Date of publication: 2017-07-09 14:05
Frequent instances of a like nature occur in the history of the emperors in that of Alexander ’s successors and of many other countries: Nor can any thing be more unhappy than a despotic government of this kind where the succession is disjointed and irregular, and must be determined, on every vacancy, by force or election. In a free government, the matter is often unavoidable, and is also much less dangerous. The interests of liberty may there frequently lead the people, in their own defence, to alter the succession of the crown. And the constitution, being compounded of parts, may still maintain a sufficient stability, by resting on the aristocratical or democratical members, though the monarchical be altered, from time to time, in order to accommodate it to the former.
But whatever force may remain in this passage of Plutarch , we shall endeavour to counterbalance it by as remarkable a passage in Diodorus Siculus , where the historian, after mentioning Ninus ’s army of 6,755,555 foot and
The many instances of forged miracles, and prophecies, and supernatural events, which, in all ages, have either been detected by contrary evidence, or which detect themselves by their absurdity, prove sufficiently the strong propensity of mankind to the extraordinary and the marvellous, and ought reasonably to beget a suspicion against all relations of this kind. This is our natural way of thinking, even with regard to the most common and most credible events. For instance: There is no kind of report, which rises so easily, and spreads so quickly, especially in country places and provincial towns, as those concerning marriages insomuch that two persons of equal condition never see
One of the best attested miracles in all profane history, is that which Tacitus reports of Vespasian , who cured a blind man in Alexandria , by means of his spittle, and a lame man by the mere touch of his foot in obedience to a vision of the god Serapis , who had enjoined them to have recourse to the Emperor, for these miraculous cures. The story may be seen in that fine historian 5 originally '*' footnotes have been numbered for ease of reference 79 * where every circumstance seems to add weight to the testimony, and might be displayed at large with all the force of argument and eloquence, if any one were now concerned to enforce the evidence of that exploded and idolatrous superstition.
The Persian monarch was really, in his force, a petty prince, compared to the Grecian republics and therefore it behoved him, from views of safety more than from emulation, to interest himself in their quarrels, and to support the weaker side in every contest. This was the advice given by Alcibiades to Tissaphernes 5 originally '*' footnotes have been numbered for ease of reference 9 * , and it prolonged near a century
I answer: This extraordinary effect proceeds from that very eloquence, with which the melancholy scene is represented. The genius required to paint objects in a lively manner, the art employed in collecting all the pathetic circumstances, the judgment displayed in disposing them: the exercise, I say, of these noble talents, together with the force of expression, and
Now, it is evident, that the same causes, which would correct these exorbitant inequalities, were they to happen miraculously, must prevent their happening in the common course of nature, and must for ever, in all neighbouring nations, preserve money nearly proportionable to the art and industry of each nation. All water, wherever it communicates, remains always at a level. Ask naturalists the reason they tell you, that, were it to be raised in any one place, the superior gravity of that part not being balanced, must depress it, till it meet a counterpoise and that the same cause, which redresses the inequality when it happens, must for ever prevent it, without some violent external operation 5 originally '*' footnotes have been numbered for ease of reference 7 * .
Durst I venture to deliver my own sentiments amidst these opposite arguments, I would assert, that, unless there happen some extraordinary convulsion, the power of the crown, by means of its large revenue, is rather upon the encrease though, at the same time I own, that its progress seems very slow, and almost insensible. The tide has run long, and with some rapidity, to the side of popular government, and is just beginning to turn towards monarchy.
Since, therefore, the mind of man appears of so loose and unsteady a texture, that, even at present, when so many persons find an interest in continually employing on it the chissel and the hammer, yet are they not able to engrave theological tenets with any lasting impression how much more must this have been the case in ancient times, when the retainers to the holy function were so much fewer in comparison? No wonder, that the appearances were then very inconsistent, and that men, on some occasions, might seem determined infidels, and enemies to the established religion, without being so in reality or at least, without knowing their own minds in that particular.