Wednesday, May 25, 2022

“Remiss or Supine”

“States, even distinguished for military prowess, sometimes lay down their arms from lassitude, and are weary of fruitless contentions; but if they maintain the station of independent communities, they will have frequent occasions to recall, and to exert their vigour.  Even under popular governments, men sometimes drop the consideration of their political rights, and appear at times remiss or supine; but if they have reserved the power to defend themselves, the intermission of its exercise cannot be of long duration.  Political rights, when neglected, are always invaded; and alarms from this quarter must frequently come to renew the attention of parties.

“The love of learning, and of arts, may change its pursuits, or droop for a season; but while men are possessed of freedom, and while the exercises of ingenuity are not superseded, the public may proceed, at different times, with unequal fervour; but its progress is seldom altogether discontinued, or the advantages gained in one age are seldom entirely lost to the following.  If we would find the causes of final corruption, we must examine those revolutions of state that remove, or withhold, the objects of every ingenious study or liberal pursuit; that deprive the citizen of occasions to act as the member of a public; that crush his spirit; that debase his sentiments, and disqualify his mind for affairs.”

- Adam Ferguson, from An Essay on the History of Civil Society

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