Monthly Archives: June 2007

Item of the Day: Miller’s Recapitulation of A Brief Retrospect of the Eighteenth Century (1803)

Full Title: A Brief Retrospect of the Eighteenth Century. Part First; In Two Volumes: Containing A Sketch of the Revolutions and Improvements in Acience, Arts, and Literature, during that Period. By Samuel Miller. Vol. II. Published According to Act of Congress. New-York: Printed by T. and J. Swords, no. 160 Pearl-Street, 1803.

 

 [The following passages are excerpted from the final chapter in Miller’s A Brief Retrospect of the Eighteenth Century]

 

RECAPITULATION.

 

WE have now made a hasty tour through one of the departments of the subject which we undertook to examine. From the foregoing survey, which, however tedious it may have appeared to the reader, is, in reality, a very rapid one, the eighteenth century appears to bear a singularly distinct and interesting character. In almost every department of knowledge, we find monuments of enterprize, discovery, and improvement; and, in some, these monuments are so numerous, valuable, and splendid, as to stand without parallel in the history of the human mind. There have been periods in which particular studies were more cultivated; but it may be asserted, with confidence, that in no period of the same extent, since the creation, has a mass of improvement so large, diversified and rich been presented to view. In no period have the various branches of science, art and letters, received, at the same time, such liberal accessions of light and refinement, and been made so remarkably to illustrate and enlarge each other. Never did the inquirer stand at the confluence of so many streams of knowledge as at the close of the eighteenth century.

But, in order to bring more immediately and distinctly into view the leading characteristics of the last age, as deducible from the statements which have been given, an attempt will be made to sum them up in the few following particulars:

1. The last century was pre-eminently an AGE OF FREE INQUIRY. No period in the history of man is so well entitled to this character. Two centuries have not rolled away, since the belief that the earth is globular in its form was punished as a damnable heresy; since men were afraid to avow the plainest and most fundamental principles of philosophy, government, and religion; and since the sporit of liberal inquiry was almost unkown. In the seventeenth century, this spirit began to show itself; but it was reserved for the eighteenth to witness an indulgence and extension of it truly wonderful. Never, probably, was the human mind, all things considered, so much unshackled in its inquiries. Men have learned, in a greater degree than ever before, to make light of precedent, and to throw off the authority of distinguished names. They have learned, with a readiness altogether new, to discard old opinions, to overturn systems which were supposed to rest on everlasting foundations, and to push their inquiries to the utmost extent, awed by no sanctions, restrained by no prescriptions.

This revolution in the human mind has been attended with many advantages, and with many evils. It has led to the developement [sic] of much truth, and has contributed greatly to enlarge the bounds of literature, science, and general improvement. It has opened the way to a free communication of all discoveries, real or supposed, and removed various obstacles which long retarded the progress of knowledge. But this spirit of inquiry, like every thing else in the hands of man, has been perverted and abused. It has been carried to the extreme of licentiousness. In too many instances, the love of novelty, and the impatience of all restraint founded on prescription or antiquity, have triumphed over truth and wisdom; and, in the midst of zeal for demolishing old errors, the most sacred principles of virtue and happiness have been rejected and forgotten. . . .

6. The last century is pre-eminently entitled to the character of THE AGE OF PRINTING. It is generally known, that this art is but little more than three centuries old. Among the ancients, the difficulty and expense of multiplying copies of works of reputation were so great, that few made the attempt; and the author who wished to submit his compositions to the public, was under the necessity of reciting them at some favourable meeting of the people. The disadvantages attending this state of things were many and great. It repressed and discouraged talents, and rendered the number of readers extremely small. The invention of printing gave a new aspect to literature, and formed one of the most important eras in the history of human affairs. It not only increased the number, and reduced the price of books, but it also furnished the authors with the means of laying the fruits of their labours before the public, in the most prompt and extensive manner. considering this art, moreover, as a great moral and political engine, by which an impression may be made on a large portion of a community at the same time, it assumes a degree of importance highly interesting to the philanthropist, as well as to the scholar. . . .

7.  The last century is entitled to distinction above all others, as THE AGE OF BOOKS; an age in which the spirit of writing, as well as of publication, exceeded all former precedent. Though this is closeley connected with the foregoing particular, it deserves a more distinct and pointed notice. Never, assuredly, did the world abound with such a profusion of vaious works, or produce such an immense harvest of literary  fruits. The publication of books, in all former periods of the history of learning, laboured under many difficulties. Readers were comparatively few; of course writers met with small encouragement of a pecuniary kind to labour for the instruction of the public. Hence, none in preceding centuries became authors, but such as were prompted by benevolence, by literary ambition, or by an enthusiastic love of literature. But the eighteenth century exhibited the business of publication under an aspect entirely new. It presented an increase in the number, both of writers and readers, almost incredible. In this century, for the first time AUTHORSHIP BECAME A TRADE. Multitudes of writers toiled, not for the promotion of science, nor even with a governing view to advance their own reputaiton, but for the market. Swarms of book-makers by profession arose, who inquired, not whether the subjects which they undertook to discuss stood in need of further investigation; or whether they were able to do them more ample justice than their predecessors; but whether more books might not be palmed upon the public, and made a source of emolument to the authors. Hence, there were probably more books published in the eighteenth century, than in the whole time that had before elapsed since the art of printing was discovered; perhaps more than were ever presented to the public, either in manuscript, or from the press, since the creation.

This unprecedented and wonderful multiplication of books, while it has rendered the means of information more easy of access, and more popular, has also served to perplex the mind of the student, to divide his attention, and to distract his powers. Where there are so many books, there will be less deep, original, and patient thinking; and each work will be studied with less attention and care. It may further be observed, that the abridgement, compilations, epitomes, synopses, and selections which are daily pouring from the press in countless numbers, and which make so large a part of modern publicaitons, have a tendency to divert the mind from the treasures of ancient knowledge, and from the volumes of original authors. Thus, the multiplicity of new publications, while they would seem at first view, highly favourable to the acquisition of learning, are found, as will be afterwards more fully shown, hostile to deep and sound erudition. . . .

 

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Filed under 1700's, Culture, Eighteenth century, History, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Printing

Item of the Day: A Brief Retrospect of the Eighteenth Century (1803)

Full Title: A Brief Retrospect of the Eighteenth Century. Part First; In Two Volumes: Containing a Sketch of the Revolutions and Improvements in Science, ARts, and Literature, during that Period. By Samuel Miller. Vol. I. New-York: Printed by T. and J. Swords, No. 160 Pearl-Street, 1803.

INTRODUCTION.

THE oldest historian in the world, and the only one in whose information and faithfulness we can place unlimited confidence, tells us, that, in the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, he said–-Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven, to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and for years. Without recurring to the regular motions of these celestial orbs, time would pass unnoticed and unmeasured. Its flight, in itself, is not an object of sense; we neither see nor hear it. But by observing the diurnal revolutions of the heavenly bodies, we acquire the conception of days; by dividing these days, we form hours and minutes; and, by multiplying them, we gain the ideas of months, years, and ages. Like all the rest of the works and ways of God, these means of marking the progress of time, and ascertaining its portions, are adapted to promote both physical and moral advantage. To the philosopher they furnish inestimable rules and principles of calculation; to the man of business they present measures and stimulants to industry; and, above all, to the christian they offer coninual memorials of the end of life, and unceasing excitements to moral dispatch.

Hence the close of one year, and the commencement of another, are generally marked by mutual congratulations, by a peculiar train of refections, by new plans and undertakings, and by characteristic changes in domestic, social, and political affairs. It is a period which interests the feelings, and constitutes a prominent point in the life of almost every man.

But, on reaching the temination of an active and eventful CENTURY, and entering upon a new one, the emotions of the reflecting mind are still more strong, and the impressions made more various and interesting. This is a transition which few individuals at present on earth have before witnessed, and which few now living will ever again behold. At such a period it is natural, and it is useful, to pause; to review the extensive scene; to estimate what has been done; to inquire whether we have grown wiser and better, or the reverse; and to derive those lessons of wisdom from the whole, which rational beings ought ever to draw from experience. —While the student of chronology is disputing about the time when the old century terminated, and the new one began; and while the astronomer sees nothing in this period but the completion of a certain number of planetary revolutions, and the commencement of another series, the man of true wisdom is employed in attending to other objects, in pursuing different inquiries. —Rich were the stores of instruction, and great the improvement, which an ancient king received from returning, after a long course of action, and looking upon all the works which his hand had wroght, and the labour which he had laboured to do. It was upon this calm retracing of his steps, that he discovered, more fully than ever before, wherein he had been profitably employed; and in what respects his unwearied exertions had been but vanity and vexation of spirit.’

Standing, therefore, as we do, upon the threshold of a NEW CENTURY, it may prove both amusing and instructive to take a hasty retrospect of that to which we have just bidden adieu. In this retrospect, the scene which lies before us is large and various. On whatever part we cast the eye, important objects, and interesting lessons, present themselves to view. Out of these it will only be possible to select a few of the most conspicuous and striking, and to display each with the utmost brevity.

He who attempts to view, even the most superficial, of human nature, and of human affairs, within any given period, will soon find that the object which he undertakes to survey, is complex and multiform. Man, always variable, and never consistent, imparts this character to every thing that he touches. To give the history of a single mind for a single day; to mark with justice its revolutions, its progress, its acquirements, and its retrocessions; to form an estimate of the good, or of the evil, which, within this time, it may have produced; and to trace, in accurate lines, wherein its character on that day differed from its character on the preceding, is a task which can appear easy only to ignorance and inexperience. And in proportion as the number of minds to be contemplated increases, or the length of the time in question is extended, the difficulties of the undertaking multiply, and it becomes, in every respect, more arduous. How numerous the difficulties, then, of estimating the operations and the progress of the human race for an hundred years!

Another source of doubt and mistake also arises here, besides that which is occasioned by the complexness and confusion of the scene. Who can distinguish between revolution and improvement in human affairs? Who can undertake to say in what cases they are synonymous terms, and when they are directly opposite? If every change were to be considered an advantage, it would follow, of course that the strides of civilized man, in every species of improvment, during the last century, have been prodigious. But, alas! this principle cannot be admitted by the cautious inquirer, or the friend of human happiness. The passion for novelty and change, so universal and unceasing, has doubtless oftentimes indulged itself at the espense of real good, and substantial enjoyment.

A wise man, and an inspired writer, has told us, that there is no new thing under the sun. Is there any thing wherof it may be said, See, this is new? It hath been already of old time, which was before us. —This passage, like many others of a similar kind, is doubtless not to be interpreted as declaring literally, that there never have been, nor ever can be, any schemes, events, or discoveries entitled to the appellation of new; but as teaching us, in a strong and figurative manner, that the projects and improvements of human genius are frequently sinking into forgetfulness, and rising again; that old systems are daily revived, clothed in new dresses, decorated with new names, and palmed on the world as creatures of modern birth; and that very few of the boasted efforts of genius, either in Solomon’s days, or at any subsequent period, could be called entirely original. The smallest acquaintance with history is sufficient to convince any one that this is a just representation. That there are some things peculiar to certain periods and countries, will not be disputed; but that these are fewer in number, and the peculiarity much smaller in degree, than transient observers imagine, is certainly also true. Hence arise a further difficulty in deciding whrein one age differs from another. History is not an instructress sufficiently minute and patient to enable us always to judge promptly and accurately on the subject.

“It affords some astonishment,” says a late writer, “and much curious speculation, to the reflecting mind, that, probably, not a system of philosophy exists among the moderns, which had not its foundation laid upon some one opinion or another of the ancient theorists, and the outlines of which may not be found in such of their writings as have come down to our time. Even the Newtonian doctrine of gravitation was not unknown to Lucretius; for that poet, in his first book, attempts to refute the idea that the universe had a centre, to which all things tend by their natural gravity. That the central point had the strongest power of attraction was equally an hypothesis of SIR ISAAC NEWTON and the ancient stoics.” The ingenious writer might have gone into a very amusing detail on this subject. Some facts, tending to confirm his position, will appear in the following pages. Let us beware, however, of carrying the principle beyond due bounds.

A difficulty also arises, in attempting to make the proposed estimate, from the dispostion of man to magnify present objects. It is an old remark, that important persons and scenes acquire an additional magnitude in our eyes when seen from a distance. But it is as true that the same error of intellectual vision occurs daily with respect to objects seen near at hand. Men have always been unduly disposed to consider their own times as distinguished, above all others, by remarkable events. The virtue of the vice, the knowledge or the ignorance, the discoveries or the destructions, which we personally witness, or of which we have recently heard, are apt to impress us more deeply, and to be estimated more highly in the history of man, than their real importance deserves. Hence nothing is more common than to hear men express an opinion, that the country and the period in which their lot is cast are more awfully degenerate, or more extensivley enlightened, according to the occurrence, or the object which happens to occupy their minds, than the world ever before witnessed. No doubt a portion of this prejudice and partiality cleaves to every mind, and must always interpose an obstacle in the way of him who would accurately calculate the magnitude, and justly exhibit the features of recent events.

But, after making every allowance for errors in calculation which may arise from these several sources, it will probably be acknowledged, that the century of which we have just taken leave has produced an unusual number of revolutions, and at least some improvements, —In LITERATURE and SCIENCE—in POLITICAL PRINCIPLES and ESTABLISHMENTS—in the MORAL WORLD–and in the CHRISTIAN CHURCH.

To think of surveying each of these wide fields, throughout its whole extent; and especially to think of conducting the survey with the minuteness of observaton, and the profundity of research which would become a philosophic inquirer, are, at present, out of the question. Had the writer temerity enough to engage in such a plan, or the presumption to assume so high a character, the variety and immensity of the task would soon convince him of his error. The most brief and rapid sketches only will, therefore, be attempted, on each of the above heads of inquiry.

 

 

 

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Item of the Day: Observations on the Nature of Civil Liberty (1776)

Full Title: Observations on the Nature of Civil Liberty, the Principles of Government, and the Justice and Policy of the War with America. To which is added An Appendix, Containing a State of the National Debt, an Estimate of the Money drawn from the Public by the Taxes, and an Account of the national Income and Expenditure since the last War. By Richard Price. Second Edition. London: Printed for T. Cadell, in the Strand, M.DCC.LXXVI.

 

OBSERVATIONS, &C.

OUR Colonies in North America appear to be now determined to do and suffer every thing, under the persuasion, that GREAT BRITAIN is attempting to rob them of that Liberty to which every member of society, and all civil communities, have a natural and unalienable right. The question, therefore, whether this is a reasonable persuasion, is highly interesting, and deserves the most careful attention of every Englishman who values Liberty, and wishes to avoid staining himself with the guilt of invading it. But it is impossible to judge properly of this question without correct ideas of Liberty in general, and of the nature, limits, and principles of Civil Liberty in particular. –The following observations on this subject appear to me important, as well as just; and I cannot make myself easy without offering them to the public at the present period, big with events of the last consequence to this kingdom. I do this, with reluctance and pain, urged by strong feelings, but at the same time checked by the consciousness that I am likely to deliver sentiments not favourable to the present measures of that government, under which I live, and to which I am a constant and zealous well-wisher. Such, however, are my present sentiments and views, that this is a consideration of inferior moments with me and, as I hope never to go beyond the bounds of decent discussion and expostulation, I flatter myself, that I shall be able to avoid giving any person just cause of offence.

The observations with which I shall begin, are of a more general and abstracted nature; but being, in my opinion, of partiuclar consequence; and necessary to introduce what I have principally in view, I hope they will be patiently read and considered.

SECT. I.

Of the Natureof Liberty in General.

IN order to obtain a more distinct and accurate view of the nature of Liberty as such, it will be useful to consider it under the four folloing general divisions.

First, Physical Liberty. —Secondly, Moral Liberty. —Thirdly, Religious Liberty. —-And Fourthly, Civil Liberty. These heads comprehend under them all the different kinds of Liberty. And I have placed Civil Liberty last, because I mean to apply to it all I shall say of the other kinds of Liberty.

By PHYSICAL LIBERTY I mean that principle of Spontaneity, or Self-determination, which constitutes us Agents; or which gives us a command over our actions, rendering them properly ours, and not effects of the operation of any foreign cause. —MORAL LIBERTY is the power of following, in all circumstances, our sense of right and wrong; or of acting in conformity to our reflecting and moral principles, without being controuled by any contrary principles. —RELIGIOUS LIBERTY signifies the power of exercising, without molestation, that mode of religion which we think best; or of making the decisions of our own consciences, respecting religious truth, the rule of our conduct, and not any of the decisions of others. —In like manner; CIVIL LIBERTY is the power of a Civil Society or State to govern itself by its own discretion; or by laws of its own making, without being subject to any foreign discretion, or to the impositions of any extraneous will or power.

It should be observed, that, according to these definitions of the different kinds of liberty, there is one general idea, that runs through them all; I mean, the idea of Self-direction, or Self-government. –Did our volitions originate not with ourselves, but with some cause over which we have no power; or were we under a necessity of always following some will different from our own, we should want PHYSICAL LIBERTY.

In like manner; he whose perceptions of moral obligation are controuled by his passions has lost his Moral Liberty; and the most commong language applied to him is, that he wants Self-goverment.

He likewise who, in religion, cannot govern himself by his convictions of religious duty, but is obliged to receive formularies of faith, and to practice modes of worship imposed upon him by others wants Religious Liberty. –And the Community also that is governed, not by itself, but by some will independent of it, and over which it has not controul, wants Civil Liberty.

In all these cases there is a force which stands opposed to the agent’s own will; and which, as far as it operates, produces Servitude. –In the first case, this force is incompatible with the very idea of voluntary motion; and the subject of it is a mere passive instrument which never acts, but is always acted upon –In the second case; this force is the influence of passion getting the better of reason, or the brute overpowering and conquering the will of the man. –In the third case; it is Human Authority in religion requiring conformity to particular modes of faith and worship, and superseding private judgment. –And in the last cae, it is any will distinct from that of the Majority of a Community, which claims a power of making laws for it, and disposing of its property.

This it is, I think, that marks the limit, or that lays the line between Liberty and Slavery. As far as, in any instance, the operation of any cause comes in to restrain the power of Self-government, so far Slavery is introduced: Nor do I think that a preciser idea than this of Liberty and Slavery can be formed.

I cannot help wishing I could here fix my reader’s attention, and engage him to consider carefully the dignity of that blessing to which we give the name of LIBERTY, according to the representation now made of it. There is not a word in the whole compass of language which expresses so much of what is important and excellent. It is, in every view of it, a blessing truly sacred and invaluable. –Without Physical Liberty, man would be a machine acted upon by mechanical springs, having no principle of motion in himself, or command over events; and, therefore, incapable of all merit and demerit. –Without Moral Liberty he is a wicked and detestable being, subject to the tyranny of base lusts, and the sport of every vile appetitie. –And without Religious and Civil Liberty he is a poor and abject animal without rights, without property, and without a conscience, bending his neck to the yoke, and crouching to the will of every silly creature who has the insolence to pretend to authority over him. –Nothing, therfore, can be of so much consequence to us as Liberty. It is the foundation of all honour, and the chief privilege and glory of our natures.

In fixing our ideas on the subject of Liberty it is of particular use to take such an enlarged view of it as I have now given. But the immediate object of the present enquiry being Civil Liberty, I will confine to it all the subsequent observations. . . .

 

 

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Item of the Day: First Philippic Oration of Demosthenes (1757)

Full Title: Orations of Demosthenes, Translated by the Rev. Mr. Francis, with Critical and Historical Notes. Vol. I. London: Printed for A. Millar in the Strand, MDCCLVII.

ORATION III.

FIRST PHILIPPIC.

 

The ARGUMENT.

THE Rapidity of his Conquests, the numerous Forces he commanded, and his own enterprising Spirit, had long since made Philip of Macedon an Object of much Apprehension to the Athenians. He had lately taken several Tracian Cities; Confederates and Allies of Athens. The Year before this Oration, he had totally routed the Phocaens, and this present Year had attempted to march into Phoci, through the Pass of Thermopylae. The Athenians opposed him, and with Success. They now deliberate upon their Conduct towards him. Demosthenes advises an immediate Declaration of War. Shews the Necessity of such a Measure, both from Motives of Interest and Glory. Lays down a Plan for military Operations. Paints the Dangers of the Republic in the strongest Colours. Flatters and reproaches. Terrifies and encourages; for while he presents Philip as truly formidable, he represents him indebted for the Power, which made him thus formidable, only to the Indolence and Inactivity of the Athenians.

Our Author pronounced this Oration in the first year of the hundred and seventh Olympiad, when he was nine and twenty Years of Age. [Rev. Mr. Francis]

 

IF any new Affair, O Men of Athens, were appointed for your Debates, restraining my Impatience,  until the greatest Part of those, who are authorised by Custom, had laid before you their Opinions, I had continued silent, if the Measures they proposed had pleased me; if otherwise, I would then have endeavoured to speak my own Sentiments. But since the same Conjunctures, upon which they have often spoken are still the Subject of your Deliberations, I think, I may with Reason expect to be forgiven, though I rise before them in this Debate. For if they had ever given you that salutary Advice, your Affairs, required, there could be no Neccessity for your present Counsils.

LET it be therefore our first Resolution, O men of Athens, not to despair of our present Situation, however totally distressed, since even the worst Circumstance in your past Conduct is now become the best Foundation for your future Hopes. What Circumstance? That your never having acted in any single Instance, as you ought, hath occasioned your Misfortunes; for if you had constantly pursued the Measures necessary for your Welfare, and still the Commonwealth had continued thus distress, there could not even an Hope remain of its ever hereafter being a happier situation.

YOU should next with Confidence recollect, both what you have heard from others, and what you may remember you yourselves have seen, how formidable a Power the Lacedaemonians not long since possessed, and how generously, how consistently with  the Dignity of your Character, you then acted; not in any one Partiuclar unworthy of the Republic, but supporting, in Defence of the common Rights of Greece, the whole Weight of the War against them. Why do I mention these Instances? That you may be convinced, O Men of Athens, that nothing is capable of alarming you, while you are attentive to your Interests; nothing, while you are thus thoughtlessly negligent, will succeed as you desire. As Examples of this Truth, consider the Power of the Cadedaemonians, which you subdued by paying a just Attention to your Affairs; consider the Insolence of this Man, by which you are now alarmed, only through your own exceeding Indolence.

YET whoever reflects upon the numerous Forces he commands; upon all the Places he hath wrested from the Republic, and then concludes, that Philip is not without Difficulty to be conquered, indeed concludes justly. Let him reflect, however, that we, O Men of Athens, were formerly Masters of Pydna, Potidaea, Methone, with all that large Extent of Country round them, upon the very Frontiers of Macedonia; that many of the Nations, now in Confederacy with him, were once governed by their own Laws; were absolutely free, and then greatly preferred your Alliance to that of Philip. Had Philip therefore at that Time entertained an Opinion, that it would be dangerous to enter into a War with the Athenians, possessed of Fortresses, from which they might make Incursions into Macedonia, while he himself was wholly destitute of Allies, he never had attempted what he hath since executed; he had never gained so formidable a Strength. But he was wisely conscious, O Men of Athens, that all these Countries were placed, as common Prize of War, between the contending Parties; that in the very Nature of Things, to the Present belong the Possession of the Absent; to them, who are willing to support the Labour, attempt the Danger, to them belong the Treasures of the Indolent. Acting upon this Principle, he universally subdues and takes Possession; sometimes by Right of Conquest; sometimes, under the Name of Friendship and Alliance. For all Mankind with Chearfulness [sic] enter into Alliances, and engage their whole Attention to those, whom they behold ready and resolute to act in support of their proper Interests.

IF, therfore, you could even now resolve to form your Conduct upon these Maxims, which you have never yet regarded; if every Man, according to his Duty, and in Proportion to his Ablilities, would render himself useful to the Republic, and without disguising or concealing those Ablilities, would act with Vigour and Alacrity; the rich, by a voluntry Contribution of his Riches; the young, by enlisting in the Army; or, at once, and simply to express myself, if you resolve to be Masters of your own Fortune; if every single Citizen will no longer expect, while he himself does absolutely nothing, that his Neighbour will do every Thing for him, then shall you preserve, if such the Will of Jupiter, what you now possess; recover what you have lost by your Inactivity, and chastise this Macedonian. For do not imagine, his present Success is fixed and immortal, as if he were a God. There are, even among those, who seem in strictest Amity with him, who hate, who fear, O Men of Athens, who envy him. Every Passion, incident to the rest of Mankind, you ought assuredly to believe inhabits the Bosoms of his present Allies. But all these Passions are suppressed by their not having whither to fly for Refuge and Protection, through your Indolence, your Dejection of Spirit, which, I pronounce, must be now laid aside for ever. For behold, to what Excess of Arrogance this Man proceeds, who neither gives you the Choice of Peace or War; who threatens, and, as it is reported, talks of you with utmost Insolence; who not contented with the Possession of what he hath blasted with the Lightnings of is War, perpetually throws abroad his Toils, and having on every side inclosed us, sitting here, and indolently forming some future Schemes of Conguest, now stalks around his Prey.

WHEN therefore, O Men of Athens, when will you act, as your Glory, your Interest demands? When some new Event shall happen? When, in the Name of Jupiter! some strong Necessity shall compel you? What then shall we deem our present Circumstances? In my Judgement, the strongest Necessity to a free People, is a Dishonour attending their public Measures. Or, tell me, do you purpose, perpetually wandering in the Market-place, to ask each other, “Is any Thing new reported?” Can any Thing new, than a Man of Macedon, conquering the Athenians, and directing at his Pleasure the Affairs of Greece? “Is Philip dead? Not yet, by Jupiter, but extremely weakened by Sickness.” His Sickness, or his Death, of what Importance to you? Should any Accident happen to this Philip, you yourselves would instantly create another, if such, as at present your Attention to your Affairs. For not so much by his own proper Strength has he grown to this exceeding Greatness, as by your Indolence. However, should some Accident really happen to him; should Fortune be so far propitious to us (she, who is always more attentive in her Concern for us, than we are for ouselves, and may she one Day perfect this her own Work) be assured, if you were near his Dominions, and ready to advance upon the general Disorder of his Affairs, you might dispose of every Thing according to your Pleasure. But in your present Disposition should some favourable Conjucture even deliver up Amphipolis to you, thus fluctuating in your Operations and your Councils, you could not receive the least Benefit from the Possession, with Regard to Macedonia. . . .

 

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Item of the Day: Orations of Demosthenes Translated by Mr. Francis (1757)

Full Title: Orations of Demosthenes, Translated by the Rev. Mr. Francis, with Critical and Historical Notes. Vol. I. London: Printed for A. Millar in the Strand, MDCCLVII.

AN ESSAY

ON THE POLITICAL STATE

OF ANCIENT GREECE.

PERHAPS, never any one Form of Government appeard among Mankind, of which there was not some Resemblance among the States of Greece. An Argument of much Probability, that the Laws and Institutions of different Countries are generally founded upon the original Manners and Genius of their People. However, it may be not unentertaining, certainly not unuseful, to give a general Idea of their political History: the Principles, upon which their various Constitutions of Government were formed, and the Revolutions, to which they were liable, by the Nature of those Principles. Yet as a Knowledge of the Polity of Athens will be more necessary, than any other, with Regard to the follwoing Orations, we shall there fix our principal Attention.

In the earliest Period of their History, the Grecians are in general represented as Wanderers and Vagabonds, perhaps not unlike the Indians of America. They supported this miserable Life by Rapine and Plunder. The Sea-Coasts were infested with Pryracies, the inland Country with Robberies. Their Wars, however, were of short Continuance, for they had not yet learned, that to slaughter and enslave their Fellow-Creatures could be disquised with the Names of Conquest and Ambition.

But while Thessaly, Peloponnesus and the more fertile Parts of Greece were laid waste with perpetual Ravages and Depredations, the People of Attica enjoyed Tranquility and Security, for which they were indebted to the Barrenness of their Country. As Foreigners and Strangers very seldom resided among them, the original Inhabitants were more unmixed, and the Descent of Families more exactly preserved. From hence, perhaps, their best Claim to the Vanity of being created with the Sun, and Natives of the Soil. Undoubtedly, its natural Sterility obliged them to the Labours of Agriculture, with which the mechanical Arts have a necessary Connexion. These Arts exercised, improved, and enlarged their Understandings. The Passions began to unfold themselves in artifical Wants. A kind of Luxury, frugal indeed and temperate, introduced among them the first Sciences, that civilise Mankind. Industry now produced Ideas of Property; Laws were enacted for its Preservation, and the Possessors united in mutal Defence of each other, when invaded by any foreign Enemy.

This Account of Athenians, without any Compliment to their superior Genius, will support the Assertions of their Historians, who assure us, that this People first threw off the universal Barbarism of their Country. They formed themselves, probably under the parental Authority, into little Communities. These afterwards extended into Villages, which had, each of them, its own Magistrates and Laws, and Forms of Government, peculiar to itself and independent. In any common Danger or Invasion, the Man of supposed greatest Ablities and Integrity was chosen by general Consent, and intrusted, during the War, with whatever Power appeared necessary for the public Safety.

From hence their first Ideas of regal Authority. But their Kings were rather Generals in War, than Magistrates in Peace, until the Credit and Influence, gained in their military Character, by Degrees enlarged their Authority, and extended it to the civil Administration. They reigned, however, in Consciousness of having been promoted by the Affection and Esteem of their People. Whatever Prerogatives were annexd to their high Office were exercised with a Temper, which seemed to acknowledge, that Liberty can never, without apparent Absurdity, allow any Power to contradict or dispense with the Laws that were made for its Preservation.

In other Countries, Liberty rose occasionally from the abuse of Authority delegated to the Magistrate; from Tyranny, from Revolutions, in which the Rights of Mankind were successfully asserted. That of the Athenians was really, and without a Metaphor, a Native of the Soil. It sprung like their other Blessings, itself the greatest of all Blessings, from the Barrenness of their Lands. The Fertility of a Country is a Temptation to the Ambition and Avarice of its Neighbours. The Plains, in which alone this Fertility must exist, are open to their Incursions. The Inhabitants, enervated by Luxury, are easily conquered; they submit, and are enslaved. Thus by Folly of Mankind, the Countries, which Nature intended for our Happiness, are made the Scenes of Misery and Devastation. On the contrary, the Mountain-Nymph, sweet Liberty, if we may be permitted to use the Language of Poetry, and Milton, chooses to fix her Residence in barren, uncultivated Sands, or Mountains inaccessible to her Enemies, like those of Attica. Exercised by a necessary Industry, and inured to Labour, her People are already formed to the Fatigues of War; they are conscious of their own Strength; they feel the Courage, inspired by Independece, and as Liberty is their sole Good, the Preservation of it is the sole Object of their Attention.

To these Reflexions upon their first Situation, let us add a Zeal for Religion, and we shall finish the Character of the Athenians during this Period of their History. Cecrops, the Founder of Athens, was an Aegyptian, and he probably carried with him into Greece the Superstitions of his Country. He dedicated his new City to Minerva, and by the fabulous Contest between her and Neptune for the Honour of partronizing it, we may believe, that all the Influences of Religion were employed in the Dedication. The Athenians now saw themselves collected into one Body, and from thence conceived a formidable Idea of their own Strength. They enjoyed the Blessings of Society; grew civilized in their Manners, and cultivated the Arts and Sciences under a Spirit of Liberty best fitted to improve them, while all the other Nations of Greece continued in their original Barbarism. From this Period, therefore, we may date the high Ideas they ever afterwards entertained of their own superior Genius and Abilities, with that extravagant Opinion, which they maintained with so much Obstinacy, that they were destined to be the future Conquerors of the World, and that those Countries alone, where neither Corn, or Vines, or Olives grew, should be the Boundaries of their Empire.They imagined themselves the chosen, peculiar People of the Goddess, whose Name they had assumed; who presided over the Arts of Peace, and was worshippped as the Patroness of all military Virtues. . . .

 

 

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Filed under 1750's, Ancient Greece, Greek/Roman Translations, History, Oratory, Posted by Caroline Fuchs

Item of the Day: Georgius Rex (c. 1737)

GEORGIUS REX

THE Professions you have lately made in your Letters, of your particular Regard to Me, are so contradictory to your Actions, that I cannot suffer My self to be imposed upon by them. You know very well, you did not give the least Intimation t Me, or to the Queen, that the Princess was with Child, until within a Month of the Birth of the young Princess.

You removed the Princess twice in the Week immediately preceding the Day of her Delivery, from the Place of My Residence, in Expectation (as you voluntarily declar’d) of her Labour; and both Times, upon your Return, you industriously conceal’d from the Knowledge of Me and the Queen, every Circumstance relating to this important Affair: And you, at last, without giving Notice to Me, or to the Queen, precipitately hurried the Princess from Hampton-Court, in a Condition not to be nam’d. After having thus, in Execution of your own determin’d Measures, exposed both the Princess and her Child to the greatest Perils, you now plead Surprize, and Tenderness for the Princess, as the only Motives that occasion’d these repeated Indignities offer’d to Me and the Queen your Mother.

This extravagant and undutiful Behaviour, in so essential a Point, as the Birth of an Heir to My Crown, is such an Evidence of your premeditated Defiance of Me, and such a Contempt of My Authority, and of the natural Right belonging to your Parents, as cannot be excus’d by the pretended Innocence of your Intentions, nor pallitated or disguised by specious Words only, but the whole Tenor of your Conduct, for a considerable Time, has been so entirely void of all real Duty to Me, that I have long had Reason to be highly offended with you: And, until you withdraw your Regard and Confidence from those by whose Instigations and Advice you are directed and encouraged in your unwarrrantable Behaviour to Me, and the the Queen, and until you return to your Duty, you shall not reside in my Palace, which I will not suffer to be made the Resort of them, who, under the Appearance of an Attachment to you, foment the Division which you have made in my Family, and thereby weakened the common Interest of the Whole.

In this Situation I will receive no Reply; but when your Actions manifest a just Sense of your Duty and Submission, that may induce me to pardon what at present I most justly resent.

In the mean Time, it is My Pleasure, that you leave St. James’s, with all your Family, when it can be done without Prejudice or Inconvenience to the Princess.

I shall, for the present, leave to the Princess the Care of my Grand-daughter, until a proper Time calls upon me to consider of her Education.

 G.R.

 

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Filed under 1730's, England, George II, Great Britain, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Royal Family