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The Hawk and the Farmer


A Hawk, pursuing a Pigeon over a corn-field with great eagerness and force, threw himself into a net which a husbandman had planted there to take the Crows; who being employed not far off, and seeing the Hawk fluttering in the net, came and took him: but, just as he was going to kill him, the Hawk besought him to let him go, assuring him that he was only following a Pigeon, and neither intended nor had done any harm to him. To whom the Farmer replied—'And what harm had the poor Pigeon done to you?' Upon which he wrung his head off immediately.


Passion, prejudice, or power, may so far blind a man as not to suffer him justly to distinguish whether he is not acting injuriously at the same time that he fancies he is only doing his duty. Now the best way of being convinced, whether what we do is reasonable and fit, is to put ourselves in the place of the persons with whom we are concerned, and then consult our conscience about the rectitude of our behaviour. For this we may be assured of, that we are acting wrong whenever we are doing any thing to another which we should think unjust if it was done to us. Nothing but an habitual inadvertency, as to this particular, can be the occasion that so many ingenious noble spirits are often engaged in courses so opposite to virtue and honour. He that would startle, if a little attorney should tamper with him to forswear himself, to bring off some small offender, some ordinary trespasser, will, without scruple, infringe the constitution of his country for the precarious prospect of a place or a pension. Which is most corrupt, he that lies, like a knight of the post, for half-a-crown and a dinner, or he that does it for the more substantial consideration of a thousand pounds a year? Which would be doing most service to the public, giving true testimony in a cause between two private men, and against one little common thief who has stolen a gold watch; or voting honestly and courageously against a rogue of state, who has gagged and bound the laws, and stripped the nation? Let those who intend to act justly, but view things in this light, and all would be well. There would be no danger of their oppressing others, or fear of being oppressed themselves.