Cautionary Thoughts on Rebellion, Circa 1665

A few thoughts on the character of a rebel found in a new addition to the YIMCatholic Bookshelf. I found this in the first few pages of a compilation of quotations published in 1827 by John Timbs. Entitled, Laconics: or, The Best Words from the Best Authors, the following thoughts are those of one Samuel Butler.

Butler (1612-1680) was an author, poet, and satirist in his day. He is best known for the poem “Hudibras,” which was directed at lampooning the Puritans. What follows though are from his character sketches that were published long after his death in the year 1759. Compiled in a volume entitled The Genuine Remains in Verse and Prose of Mr Samuel Butler, behold “The Rebel”.

The Rebel

A rebel is a voluntary bandit, a civil renegado, that renounces his obedience to his prince, to raise himself upon the public ruin. He is of great antiquity, perhaps before the creation, at least a Preadamite; for Lucifer was the first of his family, and from him he derives himself in an indirect line. He finds fault with the government, that he may get it the easier into his own hands, as men use to undervalue what they have a desire to purchase.

He is a butcher of politics, and a state-tinker, that makes flaws in the government only to mend them again. He goes for a public-spirited man, and his pretences are for the public good; that is, for the good of his own public spirit. He pretends to be a great lover of his country, as if it had given him love-powder; but it is merely out of natural affection to himself. He has a great itch to be handling of authority, though he cut his fingers with it; and is resolved to raise himself, though it be but upon the gallows.

He is all for peace and truth, but not without lying and fighting. He plays a game with the hangman for the clothes on his back; and when he throws out, he strips him to the skin. He dies in hempen sheets, and his body is hanged, like his ancestor Mahomet’s, in the air. He might have lived longer, if the destinies had not spun his thread of life too strong.

He is sure never to come to an untimely end, for by the course of law his glass was out long before. He calls rebellion and treason laying out of himself for the public; but being found to be fake unlawful coin, he was seized upon, and cut in pieces, and hanged for falsifying himself.

His espousing of quarrels proves as fatal to his country, as the Parisian wedding did to France. He is like a bell, that was made on purpose to be hanged. He is a diseased part of the body politic, to which all the bad humours gather.

He picks straws out of the government like a madman, and startles at them when he has done. He endeavors to raise himself, like a boy’s kite, by being pulled against the wind. After all his endeavors and designs he is at length promoted to the gallows, which is performed with a cavalcade suitable to his dignity; and after much ceremony he is installed by the hangman, with the general applause of all men, and dies singing like a swan.

There’s a little bit of this guy in all of us. For more sketches of Butler’s, head on over to the YIMCatholic Bookshelf. If you are like me you’ll agree that the more things change, the more they stay the same.


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