Friday, 1 August 2008

Deep-Rooted Weeds

“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 subvert government, render laws impotent, and beget the fiercest animosities among men of the same nation, who ought to give mutual assistance and protection to each other. And what should render the founders of parties more odious is, the difficulty of extirpating these weeds, when once they have taken root in any state. They naturally propagate themselves for many centuries, and seldom end but by the total dissolution of that government, in which they are sown. They are, besides, plants which grow most plentifully in the richest soil; and though absolute governments be not wholly free from them, it must be confessed, that they rise more easily, and propagate themselves faster in free governments, where they always infect the legislature itself, which alone could be able, by the steady application of rewards and punishments, to eradicate them.”

David Hume, “Of Parties in General”, Essays, Moral, Political, and Literary, ed., E.F. Miller, (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, Inc., 1987), I.VIII.2, online at The Library of Economics and Liberty.


James Higham said...

Weeds to be rooted out - dem's fighting words, Deogolwulf.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't lightly argue with the great man, but surely many "factions" in our history don't have a founder, simply understood. Who founded Tories and Whigs? Perhaps with his enormous foresight he was thinking of such pernicious factions as The Labour Party, or even The Social Democrats. I bow in awe to his mighty intellect; clever bugger, auld Dauvit.

Sky Captain said...


By the way, M'Lud, the soundtrack to your film of 1986 is available for download at

Deogolwulf said...

Indeed, James, good fighting words.

Dearieme, yes, he is a little hazy on that point. I suppose he has in mind groups that band together in mischief or common interest to disturb the settlement of the commonwealth to their own ends. (Interestingly, both "Tory" and "Whig" were originally derogatory names: the first from Middle Irish "Tóraidhe" meaning "outlaw"; the second from Scottish "whiggamor" meaning "cattle drover").

As for the man's brains, I humbly suggest he is one of the cleverest. His head was screwed on most of the time too.

Which film, pietr?

Sky Captain said...

Biggles, of course. I thought Lord James might be a collector. I was looking all over the world for the music to the 1986 film for a couple of years, but there were only about 15 known copies.
Then somebody squeezed it into mp3 and put it on bittorrent.
(I justify getting it for free by te fact that the owners of the copyright showed no interest at all in re-issuing, and besides, a song on the Biggles album caused me to purchase a legitimate CD of another artist.

Anonymous said...

"Whigs", Sir, you may depend upon it, were Gallwegian cattle rustlers - ruffians from the far side of the Nith. I once visited the lovely wee museum in Dumfries, which had a 17th century sketch of the burghers riding over the brig to attack Kirkcudbright. I enquired of the polymath curator why they might attack Kirkcudbright. "Times were hard."