« AnteriorContinuar »
He had a perfect command of his temper; his anger never proceeded to passion, nor his sense of injury to revenge. If there was occasional asperity in his language, it was easy to see there was no malignity in his disposition. He tasted the good of his existence with cheerful gratitude; and received its evils as became a christian.
In faint lines we have sketched the character of this man of worth. If the reader ask, why he is represented without blemishes, the answer is, that, though as a man he undoubtedly had faults, yet they were so few, so trivial, so lost among his virtues, as not to be observed, or not to be remembered.
THE CHARACTER OF BRUTUS.
Brutus killed his benefactor and friend, Cæsar, because Cæsar had usurped the sovereign power.Therefore Brutus was a patriot, whose character is to be admired, and whose example should be imitated, as long as republican liberty shall have a friend or an enemy in the world.
This short argument seems to have, hitherto, vindicated the fame of Brutus from reproach and even from security; yet, perhaps, no character has been more over-rated, and no example worse applied. He was, no doubt, an excellent scholar and a complete master, as well as a faithful votary of philosophy; but, in action the impetuous Cassius greatly excelled him. Cassius alone of all the conspirators acted with promptness and energy in providing for the war, which, he foresaw, the death of Cæsar would kindle; Brutus spent his time in indolence and repining, the dupe of Anthony's arts, or of his own false estimate of Roman spirit and virtue. The people had lost a
kind master, and they lamented him. Brutus summoned them to make efforts and sacrifices, and they viewed his cause with apathy, his crime with abhor
Before the decisive battle of Phillippi, Brutus seems, after the death of Cassius, to have sunk under the weight of the sole command. He still had many able officers left, and among them Messala, one of the first men of that age, so fruitful of great men; but Brutus no longer maintained that ascendant over his army, which talents of the first order maintain every where, and most signally in the camp and field of battle. It is fairly, then, to be presumed, that his troops had discovered, that Brutus, whom they loved and esteemed, was destitute of those talents; for he was soon obliged by their clamours, much against his judgment, and against all prudence and good sense, to give battle. Thus ended the life of Brutus and the existence of the repub
Whatever doubt there may be of the political and military capacity of Brutus, there is none concerning his virtue his principles of action were the noblest that ancient philosophy had taught, and his actions were conformed to his principles. Nevertheless, our admiration of the man ought not to blind our judgment of the deed, which, though it was the blemish of his virtue, has shed an unfading splendour on
For, though the multitude to the end of time will be open to flattery, and will joyfully assist their flatterers to become their tyrants, yet they will never cease to hate tyrants and tyranny with equal sincerity and vehemence. Hence it is, that the memory of Brutus, who slew a tyrant, is consecrated as the champion and martyr of liberty, and will flourish and look green in declamation, as long as the people are prone to believe, that those are their best friends, who have proved themselves the greatest enemies of their enemies.
Ask any one man of morals, whether he approves of assassination; he will answer, No. Would you kill your friend and benefactor? No. The question is a horrible insult. Would you practise hypocrisy and smile in his face, while your conspiracy is ripening, to gain his confidence and to lull him into security, in order to take away his life? Every honest man, on the bare suggestion, feels his blood thicken and stagnate at his heart. Yet in this picture we see Brutus. It would, perhaps, be scarcely just to hold him up to abhorrence; it is, certainly, monstrous and absurd to exhibit his conduct to admiration.
He did not strike the tyrant from hatred or ambition; his motives were admitted to be good; but was not the action nevertheless, bad?
To kill a tyrant, is as much murder, as to kill any other man. Besides, Brutus, to extenuate the crime, could have had no rational hope of putting an end to the tyranny; he had foreseen and provided nothing to realize it. The conspirators relied, foolishly enough, on the love of the multitude for liberty- they loved their safety, their ease, their sports, and their demagogue favourites a great deal better. They quietly looked on, as spectators, and left it to the legions of Anthony, and Octavius, and to those of Syria, Macedonia, and Greece, to decide, in the field of Phillippi, whether there should be a republic or not. It was, accordingly, decided in favour of an emperor; and the people sincerely rejoiced in the political calm, that restored the games of the circus, and the plenty of bread.
Those, who cannot bring their judgments to condemn the killing of a tyrant, must nevertheless agree that the blood of Cæsar was unprofitably shed. Liberty gained nothing by it, and humanity lost much; for it cost eighteen years of agitation and civil war, before the ambition of the military and popular chieftains had expended its means, and the power was concentred in one man's hands.
Shall we be told, the example of Brutus is a good one, because it will never cease to animate the race of tyrant-killers-But will the fancied usefulness of ́assassination overcome our instinctive sense of its horror? Is it to become a part of our political morals, that the chief of a state is to be stabbed or poisoned, whenever a fanatick, a malecontent, or a reformer shall rise up and call him a tyrant? Then there would be as little calm in despotism as in liberty.
But when has it happened, that the death of an usurper has restored to the public liberty its departed life? Every successful usurpation creates many competitors for power, and they successively fall in the struggle. In all this agitation, liberty is without friends, without resources, and without hope. Blood enough, and the blood of tyrants too, was shed between the time of the wars of Marius and the death of Anthony, a period of about sixty years, to turn a common grist-mill; yet the cause of the public liberty continually grew more and more desperate. It is not by destroying tyrants, that we are to extinguish tyranny; nature is not thus to be exhausted of her power to produce them. The soil of a republic sprouts with the rankest fertility; it has been sown with dragon's teeth. To lessen the hopes of usurping demagogues, we must enlighten, animate and combine the spirit of freemen; we must fortify and guard the constitutional ramparts about liberty. When its friends become indolent or disheartened, it is no longer of any importance how long-lived are its enemies : they will prove immortal.
Nor will it avail to say, that the famous deed of Brutus will for ever check the audacity of tyrants. Of all passions fear is the most cruel. If new tyrants dread other Bruti, they will more naturally sooth their jealousy by persecutions, than by the practice of clemency or justice. They will say, the clemency of Cæsar proved fatal to him. They will augment their force and multiply their precautions; and
their habitual dread will degenerate into habitual cruelty.
Have we not then a right to conclude, that the character of Brutus is greatly over-rated, and the fashionable approbation of his example horribly corrupting and pernicious?
ELOQUENCE OF THE BAR.
The ends of speaking at the Bar are different from those of Popular Assemblies. In the latter the great object is persuasion; the Orator aims at determining the hearers to some choice or conduct, as good, or fit, or useful. For accomplishing this end, it is incumbent on him to apply himself to all the principles of action in our nature; to the passions and to the heart, as well as to the understanding. But at the former, conviction is the great object. There, it is not the speaker's business to persuade the judges to what is good, or useful, but to shew them what is just and true and of course it is chiefly, or solely to the understanding that his eloquence ought to be addressed. The Speaker at the Bar addresses himself to one or a few Judges, and these too, persons generally of age, gravity, and authority of character. The Speaker who addresses a popular audience has all the advantages, which a mixed and numerous assembly affords for employing, to his advantage, all the arts of Speech. The nature and management of the subjects which belong to the Bar, require, therefore, a different spe