Published online by Cambridge University Press: 02 March 2021
The real interest (of a nation) may be subdivided into a perpetual and a temporary. The former depends chiefly on the Situation and Constitution of the country, and the natural Inclinations of the people; the latter on the Condition, Strength and Weakness of the neighbouring nations; for as those vary, the Interest must also vary. Whence it often happens, that whereas we are, for our own Security sometimes oblig’d to assist a neighbouring Nation, which is likely to be oppress’d by a more potent Enemy. We are at another time for’cd to oppose the Designs of those we before assisted, when we find they have recover’d themselves to that degree, as that they may prove Formidable and Troublesome to us.
But seeing this Interest is so manifest to those who are vers’d in the State-Affairs, that they can't be ignorant of it, one might ask, How it often times happens that great Errors are committed in this kind against the Interest of the State. To this may be answer’d that those who have the Supreme Administration of Affairs are oftentimes not sufficiently instructed concerning the Interest both of their own State, as also that of their Neighbours. And yet being fond of their own Sentiments, will not follow the Advice of understanding and faithful Ministers. Sometimes they are misguided by their Passions, or by Time-serving Ministers and Favourites. But where the Administration of government is committed to the Care of Ministers of State, it may happen that these were not capable of discerning it, or else are led away by a private Interest which is opposite to that of the State. Or, they may be divided into Factions, being more concern’d to ruin their Rivals than to follow the Dictates of Reason. Therefore some of the most exquisite parts of Modern History consists in that one knows the Capacity, Inclinations, Caprices, Private Interests, manner of proceeding, and of (those responsible for policy), since upon this depends, in a great measure, the good and ill management of a State. For it frequently happens that a State, which in itself is consider’d is but weak is made to become very considerable boy the good Conduct and Valour of its Governours. Whereas, a powerful State (can be made weak) by the ill management of those at the Helm, oftentimes suffering considerably.