Civil Tumults and Wars are not the greatest Evils that befall Nations.

BUT skin for skin, says our author, and all that a man hath will he give for his life.[1] And since it was necessary to grace his book with some Scripture phrases, none could be fitter for that purpose than those that were spoken by the Devil; but they will be of little use to him: For tho I should so far recede from truth, as to avow those words to be true, I might safely deny the conclusions he draws from them, that those are the worst governments under which most men are slain; or, that more are slain in popular governments than in absolute monarchies.[2] For having proved that all the wars and tumults that have happen'd in commonwealths, have never produced such slaughters as were brought upon the empires of Macedon and Rome, or the kingdoms of Israel, Judah, France, Spain, Scotland or England, by contests between several competitors for those crowns; if tumult, war, and slaughter, be the point in question, those are the worst of all governments where they have been most frequent and cruel. But tho these are terrible scourges, I deny that government to be simply the worst that has most of them. 'Tis ill that men should kill one another in seditions, tumults and wars; but 'tis worse to bring nations to such misery, weakness and baseness, as to have neither strength nor courage to contend for anything; to have nothing left worth defending, and to give the name of peace to desolation. I take Greece to have been happy and glorious, when it was full of populous cities, flourishing in all the arts that deserve praise among men: When they were courted and feared by the greatest kings, and never assaulted by any but to his own loss and confusion: When Babylon and Susa trembled at the motion of their arms; and their valour exercised in these wars and tumults, which our author looks upon as the greatest evils, was raised to such a power that nothing upon earth was found able to resist them: and I think it now miserable, when peace reigns within their empty walls, and the poor remains of those exhausted nations sheltering themselves under the ruins of the desolated cities, have neither anything that deserves to be disputed amongst them, nor spirit or force to repel the injuries they daily suffer from a proud and insupportable master.

The like may be said of Italy: Whilst it was inhabited by nations governing themselves by their own will, they fell sometimes into domestick seditions, and had frequent wars with their neighbours. When they were free, they loved their country, and were always ready to fight in its defence. Such as succeeded well, increased in vigor and power; and even those that were the most unfortunate in one age, found means to repair their greatest losses if their government continued. Whilst they had a propriety in their goods, they would not suffer the country to be invaded, since they knew they could have none if it were lost. This gave occasion to wars and tumults; but it sharpened their courage, kept up a good discipline, and the nations that were most exercised by them, always increased in power and number; so that no country seems ever to have been of greater strength than Italy was when Hannibal invaded it: and after his defeat, the rest of the world was not able to resist their valour and power. They sometimes killed one another; but their enemies never got anything but burying-places within their territories. All things are now brought into a very different method by the blessed governments they are under. The fatherly care of the king of Spain, the pope, and other princes, has established peace amongst them. We have not in many ages heard of any sedition among the Latins, Sabines, Volsci, Aequi, Samnites, or others. The thin, half-starv'd inhabitants of walls supported by ivy, fear neither popular tumults, nor foreign alarms; and their sleep is only interrupted by hunger, the cries of their children, or the howling of wolves. Instead of many turbulent, contentious cities, they have a few scatter'd silent cottages; and the fierceness of those nations is so temper'd, that every rascally collector of taxes extorts without fear from every man, that which should be the nourishment of his family. And if any of those countries are free from that pernicious vermin, 'tis through the extremity of their poverty. Even in Rome a man may be circumvented by the fraud of a priest, or poison'd by one who would have his estate, wife, whore, or child; but nothing is done that looks like tumult or violence. The governors do as little fear Gracchus as Hannibal; and instead of wearying their subjects in wars, they only seek, by perverted laws, corrupt judges, false witnesses, and vexatious suits, to cheat them of their money and inheritance. This is the best part of their condition. Where these arts are used, there are men, and they have something to lose; but for the most part the lands lie waste, and they who were formerly troubled with the disorders incident to populous cities, now enjoy the quiet and peaceable estate of a wilderness.

Again, there is a way of killing worse than that of the sword: for as Tertullian says upon a different occasion, prohibere nasci est occidere;[3] those governments are in the highest degree guilty of blood, which by taking from men the means of living, bring some to perish through want, drive others out of the country, and generally dissuade men from marriage, by taking from them all ways of subsisting their families. Notwithstanding all the seditions of Florence, and other cities of Tuscany, the horrid factions of Guelphs and Ghibellines, Neri and Bianchi, nobles and commons, they continued populous, strong, and exceeding rich; but in the space of less than a hundred and fifty years, the peaceable reign of the Medicis is thought to have destroyed nine parts in ten of the people of that province. Amongst other things 'tis remarkable, that when Philip the second of Spain gave Siena to the duke of Florence, his ambassador then at Rome sent him word, that he had given away more than six hundred and fifty thousand subjects; and 'tis not believ'd there are now twenty thousand souls inhabiting that city and territory. Pisa, Pistoia, Arezzo, Cortona, and other towns that were then good and populous, are in the like proportion diminished, and Florence more than any. When that city had been long troubled with seditions, tumults, and wars, for the most part unprosperous, they still retain'd such strength, that when Charles the eighth of France being admitted as a friend with his whole army, which soon after conquer'd the kingdom of Naples, thought to master them, the people taking arms, struck such a terror into him, that he was glad to depart upon such conditions as they thought fit to impose.[4] Machiavelli reports, that in that time Florence alone, with the Val d'Arno, a small territory belonging to that city, could, in a few hours, by the sound of a bell, bring together a hundred and thirty five thousand well arm'd men;[5] whereas now that city, with all the others in that province, are brought to such despicable weakness, emptiness, poverty and baseness, that they can neither resist the oppressions of their own prince, nor defend him or themselves if they were assaulted by a foreign enemy. The people are dispers'd or destroy'd, and the best families sent to seek habitations in Venice, Genoa, Rome, Naples, and Lucca. This is not the effect of war or pestilence; they enjoy a perfect peace, and suffer no other plague than the government they are under. But he who has thus cured them of disorders and tumults, does, in my opinion, deserve no greater praise than a physician, who should boast there was not a sick person in a house committed to his care, when he had poison'd all that were in it. The Spaniards have established the like peace in the kingdoms of Naples and Sicily, the West-Indies, and other places. The Turks by the same means prevent tumults in their dominions. And they are of such efficacy in all places, that Mario Chigi brother to Pope Alexander the seventh, by one sordid cheat upon the sale of corn, is said within eight years to have destroy'd above a third part of the people in the Ecclesiastical State; and that country which was the strength of the Romans in the time of the Carthaginian Wars, suffer'd more by the covetousness and fraud of that villain, than by all the defeats receiv'd from Hannibal.

'Twere an endless work to mention all the places where this peaceable solitude has been introduc'd by absolute monarchy; but popular and regular governments have always applied themselves to increase the number, strength, power, riches, and courage of their people, by providing comfortable ways of subsistence for their own citizens, inviting strangers, and filling them all with such a love to their country, that every man might look upon the publick cause as his own, and be always ready to defend it. This may sometimes give occasion to tumults and wars, as the most vigorous bodies may fall into distempers: When everyone is solicitous for the publick, there may be difference of opinion, and some by mistaking the way may bring prejudice when they intend profit: But unless a tyrant do arise, and destroy the government which is the root of their felicity; or they be overwhelm'd by the irresistible power of a virtue or fortune greater than their own, they soon recover, and for the most part rise up in greater glory and prosperity than before. This was seen in the commonwealths of Greece and Italy, which for this reason were justly called nurseries of virtue, and their magistrates preservers of men; whereas our author's peace-making monarchs can deserve no better title than that of enemies and destroyers of mankind.

I cannot think him in earnest when he exaggerates Sulla's cruelties as a proof that the mischiefs suffer'd under free states are more universal than under kings and tyrants:[6] For there never was a tyrant in the world if he was not one, tho through weariness, infirmity of body, fear, or perhaps the horror of his own wickedness, he at length resigned his power; but the evil had taken root so deep, that it could not be removed: There was nothing of liberty remaining in Rome: The laws were overthrown by the violence of the sword: the remaining contest was who should be lord; and there is no reason to believe that if Pompey had gained the battle of Pharsalia, he would have made a more modest use of his victory than Caesar did; or that Rome would have been more happy under him than under the other. His cause was more plausible because the senate follow'd him, and Caesar was the invader; but he was no better in his person, and his designs seem to have been the same. He had been long before suarum legum auctor & eversor.[7] He gave the beginning to the first triumvirate; and 'twere folly to think that he who had been insolent when he was not come to the highest pitch of fortune, would have proved moderate if success had put all into his hands. The proceedings of Marius, Cinna, Catiline, Octavius, and Antonius were all of the same nature. No laws were observ'd: No publick good intended; the ambition of private persons reigned; and whatsoever was done by them, or for their interests, can no more be applied to popular, aristocratical or mix'd governments, than the furies of Caligula and Nero.

[1] [Patriarcha, ch. 19, quoting Job 2:4.]

[2] [Patriarcha, ch. 19.]

[3] [Tertullian, Against Marcion, bk. 1.]

[4] Guicciard. [Guicciardini, History of Florence, ch. 12; History of Italy, bk. 1.]

[5] [Machiavelli, History of Florence, bk. 2.]

[6] [Patriarcha, ch. 19.]

[7] [Tacitus, Annals, bk. 3, ch. 28.]