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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 affemblies, 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 afsemblies 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 fource of most mistakes and miscarriages in matters debated by public affemblies, ariseth from the influence of private persons upon great num. bers, styled, in common phrase, leading men and parties. And therefore, when we fometimes 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 obsequious 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
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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 faid 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 safe. Periculofa plenum opus a'ex. Whether those, who are leaders, usually arrive at that station, more by a sort of inTinct, or secret composition of their nature, or influence of the stars, than by the poffeffion of any great abilities, may be a point of much difpute: but when the leader is once fixed, there will never fail to be followers. And man is fo apt to initate, so much of the nature of foeep, imitatores, fervum pecus, that whoever is so bold to give the first grent leap over the heads of those atout him, though he be the worst of the flock, fhall 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 confidered, requires only to be very violent. '
But there is one circumstance, with relation to parties, which I take to be, of all others, moit pernicious in a stare ; and I would be glad 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 beft, 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 wbat they think fit to call the united wisdom of the nation? Is it not possible, that, upon some occasion, Clodius may be bold and infolent, borne away by his paslion, malicious, and revengeful? that Curio may be corrupt, and expose to fale 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 fervile 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 legiflature,
hath given me frequent occasion to reflect upon what Diodorus tells us of one Charondas, a lawgiver to the Sybarites, an ancient people of Italy, who was so 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 spirits, who disturb afiemblies, and obftruct public affairs, 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 pub-. lic calling, and the same person, when he acts in the common offices of life. Here, he allows him. 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 bimself 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 defigns, 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 philofopher, whose sect he is taught to profess. He hath neither opinions, nor thoughts, nor actions, nor talk, that he can call his
but all conveyed to him by his leader, as wind is through an organ. The nourishment he receives, hath been not only chewed, but digefted, before it comes into his mouth. Thus inftructed, 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, reaffume the native sedateness of their temper. If this should be soy it