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POLITICAL , CHANGES.                              601
and religious sensibilities of the next century were principal
causes in this change.
5.  Political degeneracy, if permanent, may be a cause of
Political hppdess- national decline.    And it can easily happen that
ness§ • a nation, after vain attempts to right itself by
revolutions, will give over hope for the future and be content
to sleep on the cold breast of power, rather than toss and turn
any longer. Thus, what can be more cheerless than the his-
tory of the Roman empire ; and what a difference there was
between the political activity during the growth of the con-
stitution, and the quiet despair of the mass of the people from
Augustus onward. But this political ruin was an effect of a
moral ruin, not a first cause ; and a nation that has lost its
character must decay politically until some new condition of
the world quickens it again into life. The vices and self-in-
dulgences produced by conquest contributed their part to
this decay, and the conquest of the world reacted on the pol-
ity and character of Rome itself; but if the character of the
people could have kept its early integrity and some of its
hardness, the changes would have been far less.
6.  We come last to the decay of faith, and decay of morals
Decay of fahh and going with it, as sure signs of national decay in all
morals'              respects, in political life, social institutions, and
all that gives pre-eminence and vigor to a nation's life. What
we call the decay of civilization is indicated by many symp-
toms. Among these are the false art and taste which we
have spoken of; the tendency to self-indulgence and the ab-
sence of the sterner self-asserting virtues ; the loss of interest
in political life as well as of political virtue ; the selfish reluc-
tance of individuals to exert themselves for the public good ;
the cosmopolitan feeling that owns no bonds of country ; the
disposition to sneer at heroic virtues and to doubt the worth
of things valued in older times—all of which involve a disso-
lution of the tie that binds a man to his country. Of course
this state of character makes political life corrupt, and weak-
ens the stability of a government. But below this lies a
profligate condition of morals, marked especially by falsehood