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either real blemishes or beauties. A man of merit in a different principle, is like an object seen in two different mediums, that appears crooked or broken,
however straight and entire it may be in itself. 5 For this reason there is scarce a person of any
figure in England, who does not go by two contrary characters, as opposite to one another as light and darkness. Knowledge and learning suffer in a par
ticular manner from this strange prejudice, which 10 at present prevails amongst all ranks and degrees
in the British nation. As men formerly became eminent in learned societies by their parts and acquisitions, they now distinguish themselves by
the warmth and violence with which they espouse 15 their respective parties. Books are valued upon
the like considerations. An abusive scurrilous style passes for satire, and a dull scheme of party notions is called fine writing.
There is one piece of sophistry practised by both 20 sides, and that is the taking any scandalous story that has been ever whispered or invented of a private man, for a known undoubted truth, and raising suitable speculations upon it. Calumnies
that have been never proved, or have been often 25 refuted, are the ordinary postulatums of these
infamous scribblers, upon which they proceed as upon first principles granted by all men, though in their hearts they know they are false, or at best very doubtful. When they have laid these foundations of scurrility, it is no wonder that their superstructure is every way answerable to them. If this shameless practice of the present age endures much longer, praise and reproach will cease to be motives of action in good men.
5 There are certain periods of time in all governments when this inhuman spirit prevails. Italy was long torn in pieces by the Guelphs and Ghibellines, and France by those who were for and against the league: but it is very unhappy for a man to be 10 born in such a stormy and tempestuous season. It is the restless ambition of artful men that thus breaks a people into factions, and draws several well-meaning persons to their interest by a specious concern for their country. How many honest minds 15 are filled with uncharitable and barbarous notions, out of their zeal for the public good? What cruelties and outrages would they not commit against men of an adverse party, whom they would honor and esteem, if, instead of considering them as they 20 are represented, they knew them as they are? Thus are persons of the greatest probity seduced into shameful errors and prejudices, are made bad men even by that noblest of principles, the "love of their country.” I cannot here forbear mentioning 25 the famous Spanish proverb, “If there were neither fools nor knaves in the world, all people would be of one mind.”
For my own part I could heartily wish that all
honest men would enter into an association, for the support of one another against the endeavors of those whom they ought to look upon as their com
mon enemies, whatsoever side they may belong to. 5 Were there such an honest body of neutral forces,
we should never see the worst of men in great figures of life, because they are useful to a party; nor the best unregarded, because they are above
practising those methods which would be grateful 10 to their faction. We should then single every crim
inal out of the herd, and hunt him down, however formidable and overgrown he might appear: on the contrary, we should shelter distressed innocence,
and defend virtue, however beset with contempt or 15 ridicule, envy or defamation. In short, we should
not any longer regard our fellow-subjects as Whigs or Tories, but should make the man of merit our friend, and the villain our enemy.
No. 24. Party Spirit - Continued SPECTATOR No. 126. Wednesday, July 25, 1711
Tros Rutulusve fuat, nullo discrimine habebo.1
Virg. Æn. x. 108.
In my yesterday's paper I proposed, that the 20 honest men of all parties should enter into a kind
of association for the defence of one another, and the confusion of their common enemies. As it is designed this neutral body should act with regard to nothing but truth and equity, and divest themselves of the little heats and prepossessions that cleave to parties of all kinds, I have prepared for them the following form of an association, which 5 may express their intentions in the most plain and simple manner.
“We whose names are hereunto subscribed do solemnly declare, that we do in our consciences believe two and two make four; and that we shall 10 adjudge any man whatsoever to be our enemy who endeavors to persuade us to the contrary. We are likewise ready to maintain, with the hazard of all that is near and dear to us, that six is less than seven in all times and all places: and that ten will 15 not be more three years hence than it is at present. We do also firmly declare, that it is our resolution as long as we live to call black black, and white white. And we shall upon all occasions oppose such persons that upon any day of the year shall 20 call black white, or white black, with the utmost peril of our lives and fortunes."
Were there such a combination of honest men, who without any regard to places would endeavor to extirpate all such furious zealots as would sacri-25 fice one half of their country to the passion and interest of the other; as also such infamous hypocrites, that are for promoting their own advantage under color of the public good; with all the profligate
immoral retainers to each side, that have nothing to recommend them but an implicit submission to their leaders; we should soon see that furious party
spirit extinguished, which may in time expose us to 5 the derision and contempt of all the nations about
A member of this society that would thus carefully employ himself in making room for merit, by
throwing down the worthless and depraved part of 10 mankind from those conspicuous stations of life to
which they have been sometimes advanced, and all this without any regard to his private interest, would be no small benefactor to his country.
I remember to have read in Diodorus Siculus an 15 account of a very active little animal, which I think
he calls the ichneumon, that makes it the whole business of his life to break the eggs of the crocodile; which he is always in search after. This instinct is
the more remarkable, because the ichneumon never 20 feeds upon the eggs he has broken, nor any other
way finds his account in them. Were it not for the incessant labors of this industrious animal, Egypt, says the historian, would be overrun with croco
diles; for the Egyptians are so far from destroying 25 those pernicious creatures, that they worship them as gods.
If we look into the behavior of ordinary partisans, we shall find them far from resembling this disinterested animal; and rather acting after the example