– Party Spirit –
First published The Atlas, 25 April 1830, the version given here. Hazlitt’s fascination with political and religious difference was a life-long preoccupation; in this essay he traces factionalism to the incorrigible love of tribal affiliation he had often noted among the English (in ‘Character of John Bull’, for instance).
April 25, 1830
P arty spirit is one of the profoundnesses of Satan, or in more modern language, one of the dexterous equivoques and contrivances of our self-love, to prove that we, and those who agree with us, combine all that is excellent and praiseworthy in our own persons (as in a ring-fence) and that all the vices and deformity of human nature take refuge with those who differ from us. It is extending and fortifying the principle of the amour-propre, by calling to its aid the esprit de corps and screening and surrounding our favourite propensities and obstinate caprices in the hollow squares or dense phalanxes of sects and parties. This is a happy mode of pampering our self-complacency, and persuading ourselves that we and those that side with us, are ‘the salt of the earth’; of giving vent to the morbid