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Quotations about Liberty and Power

About this Quotation:

Thomas Gordon was one of the authors of the very popular Cato’s Letters (1723) which circulated widely in the American colonies before the revolution. He was also well known for his commentaries on Tacitus who chronicled the corruption and tyranny of the Roman Empire. It was obvious to the colonists that he was also indirectly taking about the British Empire. His point here is that behind every “bigoted prince” there lies a “director” or “master” who really controls what is going on.

Other quotes about Presidents, Kings, Tyrants, & Despots:

18 October, 2004

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Thomas Gordon believes that bigoted Princes are subject to the “blind control” of other “Directors and Masters” who work behind the scenes (1737)

Read the full quote in context here.

Thomas Gordon, one of the co-authors of Cato’s Letters, introduced his multi-volume translation of the works of Tacitus with a number of Discourses supposedly on Tacitus but which he also used to criticize the behavior of the contemporary British government:

Bigotry in a weak Prince, or in any Prince, is always one of his worst and most dangerous weaknesses, generally ruinous to his People, often to himself; as it subjects him to the blind controul of narrow-spirited and designing Guides (for all Bigots must have Directors and Masters) who in manageing his conscience seldom forget their own interest, and to that interest often sacrifice the Public and all things.

The full passage from which this quotation was taken can be be viewed below (front page quote in bold):

Bigotry in a weak Prince, or in any Prince, is always one of his worst and most dangerous weaknesses, generally ruinous to his People, often to himself; as it subjects him to the blind controul of narrow-spirited and designing Guides (for all Bigots must have Directors and Masters) who in manageing his conscience seldom forget their own interest, and to that interest often sacrifice the Public and all things.

Bigotry has a kindness for nothing but itself, and to all the rest of the world bears at best perfect unconcern, generally perfect malice. Hence wild wars and persecutions, Countries oppressed and exhausted, Communities enslaved and butchered, all perhaps for names and garments, for postures and grimaces, for sounds, and distinctions, and nonsense. Corresponding to the design is the result; numbers are made miserable or destroyed, that a few may flourish and domineer. For, that dominion is founded in Grace, and that the holy ought to inherit the Earth, is a position as old and extensive as roguery and enthusiasm. From this spirit Princes who are guided by it, instead of public Fathers and Protectors, often become public Pests and Destroyers; Nations are animated against Nations, and those of the same Nation plague and devour one another.

What human wisdom can restrain men actuated by divine fury? And when they think that the Deity commands them to spoil and kill, what avails any counsel or exhortation to protect and to save? Sheck Eidar a Prince and Enthusiast of Persia, having made a Reform of the Mahometan Religion there, declared it impossible to be saved without adhering to his system: And upon such as are to be damned in the next world, it is always deemed lawful, nay, necessary and meritorious, to inflict penalties and death in this.

[More works by Thomas Gordon (1692 – 1750)]