Obrazy na stronie
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ESSAYS.

I.

OF LIBERTY.

THE liberty of a people consists in being governed by laws which they have made themselves, under -whatsoever form it be of government: the liberty of a private man, in being master of his own time and actions, as far as may consist with the laws of God and of his countrey. Of this latter only we are here to discourse, and to enquire what estate of life does best seat us in the possession of it. This liberty of our own actions, is such a fundamental privilege of human nature, that God himself, notwithstanding all his infinite power and right over us, permits us to enjoy it, and that too after a forfeiture made by the rebellion of Adam. He takes so much care for the entire preservation of it to us, that he suffers neither his providence nor eternal decree to break or infringe it. Now for our time, the same God, to whom we are but tenants-at-will for the whole, requires but the seventh part to b« paid to him, as a small quit-rent, in acknowledgement of his title. It is man only that has the impudence to demand our whole time, though he never gave it, nor can restore it, nor is able to pay any considerable value for the least part of it. This birth-right of mankind above all other creatures, some are forced by hunger to sell, like Esau, for bread and broth: but the greatest part of men make such a bargain for the. delivery-up of themselves, as Thamar did with Judah ; instead of a kid, the necessary provisions for human life, they are contented to do it for rings and bracelets. The great dealers in this world may be divided into the ambitious, the covetous, and the voluptuous; and that all these men sell themselves to be slaves, though to the vulgar it may seem a Stoical paradox, will appear to the wise so plain and obvious, that they will scarce think it deserves the labour of argumentation.

Let us first consider the ambitious; and those, both in their progress to greatness, and after the attaining of it. There is nothing truer than what Sallust says, * " Dominationis in alios servitium suum mercedem dant:" They are content to pay so great a price as their ,own servitude, to purchase the domination over others. The first thing they must resolve to sacrifice, is their whole time; they must never stop, nor ever turn aside, whilst they

• Fragm. cd. Maittaire, p. 116.

arc in the race of glory, no not like Atalanta for golden apples. Neither indeed can a man stop himself if he would, when he is in this career:

Fertur equis auriga, neque audit currus habenas *.

Pray, let us but consider a little, what mean, servile things men do for this imaginary food. Wc cannot fetch a greater example of it, than from the chief men of that nation which boasted most of liberty. To what pitiful baseness did the noblest Romans submit themselves, for the obtaining of a praetorship, or the consular dignity! They put on the habit of suppliants, and ran about on foot, and in dirt, through all the tribes, to beg voices; they flattered the poorest artisans; and carried a nomenclator with them, to whisper in their ear every man's name, lest they should mistake it in their salutations ; they shook the hand, and kissed the check, of every popular tradesman; they stood all day at every market in the publick places, to shew and ingratiate themselves to the rout; they employed all their friends to solicit for them; they kept open tables in every street; they distributed wine, and bread, and money, even to the vilest of the people. "En Romanos rerum dominos t!" Behold the masters of the world begging from door to door! This particular humble way of greatness is now out

• Virg. Georg. i, 514. f Virg. jEn. i. 282.

of fashion; but yet every ambitious person is still in some sort a Roman candidate. He must feast and bribe, and attend and flatter, and adore many beasts, though not the beast with many heads. Catiline, who was so proud that he could not content himself with a less power than Syllu's, was yet so humble, for the attaining of it, as to make himself the most contemptible of all servants; to be a publick bawd, to provide whores, and something worse, for all the young gentlemen of Rome, whose hot lusts and courages, and heads, he thought he might make use of. And, since I happen here to propose Catiline for my instance (though there be thousand of examples for the same thing), give me leave to transcribe the character which Cicero * gives of this noble slave, because it is a general description of all ambitious men, and which Machiavel perhaps would say ought to be the rule of their life and actions:

"This man (says he, as most of you may well remember) had many artificial touches and strokes, that looked like the beauty of great virtues; his intimate conversation was with the worst of men, and yet he seemed to be an admirer and lover of the best; he was furnished with all the nets of lust and luxury, and yet wanted not the arms of labour and industry: neither do I believe that there was ever any monster of nature composed out of so many different and disagreeing parts. Who more accept

• Oiat. pro M. Caelio.

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