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Vain is Edition: current; Page: [ 20 ] the change of men, where measures are not changed b. Galba left the administration, he left his own fate and glory to his Favourites; and his Favourites sold him to dishonour, and a violent death, turned the State into a market and shambles; and whilst they were yet glutting their cruelty and avarice, the hand of vengeance overtook them, though it was reasonably judged that some of them had tried to secure a retreat, and had purposely betrayed Galba to merit favour from Otho.
But whether they really meditated treason or not, they were believed to have done it: Such was the public opinion of their vileness and falshood; and such always will be the general rule of judging, that from men notoriously wicked every sort and degree of wickedness will be apprehended. It is worth observing here how short-sighted and imperfect was the ambition of these men, and how foolishly, as well as wickedly, they marred what they aimed at. Was it glory and power? By consulting and establishing those of their Master, they would have reaped an abundant share to themselves.
Good men would have applauded and assisted them; bad men would have feared them: They would have had inward peace, perhaps protection, from their own good works, reverence from the public voice, and the praises of posterity. By the same honest means they might have acquired wealth, and ample fortunes, with the approbation of all men, and probably left it to the peaceable possession of their families.
They had the largest opportunities for raising and Edition: current; Page: [ 21 ] establishing their name: They were the first Ministers in the great and opulent Empire of Rome, vested with the first dignities, and first in favour; and they served a Prince easy to his servants, too easy, one never disposed to check or change them. As he came to the Empire with great expectation, and popular favour, had his administration proved steady and virtuous, all revolts might have been prevented, or, through his superior credit and strength, easily defeated, and he might have gone to his grave in peace and glory.
Both his Rivals were in their persons extremely unpopular, both loathed for their vices, both desperately poor, neither of them esteemed in War, neither thought qualified for the arts of Peace, one a stupid Glutton, one an abandoned Debauchee.
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He himself had conducted Armies with renown, governed Provinces with integrity. His race was noble, his life innocent; he possessed great wealth, and was by all men esteemed capable and worthy of swaying the Sceptre. What more probable, than that his reign might have lasted peaceably as long as his life, had his reign been well conducted? By betraying him they betrayed themselves: by ill serving him, they ruined themselves.
What could they expect from Otho or Vitellius, but to be considered as real Traitors, or at best as corrupt and wretched Counsellors? Amurath the Turkish Emperor cut off the head of the Persian Governor who betrayed a City into his hands. Myr Mahmud dealt severely with those who had held a traiterous correspondence with him from Ispahan, declared their names infamous, their estates confiscated, and had them all put to death, and their carcasses thrown into the streets.
Thus too the Emperor Maximin served Macedo Edition: current; Page: [ 22 ] who had prompted his bosom-friend Quartinus to revolt, and then slew him to make a merit with Maximin, who, for all his wicked merit, put him to death. But in the tumult of rampant passions, reason is not heard. Those Ministers were transported with the sudden change of their condition, and giddy with the direction of Imperial Power. Men in a torrent of prosperity seldom think of a day of distress, or great men, that their greatness will ever cease.
This seems to be a sort of a curse upon power, a vanity and infatuation blended with the nature of it: as if it were possible, nay, easy, to bind the fickleness of fortune, and ensure happiness for a term of years. It is from this foolish assurance, often cleaving to very able men, that those in authority often act with such boldness and insolence, as if their reign were never to end, and they were for ever secure against all after-reckonings, all casualities and disgrace.
From whence else comes it, but from such blind security in the permanence of their condition, and in the impunity of their actions, that Ministers have sometimes concerted schemes of general oppression and pillage, schemes Edition: current; Page: [ 23 ] to depreciate or evade the Laws, restraints upon Liberty, and projects for arbitrary Rule?
Had they thought that ever they themselves should suffer in the common oppression, Would they have advised methods of oppressing? Would they have been for weakening or abrogating the Laws, had they dreamed that they should come to want the protection of Law? Would they have aimed at abolishing Liberty, had they apprehended that they were at any time to fall from power; or at establishing despotic Rule, but for the sake of having the direction of it against others, without feeling its weight and terrors in their own particulars?
A great man near an hundred years ago is changed with having contrived such a model of government for one of our English Kings, as was intirely arbitrary and Turkish, a model deliberately digested in writing.
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Such a monstrous change of mind had ensued the change of his condition: Formerly he had breathed a very different and opposite spirit, and asserted Liberty with uncommon zeal: It was when he came to sway the State that he altered his stile; which it is probable he would not have altered, had he not imagined that his sway was to have no end. He lived to see it at an end.
He, who had but too lightly esteemed Laws and Liberty, and the Lives of men, was bereft of Liberty and Life in a manner contrary to the forms of Law; and as he had promoted lawless and unaccountable power, he fell by an effort of power, unusual and extraordinary. When afterwards he was abandoned to disgrace, I trust he had different sentiments about kingly power, and perhaps would not willingly have seen his life and estate taken away by a proclamation.
Such a reverse in the fortunes of men, especially of great men, who depend upon the caprice, and whim, and breath of another, were easy to be imagined, did not self-love darken the understanding. The greatest men, nay, the wisest men, when they are blind, are exceeding blind.
How few of them have provided against an evil day! How few secured themselves a resource of friendship and affection from the Public, in case of a storm at Court, and the frowns of a Crown! To return to Galba; no Prince was ever more unhappy in his Favourites: They were very wicked, very guilty men; nor can any Prince, who entertains such, be happy or secure.
A Perk of Our Evolution: Pleasure in Pain of Chilies
Selden, discoursing of Edward II. Great guilt in Ministers is threatening to a Prince. When they can no longer support their Master, nor their Master them, their next course will probably be to desert Edition: current; Page: [ 25 ] him, or to rebel against him.
As by their wicked administration they had betrayed his interest and dignity, destroyed his reputation, the dearest interest which a Prince can have, incensed and estranged the minds of his people, who are the surest support which a Prince can rely on, it is by no means unnatural, if at last they destroy him whom they had already undone. I shall hereafter prove this by many examples. EVEN when these Roman Emperors happened to have good Ministers, they rarely made any good use of them, but followed the advice of others and worse: For with bad they were always provided.
Hence it is, that as a weak or an evil Prince seldom has good counsel, he is seldom the better for it when he has. Suetonius Paulinus and Marius Celsus were able men, and probably would have made the cause of Otho triumphant, had Otho pursued their counsels. But about all such Princes, for one honest or able man, there will be many foolish and base, and it is great odds but these have much more influence and weight; as they are more forward and impudent, more positive and sanguine, more prone to flatter him, and assure him of success a method which goes great lengths with Princes ; and, as they are worse judges of measures, less concerned about events.
Perhaps too they have already made, or mean to make terms for themselves, whatever becomes of their Master. Perhaps they are bent upon the ruin of some Rival at Court, For this has also happened, that men have betrayed their own cause out of pique to some particular Leader in it; Armies have been often suffered, by one of the Commanders, to be cut to pieces, purely to bring disgrace upon the other, and Laco, Captain of the guards to Galba, even in the last struggle of his Prince for saving his life and Empire, opposed every counsel, however wholesome, which came from any one else, particularly from Titus Vinius.
They were both very wicked men; Proculus particularly excelled in slander and whispering, and was an adroit Courtier. It was thus that this man, full of craft and injustice, came easily to surpass in credit all who were more righteous than himself. Otho, moreover, as well as these his Favourites, dreaded and distrusted every able man, relied chiefly upon talebearers, and made his chief court to the common soldiers.
So did Vitellius, and so probably will most weak and guilty Princes. They dislike to see any man exceed them in prowess, and public estimation, or to possess the credit arising from address, good conduct, and military exploits. Nay, such of them as most eminently want Governors, are sometimes the most fearful of being governed.
Lewis the thirteenth dreaded the great capacity of Cardinal Richelieu, and hated his person; as did Nero the person and authority of Seneca. The danger of serving such Princes ill, is not greater than that of serving them over-well, nor perhaps so great: and many great Ministers and Edition: current; Page: [ 27 ] Generals have been ill used and undone for doing eminent service, and discharging their duty with applause; such as Caius Silius, Antonius Primus, and Gonsalo, the great Spanish Captain, under Ferdinand the Catholic.
From this weakness and pride of theirs, they are sometimes prone of themselves to follow the advice of weak counsellors rather than of such as are able and sufficient, partly from jealousy of the latter, partly from an ambition of being thought to do notable things without them, and of reaping all the praise themselves, at least of seeing it reaped by such whose moderate ability and character gives them no umbrage. Hence the signal miscarriages of Princes who have wise Ministers but neglect their wise advice. Nero was assisted, or might have been, by the counsels of Seneca and Burrus, and it was no fault of theirs that he proved a detestable Tyrant.
What advice he took, was that of Sycophants, Debauchees, Pandars, of the worst and off-cast of humankind. These told him what an accomplished Prince he was, what ripeness of judgment he had, what maturity of years; and being no longer a child, it was high time for him to shake off his Tutor. For towards Seneca they bore notable rancour and antipathy, as was natural to such profligates who then swarmed at Court; and whilst he was there, he still proved some check to the brutal spirit of Nero; a thing which pleased not the Courtiers, nor Nero himself: For with such Princes flattery in their servants is more palatable and prevailing than virtue and ability.
IN like manner was Otho hurried through evil counsel and conduct into evil fortune, though served by such Leaders as Paulinus and Celsus. Such is the risque which an able and worthy man incurs by serving a weak Prince, even to have his good counsels rejected, and to bear the blame and discredit of evil counsels which he had disapproved.
For upon the most signal Minister all the reproach will be apt to rest, and he must bear the infamy of the worst; nor perhaps will it be safe for him to disown the foolish and disastrous measures which he opposed, lest he thence cast a blemish upon his Master. Even some able Princes have looked with an evil eye upon the person and credit of an able Minister, and perhaps it is the fafest way of advising the best of them, to let the advice seem to come from themselves. Such is the slippery situation of good Ministers under Princes wise or weak; a situation not to be envied.
Otho miscarried; and as Paulinus and Celsus were thought his directors, they were likewise thought traitors: so infamous were the measures which he had pursued, and which they in truth had opposed. Yet afterwards Paulinus and Proculus meanly descended, for their own safety, to confess that they had contrived them purposely; and for favour from Vitellius pleaded the merit of having betrayed Otho.
Vitellius too was vain enough to believe, that, out of pure regard for him, they had really stained themselves with such foul dishonour.
It was shameful to own that they had, though they had not. But so differently do men construe actions done for them and Edition: current; Page: [ 29 ] against them, and so rare it is to find the bravest men completely brave, any more than the wisest men completely wise.
The qualities of all men are limited, and subject to inconstancy; else such a man as Paulinus, who had so often ventured his life for glory, would never have studied to save it by infamy. It was, however, much less criminal to assume guilt, than to have earned it. It must be owned, it required either very great virtue or very great folly to serve such Princes as some of these Emperors were; though it was cruel and unjust to betray them.