S. Austin Allibone, comp. Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay. 1880.
There is one consideration which I would earnestly recommend to all my female readers, and which, I hope, will have some weight with them. In short, it is this, that there is nothing so bad for the face as party zeal. It gives an ill-natured cast to the eye, and a disagreeable sourness to the look: besides that it makes the lines too strong, and flushes them worse than brandy. I have seen a womans face break out in heats, as she had been talking against a great lord, whom she had never seen in her life; and indeed I never knew a party-woman that kept her beauty for a twelvemonth. I would therefore advise all my female readers, as they value their complexions, to let alone all disputes of this nature; though, at the same time, I would give full liberty to all superannuated motherly partisans to be as violent as they please, since there will be no danger either of their spoiling their faces, or of their gaining converts.
If this party spirit has so ill an effect on our morals, it has likewise a very great one upon our judgments. We often hear a poor insipid paper or pamphlet cried up, and sometimes a noble piece depreciated, by those who are of a different principle from the author. One who is actuated by this spirit is almost under an incapacity of discerning 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. 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 particular manner from this strange prejudice, which 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 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.
I have frequently wondered to see men of probity, who would scorn to utter a falsehood for their own particular advantage, give so readily into a lie when it is become the voice of their faction, notwithstanding they are thoroughly sensible of it as such. How is it possible for those who are men of honour in their persons, thus to become notorious liars in their party?
The worst effect of party is its tendency to generate narrow, false, and illiberal prejudices, by teaching the adherents of one party to regard those that belong to an opposing party as unworthy of confidence.
It is of no consequence what the principles of any party, or what their pretensions are; the spirit which actuates all parties is the same; the spirit of ambition, of self-interest, of oppression and treachery. This spirit entirely reverses all the principles which a benevolent nature has erected within us; all honesty, all equal justice, and even the ties of natural society, the natural affections.
Party is a body of men united for promoting by their joint endeavours the national interest upon some particular principle in which they are all agreed. For my part, I find it impossible to conceive that any one believes in his own politics, or thinks them to be of any weight, who refuses to adopt the means of having them reduced into practice. It is the business of the speculative philosopher to mark the proper ends of government. It is the business of the politician, who is the philosopher in action, to find out proper means towards those ends, and to employ them with effect. Therefore every honourable connection will avow it is their first purpose, to pursue every just method to put the men who hold their opinions into such a condition as may enable them to carry their common plans into execution, with all the power and authority of the state. As this power is attached to certain situations, it is their duty to contend for these situations.
Edmund Burke: Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontents, 1770.
My principles, indeed the principles of common sense, lead me to act in corps . That versatility, those sudden evolutions, which have sometimes derogated from the credit of all public professions, are things not so easy in large bodies, as when men act alone, or in light squadrons. A mans virtue is best secured by shame, and best improved by emulation in the society of virtuous men.
Next, we know that parties must ever exist in a free country. We know, too, that the emulations of such parties, their contradictions, their reciprocal necessities, their hopes, and their fears, must send them all in their turns to him that holds the balance of the state. The parties are the gamesters; but government keeps the table, and is sure to be the winner in the end.
Edmund Burke: Speech on Conciliation with America, March 22, 1775.
Not that I think it fit for any one to rely too much on his own understanding, or to be filled with a presumption not becoming a Christian man in his own personal stability and rectitude. I hope I am far from that vain confidence which almost always fails in trial. I know my weakness in all respects, as much at least as any enemy I have; and I attempt to take security against it. The only method which has ever been found effectual to preserve any man against the corruption of nature and example is an habit of life and communication of councils with the most virtuous and public-spirited men of the age you live in. Such a society cannot be kept without advantage, or deserted without shame. For this rule of conduct I may be called in reproach a party man; but I am little affected with such aspersions. In the way which they call party I worship the Constitution of your fathers; and I shall never blush for my political company.
Edmund Burke: Letter to the Sheriffs of Bristol, April 3, 1777.
It is but a few days ago, that a very wise and a very good man (the Duke of Portland) said to me, in a conversation on this subject, that he never knew any man disclaim party who was not of a party that he was ashamed of. But thus much I allow, that men ought to be circumspect, and cautious of entering into this species of political relation; because it cannot easily be broken without loss of reputation, nor (many times) persevered in without giving up much of that practicability which the variable nature of affairs may require, as well as of that regard to a mans own personal consideration, which (in a due subordination to public good) a man may very fairly aim at. All acting in corps tends to reduce the consideration of an individual who is of any distinguished value.
Political arrangement, as it is a work for social ends, is to be only wrought by social means. There mind must conspire with mind. Time is required to produce that union of minds which alone can produce all the good we aim at. Our patience will achieve more than our force. If I might venture to appeal to what is so much out of fashion in Paris,I mean to experience,I should tell you, that in my course I have known, and, according to my measure, have co-operated with great men: and I have never yet seen any plan which has not been mended by the observations of those who were much inferior in understanding to the person who took the lead in the business. By a slow but well-sustained progress, the effect of each step is watched; the good or ill success of the first gives light to us in the second; and so, from light to light, we are conducted with safety through the whole series. We see that the parts of the system do not clash. The evils latent in the most promising contrivances are provided for as they arise. One advantage is as little as possible sacrificed to another. We compensate, we reconcile, we balance. We are enabled to unite into a consistent whole the various anomalies and contending principles that are found in the minds and affairs of men. From hence arises, not an excellence in simplicity, but one far superior, an excellence in composition.
Edmund Burke: Reflections on the Revolution in France, 1790.
If anything ought to be despotic in a country, it is its government; because there is no cause of constant operation to make its yoke unequal. But the dominion of a party must continually, steadily, and by its very essence, lean upon the prostrate description. A constitution formed so as to enable a party to overrule its very government, and to overpower the people too, answers the purposes neither of government nor of freedom. It compels that power which ought, and often would be disposed, equally to protect the subjects, to fail in its trust, to counteract its purposes, and to become no better than the instrument of the wrongs of a faction.
Edmund Burke: Letter to Richard Burke, On Protestant Ascendency in Ireland, 1793.
Parties have no other prudence than factious qualifications, and no other moral principle than their passions. Peoples, like kings, have their moments of delirium, in which every ray of conscience is obscured by the bubbling of their anger.
Alphonse Lamartine: Hist. of the Restor. of Monarchy in France, vol. iv. book 46, xvii.
The effect of violent animosities between parties has always been an indifference to the general welfare and honour of the state. A politician, where factions run high, is interested not for the whole people, but for his own section of it. The rest are, in his view, strangers, enemies, or rather pirates. The strongest aversion which he can feel to any foreign power is the ardour of friendship, when compared with the loathing which he entertains towards those domestic foes with whom he is cooped up in a narrow space, with whom he lives in a constant interchange of petty injuries and insults, and from whom, in the day of their success, he has to expect severities far beyond any that a conqueror from a distant country would inflict. Thus, in Greece, it was a point of honour for a man to cleave to his party against his country. No aristocratical citizen of Santos or Corcyra would have hesitated to call in the aid of Lacedæmon. The multitude, on the contrary, looked everywhere to Athens. In the Italian States of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, from the same cause, no man was so much a Pisan or a Florentine as a Ghibeline or a Guelf. It may be doubted whether there was a single individual who would have scrupled to raise his party from a state of depression by opening the gates of his native city to a French or an Arragonese force. The Reformation, dividing almost every European country into two parts, produced similar effects. The Catholic was too strong for the Englishman, the Huguenot for the Frenchman. The Protestant statesmen of Scotland and France called in the aid of Elizabeth; and the Papists of the League brought a Spanish army into the very heart of France. The commotions to which the French Revolution gave rise were followed by the same consequences. The Republicans in every part of Europe were eager to see the armies of the National Convention and the Directory appear among them, and exulted in defeats which distressed and humbled those whom they considered as their worst enemies, their own rulers. The princes and nobles of France, on the other hand, did their utmost to bring foreign invaders to Paris. A very short time has elapsed since the Apostolical party in Spain invoked, too successfully, the support of strangers.
Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay: Hallams Constit. Hist., Sept. 1828.
Every source of information as to our early history has been poisoned by party spirit. As there is no country where statesmen have been so much under the influence of the past, so there is no country where historians have been so much under the influence of the present. Between these two things, indeed, there is a natural connection. Where history is regarded merely as a picture of life and manners, or as a collection of experiments from which general maxims of civil wisdom may be drawn, a writer lies under no very pressing temptation to misrepresent transactions of ancient date. But where history is regarded as a repository of title-deeds, on which the rights of governments and nations depend, the motive to falsification becomes almost irresistible.
Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay: History of England, i. ch. i.
There never was any party, faction, sect, or cabal whatsoever in which the most ignorant were not the most violent; for a bee is not a busier animal than a blockhead. However, such instruments are necessary to politicians; and perhaps it may be with states as with clocks, which must have some dead weight hanging at them to help and regulate the motion of the finer and more useful parts.
The most violent party men are such as, in the conduct of their lives, have discovered least sense of religion or morality, and when such are laid aside as shall be found incorrigible, it will be no difficulty to reconcile the rest.
The truly independent course is to act as if party had no existence; to follow that which is wisest and best in itself, irrespective of the side which makes the loudest claim to the monopoly of goodness. No doubt, such a course will often approach, or rather be approached by, the orbit of one party at one time, and the other at another, just as each of them chances to come the nearer to what is really right. Nay, more, as each party does possess some truth mingled with its falsehoods, it is perfectly possible to be identified with one of two bigoted and opposed parties on some special question, and to be similarly identified with the other party on a different question.
I have already intimated to you the danger of parties in the state, with particular reference to the founding of them on geographical discriminations. Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party, generally.
This spirit, unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature, having its roots in the strongest passions of the human mind. It exists under different shapes in all governments, more or less stifled, controlled, or repressed; but in those of the popular form it is seen in its greatest rankness, and is truly their worst enemy.
The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result, gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation on the ruins of Public Liberty.
Party spirit enlists a mans virtues in the cause of his vices. He who would desire to have an accurate description of party spirit need only go through Pauls description of charity, reversing every point in the detail.
On the whole, there is nothing that more tends to deprave the moral sense than Party, because it supplies that sympathy for which Man has a natural craving. To any one unconnected with Party, the temptations of personal interest or gratification are in some degree checked by the disapprobation of those around him. But a partisan finds himself surrounded by persons most of whom, though perhaps not unscrupulous in their private capacity, are prepared to keep him in countenance in much that is unjustifiable,to overlook or excuse almost anything in a zealous and efficient partisan,and even to applaud what in another they would condemn, so it does but promote some party-object. For Party corrupts the conscience, by making almost all virtues flow, as it were, in its own channel. Zeal for truth becomes, gradually, zeal for the watchwordthe shibbolethof the party; justice, mercy, benevolence, are all limited to the members of that party, or (which is usually even more detested) those of no party. Candour is made to consist in putting the best construction on all that comes from one side, and the worst on all that does not. Whatever is wrong in any member of the party is either boldly denied, in the face of all evidence, or vindicated, or passed over in silence; and whatever is, or can be brought to appear, wrong on the opposite side, is readily credited, and brought forward, and exaggerated. The principles of conduct originally the noblest, disinterested self-devotion, courage, and active zeal, Party perverts to its own purposes; veracity, submissive humility, charity,in short, every Christian virtue,it enlists in its cause, and confines within its own limits; and the conscience becomes gradually so corrupted that it becomes a guide to evil instead of good. The light that is in us becomes darkness.
Richard Whately: Annot. on Bacons Essay, Of Unity in Religion.