Page images

to it, I think the chief are those that affe&t the consular power, which had only the ornaments without the force of the regal authority. Their number had not a casting voice in it; for which reason, if one did not chance to be employed abroad, while the other sat at home, the public business was sometimes at a ftand, while the consuls pulled two different


in it. Besides, I do not find that the consuls had ever a negative voice in the passing of a law, or decree of fenate, so that indeed they were rather the chief body of the nobility, or the first ministers of ftate, than a distinct branch of the sovereignty, in which none can be looked upon as a part, who are not a part of the legislature. Had the confuls been invested with the regal authority to as great a degree as our monarchs, there would never have been any occasions for a dictatorship, which had in it the power of all the three orders, and ended in the subversion of the whole conftitution.

Such an history as that of Suetonius, which gives us a succession of absolute princes, is to me an unanswerable argument against despotic power. Where the prince is a man of wisdom and virtue, it is indeed happy for his people that he is absolute; but since in the common run of mankind, for one that is wise and good you find ten of a contrary character, it is very dangerous for a nation to stand to its chance, or to have its public happiness or misery depend on the virtues or vices of a single person. Look into the history I have mentioned, or into any series of abfolute princes, how many tyrants must you read through, before you come to an emperor that is supportable. But this is not all; an honest private man often grows cruel and abandoned, when converted into an absolute prince. Give a man power of doing what he pleases with impunity, you extinguish his fear, and consequently

overturn in him one of the great pillars of morality. This too we find confirmed by matter of fact, How many hopeful heirs apparent to grand empires, when in the possession of them, have become such monsters of luft and cruelty as are a reproach to human nature.

Some tell us we ought to make our governments on earth like that in heaven, which, fay they, is altogether monarchical and unlimited. Was man like his Creator in goodness and justice, I should be for following this great



model; but where goodness and justice are not essential to the ruler, I would by no means put myself into his hands to be disposed of according to his particular will and pleasure.

It is odd to consider the connexion between defpotic government and barbarity, and how the making of one person more than man, makes the rest lefs. About nine parts of the world in ten are in the lowest state of slavery, and consequently funk in the most grofs and brutal ignorance. European flavery is indeed a state of liberty, if compared with that which prevails in the other three divisions of the world ; and therefore it is no wonder that those who grovel under it have many tracks of light among them, of which the others are wholly destitute.

Riches and plenty are the natural fruits of liberty, and where these abound, learning and all the liberal arts will immediately lift up their heads and flourish.

As a man muft have no flavish fears and apprehensions hanging upon his mind, who will indulge the flights of fancy or fpeculation, and push his researches into all the abstruse corners of truth, so it is necessary for him to have about him a competency of all the conveniencies of life.

The first thing every one looks after, is to provide himself with necessaries. This point will ingrofs our thoughts until it be satisfied. If this is taken care of to our hands, we look out for pleasures and amusements; and among a great number of idle people, there will be many whose pleasures will lie in reading and contemplation. These are the two great sources of knowledge, and as men grow wise they naturally love to communicate their discoveries; and others seeing the happiness of such a learned life, and improving by their conversation, emulate, imitate, and surpass one another, until a nation is filled with races of wife and understanding perfons. Ease and plenty are therefore the


cherishers of knowledge: and as most of the despotic governments of the world have neither of them, they are naturally over-run with ignorance and barbarity. In Europe, indeed, notwithstanding several of its princes are absolute, there are men famous for kncu'ledge and learning; but the reason is because the subjects are many of then rich and wealthy, the prince not thinking fit to exert himself in his full tyranny like the



princes of the eastern nations, left his subjects should be invited to new-mould their constitution, having so many prospects of liberty within their view. But in all despotic governments, though a particular prince may favour arts and letters, there is a natural degeneracy of mankind, as you may obferve from Auguftus's reign, how the Romans lost themselves by degrees until they fell to an equality with the most barbarous nations that surrounded them. Look upon Greece under its free ftates, and your would think its inhabitants lived in different climates, and under different heavens, from those at present; fo different are the geniuses which are formed under Turkish slavery, and Grecian liberty,

Besides poverty and want, there are other reasons that debase the minds of men, who live under slavery, though I look on this as the principal. This natural tendency of despotic power to ignorance and barbarity, though not inlifted upon by others, is, I think, an unanswerable argument against that form of government, as it shews how repugnant it is to the good of mankind, and the perfection of human nature, which ought to be the great ends of all civil institutions.


[ocr errors][merged small]

N° 288

Wednesday, January 30.

- Pavor eft utrique molefbus. Hor. Ep. 6.1. 1. ver. 10.

Both fear alike.


[ocr errors]

• Mr. Spectator,

HEN you: spoke of the jilts and coquettes, you then promised to be very impartial, and not to spare even your own sex, should

any of • their secret or open faults come under your cogni

zance; which has given me encouragement to describe a certain species of mankind under the denomination of male jilts. They are gentlemen who do not design

to marry, yet, that they may appear to have some sense of gallantry, think they must pay their devoirs to one * particular fair; in order to which they single out from

amongst the herd of females her to whom they design, • to make their fruitless addresses. This done, they first

take every opportunity of being in her company, and • then never fail upon all occasions to be particular to, • her, laying themselves at her feet, protesting the reali.. ty of their passion with a thousand oaths, foliciting a

Feturn, and saying as many fine things as their stock of wit will allow; and if they are not deficient that

way, generally speak so as to admit of a double inter• pretation ; which the credulous fair is too apt to turn to • her own advantage, since it frequently happens to be

a raw, innocent, young creature, who thinks. all the • world as fincere as herself, and so her unwary heart, becomes an easy prey to those deceitful monsters, who.

no fooner perceive it, but immediately they grow cool, ' and shun her whom they before seemed so much to ad· mire, and proceed to act the same common-place villainy " towards another. A coxcomb fushed with many of

these infamous, victories thall fay he is sorry for the poor fools, protest and vow he never thought of matrimony, and wonder talking civilly can be lo strangely mif


[ocr errors]



'interpreted. Now, Mr. Spectator, you that are a

professed friend to love, will, I hope, obferve upon those who abuse that noble passion, and raise it in innocent minds by a deceitful affectation of it, after which they desert the enamoured. Pray bestow a little of your counsel to those fond believing females who already have or are in danger of broken hearts ;

in which you will oblige a great part of this town, but • in a particular manner, Sir, your (yet heart-whole) admirer, and devoted humble servant,

« Melainia.'

[ocr errors]

Melainia's complaint is occafioned by fo general a folly, that it is wonderful one could so long overlook it. But this false gallantry proceeds from an impotence of mind, which makes those who are guilty of it incapable of pursuing what they themselves approve. Many a man wishes a woman his wife whom he dare not take for fuch. Though no one has power over his inclinations or fortunes, he is a slave to common fame. For this season I think Melainia gives them too soft a name in that of male coquets. I know not why irresolution of mind should not be more contemptible than impotence of body; and these frivolous admirers would be but tenderly used, in being only included in the same term with the insufficient another way. They whom my correspondent calls male coquets, should hereafter be called fribblers. A fribbler is one who professes rapture and admi. ration for the woman to whom he addresses, and dreads nothing so much as her confent. His heart can flutter by the force of imagination, but cannot fix from the force of judgment. It is not uncommon for the parents of young women of moderate fortune to wink at the ad-dresses of fribblers, and expose their children to the ambiguous behaviour which Melainia complains of, ut til by the fondness to one they are to lose, they' become incapable of love towards others, and by consequence in their future inarriage lead a joyless or a miferable life. As therefore I fall in the speculations which regard love be as severe as I ought on jilts and G4


« PreviousContinue »