Commonwealths seek Peace or War according to the Variety of their Constitutions.

IF I have hitherto spoken in general of popular or mixed governments, as if they were all founded on the same principle, it was only because our author without distinction has generally blamed them all, and generally imputed to every one those faults, which perhaps never were in any; but most certainly are directly opposite to the temper and constitution of many among them. Malice and ignorance reign so equally in him, that 'tis not easy to determine from which of the two this false representation proceeds. But lest any man should thereby be imposed upon, 'tis time to observe, that the constitutions of commonwealths have been so various, according to the different temper of nations and times, that if some of them seem to have been principally constituted for war, others have as much delighted in peace; and many having taken the middle, and (as some think) the best way, have so moderated their love to peace, as not to suffer the spirits of the people to fall, but kept them in a perpetual readiness to make war when there was occasion: and every one of those having followed several ways and ends, deserve our particular consideration.

The cities of Rome, Sparta, Thebes, and all the associations of the Aetolians, Achaeans, Sabines, Latins, Samnites, and many others that anciently flourish'd in Greece and Italy, seem to have intended nothing but the just preservation of liberty at home, and making war abroad. All the nations of Spain, Germany, and Gaul sought the same things. Their principal work was to render their people valiant, obedient to their commanders, lovers of their country, and always ready to fight for it: And for this reason when the senators of Rome had kill'd Romulus, they persuaded Julius Proculus to affirm, that he had seen him in a most glorious form ascending to heaven, and promising great things to the city, proinde rem militarem colant.[1] The Athenians were not less inclined to war, but applied themselves to trade, as subservient to that end, by increasing the number of the people, and furnishing them with the means of carrying it on with more vigour and power. The Phoenician cities, of which Carthage was the most eminent, followed the same method; but knowing that riches do not defend themselves, or scorning slothfully to enjoy what was gained by commerce, they so far applied themselves to war, that they grew to a power, which Rome only was able to overthrow. Venice, Florence, Genoa, Lucca, and some other cities of Italy seem chiefly to have aimed at trade; and placing the hopes of their safety in the protection of more powerful states, unwillingly enter'd into wars, especially by land; and when they did, they made them by mercenary soldiers.

Again, some of those that intended war desir'd to enlarge their territories by conquest; others only to preserve their own, and to live with freedom and safety upon them. Rome was of the first sort; and knowing that such ends cannot be accomplished without great numbers of men, they freely admitted strangers into the city, senate, and magistracy. Numa was a Sabine: Tarquinius Priscus was the son of a Grecian: One hundred of those Sabines who came with Tatius were admitted into the senate: Appius Claudius of the same people came to Rome, was made a member of the senate, and created consul. They demolished several cities, and brought the inhabitants to their own; gave the right of citizens to many others (sometimes to whole cities and provinces) and cared not how many they received, so as they could engraft them upon the same interest with the old stock, and season them with the same principles, discipline, and manners. On the other side the Spartans desiring only to continue free, virtuous, and safe in the enjoyment of their own territory; and thinking themselves strong enough to defend it, framed a most severe discipline, to which few strangers would submit. They banished all those curious arts, that are useful to trade; prohibited the importation of gold and silver; appointed the Helots to cultivate their lands, and to exercise such trades as are necessary to life; admitted few strangers to live amongst them; made none of them free of their city, and educated their youth in such exercises only as prepared them for war. I will not take upon me to judge whether this proceeded from such a moderation of spirit, as placed felicity rather in the fullness and stability of liberty, integrity, virtue, and the enjoyment of their own, than in riches, power, and dominion over others; nor which of these two different methods deserves most to be commended: But certain it is that both succeeded according to the intention of the founders.

Rome conquer'd the best part of the world, and never wanted men to defend what was gained: Sparta lived in such happiness and reputation, that till it was invaded by Epaminondas, an enemy's trumpet had not been heard by those within the town for the space of eight hundred years, and never suffer'd any great disaster, till receding from their own institutions, they were brought by prosperity to affect the principality of Greece, and to undertake such wars as could not be carried on without money, and greater numbers of men than a small city was able to furnish; by which means they were obliged to beg assistance from the barbarians, whom they scorned and hated, as appears by the stories of Callicratidas, Lysander, and Agesilaus, and fell into such straits as were never recovered.

The like variety has been observed in the constitutions of those northern nations that invaded the Roman empire; for tho all of them intended war, and looked upon those only to be members of their commonwealths, who used arms to defend them, yet some did immediately incorporate themselves with those of the conquer'd countries. Of this number were the Franks, who presently became one nation with the Gauls; others kept themselves in a distinct body, as the Saxons did from the Britains: And the Goths for more than three hundred years that they reigned in Spain, never contracted marriages, or otherwise mixed with the Spaniards, till their kingdom was overthrown by the Moors.

These things, and others of the like nature, being weighed, many have doubted whether it were better to constitute a commonwealth for war or for trade; and of such as intend war, whether those are most to be praised who prepare for defence only, or those who design by conquest to enlarge their dominions. Or, if they admit of trade, whether they should propose the acquisition of riches for their ultimate end, and depend upon foreign or mercenary forces to defend them; or to be as helps to enable their own people to carry on those wars, in which they may be frequently engaged.

These questions might perhaps be easily decided, if mankind were of a temper to suffer those to live in peace, who offer no injury to any; or that men who have money to hire soldiers when they stand in need of them, could find such as would valiantly and faithfully defend them, whilst they apply themselves to their trades. But experience teaching us that those only can be safe who are strong; and that no people was ever well defended, but those who fought for themselves; the best judges of these matters have always given the preference to those constitutions that principally intend war, and make use of trade as assisting to that end: and think it better to aim at conquest, rather than simply to stand upon their own defence; since he that loses all if he be overcome, fights upon very unequal terms; and if he obtain the victory, gains no other advantage, than for the present to repel the danger that threatened him.

These opinions are confirmed by the examples of the Romans, who prosper'd much more than the Spartans: And the Carthaginians, who made use of trade as a help to war, raised their city to be one of the most potent that ever was in the world: Whereas the Venetians having relied on trade and mercenary soldiers, are always forced too much to depend upon foreign potentates; very often to buy peace with ignominious and prejudicial conditions; and sometimes to fear the infidelity of their own commanders, no less than the violence of their enemies. But that which ought to be valued above all in point of wisdom as well as justice, is, the government given by God to the Hebrews, which chiefly fitted them for war, and to make conquests. Moses divided them under several captains, into thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens: This was a perpetual ordinance amongst them: In numbering them, those only were counted, who were able to bear arms: Every man was obliged to go out to war, except such as had married a wife, or upon other special occasions were for a time excused; and the whole series of the sacred history shews that there were always as many soldiers to fight for their country as there were men able to fight. And if this be taken for a picture of a many-headed beast delighting in blood, begotten by sedition, and nourished by crimes,[2] God himself was the drawer of it.

In this variety of constitutions and effects proceeding from them, I can see nothing more justly and generally to be attributed to them all, than that love to their country, which our author impudently affirms to be wanting in all. In other matters their proceedings are not only different, but contrary to each other: yet it cannot be said that any nations have enjoyed so much peace as some republicks. The Venetians' too great inclination to peace is accounted to be a mortal error in their constitution, and they have not been less free from domestick seditions than foreign wars; the conspiracies of the Falerii and Tiepoli were extinguished by their punishment, and that of La Cueva crushed before it was ripe. Genoa has not been altogether so happy: the factions of the Guelphs and Ghibellines that spread themselves over all Italy, infected that city; and the malice of the Spaniards and French raised others under the Fregosi and Adorni; but they being composed, they have for more than a hundred and fifty years rested in quiet.

There is another sort of commonwealth composed of many cities associated together, and living aequo jure;[3] every one retaining and exercising a sovereign power within itself, except in some cases expressed in the act of union, or league made between them. These I confess are more hardly preserved in peace. Disputes may arise among them concerning limits, jurisdiction, and the like. They cannot always be equally concerned in the same things. The injuries offer'd to one do not equally affect all. Their neighbours will sow divisions among them; and not having a mother city to decide their controversies by her authority, they may be apt to fall into quarrels, especially if they profess Christianity; which having been split into variety of opinions ever since it was preached, and the papists by their cruelty to such as dissent from them, shewing to all, that there is no other way of defending themselves against them, than by using the same, almost every man is come to think he ought (as far as in him lies) to impose his belief on others, and that he can give no better testimony of his zeal, than the excess of his violence on that account. Nevertheless the cantons of the Switzers, tho accompanied with all the most dangerous circumstances that can be imagined, being thirteen in number, independent on each other, governed in a high degree popularly, professing Christianity differing in most important points; eight of them much influenced by the Jesuits, and perpetually excited to war against their brethren by the powerful crowns of Spain and France, have ever since they cast off the insupportable yoke of the earls of Hapsburg, enjoy'd more peace than any other state of Europe, and from the most inconsiderable people, are grown to such a power, that the greatest monarchs do most solicitously seek their friendship; and none have dared to invade them, since Charles duke of Burgundy did it to his ruin: and he who for a long time had been a terror to the great, dangerous, and subtle king of France, gave by the loss of three armies and his own life a lasting testimony of his temerity in assaulting a free and valiant, tho a poor people, fighting in their own quarrel. Comines well relates that war; but a vast heap of bones remaining to this day at Muret with this inscription, Caroli fortissimi Burgundiorum ducis exercitus Muretum obsidens ab Helvetiis caesus, hoc sui monumentum reliquit,[4] best shews the success of it. Since that time their greatest wars have been for the defence of Milan; or such as they have undertaken for pay under the ensigns of France or Spain, that by the use of arms they may keep up that courage, reputation, and experience which is requir'd for the defence of their own country. No government was ever more free from popular seditions; the revolts of their subjects have been few, weak, and easily suppressed; the dissension raised by the Jesuits between the cantons of Zurich and Lucerne was as soon composed as the rebellion of the county of Vaux against the canton of Bern; and those few of the like nature that have happened among them have had the like success: So that Thuanus in the history of his time,[5] comprehending about fifty years, and relating the horrid domestick and foreign wars, that distracted Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Flanders, England, Scotland, Poland, Denmark, Sweden, Hungary, Transylvania, Muscovy, Turkey, Africa, and other places, has no more to say of them than to shew what arts had been in vain used to disturb their so much envied quiet. But if the modest temper of the people, together with the wisdom, justice, and strength of their government, could not be discomposed by the measures of Spain and France, by the industry of their ambassadors, or the malicious craft of the Jesuits, we may safely conclude that their state is as well settled as anything among men can be, and can hardly comprehend what is like to interrupt it. As much might be said of the cities of the Hanseatick Society, if they had an entire sovereignty in themselves: But the cities of the united provinces in the Low Countries being every one of them sovereign within themselves, and many in number, still continuing in their union in spite of all the endeavours that have been used to divide them, give us an example of such steadiness in practice and principle, as is hardly to be parellel'd in the world, and that undeniably prove a temper in their constitutions directly opposite to that which our author imputes to all popular governments: and if the death of Barneveldt and De Witt, or the preferment of some most unlike to them be taken for a testimony that the best men thrive worst, and the worst best, I hope it may be consider'd that those violences proceeded from that which is most contrary to popularity, tho I am not very willing to explain it.

If these matters are not clear in themselves, I desire they may be compared with what has happen'd between any princes that from the beginning of the world have been joined in league to each other, whether they were of the same or of different nations. Let an example be brought of six, thirteen, or more princes or kings who enter'd into a league; and for the space of one or more ages, did neither break it, nor quarrel upon the explication of it. Let the states of the Switzers, Grisons, or Hollanders, be compared with that of France, when it was sometimes divided between two, three, or four brothers of Meroveus' or Pepin's races; with the heptarchy of England; the kingdoms of Leon, Aragon, Navarre, Castile and Portugal, under which the Christians in Spain were divided; or those of Cordoba, Seville, Malaga, Granada, and others under the power of the Moors; and if it be not evident, that the popular states have been remarkable for peace among themselves, constancy to their union and fidelity to the leagues made with their associates; whereas all the abovementioned kingdoms, and such others as are known among men to have been joined in the like leagues, were ever infested with domestick rebellions and quarrels arising from the ambition of princes, so as no confederacy could be so cautiously made, but they would find ways to elude it, or so solemn and sacred, but they would in far less time break through it: I will confess, that kingdoms have sometimes been as free from civil disturbances; and that leagues made between several princes, have been as constantly and religiously observed, as by commonwealths. But if no such thing do appear in the world, and no man who is not impudent or ignorant dare pretend it, I may justly conclude, that tho every commonwealth hath its action suitable to its constitution, and that many associated together are not so free from disturbances, as those that wholly depend upon the authority of a mother city; yet we know of none that have not been, and are more regular and quiet than any principalities; and as to foreign wars, they seek or avoid them according to their various constitutions.

[1] [Livy, History of Rome, bk. 1, ch. 16.]

[2] [Patriarcha, ch. 18.]

[3] []

[4] [Philippe de Comines, Memoirs, bk. 5, ch. 3.]

[5] [Jacques-Auguste de Thou, Historiae sui temporis, 1543-1607, or History of His Time, (1604-1620).]