Such, O men of Athens! were your ancestors; so glorious in the eye of the world; so bountiful and munificent to their country; so sparing, so modest, so self-denying to themselves. What resemblance can we find in the present generation, of these great men? At a time, when your ancient competitors have left you a clear stage; when the Lacedemonians are disabled; the Thebans employed in troubles of their own; when no other state whatever is in a condition to rival or molest you: in short, when you are at full liberty; when you have the opportunity and the power to become once more the sole arbiters of Greece; you permit, patiently, whole provinces to be arrested from you; you lavish the public money to scandalous and obscure uses; you suffer your allies to perish in time of peace, whom you preserved in time of war; and, to sum up all, you yourselves, by your mercenary court, and servile resignation to the will and pleasure of designing, insidious leaders, abet, encourage, and strengthen the most dangerous and formidable of your enemies. Yes, Athenians, I repeat it, you yourselves are the contrivers of your own ruin. Lives there a man who has confidence enough to deny it? let him arise, and assign, if he can, any other cause of the success and prosperity of Philip. “But,” you reply, “what Athens may have lost in reputation abroad, she has gained in splendor at home. Was there ever a greater appearance of prosperity! a greater face of plenty? Is not the city enlarged? Are not the streets better paved? houses repaired and beautified?”—Away with such trifles! Shall I be paid with counters? An old square new vamped up! a fountain! an aqueduct! Are these acquisitions to brag of? Cast your eye upon the magistrate, under whose ministry you boast these precious improvements. Behold the despicable creature, raised, all at once, from dirt to opulence; from the lowest obscurity to the highest honours. Have not some of these upstarts built private houses and seats, vying with the most sumptuous of our public palaces? And how have their fortunes and their power increased, but as the commonwealth has been ruined and impoverished!
To what are we to impute these disorders? and to what cause assign the decay of a state, so powerful and flourishing in past time?—The reason is plain. The servant is now become the master. The magistrate was then subservient to the people: punishments and rewards were properties of the people: all honours, dignities, and preferments were disposed by the voice and favour of the people. But the magistrate, now, has usurped the right of the people, and exercises an arbitrary authority over his ancient and natural lord. You miserable people! the mean while, without money, without friends; from being the ruler, are become the servant; from being the master, the dependant: happy that these governors, into whose hands you have thus resigned your own power, are so good, and so gracious, as to continue your poor allowance to see plays.