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LETTER V.

ON

Political Evils.

158159

LETTER V.

On Political Evils.

SIR,

ACCORDING to my proposed Plan there still remain two sorts of Evils to be accounted for, Political and Religious; under which heads, (if you are not already tired with so abstruse and unentertaining a correspondence) I shall endeavour to shew you, that it is utterly impossible, even for Omnipotence itself, to give a perfect Government, or a perfect Religion to an imperfect Creature; and therefore, that the numberless imperfections inherent 160in all human Governments and Religions, are not imputable to God, nor any defect of power, wisdom, or goodness in Him; but only to the inferiority of Man's station in the Universe, which necessarily exposes him to Natural and Moral Evils, and must, for the same reason, to Political and Religious; which are indeed but the Consequences of the other Superior Beings may probably form to themselves, or receive from their Creator, Government without tyranny or Corruption, and Religions without Delusions or Absurdities; but Man cannot: God indeed may remove him into so exalted a Society; but whilst he continues to be Man, he must be subject to innumerable Evils; amongst which those I call Political and Religious are far from being the least.

161

But as these two kinds of Evils are very different, they will require different considerations; I shall therefore, in the present confine myself to the Political only; by which I mean all those grievous burthens of Tyranny and Oppression, of Violence and Corruption, of War and Desolation, under which all Ages and nations have ever groaned on account of Government: little less destructive perhaps to the happiness of Mankind than even Anarchy itself; but notwithstanding, are so woven into the very essence of all Human Governments from the Depravity of Man, that without them none can be either established, maintained or administered, nor consequently can they be prevented without changing that Depravity into perfection; that is, without a compleat Alteration in Human Nature. How this 162comes to pass may be easily explained by a short examination, first into the nature and origin of Government in general, and afterwards into those of particular Forms and Policies; than which nothing has been more commonly misunderstood and misrepresented.

As to Government in general, it is no wonder, that it is so productive of Evil, since its very Nature consists of Power trusted in the hands of such imperfect and vicious Creatures as Men, and exercised over others as imperfect and vicious as themselves; in which there must be Pride, Avarice and Cruelty on one Side, Envy, ignorance and Obstinacy on the other; and Injustice and Self-Interest on both. Its Origin also arises from the same impure source of human Imperfection; that 163is, Men being neither wise nor honest enough, to pursue their common or mutual interests without Compulsion, are obliged to submit to some, in order to secure their lives and properties from the depredations of all: but tho' this Necessity drives them into some kind of Government, yet it can never decide who govern, because all Men being by nature equal, every one has an equal right to this superiority: this therefore can be determined only by more Imperfections: that is, by the Struggles of Ambition, Treachery, Violence and Corruption; from success in which universal scramble are derived all the mighty Empires of the Earth: One Man at first by some of these methods acquiring the command over a few, then by their aid extending his power over greater numbers, and at last by the assistance 164of those numbers, united by the advantage of plundering others, subduing all opposition: and thus we see all human Government is the Offspring of Violence and Corruption, and must inherit the imperfection of both its parents. It is plain also that national Governments can never be supported by any other methods than those by which they were at first rais'd; for, being all independent of each other, and retaining still their original inclination to devour each other; and having no superior tribunal to refer to for justice, they can have no means to secure their own possessions, or to repel their mutual encroachments, but by force, which is call'd the Right of War; that is, the right of doing all the wrong that lies in their power: For war, however dignified with honours and encomiums by conquerors 165and their flatterers, is in fact nothing else but robbery and murder. Nations having no more right to plunder each other than Parishes, nor Men to kill one another in their political than in their private capacities.

If we look into the internal constitutions of all these Governments, we shall find likewise, that they must be administered by the same violence and corruption to which they are indebted for their Origin; that is, by hiring one part of the society to force the other into subjection; and that none of them ever subsisted any longer than whilst the stronger part, not always the most numerous, found it for their advantage to keep the weaker in obedience: for it should be ever remembered, as the fundamental of all politics, 166that men will never submit to each other merely for the sake of public Utility,66If any one is so ignorant of human nature, as to fancy that they will, let him make the experiment in a single parish, and there, if without Power or Compulsion, Interest or Gratuity, solely by the strength of reason, and motives of public advantage, he can perswade the inhabitants to submit to equal and necessary taxes, to repair roads, build bridges, inclose commons, drain marshes, employ their poor, or perform any works of general Utility: if he can accomplish this let him retain his opinion, but if he finds it utterly impracticable, let him not expect, that it can ever be done in a whole Nation, in which there are so many more factions, interests and absurdities to contend with. too remote a benefit to make any impression on the dull senses of the multitude; but must be always beat or bribed into obedience. Higher orders of Beings may submit 167to each other on nobler motives, from their sense of Virtue or of universal Benefit; but Man can be governed by nothing but the Fear of Punishment or the hopes of Reward; that is, by Self-interest, the great Principle that operates in the political World in the same manner that Attraction does in the natural, preserving order and restraining every thing to its proper course by the continual endeavours of every individual to draw all power and property to himself.77There is indeed one other method of Government frequently made use of by the most illustrious Princes and Legislators, that is Fraud; but, as this operates only by the appearance of Self-Interest, it may properly be comprehended under that head.

If we descend to the examination of particular forms of government, we shall see 167them all exactly correspond with this general plan; we shall find that none of them owe their Origin to patriarchal power, the divine right of Princes, or the uninfluenced choice of the people; things which never existed but in the idle dreams of visionary politicians; but all to the struggles of Ambition and Self-Interest, subsiding at last into some kind of policy; either into absolute Monarchy or some species of popular Government more or less remote from it, as the different parts of it have had Strength or Fortune to prevail; all which must be carried on by the same vitious methods of Violence or Corruption, and consequently be productive of numberless, if not of equal, Evils.

In absolute Monarchies, for instance, great violence must be exercised to keep 169men, by nature equal, in so unnatural a Subjection; this must produce plots, rebellions, civil wars and massacres; and these most require more Violence to repress them: but this violence cannot be used without much corruption; for it is not the person of the sovereign, his crown and scepter, that can preserve his authority, nor can he destroy thousands with his own hand, like a Hero in a Romance; a powerful army must be kept in pay to enslave the people, and a numerous clergy to deceive them;88It has been represented as if the Author by this designed to insinuate that the whole business of the Clergy was to deceive the people; than which nothing can be more distant from his intentions: all that he means is, that Men will not easily submit to Tyranny unless their consciences are first inslaved; or that popery is the the most effectual support of arbitrary power: a proposition which he supposes no one will presume to contradict. whose ambition, avarice, 170luxury and cruelty must be satiated with the blood and treasures of that very People as a reward for their services: hence infinite Evils must arise, the lives, liberties and properties of all must be dependent on the capricious will of One, or, what is worse, on the wills of his pimps, flatterers and favourites: justice must be perverted by favour, and that favour can seldom be obtained but by adulation, servility and treachery: this produces all kinds of Moral Evils, and these beget more Political.

In Democratical governments, if there is less Violence there is more Corruption; which in these indeed is the Basis of all Power, and productive of the most mischievous 171effects; here all things are at the disposal of an ignorant and giddy Multitude, always led to their own destruction by the flimsy eloquence and pretended patriotism of Knaves, Fools, and enthusiastic Madmen; or commonly of some extraordinary Genius, formed for popularity by a lucky composition of all these excellent ingredients; all subordination is subverted; and the most insolent and vitious of the people must be caressed, bribed and intoxicated, and by that means rendered still more insolent and vitious; and all who by their methods acquire their favour must: be no less vitious than themselves. If in despotic Governments power cannot be attained but by Servility and Adulation, in Democratical it can never be acquired but by the more pernicious vices of Turbulence and Faction; for which Reason 172these are ever sure to be governed by the most wicked, ambitious, avaricious, and mischievous of their Members.

Mixed Governments, tho' perhaps productive of fewer Evils than either of the former, yet must necessarily partake of those belonging to both, and be supported by more or less of violence, as they more or less approach the Despotic; or of Corruption, as they come nearer to the Democratical principles: the further they shrink from the iron scourges of the one, the more will they be entangled in the golden fetters of the other; for Corruption most always increase in due proportion to the decrease of arbitrary power, since where there is less power to command obedience, there must be more bribery to purchase it, or there can be no government at all. 173These have besides many Evils peculiar to themselves, the very excellence of these of constitutions being productive of conveniences: for this excellence consisting principally in this, that their different ts are able to counteract each others mischievous intentions, the reins of Government are kept tight only by each pulling a different way, and they subsist by a perpetual contention, like a body kept e by the opposite effects of contrary sons: a very precarious and uneasy kind of existence! This exposes them in some measure to all the Evils incident to both absolute and popular Governments, tho' in a less degree: to the oppression of the , and the licentiousness of the other, factions at home, weakness abroad, and nite expence in all parts of their admiration yet are there mixed constitutions174the very best that human wisdom could ever discover for the regulation of human societies.

All these Evils arise from the nature of Things and the Nature of Man, and not from the Weakness or Wickedness of particular Men, or their accidental ascendency in particular Governments: the degrees of them may indeed be owing to these, but their existence is immutable. So long as the Imperfection of human nature continues, so long will Princes, for the most part, convert that power with which they are trusted for the sake of publick Utility, to the ignoble ends of their own avarice; luxury or ambition; so long will the people prefer present Self-interest to remote benefits arising from national prosperity; and so long will corrupt ministers employ this 175popular venality to their own private advantage; and how many soever are lopt off,

Non deficit aureus alter.

It is the mifapprehension of this, that is the fundamental error of all ignorant, but well-meaning, speculative politicians,99It is a strange, but a certain Truth, that in politicks most principles speculatively right are practically wrong: to give a few instances of this kind out of many commonly adopted: viz. that those who are possest of most property will fight best in its defence: that national business is most successfully carried on by assemblies of Men uninfluenced and unconnected: that unbounded Liberty, civil and ecclesiastical, is most conducive to publick happiness and virtue: all these Propositions have reason on their side, but experience against them: they all captivate vulgar minds, because they look like truth, and they look like truth, because they would be true if mankind in general acted upon honest or even upon rational principles; but as in fact they do neither they are utterly Life, and all political structures built on such unstable foundations will inevitably fall to the Ground. of 176all others the most untractable in government, and mischievous in business, the engines with which knaves work, and the ladders on which they mount to preferment: who endeavour to destroy all governments, because they are not perfect; and oppose all administrations, because they cannot govern men by such means as they are not design'd, or form'd to be governed by: who, by a Sysiphæan kind of politics, are ever labouring to roll up a stone, that must recoil upon them; and 177to render that faultless, which infinite power and wisdom cannot exempt from inconveniences, abuses, and imperfections.

Should one enumerate all of this kind, which cannot be excluded from Government without the total alteration of human nature, they would be endless; to instance but a few: all political bodies, like the natural, must have the seeds of their own dissolution sown in their very essence, and like them be destroyed by every excess; by excess of poverty or riches, of slavery or liberty, of ignorance or knowledge, of adversity or prosperity: a strong proof of their imperfection, that they cannot bear excess even of the greatest good; and yet they cannot be formed of more durable materials, so long as they are constituted of human creatures. All power trusted in 178the hands of so imperfect a creature as man, must be pernicious and oppressive, and yet somewhere such power must be trusted. All human Laws must be liable to misconstruction, and uncertainty, yet without Laws property cannot be secur'd. All popular Elections must be attended with corruption, licentiousness, and the perversion of justice, yet without them the liberty of no country can be preserv'd. All national provisions for the poor must not only be encouragements to idleness, but productive of contests, and oftentimes of cruelty, yet without such many honest but unfortunate people must inevitably perish. All religious tests, and subscriptions, are in their own natures subversive of truth and morals; yet the folly of one part of mankind, and the knavery of the other, will scarcely permit any government to subsist 179without them; Trade and wealth are the strength and the pursuit of every wise nation, yet these must certainly produce Luxury, which no less certainly must produce their destruction. All War is a complication of all manner of Evils natural and moral, that is of misery and wickedness; yet without it national contentions can never be determined. No Government can be carried on, nor subordination preserv'd, without forms, and ceremonials, pomp, and parade; yet all such, from the inferiority of human nature giving itself airs of grandeur and magnificence, and the despicable expedients it is obliged to have recourse to support it, must always have something mean and ridiculous in them to exalted understandings. All Governments are in a great measure upheld by absurd notions infused into the minds of the people, 180of the divine right of some particular person or family to reign over them; a foolish partiality for some particular spot of ground; an outrageous zeal for some religion which they cannot understand, or a senseless pursuit of Glory which they can never attain; these are all false principles, yet without them, or some like them, no nation can long subsist: they can never be defended by reason, yet reason can produce no others that can supply their places. Every flourishing nation endeavours to improve Arts, and cultivate Reason and good sense; yet if these are extended too far, or too universally diffus'd, no national government or national religion can long stand their ground; for it is with old establishments as with old houses, their deformities are commonly their supports, and these can never be remov'd without 181endangering the whole fabrick. In short, no Government can be administer'd without in some degree deceiving the people, oppressing the mean, indulging the great, corrupting the venal, opposing factions to each other, and temporising with parties.

It is this necessity for Evil in all Government, which gives that weight and popularity, which usually attends all those who oppose, and calumniate any Government whatever; appearing always to have reason on their side, because the Evils of ...1 power are conspicuous to the meanest capacity, whereas the necessity for those evils are perceivable only to superior understandings: every one can feel the burthen of taxes, and see the inconveniences of armies, places, and pensions, that must 182encrease them, but very few are able to comprehend that no Government can be supported without them in a certain degree; and that the more liberty any nation enjoys, the greater must be their number and necessity. The most ignorant can perceive the mischiefs that must arise from corrupt Ministers and venal Parliaments; but it requires some sagacity to discern, that assemblies of men unconnected by self-interest will no more draw together in the business of the publick than horses without harness or bridles; but, like them, instead of being quietly guided in the right road of general utility, will immediately run riot, stop the wheels of government, and tear all the political machine to pieces.

From hence it comes to pass that all ignorant wrongheaded people naturally run 183into opposition and faction, whilst the wise man knows that those Evils cannot be eradicated, and that their excess only can be prevented; that thus far every honest man still endeavour to his utmost, but to proceed farther only fools will hope for, or knaves pretend. He knows that numbers of men must always act in the same manner, if in the same circumstances; that Politics are a science as reducible to certainty as Mathematicks, and in them effects as invariably follow their causes: that the operations of Will are as uniform, as those of matter and motion; and that tho' the actions of individuals are contingencies, those of numbers are constant, and invariable: that tho' a single man may possibly prefer publick utility to private advantage, it is utterly impossible, that the majority of numerous bodies should be actuated by the 184same generous and patriotic principles;1010This may be demonstrated by a familiar Instance: It is by no means uncommon for a single Die to come up a Six, altho' the odds against it are five to one, but that a Majority of five hundred Dice should at the same time come up Six's is scarcely within the power of Fortune; because the odds against each individual become almost infinite when operating upon the whole five hundred together. For the same reason, supposing every Sixth Man to be wise, honest, and public-spirited, which surely in any Country is a very liberal allowance, there would not be the smallest probability that the Majority of any five hundred to be chosen out of the whole, would be of that sort, tho' elected with the utmost impartiality; but, if ambition, self-interest, and corruption interfere in the choice, as they most infallibly will, these will render it totally impossible. these can spring only from Virtue and Wisdom, benevolent hearts, and comprehensive 185understandings; which, being the portion but of a few more exalted individuals, can never be found in the multitude to be govern'd: nor can they be bestow'd in any extraordinary degree on those who govern, who would thereby be rendered unfit for their occupations: Statesmen and Ministers, who must be hackney'd in the ways of men, cannot be made of such pure and refin'd materials; peculiar must be the composition of that little creature call'd a Great Man. He must be formed of all kinds of contradictions: he must be indefatigable in business, to fit him for the labours of his station, and at the same time fond of pleasures, to enable him to attach many to his interests by a participation of their vices: He must be master of much artifice and knavery, his situation requiring him to employ, and be employed by, so many knaves; yet he 186must have some honesty, or those very knaves will be unwilling to trust him: He must be possess'd of great magnanimity perpetually to confront surrounding enemies, and impending dangers; yet of great meanness, to flatter those enemies, and suffer tamely continual injuries, and abuses: He must be wise enough to conduct the great affairs of Mankind with sagacity and success, and to acquire riches and honours for his reward; and at the same time foolish enough to think it worth a wise man's while to meddle with such affairs at all, and to accept of such imaginary rewards for real sufferings. Since then in all human Governments such must the Governors, and such the Governed eternally be, it is certain they must be ever big with numberless imperfections, and productive of abundant Evils and it is no less pain, that if infinite 187Goodness could not exclude natural and moral Evils, infinite Power can never prevent Political.

I hope, Sir, the picture I have here drawn of human nature, and human Government, will not appear to you too much of the Caricature kind: your experience in both must inform you that it is like, tho' your good nature may incline you to be sorry that it is so. I trust likewise to your good sense to distinguish, that what has here been said of their imperfections, and abuses, is by no means intended as a defence of them, but meant only to shew their necessity: to this every wise man ought quietly to submit, endeavouring at the same time to redress them to the utmost of his power; which can be effected by one method 188only; that is, by a reformation of Manners: for as all Political Evils derive their Original from Moral, these can never be remov'd, until those are first amended. He therefore, who strictly adheres to Virtue and Sobriety in his conduct, and inforces them by his example, does more real service to a State, than he who displaces a Minister, or dethrones a Tyrant; this gives but a temporary relief, but that exterminates the Cause of the disease. No immoral Man then can possibly be a true patriot; and all those who profess outrageous zeal for the liberty and prosperity of their Country, and at the same time infringe her laws, affront her religion, and debauch her people, are but despicable Quacks, by fraud or ignorance increasing the disorders 189they pretend to remedy: as such, I know, they have always appear'd to your superior judgment, and such they are ever esteem'd by,

S I R, &c.

190191
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