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gives you such a commission does it in fact
to accuse you ; and he gives it you if you
understand it right, for a burden and a pun-
ishment. As much as the public afairs are
amended by what you do, your own are im-
paired by it : and the better you behave for
the public you act so much the worse for
yourself. Nor will it be a new thing, nor
perhaps without some colour of justice, if
the same person ruin you who set you at

If treachery ought to be excused in any
case, it is only so when employed in chas-
tising and betraying the traitor. There are
examples enough of treachery, not only
where it was refused, but punished by those
in whose favor it had been undertaken. Who
knows not the sentence of Fabricius against
Pyrrhus's physician ?

But we find this also recorded, that a
man has given command for an action
which he afterwards severely revenged on
the person whom he employed in it, reject-
ing a credit and power so uncontrolled, and
disavowing a servitude and obedience so
sordid and abandoned. Jaropelc, duke of
Russia, tampered with a gentleman of Hun-
gary to betray Boleslaus, king of Poland,
by putting him to death, or giving the Rus-
sians an opportunity to do him some nota-
ble injury. The gentleman acted very
craftily in the affair ; he devoted himself
more than ever to the service of the king,
obtained to be of his council, and one of
his chief confidents. With these advan-
tages, and choosing the critical opportunity
of his sovereign's absence, he betrayed to
the Russians the great and rich city of
Wisliez, which was entirely plundered and
burned, with the total slaughter, not only
of its inhabitants, 'without distinction of sex
or age, but of a great number of the neigh-
bouring gentry whom he had convened
there for this purpose. Jaropelc being
glutted with his revenge, and his wrath
being appeased, for which however he had
some pretence (for Boleslaus had very
much provoked him, by a behaviour too of
the like kind), and being gorged with the
fruit of this treachery, taking into considera-
tion the deformity of the act in a naked ab-
stracted light, and looking upon it with a
calm dispassionate view, conceived such a
remorse and disgust, that he caused the
eyes of his agent to be plucked out, and his
tongue and privy parts to be cut off.

Antigonus persuaded the soldiers called



Argyraspides to betray his adversary Eume-
nes their general into his hands. But after
putting him to death, he himself desired to
be the commissioner of the divine justice
for the punishment for so detestable a crime,
and consigned the traitors over to the gov-
ernor of the province, with express com-
mand by all means to destroy and bring
them to an evil end. l So that of that great
member of men not one ever returned to
Macedonia. The better he had been served
by them the more wicked he judged the
service to be, and the more deserving of

The slave who betrayed his master P.
Sulpicius, by discovering the place where
he lay concealed, was, according to promise
manumitted from Sylla's proscription, but
by virtue of his edict, though he was no
longer a slave, he was instantly thrown
headlong from the Tarpeian rock. 2

And our king Clovis, instead of armour
of gold which he had promised them, caused
three of Canacro's servants to be hanged
after they had betrayed their master to him,
though he had set them upon it. They were
hanged with the purse of their reward about
their necks. After they had satisfied their
second and special engagement, they satis-
fy the general and first.

Mahomet the second being resolved to
rid himself of his brother out of a jealousy
of his power, as is the custom of the Otto-
man race, employed one of his officers in
the execution, who choked him by pouring
water into his throat. When this was done,
Mahomet, to make atonement for the mur-
der, delivered the man who committed it
into the hands of the deceased's mother (for
they were only brothers by the father's
side), who in his presence ripped open the
murderer's bosom, and in her fury ran her
hands into his breast, and rifled it for his
heart, which she tore out, and threw to the
dogs. Even to the vilest of people it is a
pleasure, when their end has been served by
a criminal action, to patch it up with some
mixture of goodness and justice, as by way
of compensation and check of conscience.
To which may be added, that they look
upon the instruments of such horrid crimes,
as upon persons that reproach them there-
with, and aim by their deaths to cancel the
memory and testimony of such practices.
Now if perhaps you are rewarded, in or-

1 Plutarch, In his Life of Eumenes, chap. 9, to the end.
*Valer. Max. lib. vi. cap. 5, in Romania, sect. 7.

der not to frustrate the public necessity of
this extreme and desperate remedy, he who
bestows the reward will notwithstanding, if
he be not such a one himself, look upon
you as a cursed and execrable fellow ; and
conclude you to be a greater traitor than
he does whom you betray ; for he feels the
malignity of your courage by your own
hands, being employed without reluctance
and without objection. He employs you
like the most abandoned miscreants in the
office of hangman, an office as useful as it
is dishonourable. Besides the baseness of
such commissioners, there is moreover a
prostitution of conscience. Sejanus's daugh-
ter being a virgin, and as such not liable to
be put to death, according to the form of
law at Rome, was first ravished by the
hangman, and then strangled. 1 Thus not
only his hand but his soul is a slave to the
public convenience.

When Amurath the first, more severely
to punish his subjects for having supported
the parricide rebellion of his son, ordered
that the nearest of kin to them should lend
a hand in their execution, I think it was
very honourable in any of them who chose
rather to be unjustly deemed culpable for
another's parricide, than to be obedient to
the demand of justice for a parricide of
their own. And whereas, at the taking of
some little forts, I have seen rascals, who,
to save their own lives, have been glad to
hang their friends and companions, I have
thought them in a worse condition than
those that were hanged. It is said that
Witholde, a prince of Lithuania, introduced
a practice, that a criminal who was con-
demned to die should dispatch himself with
his own hand, for he thought it strange that
a third person, who was innocent of the
crime, should be charged with, and em-
ployed in, homicide.

When some urgent circumstance, and
some impetuous and unforeseen accident,
that very much concerns his government,
compels a prince to evade his engagements
or throws him out of his ordinary duty, he
ought to ascribe this necessity to a scourge
of the divine rod. Vice it is not, for he has
given up his own reason to a more univer-
sal and powerful reason ; but certainly it is
a misfortune : so that if any one should ask
me, what remedy ? " None," I would say,
" if he was really racked between these two
extremes (sed videat ne quceratur latebra

1 Tacit. Annal. lib. v. cap. 9.


perjurio ; l " But let him take care that
he does not seek a pretence to cover his
'perjury'), he could not do otherwise;"
but if he did it without regret, it is a sign
his conscience was seared. If there be a
person to be found of so tender a conscience
as to think so important a remedy too good
for any cure whatsoever, I shall not like
him at all the worse for it. He could not
destroy himself more excusably and decent-
ly. We cannot do all we would, so that we
are often obliged to commit the protection
of our vessel to the conduct of heaven as to
a sheet-anchor. To what more just neces-
sity does he reserve himself? What is less
possible for him to do than what he cannot
do but at the expense of his faith and his
honour? Things which perhaps ought to
be dearer to him than his own safety, and
the safety of his people. Though he should
with folded arms call only upon God for his
assistance, will he not have reason to hope
that the divine goodness will not refuse the
favour of his extraordinary arm to a hand
that is so pure and just? These are dan-
gerous instances, rare and weak excep-
tions to our natural rules, to which there is
a necessity of submitting, but with great
moderation and circumspection. No pri-
vate utility is of such importance as to de-
serve this effort of our conscience though
the public good well deserves it when it is
very apparent and very important.

Timoleon made a proper atonement for
his unnatural action by the tears he shed
when he recollected that he had killed the ty-
rant with the hand of a brother: and it
stung his conscience that he had been ne-
cessitated to purchase the public utility at
so great a price as the wounding of his own
integrity. Even the senate, which was by his
means delivered from slavery, durst not de -
termine positively on an action so considera-
ble, which carried two aspects so important,
and so contrary to each other. But the
Syracusans having opportunely at that very
tima sent to the Corinthians to solicit their
protection, and to require of them a general
fit to re-establish their city in its former
dignity, and to clear Sicily of several petty
tyrants, by whom it was oppressed, the se-
.nate deputed Timoleon for that service,
with this artful declaration, " That if he
" behaved well in the government of the
" Syracusans, they would from that time
" pronounce by their decree that he had

Cic. Offic. lib. iii. cap. 29.

" killed a tyrant ; and, on the contrary,
" if he discovered an avaricious conduct,
" they would try and condemn him for fra-
" tricide, as having killed his own brother." '
This whimsical conclusion carries along
with it some excuse, by reason of the dun-
ger of the example, and the importance of
so double-faced an action. And they did
well to discharge their own judgment of it,
or to support it by considerations of a condi-
tional nature. Timoleon's deportment in
his voyage rendered his cause still more
clear, so worthily and virtuously did he de-
mean himself in all respects. And the good
fortune which attended him in the difficul-
ties he had to overcome in this noble task,
seemed to be put in his way by the gods, as
favourably combining for his justification.
If any man's aim is excusable this man's

But the profit by the increase of the pub-
lic revenue, which served the Roman senate
for a pretence to the base conclusion I am
going to relate, is not sufficient to warrant
such injustice. Certain citizens had by the
order and consent of the senate redeemed
themselves and their liberty by money, out
of the hands of L. Sylla. 2 The affair com-
ing again upon the carpet, the senate con-
demned them to be taxable as they were
before, and that the money they had dis-
bursed for their redemption should never be
repaid them. Civil wars often produce such
vile examples, that we punish private men
for having taken our words when we were
in power: and one and the same magistrate
makes another man pay the penalty of his
change, though no fault of his. The school-
master lashes his scholar for his docility,
and the guide beats the blind man whom
he leads by the hand. A shocking picture
of justice 1

There are some rules in philosophy that
are both false and pusillanimous. The ex-
ample that is proposed to us for preferring
private benefit before the obligation due to
faith once given, has not weight enough for
the circumstance which they mix with it.
Robbers have surprised you, and, after
having made you swear to pay them a sum
of money, give you your liberty. It is
wrong to say that an honest man may be
quit of his oath without payment, after he is
out of their clutches. The case is quite
otherwise. What fear has once prevailed

1 Diodorus of Sicily, lib. xvi. cap. 19 of Amyot'a trans-
lation. 2 Cic. do Offic. lib. iii. cap. 22.



on me to intend, I am obliged to keep the
same purpose when I am no longer in fear.
And though fear only forced my tongue, and
not my will, yet I am bound to stand to my
word. For my own part, when my tongue
has sometimes rashly outrun my thought, I
have however made a conscience of dis-
owning it ; were we to act otherwise we would
abolish all the right another claims to our
promises. Quasi veroforti viro vis possit
adhiberi : 1 "As if violence could possibly
operate upon a great heart."

The only condition in which private in-
terest can excuse us f'orthe non-performance
of a promise is, when we have promised a
thing that is wicked, and in itself unjust.
For the claim of virtue ought to supersede
the force of any obligation of ours.

I have formerly placed Epaminondas in
the first class of excellent men, and do not
retract it. To what a pitch did he carry his
regard for his private obligation, who never
killed a man that he had overcome, who, for
the inestimable benefit of restoring the lib-
berty of his country, made conscience of
killing a tyrant or his accomplices, without
the forms of justice 5 and who judged him
to be a wicked man, was he ever so good a
subject, who, amongst his enemies, and in
battle, spared not his friend and his host 1
His was a soul of a rich composition 1 He
matched good nature and humanity,
even the most delicate, in the school of phi-
losophy, with the rudest and most violent of
all human actions. Was it nature or art
that softened a man of his great courage,
high spirit, and obstinate constancy ^ against
pain, death, and poverty, to such an extreme
degree of good nature and complaisance ?
Dreadful, with fire and sword, he over-ran
and subdued a nation invincible by all
others but himself; and yet, in the midst of
such an expedition, he relaxed when he met
his host and his friend. Verily he was fit to
command in war, who could suffer l.imself
to be checked with the curb of good nature,
in the greatest heat of action, so inflamed
and foaming with rage and slaughter. It
shows an extraordinary greatness of mind
to mix an idea of justice with such actions ;
but it was only possible for such steadiness
of mind, as was that of Epaminondas, there-
in to mix good nature and the facility of
the gentlest mnnners and purest innocence.
Whereas one z told the Mammertines that

iCic. <!e Offic. lib Hi., cap. 30.

* Pompey ; sea Plutarch's Life of him, ch. 3.

statutes were of no force against men in
arms ; another 1 told the tribune of the
people, that there was a time for justice, and
a time for war ; a third, 2 that the noise of
arms drowned the voice of the law ; this
man's ears were always open to hear the
calls of civility and courtesy. Did he not
borrow from his enemies 3 the custom of
sacrificing to the Muses, when he went to
the field of battle, that they might, by their
sweetness and gaiety of temper, soften his
severity and martial fury? After the ex-
ample of so great a master, let us not make
any sort of doubt that there is something
unlawful, even against an enemy ; that the
common cause ought not to require all
things of a man against private interest :
Manente memoria, ctiam in dissidio publi-
corum fcederum, pritati juris : " The re-
membrance of private right subsisting even
in the midst of public quarrels."

-Et nulla potentia vires

Prcwtandi, ne quid peccet amicus, habet.*
Nor is there any power can authorize
The breach of sacred friendship's solemn ties.

and that an honest man is not at liberty to
do everything for the service of his king, or
the common cause, or of the laws. Non
cnim patria prcestat omnibus officiis et
ipsi conduc.it pios habere cives in paren-
tes : 5 " For the obligation to one's country
does not supersede every other obligation :
and it is of importance to itself to have sub-
jects that have a veneration for their parents.
This is an instruction proper for the present
time. We need not harden our courage
^ith this steel armcur: it is enough that
our shoulders are inured to it ; it is enough
for us to dip our pens in ink. and not in
blood. If it be magnanimity, and the
effect of an uncommon find singular valour,
to contemn friendship, private obligation, a
promise, and kindred, for the public weal,
and in obedience to the magistrate ; it is
really sufficient to excuse us from it, that
this is a greatness of soul which could have
no place in the magnanimity of Epami-

I abhor the furious exhortations of this
other ungovernable soul : 6

1 Caesar, in Plutarch, ch. 11.

SMarius, in his Life by Plutarch, ch. 10.

3 Laccdocmoniu as. <0 vid de Ponio, 1 ib. i. epist. 7, ver. 37.

Cic. de Offic. lib. iii. cap. 23.

* Julius Caesar, who, when in an open war against
his country, with a design to subvert itf .iberty, cries
out, " Dum tola micant," Ac., Lucan. lib.vii., vcr. 320, Ac.


Dum tela micant, non vos pielaiis imago
Vila, nee adversa conspecti fronte paretUe*
Commoveant, rnltnn gladior tubate verondos.
When swords are drawn, let no remains of love
To friend or kindred, your compassion move ;
Fear not to wound the venerable face
Ev'n of your father, if oppos'd in place.

Let us deprive those that are naturally
mischievous, bloody, and treacherous, of
this colour of reason ; let us set aside this
wild extravagant justice, and stick to insti-
tutions that are more humane. What great
things rnay not be accomplished by time
and example ! In an action of the civil
war of- Cinna, one of Pompey's soldiers
having inadvertently killed his brother,
who was of the contrary party, killed him-
self on the spot, as soon as he knew it, for
mere shame and sorrow. 1 Some years
afterwards, in another civil war of the same
people, a soldier, who had killed his bro-
ther, demanded a reward for it from his
officers. 2

The utility of an action is but a sorry
plea for the beauty and honour of it ; and it
is wrong to infer, that, because such a tiling
is useful, it is therefore incumbent on every
one to perform it ; and not only a duty, but
for his honor :

Omnia nonpariler rerum sunt omnibus apta. 3
All things are not alike for all men fit.

Were we to choose the most necessary and
the most useful action of human society, it
would be marriage : yet the saints think
celibacy the more honorable state, ex-
cluding the most venerable order of men
from it.



[This story is based on an incident in English history :
Basil Underwood, a young soldier, is condemned to die
at Curfew's ringing. Friends had interceded for him
in vain. His betrothed had gone to the Btern judgej
and asked that her lover be spared until she could BO-J
Cromwell, but her efforts were futile. She even at-
tempted to bribe the deaf old sexton, but he also denied
her pleadings, and as the hour of her lover's approaching
death drew nigh the stern executioner, listening f^r
the signal from Curfew, listened in vain

1 Tacit. Hist. lib. iii. cap. 51.

Idem, ibid. Propert. lib.

" Curfew did not ring that night,"
and so the pretty poem tells its own story.

English history tells the story of the ringing of the
Curfew the tolling of which meant that the inhabi-
tants were compelled to bank their fires, put out their
lights and retire to rest at nightfall, at which hour the
bell was rung.

The poem is the labor of Miss Kosa Hartwick (now
Mrs. E. C. Thorpe, of Litchfield, Michigan), and was
first brought to light about October, 1870, in the Com-
mercial Advertiser, Detroit, Michigan.]

Slowly England's sun was setting o'er the hilltops far

Filling all the land with beauty at the close of one sad

And the last rays kissed the forehead of a man and
maiden fair,

Ho with footsteps slow and weary, she with sunny, float-
ing hair ;

lie with bawed head, sad and thoughtful, she with lipa
all cold and white,

Struggled to keep back the murmur,

" Curfew must not ring to-night."

" Sexton," Bessie's white lips faltered, pointing to the

prison old,
With its turrets tall and gloomy, with its walla dark,

damp, and cold,
" I've a lover in that prison, doomed this very night t j

At the ringing of the curfew and no earthly help is

Cromwell will not come till sunset," and her lips gre\T

strangely white
As she breathed the husky whisper,

" Curfew must not ring to-night."

"Bessie," calmly spoke the sexton, every word pierced

her young heart
Lika tin piercing of an arrow, like a deadly, poisoned

"Long, long years I've rung the curfew from that

gloomy, shadowed tower ;
Every evening, just at sunset, it has told the twilight


I have done my duty ever, tried to do it just and rigM,
Now I'm old I still must do it,

Curfew it must ring to-night."

Wild her eyes and pale her features, stern and white her

thoughtful brow,

And within her secret bosom Bessie made a solemn vow.
She had listened while the judges read without a tear or

" At the ringing of the curfew, Basil Underwood must

And her breath came fast and faster, and her eyea graw

largo and bright
In an undertone she murmured,

" Curfbw must not ring to-night."


She with quick steps hounded forward, sprung within

the old church door,
Left the old man threading slowly paths so oft he'd trod

before ;
Not one moment paused the maiden, but with eye and

cheek aglow,
Mounted up the gloomy tower, where the bell swung to

and fro ;
And she climbed the dusty ladder on which fell no ray

of light,
Up and up her white lips saying

" Curfew shall not ring to-night."

Sho has reached the topmost ladder, o'er her hangs the

great dark bell ;
Awful is the gloom beneath her, like a pathway down

to hell.
Lo, the ponderous tongue is swinging, 'tis the hour of

curfaw now,
And the sight has chilled her bosom, stopped her

breath, and paled her brow.
Shall she let it ring? No, never! Flash her eyes with

sudden light,
And she springs and grasps it firmly

" Curfew shall not ring to-night."

Out she swung, far out, the city seemed a speck of light

'Twixt heaven find rarth her form suspended, as the

bell swung to and fro,
And the sexton at the bell-rope, old and deaf, hrard n^t

the bell,
But he thought it still was ringing fair young Basil's

funeral knell.
Still the maiden clung most firmly, and with trembling

lips and white,
Said to hush her heart's wild beating,

" Curfew shall not ring to-night."

It was o'er, the bell ceased swaying, and the maiden

stepped ones more
Firmly on the dark old ladder, where for hundred years

Human foot had not been planted. The brave deed

that she had done

Sluuld be told long ages after, as the rays of setting sun
Should illume the sky with beauty; aged sires with

he ;d^ of white,
Long should tell the little children,

Curfew did not ring that night.

O'er t!io distant hills came Cromwell ; Bessie sees him,

and her brow,
Full of hope and full of gladness, has no anxious traces

At his feet she tells her story, shows her hands all

bruised and torn ;
And her lace so sweet and pleading, yet with sorrow

paie and worn,

Touched his heart with sudden pity, lit his eye 'with

misty light:
" Go, your lover lives," said Cromwell,

" Curfew shall not ring to-night 1"


[SDWAHD HYDE, first earl of Clarendon, an eminent
English statesman and historian, born at Dinton, Wilt-
shire, Feb. 18, 1009. He was educated at Oxford, and
studied law under his uncle, Nicholas Hyde, who be-
came chief justice. He was a member of the Long
Parliament, which met in 1640, and he acted at first
with ths popular party, but when the civil war broke
out, in 1G42, ho attached himself to the royalist
cause. He wrote several able state papers, which de-
fended the policy of the king against the Parliament.
In 1043 ho was appointed chancellor of the exchequer
and privy councillor. He accompanied Charles, Prince
of Wales, to Jersey, in 1045^16, and served him as
counsellor while ha was an exile in France and Holland.
On the restoration of Charles II., in 1000, Hyde became
prime minister and lord chancellor of England, and in
1GG1 he was created earl of Clarendon. He opposed
popery, and was more moderate than many of the royal-
ists. In Aug., 1007, ho was removed from office and
impeached by the House of Commons, which condemned
him to perpetual banishment. He died in Rouen, in
Dec., 1074. His daughter, Anne Hyde, was married to

Online LibraryUnknownThe library of choice literature : poetry and prose selected from the most admired authors (Volume 4) → online text (page 33 of 75)