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triots have an interest to support them; and when patriotism is banished by corruption, there is no remaining spring in government to make them effectual. The statutes made against gaming, and against bribery and corruption in elections, have no authority over a degenerate people. Nothing is studied, but how to evade the penalties; and fuppofing statutes to be made without end for preventing known evasions, new evasions will spring up in their stead. The misery is, that such laws, if they prove abortive, are never innocent with regard to consequences ; for nothing is more fubversive of morality as well as of patriotism, than a habit of disregarding the laws of our country *.
But pride sometimes happily interposes to stem the tide of corruption. The poor are net alhamed to take a bribe from the rich; nor weak states from those that are powerful, disguised only under the name of subsidy or pension. Both France and England have been in the practice of securing the alliance of neighbouring princes by penfions; and it is natural in the ministers of a penfioned prince, to receive a gratification for keeping their maf. ter to his engagement. England never was at any time so inferior to France, as to suffer her
* Lying and perjury are not in every case equally criminal ; at least are not commonly reckoned so. Lying or perjury, in order to injure a man, is held highly criminal ; and the greater the hurt, the greater the crime, To relieve from punishment, few boggle at a lie or at perjury: sincerity is not even expected ; and hence the practice of torture. Many men are not scrupulous about oaths, when they have no view but to obtain justice to themselves : the Jacobites, that they might not be deprived of their privileges as British subjects, made no great difficulty to swallow oaths to the present government, though in them it was perjury. It is dangerous to withdraw the smallest peg in the moral edifice ; for the whole will totter and tumble. Men creep on to vice by degrees. Perjury, in order to support a friend, has become customary of late years; witness fictitious qualifications in the electors of parliament-men, which are made effectual by perjury : yet such is the degeneracy of the present 'times, that no man is the worse thought of upon that account. We must not Aatter ourselves that the poison will reach no farther : a man who boggles not at perjury to serve a friend, will in time become such an adept, as to commit perjury in order to ruin a friend when he becomes an enemy.
king openly to accept a pension from the French king, whatever private transactions might be between the kings themselves. But the ministers of England thought it no disparagement, to receive pensions from France. Every minister of Edward IV. of England received a pension from Louis XI. ; and they made no difficulty of granting a receipt for the sum. The old Earl of Warwick, says Commines, was the only exception : he took the money, but refused a receipt. Cardinal Wolsey had a pension both from the Emperor and from the King of France: and his master Henry was vain to find his minister so much, regarded by the first powers in Europe. During the reigns of Charles II. and of his brother James, England inade so despicable a figure, that the ministers accepted pensions from Louis XIV. A king deficient in virtue, is never well served. King Charles, most disgracefully, accepted a pension from France : what scruple could his minifters have? Britain, governed by a king eminently virtuous and patriotic, makes at present so great a figure, that even the lowest minister would disdain a penfon from any foreign prince. Men formerly were so blind, as not to see that a pension creates a bias in a minister, against his master and his country. At present men clearly see, that a foreign pension to a minister is no better than a bribe : and it would be held fo by all the world. ., In a nation enriched by conquest or commerce, where selfish paflions always prevail, it is difficult to stem the tide of immorality: the decline of virtuę inay be retarded by wholesome regulations ; but no regulations will ever restore it to its me. ridian vigour. Marcus Aurelius, Emperor of Rome, caused statues to be made of all the brave men who figured in the Germanic war. It has long been a practice in China, to honour persons emia. nent for virtue, by feasting them anually at the VOL. II.
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Emperor's expence. A late Emperor made an improvement: he ordered reports to be sent him annually, of men and women who when alive had been remarkable for public spirit or private vir. tue, in order that monuments might be erected to their memory. The following report is one of many that were sent to the Emperor. “Acs cording to the order of your Majesty, for erect6 ing monuments to the honour of women, who " have been celebrated for continence, for filial “ piety, or for purity of manners, the viceroy " of Canton reports, that in the town of Sinhoei, w a beautiful young woman, named Leang, fa66 crificed her life to save her chastity. In the os fifteenth year of our Emperor Canghi, she was « dragged by pirates into their ship; and ha" ving no other way to escape their brutal luft, 66 fhe threw herself headlong into the sea. Be" ing of opinion, that to prefer honour before « life is an example worthy of imitation, we
purpose, according to your Majesty's order, to « eredt a triumphal arch for that young woman, " and to engrave her story upon a large stone, 66 that it may be preserved in perpetual remem6 brance.” At the foot of the report is written, The Emperor approves. Pity it is, that such regulations fhould ever prove abortive, for their purpose is excellent. But they would need angels to carry them on. Every deviation from a just selection enervates them; and frequent de. viations render them a subject of ridicule. But how are deviations to be preverited, when men are the judges ? Those who distribute the rewards have friends or flatterers; and those of greater merit will be neglected. Like the censorian power in Rome, such regulations, after many abuses, will fink into contempt.
Two errors, which infested morality in dark times, have occasioned much injustice : and I am
not certain, that they are yet entirely eradicated. The first is an opinion, That an action derives its quality of right and wrong from the event, withouť regard to intention: The other is, That the end justifies the means ; or, in other words, That means otherwise unlawful, may be lawfully employed to bring about a good end. With an account of these two errors, I shall close the present historia cal sketch.
That inattention is the circumstance which qualifies an action and its author, to be criminal or innocent, is made evident in the first part of the present sketch; and is now admitted to be so by every moral writer. But rude and barbarous na. tions seldom carry their thoughts beyond what falls under their external senses : they conclude an action to be wrong; that happens to do harm; without ever thinking of motives, of Will, of intention, or of any circumstance that is not obvi. ous to eye-sight. From many passages in the Old Testament it appears, that the external act only, with its consequences, was regarded. Ifaac, imi. tating his father Abraham, made his wife Rebecca pass for his sister. Abimelech, King of the Philistines, having discovered the imposture, said to Isaac, "What is this thou hast done unto " us? One of the people might have lien with “ thy wife, and thou shouldst have brought gụil" tiness upon us (a).” Jonathan was condemned to die for transgressing a prohibition he had ne. ver heard of (b). · A sin of ignorance, i. e. an action done without ill intention, required a sacrifice' of expiation (c). Saul defeated by the Philistines, fell on his own sword: the wound not being inortal, he prevailed on a young Amalekite to pull out the sword, and to dispatch him
B b 2
with it. Josephus (a) fays, that David ordered the criminal to be delivered up to justice as a regicide.
The Greeks appear to have wavered greatly about intention, sometimes holding it effential to a crime, and fometimes disregarding it as a circumstance of no moment. Of these contradictory opinion's, we have pregnant evidence in the two tragedies of Oedipus ; the first taking it for granted, that a crime confifts entirely in the external act and its consequences; the other holding intention to be indispensable. . Oedipus had killed his father Laius, and married his mother Jocaf. ta ; but without any criminal intention, being ignorant of his relation to them. And yet history informs us, that the gods punished the Thebans with pestilence, for suffering a wretch so grossly criminal to live. Sophocles author of both tragedies, puts the following words in the mouth of Tiresias the prophet.
And that doctrine is espoused by Aristotle in a later period; who holding Oedipus to have been deeply criminal, though without intention, is of opinion, that a inore proper subject for tragedy never was brought upon the stage. Nay as a philosopher he talks currently of an involuntary crime. Orestes, in Euripides, acknowledges him? self to be guilty' in killing his mother; yet alferts with the fame breath, that his crime was in. evitable, a necessary crime, a crime commanded by religion.
(a) Book 3. of Antiquities.