Sunday, September 13, 2020
There are enow of zealots on both sides who kindle up the passions of their partizans, and under pretence of public good, pursue the interests and ends of their particular faction. For my part, I shall always be more fond of promoting moderation than zeal; though perhaps the surest way of producing moderation in every party is to increase our zeal for the public. Let us therefore try, if it be possible, from the foregoing doctrine, to draw a lesson of moderation with regard to the parties, into which our country is at present divided; at the same time, that we allow not this moderation to abate the industry and passion, with which every individual is bound to pursue the good of his country.David Hume Tower at the University of Edinburgh was recently renamed 40 George Square "because of the sensitivities around asking students to use a building named after the 18th century philosopher whose comments on matters of race, though not uncommon at the time, rightly cause distress today." A friend reacted to the news thus: "Pigeon-hearted gowks dishonouring Edinburgh's magnificent Enlightenment heritage."
Those who either attack or defend a minister in such a government as ours, where the utmost liberty is allowed, always carry matters to an extreme, and exaggerate his merit or demerit with regard to the public. His enemies are sure to charge him with the greatest enormities, both in domestic and foreign management; and there is no meanness nor crime, of which, in their account, he is not capable. Unnecessary wars, scandalous treaties, profusion of public treasure, oppressive taxes, every kind of maladministration is ascribed to him. To aggravate the charge, his pernicious conduct, it is said, will extend its baleful influence even to posterity, by undermining the best constitution in the world, and disordering that wise system of laws, institutions, and customs, by which our ancestors, during so many centuries, have been so happily governed. He is not only a wicked minister in himself, but has removed every security provided against wicked ministers for the future.
On the other hand, the partizans of the minister make his panegyric run as high as the accusation against him, and celebrate his wise, steady and moderate conduct in every part of his administration. The honour and interest of the nation supported abroad, public credit maintained at home, persecution restrained, faction subdued; the merit of all these blessings is ascribed solely to the minister. At the same time, he crowns all his other merits by a religious care of the best constitution in the world, which he has preserved in all its parts, and has transmitted entire, to be the happiness and security of the latest posterity.
When this accusation and panegyric are received by the partizans of each party, no wonder they beget an extraordinary ferment on both sides, and fill the nation with violent animosities.
W. Somerset Maugham, Don Fernando, or Variations on Some Spanish Themes (London: William Heinemann Ltd, 1935), p. 180:
There is a great deal of hypocrisy in our judgement of others. We make an ideal picture of ourselves and measure our fellows by it. But when we read the Diary of Pepys or the Confessions of Rousseau, in which a little of the truth is told, when we study the life of Wagner, we are horrified: we forget; we will not look at our private selves. I do not believe that there is any man, who if the whole truth were known of him, would not seem a monster of depravity; and also I believe that there are very few who have not at the same time virtue, goodness and beauty.