William.—I must say that your plan was in reality nothing more than to procure for the Dutch a licence to trade under the good pleasure and gracious protection of France. But any State that so entirely depends on another is only a province, and its liberty is a servitude graced with a sweet but empty name. You should have reflected that to a monarch so ambitious and so vain as Louis le Grand the idea of a conquest which seemed almost certain, and the desire of humbling a haughty Republic, were temptations irresistible. His bigotry likewise would concur in recommending to him an enterprise which he might think would put heresy under his feet. And if you knew either the character of Charles II. or the principles of his government, you ought not to have supposed his union with France for the ruin of Holland an impossible or even improbable event. It is hardly excusable in a statesman to be greatly surprised that the inclinations of princes should prevail upon them to act, in many particulars, without any regard to the political maxims and interests of their kingdoms.
De Witt.—I am ashamed of my error; but the chief cause of it was that, though I thought very ill, I did not think quite so ill of Charles II. and his Ministry as they deserved. I imagined, too, that his Parliament would restrain him from engaging in such a war, or compel him to engage in our defence if France should attack us. These, I acknowledge, are excuses, not justifications. When the French marched into Holland and found it in a condition so unable to resist them, my fame as a Minister irrecoverably sank; for, not to appear a traitor, I was obliged to confess myself a dupe. But what praise is sufficient for the wisdom and virtue you showed in so firmly rejecting the offers which, I have been informed, were made to you, both by England and France, when first you appeared in arms at the head of your country, to give you the sovereignty of the Seven Provinces by the assistance and under the protection of the two Crowns! Believe me, great prince, had I been living in those times, and had known the generous answers you made to those offers (which were repeated more than once during the course of the war), not the most ancient and devoted servant to your family would have been more your friend than I. But who could reasonably hope for such moderation, and such a right sense of glory, in the mind of a young man descended from kings, whose mother was daughter to Charles I., and whose father had left him the seducing example of a very different conduct? Happy, indeed, was the English nation to have such a prince, so nearly allied to their Crown both in blood and by marriage, whom they might call to be their deliverer when bigotry and despotism, the two greatest enemies to human society, had almost overthrown their whole constitution in Church and State!
William.—They might have been happy, but were not. As soon as I had accomplished their deliverance for them, many of them became my most implacable enemies, and even wished to restore the unforgiving prince whom they had so unanimously and so justly expelled from his kingdom. Such levity seems incredible. I could not myself have imagined it possible, in a nation famed for good sense, if I had not had proofs of it beyond contradiction. They seemed as much to forget what they called me over for as that they had called me over. The security of their religion, the maintenance of their liberty, were no longer their care. All was to yield to the incomprehensible doctrine of right divine and passive obedience. Thus the Tories grew Jacobites, after having renounced both that doctrine and King James, by their opposition to him, by their invitation of me, and by every Act of the Parliament which gave me the Crown. But the most troublesome of my enemies were a set of Republicans, who violently opposed all my measures, and joined with the Jacobites in disturbing my government, only because it was not a commonwealth.
De Witt.—They who were Republicans under your government in the Kingdom of England did not love liberty, but aspired to dominion, and wished to throw the nation into a total confusion, that it might give them a chance of working out from that anarchy a better state for themselves.
William.—Your observation is just. A proud man thinks himself a lover of liberty when he is only impatient of a power in government above his own, and were he a king, or the first Minister of a king, would be a tyrant. Nevertheless I will own to you, with the candour which becomes a virtuous prince, that there were in England some Whigs, and even some of the most sober and moderate Tories, who, with very honest intentions, and sometimes with good judgments, proposed new securities to the liberty of the nation, against the prerogative or influence of the Crown and the corruption of Ministers in future times. To some of these I gave way, being convinced they were right, but others I resisted for fear of weakening too much the royal authority, and breaking that balance in which consists the perfection of a mixed form of government. I should not, perhaps, have resisted so many if I had not seen in the House of Commons a disposition to rise in their demands on the Crown had they found it more yielding. The difficulties of my government, upon the whole, were so great that I once had determined, from mere disgust and resentment, to give back to the nation, assembled in Parliament, the crown they had placed on my head, and retire to Holland, where I found more affection and gratitude in the people. But I was stopped by the earnest supplications of my friends and by an unwillingness to undo the great work I had done, especially as I knew that, if England should return into the hands of King James, it would be impossible in that crisis to preserve the rest of Europe from the dominion of France.
De Witt.—Heaven be praised that your Majesty did not persevere in so fatal a resolution! The United Provinces would have been ruined by it together with England. But I cannot enough express my astonishment that you should have met with such treatment as could suggest such a thought. The English must surely be a people incapable either of liberty or subjection.
William.—There were, I must acknowledge, some faults in my temper and some in my government, which are an excuse for my subjects with regard to the uneasiness and disquiet they gave me. My taciturnity, which suited the genius of the Dutch, offended theirs. They love an affable prince; it was chiefly his affability that made them so fond of Charles II. Their frankness and good-humour could not brook the reserve and coldness of my nature. Then the excess of my favour to some of the Dutch, whom I had brought over with me, excited a national jealousy in the English and hurt their pride. My government also appeared, at last, too unsteady, too fluctuating between the Whigs and the Tories, which almost deprived me of the confidence and affection of both parties. I trusted too much to the integrity and the purity of my intentions, without using those arts that are necessary to allay the ferment of factions and allure men to their duty by soothing their passions. Upon the whole I am sensible that I better understood how to govern the Dutch than the English or the Scotch, and should probably have been thought a greater man if I had not been King of Great Britain.
De Witt.—It is a shame to the English that gratitude and affection for such merit as yours were not able to overcome any little disgusts arising from your temper, and enthrone their deliverer in the hearts of his people. But will your Majesty give me leave to ask you one question? Is it true, as I have heard, that many of them disliked your alliances on the Continent and spoke of your war with France as a Dutch measure, in which you sacrificed England to Holland?
William.—The cry of the nation at first was strong for the war, but before the end of it the Tories began publicly to talk the language you mention. And no wonder they did, for, as they then had a desire to set up again the maxims of government which had prevailed in the reign of their beloved Charles II., they could not but represent opposition to France, and vigorous measures taken to restrain her ambition, as unnecessary for England, because they well knew that the counsels of that king had been utterly averse to such measures; that his whole policy made him a friend to France; that he was governed by a French mistress, and even bribed by French money to give that Court his assistance, or at least his acquiescence, in all their designs.
De Witt.—A King of England whose Cabinet is governed by France, and who becomes a vile pensioner to a French King, degrades himself from his royalty, and ought to be considered as an enemy to the nation. Indeed the whole policy of Charles II., when he was not forced off from his natural bias by the necessity he lay under of soothing his Parliament, was a constant, designed, systematical opposition to the interest of his people. His brother, though more sensible to the honour of England, was by his Popery and desire of arbitrary power constrained to lean upon France, and do nothing to obstruct her designs on the Continent or lessen her greatness. It was therefore necessary to place the British Crown on your head, not only with a view to preserve the religious and civil rights of the people from internal oppressions, but to rescue the whole State from that servile dependence on its natural enemy, which must unquestionably have ended in its destruction. What folly was it to revile your measures abroad, as sacrificing the interest of your British dominions to connections with the Continent, and principally with Holland! Had Great Britain no interest to hinder the French from being masters of all the Austrian Netherlands, and forcing the Seven United Provinces, her strongest barrier on the Continent against the power of that nation, to submit with the rest to their yoke? Would her trade, would her coasts, would her capital itself have been safe after so mighty an increase of shipping and sailors as France would have gained by those conquests? And what could have prevented them, but the war which you waged and the alliances which you formed? Could the Dutch and the Germans, unaided by Great Britain, have attempted to make head against a Power which, even with her assistance, strong and spirited as it was, they could hardly resist? And after the check which had been given to the encroachments of France by the efforts of the first grand alliance, did not a new and greater danger make it necessary to recur to another such league? Was not the union of France and Spain under one monarch, or even under one family, the most alarming contingency that ever had threatened the liberty of Europe?
William.—I thought so, and I am sure I did not err in my judgment. But folly is blind, and faction wilfully shuts her eyes against the most evident truths that cross her designs, as she believes any lies, however palpable and absurd, that she thinks will assist them.
De Witt.—The only objection which seems to have any real weight against your system of policy, with regard to the maintenance of a balance of power in Europe, is the enormous expense that must necessarily attend it; an expense which I am afraid neither England nor Holland will be able to bear without extreme inconvenience.
William.—I will answer that objection by asking a question. If, when you were Pensionary of Holland, intelligence had been brought that the dykes were ready to break and the sea was coming in to overwhelm and to drown us, what would you have said to one of the deputies who, when you were proposing the proper repairs to stop the inundation, should have objected to the charge as too heavy on the Province? This was the case in a political sense with both England and Holland. The fences raised to keep out superstition and tyranny were all giving way; those dreadful evils were threatening, with their whole accumulated force, to break in upon us and overwhelm our ecclesiastical and civil constitutions. In such circumstances to object to a necessary expense is folly and madness.
De Witt.—It is certain, sir, that the utmost abilities of a nation can never be so well employed as in the unwearied, pertinacious defence of their religion and freedom. When these are lost, there remains nothing that is worth the concern of a good or wise man. Nor do I think it consistent with the prudence of government not to guard against future dangers, as well as present; which precaution must be often in some degree expensive. I acknowledge, too, that the resources of a commercial country, which supports its trade, even in war, by invincible fleets, and takes care not to hurt it in the methods of imposing or collecting its taxes, are immense, and inconceivable till the trial is made; especially where the Government, which demands the supplies, is agreeable to the people. But yet an unlimited and continued expense will in the end be destructive. What matters it whether a State is mortally wounded by the hand of a foreign enemy, or dies by a consumption of its own vital strength? Such a consumption will come upon Holland sooner than upon England, because the latter has a greater radical force; but, great as it is, that force at last will be so diminished and exhausted by perpetual drains, that it may fail all at once, and those efforts, which may seem most surprisingly vigorous, will be in reality the convulsions of death. I don't apply this to your Majesty's government; but I speak with a view to what may happen hereafter from the extensive ideas of negotiation and war which you have established: they have been salutary to your kingdom; but they will, I fear, be pernicious in future times, if in pursuing great plans great Ministers do not act with a sobriety, prudence, and attention to frugality, which very seldom are joined with an extraordinary vigour and boldness of counsels.
Darteneuf.—Alas! poor Apicius, I pity thee from my heart for not having lived in my age and in my country. How many good dishes, unknown at Rome in thy days, have I feasted upon in England!
Apicius.—Keep your pity for yourself. How many good dishes have I feasted upon in Rome which England does not produce, or of which the knowledge has been lost, with other treasures of antiquity, in these degenerate days! The fat paps of a sow, the livers of scari, the brains of phoenicopters, and the tripotanum, which consisted of three excellent sorts of fish, for which you English have no names, the lupus marinus, the myxo, and the muraena.
Darteneuf.—I thought the muraena had been our lamprey. We have delicate ones in the Severn.
Apicius.—No; the muraena, so respected by the ancient Roman senators, was a salt-water fish, and kept by our nobles in ponds, into which the sea was admitted.
Darteneuf.—Why, then, I dare say our Severn lampreys are better. Did you ever eat any of them stewed or potted?
Apicius.—I was never in Britain. Your country then was too barbarous for me to go thither. I should have been afraid that the Britons would have eaten me.
Darteneuf.—I am sorry for you, very sorry; for if you never were in Britain you never ate the best oysters.
Apicius.—Pardon me, sir, your Sandwich oysters were brought to Rome in my time.
Darteneuf.—They could not be fresh; they were good for nothing there. You should have come to Sandwich to eat them. It is a shame for you that you did not. An epicure talk of danger when he is in search of a dainty! Did not Leander swim over the Hellespont in a tempest to get to his mistress? And what is a wench to a barrel of exquisite oysters?
Apicius.—Nay; I am sure you can't blame me for any want of alertness in seeking fine fishes. I sailed to the coast of Africa, from Minturnae in Campania, only to taste of one species, which I heard was larger there than it was on our coast; and finding that I had received a false information, I returned immediately, without even deigning to land.
Darteneuf.—There was some sense in that. But why did not you also make a voyage to Sandwich? Had you once tasted those oysters in their highest perfection, you would never have come back; you would have eaten till you burst.
Apicius.—I wish I had. It would have been better than poisoning myself, as I did at Rome, because I found, upon the balance of my accounts, I had only the pitiful sum of fourscore thousand pounds left, which would not afford me a table to keep me from starving.
Darteneuf.—A sum of fourscore thousand pounds not keep you from starving! Would I had had it! I should have been twenty years in spending it, with the best table in London.
Apicius.—Alas, poor man! This shows that you English have no idea of the luxury that reigned in our tables. Before I died I had spent in my kitchen 807,291 pounds 13s. 4d.
Darteneuf.—I don't believe a word of it. There is certainly an error in the account.
Apicius.—Why, the establishment of Lucullus for his suppers in the Apollo—I mean for every supper he sat down to in the room which he called by that name—was 5,000 drachms, which is in your money 1,614 pounds 11s. 8d.
Darteneuf.—Would I had supped with him there! But are you sure there is no blunder in these calculations?
Apicius.—Ask your learned men that. I reckon as they tell me. But you may think that these feasts were made only by great men, by triumphant generals, like Lucullus, who had plundered all Asia to help him in his housekeeping. What will you say when I tell you that the player AEsopus had one dish that cost him 6,000 sestertia—that is, 4,843 pounds 10s. English?
Darteneuf.—What will I say? Why, that I pity my worthy friend Mr. Gibber, and that, if I had known this when alive, I should have hanged myself for vexation that I did not live in those days.
Apicius.—Well you might, well you might. You don't know what eating is. You never could know it. Nothing less than the wealth of the Roman Empire is sufficient to enable a man of taste to keep a good table. Our players were infinitely richer than your princes.
Darteneuf.—Oh that I had but lived in the blessed reign of Caligula, or of Vitellius, or of Heliogabalus, and had been admitted to the honour of dining with their slaves!
Apicius.—Ay, there you touch me. I am miserable that I died before their good times. They carried the glories of their table much farther than the best eaters of the age in which I lived. Vitellius spent in feasting, within the compass of one year, what would amount in your money to above 7,200,000 pounds. He told me so himself in a conversation I had with him not long ago. And the two others you mentioned did not fall very short of his royal magnificence.
Darteneuf.—These, indeed, were great princes. But what most affects me is the luxury of that upstart fellow AEsopus. Pray, of what ingredients might the dish he paid so much for consist?
Apicius.—Chiefly of singing birds. It was that which so greatly enhanced the price.
Darteneuf.—Of singing birds! Choke him! I never ate but one, which I stole out of its cage from a lady of my acquaintance, and all London was in an uproar, as if I had stolen and roasted an only child. But, upon recollection, I doubt whether I have really so much cause to envy AEsopus. For the singing bird which I ate was not so good as a wheat-ear or becafigue. And therefore I suspect that all the luxury you have bragged of was nothing but vanity. It was like the foolish extravagance of the son of AEsopus, who dissolved pearls in vinegar and drank them at supper. I will stake my credit that a haunch of good buck venison and my favourite ham pie were much better dishes than any at the table of Vitellius himself. It does not appear that you ancients ever had any good soups, without which a man of taste cannot possibly dine. The rabbits in Italy are detestable. But what is better than the wing of one of our English wild rabbits? I have been told you had no turkeys. The mutton in Italy is ill-flavoured. And as for your boars roasted whole, they were only fit to be served up at a corporation feast or election dinner. A small barbecued hog is worth a hundred of them. And a good collar of Canterbury or Shrewsbury brawn is a much better dish.
Apicius.—If you had some meats that we wanted, yet our cookery must have been greatly superior to yours. Our cooks were so excellent that they could give to hog's flesh the taste of all other meats.
Darteneuf.—I should never have endured their imitations. You might as easily have imposed on a good connoisseur in painting the copy of a fine picture for the original. Our cooks, on the contrary, give to all other meats, and even to some kinds of fish, a rich flavour of bacon without destroying that which makes the distinction of one from another. It does not appear to me that essence of hams was ever known to the ancients. We have a hundred ragouts, the composition of which surpasses all description. Had yours been as good, you could not have lain indolently lolling upon couches while you were eating. They would have made you sit up and mind your business. Then you had a strange custom of hearing things read to you while you were at supper. This demonstrates that you were not so well entertained as we are with our meat. When I was at table, I neither heard, nor saw, nor spoke; I only tasted. But the worst of all is that, in the utmost perfection of your luxury, you had no wine to be named with claret, Burgundy, champagne, old hock, or Tokay. You boasted much of your Falernum, but I have tasted the Lachrymae Christi and other wines of that coast, not one of which would I have drunk above a glass or two of if you would have given me the Kingdom of Naples. I have read that you boiled your wines and mixed water with them, which is sufficient evidence that in themselves they were not fit to drink.
Apicius.—I am afraid you do really excel us in wines; not to mention your beer, your cider, and your perry, of all which I have heard great fame from your countrymen, and their report has been confirmed by the testimony of their neighbours who have travelled into England. Wonderful things have been also said to me of an English liquor called punch.
Darteneuf.—Ay, to have died without tasting that is miserable indeed! There is rum punch and arrack punch! It is difficult to say which is best, but Jupiter would have given his nectar for either of them, upon my word and honour.
Apicius.—The thought of them puts me into a fever with thirst.
Darteneuf.—Those incomparable liquors are brought to us from the East and West Indies, of the first of which you knew little, and of the latter nothing. This alone is sufficient to determine the dispute. What a new world of good things for eating and drinking has Columbus opened to us! Think of that, and despair.
Apicius.—I cannot indeed but exceedingly lament my ill fate that America was not discovered before I was born. It tortures me when I hear of chocolate, pineapples, and a number of other fine fruits, or delicious meats, produced there which I have never tasted.
Darteneuf.—The single advantage of having sugar to sweeten everything with, instead of honey, which you, for want of the other, were obliged to make use of, is inestimable.
Apicius.—I confess your superiority in that important article. But what grieves me most is that I never ate a turtle. They tell me that it is absolutely the best of all foods.
Darteneuf.—Yes, I have heard the Americans say so, but I never ate any; for in my time they were not brought over to England.
Apicius.—Never ate any turtle! How couldst thou dare to accuse me of not going to Sandwich to eat oysters, and didst not thyself take a trip to America to riot on turtles? But know, wretched man, I am credibly informed that they are now as plentiful in England as sturgeons. There are turtle-boats that go regularly to London and Bristol from the West Indies. I have just received this information from a fat alderman, who died in London last week of a surfeit he got at a turtle feast in that city.
Darteneuf.—What does he say? Does he affirm to you that turtle is better than venison?
Apicius.—He says, there was a haunch of the fattest venison untouched, while every mouth was employed on the turtle alone.
Darteneuf.—Alas! how imperfect is human felicity! I lived in an age when the noble science of eating was supposed to have been carried to its highest perfection in England and France. And yet a turtle feast is a novelty to me! Would it be impossible, do you think, to obtain leave from Pluto of going back for one day to my own table at London just to taste of that food? I would promise to kill myself by the quantity of it I would eat before the next morning.
Apicius.—You have forgot you have no body. That which you had has long been rotten, and you can never return to the earth with another, unless Pythagoras should send you thither to animate a hog. But comfort yourself that, as you have eaten dainties which I never tasted, so the next age will eat some unknown to this. New discoveries will be made, and new delicacies brought from other parts of the world. But see; who comes hither? I think it is Mercury.
Mercury.—Gentlemen, I must tell you that I have stood near you invisible, and heard your discourse—a privilege which, you know, we deities use as often as we please. Attend, therefore, to what I shall communicate to you, relating to the subject upon which you have been talking. I know two men, one of whom lived in ancient, and the other in modern times, who had much more pleasure in eating than either of you through the whole course of your lives.
Apicius.—One of these happy epicures, I presume, was a Sybarite, and the other a French gentleman settled in the West Indies.
Mercury.—No; one was a Spartan soldier, and the other an English farmer. I see you both look astonished. But what I tell you is truth. Labour and hunger gave a relish to the black broth of the former, and the salt beef of the latter, beyond what you ever found in the tripotanums or ham pies, that vainly stimulated your forced and languid appetites, which perpetual indolence weakened, and constant luxury overcharged.
Darteneuf.—This, Apicius, is more mortifying than not to have shared a turtle feast.
Apicius.—I wish, Mercury, you had taught me your art of cookery in my lifetime; but it is a sad thing not to know what good living is till after one is dead.
ALEXANDER THE GREAT—CHARLES XII., KING OF SWEDEN.
Alexander.—Your Majesty seems in great wrath! Who has offended you?
Charles.—The offence is to you as much as me. Here is a fellow admitted into Elysium who has affronted us both—an English poet, one Pope. He has called us two madmen!
Alexander.—I have been unlucky in poets. No prince ever was fonder of the Muses than I, or has received from them a more ungrateful return. When I was alive, I declared that I envied Achilles because he had a Homer to celebrate his exploits; and I most bountifully rewarded Choerilus, a pretender to poetry, for writing verses on mine. But my liberality, instead of doing me honour, has since drawn upon me the ridicule of Horace, a witty Roman poet; and Lucan, another versifier of the same nation, has loaded my memory with the harshest invectives.
Charles.—I know nothing of these; but I know that in my time a pert French satirist, one Boileau, made so free with your character, that I tore his book for having abused my favourite hero. And now this saucy Englishman has libelled us both. But I have a proposal to make to you for the reparation of our honour. If you will join with me, we will turn all these insolent scribblers out of Elysium, and throw them down headlong to the bottom of Tartarus, in spite of Pluto and all his guards.
Alexander.—This is just such a scheme as that you formed at Bender, to maintain yourself there, with the aid of three hundred Swedes, against the whole force of the Ottoman Empire. And I must say that such follies gave the English poet too much cause to call you a madman.
Charles.—If my heroism was madness, yours, I presume, was not wisdom.
Alexander.—There was a vast difference between your conduct and mine. Let poets or declaimers say what they will, history shows that I was not only the bravest soldier, but one of the ablest commanders the world has ever seen. Whereas you, by imprudently leading your army into vast and barren deserts at the approach of the winter, exposed it to perish in its march for want of subsistence, lost your artillery, lost a great number of your soldiers, and was forced to fight with the Muscovites under such disadvantages as made it almost impossible for you to conquer.
Charles.—I will not dispute your superiority as a general. It is not for me, a mere mortal, to contend with the son of Jupiter Ammon.
Alexander.—I suppose you think my pretending that Jupiter was my father as much entitles me to the name of a madman as your extravagant behaviour at Bender does you. But you are greatly mistaken. It was not my vanity, but my policy, which set up that pretension. When I proposed to undertake the conquest of Asia, it was necessary for me to appear to the people something more than a man. They had been used to the idea of demi-god heroes. I therefore claimed an equal descent with Osiris and Sesostris, with Bacchus and Hercules, the former conquerors of the East. The opinion of my divinity assisted my arms and subdued all nations before me, from the Granicus to the Ganges. But though I called myself the son of Jupiter, and kept up the veneration that name inspired, by a courage which seemed more than human, and by the sublime magnanimity of all my behaviour, I did not forget that I was the son of Philip. I used the policy of my father and the wise lessons of Aristotle, whom he had made my preceptor, in the conduct of all my great designs. It was the son of Philip who planted Greek colonies in Asia as far as the Indies; who formed projects of trade more extensive than his empire itself; who laid the foundations of them in the midst of his wars; who built Alexandria, to be the centre and staple of commerce between Europe, Asia, and Africa, who sent Nearchus to navigate the unknown Indian seas, and intended to have gone himself from those seas to the Pillars of Hercules—that is, to have explored the passage round Africa, the discovery of which has since been so glorious to Vasco de Gama. It was the son of Philip who, after subduing the Persians, governed them with such lenity, such justice, and such wisdom, that they loved him even more than ever they had loved their natural kings; and who, by intermarriages and all methods that could best establish a coalition between the conquerors and the conquered, united them into one people. But what, sir, did you do to advance the trade of your subjects, to procure any benefit to those you had vanquished, or to convert any enemy into a friend?
Charles.—When I might easily have made myself King of Poland, and was advised to do so by Count Piper, my favourite Minister, I generously gave that kingdom to Stanislas, as you had given a great part of you conquests in India to Porus, besides his own dominions, which you restored to him entire after you had beaten his army and taken him captive.
Alexander.—I gave him the government of those countries under me and as my lieutenant, which was the best method of preserving my power in conquests where I could not leave garrisons sufficient to maintain them. The same policy was afterwards practised by the Romans, who of all conquerors, except me, were the greatest politicians. But neither was I nor were they so extravagant as to conquer only for others, or dethrone kings with no view but merely to have the pleasure of bestowing their crowns on some of their subjects without any advantage to ourselves. Nevertheless, I will own that my expedition to India was an exploit of the son of Jupiter, not of the son of Philip. I had done better if I had stayed to give more consistency to my Persian and Grecian Empires, instead of attempting new conquests and at such a distance so soon. Yet even this war was of use to hinder my troops from being corrupted by the effeminacy of Asia, and to keep up that universal awe of my name which in those countries was the great support of my power.
Charles.—In the unwearied activity with which I proceeded from one enterprise to another, I dare call myself your equal. Nay, I may pretend to a higher glory than you, because you only went on from victory to victory; but the greatest losses were not able to diminish my ardour or stop the efforts of my daring and invincible spirit.
Alexander.—You showed in adversity much more magnanimity than you did in prosperity. How unworthy of a prince who imitated me was your behaviour to the king your arms had vanquished! The compelling Augustus to write himself a letter of congratulation to one of his vassals whom you had placed in his throne, was the very reverse of my treatment of Porus and Darius. It was an ungenerous insult upon his ill-fortune. It was the triumph of a little and a low mind. The visit you made him immediately after that insult was a further contempt, offensive to him, and both useless and dangerous to yourself.
Charles.—I feared no danger from it. I knew he durst not use the power I gave him to hurt me.
Alexander.—If his resentment in that instant had prevailed over his fear, as it was likely to do, you would have perished deservedly by your insolence and presumption. For my part, intrepid as I was in all dangers which I thought it was necessary or proper for me to meet, I never put myself one moment in the power of an enemy whom I had offended. But you had the rashness of folly as well as of heroism. A false opinion conceived of your enemy's weakness proved at last your undoing. When, in answer to some reasonable propositions of peace sent to you by the Czar, you said, "You would come and treat with him at Moscow," he replied very justly, "That you affected to act like Alexander, but should not find in him a Darius." And, doubtless, you ought to have been better acquainted with the character of that prince. Had Persia been governed by a Peter Alexowitz when I made war against it, I should have acted more cautiously, and not have counted so much on the superiority of my troops in valour and discipline over an army commanded by a king who was so capable of instructing them in all they wanted.
Charles.—The battle of Narva, won by eight thousand Swedes against fourscore thousand Muscovites, seemed to authorise my contempt of the nation and their prince.
Alexander.—It happened that their prince was not present in that battle. But he had not as yet had the time which was necessary to instruct his barbarous soldiers. You gave him that time, and he made so good a use of it that you found at Pultowa the Muscovites become a different nation. If you had followed the blow you gave them at Narva, and marched directly to Moscow, you might have destroyed their Hercules in his cradle. But you suffered him to grow till his strength was mature, and then acted as if he had been still in his childhood.
Charles.—I must confess you excelled me in conduct, in policy, and in true magnanimity. But my liberality was not inferior to yours; and neither you nor any mortal ever surpassed me in the enthusiasm of courage. I was also free from those vices which sullied your character. I never was drunk; I killed no friend in the riot of a feast; I fired no palace at the instigation of a harlot.
Alexander.—It may perhaps be admitted, as some excuse for my drunkenness, that the Persians esteemed it an excellence in their kings to be able to drink a great quantity of wine, and the Macedonians were far from thinking it a dishonour. But you were as frantic and as cruel when sober as I was when drunk. You were sober when you resolved to continue in Turkey against the will of your host, the Grand Signor. You were sober when you commanded the unfortunate Patkull, whose only crime was his having maintained the liberties of his country, and who bore the sacred character of an ambassador, to be broken alive on the wheel, against the laws of nations, and those of humanity, more inviolable still to a generous mind. You were likewise sober when you wrote to the Senate of Sweden, who, upon a report of your death, endeavoured to take some care of your kingdom, that you would send them one of your boots, and from that they should receive their orders if they pretended to meddle in government—an insult much worse than any the Macedonians complained of from me when I was most heated with wine and with adulation. As for my chastity, it was not so perfect as yours, though on some occasions I obtained great praise for my continence; but, perhaps, if you had been not quite so insensible to the charms of the fair sex, it would have mitigated and softened the fierceness, the pride, and the obstinacy of your nature.
Charles.—It would have softened me into a woman, or, what I think still more contemptible, the slave of a woman. But you seem to insinuate that you never were cruel or frantic unless when you were drunk. This I absolutely deny. You were not drunk when you crucified Hephaestion's physician for not curing a man who killed himself by his intemperance in his sickness, nor when you sacrificed to the manes of that favourite officer the whole nation of the Cusseans—men, women, and children—who were entirely innocent of his death—because you had read in Homer that Achilles had immolated some Trojan captives on the tomb of Patroclus. I could mention other proofs that your passions inflamed you as much as wine, but these are sufficient.
Alexander.—I can't deny that my passions were sometimes so violent as to deprive me for a while of the use of my reason; especially when the pride of such amazing successes, the servitude of the Persians, and barbarian flattery had intoxicated my mind. To bear at my age, with continual moderation, such fortune as mine, was hardly in human nature. As for you, there was an excess and intemperance in your virtues which turned them all into vices. And one virtue you wanted, which in a prince is very commendable and beneficial to the public—I mean, the love of science and of the elegant arts. Under my care and patronage they were carried in Greece to their utmost perfection. Aristotle, Apelles, and Lysippus were among the glories of my reign. Yours was illustrated only by battles. Upon the whole, though, from some resemblance between us I should naturally be inclined to decide in your favour, yet I must give the priority in renown to your enemy, Peter Alexowitz. That great monarch raised his country; you ruined yours. He was a legislator; you were a tyrant.
CARDINAL XIMENES—CARDINAL WOLSEY.
Wolsey.—You seem to look on me, Ximenes, with an air of superiority, as if I was not your equal. Have you forgotten that I was the favourite and first Minister of a great King of England? that I was at once Lord High Chancellor, Bishop of Durham, Bishop of Winchester, Archbishop of York, and Cardinal Legate? On what other subject were ever accumulated so many dignities, such honours, such power?
Ximenes.—In order to prove yourself my equal, you are pleased to tell me what you had, not what you did. But it is not the having great offices, it is the doing great things, that makes a great Minister. I know that for some years you governed the mind of King Henry VIII., and consequently his kingdom, with the most absolute sway. Let me ask you, then, What were the acts of your reign?
Wolsey.—My acts were those of a very skilful courtier and able politician. I managed a temper which nature had made the most difficult to manage of any perhaps that ever existed, with such consummate address that all its passions were rendered entirely subservient to my inclinations. In foreign affairs I turned the arms of my master or disposed of his friendship, whichever way my own interest happened to direct. It was not with him, but with me, that treaties were made by the Emperor or by France; and none were concluded during my Ministry that did not contain some Article in my favour, besides secret assurances of aiding my ambition or resentment, which were the real springs of all my negotiations. At home I brought the pride of the English nobility, which had resisted the greatest of the Plantagenets, to bow submissively to the son of a butcher of Ipswich. And, as my power was royal, my state and magnificence were suitable to it; my buildings, my furniture, my household, my equipage, my liberalities, and my charities were above the rank of a subject.
Ximenes.—From all you have said I understand that you gained great advantages for yourself in the course of your Ministry—too great, indeed, for a good man to desire, or a wise man to accept. But what did you do for your sovereign and for the State? You make me no answer. What I did is well known. I was not content with forcing the arrogance of the Spanish nobility to stoop to my power, but used that power to free the people from their oppressions. In you they respected the royal authority; I made them respect the majesty of the laws. I also relieved my countrymen, the commons of Castile, from a most grievous burden, by an alteration in the method of collecting their taxes. After the death of Isabella I preserved the tranquillity of Aragon and Castile by procuring the regency of the latter for Ferdinand, a wise and valiant prince, though he had not been my friend during the life of the queen. And when after his decease I was raised to the regency by the general esteem and affection of the Castilians, I administered the government with great courage, firmness, and prudence; with the most perfect disinterestedness in regard to myself, and most zealous concern for the public. I suppressed all the factions which threatened to disturb the peace of that kingdom in the minority and the absence of the young king; and prevented the discontents of the commons of Castile, too justly incensed against the Flemish Ministers, who governed their prince and rapaciously pillaged their country, from breaking out during my life into open rebellion, as they did, most unhappily, soon after my death. These were my civil acts; but, to complete the renown of my administration, I added to it the palm of military glory. At my own charges, and myself commanding the army, I conquered Oran from the Moors, and annexed it, with its territory, to the Spanish dominions.
Wolsey.—My soul was as elevated and noble as yours, my understanding as strong, and more refined; but the difference of our conduct arose from the difference of our objects. To raise your reputation and secure your power in Castile, by making that kingdom as happy and as great as you could, was your object. Mine was to procure the Triple Crown for myself by the assistance of my sovereign and of the greatest foreign Powers. Each of us took the means that were evidently most proper to the accomplishment of his ends.
Ximenes.—Can you confess such a principle of your conduct without a blush? But you will at least be ashamed that you failed in your purpose, and were the dupe of the Powers with whom you negotiated, after having dishonoured the character of your master in order to serve your own ambition. I accomplished my desire with glory to my sovereign and advantage to my country. Besides this difference, there was a great one in the methods by which we acquired our power. We both owed it, indeed, to the favour of princes; but I gained Isabella's by the opinion she had of my piety and integrity. You gained Henry's by a complaisance and course of life which were a reproach to your character and sacred orders.
Wolsey.—I did not, as you, Ximenes, did, carry with me to Court the austerity of a monk; nor, if I had done so, could I possibly have gained any influence there. Isabella and Henry were different characters, and their favour was to be sought in different ways. By making myself agreeable to the latter, I so governed his passions, unruly as they were, that while I lived they did not produce any of those dreadful effects which after my death were caused by them in his family and kingdom.
Ximenes.—If Henry VIII., your master, had been King of Castile, I would never have been drawn by him out of my cloister. A man of virtue and spirit will not be prevailed with to go into a Court where he cannot rise without baseness.
Wolsey.—The inflexibility of your mind had like to have ruined you in some of your measures; and the bigotry which you had derived from your long abode in a cloister, and retained when a Minister, was very near depriving the Crown of Castile of the new-conquered kingdom of Granada by the revolt of the Moors in that city, whom you had prematurely forced to change their religion. Do you not remember how angry King Ferdinand was with you on that account?
Ximenes.—I do, and must acknowledge that my zeal was too intemperate in all that proceeding.
Wolsey.—My worst complaisances to King Henry VIII. were far less hurtful to England than the unjust and inhuman Court of Inquisition, which you established in Granada to watch over the faith of your unwilling converts, has been to Spain.
Ximenes.—I only revived and settled in Granada an ancient tribunal, instituted first by one of our saints against the Albigenses, and gave it greater powers. The mischiefs which have attended it cannot be denied; but if any force may be used for the maintenance of religion (and the Church of Rome has, you know, declared authoritatively that it may) none could be so effectual to answer the purpose.
Wolsey.—This is an argument rather against the opinion of the Church than for the Inquisition. I will only say I think myself very happy that my administration was stained with no action of cruelty, not even cruelty sanctified by the name of religion. My temper indeed, which influenced my conduct more than my principles, was much milder than yours. To the proud I was proud, but to my friends and inferiors benevolent and humane. Had I succeeded in the great object of my ambition, had I acquired the Popedom, I should have governed the Church with more moderation and better sense than probably you would have done if you had exchanged the See of Toledo for that of Rome. My good-nature, my policy, my taste for magnificence, my love of the fine arts, of wit, and of learning, would have made me the delight of all the Italians, and have given me a rank among the greatest princes. Whereas in you the sour bigot and rigid monk would too much have prevailed over the prince and the statesman.
Ximenes.—What either of us would have been in that situation does not appear; but, if you are compared to me as a Minister, you are vastly inferior. The only circumstance in which you can justly pretend to any equality is the encouragement you gave to learning and your munificence in promoting it, which was indeed very great. Your two colleges founded at Ipswich and Oxford may vie with my University at Alcala de Henara. But in our generosity there was this difference—all my revenues were spent in well-placed liberalities, in acts of charity, piety, and virtue; whereas a great part of your enormous wealth was squandered away in luxury and vain ostentation. With regard to all other points, my superiority is apparent. You were only a favourite; I was the friend and the father of the people. You served yourself; I served the State. The conclusion of our lives was also much more honourable to me than you.
Wolsey.—Did not you die, as I did, in disgrace with your master?
Ximenes.—That disgrace was brought upon me by a faction of foreigners, to whose power, as a good Spaniard, I would not submit. A Minister who falls a victim to such an opposition rises by his fall. Yours was not graced by any public cause, any merit to the nation. Your spirit, therefore, sank under it; you bore it with meanness. Mine was unbroken, superior to my enemies, superior to fortune, and I died, as I had lived, with undiminished dignity and greatness of mind.
Lucian.—Friend Rabelais, well met—our souls are very good company for one another; we both were great wits and most audacious freethinkers. We laughed often at folly, and sometimes at wisdom. I was, indeed, more correct and more elegant in my style; but then, in return, you had a greater fertility of imagination. My "True History" is much inferior, in fancy and invention, in force of wit and keenness of satire, to your "History of the Acts of Gargantua and Pantagruel."
Rabelais.—You do me great honour; but I may say, without vanity, that both those compositions entitle the authors of them to a very distinguished place among memoir-writers, travellers, and even historians, ancient and modern.
Lucian.—Doubtless they do; but will you pardon me if I ask you one question? Why did you choose to write such absolute nonsense as you have in some places of your illustrious work?
Rabelais.—I was forced to compound my physic for the mind with a large dose of nonsense in order to make it go down. To own the truth to you, if I had not so frequently put on the fool's-cap, the freedoms I took in other places with cowls, with Red Hats, and the Triple Crown itself, would have brought me into great danger. Not only my book, but I myself, should, in all probability, have been condemned to the flames; and martyrdom was an honour to which I never aspired. I therefore counterfeited folly, like Junius Brutus, from the wisest of all principles—that of self-preservation. You, Lucian, had no need to use so much caution. Your heathen priests desired only a sacrifice now and then from an Epicurean as a mark of conformity, and kindly allowed him to make as free as he pleased, in conversation or writings, with the whole tribe of gods and goddesses—from the thundering Jupiter and the scolding Juno, down to the dog Anubis and the fragrant dame Cloacina.
Lucian.—Say rather that our Government allowed us that liberty; for I assure you our priests were by no means pleased with it—at least, they were not in my time.
Rabelais.—The wiser men they; for, in spite of the conformity required by the laws and enforced by the magistrate, that ridicule brought the system of pagan theology into contempt, not only with the philosophical part of mankind, but even with the vulgar.
Lucian.—It did so, and the ablest defenders of paganism were forced to give up the poetical fables and allegorise the whole.
Rabelais.—An excellent way of drawing sense out of absurdity, and grave instructions from lewdness. There is a great modern wit, Sir Francis Bacon, Lord Verulam, who in his treatise entitled "The Wisdom of the Ancients" has done more for you that way than all your own priests.
Lucian.—He has indeed shown himself an admirable chemist, and made a fine transmutation of folly into wisdom. But all the later Platonists took the same method of defending our faith when it was attacked by the Christians; and certainly a more judicious one could not be found. Our fables say that in one of their wars with the Titans the gods were defeated, and forced to turn themselves into beasts in order to escape from the conquerors. Just the reverse happened here, for by this happy art our beastly divinities were turned again into rational beings.
Rabelais.—Give me a good commentator, with a subtle, refining, philosophical head, and you shall have the edification of seeing him draw the most sublime allegories and the most venerable mystic truths from my history of the noble Gargantua and Pantagruel. I don't despair of being proved, to the entire satisfaction of some future ape, to have been, without exception, the profoundest divine and metaphysician that ever yet held a pen.
Lucian.—I shall rejoice to see you advanced to that honour. But in the meantime I may take the liberty to consider you as one of our class. There you sit very high.
Rabelais.—I am afraid there is another, and a modern author too, whom you would bid to sit above me, and but just below yourself—I mean Dr. Swift.
Lucian.—It was not necessary for him to throw so much nonsense into his history of Lemuel Gulliver as you did into that of your two illustrious heroes; and his style is far more correct than yours. His wit never descended, as yours frequently did, into the lowest of taverns, nor ever wore the meanest garb of the vulgar.
Rabelais.—If the garb which it wore was not as mean, I am certain it was sometimes as dirty as mine.
Lucian.—It was not always nicely clean; yet, in comparison with you, he was decent and elegant. But whether there was not in your compositions more fire, and a more comic spirit, I will not determine.
Rabelais.—If you will not determine it, e'en let it remain a matter in dispute, as I have left the great question, Whether Panurge should marry or not? I would as soon undertake to measure the difference between the height and bulk of the giant Gargantua and his Brobdignagian Majesty, as the difference of merit between my writings and Swift's. If any man takes a fancy to like my book, let him freely enjoy the entertainment it gives him, and drink to my memory in a bumper. If another likes Gulliver, let him toast Dr. Swift. Were I upon earth I would pledge him in a bumper, supposing the wine to be good. If a third likes neither of us, let him silently pass the bottle and be quiet.
Lucian.—But what if he will not be quiet? A critic is an unquiet creature.
Rabelais.—Why, then he will disturb himself, not me.
Lucian.—You are a greater philosopher than I thought you. I knew you paid no respect to Popes or kings, but to pay none to critics is, in an author, a magnanimity beyond all example.
Rabelais.—My life was a farce; my death was a farce; and would you have me make my book a serious affair? As for you, though in general you are only a joker, yet sometimes you must be ranked among grave authors. You have written sage and learned dissertations on history and other weighty matters. The critics have therefore an undoubted right to maul you; they find you in their province. But if any of them dare to come into mine, I will order Gargantua to swallow them up, as he did the six pilgrims, in the next salad he eats.
Lucian.—Have I not heard that you wrote a very good serious book on the aphorisms of Hippocrates?
Rabelais.—Upon my faith I had forgot it. I am so used to my fool's coat that I don't know myself in my solemn doctor's gown. But your information was right; that book was indeed a very respectable work. Yet nobody reads it; and if I had writ nothing else, I should have been reckoned, at best, a lackey to Hippocrates, whereas the historian of Panurge is an eminent writer. Plain good sense, like a dish of solid beef or mutton, is proper only for peasants; but a ragout of folly, well dressed with a sharp sauce of wit, is fit to be served up at an emperor's table.
Lucian.—You are an admirable pleasant fellow. Let me embrace you. How Apollo and the Muses may rank you on Parnassus I am not very certain; but, if I were Master of the Ceremonies on Mount Olympus, you should be placed, with a full bowl of nectar before you, at the right hand of Momus.
Rabelais.—I wish you were; but I fear the inhabitants of those sublime regions will like your company no better than mine. Indeed, how Momus himself could get a seat at that table I can't well comprehend. It has been usual, I confess, in some of our Courts upon earth, to have a privileged jester, called the king's fool. But in the Court of Heaven one should not have supposed such an officer as Jupiter's fool. Your allegorical theology in this point is very abstruse.
Lucian.—I think our priests admitted Momus into our heaven, as the Indians are said to worship the devil, through fear. They had a mind to keep fair with him. For we may talk of the giants as much as we please, but to our gods there is no enemy so formidable as he. Ridicule is the terror of all false religion. Nothing but truth can stand its lash.
Rabelais.—Truth, advantageously set in a good and fair light, can stand any attacks; but those of Ridicule are so teasing and so fallacious that I have seen them put her ladyship very much out of humour.
Lucian.—Ay, friend Rabelais, and sometimes out of countenance too. But Truth and Wit in confederacy will strike Momus dumb. United they are invincible, and such a union is necessary upon certain occasions. False Reasoning is most effectually exposed by Plain Sense; but Wit is the best opponent to False Ridicule, as Just Ridicule is to all the absurdities which dare to assume the venerable names of Philosophy or Religion. Had we made such a proper use of our agreeable talents; had we employed our ridicule to strip the foolish faces of Superstition, Fanaticism, and Dogmatical Pride of the serious and solemn masks with which they are covered, at the same time exerting all the sharpness of our wit to combat the flippancy and pertness of those who argue only by jests against reason and evidence in points of the highest and most serious concern, we should have much better merited the esteem of mankind.
PERICLES—COSMO DE MEDICIS, THE FIRST OF THAT NAME.
Pericles.—In what I have heard of your character and your fortune, illustrious Cosmo, I find a most remarkable resemblance with mine. We both lived in republics where the sovereign power was in the people; and by mere civil arts, but more especially by our eloquence, attained, without any force, to such a degree of authority that we ruled those tumultuous and stormy democracies with an absolute sway, turned the tempests which agitated them upon the heads of our enemies, and after having long and prosperously conducted the greatest affairs in war and peace, died revered and lamented by all our fellow-citizens.
Cosmo.—We have indeed an equal right to value ourselves on that noblest of empires, the empire we gained over the minds of our countrymen. Force or caprice may give power, but nothing can give a lasting authority except wisdom and virtue. By these we obtained, by these we preserved, in our respective countries, a dominion unstained by usurpation or blood—a dominion conferred on us by the public esteem and the public affection. We were in reality sovereigns, while we lived with the simplicity of private men; and Athens and Florence believed themselves to be free, though they obeyed all our dictates. This is more than was done by Philip of Macedon, or Sylla, or Caesar. It is the perfection of policy to tame the fierce spirit of popular liberty, not by blows or by chains, but by soothing it into a voluntary obedience, and bringing it to lick the hand that restrains it.
Pericles.—The task can never be easy, but the difficulty was still greater to me than to you. For I had a lion to tame, from whose intractable fury the greatest men of my country, and of the whole world, with all their wisdom and virtue, could not save themselves. Themistocles and Aristides were examples of terror that might well have deterred me from the administration of public affairs at Athens. Another impediment in my way was the power of Cimon, who for his goodness, his liberality, and the lustre of his victories over the Persians was much beloved by the people, and at the same time, by being thought to favour aristocracy, had all the noble and rich citizens devoted to his party. It seemed impossible to shake so well established a greatness. Yet by the charms and force of my eloquence, which exceeded that of all orators contemporary with me; by the integrity of my life, my moderation, and my prudence; but, above all, by my artful management of the people, whose power I increased that I might render it the basis and support of my own, I gained such an ascendant over all my opponents that, having first procured the banishment of Cimon by ostracism, and then of Thucydides, another formidable antagonist set up by the nobles against my authority, I became the unrivalled chief, or rather the monarch, of the Athenian Republic, without ever putting to death, in above forty years that my administration continued, one of my fellow-citizens; a circumstance which I declared, when I lay on my death-bed, to be, in my own judgment, more honourable to me than all my prosperity in the government of the State, or the nine trophies erected for so many victories obtained by my conduct.
Cosmo.—I had also the same happiness to boast of at my death. And some additions were made to the territories of Florence under my government; but I myself was no soldier, and the Commonwealth I directed was never either so warlike or so powerful as Athens. I must, therefore, not pretend to vie with you in the lustre of military glory; and I will moreover acknowledge that, to govern a people whose spirit and pride were exalted by the wonderful victories of Marathon, Mycale, Salamis, and Plataea, was much more difficult than to rule the Florentines and the Tuscans. The liberty of the Athenians was in your time more imperious, more haughty, more insolent, than the despotism of the King of Persia. How great, then, must have been your ability and address that could so absolutely reduce it under your power! Yet the temper of my countrymen was not easy to govern, for it was exceedingly factious. The history of Florence is little else, for several ages, than an account of conspiracies against the State. In my youth I myself suffered much by the dissensions which then embroiled the Republic. I was imprisoned and banished, but after the course of some years my enemies, in their turn, were driven into exile. I was brought back in triumph, and from that time till my death, which was above thirty years, I governed the Florentines, not by arms or evil arts of tyrannical power, but with a legal authority, which I exercised so discreetly as to gain the esteem of all the neighbouring potentates, and such a constant affection of all my fellow-citizens that an inscription, which gave me the title of Father of my Country, was engraved on my monument by an unanimous decree of the whole Commonwealth.
Pericles.—Your end was incomparably more happy than mine. For you died rather of age than any violent illness, and left the Florentines in a state of peace and prosperity procured for them by your counsels. But I died of the plague, after having seen it almost depopulate Athens, and left my country engaged in a most dangerous war, to which my advice and the power of my eloquence had excited the people. The misfortune of the pestilence, with the inconveniences they suffered on account of the war, so irritated their minds, that not long before my death they condemned me to a fine.
Cosmo.—It is wonderful that, when once their anger was raised, it went no further against you! A favourite of the people, when disgraced, is in still greater danger than a favourite of a king.
Pericles.—Your surprise will increase at hearing that very soon afterwards they chose me their general, and conferred on me again the principal direction of all their affairs. Had I lived I should have so conducted the war as to have ended it with advantage and honour to my country. For, having secured to her the sovereignty of the sea by the defeat of the Samians, before I let her engage with the power of Sparta, I knew that our enemies would be at length wearied out and compelled to sue for a peace, because the city, from the strength of its fortifications and the great army within it, being on the land side impregnable to the Spartans, and drawing continual supplies from the sea, suffered not much by their ravages of the country about it, from whence I had before removed all the inhabitants; whereas their allies were undone by the descents we made on their coasts.
Cosmo.—You seem to have understood beyond all other men what advantages are to be drawn from a maritime power, and how to make it the surest foundation of empire.
Pennies.—I followed the plan, traced out by Themistocles, the ablest politician that Greece had ever produced. Nor did I begin the Peloponnesian War (as some have supposed) only to make myself necessary, and stop an inquiry into my public accounts. I really thought that the Republic of Athens could no longer defer a contest with Sparta, without giving up to that State the precedence in the direction of Greece and her own independence. To keep off for some time even a necessary war, with a probable hope of making it more advantageously at a favourable opportunity, is an act of true wisdom; but not to make it, when you see that your enemy will be strengthened, and your own advantages lost or considerably lessened, by the delay, is a most pernicious imprudence. With relation to my accounts, I had nothing to fear. I had not embezzled one drachma of public money, nor added one to my own paternal estate; and the people had placed so entire a confidence in me that they had allowed me, against the usual forms of their government, to dispose of large sums for secret service, without account. When, therefore, I advised the Peloponnesian War, I neither acted from private views, nor with the inconsiderate temerity of a restless ambition, but as became a wise statesman, who, having weighed all the dangers that may attend a great enterprise, and seeing a reasonable hope of good success, makes it his option to fight for dominion and glory, rather than sacrifice both to the uncertain possession of an insecure peace.
Cosmo.—How were you sure of inducing so volatile a people to persevere in so steady a system of conduct as that which you had laid down—a system attended with much inconvenience and loss to particulars, while it presented but little to strike or inflame the imagination of the public? Bold and arduous enterprises, great battles, much bloodshed, and a speedy decision, are what the multitude desire in every war; but your plan of operation was the reverse of all this, and the execution of it required the temper of the Thebans rather than of the Athenians.
Pericles.—I found, indeed, many symptoms of their impatience, but I was able to restrain it by the authority I had gained; for during my whole Ministry I never had stooped to court their favour by any unworthy means, never flattered them in their follies, nor complied with their passions against their true interests and my own better judgment; but used the power of my eloquence to keep them in the bounds of a wise moderation, to raise their spirits when too low, and show them their danger when they grew too presumptuous, the good effects of which conduct they had happily experienced in all their affairs. Whereas those who succeeded to me in the government, by their incapacity, their corruption, and their servile complaisance to the humour of the people, presently lost all the fruits of my virtue and prudence. Xerxes himself, I am convinced, did not suffer more by the flattery of his courtiers than the Athenians, after my decease, by that of their orators and Ministers of State.
Cosmo.—Those orators could not gain the favour of the people by any other methods. Your arts were more noble—they were the arts of a statesman and of a prince. Your magnificent buildings (which in beauty of architecture surpassed any the world had ever seen), the statues of Phidias, the paintings of Zeuxis, the protection you gave to knowledge, genius, and abilities of every kind, added as much to the glory of Athens as to your popularity. And in this I may boast of an equal merit to Florence. For I embellished that city and the whole country about it with excellent buildings; I protected all arts; and, though I was not myself so eloquent or so learned as you, I no less encouraged those who were eminent in my time for their eloquence or their learning. Marcilius Ficinus, the second father of the Platonic philosophy, lived in my house, and conversed with me as intimately as Anaxagoras with you. Nor did I ever forget and suffer him so to want the necessaries of life as you did Anaxagoras, who had like to have perished by that unfriendly neglect; but to secure him at all times from any distress in his circumstances, and enable him to pursue his sublime speculations unmolested by low cares, I gave him an estate adjacent to one of my favourite villas. I also drew to Florence Argiropolo, the most learned Greek of those times, that, under my patronage, he might teach the Florentine youth the language and sciences of his country. But with regard to our buildings, there is this remarkable difference—yours were all raised at the expense of the public, mine at my own.
Pericles.—My estate would bear no profuseness, nor allow me to exert the generosity of my nature. Your wealth exceeded that of any particular, or indeed of any prince who lived in your days. The vast commerce which, after the example of your ancestors, you continued to carry on in all parts of the world, even while you presided at the helm of the State, enabled you to do those splendid acts which rendered your name so illustrious. But I was constrained to make the public treasure the fund of my bounties; and I thought I could not possibly dispose of it better in time of peace than in finding employment for that part of the people which must else have been idle and useless to the community, introducing into Greece all the elegant arts, and adorning my country with works that are an honour to human nature; for, while I attended the most to these civil and peaceful occupations, I did not neglect to provide, with timely care, against war, nor suffer the nation to sink into luxury and effeminate softness. I kept our fleets in continual exercise, maintained a great number of seamen in constant pay, and disciplined well our land forces. Nor did I ever cease to recommend to all the Athenians, both by precepts and example, frugality, temperance, magnanimity, fortitude, and whatever could most effectually contribute to strengthen their bodies and minds.
Cosmo.—Yet I have heard you condemned for rendering the people less sober and modest, by giving them a share of the conquered lands, and paying them wages for their necessary attendance in the public assemblies and other civil functions; but more especially for the vast and superfluous expense you entailed on the State in the theatrical spectacles with which you entertained them at the cost of the public.
Pericles.—Perhaps I may have been too lavish in some of those bounties. Yet in a popular State it is necessary that the people should be amused, and should so far partake of the opulence of the public as not to suffer any want, which would render their minds too low and sordid for their political duties. In my time the revenues of Athens were sufficient to bear this charge; but afterwards, when we had lost the greatest part of our empire, it became, I must confess, too heavy a burden, and the continuance of it proved one cause of our ruin.
Cosmo.—It is a most dangerous thing to load the State with largesses of that nature, or indeed with any unnecessary but popular charges, because to reduce them is almost impossible, though the circumstances of the public should necessarily demand a reduction. But did not you likewise, in order to advance your own greatness, throw into the hands of the people of Athens more power than the institutions of Solon had entrusted them with, and more than was consistent with the good of the State?
Pericles.—We are now in the regions where Truth presides, and I dare not offend her by playing the orator in defence of my conduct. I must therefore acknowledge that, by weakening the power of the court of Areopagus, I tore up that anchor which Solon had wisely fixed to keep his Republic firm against the storms and fluctuations of popular factions. This alteration, which fundamentally injured the whole State, I made with a view to serve my own ambition, the only passion in my nature which I could not contain within the limits of virtue. For I knew that my eloquence would subject the people to me, and make them the willing instruments of all my desires; whereas the Areopagus had in it an authority and a dignity which I could not control. Thus by diminishing the counterpoise our Constitution had settled to moderate the excess of popular power, I augmented my own. But since my death I have been often reproached by the Shades of some of the most virtuous and wisest Athenians, who have fallen victims to the caprice or fury of the people, with having been the first cause of the injustice they suffered, and of all the mischiefs perpetually brought on my country by rash undertakings, bad conduct, and fluctuating councils. They say, I delivered up the State to the government of indiscreet or venal orators, and to the passions of a misguided, infatuated multitude, who thought their freedom consisted in encouraging calumnies against the best servants of the Commonwealth, and conferring power upon those who had no other merit than falling in with and soothing a popular folly. It is useless for me to plead that, during my life, none of these mischiefs were felt; that I employed my rhetoric to promote none but good and wise measures; that I was as free from any taint of avarice or corruption as Aristides himself. They reply that I am answerable for all the great evils occasioned afterwards by the want of that salutary restraint on the natural levity and extravagance of a democracy, which I had taken away. Socrates calls me the patron of Anytus, and Solon himself frowns upon me whenever we meet.
Cosmo.—Solon has reason to do so; for tell me, Pericles, what opinion would you have of the architect you employed in your buildings if he had made them to last no longer than during the term of your life?
Pericles.—The answer to your question will turn to your own condemnation. Your excessive liberalities to the indigent citizens, and the great sums you lent to all the noble families, did in reality buy the Republic of Florence, and gave your family such a power as enabled them to convert it from a popular State into an absolute monarchy.
Cosmo.—The Florentines were so infested with discord and faction, and their commonwealth was so void of military virtue, that they could not have long been exempt from a more ignominious subjection to some foreign Power if those internal dissensions, with the confusion and anarchy they produced, had continued. But the Athenians had performed very glorious exploits, had obtained a great empire, and were become one of the noblest States in the world, before you altered the balance of their government. And after that alteration they declined very fast, till they lost all their greatness.
Pericles.—Their constitution had originally a foul blemish in it—I mean, the ban of ostracism, which alone would have been sufficient to undo any State. For there is nothing of such important use to a nation as that men who most excel in wisdom and virtue should be encouraged to undertake the business of government. But this detestable custom deterred such men from serving the public, or, if they ventured to do so, turned even their own wisdom and virtue against them; so that in Athens it was safer to be infamous than renowned. We are told indeed, by the advocates for this strange institution, that it was not a punishment, but meant as a guard to the equality and liberty of the State; for which reason they deem it an honour done to the persons against whom it was used; as if words could change the real nature of things, and make a banishment of ten years, inflicted on a good citizen by the suffrages of his countrymen, no evil to him, or no offence against justice and the natural right every freeman may claim—that he shall not be expelled from any society of which he is a member without having first been proved guilty of some criminal action.
Cosmo.—The ostracism was indeed a most unpardonable fault in the Athenian constitution. It placed envy in the seat of justice, and gave to private malice and public ingratitude a legal right to do wrong. Other nations are blamed for tolerating vice, but the Athenians alone would not tolerate virtue.
Pericles.—The friends to the ostracism say that too eminent virtue destroys that equality which is the safeguard of freedom.
Cosmo.—No State is well modelled if it cannot preserve itself from the danger of tyranny without a grievous violation of natural justice; nor would a friend to true freedom, which consists in being governed not by men but by laws, desire to live in a country where a Cleon bore rule, and where an Aristides was not suffered to remain. But, instead of remedying this evil, you made it worse. You rendered the people more intractable, more adverse to virtue, less subject to the laws, and more to impressions from mischievous demagogues, than they had been before your time.
Pericles.—In truth, I did so; and therefore my place in Elysium, notwithstanding the integrity of my whole public conduct, and the great virtues I excited, is much below the rank of those who have governed commonwealths or limited monarchies, not merely with a concern for their present advantage, but also with a prudent regard to that balance of power on which their permanent happiness must necessarily depend.
Bayle.—Yes, we both were philosophers; but my philosophy was the deepest. You dogmatised; I doubted.
Locke.—Do you make doubting a proof of depth in philosophy? It may be a good beginning of it, but it is a bad end.
Bayle.—No; the more profound our searches are into the nature of things, the more uncertainty we shall find; and the most subtle minds see objections and difficulties in every system which are overlooked or undiscoverable by ordinary understandings.
Locke.—It would be better, then, to be no philosopher, and to continue in the vulgar herd of mankind, that one may have the convenience of thinking that one knows something. I find that the eyes which Nature has given me see many things very clearly, though some are out of their reach, or discerned but dimly. What opinion ought I to have of a physician who should offer me an eye-water, the use of which would at first so sharpen my sight as to carry it farther than ordinary vision, but would in the end put them out? Your philosophy, Monsieur Bayle, is to the eyes of the mind what I have supposed the doctor's nostrum to be to those of the body. It actually brought your own excellent understanding, which was by nature quick-sighted, and rendered more so by art and a subtlety of logic peculiar to yourself—it brought, I say, your very acute understanding to see nothing clearly, and enveloped all the great truths of reason and religion in mists of doubt.
Bayle.—I own it did; but your comparison is not just. I did not see well before I used my philosophic eye-water. I only supposed I saw well; but I was in an error, with all the rest of mankind. The blindness was real; the perceptions were imaginary. I cured myself first of those false imaginations, and then I laudably endeavoured to cure other men.
Locke.—A great cure, indeed! and don't you think that, in return for the service you did them, they ought to erect you a statue?
Bayle.—Yes; it is good for human nature to know its own weakness. When we arrogantly presume on a strength we have not, we are always in great danger of hurting ourselves—or, at least, of deserving ridicule and contempt by vain and idle efforts.
Locke.—I agree with you that human nature should know its own weakness; but it should also feel its strength, and try to improve it. This was my employment as a philosopher. I endeavoured to discover the real powers of the mind; to see what it could do, and what it could not; to restrain it from efforts beyond its ability, but to teach it how to advance as far as the faculties given to it by Nature, with the utmost exertion and most proper culture of them, would allow it to go. In the vast ocean of philosophy I had the line and the plummet always in my hands. Many of its depths I found myself unable to fathom; but by caution in sounding, and the careful observations I made in the course of my voyage, I found out some truths of so much use to mankind that they acknowledge me to have been their benefactor.
Bayle.—Their ignorance makes them think so. Some other philosopher will come hereafter, and show those truths to be falsehoods. He will pretend to discover other truths of equal importance. A later sage will arise, perhaps among men now barbarous and unlearned, whose sagacious discoveries will discredit the opinions of his admired predecessor. In philosophy, as in Nature, all changes its form, and one thing exists by the destruction of another.
Locke.—Opinions taken up without a patient investigation, depending on terms not accurately defined, and principles begged without proof, like theories to explain the phenomena of Nature built on suppositions instead of experiments, must perpetually change and destroy one another. But some opinions there are, even in matters not obvious to the common sense of mankind, which the mind has received on such rational grounds of assent that they are as immovable as the pillars of heaven, or (to speak philosophically) as the great laws of Nature, by which, under God, the universe is sustained. Can you seriously think that because the hypothesis of your countryman Descartes, which was nothing but an ingenious, well-imagined romance, has been lately exploded, the system of Newton, which is built on experiments and geometry—the two most certain methods of discovering truth—will ever fail? Or that, because the whims of fanatics and the divinity of the schoolmen cannot now be supported, the doctrines of that religion which I, the declared enemy of all enthusiasm and false reasoning, firmly believed and maintained, will ever be shaken?
Bayle.—If you had asked Descartes, while he was in the height of his vogue, whether his system would be ever confuted by any other philosopher's, as that of Aristotle had been by his, what answer do you suppose he would have returned?
Locke.—Come, come, Monsieur Bayle, you yourself know the difference between the foundations on which the credit of those systems and that of Newton is placed. Your scepticism is more affected than real. You found it a shorter way to a great reputation (the only wish of your heart) to object than to defend, to pull down than to set up. And your talents were admirable for that kind of work. Then your huddling together in a critical dictionary a pleasant tale, or obscene jest, and a grave argument against the Christian religion, a witty confutation of some absurd author, and an artful sophism to impeach some respectable truth, was particularly commodious to all our young smarts and smatterers in freethinking. But what mischief have you not done to human society! You have endeavoured, and with some degree of success, to shake those foundations on which the whole moral world and the great fabric of social happiness entirely rest. How could you, as a philosopher, in the sober hours of reflection, answer for this to your conscience, even supposing you had doubts of the truth of a system which gives to virtue its sweetest hopes, to impenitent vice its greatest fears, and to true penitence its best consolations; which restrains even the least approaches to guilt, and yet makes those allowances for the infirmities of our nature which the stoic pride denied to it, but which its real imperfection and the goodness of its infinitely benevolent Creator so evidently require?
Bayle.—The mind is free, and it loves to exert its freedom. Any restraint upon it is a violence done to its nature, and a tyranny against which it has a right to rebel.
Locke.—The mind, though free, has a governor within itself, which may and ought to limit the exercise of its freedom. That governor is reason.
Bayle.—Yes; but reason, like other governors, has a policy more dependent upon uncertain caprice than upon any fixed laws. And if that reason which rules my mind or yours has happened to set up a favourite notion, it not only submits implicitly to it, but desires that the same respect should be paid to it by all the rest of mankind. Now I hold that any man may lawfully oppose this desire in another; and that if he is wise, he will do his utmost endeavours to check it in himself.
Locke.—Is there not also a weakness of a contrary nature to this you are now ridiculing? Do we not often take a pleasure to show our own power and gratify our own pride by degrading notions set up by other men and generally respected?
Bayle.—I believe we do; and by this means it often happens that if one man builds and consecrates a temple to folly, another pulls it down.