« PreviousContinue »
There is something wonderfully striking in the awful but obscure imagery here raised up to the imagination. Such beauties cannot be reached by the pencil.
As to Cæsar's death being the cause of these phenomena, I think like Hotspur, “ so would they have been, if his mother's cat had kittened.” Some of the Cæsarean writers wish to impress a persuasion that divine justice pursued the conspirators against Julius ; most of them having fallen by violent deaths, and some by the very daggers which they had plunged into his body. That Providence should interpose in punishing the death of an usurper, and upon men, some of whom were of much better morals undoubtedly than he whom they destroyed, will not be easily reconciled to the faith of Christians; who can account better for the fate of these conspirators, by observing, that the leaders in bold and perilous enterprises are of course exposed in dangerous situations.
We cannot however affect the same incredulity with respect to a recent and striking example in the fate which has attended so many of the murderers of the late innocent and excellent King of France. Maxims, principles, and practices, of their own introducing, and a tribunal erected in iniquity and blood, have turned the edge of destruction upon its inventors. Such of them as have not fallen by their own weapons, (one regicide, and the deified assassin, Marat, excepted,) have left their heads upon their own revolutionary scaffold, after a trial, which, like that of their sovereign, exhibits the most shameless violation of every principle of justice, reason, and equity. “ Shall I not visit for these things ? saith the Lord.”-From what we have already seen, and see daily, it would hardly be a rah prediction, that in the same miserable manner every man of them will perish.
The state of Rome under Tiberius bears so precise a similitude to the present wretched condition of France, that the following words of Ta. citus seem like a prophetick anticipation of what exists at this moment: « Nos sæva jussa, continuas accusationes, fallaces amicitias, perniciem
“ innocentium, et easdem exitu causas conjungimus obviâ rerum simi“ litudine et satietate.” “ We have nothing before us but acts of despo« tism, continual accusations, the treachery of friends, the ruin of in“ nocence, and trial after trial ending always in the same tragick
catastrophe.”-Of this single passage I have transcribed the translation from Mr. Murphy's excellent work, lately published. These volumes deserve the attentive perusal of every English reader, as he will there find the true meaning and spirit of the Roman historian, without the affected quaintness of expression, and distorted position of sentence, which disfigure former versions; and still more, because he may discover, in almost every section, the surprising resemblance between the most hideous despotism avowed, and the present chaotick French Republick, which with a throat of brass dares to call all the sovereigns of Europe, tyRANTS, the king of Great Britain being included in the number.
NOTE [D.] p. 172.
Of all vices incident to human nature Cruelty is the worst, and at the same time the most unaccountable : envy, revenge, avarice, and other bad passions, rise in the mind from objects proper to excite them, and a certain degree of instinctive sense impells men to seek their gratification; but how is it consistent with the least shadow of reflection, with the elements of a frame endued with sensibility and feeling, to find delight in devising, inficting, and superintending the infiction of the most exquisite and ingenious torments ? Yet this was the abomination to which the Romans were most addicted. It did not begin with, nor was it confined to, the Emperors, but long before had contaminated the lives of too many of their most illustrious citizens. A propensity so ge. neral must have had some cause as general.
We must consider that the Romans were more constantly than any other nation engaged in wars either foreign or domestick. Battles were
not decided then, as since the discovery of gunpowder, by weapons which sent destruction at a distance ; but every Roinan saw the wounds
and death which he inficted on every enemy. The carnage to which they The Soldier inore than were accustomed lost its horrour, and indifference to bloodshed soon grew nale coveredovith orinou
To this must be added the und often to be hack'l to be interwoven with their nature. ferd zod mangled by savage cast of their recreations. Their pleasure resulted from seeing le sivore of his diversi: hundreds of the most furious wild beasts tearing one another to pieces, "Y, 2.schis death .... and devouring before their eyes human bodies thrown to them alive not yufrequently sudly operation.
in the arena; and from the combats of Gladiators, who were in. structed to give and receive wounds with grace and agility, and to expire before them in attitudes proper for the imitation of the statuary and painter. The Romans in short, after spilling human blood in the field as their profession, went to the theatre to see it shed for their amusement. Forgiveness of injuries, besides, made no part of their religion ; that benevolent precept was reserved for a divine founder. In this manner they were trained up and enticed to be wicked, and they became as cruel as butchers, from similar habits, and for the same reason. Had equal care been employed to cultivate in their breasts the seeds of benignity and compassion, it would have been equally efficacious. The state pretence for indulging the people in these barbarous exhibitions was, that by thus familiarizing them with the sight of pain and death they became more fearless, and braver soldiers ; but it only served to make them more inhuman. The emperors most infamous for cruelty, and a passion for these bloody spectacles, were at the same time not less notorious for cowardice. --Though boxing is not a science with the French as with the English, the French are certainly a more cruel people; and perhaps it may be ascribed to the frequency of the tortures inflicted on criminals at their publick executions, which were always more numerously attended in proportion to their severity and duration. Considerable sums were given by French ladies to secure a commodious seat to see the horrible execution of Damien. The abolition of the rack,
mitigation of the penal code, and a more equitable mode of proceeding in criminal prosecutions, were the only substantial advantages held out to France by the promoters of her boasted revolution : of these the first is the only one which she has actually obtained ; and it is well known that this humane abolition originated with his late Majesty.
The government of Athens was democratical, and she stands out in the history of mankind stained with the foulest injustice and iniquity ; inconstant, weak, suspicious, ungrateful, and sanguinary, perpetually defiled with the blood of her deliverers and most deserving citizens. See them enumerated by Lucian in his dialogue against giving too hasty an assent to calumny. Socrates, Phocion, Milciades, Themistocles, Aris. tides, Cimon, Timotheus, Alcibiades, and other illustrious characters, whose very names excite reverence and admiration, as a reward for their virtues and glorious achievements, were condemned by their inhuman countrymen to fines, imprisonment, exile, or death ; so that every Athenian who distinguished himself in the service of his country, seemed to be warned by the catastrophe of his predecessors, that he was but accelerating his own perdition. When the excellent Phocion was led to an ignominious deatli, to which he had been unjustly doomed by the people of Athens, he declared that he expected no better, for such had been the fate of almost every illustrious Athenian. The great exploits of the Athenians furnish no proof of the
energy of democratick constitution, for these were always performed when the people were led and governed by some eminent person, upon whom at the time were devolved the whole powers of the state ; so that in fact the democracy was then suspended. It signifies little what a government may be called, when it acts on principles in nowise analogous to its deno-, mination. At Athens it was easily known when the people took the M m
helm again into their own hands; for weakness, confusion, and cruelty, immediately succeeded. The first display of their power was commonly the disgrace or death of those very persons to whom they owed their renown and security. The treatment of Hannibal by the people of Carthage, of Coriolanus, Camillus, the Scipios, Tully, and other great men, by the demagogues of Rome, and the consequences, are well known. Repentance makes but poor atonement for ruin. During the vigorous usurpation of Cromwell, England was called a Commonwealth, and was much respected; but what sovereign was ever more absolute, or acted under less control, than the Protector? A nation entirely governed by one man is an absolute monarchy, not a republick. The common people, who are afraid of tyrants, mistake; they are in no danger from them; indigence and obscurity excite neither their apprehensions nor their envy: the wise, the virtuous, and the opulent, are as naturally the defenders of the people, as they are the terror and the prey of the tyrant.
The insolence of Mark Antony, and the excesses of which he was so often guilty, made Tully wish that Brutus had not killed Cæsar; in like manner, the friends of liberty in France, consider the Bastile as comparatively a less evil than the capricious and bloody tyranny of the people who destroyed it. Whoever expresses his disapprobation of a democracy is exposed to the calumny of furious zealots, who immediately hold him out as an indirect advocate for despotism: but, che good subjects of Great-Britain glory in its constitution, because they know it enjoys the most perfect rational freedom that ever existed since the first institution of civil society. If every kingdom in the world were to struggle for such a constitution as the English, nay, to encounter for it the worst of all calamities, a civil war, it would not be surprising; but, that men should be found in the very bosom of that enviable country, absurd or desperate enough to disseminate notions which tend to its subversion ; that societies should be formed, to hold up the bloody tablature of