The full title to this letter from 1720 doesn’t do justice to its content: how the fallen nature of men is concentrated once they become politicians. The outcome of party loyalty and elections is abysmally incapable of leading to the punishment of high crimes and returning the nation to free government.
Cato opens with a musing from Sancho Pancha, (Sancho Panza, Don Quixote’s squire?) who hoped his subjects in the promised island might be black, so that he could sell them!
Sancho’s daydream is little different from the attitude of the leaders of all political parties. They profess an eye toward the public good, yet show they mean their own. What is worse is the extent to which so many of the populace adulate such men, as if common happiness or misery depended on the face, clothes, or title of the men who rob and betray them. Mankind are forever caught again and again by the same baits and stale stratagems.
This letter of advice wasn’t intended for those who already share in public plunder; it was designed as persuasion for the injured and distressed people to no longer be the dupes and property of hypocrites and traitors. Whatever these betrayers of their country get, the people must lose far more, for their conspiracies affect commerce, pervert justice, corrupt all in their trust, and work against the principles of free government.
Cato notes that relatively few profit from public misfortune, from the loss of liberty, from the loss press freedom, and “in introducing a religion which destroys Christianity.”
Cato hammered the leadership of the political parties of his day, Tories and Whigs.
Both protect the corrupt among them, even when their members act against party interests. From this, the people learn their political leaders have, outside of avarice and ambition, no principles at all.
Should the rank-and-file of both parties compare notes, they will find few differences between them, and that they share many common interests, which are the interests of the country. Let us learn to value an honest man of another party more than a knave of our own. Differences will soon be at an end when each is ready to cast out their own rogues. The people of both parties wish to be free from oppression and to punish their oppressors, whose practice is to exacerbate differences and find security in the animosities they stoke. It is high time such men receive an enlightenment.
The knavish designs of our leaders which led to the recent calamity (Collapse of the South Sea Company), should prod us to rescue the English Constitution. Let’s turn our misfortunes into earnings, into an opportunity to save ourselves, prince and country. From Machiavelli’s Discourses on Livy, Cato reminded his readers that free government cannot long subsist without frequent recurrence to first principles. Alas, this is but rarely done, and never at all during prosperous times when men cannot be persuaded to see distant dangers. Yet, when men are awakened by misfortune and frightened with the approach of evil, their minds are ready for remedies.
Cato exhorted his fellow Britons to be worthy of liberty; be the freemen who deserve liberty. While resentment boils high, all should take advantage of the opportunity to properly punish the parricides and enemies of all mankind. Don’t let friendship, personal alliance, party combination stand between them and their duty. No matter the great rank of those responsible, the South Sea conspirators must be pursued to disgrace, destruction, and even death. Engrave in deep letters large enough for all to see, the right vengeance for high crimes which ruin nations.
Cato’s Letters fell on largely fallow ground in England. In colonial America they were widely popular, embraced and published repeatedly in newspapers up to the 1770s. Cato prepared the American mind for revolution long before the battles of Lexington and Concord.
With a little editing, this letter from three hundred years ago applies to America circa 2016:
• Party bosses serve themselves.
• Party loyalty at all costs erodes free government.
• Muslims are imported to destroy American culture.
• The people are kept divided by race, gender, wealth and more.
• Enormous high crimes against our republic come to light on a regular basis, and while our Constitution makes provision for dealing with offenses so wicked they cannot be embraced by statutory law, our governing institutions shudder and seize up at the thought of taking action.
• Cato recognized an early form of the Cloward-Piven strategy to destroy free government.
• Free government isn’t a gift; it is a goal to which the people must continually strive.
Hasn’t our government become a plaything of, and the means to wealth for, the leadership of our political parties at our expense? Are Americans sufficiently covetous of liberty to realize that elections alone are incapable of restoring free government?
Reform will not emerge from those who profit so well from corruption. An Article V state amendments convention to restore free government is our only hope.
Please join Convention of States. Sign our COS Petition.
*John Trenchard and Thomas Gordon, Edited by Ronald Hamowy, Volume I. Cato’s Letters: Essays on Liberty, Civil and Religious, And other Important Subjects. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1995. Book.