« ZurückWeiter »
should be supposed altogether a romance, this sentiment, ascribed by the author to the Eastern princes, is at least a proof of the prevailing notions of antient times.
In the whole politics of GREECE, the anxiety with regard to the balance of power, is most apparent, and is expressly pointed out to us, even by the antient historians. TAWCYDIDES * represents the league which was formed against ATHENS, and which produced the PELOPONNESIAN war, as entirely owing to this principle. And after the decline of ATHENS, when the THEBANs and LACEDEMONIANS disputed for sovereignty, we find, that the ATHENIANS (as well as many other republics) threw themselves always into the lighter scale, and endeavored to preserve the balance. They supported THEBES against SPARTA, till the great victory gained by EPAMINONDAS at LeuctrA; after which they immediately went over to the conquered, from generosity, as they pretended, but, in realicy, from their jealousy of the conquerors ti
WHOEVER will read DEMOSTHenes's oration for the MEGALOPOLITANS, may fee the utmost refinements on this principle, which ever entered into the head of a VENETIAN or English speculatist. And upon the first rise of the MACEDONIAN power, this orator immediately discovered the danger, founded the alarm thro' all Greece, and at last assembled that confederacy under the banners of ATHENS, which fought the great and decisive battle of CHAERON EA.
'Tis true, the GRECIAN wars are regarded by historians as wars of emulation rather than of politics; and each state seems to have had more in view.the honor of leading the rest, than any well-grounded hopes of authority and dominion. If we consider, indeed, the small number of inhabitants in any one republic, compared to the whole, the great difficulty of forming sieges in those times, and the extraordir ary bravery and discipline of every freeman anong that noble people ; we shall conclude, that the balance of power was of itself sufficiently secured in GREECE, and needed not to be guarded with that caution which may be requisite in other ages. But whether we ascribe the shifting sides in all the GRECIAN republics to jealous emulation or cautious politics, the effects were alike, and every prevailing power was sure to meet with a confederacy against it, and that often composed of its former friends and allies.
The same principle, call it envy or prudence, which produced the Osiracism of ATHENS and Petalism of SYRACUSE, and expelled every citizen whose fame. or power overtopped the rest; the same principle, I say, naturally discovered itself in foreign politics, and soon raised enemies to the leading state, however moderate in the exercise of its authority.
THE PERSIAN monarch was really, in his force, a petty prince, compared to the GRECIAN republics; and therefore it behoved him, from views of safety more than from emulation, to interest himself in their quarrels, and to support the weker side in every contest. This was the advice given by ALCIBIADES TO TISSAPHERN.SI, and it prolonged near a century the date of the PERSIAN empire; tili the neglect of it for a moment, after the first appearance of the aspir- . ing genius of PHILIP, brought that lofty and frail edifice to the ground, with a rapidity of which there are few instances in the history of mankind.
The fucceffors of ALEXAnder showed an infinite jealousy of the balance of power; a jealousy founded on true politics and prudence, and which preserved distinct for several ages the partitions made after the death of that famous conqueror. The fortune and ambition of ANTIGONUS * threatened them anew with an universal monarchy; but their combination, and their victory at Ipsus saved them. And in after times, we find, that as the Eastern princes considered the Greeks and MACEDONIANS as the only real military force with whom they had any intercourse, they kept always a watchful eye over that part of the world. The PTOLEMIES, in particular, supported first ARATUS and the ACHAEANS, and then CLEOMENES king of SPARTA, from no other view than as a counterbalance to the MACEDONIAN monarchs. For this is the account which Polyeius gives of the EGYPTIAN politics t..
The reason why 'tis supposed, that the antients were entirely ignorant of the balance of power, seems to be drawn from the Roman history more than the GRECIAN; and as the transactions of the former are generally the most familiar to us, we have thence formed all our conclusions. It must be owned, that the Romans never met with any such general combination or confederacy against them, as might naturally be expected from their rapid conquests and declared ambition ; but were allowed peaceably to subdue their neighbors, one after ano- . ther, till they extended their dominion over the whole known world. Not to mention the fabulous history of their Italic wars; there was, upon HANNIBAL'S invasion of the Roman ftate, a very remarkable crisis, which ought to have called up the attention of all civilized nations. It appeared afterwards, (nor was it diificult to be observed at the time), I that this was a contest for universal empire; and yet no prince or state seems to have been in the least alarmed about the event or issue of the quarrel. Philip of MACEDON remained neuter, till he faw the victories of HANNIBAL; and then most imprudently formed an alliance with the conqueror, upon terms still more imprudent. He stipulated, that he was to assist the CARTHAGINIAN state in their conquest of ITALY ; after which they engaged to send over forces into GREECE, to assist him in subduing the GRECIAN commonwealths ll.
The RHODIAN and ACHAEAN republics are much celebrated by antient historians for their wisdom and sound policy; yet both of them asisted the Romans in their wars against Philip and ANTIOCHUS. And what may be esteemed still a stronger proof, that this maxim was not familiarly known in those ages; no antient author has ever remarked the imprudence of these measures, nor has even blamed that absurd treaty above mentioned, made by Philip with the CARTHAGINIANS: Princes and statesmen may, in all ages, be blinded in their reasonings with regard to events, beforehand : But 'tis somewhat extraordinary, that historians, afterwards, should not form a founder judgment of them. .
MASSINISSA, ATIALUS, PRUSIA S, in sarisfying their private passions, were, all of them, the instruments of the ROMAN greatness; and never seem to have suspected, that they were forging their own chains, while they advanced the * Diod. Sic. Lib. 20.
ral congress of Greece. See Polyb. Lib. 5. Cap. + Lib. 2. Cap. 51.
104. It was observed by some, as appears by the || Titi Livii Lib. 23. Cap. 33.. speech of AGELAUS of NAUPACTUM, in a gene
conquests of their ally. A simple treaty and agreement betwixt MASSINISSA and the CARTHAGINIANS, so much required by mutual interest, barred the ROMANS from all entrance into AFRICA, and preserved liberty to mankind.
The only prince we meet with in the Roman history, who seems to have understood the balance of power, is Hiero king of SYRACUSE. Tho' the ally of Rome, he sent assistance to the CARTHAGINIANS, during the war of the auxiliaries : “ Efteeming it requisite,” says POLYBIUS *, " both in order to retain his “ dominions in Sicily, and to preserve the ROMAN friendship, that CARTHAGE «s should be safe ; left by its fall the remaining power should be able, without " contrast or opposition, to execute every purpose and undertaking. And here he « acted with great wisdom and prudence. For that is never, on any account, to “ be overlooked ; nor ought such a force ever to be thrown into one hand, as to u incapacitate the neighboring Itates from defending their rights against it.” Here is the aim of modern politics pointed out in express ternis.
In short, the maxim of preserving the balance of power is founded so much on common sense and cbvious reasoning, that 'tis imposible it could altogether have escaped antiquity, where we find, in other particulars, so many marks of deep penetration and discernment. If it was not so generally known and acknowleged as at present, it had, at least, an influence on all the wiser and more experienced princes and politicians. And indeed, even at present, however generally known and acknowleged among speculative reasoners, it has not, in practice, an authority much more extensive among those who govern the world.
After the fall of the Roman empire, the form of government established by the northern conquerors, incapacitated them, in a great measure, from farther conquests, and long maintained each state in its proper boundaries. But when vassalage and the feudal militia were abolished, mankind were anew alarmed by the danger of universal monarchy, from the union of so many kingdoms and principalities in the person of the emperor CHARLES. But the power of the house of AUSTRIA, founded on extensive but divided dominions, and their riches, derived chiefly from mines of gold and silver, were more likely to decay, of chemselves, from internal defects, than to overthrow all the bulwarks raised against them. In less than a century, the force of that violent and haughty race was shattered, their opulence diffipated, their splendor eclipsed. A new power succeeded, more formidable to the liberties of EUROPE, possessing all the advantages of the former, and laboring under none of its defects; except a share of that spirit of bigotry and persecution, with which the house of AUSTRIA were so long, and still are so much infatuated.
EUROPE has now, for above a century, remained on the defensive against the greatest force that ever, perhaps, was formed by the civil or political combination of mankind. And such is the influence of the maxim here treated of, that tho' that ambitious nation, in the five last general wars, have been victorious in four t, and unsuccessful only in one, they have not much enlarged their dominions, nor acquired a total ascendant over EUROPE. There remains rather room
* Lib. 1. Cap. 83.
+ Those concluded by the peace of the Py. RENEES, NIMEGUEN, RYSWICK, and Aix-LA
That concluded by the peace of UTRECHT.
to hope, that, by maintaining the resistance some time, the natural revolutions of human affairs, together with unforeseen events and accidents, may guard us against universal monarchy, and preserve the world from so great an evil.
In the three lait of these general wars, BRITAIN has stood foremost in the glorious struggle; and she still maintains her station, as guardian of the general liberties of EUROPE, and patron of mankind. Beside her advantages of riches and situation, her people are animated with such a national spirit, and are so fully sensible of the inestimable blessings of their government, that we may hope their vigor never will languish in so necessary and so just a cause. On the contrary, if we may judge by the past, their passionate ardor seems rather to require some moderation; and they have oftener erred from a laudable excess than from a blameable deficiency.
In the first place, we seem to have been more poffeffed with the antient GREEK fpirit of jealous emulation, than actuated with the prudent views of modern politics. Our wars with France have been begun with justice, and even, perhaps, from necessity; but have always been too far pushed, from obstinacy and passion. The same peace which was afterwards made at Ryswick in 1637, was offered so early as the ninety-two; that concluded at UTRECHT in 1712 might have been finished on as good conditions at GERTRUYTENBERG in the eight; and we might have given at FRANCFORT, in 1743, the fame terms, which we were glad to accept of at AIX LA-CHAPELLE in the forty-eight. Here then we fee, that above half of our wars with FRANCE, and all our public debts, are owing more to our own imprudent vehemence, than to the ambition of our neighbors.
In the second place, we are so declared in our opposition to French power, and so alert in defence of our allies, that they always reckon upon our force as upon their own; and expecting to carry on war at our expence, refuse all reasonable terms of accommodation. Habent subjektos, tanquam fuos ; viles, ut alienos. All the world knows, that the factious vote of the House of Commons, in the beginning of the last parliament, with the professed humor of the nation, made the queen of HUNGARY inflexible in her terms, and prevented that agreement with PRUSSIA, which would innrediately have restored the general tranquillity of EUROPE.
In the third place, we are such true combatants, that, when once engaged, we lose all concern for ourselves and our posterity, and consider only how we may best annoy the enemy. To mortgage our revenues at so deep a rate, in wars, where we were only accessories, was surely the most fatal delusion, that a nation, who had any pretension to politics and prudence, has ever yet been guilty of. That remedy of funding, if it be a remedy, and not rather a poison, ought, in all reason, to be reserved to the last extremity; and no evil, but the greatest and most urgent, should ever induce us to embrace so dangerous an expedient.
THESE excesses, to which we have been carried, are prejudicial; and may, perhaps, in time, become still more prejudicial another way, by begetting, as is usual, the opposite extreme, andi rendering us totally careless and supine with regard to the fate of Europe. The ATHENIANS, from the most bustling, intriguing, warlike people of Greece, finding their error in thrusting themselves into every quarrel, abandoned all attention to foreign affairs; and in no contest
ever took party on either side, except by their fatteries and complaisance to the victor.
ENORMOUS monarchies, such as EUROPE at present is threatened with, are, probably, destructive to human nature; in their progress, in their continuance *, and even in their downfal, which never can be very distant from their establishment. The military genius which aggrandized the monarchy, soon leaves the court, the capital, and the center of such a government, while the wars are carried on at a great distance, and interest so small a part of the state. The antient nobility, whose affections attach them to their sovereign, live all at court; and never will accept of military employments, which would carry them to remote and barbarous frontiers, where they are distant both from their pleasure and their fortune. The arms of the state must, therefore, be trusted to mercenary strangers, without zeal, without attachment, without honour; ready on every occasion to turn them against the prince, and join each desperate malecontent, who offers pay and plunder. This is the necessary progress of human affairs : Thus human nature checks itself in its airy elevations: Thus ambition blindly labors for the destruction of the conqueror, of his family, and of every thing near and dear to him. The BOURBONS, trusting to the support of their brave, faithful, and affectionate nobility, would push their advantage, without reserve or limitation. Thefe, while fired with glory and emulation, can bear the fatigues and dangers of war; but never would submit to languish in the garrisons of Hungary or LITHUANIA, forgot at court, and sacrificed to the intrigues of every minion or mistress, who approaches the prince. The troops are filled with CRAVATES and TARTARS, HUSSARS and Cossacs; intermingled, perhaps, with a few soldiers of fortune from the better provinces : And the melancholy fate of the Roman emperors, from the same cause, is renewed over and over again, till the final dissolution of the monarchy.
S S A Y
T HERE is a maxim, that prevails among those whom in this country we
I call ways and means men, and who are denominated Financiers and Maltotiers in FRANCE, That every new tax creates a new ability in the subje&t to bear it, and that each increase of public burthens increases proportionably the industry of the people. This maxim is of such a nature as is most likely to be extremely abused; and is so much the more dangerous, that its truth cannot be altogether denied ; but it must be owned, when kept within certain bounds, to have some foundation in reason and experience.
* If the Roman empire was of advantage, it generally in a very disorderly, uncivilized condicould only proceed from this, that mankind were tion, before its establishment.