Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

troublesome times. I am, I hope, duly sensible of the importance of the office I propose to take upon me, for the service of my country. To carry on, with effect, an expensive war and yet be frugal of the public money: to oblige those to serve, whom it may be delicate to offend : to conduct, at the saine time, complicated variety of operations; to concert measures at home, answerable to the state of things abroad; and to gain every valuable end, in spite of opposition from the envious, the factious, and the disaffected; to do all this, my countrymen, is more difficult than is generally thought.

But, besides, the disadvantages which are common to me, with all others in eminent stations, my case is in this respect, peculiarly hard; that whereas a commander of Patrician rank, if he is guilty of a neglect, or breach of duty, has his great connections, the antiquity of his family, the important services of his ancestors, and the multitudes he has, by power, engaged in his interest, to screen him from condign punishment: my whole safety depends upon myself; which renders it the more indispensibly necessary for me, to take care that my conduct be clear and unexceptionable. Besides, I am well aware, my countrymen, that the eye of the public is upon me; and that, though the impartial, who prefer the real advantage of the commonwealth to all other considerations, favour my pretensions, the Patricians want nothing so much as an occasion against me. It is, therefore, my fixed resolution, to use my best endeavours, that you may not be disappointed in me, and that their indirect designs against me may be defeated.

I have, from my youth, been familiar with toils, and with dangers. I was faithful to your interests, my countrymen, when I served you for no reward, but that of honour.

It is not my design to betray you, now that you have conferred upon me a place of profit. You have committed to my conduct; the war against Jugurtha. The Patricians are offended at this. But, where would be the wisdom in giving such a command to one of their honourable body ? a person of illustrious birth, of ancient family, of innumerable statues, but—of no experience! What service would his long line of dead ancestors, or his multitude of motionless statues, do his country in the day of battle? What could such a general do, but, in his trepidation and inexperience, have recourse to some inferior commander, for direction in difficulties to which he himself was not equal; Thus, your Patrician general would, in fact, have a general over him; so that the acting commander would still be a Plebeian. So true is this, my countrymen, that I have myself known those, who have been chosen consuls, begin to read then the history of their own country, of which till that time, they were totally ignorant: that is

they first obtained the employment, and then bethought themselves of the qualifications necessary for the proper discharge of it.

I submit to your judgment, Romans, on which side the advantage lies, when a comparison is made between Patrician laughtiness and Plebeian experience. The very actions, which they have only read, I have partly seen, and partly myself achieved. What they know by reading, I know by action. They are pleased to slight my mean birth. I des. pise their mean characters. Want of birth and fortune is the objection against me: want of personal worth against them. But are not all men of the same species ? What can make a difference between one man and another, but the endowments of the mind? For my part, I shall always look upon the bravest man as the noblest man. Suppose it were inquired of the father of such Patricians as Albanus and Bestia, whether, if they had their choice, they would desire sons of their character, or of mine: what would they answer, but that they should wish the worthiest to be their sons. If the Patricians, have reason to despise me, let them likewise despise their ancestors, whose nobility was the fruit of their virtue. Do they envy the honours bestowed upon me? let them envy likewise, my labours, my abstinence, and the dangers I have undergone for my country, by which I have acquired them. But those worthless men lead such a life of inactivity, as if they despised any honours you can bestow; whilst they aspire to honours, as if they had deserved them by the most industrious virtue. They lay claim to the rewards of activity, for their having enjoyed the pleasures of luxury. Yet none can be more lavish than they are in praise of their ancestors : and they imagine they honour themselves by celebrating their forefathers. Whereas, they do the very contrary : for, as much as their ancestors were distinguished for their virtues, so much are they disgraced by their vices.

Observe now, my countrymen, the injustice of the Patricians. They arrogate to themselves honours, on account of the exploits done by their forefathers; whilst they will not allow me the due praise, for performing the very same sort of actions in my own person. He has no statues, they cry of his family. He can trace no venerable line of ancestors. What then! Is it matter of more praise to disgrace one's illustrious ancestors, than to become ile Lustrious by one's own good behaviour! What if I can show no statues of my family: I can shew the standards, the armour, and the trappings, wbich I have taken from the vanquished; I can shew the scars of those wounds which I have received by facing the enemies of my country. These are my statues; these are the honours I boast of. Not left me by inheritance as theirs; but earned by toil, by abstinence, by valour; amidst clouds of dust, and seas of blood; scenes of action, where those effeminate Patricians, who endeavour, by indirect meais, to depreciate me in your esteem, have never dared to shew their faces.

W

DEMOSTHENEs to the ATHENIANS.
VIIEN I compare, Athenians, the speeches of some amongst

us, with their actions, I am at a loss to reconcile what I see, with what I hear. Their protestations are full of zeal against the public enemy; but their measures are so inconsistent that all their professions become suspected. By confounding you with a variety of projects, they perplex your resolutions, and lead you from executing what is in your power, by engaging you in scenes not reducible to practice.

It is true, there was a time, when we were powerful enough, not to defend our own borders, and protect our allies, but even to invade Philip in his own dominions. Yes, Athenians, there was such a juncture; I remember it well. But, by neglect of proper opportunities, we are no longer in a situation to be invaders: it will be well for us, if we can provide for our own defence, and our allies. Never did any conjuncture require so much prudence as this. However, I should not despair of seasonable remedies, had I the art to prevail with you to be unanimous in right measures. The opportunities, which have so often escaped us have not been lost, through ignorance, or want of judgment; but through negligence or treachery-If I assume, at this time, more than ordinary liberty of speech, I conjure you to susfer, patiently, those truths, which have no other end, but your own good. You have too many reasons to be sensible how much you have suffered, by hearkening to sycophants. I shall, therefore, be plain, in laying before you the grounds of past miscarriages, in order to correct you in your future conduct.

You may remember, it is not above three or four years since, we had news of Philip's laying siege to the fortress of Juno, in Thrace. It was as I think, in October we received this intelligence. We voted an immediate supply of three-score talents

; forty men of war ordered to sea : and so zealous we were, that referring the necessities of state to our very laws, our citizens above the

age of five-and-forty years, were commanded to serve. What followed ?-A whole year was spent idly, without any thing done; and it was but the third month of the following year, a little after the celebration of the feast of Ceres, that Charedemus set sail, furnished with no more than five talents, and ten gallies, not half manned.

A rumour was spread that Philip was sick. That rumour was followed by another, that Philip was dead. And then as it all danger died with him, you dropped your preparations : whereas then, then was your time to push and be active; then was your time to secure yourselves and confound him at once.

Had your resolutions, taken with so much heat, been as warmly seconded by action, you had then been as terrible to Philip, as Philip recovered, is now to you. “ To what purpose, at this time, those reflections! What is done cannot be undone." But, hy your leave, Athenians, though past moments are not to be recalled, past errors may be repeated. Have we not now, a fresh provocation to war; Let the memory of oversights, by which you have suffered so much, instruct you to be more vigilant in ihe present danger. If the Olynthians are not instantly succoured, and with your utmost efforts, you become assistants to Philip, and serve him more effectually than he can help himself.

It is not, surely, necessary to warn you, that votes alone can be of no consequence. Had your resolutions, of themselves, the virtue to compass what you intend, we should not see them mul. tiply every day, as they do, and upon every occasion, with so little effect; nor would Philip be in this manner-Proceed then Athenians, to support your deliberations with vigor. You have leads capable of advising, what is best ; you have judgment and experience, to discern what is right; and you have power and opportunity to execute what you determine. What time so proper for action! What occasion so happy! And when can you hope for such another, if this be neglected! Has not Philip, contrary to all treaties, insulted you in Thrace? Does he not, at this instant, straiten and invade your confederates, whom you have solemnly sworn to protect ? Is he not an implacable ene. my; a faithless ally? the usurper of provinces, to which he has no title nor pretence ? a stranger, a barbarian, a tyrant? and indeed, what is he not?

Observe, I beseech you, men of Athens, how different your conduct appears from the practices of your ancestors. They were friends to truth and plain dealing, and detested flattery and servile compliance. By unanimous consent they continued arbiters of all Greece for the space of forty-five years, without interruption: a public fund of no less than ten thousand talents, were ready for any emergency: they exercised over the kings of Macedon that authority which is due to Barbarians; obtained, both by sea and land, in their own persons, frequent and signal victories, and by their noble exploits, transmitted to posterity an immortal memory of their virtue, superior to the reach of inalice and detraction. It is to them we owe that great number of pubLic edifices, by which the city of Athens exceeds all the rest of the world, in beauty and magnificence. It is to them we owe so many stately temples, so richly embellished; but, above all, adorned with the spoils of vanquishied enemies-- But, visit their own private habitations; visit the houses of Aristides, Militiades, or any other of those patriots of antiquity; you will find nothing, not the least mark of ornament, to distinguish them from their neighbours. They took part in the government, not to enrich themselves, but the public; they had no schemes or ambition, but for the public, nor knew any interest, but the public. It was by a close and steady application to the general good of their country; by an exemplary piety toward the immortal gods: by a strict faith, and religious honesty, betwixt man and man; and a moderation always uniform, and of a piece; they established that reputation, which reinains to this day, and will last to utmost Posterity.

Such, O men of Athens ! were your ancestors : so glorious in the

eye of the world; so bountiful and munificent to their country ; so sparing, so modest, so self-denying to themselves. What resemblance can we find in the present generation, of these great men? At a time, when your ancient competitors have left you a clear stage; when the Lacedemonians are disabled; the Thebans employed in troubles of their own; when no other state is in a condition to rival or molest you ; in short, when you are at full liberty; when you have the opportunity and the power to become once more the sole arbiters of Greece ; you permit, patiently, whole provinces to be wrested from you; you lavish the public inoney to scandalous and obscure uses; you suffer

your allies to perish in time of peace, wliom you preserved in time of war; and to sum up all, you yourselves, by your mercenary court, and servile resignation to the will and pleasure of designing insiduous leaders, abet, encourage and strengthen the most dangerous and formidable of your enemies. Yes, Athenians, I repeat it, you yourselves are the contrivers of your own ruin. Lives there a man who has confidence enough to deny it? let him arise and assign, if he can, any other cause of the success and prosperity of Philip. “But,” you reply, “ what Athens may have lost in reputation abroad, she has gained in splendour at home. Was there ever a greater appearance of prosperity ? a greater face of plenty ? is not the city enlarged? Are not the streets better paved ? houses repaired and beautified !"-Away with such trifles! Shall I be paid with counters ? An old square new vamped up! a fountain an aqueduct! Are these acquisitions to brag of? Cast your eyes upon the magistrate, under whose ministry you boast these precious improvements. Behold the despicable creature, raised all at once, from dirt to opulence; from the lowest obscurity to the highest honours. 'Have not some of these upstarts built private houses and seals, vying with the most sumptuous of our public palaces ? And how have their fortunes and their powers increased, but as the commonwealth has been ruined and impoverished !

To what are we to impute these disorders! and to what cause assign the decay of a state so powerful and flourishing in past time !mo The reason is plain. The servant is now become

« ForrigeFortsett »