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In the first place, men are apt to think that the guilt of a lie, and consequently the punishment, may be very much diminished, if not wholly worn out, by the multitudes of those who partake in it. Though the weight of a falsehood would be too much for one to bear, it grows light in their imaginations when it is shared among many. But in this case a man very much deceives himself; guilt, when it spreads through numbers, is not so properly divided as multiplied. Every one is criminal in proportion to the offence which he commits, not to the number of those who are his companions in it. Both the crime and the penalty lie as heavy upon every individual of an offending multitude, as they would upon any single person, had none shared with him in the offence. In a word, the division of guilt is like to that of matter; though it may be separated into infinite portions, every portion shall have the whole essence of matter in it, and consist of as many parts as the whole did before it was divided. · But in the second place, though multitudes, who join in a lie, cannot exempt themselves from the guilt, they may from the shame of it. The scandal of a lie is in a manner lost and annihilated, when diffused among several thousands ; as a drop of the blackest tincture wears away and vanishes, when mixed and confused in a considerable body of water; the blot is still in it, but is not able to discover itself. This is certainly a very great motive to several partyoffenders, who avoid crimes, not as they are prejudicial to their virtue, but to their reputation. It is enough to show the weakness of this reason, which palliates guilt without removing it, that every man who is influenced by it declares himself in effect an infainous hypocrite, prefers the appearance of virtue to its reality, and is determined in his conduct neither by the dictates of his own conscience,
the suggestions of true honour, nor the principles of religion.
The third and last great motive for men's joining in a popular falsehood, or, as I have hitherto called it; a party lie, notwithstanding they are convinced of it as such, is the doing good to a cause which every party may be supposed to look upon as the most meritorious. The unsoundness of this principle has been so often exposed, and is so universally acknowledgeri, that a man must be an utter stranger to the principles either of natural religion or Christianity, who suffers himself to be guided by it. If a man might promote the supposed good of his country by the blackest calumnies and falsehoods, our nation abounds more in patriots than any other of the Christian world. When Pompey was desired not to set sail in a tempest that would hazard his life, • It is necessary for me,' says he, “ to sail, but it is not necessary for me to live. Every man should say to himself, with the same spirit, “It is my duty to speak truth, though it is not my duty to be in an office. One of the fathers hath carried this point so high as to declare he would not tell a lie, though he were sure to gain heaven by it. However extravagant such a protestation may appear, every one will own that a man may say, very reasonably, he would not tell a lie, if he were sure to gain hell by it; or, if you have a mind to soften the expression, that he would not tell a lie to gain any temporal reward by it, when he should run the hazard of losing much mure than it was possible for him to gain.
N° 508. MONDAY, OCTOBER 13, 1712.
Omnes autem et babentur et dicuntur tyranni, qui potestate sunt perpetua, in ea civitate quæ libertate usa esi
CORN. NEPOS in Milt. C. 8. For all those are accounted and denominated tyrants, who
exercise a perpetual power in that state, which was before
THE following letters complain of what I have frequently observed with very much indignation; therefore I shall give them to the public in the words with which my correspondents, who suffer under the hardships mentioned in them, describe them.
- Mr. SPECTATOR,
“In former ages all pretensions to dominion have been supported and submitted to, either upon account of inheritance, conquest, or election; and all such persons, who have taken upon them any sovereignty over their fellow creatures upon any other account, have been always called tyrants, not so much because they were guilty of any particular barbarities, as because every attenipt to such a superiority was in its nature tyrannical. But there is another sort of potentates, who may with greater propriety be called tyrants than those last mentioned, both as they assume a despotic dominion over those as free as themselves, and as they support it by acts of notable oppression and injustice; and these are the rulers in all clubs and meetings In other governments, the punishments of some have been alleviated by the rewards of others; but what makes the reign of these potentates so particularly grievous
is, that they are exquisite in punishing their subjects at the same time they have it not in their power to reward them. That the reader may the better comprehend the nature of these monarchs, as well as the iniserable state of those that are their vassals, I shall give an account of the king of the company I am fallen into, whom for his particular tyranny I shall call Dionysius; as also of the seeds that sprung up t) this odd sort of empire. . Upon all meetings at taverns, it is necessary some one of the company should take it upon him to get all things in such order and readiness, as may contribute as much as possible to the felicity of the convention ; such as hastening the fire, getting a sufficient number of candles, tasting the wine with a judicious smack, fixing the supper, and being brisk for the dispatch of it. Know, then, that Dionysius went through these offices with an air that seemed to express a satisfaction rather in serving the public than in gratifying any particular inclination of his own. We thought him a person of an exquisite palate, and therefore by consent beseeched him to be always our proveditor; which post, after he had handsomely denied, he could do no otherwise than accept. At first he made no other use of his power than in recommending such and such things to the company, ever allowing these points to be disputable ; insomuch that I have often carried the debate for partridge, when his majesty has given intimation of the high relish of duck, but at the same time has cheerfully submitted, and devoured his partridge with most gracious resignation. This submission on his side naturally produced the like on ours; of which he in a little time made such barbarous advantage, as in all those matters, which before seemed indifferent to him, to issue out certain edicts as uncontrollable and unalterable as the laws of the Medes and Persians. He is by turns outrageous, peevish, forward, and jovial. He thinks it our duty for the little offices, as proveditor, that in return all conversation is to be interrupted or promoted by his inclination for or against the present humour of the company. We feel, at present, in the utmost extremity, the insolence of office; however, I, being naturally warm, ventured to oppose him in a dispute about a haunch of venison. I was altogether for roasting, but Dionysius declared himself for boiling with so much prowess and resolution, that the cook thought it necessary to consult his own safety, rather than the luxury of my proposition. With the same authority that he orders what we shall eat and drink, he also commands us where to do it; and we change our taverns according as he suspects any treasonable practices in the settling the bill by the master, or sees any bold rebellion in point of attendance by the waiters. Another reason for changing the seat of empire, I conceive to be the pride he takes in the proinulgation of our slavery, though we pay our club for our entertainments, even in these palaces of our grand monarch. When he has a mind to take the air, a party of us are commanded out by way of life-guard, and we march under as great restrictions as they do. If we meel a neighbouring king, we give or keep the way, according as we are out-numbered or not; and if the train of each is equal in number, rather than give battle, the superiority is soon adjusted by a desertion from one of them.
'Now, the expulsion of these unjust rulers out of all societies would gain a man as everlasting a reputation as either of the Brutus's got from their endeavours to extirpate tyranny from among the Romans. I confess myself to be in a conspiracy against the usurper of our club; and to show my reading, as well as my merciful disposition, shall allow him