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A curious instance of this same prejudice, which shews how deeply rooted it was in the whole system of ancient manners and opinions, is furnished by Philostratus in his Life of Isocrates. It bad been whispered that the veteran rhetorician was originally a flute-maker (atomosos.) But that, says his biographer, is clearly false, for he had a statue erected to him at Olympia, which could not be, had he ever been engaged in any illiberal avocation. They did not, however, confine the objection to the more humble trades. Every profession, of which the object is to make money, was regarded as illiberal—their word for ungentlemanlike. Thus, merchants were proscribed by Plato. There was an exception (in Greece) in favour of those who excelled in the arts of imagination and taste. Actors, for instance, were very often entrusted with the highest offices of the government. They thought no occupation degrading, of which the end was to imitate la belle nature, and to which, of course, a profound study of beauty, grace and excellence was necessary. These opinions may be considered as the great vice of antiguity, and one among other causes, of the superiority of modern institutions--that is to say, where feudal principles and notions have been exploded. What would Harrington have thought of our first Congress-of that truly Roman senate, which declared our independence, and which carried us through the war of the Revolution ? To speak disparagingly of professional men and tradesmen, as the founders of a commonwealth, in the country of Henry and Rutledge, of Franklin and Sherman, of Laurens and Morris, would be to advance a paradox not worth the pains of refutation. The best form of government is undoubtedly that in which all the interests of society are fairly represented; the best for efficiency, for freedom, for happiness. The various classes of society operate as checks and correctives of one another-profound learning and speculative genius are tempered by the shrewd common sense and “sage experience” of men of business and the soundest and healthiest part of every community, (where extraordinary causes have not produced a different result) the great middle class of moral, substantial people, below ambition, above a bribe, too virtuous to do wrong wilfully, too wise to be easily imposed upon, is felt in every
department of the public administration. A representative government, founded upon such principles, and taking care to provide for the moral education of the people, is the only scheme which holds out any hope of rational and permanent liberty. As for the effects of oligarchical institutions upon the character and destinies of a people, they may be read in every page of Roman history from the æra of this dialogue to the battle of Philippi. Sallust, especially, draws a terrible picture of them in his history of Catiline's conspiracy-which was emphatically a plot of gentlemen—of bankrupt patricians and traitorous magistrates. Clodius, too, was as good a gentleman as any at Rome and frequently sneers at Cicero as an upstart man of Arpinum. This view of the subject was taken by that writer, who, of all the ancients, seems to have had the justest and most comprehensive ideas of the social condition of mankind. Aristotle has a dissertation expressly to shew that the whole people, (under a well balanced polity, of course,) are necessarily better judges of every matter, whether of reasoning oi of taste, whether in government, in morals, or in art, than even the best educated and most bighly gifted individual can pretend to be. His Demus is a man with a vast multitude of organs, senses and faculties-a sort of male Pandora, in whose composition all kinds of men, all orders of society, have been laid under contribution for perfections.* Macchiavelli probably had this part of Aristotle's work in view, when he wrote the chapter in bis Discourses, of which the title is "Che la Moltitudine è più savia e più costante che un principe"--and which presents a noble and powerful defence of popular government.
We will add another remark of some importance in this connexion. The idea of liberty among the ancients was very different from that which we attach to the word. This difference, as well as the aristocratic sentiments adverted to just now, sprung undoubtedly out of the institution of domestic slavery, and that principle of their jus gentium, which doomed captives in battle to perpetual bondage. From whatever causes, the Ionian and Dorian races—but especially the former-attained to a remarkable superiority over the rest of mankind. In the neighbourhood of despotisms, they established popular and limited governments; in the midst of darkness and ignorance, they cultivated philosophy and the arts which body forth ideal beauty, while the hosts of the Mede sunk beneath their prowess in the field. The other great race, with whose institutions and modes of thought we are made familiar by our early studies, without excelling as much in merely intellectual pursuits, carried the preeminence which civilization gives in war and in policy, to a still higher pitch. “Their empire comprehended the fairest part of the earth, and the most civilized portion of mankind,” and kings and tetrarchs were glad to become their clients and retainers. That these privileged and illustrious races should be conscious of their unquestionable advantages--that they should look down upon the rest of mankind with an insolent sense of their own superiority, and should even be unwilling to acknowledge themselves of the same origin and species, is not much to be wondered at—at least, may readily be conceived. Accordingly, their whole literature breathes this spirit. It is taken for granted, by their orators, in harangues, of which this opinion inspires the eloquence-by their philosophers who build their systems and theories upon it—that Greeks were created to conquer and to control barbarians. Aristotle in a grave inquiry, whether slavery be consistent with the law of nature, decides that it is so where one race is, by nature, inferior to another, and even justifies war, if it be necessary to subject the predestinated bondman to his chains. In that famous burst of eloquence in which Cicero gives vent to his indignation and horror against Verres for the crucifixion of Gavius, it is evident that he lays the whole emphasis upon the circumstance of his being a Roman citizen, and that this circumstance entitles the offence, in the orator's estimation, to cap the whole climax of crimes and atrocities which he had to unfold, enormous as they were. His language is a precise expression of the sentiments which we impute to the ancients upon this subject. O nomen dulce libertatis ! O sweet name of liberty--but what liberty ? This question is answered by the next words. O jus eximium nostræ civitatis It was not the violence done to the principles of natural right and justice-it was not that an innoceứt man had been punished, or that a guilty man had been cruelly tortured and disgraced : it was that the Portian and Sempronian laws had been broken-that the sacred privilege of citizenship had been despised—that a Roman had suffered as if he had been a Sicilian or a barbarian. The feel, ing expressed by the orator is precisely such as one feudal baron would have experienced at witnessing the body of another gibbeted by the king's justice in eyre. Liberty, in short, was rank and nobility among the ancients; and inspired the same sentiments for good and for evil. It was considered as the birthrightthe hereditary dignity of certain races—but the idea that it was part and parcel of the law of nature and nations--that it was due in common justice to all mankind, seems to have occurred to very few, and to have been acted upon by nobody. This accounts for that fierce and jealous love of liberty which characterized the Athenian democracy, and (whatever may have been its other
* Lib. iii. c. 7. Plato, contra.
This curious passage which classes the conquest of these natural slaves with the hunting of wild beasts, is to be found. Pol. Lib. i. c. 5.
+ Justinian darkly hints that slavery is against the law of nature, though agreeable to the jus gentium. Inst. Lib. i. tit. -- and Socrates says something to the same purpose, but with some qualification. Xenoph. Mem. Lib. iv. c 2.
# Hoc teneo, hic hæreo, judices, hoc sum contentus uno, &c.
effects) gives such a noble spirit and such lively interest to their whole literature.
Cicero, as we have said, thought that he saw in the constitution of his country as it existed during the happy and glorious period before alluded to, the best of all possible schemes of government-a perfect model of the well-tempered and balanced polity, imagined by philosophers in their visions of perfectibility, but never successfully reduced to practice by any other great people. He was willing to take it with all its imperfections on its head--with all its apparent anomalies, irregularities and defects. Its fruits had been good, and that was enough for him. The imperium in imperio, the plebiscitum, and the veto which a systematic politician, working by plumb and rule, would have condemned as an absurdity, struck him as the best balance that could be devised. He was not alarmed at the power or even the necessity, of resorting now and then to the despotism of the dictator, or the decree of ne quid respublica detrimenti capiat, which, in more recent times, was substituted for it in practice. He regarded these very irregularities as among the chief excellences of the government in an uncorrupted age. They were a proof that it had not been formed upon visionary and superficial principles, without reference to the wants, the habits, or the character of the people. He had not the presumption to suppose that he could devise a priori a scheme of polity better than that which had been so fruitful of good for centuries together. He had no faith in political metaphysics. He knew that nothing was more deceptive and dangerous than the affectation of mathematical exactness in matters which have less to do with quantity than with any other of the ten categories. He had never heard of the three bases of the philosophical constitution of France of the basis of population, the basis of contribution, or the basis of territory; and the rest of that magnificent but senseless jargon. It did not occur to him that (as the speculative politicians of these times seem to think) there is a sort of mystic or magical power in the mere forms of a polity, and that a government may be altered as often as the most capricious levity shall dictate, without any danger of disturbing the settled order of society and with a perfect foresight of all the effects of such changes. He knew that the mores, the manners, opinions and character of a people, are by far the most important part in every political problem, and that no constitution can be either stable or efficient which is not in harmony with these. He had adopted, in short, that rule which a great man-whose speculations have exhausted this subject, and occur to us whenever we have occasion to contemplate it--considers as fundamental with every good patriot and every true politician. Spartam nactus es; hanc exorna. Cicero would have felt the whole force and beauty of the following period. “By adhering in this manner and on these principles to our forefathers, we are guided not by the superstition of antiquarians, but by the spirit of philosophic analogy-in this choice of inheritance, we give to our frame of polity the image of a relation in blood ; 'binding up the constitution of our country with our dearest domestic ties, adopting our fundamental laws into the bosom of our family affections; keeping inseparable and cherishing with the warmth of all their combined and mutually reflected charities, our state, our hearths, our sepulchres and our altars." The compliment he pays the government of Rome is, therefore, as full of wisdom as of patriotism, and may be taken as his protest against that. pest of our times, SPECULATIVE POLITICS.
ART. VII.---Travels of the Russian Mission through Mongolia to
China, and Residence in Pekin in the years 1820, 1821. By GEORGE TIMKOWSKI; with Corrections and Notes by Julius Von KLAPROTH; illustrated by maps, plates, &c. 2 vols. 8vo. London. 1827.
For near two centuries we have been drinking the teas of the Chinese out of their inimitable porcelain, and wearing their silks and satins, yet every book of travels that comes out respecting that extraordinary people, is perused with as much avidity as if it detailed the unknown wonders of a newly discovered continent. We all know that they have a great wall, in comparison with which the far-famed pyramids of Egypt sink into insignificance, and canals, to which those of Europe are mere sluices for irrigation ; that they eat with chop sticks, and that their women have little feet. It is equally certain that when, the Europeans first visited them, the Chinese were clothed in silk and comfortably lodged, while the English nobility were sleeping on straw, and their floors covered with grease, filth, and bones ;* that many of their arts are still far in advance of
* See Barrow's Travels in China, 20. Erasmi Epistolæ, &c.