Cookie Consent

Friday, March 07, 2014

Salus Populi

     Here is a selection from Cato's Letters, #13.

       "In truth, every private subject has a right to watch the steps of those who would betray their country;  nor is he to take their word about the motives of their designs, but to judge of their designs by the event.
         This is the principle of a Whig, this the doctrine of liberty;  and 'tis as much knavery to deny this doctrine, as it is folly to ridicule it.  Some will tell us, that this is setting up the mob for statesmen, and for the censurers of states.  The word mob does not at all move me, on this occasion, nor weaken the grounds which I go upon.  It is certain, that the whole people, who are the publick, are the best judges, whether things go ill or well with the publick.  It is true, that they cannot all of them see distant dangers, nor watch the motions, and guess the designs, of neighbouring states:  But every cobbler can judge, as well as a statesman, whether he can fit peaceably in his stall;  whether he is paid for his work;  whether the market, where he buys his victuals, be well provided;  and whether a dragoon, or a parish-officer, comes to him for his taxes, if he pay any.
       Every man too, even the meanest, can see, in a publick and sudden transition from plenty to poverty, from happiness to distress, whether the calamity comes from war, and famine, and the hand of God;  or from oppression, and mismanagement, and the villainies of men.  In short, the people often judge better than their superiors, and have not so many biases to judge wrong;  and politicians often rail at the people, chiefly because they have given the people occasion to rail:  Those ministers who cannot make the people their friends, it is to be shrewdly suspected, do not deserve their friendship;  it is certain, that much honesty, and small management, rarely miss to gain it.  As temporal felicity is the whole end of government;  so people will always be pleased or provoked, as that increases or abates.  This rule will always hold.  You may judge of their affection, or disaffection, by the burdens which they bear, and the advantages which they enjoy.  Here then is a sure standard for the government to judge of the people, and for the people to judge of the government."

No comments: