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cause and effect, action and reaction; and pro- serve that deep sense of the sanctity of oaths duced that rapid corruption which Sallust de- for which Rome, in her better days, had been scribes with so much spirit-Mores majorum so distinguished. She had originally establishnon paulatim ut antea, sed torrentis modo pre-ed her political system on this fear of the gods; cipitati. Profligacy, venality, peculation, op- and the people continued, as appears from Livy, pression, succeed to that simplicity, patriotism, to practise the duties of their religion* (such as and high-minded disinterestedness, on which it was) more scrupulously than any other anthis nation had once so much valued itself, and cient nation. The most amiable of the Roman which had attracted the admiration of the world. patriots attributes the antecedent success and So that Rome, in the days of her pristine seve-grandeur of his country to their conviction, rity of manners, and Rome in the last period of her freedom, exhibits a stronger contrast than will be found between almost any two countries. This depravation does not refer to solitary instances, to the shamelessness of a Verres, or the profligacy of a Piso, but to the general practice of avowed corruption and systematic venality. By the just judgment of Providence, the enjoy. ment of the spoils brought home from the conquered nations corrupted the conquerors; and at length compelled Rome, in her turn, both to fly before her enemies, and to bow down her head under the most intolerable domestic yoke. Rome had no more the spirit to make any faint struggle for liberty after the death of Cæsar, than Greece after that of Alexander, though to each the occasion seemed to present itself. Neither state had virtue enough left to deserve, or even to desire to be free. The wisdom of Cato should, in the case of Rome, have discovered this and it should have spared him the fruit less attempt to restore liberty to a country which its vices had enslaved, and have preserved him, even on his own principles, from self-destruction.
that all events are directed by a Divine Power;t and Polybius, speaking merely as a politician, accuses some, in his age, of rashness and absurdity, for endeavouring to extirpate the fear of the gods; declaring, that what others held to be an object of disgrace, he believed to be the very thing by which the republic was sustained. He illustrates his position by adducing the conduct of the two great states, one of which, from its adoption of the doctrines of Epicurus had no sense of religion left, and consequently no reverence for the solemnities of an oath, which the other retained in its full force. If among the Greeks,' says he, a single talent only be intrusted to those who have the management of any of the public money, though they give ten written sureties, with as many seals, and twice as many witnesses, they are unable to discharge the trust reposed in them with integrity,
while the Romans, who, in their magistracies and embassies, disburse the greatest sums, are prevailed on by the single obligation of an oath, to perform their duty with inviolable honesty.'
In her subsequent total dereliction of this integrity, what a lesson does Rome hold out to Among the causes of the political servitude us, to be careful not to lose the influences of of Rome may be reckoned, in a considerable a purer religion! To guard, especially, against degree, the institution of the Pretorian bands, the fatal effects of a needless multiplication of who, in a great measure, governed both the oaths, and the light mode in which they are too Romans and the emperors. These Pretorian frequently administered! The citizens of Rome, bands presented the chief difficulty in the way in the days of the younger Cato, had no reof good emperors, some of whom they destroy-source left against this pressing evil, because it ed for attempting to reform them; and of the bad emperors they were the electors.
was in vain to inculcate a reverence for their gods, and to revive the influence of their religion. In perusing the Roman history, these, and But, if even the belief of false gods had the other causes of the decline and fall of the empower of conveying political and moral benefits, pire, should be carefully shown; the tendency of private vices to produce factions, and the tendency of factions to overthrow liberty; a spirit of dissension, and a rapid deterioration of morals, being in all states, the most deadly, and, indeed, the inseparable symptoms of expiring freedom. The no less baneful influence of arbitrary power, in the case of the many profligate and cruel emperors who succeeded, should be clearly pointed out.
It is also a salutary lesson on the hunger of conquest, and the vanity of ambition, to trace the Roman power, by its vast accession of territory, losing in solidity what it gained in expansion; furnishing a lasting example to future empires, who trust too much for the stability of their greatness to the deceitful splendour of remote acquisition, and the precarious support of distant colonial attachment.
which the dark system of atheism annihilated, how earnestly should we endeavour to remove and diffuse the ancient deference for the true religion, by teaching systematically and seriously, to our youth, the divine principles of that Christianity which, in better times, was the honourable practice of our forefathers, and which can alone restore a due veneration for the solemnity of oaths.§
* Nulla unquam respublica sanctior, nec bonis exemplis ditior fuit. † See Montague on the Rise and Fall of ancient Republics.
Hampton's Polybius, vol. ii. book 6. on the excellencies of the Roman government.
The admirable Hooker observes, that even the falsest religions were mixed with some truths, which had very notable effects.' Speaking of the dread of perjury in the ancient Romans, he adds. It was their burt untruly to attribute so great power to false gods, as that they were able to prosecute, with fearful tokens of divine revenge,
Above all, the fall of Rome may be attributed, the wilful violation of oaths and execrable blasphemies, in no small degree, to the progress, and, gra-offered by deriders of religion even unto those false gods. dually to the prevalence of the epicurean philo-Yet the right belief which they had, that to perjury vengeance is due, was not without good effect, as touching sophy, and to its effect in taking away that re- the course of their lives who feared the wilful violation verence for the gods, which alone could pre-of oaths. Ecclesiastical Polity,
rior at the conquest of Carthage; the friend of Scipio, and the follower of Fabius; and who is
Characters of historians, who were concerned in | said to be more experimentally acquainted with
the transactions which they record.
Or the modern writers of ancient history, the young reader will find that Rollint has, in one respect, the decided superiority; we mean in his practice of intermixing useful reflections on events and characters. But, we should strongly recommend the perusal of such portions of the original ancient historians, as a judicious preceptor would select. And, in reading historians, or politicians, ancient or modern, the most likely way to escape theories and fables, is to study those writers who were themselves actors in the scenes which they record.
the wars and politics of which he treats, than any other Greek. He is however, more authentic than entertaining; and the votaries of certain modern historians, who are satisfied with an epigram instead of a fact, who like turns of wit better than sound political reflections, and prefer an antithesis to truth, will not justly appreciate the merit of Polybius, whose love of authenticity induced him to make several voyages to the places of which his subjects led him to speak. CESAR, of whom it would be difficult to say, whether he planned his battles with more skill, fought them with more valour, or described them with more ability; or whether his sword Among the principal of these is-THUCYDIDES, or pen executed his purposes with more celerity whose opportunities of obtaining information, and effect; but, who will be less interesting to whose diligence in collecting it, and whose judg- the general reader, than to the statesman and ment and fidelity in recording it, have obtained soldier. His commentaries, indeed, will be pefor him the general suffrage of the best judges; rused with less advantage by the hereditary who had a considerable share in many of the successor of the sovereign of a settled constituevents which he records, having been an unfor- tion, than by those who are struggling with the tunate, though meritorious commander in the evils of civil commotion. JOINVILLE, whose life Peloponnesian war, of which he is the incompa- of his great master, saint Louis, is written with rable historian ;-whose chronological accuracy the spirit of the ancient nobles, and the vivid is derived from his early custom of preparing earnestness of one, who saw with interest what materials as the events arose; and whose ge- he describes with fidelity; having been companius confers as much honour, as his unmerited nion to the king in the expeditions which he reexile reflects disgrace, on his native Athens. In cords. PHILIPPE DE COMINES, who possessed, by popular governments, and in none perhaps so his personal concern in public affairs, all the much as in those of Greece, the ill effects or mis- avenues to the political and historical knowledge management at home have been too frequently of his time, and whose memoirs will be admired charged on those who have had the conduct of while acute penetration, sound sense, and solid armies abroad; and where a sacrifice must be judgment survive. DAVILA, who learned the art made, that of the absent is always the most easy. of war under that great master, Henry the fourth The integrity and patriotism of Thucydides, of France, and whose history of the civil wars however, were proof against the ingratitude of of that country furnishes a variety of valuable the republic. His work was as impartial as if matter; who possesses the happy talent of giving Athens had been just; like Clarendon, he de-interest to details, which would be dry in other voted the period of his banishment to the composition of a history, which was the glory of the country that banished him.-A model of candour, he wrote not for a party or a people, but for the world; not for the applause of his age, but the instruction of posterity. And though his energy, spirit, and variety must interest all readers of taste, statesmen will best know his value, and politicians will look up to him as a master.-XENOPHON, the Attic bee, equally admirable in whatever point of view he is considered; a consummate general, historian, and philosopher; who carried on the historic series of the Greek revolutions from the period at which Thucydides discontinued it; like him was driven into banishment from that country, of which he was so bright an ornament,—
hands; who brings before the eyes of the reader, every place which he describes, and every scene in which he was engaged; while his intimate knowledge of business, and of human nature, enables him to unveil with address, the myste ries of negotiation, and the subtleties of states. men. This excellent work is disgraced by the most disgusting panegyrics on the execrable Catharine di Medici, an offence against truth and virtue, too glaring to be atoned for by any sense of personal obligation. In consequence of this partiality, he speaks of the massacre of saint Bartholomew, as slightly as if it had been a merely common act of necessary rigour on a few criminals; an execution being the cool term by which he describes that tremendous deed.* GUICCIARDIN, a diplomatic historian, a lawyer, and a patriot; whose tedious orations and florid style cannot destroy the merit of his great work; the value of which is enhanced by the piety and The conductor and narrator of a retreat more probity of his own mind. SULLY, the intrepid honourable and more celebrated than the vic-warrior, the able financier, the uncorrupt minis. tories of other leaders; a writer, who is consi- ter, who generally regulated the deep designs dered by the first Roman critic, as the most ex- of the consummate statesman, by the inflexible quisite model of simplicity and elegance; and who in almost all the transactions which he relates, magna pars fuit.-POLYBIUS, trained to be the most elegant works of antiquity, Quintilian's Insti
And with his exil'd hours enrich'd the world!
a statesman in the Achæan league, and a war* The writer forbears to name living authors. VOL. II.
*Who can help regretting that the lustre of one of
tution of an Orator, should be in a similar manner tarnished by the most preposterous panegyrics on the em peror Domitian!
rules of religion and justice; whose memoirs | may be thought to bear rather hard on the fashould be read by ministers, to instruct them mous plenipotentiaries with whom he negotiated, how to serve kings; and by kings, to teach them and on the haughtiness of the allies who emhow to choose ministers. CARDINAL DE RETZ, ployed them, are written with much good sense, who delineates with accuracy and spirit the modesty, and temper. They present a striking principal actors in the wars of the Fronde, in reverse in the fortune of the imperious disturber which he himself had been a chief agent; who of Europe, fallen from his high estate.' He developes the dissimulation of courts, with the who had been used to give his orders from the skilfulness of an adept in the arts which he un- banks of the Po, the Danube, and the Tagus, is folds, yet affecting, while he portrays the arti seen reduced to supplicate for peace, and to exfices of others, a simplicity, the very reverse of change the insolence of triumph for the hope of his real character; while his levity in writing existence. Two Dutch burgomasters, haughtily retains so much of the licentiousness, and want inposing their own terms on a monarch who of moral and religious principle of his former had before filled France with admiration, and life, that he cannot be safely recommended to Europe with alarm. This reverse must impress those whose principles of judgment and conduct the mind of the reader, as it does that of the are not fixed. Yet, his characters of the two writer, with an affecting sense of that controlling famous cardinal prime ministers may be read Providence, which thus derides the madness of with advantage by those, whose business leads ambition, and the folly of worldly wisdom; that them to such studies. The reader of de Retz Providence which, in maintaining its character will find frequent occasion to recognise the ho- of being the abaser of the proud, produces, by mage which even impiety and vice pay to reli- means at first sight the most opposite, the acgion and virtue, while the abundant corruptions complishment of its own purposes; and renders of popery will call forth from every considerate the unprincipled lust of dominion the instrument protestant, devout sensations of gratitude to of its own humiliation. The difficulties of a neHeaven, for having delivered us from the tyran-gociator, who has to conclude an inglorious ny of a system, so favourable to the production though indispensable treaty, are feelingly deof the rankest abuses in the church, and the scribed, as well as the too natural, though hard grossest superstition in the people. TEMPLE, the fate of a minister, who is driven to such an unzealous negotiator of the triple alliance, and fortunate measure as that of being considered worthy, by his spirit and candour, to be the as- as the instrument of dishonour to his country. sociate of De Wit in that great business which His pious recognition of God, as the supreme was transacted between them, with the liberal disposer of events, is worthy of great praise. spirit, and honourable confidence of private The copious and fluent BURNET, whose diffuse, friendship. His writings give the clearest in. but interesting history of his own times, informs sight into the period and events of which he and pleases; though the loose texture of his treats; and his easy, though careless style, and slovenly narration would not now be tolerated well-bred manner, would come, almost more than in a newspaper; who saw a great deal, and any other, under the description of what may be wishes to have it thought that he saw every called the genteel, did not his vanity a little thing; whose egotism we forgive for the sake break the charm. None, however, except his of his frankness, and whose minuteness, for the political writings, are meant to be recommend- sake of his accuracy; who, if ever he exceeds, ed; his religious opinions being highly excep. it is always on the side of liberty and toleration; tionable and absurd. Yet it is but justice to an excess safe enough when the writer is soundadd, that his unambitious temper, his fondnessly loyal, and unquestionably pious; and more for private life, his enjoyment of its peace, and his taste for its pleasures, render his character interesting and amiable. The manners painting CLARENDON, the able chancellor, the exemplary minister, the inflexible patriot, who stemmed, almost singly, the torrent of vice, corruption, and venality; and who was not ashamed of being religious in a court which was ashamed of nothing else; whom the cabal hated for his integrity, and the court for his purity; a states-correspondents. man who might have had statues erected to him in any other period but in that in which he lived; would have reformed most other governments but that to which he belonged, and been supported by almost any king but him whom he had the misfortune to serve. Clarendon, the faithful biographer of his own life; the majestic and dignified historian of the grand rebellion; If, however, the historian be a compatriot, whose periods sometimes want beauty, but never and especially if he be a contemporary, even sense, though that sense is often wrapped up in though he was no actor in the drama, it is diffi an involution and perplexity which a little ob- cult for him not to range himself too uniformly scure it; whose style is weighty and significant, on one side or the other. The human mind has though somewhat retarded by the stateliness of a strong natural bias to adopt exclusive attachits march, and encumbered with a redundancy ment. Perhaps man may be defined to be an of words. TORCE, whose memoirs, though they | animal that delights in party. Yet we are in
especially safe when the reader is a prince. LADY RUSSEL, worthy of being the daughter of the virtuous Southampton; too fatally connected with the unhappy politics of the times; whose life was a practical illustration of her faith in the divine support, and of submission to the divine will; and whose letters, by their sound and sober piety, strong sense, and useful information, eclipse all those of her learned and distinguished
Reflections on History-Ancient Historians.
clined to believe that an historian, though he, may be partial and interested, yet if he be keen sighted and intelligent as to the facts of which he speaks, is, on the whole, a better witness than a more fair and candid, but worse informed man; because we may more easily calculate the degree of allowance to be made for partiality and prejudice, than we can estimate that which is to be made for defect of information. Of two evils, therefore, we should prefer a prejudiced, but well informed, to a more impartial, but less enlightened narrator.
inferior circumstances, serving to unite one event with another, which, to the ordinary reader, appear insignificant and dull. Again in the case of Pompey and Cæsar, the reflecting politician connects the triumphs of the latter with the political moral state of Rome. He bears in mind the luxurious habits of the patricians, who became the officers in Pompey's army; the gradual decay of public spirit, the licentiousness and venality of the capital, and the arts by which Cæsar had prepared his troops, while they were in Gaul, for the contention which he already When materials are fresh, they are more like-meditated for the empire of the world. He will, ly to be authentic; but, unfortunately, when it is more easy to obtain, it is often less safe to employ them. When the events are more remote, their authenticity is more difficult to ascertain; and, when they are near, the passions which they excite are more apt to warp the truth. Thus, what might be gained in accuracy by nearness of position, is liable to be lost in the partiality which that very position induces. The true point of vision is attained, when the eye and the object are placed at their due distance. The reader who comes to the perusal of the work, in a more unimpassioned frame than perhaps, the author wrote, will best collect the characters from the narrative, if fairly given.
Care should be taken not to extol shining characters in the gross, but to point out their weaknesses and errors; nor should the brilliant qualities of illustrious men be suffered to cast a veil over their vices, or so to fascinate the young reader, as to excite admiration of their very faults. Even in perusing sacred history, we should never extenuate, much less justify, the errors of great characters, but make them, at once, a ground for establishing the doctrine of general corruption, and for quickening our own vigilance. The weaknesses of the wisest, and the errors of the best, while they should be regarded with candour, must not be held up to imitation. It has been reasonably conjectured, that many acts of cruelty in Alexander, whose disposition was naturally merciful, were not a little owing to one of his preceptors having been early accustomed to call himself Phoenix, and his pupil Achilles; and thus to have habitually trained him to an imitation even of the vices of this ferocious hero.
in idea, see that world already vanquished, when he considers the profound policy of this conqueror, who on being appointed to the government of Gaul on both sides the Alps, by exciting the Gauls to solicit the same privileges with the Italians, opened to himself this double advantage :-the disturbance which this would occasion in Rome, would lift him into absolute power; while by his kindness and protection to these people, he gained an accession of strength to overthrow his competitor. The ordinary reader is satisfied with the battle of Pharsalia for the entertainment it affords, and admires the splendour of the triumphs, without considering these things as links that connect the events which are past with those which are to come.
The preceptor of the royal pupil will, probably, think it advisable to select for her perusal some of the lives of Plutarch. This author teaches two things excellently, antiquity and human nature. He would deserve admiration, were it only for that magazine of wisdom, condensed in the excellent sayings of so many great men, which he has recorded. Perhaps, all the historians together have not transmitted to us so many of the sage axioms and bon mots of ancient Greece and Rome. Yet, in his parallels-if that can be called a parallel which brings together two men who have commonly little or no resemblance, even the upright Plutarch exhibits something too much of the partiality lately noticed; the scale, whenever he weighs one of his own countrymen against a Roman, almost invariably inclining to the Greek side.
It may also be deemed useful to read to her a few select portions of Suetonius. Though he is an author utterly unfit to be put into youthful, A prince must not study history merely to and especially, into female hands, yet a judistore his memory with amusing narratives or cious instructor may select passages particuinsulated events, but with a view to trace the larly appropriated to a royal pupil. In truth, dependence of one event upon another. A com- the writings of the ancient authors of all classes, mon reader will be satisfied with knowing the historians, satirists, poets, and even moralists, exploits of Scipio or Hannibal, and will be suffi- are liable to the same objection, whether it be ciently entertained with the description of the Suetonius, or Plutarch, or Juvenal, or even the riches or beauty of such renowned cities as comparatively decorous Virgil, that we take in Carthage or Rome; but a prince (who is also a hand; the perusal cannot fail to suggest to every politician) studies history, in order to observe considerate, and especially to every female read. how ambition, operating on the breasts of two er, the obligations which we owe to Christianity, rival states, led to one war after another between independently of its higher ends, for having so these two states. By what steps the ruin of the raised the standard of morals and of manners, one, and the triumph of the other, were hastened as to have rendered almost too monstrous for or delayed; by what indications the final catas-belief, and too shocking for relation, in our days, trophe might have been antecedently known, or by what measures it might have been averted. He is interested not merely when a single event arises, but by the whole skill of the game; and he is on this account anxious to possess many
the familiar and uncensured incidents of ancient time. Suetonius paints with uncommon force, though too often with offensive grossness, the crimes of the emperors, with their subsequent miseries and punishments. Tyrants will always
detest history, and, of all historians, they will detest Suetonius.
wicked should be suffered to perish with their crimes.* Were this practice to be universally adopted, might we not presume to question whether even the illustrious name of Frederick the great would be as certain, as it is at present, of being carried down to posterity?
An authentic historian of a deceased tyrant must not, however, be confounded with the malevolent declaimer against royalty. But though the most arbitrary prince cannot prevent his own posthumous disgrace, yet an honest and conscientious Tacitus is the historian of philosophers, and historian will remember, that, while he is detail. the oracle of politicians. Highly valuable for ing the vices of a king, which it is his duty to his deep and acute reflections, in which neither enumerate, it is his duty also carefully to avoid the governors nor governed are spared; he is an bringing the office of the king into contempt. And, original and profound thinker, and is admirable while he is exposing the individual crime, he for the plenitude of his images, and the paucity should never lose sight of his respect for the au- of his words. His style is ardent, and his figures thority and station of him whose actions truth are bold. Vigour, brevity, and point, are its compels him to record in their real characters. characteristics. He throws out a stronger like. The contrary insidious practice has of late so ness of a flagitious Roman in three words, than much prevailed, that the young reader should be a diffuse writer would give in as many pages. put on his guard not to suffer his principles to be In his annals he is a faithful, occasionally, inundermined by the affectation of indignant vir- deed, a too faithful narrator; but he is also, at tue, mock patriotism, zeal for spurious liberty, the same time, an honest and indignant reprover and factitious morality. It is but justice to Mr. of the atrocious deeds which he records. In a Hume, against whose principles we have thought man passionately loving liberty, virtue, and his it a duty to bear our most decided testimony,* country, we pardon, while painting the ruin of to allow that. in the earlier periods of English each, those dark and sullen shades with which history, he carefully abstains from the vulgar he sometimes overcharges the picture. Had error of always ascribing the public calamity, he delineated happier times, his tints would prowhich he is relating, to the ambition or injus-bably have been of a lighter cast. tice of kings; but often attributes it, where it is often more justly due, to the insolence and oppression of the barons, or the turbulence and insubordination of the people. If he errs, it is on the contrary side.
If he ever deceives, he does not, at least, ever appear to intend it; for he gives rumours as rumours, and his facts he generally grounds on the concurrent testimony of the times of which he writes. If, however Tacitus fulfils one of the two duties which he himself prescribes to historians, that of writing without fear, he does not uniformly accomplish the other, that of writing without hatred; at least neither his veracity nor his candour extended to his remarks on the Jews or Christians.
But let those licentious anarchists, who delight to retail insipid jests, or to publish unqua. lified libels on kings as kings, cast their eyes on an uninterrupted succession of five illustrious Roman emperors, who, though not exempt from faults, some of them from vices, chiefly attributable to paganism, yet exhibit such an unbro- But, with all his diffuseness Livy is the wriken continuity of great talents and great qualiter who assists in forming the taste.-With all ties, as it would, perhaps, be difficult to find in his warmth, there is a beautiful sobriety in his any private family for five successive genera- narrations; he does not magnify the action, he tions. relates it, and pours forth, from a full urn, a copious and continued stream of varied elegance. He directs the judgment, by passing over slight things in a slight manner, and dwelling only on the prominent parts of his subject, though he has been accused of some important omissions. He keeps the attention always alive, by exhibiting passions as well as actions; and what best indicates the hand of a master, we hang suspended on the event of his narrative, as if it were a fiction, of which the catastrophe is in the power of the writer, rather than a real history, with whose termination we are already acquainted. He is admirable no less for his humanity than his patriotism; and he is one of the few historians, who have marked the broad line of discrimination between true and false glory, not erecting pomps, triumphs, and victories, into essentials of real greatness. He teaches patience under censure, inculcates a contempt
The candour of our excellent queen Mary,t towards the biographers of princes, was exemplary. When with an intention probably to sooth the royal ear, some persons in her presence, severely condemned certain historians who had made reflections dishonourable to the memory of princes, she observed that if the princes had given just ground for censure, the authors had done well to represent them fairly; and that other sovereigns must expect to be dealt with in the same manner, if they gave the same cause. She had even the magnanimity to wish, that all such princes would read Procopius, (an author too much addicted to blacken the memory of kings,) because,' she observed, however he might have exaggerated the vices he described, it would be a salutary lesson to future princes, that they themselves must expect the same treatment, when all restraint was taken off, and the dread of their power terminated with their lives.'
* Examen du Prince de Machiavel by the king of PrusThe late king of Prussia, who united the cha-sia. It is curious to compare this composition of the king with his own conduct. To contrast his strong racter of an author to that of a warrior, was of reprobation of the baneful glory of heroes, his horror another way of thinking. He was of opinion, of conquest, and of the cruel passions which oppress that the names of good princes alone should be mankind; his professed admiration of clemency, meekness, justice, and compassion, with which this work recorded in history; and that those of the abounds,-with the actual exploits of the ravager of tho * In chap. xi † In chap. viii. fertile plains of Saxony, &c. &c.!!