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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Justification of His Patriotic Policy
By Demosthenes (384–322 B.C.)
 
DO not go about repeating that Greece owes all her misfortunes to one man. No, not to one man, but to many abandoned men distributed throughout the different States, of whom, by earth and heaven, Æschines is one. If the truth were to be spoken without reserve, I should not hesitate to call him the common scourge of all the men, the districts, and the cities which have perished; for the sower of the seed is answerable for the crop….  1
  I affirm that if the future had been apparent to us all,—if you, Æschines, had foretold it and proclaimed it at the top of your voice instead of preserving total silence,—nevertheless the State ought not to have deviated from her course, if she had regard to her own honor, the traditions of the past, or the judgment of posterity. As it is, she is looked upon as having failed in her policy,—the common lot of all mankind when such is the will of heaven; but if, claiming to be the foremost State of Greece, she had deserted her post, she would have incurred the reproach of betraying Greece to Philip. If we had abandoned without a struggle all which our forefathers braved every danger to win, who would not have spurned you, Æschines? How could we have looked in the face the strangers who flock to our city, if things had reached their present pass,—Philip the chosen leader and lord of all,—while others without our assistance had borne the struggle to avert this consummation? We! who have never in times past preferred inglorious safety to peril in the path of honor. Is there a Greek or a barbarian who does not know that Thebes at the height of her power, and Sparta before her—ay, and even the King of Persia himself—would have been only glad to compromise with us, and that we might have had what we chose, and possessed our own in peace, had we been willing to obey orders and to suffer another to put himself at the head of Greece? But it was not possible,—it was not a thing which the Athenians of those days could do. It was against their nature, their genius, and their traditions; and no human persuasion could induce them to side with a wrong-doer because he was powerful, and to embrace subjection because it was safe. No; to the last our country has fought and jeopardized herself for honor and glory and pre-eminence. A noble choice, in harmony with your national character, as you testify by your respect for the memories of your ancestors who have so acted. And you are in the right; for who can withhold admiration from the heroism of the men who shrank not from leaving their city and their fatherland, and embarking in their war-ships, rather than submit to foreign dictation? Why, Themistocles, who counseled this step, was elected general; and the man who counseled submission was stoned to death—and not he only, for his wife was stoned by your wives, as he was by you. The Athenians of those days went not in quest of an orator or a general who could help them to prosperous slavery; but they scorned life itself, if it were not the life of freedom. Each of them regarded himself as the child not only of his father and of his mother, but of his country; and what is the difference? He who looks on himself as merely the child of his parents, awaits death in the ordinary course of nature; while he who looks on himself as the child also of his country, will be ready to lay down his life rather than see her enslaved….  2
  Do I take credit to myself for having inspired you with sentiments worthy of your ancestors? Such presumption would expose me to the just rebuke of every man who hears me. What I maintain is, that these very sentiments are your own; that the spirit of Athens was the same before my time,—though I do claim to have had a share in the application of these principles to each successive crisis. Æschines, therefore, when he impeaches our whole policy, and seeks to exasperate you against me as the author of all your alarms and perils, in his anxiety to deprive me of present credit is really laboring to rob you of your everlasting renown. If by your vote against Ctesiphon you condemn my policy, you will pronounce yourselves to have been in the wrong, instead of having suffered what has befallen you through the cruel injustice of fortune. But it cannot be; you have not been in the wrong, men of Athens, in doing battle for the freedom and salvation of all: I swear it by your forefathers, who bore the battle’s brunt at Marathon; by those who stood in arms at Platæa; by those who fought the sea fight at Salamis; by the heroes of Artemisium, and many more whose resting-place in our national monuments attests that, that as our country buried, so she honored, all alike—victors and vanquished. She was right; for what brave men could do, all did, though a higher power was master of their fate.  3
 
 
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