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Cowardice The Mother Of Cruelty
by [?]

I have often heard it said that cowardice is the mother of cruelty; and I have found by experience that malicious and inhuman animosity and fierceness are usually accompanied with feminine weakness. I have seen the most cruel people, and upon frivolous occasions, apt to cry. Alexander, the tyrant of Pheres, durst not be a spectator of tragedies in the theatre, for fear lest his citizens should see him weep at the misfortunes of Hecuba and Andromache, who himself without pity caused so many people every day to be murdered. Is it not meanness of spirit that renders them so pliable to all extremities? Valour, whose effect is only to be exercised against resistance–

“Nec nisi bellantis gaudet cervice juvenci”–

[“Nor delights in killing a bull unless he resists.”
–Claudius, Ep. ad Hadrianum, v. 39.]

stops when it sees the enemy at its mercy; but pusillanimity, to say that it was also in the game, not having dared to meddle in the first act of danger, takes as its part the second, of blood and massacre. The murders in victories are commonly performed by the rascality and hangers-on of an army, and that which causes so many unheard of cruelties in domestic wars is, that this canaille makes war in imbruing itself up to the elbows in blood, and ripping up a body that lies prostrate at its feet, having no sense of any other valour:

“Et lupus, et turpes instant morientibus ursi,
Et quaecunque minor nobilitate fera est:”

[“Wolves and the filthy bears, and all the baser beasts,
fall upon the dying.”–Ovid, Trist., iii. 5, 35.]

like cowardly dogs, that in the house worry and tear the skins of wild beasts, they durst not come near in the field. What is it in these times of ours that makes our quarrels mortal; and that, whereas our fathers had some degrees of revenge, we now begin with the last in ours, and at the first meeting nothing is to be said but, kill? What is this but cowardice?

Every one is sensible that there is more bravery and disdain in subduing an enemy, than in cutting, his throat; and in making him yield, than in putting him to the sword: besides that the appetite of revenge is better satisfied and pleased because its only aim is to make itself felt: And this is the reason why we do not fall upon a beast or a stone when they hurt us, because they are not capable of being sensible of our revenge; and to kill a man is to save him from the injury and offence we intend him. And as Bias cried out to a wicked fellow, “I know that sooner or later thou wilt have thy reward, but I am afraid I shall not see it”; –[Plutarch, on the Delay in Divine Justice, c. 2.]–and pitied the Orchomenians that the penitence of Lyciscus for the treason committed against them, came at a season when there was no one remaining alive of those who had been interested in the offence, and whom the pleasure of this penitence should affect: so revenge is to be pitied, when the person on whom it is executed is deprived of means of suffering under it: for as the avenger will look on to enjoy the pleasure of his revenge, so the person on whom he takes revenge should be a spectator too, to be afflicted and to repent. “He will repent it,” we say, and because we have given him a pistol-shot through the head, do we imagine he will repent? On the contrary, if we but observe, we shall find, that he makes mouths at us in falling, and is so far from penitency, that he does not so much as repine at us; and we do him the kindest office of life, which is to make him die insensibly, and soon: we are afterwards to hide ourselves, and to shift and fly from the officers of justice, who pursue us, whilst he is at rest. Killing is good to frustrate an offence to come, not to revenge one that is already past; and more an act of fear than of bravery; of precaution than of courage; of defence than of enterprise. It is manifest that by it we lose both the true end of revenge and the care of our reputation; we are afraid, if he lives he will do us another injury as great as the first; ’tis not out of animosity to him, but care of thyself, that thou gettest rid of him.