Essay 8: Political Parties

Of all men, that distinguish themselves by memorable achievements, the first place of honour seems due to Legislators and founders of states, who transmit a system of laws and institutions to secure the peace, happiness, and liberty of future generations.

As much as legislators and founders of states ought to be honoured and respected among men, as much ought the founders of sects and factions to be detested and hated; because the influence of faction is directly contrary to that of laws.

Factions may be divided into:

Parties are seldom found pure and unmixed, either of the one kind or the other.

Personal factions arise most easily in small republics.

Men have such a propensity to divide into personal factions, that the smallest appearance of real difference will produce them.

We find in the Roman history a remarkable dissension between two tribes, the Pollia and Papiria, which continued for the space of near three hundred years, and discovered itself in their suffrages at every election of magistrates.

Nothing is more usual than to see parties, which have begun upon a real difference, continue even after that difference is lost.

The civil wars which arose some few years ago in Morocco, between the blacks and whites, merely on account of their complexion, are founded on a pleasant difference.

Real factions may be divided into those from interest, from principle, and from affection. Of all factions, the first are the most reasonable, and the most excusable.

There has been an attempt in England to divide the landed and trading part of the nation; but without success.

Parties from principle, especially abstract speculative principle, are known only to modern times, and are, perhaps, the most extraordinary and unaccountable phænomenon, that has yet appeared in human affairs.

Two men travelling on the highway, the one east, the other west, can easily pass each other, if the way be broad enough:

This principle, however frivolous it may appear, seems to have been the origin of all religious wars and divisions.

There is another cause (beside the authority of the priests, and the separation of the ecclesiastical and civil powers) which has contributed to render Christendom the scene of religious wars and divisions.

I have mentioned parties from affection as a kind of real parties, beside those from interest and principle.