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No. 174 [from The Spectator]
by [?]

Wednesday, September 19, 1711.

‘Haec memini et victum frustra contendere Thyrsin.’

Virg.

There is scarce any thing more common than Animosities between Parties that cannot subsist but by their Agreement: this was well represented in the Sedition of the Members of the humane Body in the old Roman Fable. It is often the Case of lesser confederate States against a superior Power, which are hardly held together, though their Unanimity is necessary for their common Safety: and this is always the Case of the landed and trading Interest of Great Britain: the Trader is fed by the Product of the Land, and the landed Man cannot be clothed but by the Skill of the Trader; and yet those Interests are ever jarring.

We had last Winter an Instance of this at our Club, in Sir ROGER DE COVERLEY and Sir ANDREW FREEPORT, between whom there is generally a constant, though friendly, Opposition of Opinions. It happened that one of the Company, in an Historical Discourse, was observing, that Carthaginian Faith [1] was a proverbial Phrase to intimate Breach of Leagues. Sir ROGER said it could hardly be otherwise: That the Carthaginians were the greatest Traders in the World; and as Gain is the chief End of such a People, they never pursue any other: The Means to it are never regarded; they will, if it comes easily, get Money honestly; but if not, they will not scruple to attain it by Fraud or Cozenage: And indeed, what is the whole Business of the Trader’s Account, but to over-reach him who trusts to his Memory? But were that not so, what can there great and noble be expected from him whose Attention is for ever fixed upon ballancing his Books, and watching over his Expences? And at best, let Frugality and Parsimony be the Virtues of the Merchant, how much is his punctual Dealing below a Gentleman’s Charity to the Poor, or Hospitality among his Neighbours?

CAPTAIN SENTRY observed Sir ANDREW very diligent in hearing Sir ROGER, and had a mind to turn the Discourse, by taking notice in general, from the highest to the lowest Parts of human Society, there was a secret, tho’ unjust, Way among Men, of indulging the Seeds of ill Nature and Envy, by comparing their own State of Life to that of another, and grudging the Approach of their Neighbour to their own Happiness; and on the other Side, he who is the less at his Ease, repines at the other who, he thinks, has unjustly the Advantage over him. Thus the Civil and Military Lists look upon each other with much ill Nature; the Soldier repines at the Courtier’s Power, and the Courtier rallies the Soldier’s Honour; or, to come to lower Instances, the private Men in the Horse and Foot of an Army, the Carmen and Coachmen in the City Streets, mutually look upon each other with ill Will, when they are in Competition for Quarters or the Way, in their respective Motions.

It is very well, good Captain, interrupted Sir ANDREW: You may attempt to turn the Discourse if you think fit; but I must however have a Word or two with Sir ROGER, who, I see, thinks he has paid me off, and been very severe upon the Merchant. I shall not, continued he, at this time remind Sir ROGER of the great and noble Monuments of Charity and Publick Spirit, which have been erected by Merchants since the Reformation, but at present content my self with what he allows us, Parsimony and Frugality. If it were consistent with the Quality of so antient a Baronet as Sir ROGER, to keep an Account, or measure Things by the most infallible Way, that of Numbers, he would prefer our Parsimony to his Hospitality. If to drink so many Hogsheads is to be Hospitable, we do not contend for the Fame of that Virtue; but it would be worth while to consider, whether so many Artificers at work ten Days together by my Appointment, or so many Peasants made merry on Sir ROGER’S Charge, are the Men more obliged? I believe the Families of the Artificers will thank me, more than the Households of the Peasants shall Sir ROGER. Sir ROGER gives to his Men, but I place mine above the Necessity or Obligation of my Bounty. I am in very little Pain for the Roman Proverb upon the Carthaginian Traders; the Romans were their professed Enemies: I am only sorry no Carthaginian Histories have come to our Hands; we might have been taught perhaps by them some Proverbs against the Roman Generosity, in fighting for and bestowing other People’s Goods. But since Sir ROGER has taken Occasion from an old Proverb to be out of Humour with Merchants, it should be no Offence to offer one not quite so old in their Defence. When a Man happens to break in Holland, they say of him that he has not kept true Accounts. This Phrase, perhaps, among us, would appear a soft or humorous way of speaking, but with that exact Nation it bears the highest Reproach; for a Man to be Mistaken in the Calculation of his Expence, in his Ability to answer future Demands, or to be impertinently sanguine in putting his Credit to too great Adventure, are all Instances of as much Infamy as with gayer Nations to be failing in Courage or common Honesty.