Qui sunt boni cives? Qui belli, qui domi de patriâ bene merentes, nisi qui patriae beneficia meminerunt? — Cicero, Pro Plancio, § 80
Who is the good and laudable citizen? Who in peace, or who in war, has merited the favour of his country? Who but that person who, with gratitude, remembers and acknowledges the favours and rewards he has already received?
I WILL employ this present paper upon a subject, which of late has very much affected me, which I have considered with a good deal of application, and made several inquiries about among those persons, who, I thought, were best able to inform me; and if I deliver my sentiments with some freedom, I hope it will be forgiven, while I accompany it with that tenderness which so nice a point requires.
I said in a former paper, (No. 13,) that one specious objection to the late removals at court was, the fear of giving uneasiness to a general, who hath been long successful abroad; and accordingly the common clamour of tongues and pens for some months past hath run against the baseness, the inconstancy, and ingratitude of the whole kingdom to the Duke of Marlborough, in return of the most eminent services that ever were performed by a subject to his country; not to be equalled in history: and then, to be sure, some bitter stroke of detraction against Alexander and Caesar, who never did us the least injury. Besides, the people who read Plutarch come upon us with parallels drawn from the Greeks and Romans, who ungratefully dealt with I know not how many of their most deserving generals; while the profounder politicians have seen pamphlets where Tacitus and Machiavel have been quoted, to show the danger of too resplendent a merit. If a stranger should hear these serious outcries of ingratitude against our general, without knowing the particulars, he would be apt to inquire, where was his tomb, or whether he was allowed Christian burial? not doubting but we had put him to some ignominious death. Or hath he been tried for his life, and very narrowly escaped? hath he been accused of high crimes and misdemeanours? hath the prince seized on his estate, and left him to starve? hath he been hooted at as he passed the streets by an ungrateful rabble? have neither honours, offices, nor grants, been conferred on him or his family? have not he and they been barbarously stripped of them all? have not he and his forces been ill paid abroad? and does not the prince, by a scanty limited commission, hinder him from pursuing his own methods in the conduct of the war? hath he no power at all of disposing of commissions as he pleases? is he not severely used by the ministry or parliament, who yearly call him to a strict account? hath the senate ever thanked him for good success, and have they not always publicly censured him for the least miscarriage? Will the accusers of the nation join issue upon any of these particulars, or tell us in what point our damnable sin of ingratitude lies? Why, it is plain and clear; for while he is commanding abroad, the queen dissolves her parliament, and changes her ministry at home; in which universal calamity, no less than two persons allied by marriage to the general have lost their places. Whence came this wonderful sympathy between the civil and military powers? Will the troops in Flanders refuse to fight unless they can have their own lord-keeper, their own lord-president of the council, their own parliament? In a kingdom where the people are free, how came they to be so fond of having their counsels under the influence of their army, or those that lead it? who, in all well instituted states, had no commerce with the civil power, farther than to receive their orders, and obey them without reserve.
When a general is not so popular, either in his army or at home, as one might expect from a long course of success, it may perhaps be ascribed to his wisdom, or perhaps to his complexion. The possession of some one quality, or defect in some other, will extremely damp the people's favour, as well as the love of the soldiers. Besides, this is not an age to produce favourites of the people, while we live under a queen, who engrosses all our love, and all our veneration; and where the only way, for a great general or minister, to acquire any degree of subordinate affection from the public, must be, by all marks of the most entire sub mission and respect, to her sacred person and commands; otherwise, no pretence of great services, either in the field or the cabinet, will be able to screen them from universal hatred.
But the late ministry was closely joined to the general by friendship, interest, alliance, inclination, and opinion; which cannot be affirmed of the present: and the ingratitude of the nation lies in the people's joining, as one man, to wish that such a ministry should be changed. Is it not, at the same time, notorious to the whole kingdom, that nothing but a tender regard to the general was able to preserve that ministry so long, until neither God nor man could suffer their continuance? Yet, in the highest ferment of things, we heard few or no reflections upon this great commander; but all seemed unanimous in wishing he might still be at the head of the confederate forces; only at the same time, in case he were resolved to resign, they chose rather to turn their thoughts somewhere else, than throw up all in despair. And this I cannot but add, in defence of the people, with regard to the person we are speaking of, that in the high station he has been for many years past, his real defects (as nothing human is without them) have, in a detracting age, been very sparingly mentioned either in libels or conversation, and all successes very freely and universally applauded.
There is an active and a passive ingratitude: applying both to this occasion, we may say, the first is, when a prince or people returns good services with cruelty or ill usage; the other is, when good services are not at all, or very meanly rewarded. We have already spoken of the former; let us therefore in the second place examine how the services of our general have been rewarded; and whether, upon that article, either prince or people have been guilty of ingratitude?
Those are the most valuable rewards, which are given to us from the certain knowledge of the donor, that they fit our temper best: I shall therefore say nothing of the title of Duke, or the Garter, which the queen bestowed upon the general in the beginning of her reign; but I shall come to more substantial instances, and mention nothing which has not been given in the face of the world. The lands of Woodstock may, I believe, be reckoned worth £40,000; on the building of Blenheim Castle £200,000 have been already expended, although it be not yet near finished; the grant of £5000 per annum on the post-office is richly worth £100,000; his principality in Germany may be computed at £30,000; pictures, jewels, and other gifts from foreign princes, £60,000; the grant at the Pall-Mall[Marlborough House], the ranger-ship, etc, for want of more certain knowledge, may be called , £10,000; his own and his duchess's employments at five years' value, reckoning only the known and avowed salaries, are very low rated at £100,000. Here is a good deal above half a million of money; and, I dare say, those who are loudest with the clamour of ingratitude, will readily own, that all this is but a trifle, in comparison of what is untold.
The reason of my stating this account is only to convince the world, that we are not quite so ungrateful either as the Greeks or the Romans; and in order to adjust the matter with all fairness, I shall confine myself to the latter, who were much more generous of the two. A victorious general of Rome, in the height of that empire, having entirely subdued his enemies, was rewarded with the larger triumph, and perhaps a statue in the Forum, a bull for a sacrifice, an embroidered garment to appear in, a crown of laurel, a monumental trophy with inscriptions; sometimes five hundred or a thousand copper coins were struck on occasion of the victory, which, doing honour to the general, we will place to his account; and lastly, sometimes, although not very frequently, a triumphal arch. These are all the rewards that I can call to mind, which a victorious general received, after his return from the most glorious expedition; having conquered some great kingdom, brought the king himself, his family, and nobles, to adorn the triumph, in chains; and made the kingdom, either a Roman province, or, at best, a poor depending state, in humble alliance to that empire. Now, of all these rewards, I find but two which were of real profit to the general; the laurel crown, made and sent him at the charge of the public, and the embroidered garment; but I cannot find whether this last was paid for by the senate or the general: however, we will take the more favourable opinion; and in all the rest admit the whole expense, as if it were ready money in the general's pocket. Now, according to these computations on both sides, we will draw up two fair accounts; the one of Roman gratitude, and the other of British ingratitude, and set them together in balance.
A BILL OF ROMAN GRATITUDE
|Imprim.||£ s. d.|
|For frankincense, and earthen pots to burn it in||4 10 0|
|A bull for sacrifice||8 0 0|
|An embroidered garment||50 0 0|
|A crown of laurel||0 0 2|
|A statue||100 0 0|
|A trophy||80 0 0|
|A thousand copper medals, value half pence a-piece||2 1 8|
|A triumphal arch||500 0 0|
|A triumphal car, valued as a modern coach||100 0 0|
|Casual charges at the triumph||150 0 0|
994 11 10
A BILL OF BRITISH INGRATITUDE
|Pictures, jewels, etc.||60,000|
|Pall-Mail grant, etc||10,000|
This is an account of the visible profits on both sides ; and if the Roman general had any private perquisites, they may be easily discounted, and by more probable computations ; and differ yet more upon the balance, if we consider that all the gold and silver for safeguards and contributions, also all valuable prizes taken in the war, were openly exposed in the triumph, and then lodged in the Capitol for the public service.
So that, upon the whole, we are not yet quite so bad at worst as the Romans were at best. And I doubt, those who raise the hideous cry of ingratitude, may be mightily mistaken in the consequence they propose from such complaints. I remember a saying of Seneca, Multos ingratos invenimus, plures facimus; we find many ungrateful persons in the world, but we make more, by setting too high a rate upon our pretensions, and undervaluing the rewards we receive. When unreasonable bills are brought in, they ought to be taxed or cut off in the middle. Where there have been long accounts between two persons, I have known one of them perpetually making large demands, and pressing for payment; who, when the accounts were cast up on both sides, was found to be debtor for some hundreds. I am thinking, if a proclamation were issued out for every man to send in his bill of merits, and the lowest price he set them at, what a pretty sum it would amount to, and how many such islands as this must be sold to pay them. I form my judgment from the practice of those who sometimes happen to pay themselves, and, I dare affirm, would not be so unjust as to take a farthing more than they think is due to their deserts. I will instance only in one article :
A lady of my acquaintance appropriated twenty-six pounds a-year out of her allowance, for certain uses, which her woman received, and was to pay to the lady, or her order, as it was called for. But, after eight years, it appeared, upon the strictest calculation, that the woman had paid but four pounds a-year, and sunk two-and-twenty for her own pocket. It is but supposing, instead of twenty-six pounds, twenty-six thousand; and by that you may judge what the pretentions of modern merit are, where it happens to be its own paymaster.