A present personal detriment is so heavy where it falls, and so instant in its operation, that the cold commendation of a public advantage never was, and never will be, a match for the quick sensibility of a private loss.
In common life, we may observe that the circumstance of utility is always appealed to; nor is it supposed that a greater eulogy can be given to any man than to display his usefulness to the public, and to enumerate the services which he has performed to mankind and to society.
When men look into their own bosoms, and consider the generous seeds which are there planted, that might, if rightly cultivated, ennoble their lives, and make their virtue venerable to futurity; how can they, without tears, reflect on the universal degeneracy from that public spirit which ought to be the first and principal motive of all their actions? In the Grecian and Roman nations, they were wise enough to keep up this great incentive, and it was impossible to be in the fashion without being a patriot.
But however general custom may hurry us away in the stream of a common error, there is no evil, no crime, so great as that of being cold in matters which relate to the common good. This is in nothing more conspicuous than in a certain willingness to receive anything that tends to the diminution of such as have been conspicuous instruments in our service. Such inclinations proceed from the most low and vile corruption of which the soul of man is capable. This effaces not only the practice, but the very approbation of honour and virtue; and has had such an effect, that, to speak freely, the very sense of public good has no longer a part even of our conversations.
It is to be feared, indeed, that Society would fare but ill if none did service to the Public except in proportion as they possessed the rare moral and intellectual endowment of enlightened public spirit. For such a spirit, whether in the form of patriotism or that of philanthropy, implies not merely benevolent feelings stronger than, in fact, we commonly meet with, but also powers of abstraction beyond what the mass of mankind can possess.
Richard Whately: Annot. on Bacons Essay, Of the True Greatness of Kingdoms, etc.