1. General Idea of this Book. The corruption of this government generally begins with that of the principles.
2. Of the corruption of the Principles of Democracy. The principle of democracy is corrupted not only when the spirit of equality is extinct, but likewise when they fall into a spirit of extreme equality, and when each citizen would fain be upon a level with those whom he has chosen to command him. Then the people, incapable of bearing the very power they have delegated, want to manage everything themselves, to debate for the senate, to execute for the magistrate, and to decide for the judges.
. .When this is the case, virtue can no longer subsist in the republic. The people are desirous of exercising the functions of the magistrates, who cease toi be revered. The deliberations of the senate are slighted; all respect is then laid aside for the senators, and consequently for old age. If there is no more respect for old age, there will be none presently for parents; deference to husbands will be likewise thrown off, and submission to masters. This license will soon become general, and the trouble of command be as fatiguing as that of obedience. Wives, children, slaves will shake off all subjection. No longer will there be any such thing as manners, order, or virtue.
. .We find in Xenophon's Banquet a very lively description of a republic in which the people abused their equality. Each guest gives in his turn the reason why he is satisfied. "Content I am," says Chamides, "because of my poverty. When I was rich, I was obliged to pay my court to informers, knowing I was more liable to be hurt by them than capable of doing them harm. The republic constantly demanded some new tax of me; and I could not decline paying. Since I have grown poor, I have acquired authority; nobody threatens me; I rather threaten others. I can go or stay where I please. The rich already rise from their seats and give me the way. I am a king, I was before a slave: I paid taxes to the republic, now it maintains me: I am no longer afraid of losing: but I hope to acquire."
. .The people fall into this misfortune when those in whom they confide, desirous of concealing their own corruption, endevour to corrupt them. To disguise their own ambition, they speak to them only of the grandeur of the state; to conceal their own avarice, they incessantly flatter theirs.
. .The corruption will increase among the corruptors, and likewise among those who are already corrupted. The people will divide the public money among themselves, and, having added the administration of affairs to their indolence, will be for blending their poverty with the amusements of luxury. But with their indolence and luxury, nothing but the public treasure will be able to satisfy their demands.
. .We must not be surprised to see their suffrages given for money. It is impossible to make great largesses to the people without great exhortation: and to compass this, the state must be subverted. The greater the advantages they seem to derive from their liberty, the nearer they approach towards the critical moment of losing it. Petty tyrants arise who have all the vices of a single tyrant. The small remains of liberty soon become insupportable; a single tyrant starts up, and the people are stripped of everything, even of the profits of their corruption.
. .Democracy has, therefore, two excesses to avoid−the spirit of inequality, which leads to aristocracy or manarchy, and the spirit of extreme equality, which leads to despotic power, as the latter is completed by conquest.
. .True it is that those who corrupted the Greek republics did not always become tyrants. This was because they had a greater passion for eloquence than for the military art. Besides there reigned an implacable hatred in the breasts of the Greeks against those who subverted a republican government; and for this reason anarchy degenerated into annihilation, instead of being changed into tyranny.
. .But Syracuse being situated in the midst of a great number of petty states, whose government had been changed from oligarchy to tyranny,¹ and being governed by a senate² scarcely ever mentioned in history, underwent such miseries as are the consequence of a more than ordinary corruption. This city, ever a prey to licentiousness,³ or oppression, equally labouring under the sudden and alternate succession of liberty and servitude, and notwithstanding her external strength, constantly determined to a revolution by the least foreign power−this city, I say, had in her bosom an immense multitude of people, whose fate it was to have always this cruel alternative, either of choosing a tyrant to govern them, or of acting the tyrant themselves.
. .
3. Of the Spirit of extreme Equality. As distant as heaven is from earth, so is the true spirit of equality from that of extreme equality. The former does not imply that everyone should command, or that no one should be commanded, but that we obey or command our equals. It endeavours not to shake off the authority of a master, but that its masters should be none but its equals.
. .In the state of nature, indeed, all men are born equal, but they cannot continue in this equality. Society makes them lose it, and they recover it only by the protection of the laws.
. .Such is the difference between a well-regulated democracy and one that is not so, that in the former men are equal only as citizens, but in the latter they are equal alsoi as magistrates, as senators, as judges, as fathers, as husbands, or as masters.
. .The natural place of virtue is near to liberty; but it is not nearer to excessive liberty than to servitude.
4. Particular Cause of the Corruption of the People. Great success, especially when chiefly owing to the people, intoxicates them to such a degree that it is impossible to contain them within bounds. Jealous of their magistrates, they soon become jealous likewise of the magistracy; enemies to those who govern, they soon. prove enemies also to the constitution.. Thus it was that the victory over the
Persians in the straights of Salamis corrupted the republic of Athens;
and thus
the defeat of the Athenians ruined the republic of Syracuse. 5
. .Marseilles never experienced those great transitions from lowness to grandeur; this was owing to the prudent conduct of that republic, which always preserved her principles.
¹ See Plutarch in Timoleon and Dion.
² It was that of the Six Hundred, of whom mention is made by Diodorus, xix. 5.
³ Upon the expulsions of the tyrants, they made citizens of strangers and mercenary troops, which gave rise to civil wars.−Aristotle, Politics, v. 3. The people having been the cause of the victory over the Athenians, the republic was changed.−Ibid., 4. The passion of two young magistrates, one of whom carried off the others' boy, and in revenge the other debauched his wife, was attended with a change in the form of this republic.−Ibid.
4 Ibid.
5 Ibid.