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the feelings of those whom he intends to make the instruments of his prosperity. Now I believe it will be found that mankind when they adopt a disguise, generally choose one most different from their real physiognomy; or when they assume a character, for the purpose of practising on the credulity of mankind, take that which is most opposite to their natures. Thus the drunkard will endeavour to put on an air of demure sobriety; the glutton will affect temperance, and complain of his want of appetite; the hypocrite laments his incapacity to disguise any thing from the world; the mountebank, being generally a very silly fellow, attempts to pass for a conjurer; and the true patriot, being governed by the great motive of individual interest, affects the exclusive pursuit of the interests of others.
Distinguished philosophers have surmised that a great portion of the knowledge of mankind was probably derived from a profound observation of the habits and instincts of brutes. If this opinion, so complimentary to my fellow men, should be just, we may suppose that the practice alluded to was suggested by the example of the bird, which cunningly allures the attention of the unpractised urchin from its nest, by seeming to direct her anxiety towards the opposite quarter. Thus we find the true patriot disavowing, with obtrusive clamour, every other object than that which is the most opposite in vulgar estimation, to his real pursuit, and decoying the attention of unwary observers from that point where all his hopes are centred.
Perhaps to those whose minds are stinted to the mere comprehension of plain, every day, homespun virtue, this species of disguise may appear like hypocrisy. But as there are pious frauds, 80 there is, in the eye of sound patriotism, a pious hypocrisy. It is when a man condescends to deceive others, for the purpose of advancing the public good, or his own, which has been proved the same.
And here I must beg leave to observe, that there is a most unreasonable and vulgar prejudice against the hypocrite, who in fact produces great benefit to society, and, though good for nothing himself, is the cause of much good in others. The mere appearance of virtue, say the casuists, is salutary, because it often leads others to be really so; as the impostor Mahomet drew after him thousands of sincere votaries.
I now come to the second grand principle of the true patriot, to wit, that the public good almost always demands the sacrifice
of private virtue, or, in other words, that one cannot be a good man and a great patriot at the same time, according to the usual acceptation.
In the pursuit of great objects, such as promoting or destroying the happiness of a nation, the most profound reasoners have held it allowable, nay praiseworthy, to dispense, if necessary, with those ordinary rules of action which govern men in common circumstances. Thus a man may lawfully do that in the attaininent of a kingdom with great glory to himself, which, if done to gain a farm, would utterly demolish his reputation, and forth with bring him to the gallows. In the usual routine of private life, it is held a crime against the society of which we are members, to utter or to publish wilful falsehoods; to blacken the good name of our neighbour; to vilify'a large portion of our countrymen; or to make it our daily labour' to foment divisions, sharpen animosities, and nourish the most unkind antipathies among the different classes of our fellow eitizens. Nothing, indeed, but the purest patriotism can justify these breaches of common law virtue, and none but a true patriot possesses the chymical power of changing, by an analysis that would confound the experimental science of Sir Humphrey Davy himself, these breaches of private duties into public benefits.
But the solution of this difficulty is easy enough; this seeming inconsistency arising altogether out of that opposition which exists between private and public virtue, which are by ignorant people so preposterously confounded together. The true patriot is however aware of this distinction; accordingly,despising the little everyday duties that are eternally in a man's way, he frames a more enlarged and liberal code of morality, admirably adapted to a lofty genius elevated above the petty prejudices that circumscribe the actions of little men. The noble maxim that “ The end justifies the means” forms the guide of his conduct, and he does not scruple to become a bad citizen, and bad neighbour-a false friend, or an unprincipled betrayer, for the good of his country, or what is the same thing, the good of himself. But it is only the true patriot, and one, too, of the first order, who can rise to tlrat degree of sublime public virtue, which consists in the sacrifice of those heartsubduing ties that take such fast hold of weaker men, and restrain them from effectually contributing to the individual-general prosperity.
Indeed it requires not only great strength of mind in the true patriot to enable him to practise this ardent species of virtue, but also great depth of reasoning to discover that it is really virtue, and that of the rarest kind, because its difficulties are increased by the opposition of early imbibed modes of thinking, as well as natural feelings. It was this sublime patriotism which enabled the elder Brutus to condemn his offspring to death, and inspired the younger one to stab his benefactor. These exploits have accordingly been made the theme of historic eulogy; and nothing furnishes a stronger proof of the injustice of fame, than that nobody has thought proper to celebrate the singular virtue of Peter the Great of Russia, who condemned his only son to death ; or of Francis Ravaillac, the assassin of Henry the Fourth of France.To be sure, the purity of the great Peter's act is sullied by the fact that the son deserved his fate; and Ravaillac is deprived of half the splendour of his achievement on account of his having had no tie of gratitude to restrain him. And besides the one was a Muscovite, the other a Frenchman, while Brutus had the fortune of being a Roman, a name which, through the caprice of history, has become inseparably connected with virtue.
But ignorant people, who only comprehend that simple virtue which depends on no refinement of reasoning, and requires no metaphysical logic to define, nor any careful chymical analysis to ascertain its quality, are altogether incapable of conceiving this exalted species of patriotism, which consists in the sacrifice of our noblest feelings. The only instance I remember of the kind in this country, is that of the famous Indian Chief Colonel Brandt, who put his son to death with as little compunction as either Brutus or Peter the Great. But the detractors from his merit say he was intoxicated at the time; if so, the palm must still rest with the Roman, who performed his sacrifice in cold blood.
With regard, however, to what may be considered the relative duties of man in his social and political capacity, and how, as the member of a community, his duty as a citizen is at war with his feelings as a mere individual, is a question of extreme nicety. People who suppose that it is as easy to find out what is really virtue, as it is to practise it, argue with an utter ignorance of the subject. All the subtlety of the most acute genius is necessary to ascertain the almost imperceptible line of distinction betweer moral turpitude and true patriotism; or how far it is the duty of
man to violate, in the character of a patriot, those principles which constitute his rule of action as a mere private man. That such a difficulty does really exist is demonstrated by the vast number of great books which have been written for the purpose of defining virtue, in which she appears in as many forms as Proteus, and is sometimes treated as a goddess, at others like an impostor. In these books dreadful are the conflicts between private and public duties, which seem, like the ancient English and Scotish borderers, to have been always at war, and committing depredations on each other's territories.
The true patriot having learned to distinguish between these conflicting duties, proceeds upon the only true principle, that of sacrificing the lesser virtues to the greater. Thus it is the duty of a man to speak the truth; to be faithful to his friend; and to deal justly to all mankind in common cases. But if the true patriot finds out, which in fact he can always do by the aid of his superior sagacity, that the government of his country is in the hands of the worst men in it, who will if let alone inevitably bring it to ruin; or, on the other hand, if he discovers that the party opposed to the administration only want to get the power into their hands to ruin the country themselves—in either of these cases it certainly becomes his duty to save it from destruction by every means in his power
If, then, in the pursuit of this noble object, he descends to the most ignoble actions, and scruples not to violate the truth-to betray private confidence, to blast the good name of his neighbour-to resort to habitual calumnies, and, in short, descend to the level of unprincipled vice-still this dereliction of those principles which usually govern common minds, is precisely what constitutes the superiority of patriotism over every other virtue. It is no very extraordinary exertion to practise virtue, when it is attended with no violation of those feelings and attachments which are so closely connected with the human heart. But to enter into fellowship with fraud and hypocrisy ; to break the early ties of youthful intimacy; to combat in the lowest arena of life, and to make a noble sacrifice of the respect of all men of honour, for the good of our country, is a species of virtue incontestably allied to excellence, inasmuch as it possesses the unalienable attribute of all perfection, that of most nearly approaching its opposite extreme.
It has long been held a great stretch of virtue to consent even
for a little while to shroud the character--to become the voluntary martyr of infamy, and to appear vitious, for the sake of some eventual good. What, then, is due to that exemplary patriot who condescends to be so, in the pure hope that public happiness, and the individual-general good, will at last spring from this disinterested sacrifice, even as the safety of Rome was achieved by devoting to destruction whatever was most precious among its citizens.
Men of the usual level of virtue are apt to be governed by the old maxim, that evil must never be done that good may come of it
a maxim which if strictly adhered to, would demolish all true patriots under the sun. Their very vocation consists in doing evil that good may come of it, and in nobly sacrificing private feelings, that is, the private feelings of others, to their conception of the public good. For instance, now, some men of good intentions but narrow views, would suppose they were acting the parts of true patriots by maintaining the truth, by inculcating a union of sentiment in points of importance among members of the same community; by doing every thing in their power to preserve their domestic peace; and by infusing into the minds of all within the sphere of their influence that national regard for our countrymen which forms the best cement of civil society. The genuine patriot, on the contrary, forthwith devests himself of these meaner principles that circumscribe the actions of little men, and, scorning that paltry candour which deals justice even to an enemy-that narrowminded bigotry which adheres to the truth even when falsehood might subserye its interests—that treasonable friendship which clings even to the remains of expiring confidence, and hovers over the dying embers of affection--and that chicken-hearted candour which impels us to acknowledge that men who differ in opinion may be equally honest-he spurs on triumphantly to the attainment of that individual wealth, which has been demonstrated to be the only legitimate foundation of national prosperity.