we are sure will not be received. Such unusual discourse would avail nothing with men prepossessed by different sentiments ; and though this philosophical kind of specula‘tion be not unpleasant among friends in free conversation, there is no room for it in the courts of princes, where affairs are conducted by authority.'

* This is exactly what I affirmed," replied he, there is no room for philosophy in the courts of princes.'

· Yes there is,' said I, • but not for this speculative philosophy, which supposeth all things suitable to all occasions There is another philosophy more accommodating, who knoweth her place and accommodateth herself to it, teaching man, with propriety and decency to act the part which hath fallen to his lot. If, at a representation of one of Plautus' comedies, you came in the garb of a philosopher, and repeated from Octavia a discourse of Seneca to Nero, had you not better been silent than make an impertinent tragi-comedy by mixing incongruities, which spoil the play, though what you introduce be perhaps better? Thus, in a commonwealth, and at the councils of princes, if evils cannot be rooted out or cured according to your wish, yet you must not abandon the state, as you would not leave the helm in a storm because you cannot command the winds. You are not obliged to attack people with discourses which are out of their way, when you find that their received opinions must prevent your making an impression on them. You ought rather to cast about and manage matters with

all the dexterity in your power, that if you cannot make things go well, you may make them go as little otherwise as possible. Unless all are good, every thing cannot be right; and that is a blessing I have no hopes of seeing at present.'

• By following your counsel, replied he, • I should run a violent risk of going mad myself, while endeavouring to cure madness in others. If I will speak the truth, I must repeat what I have already said to you; and whether philosophers can lie, I will not determine; certain I am, I cannot. But though such discourse may be disagreeable to them, I see not why it should seem foolish or extravagant. Indeed, if I should propose such inventions as Plato's in his Commonwealth, or those of the Utopians, though they might seem better, as certainly they be, yet differ they so much from our establishment, founded on property (which is unknown among them) that I could not expect any effect from it. But discourses like mine, which only recal past evils to mind, and warn of what may happen, contain no such absurdity, but they may be used at any time; for they can be unpleasant only to those who are resolved to run headlong the contrary way. And if we must pass over as absurd or extravagant every thing which, owing to the wickedness of many, may seem harsh, we must not urge most of those truths which Christ hath taught us, even among Christians; though he hath commanded, we should proclaim on the house-tops what he taught in secret. Most of his precepts oppose themselves to the lives of this age, more than doth my discourse ; but your preachers seem to have learned the craft which you recommend. Observing that the world would not suit their lives to Christ's rules, they have adapted his doctrine (like a leaden ruler) to their lives, that they might agree some way or other. But this compliance hath had no other effect than that men become more secure in their wickedness by it. And this is all the success I can expect in a court; I must ever differ from the rest, so shall be of no signification ; had I agreed with them, I should only have promoted their madness.

"I comprehend not what you mean by casting about, or managing matters so dexterously, that if they go not well, they may go as little otherwise as may be ; for in courts a man cannot hold his peace, or connive at the actions of others. He must openly approve the worst counsels, and consent to the blackest designs, so that, in your way, he would pass for a spy, or perhaps a traitor, who only coldly acquiesced in such practices. Engaged in such connections, he will be so far from mending matters by casting about, as you call it, that he will find no opportunities of doing good. His evil communicants will sooner corrupt him than be benefited by him, or, should he remain innocent, their folly and knavery will be imputed to him ; and by joining in their counsels, he must bear his share of all the blame which belongeth wholly to others.

• It is no bad simile by which Plato shewed, how unreasonable it is for a philosopher to meddle with government.

Vol. II.


If a man,' he says, “ saw a company run daily into the rain with delight, and knew that it would be to no purpose to endeavour to persuade them to return home and avoid the storm, and that all he could expect would be to be as wet as they, it would be best for him to remain at home, and, since he could not correct the folly of others, take care of himself. But, to speak my real sentiment, I must own, as long as there is any property, and money is the standard of all things else, I cannot think that a country can be governed justly or happily. Not justly, for the best things will fall to the lot of the worst men; not happily, for all things will be divided among a few, who are not completely happy, while the rest are left in absolute misery

• When, therefore, I reflect on the wise and good constitution of the Utopians, among whom all things are so well regulated by so few laws; where virtue hath its reward, yet is there such an equality that every man liveth in plenty ; when I compare with them so many other nations, which are ever making new laws, yet cannot bring their constitution to a due standard, though every one hath his property ; where all the laws they can invent cannot obtain or preserve it, or even enable men to distinguish their own from another's, as the many law-suits, eternally depending, prove ; when, I say, I weigh all these things, I incline more and more to Plato's opinion, and wonder not, that he resolved not to make any laws for such as would not submit to a community of all things.

· So wise a man could not but foresce, that placing all upon a level was the only way to make a nation happy ; and this cannot be, so long as there is property. For, when every one draweth to himself all he can, by one claim or other, it must follow, that how rich soever a country may be, yet, a few dividing her wealth among themselves, the rest must become indigent. Thus there will be two descriptions of people among them who deserve an interchange of circumstances; one useless, but wicked and rapacious ; the other sincere and modest, serving the public more than themselyes by their industry. Whence I am persuaded, that until property be destroyed, there can be no just distribution of things, nor can the world be happily governed ; for while it is maintained, the greater and better part of mankind will be oppressed with care and anxiety.

· I confess, that without destroying it entirely, the oppressions of many may be lightened, but they can never be quite removed. For if laws were enacted to determine at what extent of territory, and what amount of money every man must stop, to limit the prince that he grew not too great, and the people that they became not too insolent, and to prevent any from factiously aspiring to public employments which ought neither to be sold nor made burdensome (for then those who serve them would reimburse themselves by knavery and violence, and it would be necessary to find rich men for those places which ought rather to be holden by the wise); these laws, I say, might

« VorigeDoorgaan »