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tioned a while ago, That public conventions are liable to all the infirmities, follies, and vices of private men. To which, if there be any exception, it must be of such assemblies, who act by universal concert, upon public principles, and for public ends ; such as proceed upon debates without unbecoming warmths,' or influence from particular leaders and inflamers; such, whose members, instead of canvassing, to procure majorities for their private opinions, are ready to comply with general sober results, though contrary to their own sentiments. Whatever assemblies act by these, and other methods of the like nature, must be allowed to be exempt from several imperfections, to which particular men are subjected. But I think the source of most mistakes and miscarriages in matters debated by public assemblies, ariseth from the influence of private persons upon great numbers, styled, in common phrase, leading men and parties. And therefore, when we sometimes meet a few words put together, which is called the vote or resolution of an assembly, and which we cannot possibly reconcile to prudence or public good, it is most charitable to conjecture, that such a vote has been conceived, and born and bred in a private brain, afterwards raised and supported by an obfequious party, and then, with usual methods, confirmed by an artificial majority. For, let us suppose five hundred men, mixed in point of sense and honesty, as usually assemblies are ; and let us suppose these men proposing, debating, resolving, voting, according to the mere natural
motions of their own little or much reason and understanding ; I do allow, that abundance of indigested and abortive, many pernicious and foolish overtures would arise, and float a few minutes; but then they will die and disappear. Because, this must be said in behalf of human kind, that common sense and plain reason, while men are disengaged from acquired opinions, will ever have some general influence upon their minds; whereas, the species of folly and vice are infinite, and so different in every individual, that they could never procure a majority, if other corruptions did not enter, to pervert mens understandings, and misguide their wills.
To describe how parties are bred in an affembly, would be a work too difficult at present, and perhaps not altogether fafe. Periculofæ plenum opus a'ex. Whether those, who are leaders, usually arrive at that station, more by a sort of intinct, or fecret composition of their nature, or influence of the stars, than by the possession of any great abilities, may be a point of much dispute: but when the leader is once fixed, there will never fail to be followers. And man is so apt to initate, so much of the nature of fizeep, in mitatores, fervum pecus, that whoever is so bold to give the first grent leap over the heads of those about him, though he be the worst of the flock, shall be quickly followed by the rest. Besides, when parties are once formed, the ftragglers look so ridiculous, and become so insignificant, that they have no other way, but to run into the
herd, which at least will hide and protect them; and where, to be much considered, requires only to be very violent.' . But there is one circumstance, with relation to parties, which I take to be, of all others, most pernicious in a state; and I would be giad any partizan would help me to a tolerable reason, that because Clodius and Curio happen to agree with me in a few singular notions, I must therefore blindly follow them in all: or, to state it at best, that because Bibulus the party-man, is persuaded that Clodius and Curio do really propose the good of their country as their chief end; therefore Bibulus shall be wholly guided and governed by them, in the means and measures towards it. Is it enough for Bibulus, and the rest of the herd, to say, without further examining, I am of the hide with Clodius, or, I vote with Curio? are these proper methods to form and make up what they think fit to call the united wisdom of the nation ? Is it not possible, that, upon fome occasion, Clodius may be bold and insolent, borne away by his passion, malicious, and revengeful? that Curio may be corrupt, and expose to sale his tongue, or his pen? I conceive it far below the dignity both of human nature, and human reason, to be engaged in any party, the most plausible foever, upon such servile conditions.
This influence of one upon many, which seems to be as great in a people represented, as it was of old in the commons collective, together with the consequences it hath had upon the legillature, A a 3
hath given me frequent occasion to reflect upon what Diodorus tells us of one Charondas, a law. giver to the Sybarites, an ancient people of Italy, who was fo averse from all innovation, especially when it was to proceed from particular persons, (and, I suppose, that he might put it out of the power of men, fond of their own notions, to difurb the constitution at their pleasures, by advancing private schemes) that he provided a statute, that whoever proposed any alteration to be made, should step out and do it with a rope about his neck: if the matter proposed, were generally approved, then it should pass into a law; if it went in the negative, the proposer to be immediately hanged. Great ministers may talk of what projects they please; but I am deceived, if a more effectual one could ever be found for taking off (as the present phrase is) those hot, unquiet fpirits, who disturb afsemblies, and obstruct public a frairs, by gratifying their pride, their malice, their ambition, or their avarice.
Those who, in a late reign, began the distinction between the personal and politic capacity, seem to have had reason, if they judged of princes by themselves; for, I think, there is hardly to be found, through all'‘nature, a greater difference between two things, than there is between a representing commoner, in the function of his public calling, and the same person, when he acts in the common offices of life. Here, he allows hime self to be upon a level with the rest of mortals: here, he follows his own reason, and his own way;
and rather affects a fingularity in his actions and thoughts, than servilely to copy either, from the wisest of his neighbours. In short, here, his folly, and his wisdom, his reason and his passions, are all of his own growth, not the echo or infusion of other men. But, when he is got near the walls of his assembly, he assumes and affects an entire set of very different airs; he conceives himself a being of a superior nature to those with. out, and acting in a sphere, where the vulgar methods for the conduct of human life can be of no use. He is listed in a party, where he neither knows the temper, nor designs, nor, perhaps, the person of his leader, but whose opinions he follows and maintains, with a zeal and faith as violent, as a young scholar does those of a philosopher, whose fect he is taught to profess. He hath neither opinions, nor thoughts, nor actions, nor talk, that he can call his own, but all conveyed to him by his leader, as wind is through an organ. The nourishment he receives, hath been not only chewed, but digested, before it comes into his mouth. Thus instructed, he follows the party, right or wrong, through all its sentiments, and acquires a courage and stiffness of opinion, not at all congenial with him.
This encourages me to hope, that, during the present lucid interval, the members retired to their homes, may suspend a while their acquired complexions, and, taught by the calmness of the 'fcene and the season, reassume the native fedateness of their temper. If this should be soy it