Abbildungen der Seite
[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

says he, the place I possess; I was raised to it against my will, and continue in it only through

an apprehension of exposing the republic and my"self to new dangers by deserting it.”

[a] Upon the death of the emperor Maximilian, there arose very powerful factions in behalf of those who laid claim to the empire. The two principal competitors were Francis I. and Charles V. The electors, to put an end to these disputes, resolved to exclude them both as being foreigners, and to place the imperial crown upon one of their own nation, and of the number of the electors. They therefore unanimously chose Frederic of Saxony, sirnamed the Wise, who desired two days to consider of it; on the third he thanked the electors with great modesty, but told them that at his age he found himself unable to support so great a burden. And continuing firm in this resolution, notwithstanding all their remonstrances, the electors desired he would nominate the person he judged most proper, and assured him they would conform to his advice. Frederic long refused it, but at last being forced upon it by the pressing instances of the electors, he declared in favour of the catholic king.

What we have here said of sovereign power may be applied to all posts in the state, and all offices of magistracy. The wisest princes have set aside the ambitious, and raised such as declined employments.

[b] They saw, notwithstanding the darkness of infidelity, that the republic could only be trusted with

security to such as had merit enough to fear the “administration of it." And they enquired with so much care after persons worthy of the great offices of state, that they found men to whom it was necessary to use violence, before they would accept of them, as Pliny observes of Trajan.

All these examples prove, that there is nothing really great in honours and dignities, but the danger which surrounds them; that true glory consists in [a] Vie de Charles V. par Leti. [b] Lamp. in Vit. Alex. Sever.


[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

knowing how to look upon them with a generous contempt, or in accepting them only for the public good; that solid greatness consists in renouncing greatness itself; that a man becomes a slave from the moment he is fond of it, and that he is superior to it only when he contemns it.

[ocr errors]



[ocr errors][ocr errors]

I join all these under one title, though very different in themselves, because they have all something in them extremely flattering and delusive, and seein to have somewhat more directly personal and peculiar to their possessors. But though they are far superior to the advantages already spoken of, yet solid Glory and real Greatness do not however consist in them.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

Victories. If there be any thing capable of exalting man above his nature, and giving him a superiority that distinguishes him from the rest of mankind, it seems to be the glory which results from battles and victories. A prince, a general, marching at the head of a numerous army, whose eyes are all bent upon him; who by a single signal actuates that yast body, of which himself is the soul, and sets an hundred thousand arms in motion; who carries terror and conster nation along with him wherever he goes; who sees the strongest ramparts and highest towers fall down before him; at whose presence, in a word, the whole universe trembling and afirighted keeps silence; such a man seems to be something mighty grand, and 10 come very near the Divinity.

And yet if we coolly, rationally, and without prejudice examine the famous heroes of antiquity, those illustrious conquerors, we shall often find, that this glittering shew of warlike actions is but a vain phantom, which may impose upon us at a distance, but disappears and vanishes in proportion as we approach

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

it; and that all this pretended glory has often had no other principle and foundation, but ambition, avarice, injustice, and cruelty.

This Seneca observes of the greatest warriors, and such as have had the largest share in the admiration of all ages. We find, [C] says he, abundance of heroes, who have carried fire and sword into many nations, have stormed towns which till their time were held impregnable, have conquered and ravaged vast provinces, and marched to the utmost limits of the earth, covered over with the blood of all opposers. But these conquerors of so many nations were themselves overcome by their passions. They found nobody that could resist them, but were themselves unable to resist their own ambition and cruelty.

Can we call the furious disposition of Alexander, ivhich led him into distant and unknown countries, only with a view to plunder them, by any other name than madness? Was he wise, for depriving every private man, every country, of what was most dear and valuable, and for spreading desolation wherever he came, beginning with Greece, to which he owed his education? How intoxicated must he have been with glory, who thought the whole world too little for him?" [d] He one day asked a pirate, whom he had taken, what right he thought he had to infest the

“ The same, answered he, boldly, that you “have to over-run the world. But because I do it in

a small vessel, I ain called a robber; and you are

named a conqueror, for doing it with a great feet.” А very sharp answer, and what is more, a true one.

[e] What was it that extinguished in the heart of C:sar, all the sentiinents of fidelity, submission, jus


tice, [c] Senec. Ep. 94.

Sed quia id ego exiguo na[a] Eleganter & veraciter Alex. vigio facio, latro vocor; quia tu andro illi Magno quidam compre- magna classe, imperator. A fraghensus pirata respondit. Nam cùm ment of Tully's third book de Reidem rex hominem interrogasset, publ. quoted by S. Aug. de Civ. quid ei videretur, ut mare haberet Dei, 1. 4. 3. 4. inlestum ; ille liberâ contumacia. [c] Quid C.Cesarem in sua fata Quod tibi, inquit, ut orbem terra. pariter ac publica immisit? Gloria


[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

tice, humanity, and gratitude he owed to his republic, which had chosen him from the rest of the citizens, to advance him to the highest command, and lavish upon him its honours and dignities, but an immoderate ambition, and an illusion of false glory, which inspired him with an ardent desire of seeing all mankind under subjection to himself, and induced him to say that he would rather chuse to be the principal man in a village, than the second in Rome? What other motive induced him to turn those very arins against his country, she had put into his hands to be employed against the enemies of the state, and to make use of all the power and greatness he held only from her, to put her to the sword, after having deluged her in the blood of her children? [f] He doubtless thought, as Civilis the chief of the rebels, who endeavoured to shake off the Roman yoke, expressed it, that nothing was unlawful to a man when in arms, nor any body accountable for a victory; rictoriæ rationem non reddi.

Every equitable and rational man, who shall read over attentively all the lives of the famous men among the Greeks and Romans, as they stand in Plutarch; if he examines and asks his own heart the question, will find that it is not Alexander or Cæsar he prefers before all the rest ; that they were neither the greatest, nor the most accomplished, nor such as did the most honour to human nature; and that he does not judge them to be most deserving his esteem, love, and veneration, nor of the just praises of posterity.

Besides, military valour often leaves the men, whom conquests have made famous, very weak and mean at other times, and with reference to other objects. [3] Made up of good and bad qualities, they strive to appear great, when exposed to open yiew; but return to their natural littleness, as soon as they & ambitio, & nullus supra ceteros tus, &c. Palam laudares: secreta eminendi modus. Sen. Ep. 94. malè audiebant. Tacit. Hist. lib.

[ ] Tacit. Hist. 1. 4. c. 34. 2. cap. 1o. L] Malis bonisque artibus inixa

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]


are left to themselves, and the eyes of mankind taken off from them. It is surprising when we see them alone and without armies, what a mighty difference there is between a general and a great man.

In order to their passing a right judgment upon these famous conquerors, it is necessary to teach youth carefully to distinguish what is valuable in them from what deserves to be censured. In doing justice to their courage, activity, ability in business, and prudence, they must be blamed for frequently mistaking the use they should have made of those great qualifications, and employing such talents, as in themselves are always estimable, to the gratification of their vices and passions, which should have been made subservient only to virtue. For want of distinguishing things so different, it is but too usual to confound their real with their pretended motives, the private ends they proposed to themselves with the means of attaining them, and their abilities with the abuse they have made of them, and by an error still more pernicious, in suffering ourselves to be too much carried away by their great actions, which have lustre enough to conceal their vices and injustice, we pay them an entire and unexceptionable regard, and accustom inattentive persons to place vice in the room of virtue, and highly commend what deserves to be blamed. It is the justice of the war, and the wisdom of the conqueror alone, which can render a victory glorious and worthy our admiration. For it must be laid down as a principle, that glory and justice are inseparable; [h] Nihil honestum esse potest, quod justitiá vacat; and [i] if it is private passion, and not the public advantage, that puts us upon facing dangers, such a disposition does not deserve the name of courage and resolution, but should rather be called ferocity and audaciousness.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

[b] Offic. lib. 1. n. 62.

communi impellitur, audaciæ potius [1] Animus paratus ad pericu- nomen habeat, quàin fortitudinis, lum si suâ cupiditate, non utilitate Ibid. n. 63.


« ZurückWeiter »