common-place book: A book in which things to be remembered are ranged under general heads.

Samuel Johnson, Dictionary


When Josiah Quincy Junior began a new commonplace book in June 1770 he wanted to be sure that he collected his thoughts carefully. He recorded those thoughts in a light brown, leather-bound book 7 3/8 inches tall by 6 inches wide.1 For Quincy as for other Patriots like John Adams and John Dickinson, maxims were self-evident truths, axiomatic expressions of the incontestable. They had served a similar purpose for John Locke and, before him, for Francis Bacon. Quincy’s first few entries, taken from Bacon, Baron Bielfield and David Hume, were reminders about the need for meticulous study and due consideration. Quincy copied passages into the commonplace book over a four-year stretch and turned to those excerpts when shaping his arguments for the Patriot cause. He filled in blank pages and went back to earlier entries to squeeze in another quote or paraphrase, or to refer himself to other thoughts on other pages.

Quincy did not move chronologically through his sources, from the classics to more recent writers, nor did he proceed in thematic order, exhausting one subject before addressing the next.2 At first glance there may not appear to be a pattern to his note taking. But there is. It is detectable in his underlinings, cross-references, interjections, index, and, most especially, in the topical headings that he recorded to the left of most entries. Readers who run their eyes down those columns, as Quincy himself might have done while preparing his essays, will see the same words and phrases again and again: power and corruption, princes and tyranny, standing armies and militia, the duty of rulers and need for political virtue, submission and the right of resistance, representative government and freedom, Quincy’s condensed Latin phrase “Obsta Prin.”3—to be resolute from the beginning, and even “NB”—for nota bene, or to note well.

It is here that we also see the ideological underpinnings of Quincy’s political creed: not in a single source or from a particular era, not drawn from one tradition of thought but compiled from many. When Quincy warned of the danger of standing armies he quoted from Edward Montagu, a contemporary Englishman who studied the ancient republics, and from Thomas Gordon’s discourses on Sallust and Tacitus that focused so intently on Caesar’s Rome. He quoted, too, from William Robertson’s histories—both of Scotland and of Charles V, from Catharine Macaulay on seventeenth-century England, and from members of the British House of Commons in the 1740s who inveighed against tyranny in their own age by adverting to antiquity. When warning against complacency and trusting government too much, Quincy quoted as readily from Plutarch on Athens and Rome as he did Arthur Young on Great Britain in the 1770s.

To read the commonplace book is to enter Josiah Quincy’s political world. I have therefore kept editorial intrusions to a minimum, with the following exceptions. Entries that Quincy squeezed into the margins I moved to the body of the text and marked with a superscript §. Quincy often wrote the runic thorn “ye” for “the” and “yt” for “that,” a shorthand that I changed to the more familiar forms. I altered “comon” to “common” for the same reason. Where Quincy abbreviated, I expanded to full length. I also substituted “and” whenever Quincy used “&.” Those few words that Quincy habitually misspelled (such as reversing the ie in “chief” and writing “president” for “precedent”) or misconstructed (writing the contraction “it’s” when he should have used the possessive pronoun “its”) I corrected. Quincy’s underlined passages are italicized throughout. Otherwise, I changed very little and did not aim for perfect consistency: readers will encounter “publick,” as Quincy and some of his sources spelled it, as well as “public,” the spelling in other sources.

Quincy sometimes paraphrased passages and quite often underlined words or phrases that were not highlighted in the original, and he capitalized as he felt inclined. I let all of that stand, since my purpose is to allow readers to see what was important to Quincy, not reproduce the source as he found it. Even if he started in the middle of a passage I thought it best not to insert the rest of that sentence. Quincy occasionally interjected comments. They, of course, have no source citations and usually took the form of a one line “Query.” I have marked with [Quincy] those few places where there might otherwise have been confusion about authorship. All of the topical headings in the margins are Quincy’s, as are the scattered cross-references to other pages in the text. The numbers in parentheses are for the original pages of the commonplace book. Quincy placed them at the outer top corner of each page; I have moved them to the center and bottom.

To assist the reader in finding Quincy’s sources, I clarified and standardized the citations at the end of each entry. Quincy made his entries for himself, not a future generation, and his citations could be fairly cryptic. For example, he drew heavily from David Hume’s Essays but he did not identify which ones. He just listed the page numbers for the 1758 edition from which he quoted and to which he could easily return. I have inserted the essay titles so that readers who only have access to later editions can find the relevant passages. Similarly, I included various individuals and dates for parliamentary debates that Quincy left out. All source references are in a short title form of my devising. Full bibliographical information can be found in the next chapter. In those few instances where Quincy was off by a page or two in his citations I made the correction silently. Volume and page numbers in brackets refer to editions that I used when the originals were unavailable or, despite my digging, simply could not be identified. In a few places Quincy gave no page numbers; those are also the places where he was most likely to paraphrase, perhaps because he worked from memory. In those instances the bracketed numbers to modern editions show what passages he might have had in mind when he made his entry.

Quincy copied a long excerpt from John Dickinson’s 1774 Essay on constitutional power in the British empire and placed it at the end of aphorisms he had gleaned from Francis Bacon’s Advancement of Learning. He also copied passages out of Daines Barrington’s Observations on English law and inserted them as the last entry in the commonplace book. Quincy probably put Barrington’s passages there because of a shortage of space in the section ended at p. 234; the Dickinson passage is considerably longer than the other entries in the aphorism section. I moved both, so that the Dickinson excerpts, which appear on pp. 266, 268, and 272 in Quincy’s numbering,4 now follow the entries that end on p. 234. The Barrington excerpts follow those from Dickinson. Thematically, both fit better with this material.

Quincy’s entries on p. 47 of the commonplace book. They are typical of Quincy’s style, where direct quotations are altered only slightly—as in the third paragraph here, with the underlined passage from Plutarch. Note too the subject headings in the margin as well as Quincy’s shortened source citations (thus the first paragraph notation for volume 5, p. 194, from the Langhornes’s edition of Plutarch, on Tiberius Gracchus).

Quincy left pp. 235–236 blank. From pp. 237–272 he entered “Antitheta Rerum” (in essence, the pro and con of things), which were excerpts that he copied out of Bacon’s Advancement of Learning.5 Bacon worked through nearly fifty subject areas, such as pride, praise, and knowledge, giving the positive and negative side to each. Just as Bacon worried that commonplace books could devolve into collections of empty platitudes—anthologies giving the appearance rather than the substance of great learning, he worried that his readers would copy his words without improving their understanding. Quincy understood that fear. He only copied eleven of the categories and he did not give all of the same examples included by Bacon. He also added three of his own categories: flattery, antiquity, and precedents. A handful of the entries in this section appear to have been made by Josiah the Mayor years later, showing that he made use of his father’s jottings (see pp. 250, 255 and 260).

Quincy made no entries between pp. 273–299 and 304–329. Beginning on p. 330, he added an index that continued for thirty-one unnumbered pages, which I have included. Page numbers there refer to the commonplace book pages in parentheses, not the numbers at the top of each page.


Josiah Quincy junr., June 1770


should remember—that the greatest of all sacrifices

is the

Sacrifice of TIME.6

The first quality that is necessary to a disputant, is reason, and the next, moderation; in what manner soever the contest is conducted, these two qualities should constantly be manifest during the whole course of Altercation. Bielfield, Universal Erudition, 1:60.

Let the Student

Guard against that austerity which is the companion of Solitude.

Or rather, in the words of the admirable Plato,

Let him habitually remember,

“Haughtiness lives under the same roof with solitude.”7


Crafty men contemn studies, simple men admire them, and wise men use them.8 Read not to contradict and confute, nor to believe, and take for granted, nor to find talk and discourse—but to weigh and consider. Bacon, “Of Studies,” Essays, [12:252].

Such an infinite superiority do the pursuits of literature possess above every other human occupation, that even he, who attains but a mediocrity in them, deserves the pre-eminence above those who excell the most in the common and vulgar professions. Hume, History, James I [5:132].

There is no method of reasoning more common, and yet none more blameable, than in philosophical debates, to endeavour the refutation of any hypothesis, by a pretext of its dangerous consequences to religion and morality. When any opinion leads into absurdities, ’tis certainly false; but ’tis not certain that an opinion is false, because ’tis of dangerous consequence. Such topics, therefore, ought


to be entirely forborne; as serving nothing to the discovery of truth, but only to make the person of an antagonist odious. Hume, “Of Liberty and Necessity,” Essays, p. 336.

Each Profession has a peculiar vice and dangerous inconvenience attached to it. Voltaire, Pupil of Nature, p. 170.


“Corruption will never want a pretence.” Cato the Younger (of Utica) Langhorne, Plutarch’s Lives, 5:59.§

Luxury and Corruption see p. 89

and a fondness for diversions, in times of affluence and peace, will assume the specious names of politeness, taste and magnificence. Corruption will put on different masks. In the corruptors it will be termed able management, encouraging the friends of the administration, and cementing a mutual harmony, and mutual dependance between the three different states of the government. In the corrupted, it will be denominated loyalty, attachment to the govern-


ment, and prudence in providing for one’s own family. In such times, these evils will gain a fresh accession of strength from their very effects; because corruption will occasion a greater circulation of the publick money; and the dissipations of luxury, by promoting trade, will gild over private vices with the plausible appearance of publick benefits. Montagu, Antient Republicks, p. 145.

A Standing Army

No despotick government can ever subsist without the support of that instrument of tyranny and oppression, a standing army. For all illegal power must ever be supported by the same means by which it was at first acquired. Ibid., p. 153.

Always agreeable to the views of arbitrary princes. Macaulay, History, 2:163.§

The Effects of Luxury

Philosophy lays this down as a fundamental and incontestable maxim, that all the most flourishing states owed


their ruin, sooner or later, to the effects of luxury; and all history, from the origin of mankind, confirms this truth by the evidence of facts to the highest degree of demonstration. Montagu, Antient Republicks, p. 221.

Maxim of Tyrants

Proceeding, therefore, upon the constant maxim of all tyrants, that idleness in the people is the parent of sedition, Tarquin exhausted them so much by the slavish drudgery, in which he kept them constantly employed at the publick works, that—from different causes—neither patricians, nor plebians, endeavoured to put a period to the common Calamities. Ibid., p. 234.

Justice is now called Faction. Macaulay, History, 1:4–5.§

Charge of Disaffection the recourse of bad ministers

This cant term, disaffection, is the watch word of faction; and the charge of disaffection, that constant resource of iniquitous ministers, that infallible sign, that a cause will not stand the test of a fair inquiry, will be


see pp. 45, 46 post

perpetually employed by the tools of power to silence those objections, which they want argument to answer. Montagu, Antient Republicks, p. 275.

Proof of a Bad Administration needy governors of distant Provinces

There cannot be a stronger proof of a weak or a corrupt administration, than when indigent and necessitous men are appointed to the government of distant provinces, from no other motive, than party merit, and with no other view, than to raise a fortune at the expence of the people. Ibid., pp. 337–338.

Ignorance is less subject to Error than Knowledge

Ignorance, which judges by its feelings, is less subject to error, than the knowledge of the laws, which judges by opinion. Happy the nation, where the knowledge of the law is not a science! Beccaria, Essay, p. 53.

The Best heads are no judges in causes belonging to the jurisdiction of the heart. Critical Review, 1 (April 1756):222.


Effects of time on Government and the Wisdom of Ages

All governments and societies of men do in progress of long time gather an irregularity, and wear away much of their primitive institution. And therefore the true wisdom of all ages hath been to review at fit periods, those errors, defects or excesses, that have insensibly crept on into the publick administration; to brush the dust of the wheels, and oyl them again, or if it be advisable to chuse a set of new ones. Marvell, Rehearsal Transpros’d, Part II, p. 191.

Common People: of their feelings and judgment

The common People in all places partake so much of sense and nature, that could they be imagined and contrived to be irrational, yet they would ferment and tumultuate at last for their own preservation. Yet neither do they want the use of reason, and perhaps their aggregated judgment discerns most truly the errors of government, for as much as they are the first to be sure, that smart under them. In this only they come to be short-sighted, that though they know the diseases, they understand not the remedies; and though good patients, they are ill physicians. Ibid., p. 193.

Those who are underdecks, being at present unfit for higher employments, may perceive those leaks which will inevitably sink a weak and ill-compacted vessell. Remonstrance and petition to the Massachusetts Bay General Court, 1646; Hutchinson, Collection, p. 188.§


Of States, Laws and Education

It hath been an ancient complaint drawn down from the best and wisest times, even to our age, that States were too busie with their Laws and too negligent in point of Education. Bacon, Advancement of Learning, Book I [6:109].

A great Faculty of active life

He that cannot contract the light of his mind, as he doth the eye of his body, as well as disperse and dilate it, wants a great faculty for an active course of life. Ibid. [6:113].

It becomes not subjects by bent and inquisitive observations, to penetrate into the hearts of kings, which the scripture hath declared to be inscrutable. Ibid. [6:114] Strange doctrine from so great a man! [Quincy]

Of laws vide (my) vol. I: 63&c

Laws are the instruments and sinews of All blessings. A law ought to give warning before it strikes: and it is a good rule, That is the best law which gives least liberty to the arbitrage of the Judge. Ibid., Book VIII [9:313, 314].9


There are times wherein too great virtues are exposed to certain ruin. Cites Tacitus, History. Ibid. [9:263].

Gen. 49

Of the different Effects of good Government and Oppression

The blessing of Judah and Issachar will never meet. That the same tribe or nation should be both the lionswhelp, and the Ass between burdens; neither will it be that a people overlaid with taxes, should ever become valiant, and martial. It is true, that taxes levied by publick consent of the estate do depress and abate men’s courage less; as a man may plainly see in the tributes of the Low-countries, which they call excises; and in some degree in those contributions which they call subsidies in England. For you must note that we speak now of the heart and not of the purse; so that although the same tribute conferred by consent or imposed by command, be all one to the purse, yet it works diversly upon the courage. Therefore set down this too as a principle,


that no people overcharged with tribute is fit for empire. Ibid. [9:302].

Of the Nobility, Gentry, and Common People

Let States and kingdoms that aim at Greatness by all means take heed how the Nobility and Grandees, and those which we call Gentlemen, multiply too fast; for that makes the common subject grow to be a Peasant and Base-swain driven out of heart, and in effect nothing else but the Nobleman’s bond slaves and labourers. Even as you may see in Coppice-wood, if you leave your staddles too thick, you shall never have clean underwood, but shrubs and bushes: So in a country, if the Nobility be too many, the Commons will be base and heartless, and you will bring it to this, that not the hundreth pole will be fit for an helmet; especially as to the Infantry, which is the nerve of an army; And so there will be great population and little strength. Ibid. [9:302–303].10

See Pym’s argument against Strafford in Macaulay, History, 2:434.§


Effects of Dominion

The dominion of the Romans, like that of all great Empires, degraded and debased the human species. Robertson, Charles V, 1:3.

Protection necessary to the Progress of the Sciences

If men do not enjoy the protection of regular government, together with the certainty of personal security which naturally flows from it; they never attempt to make progress in science, nor aim at attaining refinement in taste, or in manners. Ibid., 1:18.

Societies more tenacious of Power &c than Individuals vide post 53, 54 90, 91, 177

To abandon usurped power, to renounce lucrative error, are sacrifices, which the virtue of individuals, has, on some occasions, offered to truth; but from any society of men, no such effort can be expected. The corruptions of society, recommended by common utility, and justified by universal practice, are viewed by its members, without shame or horror; and Reformation never proceeds from themselves, but is always forced upon them by some foreign hand. Robertson, Scotland, 1:167.


The Effects and Danger of regular Troops

A small body of troops, maintained in constant pay, and rendered formidable by regular discipline, had checked the progress of a martial people, though animated with zeal both for religion and liberty. The smallest addition to their number, and a considerable was daily expected, might prove fatal to public liberty, and Scotland might be exposed to the danger of being reduced from an independent kingdom, to the mean condition of a province, annexed to the empire of its powerful ally. Ibid., 1:198.

Royal Arts to weaken and divide adversaries

By private solicitations and promises, she shook the ardor of some. By open reproach and accusation, she blasted the reputation, and diminished the authority of others. Her emissaries were every where at work, and not with-standing the zeal for religion and liberty, which then animated the nation, they seem to have laboured not without success. Ibid., 1:202.


The Discussion of a warlike People of their Duty to Tyrannical Princes

Strangers to those forms, which protract business; unacquainted with the arts, which make a figure in debate; and much more fitted for action, than discourse; a warlike people always hasten to a conclusion, and bring their deliberations to the shortest issue. It was the work but of one day, to examine and resolve this nice question, concerning the behaviour of subjects towards a ruler who abuses his power. But however abrupt their proceedings may appear, they were not destitute of solemnity. As the determination of the point in doubt, was conceived to be no less the office of divines, than of laymen, the former were called to assist with their opinion. Knox and Willox appeared for the whole order, and pronounced, without hesitation, both from the precepts and examples in scripture, that it was lawfull for subjects not only to resist tyrannical princes, but deprive them of that


authority, which, in their hands, becomes an instrument for destroying those, whom the Almighty ordained them to protect. Ibid., 1:204–205.

A Right of Society and Duty of a Prince

Sir William Cecil, the great minister of Queen Elizabeth, lays it down as a principle, agreeable to the Laws both of God and of nature, that every society hath a right to defend itself, not only from present dangers, but from such as may probably insue; to which, he adds, that nature and reason teach every Prince to defend himself by the same means, which his adversaries employ to distress him. Ibid., 1:217.

In political conduct, it is childish to wait till the designs of an enemy be ripe for execution. Ibid., 1:219.

The affection of subjects—the firmest foundation of a Prince’s power, and the only genuine source of his happiness and glory. Ibid., 1:268.


Resistance to Princes see 129 219

This general doctrine of resistance—(to those soveriegns, who trespass against the duty which they owe to the people)—is just in its own nature, but delicate in its application to particular cases. See Ibid. 1:315.

Rizio discovered, in all his behaviour, that assuming insolence, with which unmerited prosperity inspires an ignoble mind. Ibid., 1:321.

Effects of Civil Discord, and Religious Zeal see 157, 48

All the miseries of civil war desolated the kingdom. Fellow-citizens, friends, brothers, took different sides, and ranged themselves under the standards of contending factions. In every county, and almost in every town and village, King’s-men and Queen’s-men were names of distinction. Political hatred dissolved all natural ties, and extinguished the reciprocal good will and confidence, which hold mankind together in society. Religious zeal mingled itself with these civil distinctions, and contributed not a little to heighten, and to inflame them. Ibid., 2:20.


Of the Insinuating and rapid Progress of Power

Experience had taught them with what insinuating progress, the hierarchy advances, and though admitted at first with moderate authority, and under specious pretences, how rapidly it extends its dominion. “Varnish over this scheme, said one of the leading Clergymen, with what colours you please; deck the intruder with the utmost art; under all this disguise, I see the horns of his mitre.” Ibid., 2:243.

Of Commerce and

Commerce tends to wear off those prejudices which maintain distinction and animosity between nations. It softens and polishes the manners of men. It unites them, by one of the strongest of all ties, the desire of supplying their mutual wants. It disposes them to peace, by establishing in every state an order of citizens bound by their interest to be the guardians of publick tranquility. As soon as the commercial spirit begins to acquire vigour, and to gain an ascendant in any society, we discover a


its Effects

new genius in its policy, its alliances, its wars, and its negociations. Conspicuous proofs of this occur in the history of the Italian States, of the Hanseatick league, and the cities of the Netherlands during the period under review. In proportion as commerce made its way into the different countries of Europe, they successively turned their attention to those Objects, and adopted those manners, which occupy and distinguish polished nations. Robertson, Charles V, 1:81–82.

Of the Rise, Progress.

Charles the 7th of France, under pretence of keeping always on foot a force sufficient to defend the kingdom against any sudden invasion of the English, at the time when he disbanded his other troops, retained under arms a body of 9000 cavalry and of 16,000 infantry.—Charles the 7th, by establishing the first standing army known in Europe, occasioned an important revolution


Consequence and Policy of standing Armies in Europe

in its affairs and policy.—France, by forming this body of regular troops, at a time when there was scarce a squadron or company kept in constant pay in any other part of Europe, acquired such advantages, either for attack or defence, over its neighbours, that self-preservation made it necessary to imitate its example. Mercenary troops were introduced into all the considerable kingdoms on the continent. They gradually became the only military force that was employed or trusted. It has long been the chief object of policy to increase and to support them, and the great aim of Princes or ministers to discredit and to annihilate all other means of national activity or defence. Ibid., 1:94–95.


See Gordon, Tacitus, 1:9.§

The qualities of that French Tryant who first discovered and practiced these fatal

Louis (the eleventh of France) was formed by nature to be a tyrant; at whatever period he had been called to ascend the throne, his reign must have abounden with schemes to oppress his people, and to render his own power absolute. Subtle, unfeeling, cruel; a stranger to every principle of integrity, and regardless of decency, he scorned all the restraints which a sense of honour, or the desire of fame, impose even on ambitious men. Sagacious, at the same time, to discern his true interest, and influenced by that alone, he was capable of pursuing it with a persevering industry, and of adhering to it with a sytematic spirit, from which no object could divert, and no danger could deter him.—This—was the first monarch in Europe who discovered the method of managing those great assemblies, in which


Arts of Corruption, which threaten Modern States with total loss of Civil Liberty

the feudal policy had vested the power of granting subsidies and of imposing taxes. He first taught other Princes the fatal art of beginning their attack on publick liberty, by corrupting the source from which it should flow. By exerting all his power and address in influencing the election of representatives, by bribing or overawing the members, and by various changes which he artfully made in the form of their deliberations, Louis acquired such entire direction of these assemblies, that, from being the vigilant guardians of the privileges and property of the people, he rendered them tamely subservient, in promoting the most odious measures of his reign. As no power remained to set bounds to his exactions, he not only continued all the taxes imposed by his father, but made


and social happiness

immense additions to them, which amounted to a sum that appeared astonishing to his contemporaries.—During the course of a single reign, France was formed into one compact kingdom, and the steady unrelenting policy of Louis XI. not only subdued the haughty spirit of the feudal nobles, but established a species of government, scarce less absolute, or less terrible, than eastern despotism. Ibid., 1:97, 100–101.

See Talbot, French Nation, 1:285–286.§

Highest Point of Ability; and Power of Reason

To invite when it is improper to constrain, to lead when it is improper to command, is the highest point of ability. Reason has a natural, nay, it has even a tyrannical sway; it meets with resistance, but this very resistance forms its triumph; for after a short struggle it forces an intire submission. Montesquieu, Spirit of the Laws, 2:310 (Book 28, Chapter 38).


Of Princes

The whole business and employment of princes consists in endeavouring to increase their power. Princes are not usually esteemed for their truth, justice and integrity, like other men, but for their power, and knowledge how to exert both force and fraud upon a happy conjuncture. De Witt, Political Maxims, pp. xxiii–xxiv.

A natural love of Freedom, lies latent in the breast of every rational being, till stifled by prejudice, or extinguished by the sordid allurements of private interest. Macaulay, History, 1:v.

Of the Love of Freedom

Individuals may err, but the public judgment is infallible. Ibid., 1:10.


Restraints on the freedom of Speech and Writing

There is not a more certain mark of an ill-designing or impotent administration, than attempts to restrain the liberty of speaking or writing. Virtue in high places is sure to gain the universal plaudit of mankind. Ibid., 2:58n. q.v.

Security of the People see pp. 66 67, 68, post

The civility of our laws tells us, that kings can do no wrong*; but the people are alone secure when the judges, their ministers, dare do none. Ibid., 2:400.

*See the sense of this Law and maxim well explained in ibid., 4:268n–269n.§

Of Treason

Mr. Maynard, in his pleadings against Strafford, asserted, that treason against the person of the prince fell short of treasons he had committed*: one prince might be succeeded by another; but when law and justice were taken from the throne, and Will placed in their stead, there was no hope of remedy.—to incite a prince to tyrannical acts was a greater offence, than to kill him: he might do otherwise with a fair reputation. Ibid., 2:421.

*Vizt.—Treason against the constitution and liberties of the Subject. See ibid., 2:423–428n.§


Of Dependent Parliaments

Dependent parliaments, the greatest curse the nation, can, in a political sense, be afflicted with. Ibid., 2:461n–462n.

*A Great Statesman

A character of the highest estimation in its just sense: but in that exalted appellation*, nothing more is meant by the vulgar than being a proficient in the narrow circle of ministerial juggling—the abilities of a Scapin, to cheat the credulous and unwary! A knowledge in the extensive science of politics, the different constitutions of different societies, the just interests of nations, and the operative effect which political institutions have on the public weal, when united to a head and a heart capable of employing it to the real service of mankind, constitute the character of a great Statesman. Ibid., 2:463–464.


Leaders of the People

Reviled as contemptible in number, and inconsiderable in fortune and reputation. Ibid., 3:326.

Of the Levelling Plan

Levellers—is an hackneyed term of reproach flung out on all occasions against the partisans of Liberty; both with a view to throw ridicule on their systems, as visionary and impracticable, and to engage the selfish affections of men in the cause of arbitrary and unequal dominion. The levelling plan, according to the insinuations of these scoffers, never was, nor ever can be adopted by men, who have accurate notions of a state of nature, or who are well informed in the science of government and the laws of society; for though the justice and wisdom of God has given equal and impartial privileges to the species in general, yet the difference which exists in the judgment, understanding, sagacity, genius and industry of individuals, creates superiority and inferiority of character, and produces a state of dependance from man to man. To preserve the natural subordination established by God himself and to keep that accumulation of property and influence


Of the Art of Policy

Of personal distinction and hereditary Privilege in States

which the different qualities of men occasion, from producing tyranny, and infringing the general rights of the species, lies the whole art of true and just policy. All political distinctions which are personal, however wisely and impartially distributed, are mischievous in their nature, because they give weight instead of ballance to the preponderating scale: but heriditary privileges are the mere establishments of selfishness, and attended with the most destructive consequences; since necessarily counteracting the laws of Providence, the vicious and the foolish bear rule over the wise and virtuous, the system of nature is not regulated but overturned, and those are prepostorously placed at the head of society, whose qualities often intitle them to no other than the most inferior station in it. Ibid., 4:332n.

Levellers—a brave and virtuous party. Ibid., 5:205n.


The true tenure of Kingship

Subjection to a sovereign is but a return for protection to the people, that that being denied by the king (Charles the first) subjection ought to be withheld, and the kingdom settled without him. By Commissary [Henry] Ireton in Parliament. Ibid., 4:344.

Genuine Foundation of Government

Government never can stand on better, never on firmer, never on more equitable grounds, than on its good behaviour. Just government will be felt, its advantages will be seen, its security will be fixed in the hearts of its subjects, not to be shaken by the fantastic or selfish ends of individuals. The experience of all times shews, that the people are with difficulty moved to assert their rights, even against the most obnoxious, the most oppressive tyrrannys. Ibid., 4:408–409.


Of the Proneness to disparage every Superior Profession

Deformity never appears so shocking as when compared with perfect beauty. Thus a truly pious man is, by every instance of his visible conduct, exposing to reproach some one or other, and by consequence provoking their resentment. It is for this reason, that men discover such a proneness to disparage every profession of piety superior to their own. How common is it to ascribe every such appearance to weakness or hypocrisy. In the generality of wicked men this is not so properly malice, as self-defence. If they should allow the excellence of such a character, it would be condemning themselves out of their own mouths. Witherspoon, Essays, 1:196–197.

The charge of SEDITION and FACTION against good men accounted for. Ibid., 1:196.

Of the Love

There is a love of dominion natural to all men, which is under no controul or restraint in those who are void of religion. This must naturally dispose them to carry on their schemes, and insist on having them universally complied with. It frets and provokes them,


Of Dominion

therefore, to find any who will not be subservient to their pleasures. A refusal to obey on a principle of conscience, is expressly setting bounds to their authority, and saying, Hitherto shalt thou go, but no further. How few are able to bear this with patience, the history of the world in every age is one continued proof. Ibid., 1:202.

Of the Advocates for Monarchy

Not only officers, courtiers, idle gentry, and soldiery, but also all those that would be such, knowing that under the worst government they use to fare best: because they hope that with impunity they may rifle and plunder the citizens and country people; and so by the corruption of the government inrich themselves, or attain to grandeur, they cry up monarchical government for their private interest, to the very heavens. De Witt, Political Maxims, p. 7.


Of Political Virtue

With regard to political virtues, prudence is the only source from whence they are all derived. Bielfield, Universal Erudition, 1:247.

Of Policy, in general

It is usefull to mankind to make the science of general policy their serious study; as their understanding will thereby always become more enlightened. They ought not however to place too great confidence in this study: reason is the guide that they should constantly follow in the career of life. Ibid., 1:353–354.

Happiness is the goal to which all human mortals press, and policy, in general, is the art of obtaining our end. Ibid., 1:354.

General policy is, in fact, the same as common prudence in the course of life: the art of conducting all our Actions in such a


manner as to make them truly useful, and we may Add, so as to merit the approbation of the wise and good. Ibid., 1:355.

Of general policy

In a word, general policy is a rational theory, a complete course of science for the right conduct of life; that teaches us to guide our bark through a sea that is constantly agitated, and frequently tempestuous; that directs us so to pass through life, that we may live in this world with security and integrity, religiously and agreeably, and in expectation of that true felicity which the divine mercy has prepared for us in eternity. Ibid., 1:358.


Of History

History, being the faithfull depository of all the actions, good and bad, of the whole race of mankind, who have lived in all ages, and have performed any distinguished part on the theatre of the world, forms the most powerfull incentive to virtue, and preservative from vice. The most successfull usurper, the most absolute and cruel tyrant would not have his memory appear loaded with infamy in the eyes of posterity. To cover the iniquity of his enterprises, he accompanies them with manifestoes, and other memoirs of justification. But history here tells him, that his efforts are vain, that the time will come when his iniquity will be unvailed, and the secret folds of his heart laid open; when neither the arts of his worthless ministers, nor the eulogies of venal pens, will be able to defend him: that posterity will be his judge; and that the only method


of obtaining a favourable sentence, is by performing worthy actions: that true glory is never to be found but in real merit: that history flatters not: that it treats the wicked even with an inexorable severity; and that it pays no respect to scepters or diadems. Ibid., 3:71–72.

Of Belief and Doubt

Credulity is the source of most errors, as doubt is the beginning of wisdom. It is therefore allowable to entertain a rational pyrrhonism concerning the relations of most travellers, and it is of the last importance to make a judicious choice of such as we propose to read: for the first accounts of any country, or people, make the strongest impressions on our minds, and if they should be false or erroneous, it is almost impossible for Us totally to


eradicate such impressions, but we shall continue to entertain these false ideas during the remainder of our lives. It is highly necessary, therefore, to be previously acquainted with the degree of reputation each writer of travels bears, for veracity, and for a judicious relation of facts. Ibid., 3:286–287.

Of the Policy and Spirit of Despotic Governments

The wretched state to which the Greeks are reduced by the Turks, renders them insolent, and, by a necessary consequence, ignorant. The policy of the Ottoman Porte does not permit its subjects to apply themselves to study; and that same spirit, which has destroyed the finest monuments of antiquity, which has made of columns of porphyry and granate, balls for their cannons, has caused the decadency and total destruction of the Sciences. Ibid., 3:341.


Of Sorcery &c.

Since phylosophy has confined sorcery to the wardrobe of ancient reveries; and since wise legislators have prohibited the tribunals from exercising their powers against it, and priests from pretending to exorcisms; there is no longer to be found in the world either demon, sorcerer, witch, conjurer, or sabbat. Ibid., 3:395.

Of Prejudice

There are some usefull and respectable prejudices in the world, which a wise man and a good citizen will never publicly expose; and if any one is rash enough to attempt it, he is worthy of chastisement. Ibid., 3:401.

The man who confines himself to his closet is but rarely visited by the sciences, the arts and belles lettres. To acquire their intimate acquaintance he must seek them in those places where Minerva, Pallas,


Of Emulation

Apollo and the Muses, have fixed their residence. Emulation, that strong impulse in the career of all our pursuits, should constantly attend the man of letters from his early youth to the last period of his life; in the school, at college, at the university, in those employments to which his knowledge may lead him, or in those academies of science to which he may be admitted. Emulation is an animating faculty that results from society: and few there are to whom nature has given a genius sufficiently strong to attain an extensive erudition in solitude; who are provided with wings that can bear them, without guides, without models, without companions or supports, to the lofty regions of the empyrean. Ibid., 3:403–404.


Situation of a Grand Vizier

A grand Vizier always finds himself, amongst the Turks, in a critical situation. He is intrusted with absolute power, but then he is responsible for the event. And if the success of his operations turns out contrary to the publick expectation, his head is cut off, or he is sent into exile; the merit of having projected well being always destroyed by the misfortune of not having succeeded. Laugier, Peace at Belgrade, p. 135.

Political Maxims

Spend no time (says Cardinal Fleury in his Letter to the Turkish Grand Vizier) in disputing who have been in the wrong; as the present juncture of affairs requires us to act rather than to reason—being truly desirous—of a solid pacification, we ought not take up time in examining which of the belligerent powers has been in the right or in the wrong; but only to consider on what conditions matters may be now settled. Ibid., pp. 137–138.


Each man (of Sparta) concluded that he was born, not for himself, but for his country. Langhorne, Plutarch’s Lives, 1:134 (Lycurgus).

see pp. 44, 47, 58, 98 201, 202

It would have been easier (said that sage law giver, the wise Solon) for them (the Athenians) to repress the advances of tyranny, and prevent its establishment; but now it was established and grown to some height, it would be more glorious to demolish it. Ibid., 1:240 (Solon).

Intrepid courage is the commencement of victory. Ibid., 1:291 (Themistocles).

Pericles considered that the freedom of entertainments takes away all distinction of office, and that dignity is but little consistent with familiarity. Ibid., 2:10 (Pericles).


It is the same want of judgment and skill that sometimes produces too much confidence, and sometimes leaves too little. Ibid., 2:98 (Pericles and Fabius Maximus Compared).

Of Bribes

It was a shrewd saying, whoever said it, “That the man who first ruined the Roman people, was he who first gave them treats and gratuities.” But this mischief crept secretly and gradually in. Ibid., 2:171 (Caius Marcius Coriolanus).

Political Virtues see p. 49

Gravity and mildness are the chief political virtues, and the fruits of reason and education. The man who applies himself to public business, and undertakes to converse with men, should, above all things, avoid that overbearing austerity, which (as Plato says) is always the companion of solitude, and cultivate in his heart the patience which some people so much deride. Ibid., 2:172 (Caius Marcius Coriolanus).


The generality of men are more apt to resent a contemptuous word than an unjust action, and can bear any other injury better than disgrace. Ibid., 2:248 (Timoleon).

No man ever began his attempts against government with an enormous crime; and the relaxing in the smallest matters, breaks down the fences of the greatest. Ibid., 2:260 (Paulus Amelius).

It was the maxim of Alexander and Phillip—to procure empire with money, and not money by empire, and, pursuing that maxim, they conquered the world. For it was a common saying “that it was not Phillip, but Phillip’s gold, that took the cities of Greece.” Ibid., 2:272 (Paulus Amelius).

The art of governing cities and commonwealths is the chief excellence of man; and it is generally agreed, that the art of governing a family, is no small ingredient in that excellence. Ibid., 2:495 (Aristides and Cato the Censor Compared).


Of Political Complaisance

There is a complaisance which pays attention to the great, and bears with easiness the pride of power, whenever private interest is concerned: this complaisance, however, is considered by some as no small part of politics. See Ibid., 3:173 (Lysander*).


*An Impious Butcher—a double-minded hypocrite. There is naturally (says Archbishop Leighton) a Popeness in every man’s mind, and most in the shallowest; a kind of fancied Infallibility in themselves, which makes them contentious and pertinacious. Stronger spirits are usually more patient of contradiction, and less violent, especially in doubtfull things; and they that see farthest are least peremptory in their determinations. Leighton, Expository Works, 1:468.

A Maxim of the Politician and Devil see pp. 89, 172, 190

Divide and conquer is the maxim of Satan, and all his followers:—and therefore (says the same good Archbishop) let us hold that Counter-maxim, Union Invincible. Ibid., 1:470.


Of Arms vide post 43, 45, 46 76

When the Argives had a dispute with Lysander about boundaries, and thought their plea better than that of the Lacedemonians, he showed them his sword, and said, “He that is master of this can best plead about boundaries.” Langhorne, Plutarch’s Lives, 3:198 (Lysander).

Compare and consider!§ [Quincy]


How much happier would it have been for Cicero if he had retired after the affair of Catiline; and for Scipio, if he had furled his sails, when he had added Numantia to Carthage. For there is a period when we should bid adieu to political contests; these, as well as those of wrestlers, being absurd, when the strength and vigour of life is gone. Ibid., 3:357 (Lucullus).


Of the Many

The multitude (says Plutarch) are afraid of those who despise them, and love to promote those who fear them; because in general the greatest honour they can hope to obtain is not to be despised by the great. Ibid., 3:374 (Nicias). But question of Plutarch’s meaning and see the whole passage. [Quincy]

In vain the glare of pomp proclaims me master; (sayd Agamemnon) I’m servant of the people. Ibid., 3:378 (Nicias).

But in seditions bad men rise to honour. Ibid., 3:388 (Nicias).

The worst of mortals may emerge to honour. Ibid., 4:297 (Alexander).

A Consideration for Politicans

He who wants to stand at the helm, should not consider what may expose him to envy, but what is great and glorious. Ibid., 3:471 (Nicias and Crassus Compared).


A rule for Statesmen

In a Commonwealth which retains any sentiments of virtue, he who has the lead, should not give place for a moment to persons of no principle; he should entrust no charge with those who want capacity, nor place any confidence in those who want honour. Ibid.

Of Political Complaisance and Civil dissensions

The great law-giver (Lycurgus) infused a spirit of ambition and contention into the Spartan constitution as an incentive to virtue, and wished always to see some difference and dispute among the good and virtuous. He thought that general complaisance, which leads men to yield to the next proposal, without exploring each other’s intentions, and without debating on the consequences, was an inert principle, and deserved not the name of harmony.—This point however must not be agreed without some exception; for violent dissentions are


pernicious to a state and productive of the greatest danger. Ibid., 4:69–70 (Agesilaus).

Of the Sword vide ante 40 post 45, 46 76

The Mamertines who were seated in Messina refused to appear before the tribunal of Pompey and acknowledge his jurisdiction, alledging that they stood excused by an antient privilege granted them by the Romans. “Will you never have done (said Pompey) with citing laws and privileges to men who wear swords.” Ibid., 4:126 (Pompey).

Compare and consider!§ [Quincy]

Of Characteristicks

It is not always in the most distinguished achievements that men’s virtues or vices may be best discerned; but very often an action of small note, a short saying, or a jest*, shall distinguish a person’s real character, more than the greatest sieges, or the most important battles. Ibid., 4:223 (Alexander). See same sentiment in ibid., 5:83 (Cato the Younger).

*Those finer and minuter traits, which characterize the man more than his most popular and splendid operations. Ibid., 4:403n.§ Translators’ note.


Of Caesar vide pp. 70, 58, 47, 98

When the popularity of Caesar was grown to such a height that it was scarce possible to demolish it, and had a plain tendency to the ruin of the constitution, people found out, when it was too late, that no beginnings of things, however small, are to be neglected; because continuance makes them great; and the very contempt they are held in, gives them an opportunity to gain that strength which cannot be resisted. Ibid., 4:328–329 (Caesar).

His Arts

Cicero seems to be the first who suspected something formidable from the flattering calm of Caesar’s political conduct, and saw deep and dangerous designs under the smiles of his benignity. “I perceive,” said the orator, “an inclination for tyranny in all he projects and executes.” Ibid.


The People Deceived

On the death of Caesar’s wife, the people sympathized with him—considered him as a man of great good nature, and one who had the social duties at heart. Ibid., 4:330 (Caesar).

Caesar unmasked

But when Lutatius Catulus, a man of the greatest reputation in Rome rose and accused Caesar, he uses this memorable expression, “you no longer attack the Commonwealth by mines, but by open battery.” Ibid., 4:331 (Caesar).

“The crafty policy of a man who aspires to be the tyrant of his country.” Macaulay, History, 5:78.§

Of Arms vide ante 40, 43 post 76

Metellus the tribune opposed Caesar’s taking money out of the public treasury, and alledged some laws against Caesar—who had an army at his heels—said, “Arms and laws do not flourish together. If you are not pleased with what I am about, you have nothing to do but to withdraw.

Compare and consider!§ [Quincy]


see pp. 3, 4 ante

“Indeed, war will not bear much liberty of speech. When I say this, I am departing from my own right: For you and all whom I have found exciting a spirit of faction against me, are at my disposal.” Saying this, he approached the doors of the treasury, and as the keys were not produced, he sent for his workmen to break them open. Langhorne, Plutarch’s Lives, 4:365 (Caesar).

Anarchy and Despotism

“Pompey (says Cato) holds it but one step from anarchy to Absolute Power.” Ibid., 5:91 (Cato the Younger)… This maxim has been verified in almost every state. Translators’ note, ibid.

Public Virtue

Lacedamon shewed that It is impossible for fortune to conquer virtue. Ibid., 5:183 (Cleomenes).


Of Soldiers

“Private soldiers fight and die, to advance the wealth and luxury of the great; and they are called masters of the world, while they have not a foot of ground in their possession.” Speech of Tiberius Gracchus from the Rostrum, Ibid., 5:194 (Tiberius Graachus).

Of the Love of Fame

A passion for fame has great power to efface the tinctures of philosophy; and infuse the passions of the vulgar into the minds of statesmen, who have a necessary connection and commerce with the multitude. Ibid., 5:308 (Cicero).

Of Power vide post p. 69

Caesar (Octavius) Lepidus and Antony shewed (by their execrable treatment of the immortal Cicero) that no beast is more savage than man, when he is possessed of power equal to his passion. Ibid, 5:323 (Cicero).


Of Power A Caveat for States

It is an observation no less just than common, that nothing makes so thorough a trial of a man’s disposition, as power and authority. For they awake every passion, and discover every latent vice. Ibid., 5:329 (Demosthenes and Cicero Compared).

A Maxim of Plato

It was a maxim of Plato, that the man who would be truly happy, should not study to enlarge his estate, but to contract his desires. For he who does not restrain his avarice, must forever be poor. Ibid., 5:365 (Demetrius).

Tyrants disregard the Prayers of their Subjects

The Macedonians looked for the protection of a king—but they found the insolence of a tyrant—For Demetrius disregarded their petitions. See ibid., 5:376 (Demetrius).

Alas America—! Remind GEORGE, whom the world call thy king, that future Plutarchs will record his reign. [Quincy]


Of Demetrius and the Old Woman

An Old woman was one day troublesome to Demetrius in the street, and begged wth great importunity to be heard. He said, “he was not at leisure.” “Then” cried the Old Woman, “you should not be a king.” Ibid., 5:376 (Demetrius).

Political Complaisance see p. 37

The complaisance which produces popularity, is the source of the greatest operations in Government—says Plato. See ibid., 6:7n (Dion), translators’ note.

Of the Bonds of Government

Fear and force, and fleets and armies, are not, (says Dion speaking to Dionysius, the son of Dionysius the tyrant) as your father called them, the adamantine chains of government; but that attention, that affection, that respect, which justice and goodness forever draw after them. These are the milder, but the stronger bonds of government. Ibid., 6:9 (Dion).


Of the Army

The city (Rome) was now (after the death of Julius Caesar) divided, into two factions: some joined Caesar, (Octavius) others remained with Antony,—And the Army was sold to the highest bidder. Ibid., 6:72 (Marcus Brutus).

True Glory

“On the ides of March (said Brutus to Cassius at their parting conference just before the battle of Philippi) I devoted my life to my country, and since that time I have lived in liberty and glory.”

“Let us march then (replied the high spirited Cassius, embracing his beloved friend) against the enemy; for with these resolutions, though we should not conquer, we have nothing to fear.” Ibid., 6:88 (Marcus Brutus).

NB. This reply of Cassius refers to the preceding part of the speech of Brutus. [Quincy]


Excesses of ministers imputed to the Sovereign

Galba had the greatest integrity of heart: but in the court of Galba appeared all the extortions of Nero’s reign: and as the rapacity and other excesses of his ministers were imparted to him, Galba was no less hated than if he had committed them himself. Ibid., 6:213n (Galba).

See Gordon, Tacitus, 3:19, 35, 38, 79.

Oh Britain! What an instructive lesson for thy Sovereign. [Quincy]

Of Society

In every human society, there is an effort continually tending to confer on one part the height of power and happiness, and to reduce the other to the extreme of weakness and misery. The intent of good laws is to oppose this effort, and& diffuse their influence universally, and equally. But men generally abandon the care of their most important concerns to the uncertain prudence, and direction of those, whose interest it is to reject the best, and wisest institutions; it is not till they have been led into a 1000 mistakes in matters the most essential to their liberties, and are weary of suffering, that &c. Beccaria, Crimes and Punishment, p. xi.


Of Provinces or Colonies

The provinces of absolute monarchies are always better treated than those of free states. Compare the Pais conquis of France with Ireland, and you will be convinced of this truth; though the latter kingdom being, in a good measure, people from England, possesses so many rights and privileges as should naturally make it challenge better treatment than that of a conquered province. Corsica is also an obvious instance to the same purpose. Hume, “That Politics may be reduced to a Science,” Essays, p. 14.

Maxim of Politicians

Political writers have established it as a maxim, that in contriving any system of government, and fixing the several checks and controuls of the constitution, every man ought to be supposed a knave, and to have no other end, in all his actions, but private interest.


By this interest we must govern him, and, by means of it, make him co-operate to public good, notwithstanding his insatiable avarice and ambition. Without this, say they, we shall in vain boast of the advantages of any constitution and shall find, in the End, that we have no security for our liberties or possessions, except the good will of Our rulers; that is, we shall have no security at all.

Self-Interest more predominant in Courts and

’Tis therefore a just political maxim, That every man must be supposed a knave; Though at the same time, it appears somewhat strange, that a maxim should be true in politicks, which is false in fact. But to satisfy us on this head, we may consider, that men are generally more honest in their private than in their public character, and will go greater lengths to serve a party, than when their own private interest is alone


Senates than in the Individual vide ante 9 post 90, 91 177

concerned. Honour is a great check upon mankind: But where a considerable body of men get together, this check is, in a great measure, removed; since a man is sure to be approved of by his own party, for what promotes the common interest, and he soon learns to despise the clamors of his adversaries. To which we may add, that every court or senate is determined by the majority; so that, if self-interest influences only the majority, (as it will always do) the whole senate follows the allurements of this seperate interest, and acts as if it contained not one member, who had any regard to public interest and liberty. Hume, “Of the Independency of Parliament,” ibid., p. 30.

Of the

The share of power allotted by our constitution to the house of Commons is so great, that it absolutely commands all the other parts of the government. The king’s legislative power is plainly no proper check to it. For though the king has a negative in the passing


British Constitution with

see post p. 107

of laws; yet this, in fact, is esteemed of so little moment, that whatever is voted by the two houses, is always sure to be passed into a law, and the royal assent is little better than mere form. The principal weight of the crown lies in the executive power. But besides that the executive power, in every government, is altogether subordinate to the legislative; besides this, I say, the exercise of this power requires an immense expence, and the commons have assumed to themselves the sole power of disposing the public money. How easy, therefore, would it be for that house to wrest from the crown all these powers, one after another, by making every grant of money conditional, and


A Solution of its Paradoxes

choosing their time so well, that their refusal of subsidies should only distress the government, without giving foreign powers any advantage over us? Did the house of Commons depend in the same manner on the king, and had none of its members any property but from his gift, would not he command all their resolutions, and be from that moment absolute?

How therefore shall we solve this Paradox? And by what means is this member of our constitution confined within proper limits; since, from our very constitution, it must necessarily have as much power as it demands, and can only be confined by itself. How is this consistent with our experience of human nature? I answer, that the interest of


the body is here restrained by the interest of the Individuals, and that the house of Commons stretches not its power; because such an usurpation would be contrary to the interest of the majority of its members. The Crown has so many offices in its disposal, that, &c. Ibid., p. 31.

70 years have passed since this prerogative (viz. the King’s rejection of bill passed by the Lords and Commons) has been made use of. Young, Political Essays, p. 44. Question the reason and see the book.§ [Quincy]

Deductions may be drawn and inferences made, from the four preceding pages of much importance to the British Colonies. [Quincy]


A Maxim in Policy

Obsta Principiis

vide pp. 70 44, 47, 207 36

’Tis a maxim in politics, which we readily admit as undisputed and universal, That a power, however great, when granted by law to an eminent magistrate, is not so dangerous to liberty, as an authority, however inconsiderable, which he acquires from violence and usurpation. By the same right that one prerogative is assumed without law, another may also be claimed, and another with still greater facility; while *the first usurpations both serve as precedents to the following, and give force to maintain them. Hence the heroism of Hampden, who sustained the whole violence of royal prosecution, rather than pay a tax of 20 shillings not imposed by parliament; hence the care of all English patriots to guard against the first encroachments of the crown; and hence alone the existence, at this day, of English liberty. Hume, “Of some remarkable Customs,” Essays, p. 207.

*See Macaulay, History of England, 5:8n, and vide Wilson, Reports, pp. 85–86.§ [Quincy]

NB. Impressing seamen is a departure from it. In this instance the exercise of an illegal power is permitted in the Crown.§


Of the Militia

Without a militia, ’tis folly to think any free government will ever have security or stability. Hume, “Idea of a perfect Commonwealth,” Essays, p. 278.

neglected—the Pretext for a Standing Army p. 122

Where the sword is in the hands of a single person—as in our constitution he will always neglect to discipline the militia, in order to have a pretext for keeping up a standing army. ’Tis evident, that this is a mortal distemper in the BRITISH government, of which it must at last inevitably perish. Ibid., p. 279.


The Origin of Government

Conditions of Subjection

The people, if we trace government to its first origin in the woods and deserts, are the source of all power and jurisdiction, and voluntarily for the sake of peace and order, abandoned their native liberty, and received laws from their equal and companion. The conditions, upon which they were willing to submit, were either exprest, or were so clear and obvious, that it might be well esteemed superfluous to express them. If this, then, be meant by the Original Contract, it cannot be denied, that all government is, at first, founded on a contract, and that the most ancient rude combinations of mankind were formed entirely upon that principle. In vain are we


The Original Contract and the Cause of Submission to Government

sent to the records to seek for this charter of our liberties. It was not wrote on parchment, nor yet on leaves or barks of trees. It preceeded the use of writing and all the other civilized arts of life. But we trace it plainly to the nature of man, and to the equality, which we find in all the individuals of that species. A man’s natural force consists only in the vigor of his limbs and the firmness of his courage, which could never subject multitudes to the command of one. Nothing but their own consent, and the sense of the advantage of peace, and order could have had that influence. Hume, “Of the Original Contract,” Essays, p. 253.


Of Benevolence, Public Spirit &c.

There is a principle, supposed to prevail among many, which is utterly incompatible with all virtue or moral sentiment; as it can proceed from nothing but the most depraved disposition, so in its turn it tends still farther to encourage that depravity. This principle is, that all benevolence is mere hypocrisy, friendship a cheat, public spirit a farce, fidelity a snare to procure trust and confidencce; and while all of us, at the bottom, pursue only our private interest, we wear these fair disguises, in order to put others off their guard, and expose them the more to our wiles and machinations.


Of the Passions

There is another principle, somewhat resembling the former; which has been much insisted on by philosophers, and has been the foundation of many a system; that whatever affection one may feel, or imagines he feels for others, no passion is, or can be disinterested; that the most generous friendship, however sincere, is a modification of self love; and that even unknown to ourselves, we seek only our own gratification, while we appear the most deeply engaged in schemes for the liberty and happiness of


Of Self-Interest

mankind. By a turn of imagination, by a refinement of reflection, by an enthusiasm of passion, we seem to take part in the interests of others, and imagine ourselves divested of all selfish considerations: But at bottom, the most generous patriot and most niggardly miser, the bravest hero and most abject coward, have, in every action, an equal regard to their own happiness and welfare. Hume, “Of Benevolence,” Essays, p. 400.


Of Sovereign Power and Rights of Dominion

Though the people, in giving up the Sovereign authority to any one, without reserve, and that he should be invested with a power as extensive as possible; notwithstanding, he (the sovereign) has no more of Right, than each had in his private capacity, at the time when the society was first entered into and formed: No one had a right to do hurt to himself, nor to others; but only to procure his own good, and that of the Publick; consequently, the People could not convey any right of a different nature to the Sovereign Power.—No one ever consented to a Superior Power but with a view to their own advantage. If it answers the intention of the People, it is founded in Right.


But, if the people find themselves mistaken, the Right of Superiority and Command immediately ceases. Fortescue, De Laudibus, Selden’s preface, p. 36.

The sum of all the portions of the liberty of each Individual constitute the sovereignty of a State. Beccaria, Crimes and Punishment, p. 1.11§

Consent of the People to Laws essential to Security see ante p. 21 post 67, 61

A people governed by such laws as are made by their own consent and approbation enjoy their properties securely, and without the hazard of being deprived of them, either of the king or any other. Fortescue, Chapter IX, “The Nature of a Government which is Political,” De Laudibus, p. 17


A Government by Foreign Laws the Bane of Civil Happiness

The people would be in a dismal state, in case they were to be governed by strange and foreign laws, such as they had not been used to, such as they could not approve of: More especially if those laws should affect them in their properties, for the preservation whereof, as well as of their persons, they freely submitted to Kingly Government; it is plain that such a power as this, could never originally proceed from the people; and if not from them, a king could have no such power rightfully at all. Fortescue, Chapter XIV, “The Prince abridges the two foregoing Chapters”, ibid., p. 9. q.v.

Americans! weigh and consider. [Quincy]


Of the Security of Government

No public calm can be certain, no government secure; where the People are pillaged and oppressed—People that are used like beasts, will act like beasts; and be mad and furious, when buffeted and starved. Ibid., p. 27n; cites Gordon’s Tacitus, 1:56; my ed. 1:107–108.

A word to Tyrants

He (Caesar in the height of his power) had reason to fear; the severest oppressor can never tie the hands of all the oppressed, nor put chains upon their resentment. Gordon, Tacitus, 1:79.


Of the Ambition and Wickedness of Man

Nothing has hitherto been found a sufficient check and barrier to the exorbitant passions of men; neither kindness nor severity; nor mulcts nor pains; nor honour; nor infamy; nor the terror of death: A proof how far human malice or ambition is an over match for human wisdom; since Laws and constitutions framed by the best and wisest men, have, first or last, become the sport and conquest of the worst, sometimes of the most foolish. Ibid., 1:64.

Of Power

Power of itself makes men wanton, distrustfull and cruel. Ibid., 1:72. q.v.


Obsta. Prin.

vide pp. 36, 44, 47, 58

What avails the fair behaviour of one who may do what he pleases? What avails his promises, which he may break when he pleases? The worst of the Roman emperors began their reign well, many of them excellently well; as Nero, Claudius, Caligula, Domitian; some of them reigned well for many years. Caesar was generous, magnificent, and humane to affectation, but every passion, every sentiment must yield to the ardent lust of reigning. Had it not been for his great and acceptable qualities, he could not have introduced public bondage; the Hero, the Orator, and the fine Gentleman, hid the Usurper, and palliated at least the Usurpation. Ibid., 1:73.

See Debates in Commons, 1:331 [Edward Southwell, 8 December 1744].§

Ye men of Massachusetts! have you no Little Caesar—a miniature tyrant? [Quincy]


A Memento for Tyrants

If by a repitition of crimes, you become too mighty to be punished, you must be content to be accursed and abhorred as an enemy to human race; you must expect to have all men for your Enemies, as you are an enemy to all men; and since you make sport of the lives and liberties of men, you must not wonder, nor have you a right to complain, if they all of them have memories and feeling, and some of them courage and swords. Gordon, Tacitus, 1:87.


How the People are most easily deceived

The people (of Rome) were deceived into a belief that they still enjoyed the old government, because their Magistrates had still their old names, though with just as much power as he (Augustus Caesar) thought fit to leave them. This was the advice of Maecenas, that to the officers of the State, the same names, pomp and ornaments should be continued, with all the appearances of authority without the power. Ibid., 1:88.

Plenty the Snare of a People

If people have plenty at home, they will not be apt to discover many errors or much iniquity in the public, which will always be at quiet when particulars are so.—People in ease and plenty are under no temptation to be enquiring into the title of their Prince, or to resent acts of power which they do not immediately feel. Ibid., 1:89.


The Multiplication of Offices

To engage new creatures and dependencies, he (Augustus) created many new Offices; as the multitude of offices in France is reckoned a great support of the authority Royal. Ibid., 1:90.

Having lulled the Public asleep, he (Augustus) was sowing his tares. The Roman people and the Roman Senate he reduced to cyphers and carcasses. Certain wealth and preferment were the rewards of ready servility and acquiescence. Ibid., 1:92–93.


Of Princes Subjects and Ambition

“Verily (said that great and good prince Marcus Antoninus) it is neither the influence of revenue and treasures, nor the multitude of guards, that can uphold a prince, or assure him of obedience, unless with the duty of obedience, the zeal and affections of his people do concur. Surely, only long and secure is the reign of such a one as by actions of benignity stamps upon the hearts of his people the impressions of love; not those of fear by acts of cruelty. A prince has nothing to fear from his people, as long as their obedience flows from inclination, and is not constrained by servitude; and subjects will never refuse obedience, when they are not treated with contumely and violence.”

A man who means no ill would not seek the power to do it, and he who seeks that power, or has it, will be eternally suspected to mean no good. Ibid., 1:122–123.


Of Princes

Between a prince’s forfeiting the public affection, and his incurring the public hatred, there is scarce any medium, and even that medium is a terrible one; since to be scorned is not much better than to be hated and often infers it. Ibid., 1:125.


If Princes would never encroach, subjects would hardly ever rebell; and if the former knew that they would be resisted, they would not encroach.—It is certain mischief to both prince and people, to assert slavish doctrines, and no security to Either; since nature oppressed will depart from passive principle.—

and Liberty

The least attempt upon public liberty is—alarming; if it is suffered once, it will be apt to be repeated often; a few repetitions create a habit; habit claims


prescription and right. Ibid., 1:128–129.

Of Punishments

Rigorous punishments for small faults, or such as in the common opinion pass for none, is a mark of ill politics. Surely it ought to be a maxim in government, that errors which can have no consequences, ought to have no punishment. Ibid., 1:200.

Of Armies

see ante pp. 43, 45, 46

Such has generally been the logic of the sword, that because it has saved, it may therefore oppress and enthrall, and for defending a part, take the whole. Armies be yet great taxes; heavy taxes waste and impoverish the country, even where armies commit no violence; a case seldom to be supposed; because it has seldom happened. But where great armies are, they must be employed, and do mischief abroad, to keep them from doing it at home; so that the people


must be exhausted and oppressed to keep the men of the sword in exercise. Ibid., 1:220.

Of Armies

In regard to Public Liberty, armies if best disciplined are not less to be dreaded than the worst, but I think more; since their relaxation of discipline takes away from their union and sufficiency; it renders them weaker and less equal to mighty mischief; but where they are strict and united, the highest iniquities are not too big for them. Disorderly troops may rob particulars, ravage towns, and harrass a country; but if you would subdue nations, commit universal spoil, and enslave empires, your forces must be under the best regulations. It was with an Army victorious and brave, and consequently well disciplined, that Agathocles


slaughtered all the Nobles of Syracuse, and brought that illustrious state (the noblest of all the Greek cities) under bondage. Cromwell’s conquest of his own country was made by troops the most sober and best disciplined that this, or perhaps any other nation, had ever seen. And it was with the best of all the Roman Armies that Caesar established himself tyrant of Rome. Ibid., 1:221.

Of Soldiers

Soldiers know little else but booty, and blind obedience; whatever their interest, or rapacity dictates, they generally will do; and whatever their officers command, they must do. It is their profession to dispute by force, and the sword; they too soon learn their own power, and where it is an overbalance for the Civil power, it will always controul the Civil power, and


And Troops composed of Natives

all things. They find readily somewhat to say; the strongest is ever the best disputant, when he carries his reasons upon the point of his sword.—It is nothing to the purpose to say, that an army listed amongst the natives, especially the officers being natives, and many of them men of fortune, will never hurt or oppress their country; for such were Cromwell’s army, such were Caesar’s, and many other enslaving Armies; besides armies are soon modelled, and officers who are obnoxious, are soon changed.

No government can subsist but by force, and where ever that force lies, there it is that government is or soon will be. Free States have preserved themselves and their liberties, by &c. Ibid., 1:221–222.*

*To be read by all Englishmen, but especially Americans.§ [Quincy]


Great Armies fatal to a Country

Great Britain has preserved its liberties so long, because it has preserved itself from great standing armies; which, wherever they are strong enough to master their country, will certainly first or last master it. Ibid., 1:227.

An important truth! Worthy the consideration of every Englishman. [Quincy]


Slaves odious to their Oppressors

There is a tradition, that Tiberius, as often as he went out of the senate, was wont to cry out in Greek, Oh men prepared for bondage! Even he who could not bear public liberty, [was] nauseated [by] the prostitute tameness of slaves. Ibid., 1:238.

Power of Kings, the Destruction of Laws

“The authority of laws decreases, when that of the prince advances, and sovereignty is not to be exercised where the laws will serve.” A popular speech of Tiberius, joyfully received, as acts of popularity were rare with Tiberius. Ibid., 1:241.


Of Dignity of Government Safety of the People

What was, before the world was made, I leave to better Antiquaries than myself; but I am sure, since the world began, it was never storied, that Salus Populi began with Majestas Imperii, unless Majestas Imperii first unharboured it, and hunted it to a stand, and then it must either turn head and live, or turn tail and dye: but more have been storied on the other hand than Majestas Imperii is willing to hear: I doubt not but Majestas Imperii knows; that Commonwealths cost as much the making as Crownes.—But preces and lachryma, are the people’s weapons: so are swords and pistols, when GOD and Parliaments bid them arme. Prayers and tears are good weapons for them that have nothing but knees and


Kings and Subjects &c.

Eyes; but most men are made with teeth and nails; onely they must neither scratch for liberties, nor bite prerogatives, till they have wept and prayed as God would have them. If subjects must fight for their kings against other kingdoms, when their kings will; I know no reason, but they may fight against their kings for their own kingdoms, when Parliaments say they may and must: but Parliament must not say they must, till God says they may.

I can never believe &c. Ward, Simple Cobbler, pp. 44–45. q.v.


Of Prerogative and Liberty

I have wondered this 30 years what kings aile: I have seen in my time the best part of 20 Christian kings and princes; yet as Christian as they were, some or other were still scuffling for prerogatives. It must be granted at all hands, that Prerogativa Regis are necessary supporters of State: and stately things to stately kings; but if withal, they be Derogativa Regno, they are but little things to wise kings. Equity is as due to the people, as eminency to princes; liberty to subjects, as royalty to kings: if they cannot walk together lovingly hand in hand, pari passu, they must cut girdles and part as good friends as they may. Ibid., p. 46.

NB. What is here said of Liberty and Royalty may be as well said of Majestas Imperii & Salus Populi. See before, pp. 82, 83. [Quincy]


Of Rulers and Subjects

Distracted nature, calls for distracting remedies; perturbing policies for disturbing cures; if one extreme should not constitute its anti-extreme, all things would soon be in extremo: if ambitious winds get into Rulers Crowns, rebellious vapours will into Subjects caps, be they stopt never to close: yet the tongues of times tell us of ten Preter-royall usurpations, to one contra civil rebellion.

Peoples prostrations of these things*12§ when they may lawfully helpe it, are prophane prostitutions: and just it is that such as undersell them, should not re-inherit them in haste, though they seek it carefully with tears. Ibid, pp. 46–47.


Of Law Maxims see p. 219

Our Common Law doth well, but it must doe better before things do as they should. There are some Maximes in law, that would be taught to speak a little more mannerly, or else well Anti-maxim’d: we say, the king can doe a Subject no wrong; why may we not say, the Parliament can do the King no wrong? We say, Nullum tempus occurrit regi in taking wrong; why may we not say, Nullum tempus succurrit regi in doing wrong? Which I doubt will prove a better canon, if well examined. Ibid., pp. 49–50.

What good will it do you, deare countrymen, to live without lives, to enjoy England without the God of England, your kingdome without a parliament, your parliament without power, your liberties without stability, your lawes without justice, your honours


The pathetic Address of an American Puritan A.D. 1640 to his Brethren in England

without vertue, your being without tranquility, your wives without honesty, your children without morality, your servants without civility, your lands without propriety, your goods without immunity, the Gospel without salvation, your churches without ministry, your ministers without piety, and all you have or can have, without more tears and bitternesse of heart, than all you have and shall have will sweeten or wipe away?

Goe on therefore Renowned Gentlemen, fall on resolvedly, till your hands cleave to your swords, your swords to your enemies hearts, your hearts to victory, your victory to triumph, your triumph to the everlasting praise of him that hath given your spirits to offer yourselves willingly, and to jeopard your lives in high perils, for his name and service sake. Ibid., pp. 70–71. q.v.


Of Posterity

Impartial posterity repays to every man his proper praise.—Hence we may justly mock the stupidity of those, who imagine that they can, by present power, extinguish the lights and memory of succeeding times. Gordon, Tacitus, 2:287.


Of the Union of the Guilty see pp. 39, 172, 190, 194

The guilty combine for mutual exemption from punishment.—Confederacies between guilty men in power and guilty men out of power, are frequent and natural; and no man who is corrupt or intends to be, will care to join in punishing any man for corruption. Ibid., 3:17.

Of Corruption

see p. 1

All corruptions creep easily in, but are with great difficulty removed. In time they even grow fashionable, and then no man is ashamed of being in the mode, so that the greatest infamy upon earth ceases to be infamous when grown common, as every iniquity countenanced at Court will grow. When the shame of being vicious is banished, vice becomes established; nay, virtue will then be thought singularity and sourness, and be treated with coldness and contempt. Ibid., 3:132.


Of men in power

see ante 9, 53, 54 post 177

Such is the nature of men, especially of men in power; that they will rather commit two errors than retract one; as Lord Clarendon justly observes. Sometimes they will commit a second, to shew that they are not ashamed of the first, but resolved to defy resentment, to declare their contempt of the people, and how much they are above fear and amendment. Some of them have delighted to heighten cruelty by mirth and derision, like &c. Ibid., 3:175.

same subject

Men in power are much apter to oppress, than the people to rebel. People oppressed rejoice in public misfortunes. In disputes between magistrates and people, the former generally to blame. Ibid., 3:176.


Of Power

Power is an enchroaching thing, and seldom fails to take more than is given. Men in limited authority are apt to covet more, and when they have gained more, to take all. The people, who chiefly aim at protection and security, are content to keep what they have, nor seek to interfere in matters of power, till power has attempted to rob them of liberty and right. Ibid., 3:178.

same subject

The power of protecting the people is the noblest trust that mortal man can possess.—A power to destroy you, none but a destroyer can want. Ibid., 3:184–185.


Of Oppression, Government and Rebellion

People who will not be oppressed, will always be reckoned ungovernable by men who are, or would be oppressors, and enemies of oppression will be stiled enemies of government. It will be seditious to blame the excesses of power; insolent to mention the insolence of those who abuse power; it will be the sign of a turbulent spirit, to distinguish between public right and wrong, between government and tyranny; nor will it be enough to own all good government to be irresistable, but the worst and the abuse of the best must be likewise irresistable. To complain of tyranny, will be faction; to throw it off, rebellion. They who oppress are the first and greatest rebels; and for the oppressed to turn upon them, is but to resist rebellion, is but to do a just and a natural


Of Treason and Loyalty

action. Whoever violates the Laws of reason, equity and nature, whoever violates the Laws of his country, whatever station or name he bears, is a rebel, subject to the Laws against violence and rebellion. Tyrants, therefore, and lawless oppressors are the highest and most consummate rebels to the world, capital traitors to GOD and man, and punishable by all the Laws of GOD and reason. Ibid., 3:186.

Weak and poor is that loyalty which results only from force and fear, nor can it last longer than does the slavish passion which creates it, but goes with it, as it comes with it. Ibid.

Instruction for Great Britain and the Colonies.§ [Quincy]


Abuses of Government

Abuses once suffered to creep in, so naturally gain ground, so quickly spread, that it requires constant vigilance to prevent their entrance and growth. A jealousy for the Public is a commendable jealousy, and if ever the excess of any passion were justifiable, it would be surely so here. Ibid., 3:247. q.v.

And of Power

Abuses of power make corruption necessary; corruption produces baseness, luxury, and the extinction of all virtue, and these seldom end but in usurpation and tyranny. Ibid., 3:249.

Such as are known not to love their country, cannot reasonably


Of Public Enemies

expect to be safe in it, or that enemity to the Public will not meet with public hate, which is the next step to public revenge. Ibid., 3:253–254.

Of Political Security

Treacherous is that repose which you enjoy amongst neighbours that are very powerfull and very fond of rule and mastership. Ibid., 4:549.


Of Complete Servitude

If the despotism of a Sovereign enslaves genius and impairs courage, the evil is not so great as is imagined. But the despotism of a subaltern stifles even emulation, and produces the meanest and most complete of all servitudes. Talbot, French Nation, 1:307.

Of Governments Republican and

Fond and stubborn as are the prejudices of vulgar minds to precedent and custom, whatever is sublime in nature or in art is no sooner known than venerated. Governments formed on principles which promise the equal distribution of power and liberty, attach to their service every generous inclination which subsists in the human character: Monarchy, stripped of its



trappings, and exposed naked to the eye of reason, becomes odious in the comparison; partial benefit is exploded, and the generous plan of universal happiness adopted, and the common good becomes the common care. Macaulay, History of England, 5:18–19.

Of Princes, standing Armies and the Navy

The art of princes is to make conquests of their subjects, not to enlarge the Empire of a free people. A standing army is a never-failing instrument of domestic triumph; and it is very doubtfull whether a naval force could be rendered useful in any capacity but that of extending the power and prosperity of the country. Ibid., 5:106–107n.


Public Purse

Giving the purse of the people to the Chief magistrate is giving all the security they can have for their rights and liberties. Ibid., 5:216–217.

Royalists and Governors

Royalist principles must be agreable to all governors. Ibid., 5:225.

Obsta Principiis

see pp. 36, 58, 70, 44, 201, 202

The Republic is always attacked with greater vigour than it is defended; for the audacious and profligate by their natural enmity to it, are easily impelled to act upon the least nod of their leaders; whereas the honest, I [know] not why, are generally slow and unwilling to stir; and neglecting always the beginnings of things, are never roused to exert themselves, but by the last necessity, so that through irresolution and delay, when they would be glad to compound at last for their quiet, at the expence of their honour, they commonly lose them both. Cicero, “Oration for Sextius.”


Of Freedom and

Mr. Locke, Mr. Molineux, Colonel Sidney, and other dangerous authors talk of Liberty as a blessing to which the whole race of mankind hath an original title; whereof nothing but unlawful force can divest them. I know a good deal of the several Gothick institutions in Europe; and by what incidents and events they came to be destroyed: And I ever thought it the most uncontrouled and universally agreed maxims, that Freedom consists in a people’s being governed by laws with their own consent; and slavery in the contrary. Swift, “A Letter to the Right Honourable the Lord Viscount Molesworth” (Drapier Letter no. 5, 1724) Works [10:86–87].

See the similar sentiment in Phillip DCommines (pp. 179–223 of his History), who was Prime minister to Louis the 11th of France mentioned on p. 17 ante.13



No laws can be made to affect him (the subject) or his property but by his own consent; given in person if he be chosen, or by his representative if he is a voter. By Sir John Holt, in Ashby v. White, p. 20.

The Foundation of a Free Government

Edward the first (the Despot) issued writs to the Sheriffs enjoining them to send to Parliament, along with two Knights of the Shire, two deputies from each Borough within their county, and these provided with sufficient power from their community to consent, in their name, to what he and his council should require of them. As it is a most equitable Rule, says he, in his preamble to this writ, that what concerns all should be judged of by All; a noble


principle, which may seem to indicate a liberal mind in the king, and which laid the foundation of a free and equitable government. Hume, History, Edward I [2:90].

Of the British Land Forces

To increase our national Land forces to double or treble what we have at present on foot; no one will say that this would be consistent, either with the preservation of our Constitution, or the preservation of our trade. The Honorable William Murray, Solicitor General, speech of 6 December 1743, Debates of the British Commons, 1:123.


The Duty of Parliament

I have generally observed, that when ministers do not like the advice proposed to be given they pretend, that the offering of any such advice would be an inchroachment upon the prerogatives of the crown; but when the advice proposed to be given by parliament to the crown, is such as the ministers approve of, or, perhaps, such as they have themselves before given, the prerogatives of the crown are forgot, and the Duties of Parliament only are thought on; one of the chief of which certainly is, to offer, upon all proper occasions, our best advice to Our sovereign; and this is never so much, or more indispensable our duty, than when we find, that ministers have given him bad advice, or seem resolved not to give him good advice for the sake of acquiring an interest in the closet, or for the fear of losing the Interest they have there. George Doddington, speech of 6 December 1743, ibid., 1:129–130.


Of Prerogative

The exertion of Prerogative, and the advising how to exert prerogative, are two very distinct things: His majesty only is to exert the prerogative, but his Parliament is to advise him how to exert it. George Doddington, 6 December 1743, ibid., 1:137.

Of Discontent and Disaffection

In this country it is hardly possible for discontent to deviate into disaffection, till the people are generally convinced, that they can expect no redress of grievances under the family then upon the throne. Then indeed, and not till then, they may become generally disaffected as well as discontented, and then they may cast their eyes upon another family for relief. Nicholas Fazakerley, speech of 3 May 1743, ibid., 1:202.


Of Public Plunderers

I think every Man (said Robert Vyner Esq. in Parliament) that takes or accepts of Public money, without having done, or being able to do some service to the Public, is a plunderer of the Public, and consequently a public criminal. Ibid., 1:315, on 8 December 1743.

Of a free Government

There is no maxim in Politics more certain, than that it is impossible to preserve a free government in a country where the people are generally actuated by a selfish and mean spirit. Robert Vyner, 8 December 1743, ibid., 1:322.

Query: Then whether a commercial nation can have a free government? [Quincy]


Of ministers, and Servants of the Crown

As to the danger that threatens Our liberties, I do no much wonder at our ministers not being affected with it; because from the whole course of our history, as well as from late experience, I have observed, that as soon as a gentleman becomes a minister, or, as he calls himself, a servant of the crown, he shakes off all concern for the liberties of his country, and whatever professions some of our present ministers may have formerly made, I am afraid it will be found, that they have no more virtue than their predecessors. Edward Southwell, speech of 8 December 1743, ibid., 1:332.


Of Crown Influence

Men, capable of judging without prejudice, I am sure, must be sensible of the great danger Our liberties are in, from the vast influence the crown has of late years acquired by the multiplication of offices, and the increase of Officers, as well as the increase of the salaries and perquisites; surely no gentleman will say, that Our monarchy would continue to be a limited monarchy*, if the crown were sure of having always a parliament at its devotion; and that this may be the case, that this will be the case, is, I think, absolutely certain, if some effectual method be not very soon taken to prevent it. A reformation of some kind or other is become absolutely necessary, if we intend to preserve our liberties.

*If the British Parliament have the purse-strings of the Colonies—the James Palace will soon have the American Assemblies at their devotion—and therefore, according to this reasoning &c. See before pp. 9, 53–54, 90–91.§ [Quincy]


Of ministers and the British House of Commons

Compare this with p. 155 of this book

I have such an opinion of ministers, that I cannot be easily perswaded that they will ever consent to have their power effectually abridged; therefore I must be of opinion, that if ever any such bill be passed, it must make its way through this house against the power and influence of the Administration, and must be forced through the other two branches of the Legislature, or one of them, at least, by the obstinate virtue of this Assembly: Thank GOD! we have still the power in our hands, in some measure, to compell a compliance with what our constituents, as well as Ourselves, think absolutely necessary for the preservation of Our Constitution. Edward Southwell, 8 December 1743, ibid., 1:334–335.

Query: If the Colonies have the Enjoyment of this rightfull power.§ [Quincy]


Of ministers

Places and Employments in the Government: are generally offered by ministers—upon condition of betraying their country. Edward Southwell, 8 December 1743, ibid., 1:339.

Of Serving Our

To talk of a man’s right to a pecuniary reward for serving his country, is to talk in that vile mercenary stile that has been designedly introduced of late years, in order to propogate ministerial corruption; but to talk justly, no man has a right to a pecuniary reward for any service he can do his country. Sir, the service of our country is like the service of GOD;



when we have done all we can, we have done but our duty; and no man can have a right to a reward for doing no more than his duty. The rewards, therefore, bestowed for public service, are not what any man has a right to demand, but such only as generosity, charity or prudence may induce the country to bestow; and I am sure &c. Edward Southwell, same speech, ibid., 1:340.


The liberties of this country (Britain) cannot be preserved, unless some proper method should speedily be taken for preventing the effect of ministerial corruption, both in Parliament and at Elections; and the most proper and effectu-all method for the purpose, is to make elections as frequent as possible.

Of ministerial corruption and the British House of Commons

Gentlemen (members of the house of Commons) once chosen for a long term of years, they fix their abode in this city (London) and seldom revisit their constituents, till it becomes necessary for them to go down to solicit their votes at a new election. Nay, since the Establishment of Septennial Parliaments, we have often had Gentlemen in this house, who never saw the Borough that sent them hither, nor knew anything of its constitution or interest, perhaps could not recollect its


name, till they looked into the Printed lists of Parliament, for their own names, and there found they represented such a Borough. Thomas Carew, 29 January 1744, ibid., 2:10–11.

Of ministers

In all countries, and in this as much as any other, ministers have an interest seperate from that of the people: they are for enriching themselves, their families, tools and sycophants, at the Expence of the people; and it is their business to keep all avenues to the Throne shut up against the complaints of the people. Thomas Carew, same speech, ibid., 2:12.


Of Annual Parliaments

Annual Parliaments are more agreeable to the reason of things and the nature of our constitution, than parliaments of any longer duration; and of this we must be convinced even to a demonstration, if we will but consider, that we are properly speaking of attornies of the people. Is it prudent, is it reasonable, that any men should give a power of Attorney irrevocable for a long term of years? Shall a whole people do what would be the height of foolishness in every individual? The people may guess at what sort of business is to come before the next ensuing session of Parliament, and they may chuse an Attorney who, they think, has capacity and integrity enough for transacting that sort of business for them; but they cannot so much as guess at what


may come before parliament in a course of seven years, nor can they depend upon the continuance of any man’s integrity for such a number of years. It is, therefore, most unnatural and unreasonable to force the people to give an irrevocable power of Attorney for such a long term. The practice was first introduced under the reign of Richard II, and was approved of by a parliament that in every instance betrayed the liberties of the people they represented, and sacrificed the interest of the country to the violent passions of the Sovereign and the insatiable avarice of his ministers. Thomas Carew, same speech, in ibid., 2:13.


Of Septennial Parliaments

If our septennial Parliament be any longer continued,*15 I shall not wonder to see the ministers letters of recommendation, with respect to the choice of any candidate, as implicity obeyed in all our counties, cities and boroughs, as the King’s Conge d’Elire is now in the chapters of our Episcopal Cathedral; and if this should ever come to be Our case, I shall look with indignation upon every man who pretends to be a Briton. The very pretence would be an insult upon the understanding of him it was addressed to. We should be all slaves: GOD knows to whom. Thomas Carew, same speech, ibid., 2:17.

Query: How far from it now–1771?§ [Quincy]


Of Parliamentary Corruption

No Turkish grand Signior or Eastern monarch, ever committed such barbarous and wanton cruelties, by the advice of his Divan, though all named by himself alone, as the Roman emperor did by the advice, or with the approbation of their senate, which had the appearance of being chosen by the people; and if our king and his ministers were assured of having always a corrupt majority in Parliament, under their direction, they might, and I am perswaded, some future Sovereign would, commit more acts of injustice and cruelty, under the Sanction of an act or order of Parliament, than any despotic monarch durst


venture upon, had he no Parliament to patronize and give countenance to his Crimes.

Our people would be oppressed with taxes imposed by parliament, for the inriching of Royal favorites, or the carrying on of royal Schemes, that never were, nor could be of any service to the nation; and the most pernicious measures our ministers could pursue, would be approved and applauded by Our parliament.

The nation would be happier under a sole arbitrary monarch without a parliament, than under a sole arbitrary monarch supported and countenanced in all his


measures by a corrupt parliament. Sir John Phillips, 29 January 1744, ibid., 2:48–49.

“What was once prophecy—is now history!” [Quincy]

Public Corruption

To a free state, corruption is of all other dangers the greatest, because the least sensible. I shall grant, that after the people become sensible of their danger, the enemies, or the destroyers of their liberties must have force sufficient to compell their submission; but by what means can the enemies of public liberty possess themselves of the force requisite for this purpose? It is by corruption alone they can possess themselves of this force; and


being once possessed of it, those they can not corrupt, they compel, and those they cannot compel, they destroy. This, Sir, is the method by which all free states have been destroyed: the people are by corruption alone, induced to depart from some of the fundamental maxims of their constitution, or to delay, providing in a proper manner against some emergent dangers, and by this means, some one man, or some set of men, get so much power into their hands, and such a force at their command, as enable them to overturn the constitution. Till they have done this, they carefully conceal their designs.

Though it be admitted, that the people of England could not be tempted, by corruption alone, to support an


administration in an open and avowed attack upon their liberties; yet upon various pretences, rendered feasible by corruption, they may be tempted to lodge so much power in the crown, as may enable ministers to make use of open force, if ever they should find it necessary; for this they will never do, as long as they can obtain every thing they desire by corruption alone; and if the longer they succeed by corruption, the more easy and secure will their success become in every future period of time; because when opposition has, by long experience, been found to be fruitless, it will at last become ridiculous, and then the few virtuous that may remain amongst us, will think of nothing but passing


away their time in indolence and obscurity.

Of Corruption and the British Standing Army

But if by chance a glimmering of public spirit should break forth, as it sometimes did, even under the Emperors of Rome, and our ministers should find, they could not carry their point by corruption alone, they would then do as the Roman Emperors did; they would make use of that power or force which corruption had before furnished them with, and pretences would be found for removing or destroying all those they found they could not corrupt. It would then be too late to think of a remedy for the Evil, by any bill that could be contrived. Inter Arma vilent leges: Against force nothing but a superior force could prevail; and if the army we now keep up should once be as much attached to the crown, as Julius Caesar’s


Army was to him, I should be glad to know, where we could find a force superior to that army, considering the present unarmed and undisciplined state of the rest of the people of this kingdom. Sir John Phillips, 29 January 1744, ibid., 2:56–58.

Query: If this attachment is not now existing—and therefore ignore? [Quincy]

The effects of corruption (says the same speaker) have of late (1744) become so evident, that if we do not bring in and pass some proper and effectual bills, for securing our independancy, we ought, I think, to make our last will and


testament; by bringing in and passing one short bill for vesting all the powers of parliament in the King and his privy council; which is the easiest and most expiditious way of putting an end to the form or shadow of our constitution; and in my opinion, no gentleman, who opposes the first of these expedients, will oppose the last, for any reason but that of his being loth to put an end to a market in which he has by experience found great advantage.

—It is evident, that while Our ministers govern, or have any hopes of governing by a corrupt parliament, they will never duely


Of the militia and Army see p. 59

encourage or promote a true military spirit among our soldiers or seamen; and experience as well as reason, must convince us, that while they are provided by parliament with a standing army, they will discourage, as much as possible, any sort of martial spirit or military discipline among the rest of the people. Ibid, 2:61.


Of Standing Armies

By a numerous standing army and a severe riot act, you may, indeed, prevent mobs and riots among the people; but if this method be continued for any long time, you will make your ministers tyrants and your people slaves. Ibid.

Query: If this prophecy is fullfilling or already accomplished?§ [Quincy]

Riot Acts, &c.

The populace of this kingdom have been of late bridled by standing armies, riot acts, and ministerial slaves, called justices of the peace. If a man has the prime minister for his protector, he has but little to fear from an enraged populace. Sir John Bernard, in the same debate, 12 February 1744, ibid., 2:118.


Of State Vultures

Was there ever a state-vulture (said Major Selwyn in the house of Commons 1744) brôt to a reckoning, that pleaded the general issue? George Augustus Selwyn, 26 February 1744, ibid., 2:176.

Of the ministry and

In former ages the complexion of this House might have been depended on as a true representation of the inclinations of the people; but, by whatever magick art it has been brôt about, the case is now directly otherwise. The complexion of this Assembly is always the same with that of Our ministers. We adopt all their measures: we applaud every step of their conduct: we are angry with those they happen to be angry with: we enquire when they set


Parliment of Britain

us on; and we stop when they say, you have gone far enough. Sir, we have had for many years past a course of most excellent ministers, or this house has, by some magick art, been rendered blind to their failings. I say, some magick art, for if by any art we have been rendered remiss in our duty, it must have been by some art of the Devil, permitted by GOD Almighty, for the punishment of Our sins; and if so, I hope he will dispel the Enchantment, before we have blindly run Ourselves into irrecoverable perdition. Vetters Cornwall, speech of 26 February 1744, ibid., 2:192.


Bane of the Understanding

The greatest bane and ruin of the Understanding is a veneration for useless notions, and the conservation of Errors. Bacon, Advancement of Learning, Book II, repeated in Book VIII [6:375–376; 9:287–288].16

Of Fraud and Force

More dangers deceive Us by fraud, than overcome Us by force. Ibid., Book VI [9:180].17



Where any one person or body of men seize into their hands the power in the last resort, there is no longer a government, but what Aristotle and his followers call the abuse of government. Swift. See Johnson, Dictionary, volume I, Government.

Rulers and Ruled

Inconveniences are more hard to be redressed in the governor than the governed; as a malady in a vital part is more incurable than in an external. Ibid., To Govern, as taken from “[Edmund] Spenser on Ireland.”


Of History

All men have two ways of improvement, one arising from their own experience, and one from the experience of others: since the first of these ways exposes us to great labour and peril, whilst the second works the same good effect, and is attended by no evil circumstance, everyone ought to take for granted, that the study of history is the best school where he can learn how to conduct himself in all the situations of life. Polybius as translated by Casaubon and cited in Bolingbroke, Study of History, 1:34–35.


Of the People’s Right of Resistance

Freemen who are neither born to a seat in the house of Lords, nor elected members of the house of Commons, have a right to complain, to represent, to petition, and I add even to do more in cases of the utmost extremity. For sure there cannot be a greater absurdity, than to affirm that the people have a remedy in resistance, when their prince attempts to enslave them; but that they have none, when their representatives sell themselves and them. Ibid., 1:193.

Of Rebels and Slaves

When the Hungarians were called rebels first, they were called so for no other reason than this, that they would not be slaves. Ibid., 1:278.


Of the Unalienable Rights and liberties of Man

There are some points of liberty, essential to human nature, that can not, either by express or tacit laws, be given up, such as the natural right that an innocent man has to his life, his personal liberty, and the guidance of his actions, provided they are lawfull, when the public good doth not necessarily require a restraint. Sullivan, Feudal Law, p. 371.


Of Liberty

Query: are

Liberty is the natural birthright of mankind; and yet take a comprehensive view of the world, how few enjoy it. What a melancholy reflection is it to think that more than nine tenths of the species should be miserable slaves of despotic tyrants! Young, Political Essays, p. 19.

Of Slavery and Liberty Compared

The Inhabitants of the world are supposed to amount to about 775,300,000 of souls, of these the arbitrary governments command 741,800,000, and the free ones only 33,500,000; of these few so large a portion as 12,500,000 are subjects of the British Empire. Ibid., p. 20.


Anno 1772

Query: If the author did not under this head include the Inhabitants of the North American Colonies? No doubt he did. He may then strike off 3 if not 4 millions from his last calculation. [Quincy]

Of Freedom

The essence of freedom is, every individual being governed by laws which he consented to frame. Ibid., p. 22.

Of Executive and

There are a million of advantages attending the executive power being lodged in one person; but none in the legislative authority: on the contrary, many are the benefits which flow from the


legislative powers

legislature being very numerous;* the people are more completely represented. It opens an extended field for the abilities of mankind to be exerted for the public good. It throws a greater weight and power into that scale by which alone liberty can be secured. It renders all attempts of obtaining an undue influence, either regal or aristocratical, over the representatives extremely difficult. Ibid., p. 24. q.v.

*I believe it may pass for a maxim in the State, that the administration cannot be placed in too few hands, nor the legislature in too many. Swift, “The Sentiments of a Church-of-England Man, With Respect to Religion and Government” (1708) Works [2:18]. Strange Reverse of this in our days! [Quincy]§


Of Patriots and Tyrants

In arbitrary governments, especially if they are of long standing, patriotism degenerates into loyalty to the prince and courage exerted in his service. The principles of such governments naturally confound the ideas of right and wrong: But in any nation so governed, it is impossible there should exist a true patriot; for if there was one he would sacrifice his own life to gain that of the tyrants, and were this spirit more general, tyranny would not be so common.

It may be said these are murderous doctrines, but I think they are the meekest in the world;


A People plundered, their want of Spirit

for of all murderers, arbitrary power is the most bloody, and to endeavour to stop the effusion which flows from so accursed a wound, is the most humane purpose upon earth. What a melancholy reflection is it to think of 20 millions of people being pillaged of their liberties for bedecking a tyrant with a property of their lives and fortunes! What a want of patriotism in such a number of people to be destitute of a few determined spirits to lay down their own lives to extirpate the tyrant’s race, and restore the liberties of their country! Ibid., p. 29.


—When the spirit of the Constitution was changed, and the bravery of the Subject had reduced prerogative within the letter of the law, open violence gave way to disguised influence. The terrors of the Star Chamber and High Commission were succeeded by a system of bribery and corruption; which was made use of to effect legally all the designs of the Court, however extravagant or contrary to the interest of the nation at large.

[Sacrificing his life for the service of his country, has as little to do with a modern British patriot, as the slavery of Turkey is to


be compared with the liberty of England.] In the latter state of our constitution, the true patriot is he who acts in contradiction to the vice of the times, which is venality. Ibid., p. 30.

NB. “An odd mode of Expression”.18§

From that period*19 to the present time, has proved a very remarkable one in the history of the British Constitution:—no one instance can be produced in which the royal business has been retarded, through the scrupulousness of the people’s representatives. Ibid., p. 31.

Query: If the author had not better have said defeated?§ [Quincy]


Of the British House of Commons, their Election and Electors

The house of Commons (of Great Britain) is chosen by the freeholders of the county, by certain corporations in some towns, and by the freemen in others. The election of the freeholders is equal and rational, but the number of their representatives amounts only to 122; indeed the difference of propriety between this election and that of the boroughs is very evident; for the wretched system of the vilest bribery and most detestable corruption, which is carried on in the latter, cannot possibly obtain in any such degree in the former. But to pass onto by far the greater number of the representatives, those of towns. Many that contain 10, 20 and 30,000 inhabitants, have their numbers elected by their corporations, which seldom contain above


30 or 40 men; and in others certain of the inhabitants that are free of the towns, more numerous indeed than in the former case, but very far from comprehending the total.

Of the Electors of Great Britain

Such are the Electors of Great Britain! I have formed many calculations of their numbers on a variety of plans, and could never raise them, with the utmost attention to the subject, to much above 250,000: I am very clear they do not amount to 300,000: if the people at large, therefore, amount to 8 millions, about a thirty-second part or something more of them have votes. Preciseness is not to be attained in such a calculation, but I believe this is not far from the truth.

It must be confessed by all that


Of the Repression of the Inhabitants of Great Britain in the British Parliament

this is a very imperfect representation: Vastly the greatest part of the people have no more to do with the choice of the members, than the Turks have with that of the Grand Vizier; how therefore can any one assert that the people of England are represented in parliament? As for the few that vote for the representatives, what are the requisites for the duly performing so important a duty, that are peculiar to those that enjoy the right? I have already allowed the propriety and equality of the freeholders votes; but why are the members of corporations to possess the right of election, in exclusion of thousands of townsmen equally, and in all probability better qualified for the purpose. In what manner are 19 out of 20 of the Inhabitants of the boroughs


represented? How are many of the most populous places in England, especially manufacturing ones, that have no charter? Where are we to find the representatives of the most important body of men the nation boasts, the farmers? In what manner are the labourers represented? It may be said, in answer to these queries, that there could be no benefit result from members being elected by people so low and dependent, but that I deny; the very increasing the number alone, by whomsoever elected, would have vastly beneficial consequences: But let me ask if the labourers themselves are not as able to elect with propriety as the lowest scum of the earth, the freemen of most boroughs? Surely, if we have the least regard to the use of any body of men, they rank infinite-


ly before them! How much more worthy of being represented is the respectable body of the farmers? As to these classes of men being dependent can they possibly be more so than nine-tenths of the present constituents? Far from it; on a general view of the latter, it will be found (county freeholders excepted) that scarce any people are so meanly and viciously dependent.

Upon the whole we may fairly determine, that infinitely the greatest part of the nation (about 31 parts out of 32) are totally governed by laws to which they never, in the most distant manner, gave their assent; and of course cannot be said to


enjoy real liberty. For a Frenchman has as much to do with the edicts of a king of France, as this vast part of the British people with the acts of the British parliament. Ibid., pp. 33–35.

Hopefull prospect for Americans, with such Legislators! [Quincy]


Of the Crown

To form a just idea of the present real power of the crown, it is not sufficient to look into our law books for the picture of prerogative, but to throw our eyes on an independent revenue of eight hundred thousand pounds a year—on an infinite multitude of subjects absolutely depending on the crown in all our public offices, in the receipt of the revenue, in the army, in the navy, in the church, in the law, in short in every corner of the kingdom. Look into our historians and see the despotism of a Henry or an Elizabeth, examine their prerogatives—Will you compare them with the riches and influence of a king of Great Britain? It is scarce


possible to take a step without meeting with some one dependent upon the crown.

Its Prerogative, influence and Powers

Mr. Hume (who is by no means the most sanguine writer in favour of liberty) says with much justice, after speaking of the effect of property and riches upon liberty: “These considerations are apt to make one entertain a very magnificent idea of the British spirit and love of liberty; since we could maintain our free government, during so many centuries, against our sovereign, who, besides the power and dignity and majesty of the crown, have always been possessed of much more property than any subject has ever enjoyed in any commonwealth. But it may be said, that this spirit, however great, will never be able to support itself against that immense


and the British Government

property, which is now lodged in the king, and which is still encreasing. Upon a moderate computation there are near three millions at the disposal of the crown. The civil list amounts to near a million; the collection of all the taxes to another million, and the employments in the army and navy, together with ecclesiastical preferments to above a third million: an enormous sum, and what may fairly be computed to be more than a thirtieth part of the whole income and labour of the kingdom. When we add to this immense property, the increasing luxury of the nation, our proneness to corruption


together with the great power and prerogatives of the crown, and the command of such numerous military forces, there is no one but must despair of being able, without extraordinary efforts, to support our free government much longer under all these disadvantages”. Ibid. pp. 45–46. Citing Hume, “Whether the British Government inclines more to absolute Monarchy or a Republic,” Essays, p. 34.20

Modern ministers and their administration

The modern system has thrown a power into the hands of ministers unknown, even in idea, to those who fixed our constitution, on what they thought just and safe foundations, at the revolution. Ibid., p. 46.


Of the Influence of the Crown since the Revolution

From the revolution to this day, the measures of the Crown have universally been the measures of parliament. Our monarchs have in no case of importance wished for any system of affairs, but their wishes have been almost anticipated: Have they desired &c. Ibid., pp. 46–47.


Of Venality and Luxury

It is the venality of the times which saps the foundations of well-wrought systems of Liberty, and which provides the tools of Despotism ready for the hands of the meanest tool of Power. “If the people is growing corrupt, says Lord Bolingbroke, there is no need of capacity to contrive, nor of insinuation to gain, nor of plausibility to seduce, nor of Eloquence to persuade, nor of authority to impose, nor of courage to attempt. The most incapable, awkward, ungracious, shocking, profligate, and timorous wretches, invested with power and masters of the purse, will be sufficient for the work, when the People are accomplices in it. Luxury is rapacious; let them feed it; the more it is fed, the more profuse it will grow. Want is the consequence of profusion, venality of want and dependance of venality. By this


Progression the first Men of a nation will become the Pensioners of the least; and he who has talents the most implicit tool to him who has none.” Boling-broke, Idea of a Patriot King, p. 120.21§

Of the Present Public Corruption

Does not this masterly sketch exhibit to us pretty nearly the picture of the present age? Do we not behold a most uncommon Eagerness to possess the public money; with what unabating ardour are pensions, places, posts, offices, commissions, and the whole range of crown-preferment sought after even by those who were born to independant fortunes! No wonder that those destitute of such advantages should become the tools of power. In such an overwhelming tide of avarice, very few are attentive to correct as much as in their power the fatal


sapping our Public Liberty

Principles of the times, which sap so imperceptibly to the multitude the foundations of their freedom: the most notorious venality passes with nothing but a slight censure on the Character of the individual; ideas of public danger seldom arise from instances in this way the most profligate. The Court Kalendar is a parlour window-Book in every house, forever pored over for the amusement of longing and avarice; how few sigh over those immense lists through the love of Liberty alone!—War, taxes, debts, funds, and all the consequences of our prodigious trade are regretted no further than as burthensome to individuals, not as parts of that vast fabric of dependency on the Crown, which they most undoubtedly form, and from which there is reason to


Of the Influence of the Crown

fear the worst of consequences. Can any one read the lists of the Lords and Commons, without trembling to find such a prodigious number of places, commissions &c enjoyed by those only Guardians of British Liberty. Can any one imagine, that the multiplicity of those without Doors, who possess posts in the Gift of the Crown, are in the least degree independant, whilst we have seen such sweeps amongst them more than once on changes in the ministry? The variation of parties prove clearly enough the importance of the Chain of Dependency to those who conduct the public affairs. I have already observed that the present enjoyment of Liberty does not suffer from the smoothness of parliamentary business nor


The Danger of our Constitution

from the extent of the regal Influence nor am I here applying the venality of the age to the age itself; I rather aim at pointing out the tendency of such universal dependency, and the danger there is that our happy Constitution may not long remain on these secure foundations, which have hitherto formed such a peculiar blessing to this country. The spirit of Independency and freedom raised the fabric—it is the spirit of venality that can alone destroy it.

Of the wisdom and

Our ancestors, in recalling the Constitution to its true principles, or more properly speaking, in creating it, guarded with the utmost precaution the subjects Liberty against the open power of the Crown; but they could not be aware that a new monster, called


want of Foresight of our Ancestors

public credit, would be born to besiege that fortress by sap, which they had laboured so indefatigably to secure against the attack by storm. But this hydra-headed Enemy threatens to overturn this mighty fabric, founded on their Blood and wisdom: happy for our posterity if some future Patriots should bring back that Constitution, which is the peculiar Glory of their Country, to its true genuine Principles, which are far enough removed from Venality and Dependance. Ibid., pp. 53–55.

How infinitely few, are to be found that would continue proof against all the Efforts of a monarch from whose favour flow riches, honours, rank, titles and


every thing that can captivate the avarice, the vanity, and the imagination of mankind. Ibid., p. 59.

Of Freedom and Depotism

What on Earth is so valuable as freedom? Can any sacrifices too great be made for the preservation of that, without which nothing is any longer of value—without which all possession, even of the common rights of nature, the enjoyment of Health, family, fortune and everything most dear to the human mind, is totally precarious! Can any one hesitate a moment in answering this query? A florid description of the horrors of a civil war, may be the answer. But why are these Effects called horrors? surely because they are destructive of those very connections and possessions above recited; the security of which


fly on the approach of arbitrary power. Can a civil war be the ruin of any thing which despotism will spare? Are not domestic convulsions temporary—and the loss of Liberty perpetual? May not the security of every thing valuable to mankind be rendered permanent by a resolute defence of Liberty? Is anything gained by its loss? where, in the name of common Sense, can be found an argument sufficient to level the comparison? Ibid., p. 65.


Of Freedom, Civil Wars

see 113, 148

No horrors are too great to hazard for the enjoyment of this greatest of all earthly blessings. Take the long run of several ages, and it will be found that public freedom has seldom been secured but by means of domestic war. England has more than once been a pregnant Instance of it: To the Courage of our Ancestors, exerted in the field against the Sway of Tyranny, we owe that freedom which is the pride of Britons, and the Envy of nine-tenths of Europe. It is to the Convulsions that shook the Kingdom in the middle of the last Century, that all succeeding Ages owe their Liberty. Those wars, it is true, were very terrible (though not half so much so as one modern Campaign); but had they been fifty times more so, would a brave


and Despotism

Nation hesitate to hazard all to overturn the Efforts of arbitrary Power? No; paint the terrors of domestic war in the most striking colours—the terrors of Despotism will be more striking still; infinitely are all imaginable horrors of that kind to be preferred to the deadly tranquility which broods over a nation of slaves—before that state of stupid serenity, corruption and negligence which fascinates a nation’s Courage, and with all the silence of Certainty forges the chains of despotism itself. Ibid., p. 66.


Of Luxury

“The most Judicious historians, the most learned Philosophers, and the pro-foundest Politicians, all lay it down as a certain and indisputable maxim, that wherever Luxury prevails, it never fails to destroy the most flourishing states and Kingdoms: and the experience of all ages and all nations does but too clearly demonstrate this maxim.” Ibid., p. 73, citing Rollin, Ancient History, “Manners of the Assyrians,” Article 5, Section 1.22


Of People, Princes, Favorites

People, as well as princes, have been often undone by their favourites.—The love of the people, like their hate, is generally immoderate. Gordon, Discourse I: “Of Factions and Parties,” Sallust, p. 2.

The people are apt to credit information too suddenly. Ibid.

Of Rulers in general

It is melancholy to consider, but too true; that generally they who sway the state, are its greatest enemies: it is therefore no wonder, that they treat as traitors, and often destroy, its best friends. Discourse II: “Of Patriots and Parricides,” ibid., p. 41.


Of Instruction, Ignorance, Knowledge, Bondage, Obedience

Of Rebels, Rulers, Liberty and Rebellion

Instruction is little else but abuse in most Countries, little else but propagating Falshoods, and wonderful nonsense, with antipathy to truth, to reason, and to Liberty; a Fondness for Ignorance, which passes for divine Knowledge, and for Bondage, which is styled Obedience. Hence Popes and Tyrants are idolized; hence such as oppose these sacred Parricides, these supreme Curses upon Earth, are reproached, traduced, and mentioned with horror; and hence, the greatest of all Rebels, he who enslaves his Country, when he has done it, is called Ruler, or some other fine Name, and treats as Rebels, all who are loyal to their Country, against his Disloyalty and Rebellion. Ibid., p. 45.


Of Liberty and its Blessings; Of Slavery and its Curses

Liberty produces Comfort, nay, Plenty and Prosperity, even amongst Rocks; and smileth in the sternest Regions; she blesses in spight of Nature; and, in spight of Nature, Tyranny brings Curses. In Climes, which for Beauty and Fertility, look like the Pride and masterpiece of the Creation, Rags and Famine, Nastiness, ghastly Looks, and Misery in all shapes, are seen to abound; and the forlorn Condition of the wretched People seems to belye and disgrace the Soil. Such in fact is the difference between the Condition of the Swiss Cantons, cold, bleak, and mountainous as they are, and that of some of the finest Regions under the Sun, not far from them.

Can they, who consider this and are at all solicitous about the State of their Country, ever sufficiently value Liberty


and defend it? Can they prize Patriots, and hate Parricides, too much? Can they too much dread Tyranny, too much detest slavery? Ibid., p. 46.

Of A spirit of Indifference about Public Affairs

When this Spirit of Indifference about the Condition of the Public becomes general, it is indeed terrible; as it is an encouragement and Opportunity given to Parricides, so to strengthen and exalt themselves, that even the revival of public Spirit shall have no other Effect than to furnish Victims to their Power and Revenge; and the public Bondage which might have been prevented, only by a little care and vigilance is perhaps so fixed, as not to be removed, even by strenuous Resistance, and an Effusion of Blood. Ibid., p. 48.


same subject

It is indeed amazing that any Man, who thinks at all of the Public, should be indifferent about it; it is more amazing that any man, who has a Stake in it, can avoid thinking of it, or be without Zeal for it: But it is most amazing, that great Men, Men of Dignity and fortune, of Splendor and Title, all which can only be secure whilst the Public is so, should not always, and in all Countries, be upon perpetual Guard against their own Ruin and debasement, and continually studying to support public Liberty, which must support them.

Lukewarmness from such Men, would seem incredible, if it had never happened; and is infamous whenever it happens, as well as the Effect of the most gross Blindness and Infatuation.


Yet thus lukewarm were many of the Great Romans, even when they saw Caesar’s sword already waving dreadfully over them. Well might Cicero say of them, as he does, with just severity and Contempt, “Ita Stulti sunt, ut, amissa Republica, piscinas suas salvas fore videntur”: ‘They were such Fools to conclude, that though the Republic were lost, their fish-ponds would remain secure’.

Fools indeed! When Liberty was gone no Man could be secure, nor any Man’s possessions. This discovery, which a Child might have made at first, they made afterwards; when their not having made it sooner, only served to upbraid and torment them. Ibid.


Of Corruption

By Corruption, every thing is changed and at last consumed. Even War and Violence do not bring Ruin with more Certainty, nor indeed with so much Certainty: for Violence may be resisted and baffled; but Corruption, by continually wasting and weakening the Parts, must, without a Cure, infallibly, at last, destroy the whole. Corruption moreover invites Violence; since such is the Nature of Man, that there are ever too many ready to seize and usurp whatever is destitute of defence; and thus tempts their Ambition, or Avarice, with a prospect of Success. This World, which has been so full of Revolutions ever since the begining of it, at least since the begining of Records, would, perhaps have afforded very few, had the several States in it


been administred with constant Virtue and Probity, had the Magistrates done their Duty with Capacity, Vigilance and Vigour. Discourse VI: “Of Public Corruption; particularly that of the Romans,” ibid., p. 90.

Of the Roman Provinces and their Governors

It was common for the Roman Rulers, sent to rescue the Provinces from a foreign Enemy, to oppress and plunder them afterwards, with equal Violence, and continue it longer, and turn a small and temporary Deliverance into a severe and lasting Tyranny. A dreadful Circumstance to the Provinces, when they durst neither submit to Invaders, nor apply for succours against them, nor forbear to apply. Thus the Roman Armies


became more terrible than an Enemy’s Army. The Countries suffered less from a merciful Conquerour, than from their Governors afterwards, when they were intitled to Law and Protection. Discourse VII: “Of the Corruption in the Roman Seats of Justice, and the Oppression of the Provinces,” ibid., p. 120.


Liberty, like many other valuable things, carries with it the seeds of Self-destruction: It is ever liable to be turned into Licentiousness, and thence ever in peril. Many will abuse it because they may: Some will encourage that abuse, on purpose to destroy it. It protects even those who attack and undermine it; and often secures them from Punishment


Of Monarchy, Tyranny, Government, Licentiousness and Power

for the worst of all Crimes. As it subsists by certain fixt Laws, whoever can evade those Laws, may overthrow it: And where Liberty abounds most, Laws are most easily evaded. Discourse IX: “Of the Mutability of Government,” ibid., p. 160.

Monarchy sometimes produces Tyranny; Tyranny often produces the destruction of the Tyrant. Popular Government is apt to beget Licentiousness; Licentiousness destroys popular Government. All Power, breaks when stretched too high; and finally sinks, when let down too low. Ibid., p. 167.

Of the Origin of Civil

I question whether any civil Government was originally framed upon any well-concerted Scheme, or upon any wise Plan, laid down by competent and disinterested Judges, but rather



formed upon Exigencies, mended and improved by, Accident, as well as always liable to be altered and undone by Accidents. Ibid., pp. 168–169.

Of the People

When Virtue and good Sense become more prevalent in the World than Vice and Folly, it will be a Wonder indeed, to see the worst Government more permanent than the best. People are generally more constant in evil habits than in good, more persevering in Grossness and Stupidity than in the Exercise of Reason, and in useful Pursuits. In truth, the more foolish their Habits, the more wild their Tenets are, the more they are prized. The absurd Customs, and extravagant Notions


almost every-where prevailing in the world, shew this to be, in general, the Character of the World, and of most Men in it. They are rarely disposed to change for the better; or if they be, they almost always mistake the means: And though they did not, they will find unsurmountable Difficulties thrown in their way, by those who have Power to do it, and Interest, in doing it. Whoever is hurt by the Change, will oppose it, however advantageous it may be to the whole; as they who gain by the worst Change, will advance the worst; and, in both cases, the People may be sometimes either so awed as not to attempt the best Change, or so deceived as not to wish for it: At other times, they may be so managed, so seduced and inflamed, as to be hurried into a Passion for the worst. Ibid., pp. 183–184.


Of Monarchy

The same hands which preserve the Monarchy unchangeable, may change the Monarch every day. Ibid., p. 193.

Of union and Division

Small communities increase by coalition; the mightiest perish by disunion. Micipsa’s (King of Numidia) speech to Jugurtha. “The War Against Jugurtha,” ibid., p. 163.

Of Power and its exercise

The rigid exercise of power tends rather to render it vexatious and uneasy, than firm and lasting: Nor is it possible for any man to make himself an Object of dread to the many, but, at the same time, a reciprocal dread of the many must recoil upon himself. “The First Epistle [of Sallust] to Caius Julius Caesar: Concerning the Regulation of the Commonwealth,” ibid., p. 312.


Liberty and Bondage

Liberty is a jewel of high estimation; the worthy and unworthy, the coward and the brave, equally love and admire it. But admired as it is, we often see men, alarmed by the dread of superior strength, tamely give up that inestimable treasure to the demands of a public robber. Weak and infatuated men! Liberty or bondage is the subject of contention; and, whilst the victory is yet uncertain, they receive the ignominious yoke; the worst lot that could have befallen them, had their resistance been unsuccessfull. “The Second Epistle of Sallust, to Caius Julius Caesar: Concerning the Regulation of the Commonwealth,” ibid., p. 333.


The People cannot alienate their Liberty

The people—all of them being free and equal by birth, they cannot alienate their Liberty, but for their common interest. Rousseau, Social Compact, p. 4.

Of Slaves

Power first made slaves, and cowardice hath perpetuated them. Ibid., p. 6.

Of Laws, Society Rich and Poor

In fact, the Laws are always usefull to persons of fortune, and hurtfull to those who are destitute: whence it follows, that a state of society is advantageous to mankind in general, only when they all possess something, and none of them have anything too much. Ibid., p. 35.


Universal Justice

There is indeed an universal justice springing from reason alone. Ibid., p. 56.

Of Laws, nations and

As the architect, before he begins to raise an Edifice, examines into the ground where he is to lay the foundation, that he may be able to judge whether it will bear the weight of the superstructure; so the prudent legislator does not begin by making a digest of salutary laws, but examines first whether the people for whom such laws are designed, are capable of supporting them.

Various have been the nations that have made a distinguished figure in the world, and yet have not been capable of being governed by good laws; and even those who were capable of being so governed, continued so but a short time. Nations, as well as individuals, are docile only in their infancy:


Public Liberty

they become incorrigible as they grow old. When customs are once established and prejudices have taken root among them, it is a dangerous and fruitless enterprize to attempt to reform them. A people cannot even bear to have their wounds probed, though in order to be cured; but resemble those weak and cowardly patients who shudder at the sight of their physician.

Every free people, therefore, should remember this maxim, that though nations may acquire liberty, yet if once this inestimable acquisition is lost, it is absolutely irrecoverable. Ibid., pp. 69–71. q.v.


Power, Government, People

It may be observed, from the intoxicating nature of power, that however near the government of any nation may approach to perfection, nothing less than a vigilant and constant attention on the part of the people to the conduct of the ruling powers, can preserve it from degenerating, and going back to despotism. Monthly Review, April 1773, p. 301.

Of Communities and Individuals see before 9, 53, 54 90, 91

In all Ages and countries, by bodies and communities of men such deeds have been done as most of the Individuals of which such communities consisted, acting seperately, would have been ashamed of. Hutchinson, History, 1:156.

Nations are as susceptible of the spirit of tyranny, as individuals. Hume, History, Charles II [6:90].


Of Liberty

Liberty is so natural, and so dear to mankind, whether as Individuals, or as members of society, that is indispensibly necessary to our happiness. Every thing great and worthy ariseth from it. Liberty gives health to the mind, and enables us to enjoy the full exertion of our faculties. He who is in chains cannot move either easily or gracefully; nothing elegant or noble can be expected from those, whose spirits are subdued by tyranny, and whose powers are cramped by restraint. Boswell, Corsica, Introduction, p. 33 [p. 1].


A Militia

A militia is indeed the true strength of a free nation. Rome had no soldiers in pay till the 347 year after the building of the City; and then they were introduced by the patricians, to ingratiate themselves with the people, at a time when the Senate was embarrassed with the great influence of the Tribunes. Ibid., p. 206 [p. 179].


Of Duty

In all exertions of duty something is to be hazarded. Burke, Thoughts, p. 2.

Of popular Complaints and Political Sagacity

To complain of the age we live in, to murmur at the present possessors of power, to lament the past, to conceive extravagant hopes of the future, are the common dispositions of the greatest part of mankind; indeed the necessary effects of the ignorance and levity of the vulgar. Such complaints and humours have existed in all times; yet as all times have not been alike, true political sagacity manifests itself, in distinguishing that complaint which only characterizes the general infirmity of human nature


from those which are symptoms of the particular distemperature of our own air and season. Ibid., p. 3.

Of Punishment and firmness in State Affairs

Particular punishments are the cure for accidental distempers in the State; they inflame rather than allay those heats which arise from settled mismanagement of government, or from a natural indisposition in the people. It is of the utmost moment not to make mistakes in the use of strong measures; and firmness is then only a virtue when it accompanies the most perfect wisdom. In truth inconstancy is a sort of natural corrective of folly and ignorance. Ibid., p. 7.


Of Ambition Arbitrary Impositions

Statesmen and ministerial

Ambition, though it has ever the same general views, has not at all times the same means, nor the same particular objects. A great deal of the furniture of antient tyranny is worn to rags; the rest is entirely out of fashion. Besides there are few Statesmen so very clumsy and awkard in their business, as to fall into the identical snare which has proved fatal to their predecessors. When an arbitrary imposition is attempted upon the subject, undoubtedly it will not bear on its fore-head the name of Ship-money.


And when we hear of any instance of ministerial rapacity, to the prejudice of the rights of private life, it will certainly not be the


exaction of two hundred pullets, from a woman of fashion for leave to lye with her husband.*

*“Uxor Hugonis de Nevill dat Domino Regi ducentas Gallinas, eo quad possit jacere una nocte cum domino suo Hugone de Nevill.” Maddox, History of the Exchequer, c. xiii, p. 326.23§

Every age has its own manners, and its politicks dependent upon them; and the same attempts will not be made against a constitution formed and matured, that were used to destroy it in the cradle, or to resist its growth during its infancy. Ibid., p. 11.

The forms of a free and the ends of an arbitrary government are things not altogether incompatible.

Of the Power of the Crown

The power of the Crown, almost dead and rotten as Prerogative, has grown up anew, with much more strength, and far less odium, under the name of


Of Influence, Prerogative and Popular Ignorance

influence. An influence which operated without noise and without violence; an influence which converted the very antagonist, into the instrument, of power; which contained in itself a perpetual principle of growth and renovation; and which the distresses and the prosperity of the country equally tended to augment, and was an admirable substitute for a Prerogative, that, being only the offspring of antiquated prejudices, had moulded in its original stamina irresistable principles of decay and dissolution. The ignorance of the people is a bottom but for a temporary system; the interest of active men in the State is a foundation perpetual and infallible. Ibid., pp. 12–13.


Nature of Despotism

It is the nature of Despotism to abhor power held by any means but its own momentary pleasure; and to annihilate all intermediate situations between boundless strength on its own part, and total debility on the part of the people. Ibid., p. 14.

Of True Policy

We must soften into a credulity below the milkiness of infancy, to think all men virtuous. We must be tainted wth a malignity truly diabolical, to believe all the world to be equally wicked and corrupt. Men are in public life as in private, some good, some evil. The elevation of the one, and the depression of the other, are the first Objects of All true policy. Ibid., p. 43.


Of the Trusts of States, and their Bestowment

Before men are put forward into the great trusts of the state, they ought by their conduct to have obtained such a degree of estimation in their country, as may be some sort of pledge and security to the publick, that they will not abuse those trusts. It is no mean security for a proper use of power, that a man has shewn by the general tenor of his actions, that the affection, the good opinion, the confidence, of his fellow citizens have been among the principal objects of his life; and that he has owed none of the gradations of his power or fortune to a settled contempt, or occasional forfeiture of their esteem. Ibid., pp. 45–46.


Of the Political Sky

They who can read the political sky will see an hurricane in a cloud no bigger than an hand at the very edge of the horizon, and will run into the first harbour. Ibid., p. 69.

Of the People

The people must shew themselves sensible of their own value.—Their freedom cannot long survive their importance. Ibid., p. 50.

Of the British Cabinet and Colonies

The double Cabinet (of Great Britain) has, in both parts of it, shewn the most malignant dispositions towards them (the Colonies) without being able to do them the smallest mischief. Ibid., p. 55.


Of the Civil Power and Military Arm

When the military arm is the sole reliance—then, call your constitution what you please, it is the sword that governs. The civil power, like every other that calls in the aid of an ally stronger than itself, perishes by the Assistance it receives. Ibid., pp. 57–58.

Of the British Administration

None are supposed to be fit priests in the temple of government, but the persons who are compelled to fly into it for sanctuary. Ibid., p. 64.

Of Wisdom

It is no inconsiderable part of wisdom, to know how much of an evil ought to be tolerated. Ibid., p. 98.


Of the British Constitution

Our constitution stands on a nice equipoise, with steep precipices and deep waters upon all sides of it. In removing it from a dangerous leaning towards one side, there may be a risque of oversetting it on the other. Every project of a material change in a government so complicated as ours, combined at the same time with external circumstances still more complicated, is a matter full of difficulties; in which a considerate man will not be too ready to decide; a prudent man too ready to undertake; or an honest man too ready to promise. They do not respect the publick nor themselves, who engage for more, than they are sure that they ought to attempt, or that they are able to perform. Ibid., p. 99.


Of Bad and Good Men

When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle. Ibid., p. 106.

Of the good Citizen and his Duty

It is not enough, in a situation of trust in the commonwealth, that a man means well to his country; it is not enough that in his single person he never did an evil act, but always voted according to his conscience, and even harangued against every design which he apprehended to be prejudicial to the interests of his country. This innoxious and infectual character, that seems formed upon a plan of apology and exculpation, falls miserably short of the mark of public duty.


Of the Duty of a man in a Public Station

That duty demands and requires, that what is right should not only be made known, but made prevalent, that what is evil should not only be detected, but defeated. When the public man omits to put himself in a situation of doing his duty with effect, it is an omission that frustrates the purposes of his trust almost as much as if he had formally betrayed it. It is surely no very rational account of a man’s life, that he has always acted right; but has taken special care, to act in such a manner that his endeavours could not possibly be productive of any consequence. Ibid., p. 106.


Of Political Connections and Duty

Where duty renders a critical situation a necessary one, it is our business to keep free from the evils attendant upon it, and not to fly from the situation itself. If a fortress is seated in an unwholesome air, an officer of the garrison is obliged to be attentive to his health, but he must not desert his station. Every profession, not excepting the glorious one of a soldier, or the sacred one of a priest, is liable to its own particular vices; which, however, form no argument against those ways of life; nor are the vices themselves inevitable to every individual in those professions. Of such a nature are connexions in politicks. Ibid., p. 107.


Of Men and Politicians

No men act with effect, who do not act in concert; no men act in concert; who do not act with confidence, who are not bound together by common opinions, common affections, and common interests. Ibid., p. 110.

Of Public Life

Public life is a situation of power and energy; he trespasses against his duty who sleeps upon his watch, as well as he that goes over to the Enemy. Ibid., p. 115.


Of timely Patriotic Combination and union

see 172, 89, 190, 39

Men will see the necessity of honest combination; but they may see it when it is too late. They may embody, when it will be ruinous to themselves, and of no advantage to the country; when, for want of such a timely union as may enable them to oppose in favour of the Laws, with the Laws on their side, they may, at length, find themselves under the necessity of conspiring, instead of consulting. The Law, for which they stand, may become a weapon in the hands of its bitterest enemies; and they will be cast, at length, into that miserable alternative, between slavery and civil confusion, which no good man


Of early Political activity

can look upon without horror; an alternative in which it is impossible he should take either part, with a conscience perfectly at repose. To keep that situation of guilt and remorse at the utmost distance, is, therefore, our first obligation. Early activity may prevent late and fruitless violence. Ibid., pp. 115–116.


Of Modes of Government

The modes of government which have ever been imposed on, credulous man, have been not only deficient in producing the just ends of government, viz. The full and impartial security of the rights of nature; but also, have been rather formidable and dangerous cabals against the peace, happiness and dignity of Society. Macaulay, Observations, p. 10 [p. 8].


Of a Standing Army

A strong military standing force is contrary to the very existence of real liberty. Ibid., p. 14 [p. 12].

Of the nature of Power and Rulers

As it is the nature of power to be enchroaching, the Rulers watch every opportunity, and take advantage of every revolution to extend their sway. Dagge, Criminal Law, p. 220.

Of Education and Laws

What education is to individuals, the Laws are to society. Ibid., p. 420.


Of Religion and Government

Arch-bishop Tillotson observes of the Romish religion, that it were better to have no religion than one, that tends to the oppression of mankind: and may it not with equal reason be said of government; better to have none than one, which tends to the ruin of the people instead of their protection? Craftsman, 3 March 1773, no. 348.

Of Liberty and Licentiousness; Power and Oppression

It is much easier to restrain liberty from running into licentiousness, than Power from swelling into tyranny and oppression. Lords’ Protests, 2:140–141 (1735).


Of the Legislative Power

see pp. 203. 207

The power, or authority of the legislature to make alterations cannot be supposed to extend to the infringement of those essential rights and privileges, which are reserved to the members of a free state at large, as their undoubted birthright and unalienable property. I say in every free state there are some liberties and privileges, which the society have not given out of their own hands to their governors, not even to their legislature: and to suppose the contrary (if I may be allowed the expression) would be the height of political absurdity; for it is saying, that a state is free and not free at the same time; or which is the same, that its members are possessed of liberties, of all which they may be divested at the will of the legislature; that is, they enjoy them during pleasure, but can claim no property in them.—I


must be excused in saying what is strictly true, that the whole legislature (of Great Britain) is so far from having an absolute power, that it hath not any power in several cases that might be mentioned. For instance,—&c.

Of the Rights of the People

In short, they (the legislature) cannot dispense with any of those essential rights of the people, respecting their liberties, properties, or lives, the preservation of which ought to be the great object of government in general, as it is of our constitution in particular. Furneaux, Appendix to Blackstone, Letter V, pp. 82–83.

See Vattel, The Law of Nations.24§


Of Taxation and Servitude

A tax of a penny is but a trifle; but a power of imposing that tax is never considered as a trifle, because it may imply absolute servitude in all who submit to it.

Of Opposition at the

Our Ancestors, the old puritans, had the same merit in opposing the imposition of the surplice, that Hampden had in opposing the levying of ship-money. In neither case was it the thing itself they objected to, so much as the authority that enjoined it, and the danger of the precedent.

All the difference then, in the conduct of men who equally value their liberty, will be in the time and manner of opposing incroachments upon it. The man of a strong and enlarged mind will always oppose these things in the beginning, when only the resistance can have effect;



see pp. 36, 58, 44, 70 98

but the weak, the timid, and the short-sighted, will attempt nothing till the chains are rivetted, and resistance is too late. In civil matters, the former will make his stand at the levying of the first penny by improper authority; and in matters of religion, at the first, though most trifling ceremony, that is, without reason, made necessary; whereas the latter will wait till the load, in both cases, is become too heavy to be either supported or thrown off. Priestley, Protestant dissenters, pp. 59, 66.


Of the Legislative power

see pp. 199, 200

The General Court, consisting of magistrates and deputies, is the chief civil power of this commonwealth, so as to prescribe the power of magistracy, and to prescribe in a civil way, lawes unto all, not repugnant unto the lawes of GOD, nor to the patent, nor to the foundamental lawes and liberties established in this commonwealth—Answer of the Elders (in New England about the year 1646) to certain Questions propounded to them:—The Elders being made umpires in a contention between the Governor and Assistants on the one part


and the house of Deputies on the other:—This answer being, among others voted “approved just and true—to satisfaction.” Hutchinson, Collection, p. 185.


Of the Legislative Power

In short the Legislature cannot dispence with any of those essential rights of the people, respecting their liberties, properties, or lives, the preservation of which ought to be the great object of government in general, as it is of our constitution in particular. From “A Remonstrance and Petition of Robert Child and others,” ibid., pp. 199–200.

Political Sagacity and the Crisis

There are certain periods, in public affairs, when designs may be executed much more easily and advantageously, than at any other. It hath been by a strict attention to every interesting circumstance, by a carefull cultivation of every fortunate occurence; and patiently waiting till they have ripened


Of Public Affairs

into a favourable conjuncture, that so many great actions have been performed in the political world.

It was through a rash neglect of this prudence, and to much eagerness to gain his point, that the Duke of &c. Dickinson, Speech, p. 4.


Power is like the ocean; not easily admitting limits to be fixed to it. It must be in motion. Storms indeed are not desireable: but a long dead calm is not to be looked for; perhaps not to be wished for. Ibid., pp. 14–15.


Of the Legislative Power

The deputies of a people have not a right by any law divine or human, to change the government under which their authority was delegated to them.

see before pp. 199, 200 203, 132, 133, 207

The position is so consonant to natural justice and common sense, that I believe it has never been seriously controverted. All the Learned authors, that I recollect to have mentioned this matter, speak of it as an indisputable maxim. Ibid., p. 26.


Consent of the People the Essence of Laws

The law derives its being an efficacy from common consent. [Quincy]

Before the revolution—My Lords, that great privilege of the people, on which all others depend, that of giving their consent to the making of laws, was invaded. Sir Joseph Jekyll, speech of 28 February 1710, in Sachervell, Tryal, pp. 74–75 [p. 49].

and the Ground of Government

The ground upon which all government stands, is the consent of the people, or the greatest or strongest part of them. Temple, Observations, in Works, 1:105.


Of Judges

It is indeed a piece of the greatest folly and impudence for the people to part with their right of making magistrates, either supream or subordinate: to commit the making of judges and other officers to the king, is by interpretation a neglect of our own duty which the law of GOD requires, an undervaluing of our birthright, and a resignation of our laws, lives, liberties, and estates, to his will: which king James knew well enough to be an eminent expedient of kingcraft, when he used to say, Let me make what Judges and Bishops I will, and I will have


nothing to be law or gospel but what I please. Jones, Mene Tekel, pp. 7–8.

Same point in Grey, Debates in Commons, 7:411; and Harris, Charles II, 2:177.§

Of Council and Events

Wisdom and Folly

Nothing is so hard, as to give wise counsel before events; and nothing so easy, as, after them, to make wise reflections. Many things seem true in reason, and prove false in experience; many, that are weakly consulted, are executed with success. Therefore, to conclude, we must all acknowledge, that wisdom and happiness dwell with GOD alone; and among mortal men (both of their persons and their States) those are the wisest, that commit the fewest follies; and those the happiest, that meet with the fewest misfortunes. Temple, Observations, in Works, 1:77.


Of Contrariety to the Spirit of the People

In running contrary to the general humour and spirit of the people, the king indeed may make his Ministers great subjects, but they can never make him a great prince. “Miscellenea,” Part I, “Letter to the Duke of Ormond, 1673” in ibid., 1:127.

Of the Arts and

Science and arts have run their circles, and had their periods in the several parts of the world: they are generally agreed to have held their course from East to West, to have begun in Chaldea and Egypt, to have been transplanted from thence to Greece, from Greece to Rome; to have sunk there, and, after many ages, to have revived from those ashes and to have sprung up again, both in Italy and other more Western


Sciences and their Progress Westward

provinces of Europe. When Chaldea and Egypt were learned and civil, Greece and Rome were as rude and barbarous as all Egypt and Syria now are, and have been long. When Greece and Rome were at their heights in arts and sciences, Gaul, Germany and Britain, were as ignorant and barbarous, as any parts of Greece or Turkey can be now. “Miscellenea,” Part II, “An Essay upon the Ancient and Modern Learning,” in ibid., 1:159–160.

The Western Course of the Ball of Empire

The Earl of Orrery in one of his from Italy, dated January 1755 writes in the following prophetic stile—“Tuscany was to Italy, (say M de Voltaire) what Athens was to Greece.” What Greece is, Tuscany possibly may be, perhaps Italy, perhaps Europe. The ball of Empire may hereafter roll Westward, and may stop in America; a world unknown when Rome was in its meridian glory; a world that may save the tears of some future Alexander.” Orrery, Letters from Italy, pp. 152–153; Letter XII, 23 January 1755.


Civil Calamities

As adversity makes a man wise in his private affairs, civil calamities give him prudence and circumspection in his publick Conduct. Addison, Free-Holder, 26 March 1716, p. 151 (no. 28).


Politicians have a language of their own. They abound with quirks, subtleties and distinctions; they explain away and interpret as they imagine will best suit their circumstances and conveniences. Harris, Oliver Cromwell, p. 190.

Necessity and self-preservation

All men know the force of necessity and self-preservation, and know also that they will operate more strongly than law or reason, if indeed they be not above them. To plead this in bar of these, will seldom be thought valid by men versed in great affairs, and, though it be made use of by them sometimes for purposes of their own, yet is it little credited and believed by themselves. Ibid., p. 202n.


A Precedent of Justice against a Tyrant

If the Parliament and military council do what they do without precedent, (says Milton speaking of the Trial and execution of Charles the first) if it appear their duty, it argues the more wisdom, virtue and magnanimity, that they know themselves able to be a precedent to others, who, perhaps, in future ages, if they prove not to degenerate, will look upon with honor, and aspire towards these exemplary and matchless deeds of their Ancestors, as to the highest top of their civil glory and emulation; which, heretofore, in the pursuance of fame and foreign dominion, spent itself vain-gloriously abroad; but, henceforth, may learn a better fortitude, to dare execute highest justice on them that shall, by force of arms,


endeavour the oppressing and bereaving of religion and their liberty at home, that no unbridled potentate or tyrant, but to his sorrow, for the future, may presume such high and irresponsible licence over mankind, to havoc and turn upside whole kingdoms of men, as though they were no more, in respect of his perverse will, than a nation of pismires. Milton, “The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates,” Prose Works, 1:356.


Ministers of State

Ministers of state, as they engross the power, seem to think they engross the sense too of the community; and that they may talk what they please without fear of their auditors. It is, however, a gross mistake: there are standers-by, much their superiors, who remark their behaviour; and take care to expose it, properly, to posterity. Harris, Charles II, 2:219.


Of Moderation and Prudence

All is now at stake; and I am come here to do my duty, and to speak plain. Was there any place left for moderation, or expedient, I would run into it. To act moderately, that is to act with reason: immoderately, is with passion. No man advises you to love your wife and children moderately, or to serve GOD moderately. One on the highway advises one to ride moderately, or I shall tire my horse, or break my neck, and it is good advice. But when theives pursue me, to advise to ride moderately, is to have me knocked on the head, and loose my purse. A ship-captain, who had sprung a leak in his ship, advised his


men to pump moderately for fear of calentures; but the men pumped on, and saved the ship. Silius Titus, speech of 2 November 1680 in Grey, Debates in Commons, 7:400.


Of Kings

see p. 86

The time was, when this nation (the English) was wedded to the vanity of admiring kings, placing them in a lofty seat of impunity, like gods, that were not bound to give men an account of their actions, but had a liberty to thunder at pleasure, and put the world into combustion, so that there was no love but lust, no rule but the Prince’s will, which so vassalizes the spirits of this great and mighty people, that they were content to establish the highest peice of injustice by such maxims of law, as said ‘the king can do no wrong’ as whatsoever he did could not make him a delinquent or a traitor; nor was it law only, but those antiquated cheats of the Clergy made it pass for divinity also; so that the commonwealth of England, for almost six hundred years,


hath been pinioned like a captive with the two fold cord of the Law and the gospel, which the corrupt professors have made use of after their own inventions. Yet notwithstanding that this glorious idol of royalty was elevated to such a height over the Liberties of the parliament and set upon the very pinacle of the temple, we have lived to see a noble generation of English hearts, that have fetched it down with a vengeance, and cured the land of that idolatry, by one of the most heroic and exemplary acts of justice, that ever was done under the Sun. Nedham, Mercurius Politicus, 3 July 1651, pp. 886–887 (no. 56).


Of Bad ministers and their prosecutors

No greater mistake can be made by the prosecutors of a bad minister, than to charge him with any one article which they cannot support with undeniable proofs. If he has it in his power to loosen any one link of the chain, he infallibly makes his escape; and, instead of being punished himself, renders odious his accusers. This was the circumstance in the case of Lord Arlington. Editorial note following the speech of Sir Gilbert Gerard, 17 January 1674, in Grey, Debates in Commons, 2:289.

Of the Rights of the Commons

Resolved, That all aids and supplies to his Majesty in Parliament, are the sole gift of the Commons; and all bills for the granting of any such aids and supplies ought to begin with the Commons; and that it is the undoubted (and sole) right of the Commons to direct, limit, and appoint, in such bills, the ends, purposes, considerations, conditions, limitations, and qualifications (of such grants) which ought not to be changed by the house of Lords. Resolution of Commons passed on 3 July 1678, ibid., 6:110.



There are precedents enough, that the Judges have subverted the laws of England. Richard Hampden, speech of 24 December 1680, ibid., 8:205.

Parliamentary Impeachments

see post 223, 226

I do remember several persons you (the House of Commons) have impeac[h]ed, an Earl into a Duke (Lauderdale), and an Earl almost into a Marquiss (Halifax), and some into being public ministers. The effects have been like thunder upon Mushrooms; it does but make them grow, not blast them. Col. Titus upon the question of impeaching Richard Thompson, Clerk. Ibid., 8:218. Not long after this very Thompson was rewarded with the Deanery of Bristol. Ibid., 8:219n. [Quincy]


Judge Jeffreys

Resolved, that this House doth agree with the Committee, that Sir George Jeffreys, by traducing and obstructing petitioning for the sitting of Parliament, hath betrayed the rights of the subjects

Ordered that an humble Address be made to his Majesty, to remove Sir George Jeffreys, out of all public offices. (And that this vote be communicated, by the City Members, to the Court of the Alderman &c) Ibid., 7:271. The above resolution and order passed the 13th November 1680, when Jeffries was only recorder of London.

Jeffreys afterwards made his “Campaign” (as James II used to call it) and a Russell and Sidney fell victims to his fury. Jeffreys was after the above Resolution and order (and very probably in consequence of it) advanced to be Lord Chief Justice and Lord Chancellour of England, in which last office he was at the Revolution (in 1688). But being discovered in disguise by the mob, the Lord Mayor sent him to the Tower, where he soon after died in great misery and affliction. See ibid., 7:461n.

GOD grant that such may be the fate of all similar villains in every age; and if there is no other way, through the Instrumentality of a mob. [Quincy]


Of the Maxim, the King can do no wrong

We need not much wonder at the Writs in King John’s time, requiring all Men of all Conditions to oblige themselves, by Oath, to maintain the Great Charter, and to compel the King thereunto: Et quod ipsum Regem pro posse suo, per captionem Castrorum suorum, distringerent et gravarent, ad praefata omnia exequenda; where as this very clause was in his Charter: Et illi Barones, cum communa totius terrae, distringent et gravabat nos, modis omnibus quibus poterunt, scilicet per captionem Castrorum, terrarum possessionum, et aliis modis quibus potuerint; donec fuit emendatum secundum arbitrium corum. which may be added to that before of our Allegiance, or Oath of fealty to the King with the Kingdom and of the King’s Oath to be guided by the Judgement of his great Court. Nay as if King John’s salva persona, N. et Reginae N. et Liberorum N. had been too loose; in King Henry’s Charter it was expressed thus, licet omnibus de Regno N. contra nos insurgere; nay, and to do all things, quo gravamen nostrum respiciant, ac si nobis in nullo tenerentur. These times seem not to attend to our grand maxim of State, the King can do no wrong; or at least they


understood it not as some late Courtiers would persuade us: Yet it is true, he can do nothing but by Law, and what he may by Law, can do no wrong; And if he do against the Law, his personal Acts Commands or writings, do oblige no man than if they were a Child: and the Books call him an Infant in Law (though his politick Capacity be not in nonage; as the Parliament declared in Edward VI) which is not to exempt him from Error or to excuse his Crimes: but to shew that he must be guided by his Council; and that his own personal Grants or Commands cannot hurt any more than an Infants which may be reclaimed and recalled by the Council of the Kingdom. So the Mirror saith, the King cannot grant a franchise to prejudice his Crown or others; because he holds his Right and Dignities but as an Infant. Sadler, Rights of the Kingdom, pp. 82–83.

The Civility of our Law tells us the King can do no wrong; and then is the state secure; when the Judges (their ministers) dare do none. Speech of 22 December 1640 (speaker not named) in Rushworth, Collections, Part III, vol. 1, p. 132.


Preferment consequent upon Parliamentary sentence

see ante 222, 223

One Manwaring sentenced in the former Parliament for this Doctrine (viz. the preaching down the Laws of GOD, and Liberties of the kingdom; pretending divine authority and absolute power in the King, to do what he will with us) then a Doctor, is now become a Bishop. John Pym, speech of 7 November 1640, ibid., Part III, vol. 1, p. 23.

Of Justice and Judges

Justice is to the Civil body, as food to the natural; if the stream of justice be by Unrighteousness turned into gall and wormwood; or by cruelty, like the Egyptian waters, be turned into blood; those who drink of those brooks must needs dye and perish. Edward Bagshaw, 7 November 1640, ibid., Part III, vol. 1, p. 26.

Hence—may be argued the importance of an unbyassed bench—and the danger of dependent- (pensioned-bene-placito) judges. [Quincy]


Things are come to that height, that I may say, as Livy said of the Roman state in his time, Nec vitia nostra scire possumus nec remedia; for no laws will now do us good.

Of Exemplary Punishments

If all those vile harlots, as Queen Elizabeth called them, that have been the authors of these evils, and the troublers of Our Israel, do go unpunished, it will never be better. What then must be done? Why, what the plaister cannot do, must be done by the saw; Ende recidendum est, ne pars sincera trahatur. I cannot better english it, than in the words of a King, Let them be cut off in their wickedness, that have framed mischeif as a Law. Let them be made example, of punishment, who have been the authors of all those miseries, according to the counsel of Solomon; Take away the wicked from before the King, and his throne shall be established in righteousness. Same Speech. Ibid., p. 27.


Of Illegal Exactions

It hath been a frequent metaphor in Parliament, that what money kings raise from their subjects, is but as vapours drawn up from the Earth by the Sun, to be distilled upon it again in fructifying showers. The comparison of late years hath been very unlucky: what hath been raised from the subject by violent attractions hath formed into clouds—but how? To darken the sun’s lustre—to fall again upon the land only in hailstones and mill-dews; to batter and prostrate—still more and more our liberties, to blast and wither our affections. George Digby, 9 November 1640, ibid., Part III, vol. 1, p. 32.

Similar exhalations have been productive of similar calamities in these Northern regions. [Quincy]


Of Publick Ministers

No state can wisely be confident of any publick minister’s continuing good than the rod is over him. Digby, speech on 19 January 1640, ibid., Part III, vol. 1, p. 146.

Of the Power of the Crown by Influence and

The power of the Crown, merely from great influence, will appear beyond all comparison more weighty, than ever it was found under the Stewarts. But besides this source of power, there are all the prerogatives of the Crown, which, though not extensive and undefined as formerly, are yet by no means of small or inconsiderable value in the scale of power.

There is furthermore the great and important strength of


the force of a Standing Army

that standing army, which is more considerable, and far better provided, than that with which Cromwell kept the realm in subjection: the military power in England from the regiments actually embodied, and the disbanded veterans, which our frequent wars make very numerous, and are all at the call of the Crown; these, upon the whole, give a power to the Crown, exclusive of the dependance occasioned by it, than is equal to some milions.

When all these points are well reflected on, it will surely appear, that the power of the Crown at present in England, by influence in Parliament


or by open force, is infinitely greater than ever it was in any former period. So great, that there does not remain any probability of this nation preserving its liberty, in case She comes to be governed by a prince who seeks arbitrary power. Letters, pp. 211–212.

Surely Britons are tenants at will of their Liberties. Miserable tenure indeed! [Quincy]


Princes and States their Claims

Municipal Law and the Law of Nature

Princes and states never do better, than when their claims are not fathomed, nor, if I may use the expression, the bottom of them over curiously founded and examined. The terms of municipal law usually favour the Sovereign, they are often framed or drawn by his creatures and dependents; the law of nature is more commonly in support of the people and the public; it is the production of him who sees with an equal eye, Prince and Subject, High and Low, European and American. Robinson-Morris, Considerations, pp. 14–15.


Law natural and municipal

Due consequences do from the general and original Law given to the world follow a good or evil conduct in public concerns with much more certainty, justice and impartiality, than they do by the means of municipal laws in private. But I desire to explain &c. q.v. Ibid., p. 41.

Madmen and Knaves their relation

There is a strange, but never failing relation, between honest madmen and skillfull knaves; wherever one meets with collected numbers of the former, one may be very sure that they are secretly directed by the latter. Chesterfield, Letters, 1 January 1753, 2:305 (letter no. 74 in that edition).

Historians, Humanity, Emperors, Kings, Popes, Generals, Ministers

I am provoked at the contempt which most historians show for humanity in general; one would think by them, that the whole human species consisted but of about 150 people, called and dignified (commonly very undeservedly too) by the titles of Emperors, kings, popes, Generals and ministers. Ibid., 2:306 (same letter).


Of Kings

No King ever said to himself, Homo sum, nihil humani a me alienum puto. Ibid., 2:532 (“Maxims”).



Precedents, it is apprehended, are no otherwise regarded in the English Laws than as they establish certainty for the benefit of the people—according to the maxim “miserable is the servitude when the Laws are uncertain.” Precedents militating against the welfare or happiness of a people, are inconsist[ent] with the grand original principle on which they ought to be founded. Their supposed sanction increases in proportion to the repetitions of injustice. They must be void. In subjects of dispute between man and man, precedents may be of use, though not founded on the best reason. They cause a certainty and all may govern themselves accordingly. If they take from an Individual one day, they may give to him the next. But precedents to overthrow principles, to justify the perpetual oppression of


all and to impair the power of the constitution, though a cloud of them appear, have no more force than the volumes of dust that surround a triumphal car. They may obscure it: they cannot stop it. What would the liberties of England have been at this time, if precedents could have made laws inconsistent with the constitution? Precedents tending to make men unhappy, can with propriety of character be quoted only by those beings, to whom the misery of men is a delight.

“If the usage had been immemorial and uniform, and ten thousand instances could have been produced, it would not have been sufficient; because the practice must likewise be agreeable to the principles of the Law, (This is a maxim of Law, that ‘a bad usage ought to be abolished’) in order to be good; whereas this is a practice inconsistent with, and in direct opposition to the first and clearest principle of the Law” (Letter on general warrants)—to those feelings


reasoning: The exercise of these powers, after being long the source of secret murmurs among the people, was, in fullness of time, solemnly abolished, as illegal, at least as oppressive, by the whole legislative authority. (Hume’s History of England). To these may be added, the late practice of general warrants, that had the sanction of precedents, even since the revolution. Dickinson, Essay, pp. 109–110, 111n.


Of Wales

As for Wales, all statutes*25 are now made to extend to it, whether mentioned or not; by a clause inserted in the middle of 20 George II cap. 42. the title of which is to explain and amend the Window Tax Act of the same year. Mr. Cay, in his very accurate index, hath very fortunately taken notice of this Law, under the title Wales, otherwise the principality might possibly still continue in ignorance of it. Barrington, Observations, p. 141 [p. 123n].

How do such artifices and conduct disgrace a Legislature? [Quincy]


Of Ireland

There is also an order of Charles I, in the third year of his reign, to the treasurers and chancellors of the Exchequer both of England and Ireland, by which they are directed to increase the duties upon Irish exports (Rymer, vol. 8, part 2, p. 205),26 which shews that it was then imagined, the king could tax Ireland, by his prerogative, without the intervention of parliament. Ibid., p. 146 [p. 127].

Hopefull incouragement to the American Colonies—in their submission to British impositions! [Quincy]


Of America and Britain

“Whereas in Virginia, and the Islands of St. Christopher, Nevis, and Montserat, and divers other Islands and places in America, which were planted at the cost, and settled by the people and authority, of this nation, which are, and ought to be subordinate to, and dependent upon, England, and hath ever sinc the planting thereof, and ought to be subject to such laws, orders, and regulations, as shall be made by the parliament of England.” Preamble to an ordinance of the 3d of Oct. 1650. Scobell part 2. p. 132.27 There is


Of the Colonies and Great Britain

in the fifty-first volume of Mr. Petyt’s manuscripts, a commission, in the year 1634, directed to the arch-bishop of Canterbury, the lord chancellor, and other Lords of the privy council, by which they are empowered to prepare laws for the better governing the Colonies, which were afterward to be enforced by the king’s proclamation. p. 38.28 Barrington, Observations, p. 146 [p. 127].

The Colonies must be prodigiously well governed by such legislators and with such an Administration! [Quincy]


Antitheta Rerum

Pro Con

Honours are not suffrages of tyrants, but of Divine providence.

Bacon, Advancement of Learning, ______________Book vi [9:159]

Whilst we seek Honours, we loose Liberty.

Ibid. [9:159]



Pro Con

Praises are the reflexed beams of virtue.

Fame is a better mimic, than a judge.

Ibid. [9:160]

Fame like a river bears up things light and swoln; drowns things weighty and solid

Fame is a better mimic, than a judge.

Ibid. [9:160]



Pro Con

No virtue is so often guilty as clemency.

Cruelty, if it proceed from revenge, is justice, if from peril it is wisdom.

He that shows mercy to his enemy, denies it to himself.

Phlebotomy is not more necessary in the body natural, than it is in the body politick.

Ibid. [9:165]

See Justice post.

He that delights in blood, is either a wild beast or a fury.

Ibid. [9:165]



Pro Con

It is the effect of justice that man is to man a GOD, and not a wolf.

Ibid. [9:166]

See Cruelty ante.

If this be to be just; not to do to another, what you would not have done to yourself; then is mercy, justice.

If we must give every one his due, then surely, pardon to humanity.

Ibid. [9:166]



Pro Con

To honour the people, is to be honoured.

Ibid. [9:172]

To fawn on the people, is the lowest degree of flattery.

Ibid. [9:172]



Pro Con

It is a matter more politick, than one would think, smoothly to pass from jest to earnest, and from earnest to jest.

A witty conceit is often times a convoy of truth, which otherwise could not so handsomely have been ferried over.

Ibid. [9:175–176]

To put off the importance of business with a jest, is a base flight of wit

Judge of a jest, when you have done laughing.

Merrily conceited men, seldom penetrate farther the surficies of things, which is the point where the jest lies.

To put a jest, as a matter of moment upon serious affairs, is a childish levity.

Ibid. [9:176]



Pro Con

Private revenge is a kind of wild justice.

He that returns wrong for wrong, violates the law, not the person.

The fear of private revenge is a profitable restraint, for laws are too often asleep.

Ibid. [9:177–178]

He that does a wrong is the beginner of a quarrell; but he that retaliates takes away all means of ending it.

Revenge by how much the more natural, by so much the more to be repressed.

Ibid. [9:177–178]

Reason and philanthropy, as well as religion pronounce Revenge to be a weakness and a vice in all possible cases.

Adams, Defense of the Constitutions, 3:330.29



Pro Con

Every medicine is an innovation.

He that will not apply new remedies, must expect new disceases.

Ancient precedents are uncomformable; recent, corrupt, and degenerate.

A froward retention of Customs is as turbulent a thing as innovation.

The servants of Custom are the scorn of time.

Ibid. [9:178–179]

The bulk of the People are enemies to Innovation, because they are too shortsighted to perceive the good which may result, or too inert to oppose the inconveniences which may ensue from change.

Dagge, Criminal Law, p. 204

See Precedents post. Antiquity post.

New births are deformed things.

All novelty is with injury, for it defaceth the present state of things.

Those things which custom hath confirmed, if they be not profitable, yet are they conformable and peice well together.

Whatsoever comes unlooked for, is the less acceptable to him, whom it helps; and the more troublesome to him whom it hurts.

Ibid. [9:178]

A precedent being once made, especialy a bad one, it is easy to improve it.

Debates of the British Commons, 2:261

[Henry Pelham, 11 April 1745]

New things, like Strangers, are more admired, and less favoured.

Lord Bacon



Violent Counsels
Pro Con

That necessity which resolves upon desperate courses; commonly goes through with them.

Bacon, Advancement of Learning, Book VI [9:179–180]

Every violent remedy is pregnant of a new evil.

No man gives violent advice, but out of fury or fear.

Ibid. [9:179–180]



Word is of Law
Pro Con

It is no exposition, but a divination which departs from the letter.

When there is made a departure from the letter of law; the judge, of an interpreter, becomes a Law giver.

Ibid. [9:181]

Judges ought to remember that their business is jus dicere and not jus dare; to interpret law, and not make or give law


Out of all the words in the generality, such a sense must be extracted, as may expound the mind of every particular passage.

The worst tyranny is law upon the rack.

Ibid. [9:181]



Pro Con

King Ahab had 400 flatterers—they were his ruin. Hence the old proverb “there are only two things that never flatter great men,—Death and Horses!”

[1 Kings 22, Old Testament]



Pro Con

See Innovation Precedents

To ramble too much into antiquity is as dangerous as to innovate.

Grey, Debates in Commons, 1:41

They that reverence too much old time are but a scorn to the new.

Lord Bacon31



Witnesses against Arguments
Pro Con

He that gives credit rather to arguments than witnesses, must withall trust more to wit than sense

Bacon, Advancement of Learning, Book VI [9:181–182]

If proofs by witness, are to be preferred before proofs from reason, then there needs no more ado’, but that the judge be not deaf.

Arguments are an antidote against the poyson of testimonies.

Those kinds of proofs are most safely beleived which most seldom lye.




Pro Con

Precedents must be derived from good and moderate; and not from bloody, factious, or dissolute times: for examples fetcht from such times, are a bastard issue, and do rather corrupt than instruct.

Recent examples are of less authority.

Modern Precedents taste more of their own times, than of right reason.

Ibid. [9:178–179]

See Innovation ante.


Examples the more modern, are to be reputed the more safe.

More ancient precedents must be received with caution and choice: for the revolution of any age altereth many things; so as what might seem ancient for time, the same through perturbation, and inconformity to the present age, may be altogether new. Wherefore the examples of the middle age are best; or of such an age, as best for and with the present times; which now and then the time further off, better represents, than the time close at hand.

Keep yourself within, or rather on this side the limits of example, and by no means surpass those bounds; for where there is no rule of law, all ought to be entertained with jealosy.

Beware of fragments and compends of Examples.


All pernicious precedents are derived from laudable beginnings.

Gordon, “Catiline’s Conspiracy” Sallust, p. 46

See Innovation ante.



The Quincy mansion, built in 1770, as sketched and painted by Eliza Susan Quincy in 1822. Eliza Susan had lived there since shortly after her birth in 1798 and it would remain the family home through her life. Her father, Josiah the Mayor, inherited the house and property from his grandfather, Josiah Junior’s father. Once having a vista that extended to the bay and beyond, the house is now part of a sleepy residential neighborhood. Courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical Society.


Ability, highest point of, 19

Activity, political, 195

Administration: bad, proof of, 4; of modern ministers, 147; British, 188

Advocates, of monarchy, 27. See Bondage; Monarchy; Government; Oppression; Tyranny; Despotism

Affairs: public indifference about them, 163; of state, firmness in them, 181; their crisis, 205

Ambition, 74; of man, 69, 182

America, 302–303

American, Puritan, his pathetic address, 87

Anarchy, 46. See Despotism; Tyranny

Ancestors: their wisdom, 153; want of it, 154

Antiquity, not to be rambled into too far, 260. See Precedents; Innovation; Arbitrary

Arbitrary, impositions, 182

Arguments, 261

Arms. See Army

Army, 2, 10, 40, 43, 45, 47, 50, 76–80, 97, 101, 119, 122–123, 188, 197, 229–231; its rise, progress, consequences, and policy in Europe, 16; pretext for it, neglected militia, 58

Arts: royal, 10; of corruption, by whom first practiced and his qualities, 17–19; and sciences, their progress westward, 211

Belief, 31

Benevolence, 62

Blessings, of Liberty, 162

Bondage, 161, 173. See Government; Oppression; Despotism; Slavery

Bribes, 37

Ball of Empire, its western course, 212

Britain, 302–303

Cabinet, British, 187

Calamities, civil, 213

Caesar, 44–45

Characteristics, 43

Citizen, good, his duty, 190

Civil: discord, 13, 48, 213; happiness, 67; power, 188; war, 157; calamities, 213

Claims, of prince, states, and people, 232

Colonies: governors of needy, 4, 52; British, 187, 302–303; Roman, 167

Commerce, its effects, 14

Commons. See Parliament

Complaints, popular, 180

Complaisance, political, 39, 42, 49

Connections, political, 192

Consideration, for politicians, 41

Consent. See People

Corruption, 1, 89, 166; first discoverer of its arts and his qualities, 17–19; parliamentary, 114; public, 116, 119, 150

Contract, original, 61

Councils, violent, 253, 210

Country, serving it, 108–109

Courts, more actuated by self-interest than individuals, 53–54

Cruelty, 241

Curses, of slavery, 162

Crown, 144; its ministers and servants, 105; influence, 106, 145, 229–231; influence since the Revolution, 148, 152, 184; power, 183. See Ministers; Prerogative

Danger, of the constitution, 153

Despotic, government, its policy and spirit, 32

Despotism, 46, 156, 158; its nature, 185. See Government; Oppression; Monarchy; Slavery; Tyrants; Bondage

Demetrius, and the old woman, 49

Devil, his maxim, 39, 89

Dominion, 9, 65; love of it, 27

Disaffection, 3, 103

Discontent. See Disaffection

Discord, civil, 13, 43

Dissension, 172. See Guilty

Doubt, 31

Duty: all exertions of it hazardous, 180; political, 192; of a good citizen, 190; of a Statesman, 191

Education, 6, 197

Electors, of the British Parliament, 138

Emulation, 34

Empire, the ball of, progress westward, 212

Enemies, public, 94

Events, 210

Excesses, of ministers, imputed to the Sovereign, 51

Exactions. See Taxation

Faction, 26; justice so called, 3

Faculty, of active life, 6

Fame, love of, 47

Favorites, 160

Freedom: love of, 20; of speech and writing, 21. See Liberty

Force, 126


Fraud, 126

Folly, 210

Flattery, 257

Gentry, 8

Guilty, their union, 89. See Dissension

Glory, 50

Governors: of provinces, needy, 4; of Roman colonies, 67; of royalist principles, 98

Government, 104–105, 127, 169, 198, 170; its modes, 196; good and bad, 7, 92; origin, 60, 170; foundation, 25, 100; bonds, 49; submission to it, 61; its dignity, 82; its security, 68; abuses, 94; by foreign laws, what, 6; British, 146; despotic, its policy and spirit, 32; republican and monarchical, 96–97

Happiness, civil, 67

History, 30, 128, 233

Honours, 237–238

Humanity, 233

Jests, 247

Ireland, 301

Ignorance, 4, 161; popular, 184

Impositions, arbitrary, 182. See Despotism; Government; Monarchy; Tyrants; Oppressors

Impeachments. See Parliament

Impresses, 58

Indifference, about the public, 163

Individuals, less tenacious of power than societies, 9, 53–54, 90–91, 177

Infallibility, 39

Influence. See Crown

Innovation, 251. See Precedents; Antiquity

Instruction, 161

Interest, predominates more in courts, than individuals, 53–54, 90–91

Judges, 209, 222–223, 225, 226

Justice, 226, 243; called faction, 3; universal, 175; precedent for it against a tyrant, 214

Jeffreys, 223

Kings, 233–34; that they can do no wrong, 86, 219, 224–225. See Princes; Tyrants; Oppressors

Kingship, its tenure, 25

Knaves, their relation with madmen, 233

Knowledge, 4, 161

Laws, 6, 100; of nature and municipal, 232–233; their obstruction and power, 81; of England subverted by the judges, 222; maxims thereof, 86; words thereof, 255. See Maxim; People

Levellers, 23–24

Legislature. See Power

Liberty, 75, 84–85, 99, 100, 155, 157, 168, 173, 198, 178; unalienable, 130–132, 174; public, 176; sapped, 151; its blessing, 162. See Freedom

Licentiousness, 269, 198

Life: active, its faculty, 6; public, 193

Love: of dominion, 27; of fame, 47; of freedom, 20

Louis XI, of France, his qualities, 17

Loyalty, 93, 161

Luxury, its effects, 2, 149, 159

Man: his ambition and wickedness, 69; his unalterable rights and liberties, 130; bad and good, 190

Madmen, their relation with knaves, 233

Maxim: political, 35, 58; of politicians, 52; of tyrants, 3; of law, 86, 174–175, 197, 217, 224; of the Devil, 39, 89; of Plato, 48; that the king can do no wrong, 86, 219, 224–225

Military. See Army

Militia: neglected, pretext for standing army, 59, 122; true strength of a nation, 179

Ministers, 105, 107–108, 110, 124, 233; modern, 147; bad, their recourse, 3; their prosecutors, 221; their rapacity, 182; their corruption, 109; their excesses imputed to the prince, 51; of state, their character, 216; public, 229

Monarchy, 169; its advocates, 27

Moderation, 217. See Government; Despotism

Navy, 97

NB, 40

Nobility, 8

Nations, 175

Necessity, 213

Nature: of despotism, 185; of rulers, 197; law of, 232–233

Obedience, 161. See Subjects

Offices, multiplication of them, 73

Oppression, 7, 92, 198. See Despotism; Tyrants; Monarchy; Government; Bondage; Plunderers

Paradoxes, of the British Constitution, 56

Parliament, British, 107, 109, 125; its electors, 138; duty, 102; annual, 111; septennial, 113; dependent, 22; its corruption, 114; rights of, 221; its impeachment, 222–223, 226

Passions, 63

Patriots, 134; their union, 194

People, 41, 160, 187, 177; how deceived, 70, 72, 45; cannot alienate their liberty, 174; their consent to the laws, 208; their security, 66; their feelings and judgment, 5, 8, 180; their right of resistance, 129, 12; ignorance, 184; snare—plenty, 72; duty to tyrants, 12, 13, 129; leaders, 23; plundered, want spirit, 135; their complaints, 180; when secure, 21, 95; their rights, 199, 200; their spirit, contrariety to it, 211; the law of nature commonly in support of them, 232

Plato, his maxim, 48

Plenty, snare of the people, 72

Plunderers, public, 104, 124

Policy, in general, 28–29; maxim of, 58

Political: virtue, 28; security, 95; maxims, 35, 39, 52; complaisance, 39, 42, 49; sagacity, 180, 205; connections, 192; activity, 195; prudence or moderation, 217

Politicians: considerations for them, 41; their character, 190

Popeness, a kind of it in every man, 39

Poor, and rich, 174

Popularity, 245

Posterity, 88

Power, 48, 94, 65, 169, 177; of reason, 19; its insinuating progress, 14, 47–48; its nature, 197–198; exercise, 173; like the ocean, 206; of kings, destruction to the laws, 81; of the crown, 145, 183, 229–231; civil, 188; legislative and executive, 132–133, 199–200, 203, 207; men in it, 90–91

Precedents, 263–264; of justice against tyrants, 214. See Innovation; Antiquity

Prince, 74, 83, 85, 97, 127, 160–161, 232–234; his duty, 12, 20; his claims, 232; resistance to him, 13, 129, 219; excesses of ministers imputed to him, 51

Privileges, hereditary, 24

Preferment. See Parliament

Prejudices, 33

Prerogative, 84, 103, 145, 184. See Crown

Principiis Obsta., 36, 58, 70, 44, 98, 201–202

Prosecutors, of bad ministers, 221

Protection, of the sciences, 9

Prudence, political, 217

Punishment, 76; in state affairs, 181; exemplary, 227

Puritan, American, his pathetic address, 87; the old, in England, 201

Purse, public, 98

Rapacity, ministerial, 182

Rebell, 161, 129. See Sedition &c.

Rebellion, 92

Religion, 198; its zeal, 13

Representation, how and of whom in the British Parliament, 140

Republic. See Government

Reputation, 239

Revolution, crown influence since, 148

Resistance: to princes, 13, 129, 219; at the beginning—See Principiis Obsta.

Revenge, 249

Rich and poor, 174

Rights, 65, 130; of the Commons House, 221

Roman, provinces, 167

Royal, arts, 10

Riot, act, 113

Rulers, their nature, 197. See Prince

Sagacity, political, 180, 205

Sapping, of public liberty, 151

Sciences: their protection, 9; their progress westward, 211

Seamen, impressed, 58

Senate. See Court

Security, political, 95

Sedition, 26. See Rebel

Self-Interest, 53–54, 64

Self-Preservation, 213

Sorcery, 33

Servants. See Ministers

Sky, political, 187

Slavery, 96, 131, 162, 81, 129, 174, 201, 99

Society, 51, 174; a right of, 12; more tenacious of power than an individual, 7, 53–54, 70–71, 177

Speech, freedom of, 21

Spirit: wanting in a plundered people, 135; of the people, contrariety to it, 211; public—See Virtue

State, 6, 48; vultures of, 124; its claims, 232; matters, thereof firmness in them, 181

Statesman, 22, 182; 181; his duty, 191; rule for him, 42

Station, public, duty thereof, 191

Soldiers. See Army

Subjects, 74, 83, 85, 127

Sword. See Army

Tenure, of kingship, 25

Taxation, 201, 99, 228

Time, its effect on government, and the wisdom of ages, 5

Troops. See Army

Treason, 21, 93

Trusts, of state, their bestowment, 186

Tyranny. See Oppression; Government; Despotism &c.

Tyrants, 12, 48, 104, 134; their maxim, 3; a word to them, 68; a memento for them, 69; justice against them, 214; Later their Slaves, 81

Venality, 149

Violent, counsels, 253

Understanding, its bane, 126

Union, 172; of the guilty, 89–90; patriotic, 194

Virtue: political, 28, 37; public, 46, 62

Vizier, grand, his situation, 35

Wars, civil, 157

Wickedness, of man, 69

Witnesses, 261

Words, of law, 255

Of Wales, 300

Wisdom, 188, 210; of our ancestors, 153; their want of it, 154

Writing, with freedom, 21

West, the arts, sciences and ball of empire, tend that way, 211–212

Zeal, religious, 13

☞ 6, 7, 13, 14, 20, 36, 38, 57, 116