws. Nothing, he Cays,
could appear to the Ger?nans more unfupportable than
P'arus's tribunal. They cut out the tongues of the
advocates, who pleaded at the bar, with thefe farcaftic
words, as related by Tacitus^ * Viper ! give over hif-
fing/ The trial ordered by the emperor Jujiinian 9 on
occafion of the murder of the king of the Lazians, ap -
pcarcd to that people a horrible and barbarous thing.
Mith'idateSj king of Pontus^ haranguing againft the
Romans, reproaches them,, above all things, with the
formalities of their courts of justice. The Partbians
could not endure a king, fet over them by the Romans,
bccaufc, having been educated in a commonwealth,, he


, If. U.


Was free and affable. Even liberty and virtue to afi
cnflaved and vicious people, become odious and infup-
portable, as a pure air is difagreeable to thofe who
have lived in a marfhy country. No people ever loft
the fpirit of liberty but through the fault of their go-

Liberty cannot "be preferved, if the manners of the
people are corrupted ; nor abfolute monarchy intro-
duced, where they are fincere, fays Sidney ON GO-

When Antigonus^ and the Achaians^ reftored liberty to
the Spartans, they could not keep it ; the fpirit of li-
berty Was gone.

When Tkrafybulus delivered Athens from the thirty
tyrants, liberty came too late ; the manners of the >#/&*-
tiians were then too far gone into licentioufnefs, avarice^
and debauchery* There is a time, when a people are
no longer worth faving.

When the Tarquins were expelled, Rome recovered
her liberty* When Julius was ftabbed, Rome conti*-
nued in ilavery. What occafioned fuch different con*
fequences from the fame meafure in this fame country
at different periods ? In the times of the Tf.rqmtis^
Rome was. incorrupt ; in thofe of Cafar^ debauched.
Even in the dictators' times, a few more Catos and
Brutufes would have reftored liberty. For the ^people
are always intererred againir. tyranny, if they can but
be properly headed. Half the firmnefs the Dutch
(hewed againft the Spanijh tyranny, would emancipate

When the Romans were defeated bv tJannibaL moft

j 7

of their allies forfook thetn. But Hiero king of tiicify
faw that the constitution of the republic was frill found,
and rightly concluded, that (he would recover,. He
would not have thought fo in, the times of Lucttllvs^ of

JB a C:nna t

4 POLITICAL [ B.ookl.

Cinna^ Sylhi> &c. when corruption was wafting all like
a peftilence.

( // ne faut pas lea ucoup* de probite^ dfrV. Great pro-

* bity is not eflentially neceflary for the fupport of a
> monarchy, or defpqtic government. The force of

* laws in the former, in the latter the arm of the prince
lifted up, commands all. Li a popular government,
c another engine is neceflary, viz. virtue ; becaufe no-

* thing elfe will keep up the execution of the laws,
' and the practice of what is right 3 .' This fenti-
ment is oracular. And what then is the profpedl we
have before us ?

Where the manners of a people are gone, laws are
of no avail.. They will refufe them, or they will ne-
glecl: them* There are in our times more of the laws
ineffectual, than thofe that operate. And on every
occafion of mi {behaviour,, we -hear people cry, there
ought to be fuch or fuch a law made ; whereas, upon
inquiry, it is perhaps found that there are already fe-
veral unexceptionable laws upon the head {landing ;
but, through want of manners^ a mere dead letter.

' If all parts of the ftate do .not with their utmoft

* power promote the public good ; if the prince has

* other aims than the fafety and welfare of his coun-
c try; if fuch as rep re fen t the people do not preferve

* their courage and integrity ; if the nation's treafure

* is wafted ; if minifters are allowed to undermine the
c conftitution with impunity.; if iudges are fuffered to
4 pervert juftice and wreft the law; then is a mixed
c government the greateft tyranny in the world : it is
c tyranny efta : .. :."hed by a law ; it is authorifed by con-
4 fent, and fuch a people are bound with fetters ot

^,. V- - - . - . > - _ w;... i j - . - -' '

' Montefq. i. 31.



their own making. A tyranny that governs by the
4 fword, has few friends but men of the fword ; but
' a legal tyranny, (where the people are only called to
4 confirm iniquity with their own voices) has on its
c fide the rich, the timid, the lazy, thofe that know

* the law, and get by it, ambitious churchmen, and

* all thofe whofe livelihood depends upon the quiet

* pofture of affairs : and the perfons here defcribed

* compofe the influencing part of moft nations ; fo

* that fuch a tyranny is hardly to be fhaken off. Men
c may be faid to be enflaved by law or their own con-
4 fent under corrupt or degenerate republics, fuch as

* was the Ro?nan commonwealth from the time of Cinna

* till the attempts of Csefar ; and under degenerate

* mixed governments, fuch as Rome was, while the
' emperors made a fhow of ruling by law, but with an

* influenced and corrupted fenate, to which form of
' government /# W was almoft reduced, till the King
4 came over to put our liberties upon a better foot a ."

Plato b calls virtue the health of the mind, and vice
its difeafe and diforder. AptrYi pw ^ap co? EOJXSI/, x. r. X.
That nation is in a dreadful way, in which almoft
every mind is dlfeafed and difordered.

The ancient politicians placed their whole depen-
dence for the fafety of their governments, on the vir-
tue and pati iotifm of their people. Now we place our
fccurity in our commerce, our fleet, our treafures,
our miniftry's (kill in managing a houfe of commons.
Formerly the fortunes of private men were the flrength
of the ftate. Now the public money is the object: of
the general avarice. The great kingdoms and ftates of
antiquity had the fame internal force of men and mo-

B 3 ney,

a Daven. n. 300.

k DE REFUEL, iv. Infm:


ncy, after they loft their liberties, as when they had
them. But a nation of men, who only fight for their
country, or undertake the administration of their coun-
try, becaufe they are paid for it, are very different from
a nation of men who are willing to die for their

* Elle [Menes] confiderait, &c. The Athenians

* confidcred, that in a republic manners were above all

* things neceflaryV In England we never coniider


The Athenians did not fufFer thofe who frequented

lewd women, to harangue the people. Demofthenes
highly approves this law b .

c It is of great confequence (fays Solon in his letter

* to Epimenide$)i of what difpofitions thofe are, who

* influence the common people c ."

A magiftrate overtaken in liquor was feverely punifh-
ed ; the firfl archon, though accidentally, with death*

It was impoljible for any man at Athens to live a
diflolutc life unreproved : for every man was liable to
be fent for by the Areopagites, to be examined, and pu-
nifhed, if guilty. At Rome the cenfors had the fame
power d . We Chriflians may be as wicked as we plcafe.
Our governments encourage vice for the benefit of the

Emmivs e accounts for the long duration of liberty in
the Atj.tnlan republic, by obferving that the people
were of a fublime, bold, and penetrating genius, as
much fuperior to the other ftates of Greece^ as the other
ftates of Greece were to the barbarous people. That


a McKtefqu. in.. 32.
b ANT. UNIV. HIST, vi. 314,
c Ibid. XLI. d JbiJ. vi. 330*

" * Rp.r. ATHEK ? i. 107,


there was continually rifing among them a fucceflion
of men eminent for" political wifJom and integrity, who
planted in the minds of the people lentiments of true
patriotifrn, and infpired them with fuch a love 01* li-
berty, that every Athenian was ready to pour out his
beft blood for its prefervation. That the people were,
by Solon^ taught, that the ftrength of a free ftate con-
fifts in its laws ; that laws are nothing, unlefs they be
obeyed ; that laws will not be obeyed, unlefs honour
be given to the obedient, and punifhment inflicled on
tranfgreffors ; that the laws are not to be fubjecled to
the government, but the government to the laws ; that
riches, intereft, and party are to yield to the laws,
not the laws to them. That therefore in the beft
times of that commonwealth, honours and rewards
were given in fuch a manner, as tended to lead the
perfons honoured and rewarded to gratitude rather than
to ambition, which DemoJIbenes exemplifies in the cafe
of Miltiades, Cimon, Themijlodes, and others. And on
the contrary, whoever made himfelf obnoxious to the
laws of his country, was to expect no alleviation on
account of his riches, his family, or even of his for-

J *

mer meritorious actions. Accordingly Miliiades^ Tbe-
mijlodcs^ Citnotiy and others, though eminent for theiv
public fer vices, were not fpared, when thought to have
violated the laws. For the Athenians confideicd, that it
is the duty of a citizen to behave well, not on one oc-
cafion only, but at all times , not to be at firfl zealous,
faithful, and obedient, and afterwards a lawlcfs plun-
derer ; for that this is not the behaviour of men of
principle, who are uniform in their conduct, but of
artful and infidious men, who ftudy only to f irprife
the public opinion, that* they may deceive with the
better fuccefs. That the Athenian* were, above all
othej 1 nations, fevere againft corruption above all other

B 4

8 POLITICAL c[ Bookl.

offences, as what tends moil directly to the destruction
of (rates. The Athenians , therefore, punifhed this
crime with a fine to ten times tjie value of the bribe r
or with outlawry, or death ; foine of which punifh-
ments we^e inflicted even on thofe, who had on other
occafions deferved well of their country, as TimotbeuSy
Epicrates, Tbrafybulus the younger, and others. Ano-
ther caufe of the flouriihing ftate of the Athenian re^
public, was the encouragement given to marriage
and population. Another was the wife fe verity of So-
lon, in bringing upon the offences of magiilrates a
fwifter punifhment th?,n on thofe of private perfons j
for that the latter might be delayed j but if the former
was put off, things might quickly come into fuch
diforder, that it would be too late to think of punifh-
ing powerful offenders ; befides, that the offences of
private perfons may be compared with thofe of the
common failors, on board of a (hip, which may not
prove fatal to the crew j but the crimes of magiftrates
are like thofe of the mafter, or pilot, which endanger
the lofs of (hip, loading, crew, and paffengers. That
Solon likewife laid great ftrefs on the education of youth,
that they might be habituated to virtue, induftry, cou-
rage, and love of their country. That his laws tended
to honour wifdom and virtue, and to bring difgrace
on cue contrary characters, by rerufing to men of pro-
fligate lives all honours in the flate, and even forbid-
ding, them to fpeak in. the SKKXYXTKX, or affembly of the
people. For the wife legifUtor thought there was little
probability, that he, wno could not manage his own
private ciiate, would aduiinifter that of the public
wiM frugality and wifdorn ; and that the people would
not, or however ought not, to pay any regard to the
patriotic 'harangues of a man, who fludied more to po-

i ^ " ^ *

li(h his fpeeches, than to regulate his life.

- TTl - 1



While all Europe groaned under the chain of Roman
tyranny, the Germans^ and northern nations, prefuved
their liberty.

Tacitus fays, nobody among the Germans laughs
at vice, or apologifes for corruption, by faying, it is
tmiverfally pracliied a . But the GV- mans were barba-
rous heathens > we are polite chriftians.

Hannibal^ when praetor of Carthage^ fet about reform-
ing abufes, regulated the finances, retrained the m-
juftice of the judges, and peculation of the grandees,
and collectors of the revenues, \vl. were got to fuch a
degree of open corruption, that they pretended a law-
ful title to whatever they could plunder from the peo-
ple. The niany proved of courfe too hard for one.
Yet (fuch is the advantage of integrity) they had no
means for this purpofe, but exciting the Romans againft
him. The confequence was, that this iiluftrious war-
rior and reformer, -who had bled for his country, and
had laboured for its reformation, wns driven into exile,
and hunted from country to country, like a felon, and
at laft befet in his retirement by his enemies, and only
efcaped the cruelties, they would have inflicted on him
by deftroying himfelf.

Every page of the hiftory of the great revolution of
Rome (hews fome inftance of the degeneracy of the
Roman virtue, and of the impoffibility of a nation's
continuing free after its virtue is gone.

It is thought by many of the authors of this part of
the Roman hiftory, that fuch was the corruption of
nianner?, that the greateft part of thofe who oppofed
'Julius ) \vere enemies to the man rather than to his
caufe b .


1 * fe I II Mill -*- -^^^^B*^


b ANT. UNIV. HIST. xm. 410.


Would the Romans in the times cf Scipio, have fuf-
ferecl Catfar *o Veep his government in GW, to debauch
the army, and openly corrupt the people ? No. There
were times when ten Pompcys ami twenty C&fars could
net have enfiavcd the Roman people.

A tender virgin of eighteen years of age, has but
little ftrength of body, compared with that of an ath-
letic ravifher inflamed with luft. Yet we find fhe can
preferve her honour fafe, if fhe pleafes, even againft his
\itmofl ftrength j and in fact, fcarcely any woman lofes
her virtue, no nation its liberties, without their own
fault. What Milton fays of one is true of both.

, Chaftity !

She who has that, is dad in complete fteel,

And like a quiver'd nyrnph, with arrows keen

May trace huge forefts, and unharboarM heaths,

Infamous hiils, and fa-ndy perilous wilds,

Where through the facred rays cf chaftity

Ko favage fierce., bandit, or mountaineer

Will dare to foil her virgin purity.

Yea there, where every defolation dwelis

By grots and caverns fliagg'd with horrid fhad%

She juay pafs on with unblanch'd m^jefty,

Be it jiot done in pride, or in prefumption.

But when luft,

By unchafle lookj, loofe geftures, and foul talk,
But mofc by lewd, and laviih aft of fin,
Lets in defilement on the inward parts,
The foul grows clotted by contagion,
Emboi ie.j and embraces, till ihe quite lofe
The divine property of her firft being.


Nothing is more efTentially necefiary to the eflablifli-

rncnt of manners in a ilate, than that all perfons em-
ployed in ftatfons of power and truft be men of exem-
plary characters,



c Let Valerian [afterwards emperor] be center/ fatd
the Roman fenators, ' who has no faults of his own a /

The Roman cenfors had authority Os'?r all pcrfcns,
except only the governo- >3 R*.-me 9 theconfuls in office,
the rtx facrorum, and the lupcri-.;; of the veftal virgins.
This orHce, fo ufefsil in the repu!\>an times, was ne-
glected under aimofl all the emperors b .

The Roman cenfors ufed to ftrike out of the lift thofe
fenators, who feemed to them not to fupport, v/ith
proper dignity, their i'luftrious ftaticn. We find fixty-
four thus difgraced, in the times of Sylla 9 when it may
be fuppofed the manners were greatly degenerated.

It is to be doubted that thofe old-fafhioned heathen
cenfors would, if they were employed among us, take
umbrage at our chriftian foibles of adultery, gambling,
cheating, rooking, bribing, blafphemy, fodomy, and
the other frolics which fo elegantly ainufe our fena-
torial men and women of pleafure.

The Romans to the laft fhewed their opinion of the
ufefulnefs of the office of cenfors. We find it, after
a long interruption by the civil wars, reftored, and
fixty-four fenatOFS immediately {truck out of the lift c .

Scipto was not chafte from ftupidity 5 for it is re-
corded of him, that he was a great admirer of beauty.
Socrates acknowledged, that he was naturally in-
clinable to fenfuality, but that he had, by philofophy,
corrected the bent of his nature.

The public cannot be too curious concerning the
characters of public men ; fo common is it for
them to change upon preferment, according to the old
adage, honores mutant mores.

a ANT, UNJV. HIST. xv. 416.

b ibid. c Ibid, xij,


iy who, in his youth, was of fo. tender a heart,
as to weep for very flight occaftons, became one of the
moil cruel of men ; ordered GrUnius to be ftrangled
in his prefence, as he lay a dying 3 , and deluged Rome
with the blood of her citizens.

Neroy when he was to fign a dead-warrant, in his
earlier years, often wept, and wifhed he had never learned
to write. Yet the very name of that prince after-
wards became the proverb for cruelty.

That ftate is going to ruin, faid Antlflbmes^ in which
the honours due to merit, are befrowed on the artful
and defigning, or on the tools of power.

The Athenian archons, before they entered upon their
office, were obliged to fwear, that if ever they were
convicted of bribery, they would fend to Delphi^ as a
fine, a flatue of gold of their own fize b .

The antient Spartans chofe their ephori out of any
rank indifferently ; which policy Ariftotle prefers to
that of the Cretans^ who elected their cofmi only from
certain particular orders.

Ariftotle fays, that in 400 years there was neither
fedition, nor tyranny, in Carthage \ a proof of a good
canftitution, good adminiftration, and virtuous man-


Ar If otic commends the Carthaginian wifdom, for that
they chofe their men of authority rather according to
their perfonal characters, than according to family.

* Men of great power, and of no character, are very
c hurtful, and actually have very much prejudiced the

* Spartan republic.' Kat SEATIOV $6 ra? (SafnAsK,
x. r. X c . And afterwards in the fame chapter, he
blames their policy in confining authority only to the


a ANT. UNIV. HIST. xin. 96.
b Ub. Emm. DE REP. ATHEN. I. 27.
c ARIST. POL. n. 1 1.



rich." For that this naturally leads the people' to the
admiration and purfuit of riches^ rather than the ftudy
of virtue. Whilil it is impoflible. that a {rate fhould
be fecure, where virtue is not fupremely honoured,
n^pcx anvfi &, x. r. A.

The manners of the upper ranks will defcend to- the
loweft. When. Jl-f. Antomus^ grandfather of the trii-
un>vir of the fame, name, was accufed, his Have borg
the -torture with heroic fortitude ; .

,,It was to keep up .a. fen (e of national honer, that
there was a law made, forbidding zRoman citizen to be 1
fcourged b .

' Ad ilia mibi pro fe quifque, &c. . .

1 Let every reader ofhiftory (fays-Z/v. Procem. ) ap-
' ply his mind to obferve the manners and characters
c of our anceftors j by what fort of men, and by what

* arts of peace and war, the commonwealth was railed^

* and let him attend to the caufes of its decline, viz.

* the neglect of difcipline, and degeneracy of manners ;
4 and let him obferve how this degeneracy has increafed

* in an accelerated proportion, till we are now fallen

* into fuch a condition, that we can neither bear our
' vices, nor the reformation of them.'

When the firft triumviri, Cafar 9 Pompey, andCrajfas,
were laying the foundation for the ruin of Roman li-
berty, and had fo debauched the people (a people can-
not be enflaved while they continue hone.l), that can-
didates, inftead of depending on their fer vices and me-
rits, openly bought votes j and afterwards, improving
upon corruption, inftead of purchafing (ingle votes,
went directly to the triumviri, and paid down the ready
money ; when all was thus going headlong to ruin,
Caio attempted to put fome check to the torrent of


a ANT. UNIV. HIST. xn. 453.. b Ibid. xir. 342*


tvickednefs. What was the confequence ? He only got
himfelf the ill-will of both rich and poor. All love
of country was then loft in a general fcramble for the
fpoils of their country a .

The refemblance between the difpofiticn of the R<t-

Online LibraryJames BurghPolitical disquisitions : or, An enquiry into public errors, defects, and abuses (Volume 3) → online text (page 1 of 38)