Cato's Letters


John Trenchard (1662-1723)


Thomas Gordon (169?-1750)

These articles, written under the name "Cato," were the work of John Trenchard and Thomas Gordon, a pair of uppity English Whigs who, writing in the immediate aftermath of one of histories' great corporate scandals, produced what is, without question, some of the best liberal writing ever published in a popular format. In the course of 144 articles, published over a three-year period in the London Journal and British Journal, few subjects are left unbroached. Some of those subjects, of course, relate to then-contemporary matters, and are of little interest to modern readers, but others present remarkable parallels with contemporary politics. The letters are very well argued, the writing straightforward, concise, and quite hard-hitting; delightful and inspiring reading that became one of the major sources of American revolutionary thought. "No one," notes historian Clinton Rossiter, "can spend any time in the newspapers, library inventories, and pamphlets of colonial America without realizing that Cato's Letters rather than Locke's Civil Government was the most popular, quotable, esteemed source of political ideas in the colonial period."

 No. 1
Reasons to prove that we are in no Danger of losing Gibraltar

 No. 2
The fatal Effects of the South-Sea Scheme, and the Necessity of punishing the Directors

 No. 3
The pestilent Conduct of the South-Sea Directors, with the reasonable Prospect of publick Justice

 No. 4
Against false Methods of restoring Publick Credit

 No. 5
A further Call for Vengeance upon the South-Sea Plunderers; with a Caution against false Patriots

 No. 6
How easily the People are bubbled by Deceivers. Further Caution against deceitful Remedies for the publick Sufferings from the wicked Execution of the South-Sea Scheme

 No. 7
Further Cautions about new Schemes for publick Redress

 No. 8
 The Arts of able guilty Ministers to save themselves. The wise and popular Conduct of Queen Elizabeth towards publick Harpies; with the Application

 No. 9
Against the projected Union of the Three Great Companies; and against remitting to the South-Sea Company any Part of their Debt to the Publick

 No. 10
The Iniquity of late and new Projects about the South-Sea considered. How fatally they affect the Publick

 No. 11
The Justice and Necessity of punishing great Crimes, though committed against no subsisting Law of the State

 No. 12
Of Treason: All Treasons not to be found in Statutes. The Right of the Legislature to declare Treasons

 No. 13
The Arts of misleading the People by Sounds

 No. 14
The unhappy State of despotick Princes, compared with the happy Lot of such as rule by settled Laws. How the latter, by abusing their Trust, may forfeit their Crown

 No. 15
Of Freedom of Speech: That the same is inseparable from publick Liberty

 No. 16
The Leaders of Parties, their usual Views. Advice to all Parties to be no longer misled

 No. 17
What Measures are actually taken by wicked and desperate Ministers to ruin and enslave their Country

 No. 18
The terrible Tendency of publick Corruption to ruin a State, exemplified in that of Rome, and applied to our own

 No. 19
The Force of popular Affection and Antipathy to particular Men. How powerfully it operates, and how far to be regarded

 No. 20
Of publick Justice, how necessary to the Security and Well-being of a State, and how destructive the Neglect of it to the British Nation. Signal Instances of it

 No. 21
A Letter from John Ketch, Esq. asserting his Right to the Necks of the overgrown Brokers.

 No. 22
The Judgment of the People generally sound, where not misled. With the Importance and Probability of bringing over Mr. Knight.

 No. 23
A memorable Letter from Brutus to Cicero, with an explanatory Introduction.

 No. 24
Of the natural Honesty of the People, and their reasonable Demands. How important it is to every Government to consult their Affections and Interest.

 No. 25
Considerations on the destructive Spirit of arbitrary Power. With the Blessings of Liberty, and our own Constitution.

 No. 26
The sad Effects of general Corruption, quoted from Algernon Sidney, Esq.

 No. 27
General Corruption, how ominous to the Publick, and how discouraging to every virtuous Man. With its fatal Progress whenever encouraged.

 No. 28
A Defence of Cato against his Defamers.

 No. 29
Reflections occasioned by an Order of Council for suppressing certain impious Clubs that were never discovered.

 No. 30
An excellent Letter from Brutus to Atticus; with an explanatory Introduction.

 No. 31
Considerations on the Weakness and Inconsistencies of human Nature.

 No. 32
Reflections upon Libelling.

 No. 33
Cautions against the Encroachments of Power.

 No. 34
Of Flattery.

 No. 35
Of publick Spirit.

 No. 36
Of Loyalty.

 No. 37
Character of a good and of an evil Magistrate, quoted from Algernon Sidney, Esq.

 No. 38
The Right and Capacity of the People to judge of Government.

 No. 39
Of the Passions; that they are all alike good or all alike evil, according as they are applied.

 No. 40
NO. 40. Considerations on the restless and selfish Spirit of Man.

 No. 41
The Emperor Galba's Speech to Piso, with an Introduction.

 No. 42
Considerations on the Nature of Laws.

 No. 43
The natural Passion of Men for Superiority.

 No. 44
Men not ruled by Principle, but by Passion.

 No. 45
Of the Equality and Inequality of Men.

 No. 46
Of the false Guises which Men put on, and their ill Effect.

 No. 47
Of the Frailty and Uncertainty of human Judgment.

 No. 48
The general unhappy State of the World, from the Baseness and Iniquity of its Governors in most Countries.

 No. 49
Of the Power of Prejudice.

 No. 50
An Idea of the Turkish Government, taken from Sir Paul Ricaut.

 No. 51
Popularity no Proof of Merit.

 No. 52
Of Divine Judgments; the Wickedness and Absurdity of applying them to Men and Events.

 No. 53
Dr. Prideaux's Reasoning about the Death of Cambyses, examined; whether the same was a Judgment for his killing the Egyptian God Apis.

 No. 54
The Reasoning of Dr. Prideaux about the Fate of Brennus the Gaul, and of his Followers, examined; whether the same was a Judgment for an Intention to plunder the Temple of Delphos.

 No. 55
The Lawfulness of killing Julius Caesar considered, and defended, against Dr. Prideaux.

 No. 56
A Vindication of Brutus, for having killed Caesar.

 No. 57
Of false Honour, publick and private.

 No. 58
Letter from a Lady, with an Answer, about Love, Marriage, and Settlements.

 No. 59
Liberty proved to be the unalienable Right of all Mankind.

 No. 60
All Government proved to be instituted by Men, and only to intend the general Good of Men.

 No. 61
How free Governments are to be framed so as to last, and how they differ from such as are arbitrary.

 No. 62
An Enquiry into the Nature and Extent of Liberty; with its Loveliness and Advantages, and the vile Effects of Slavery.

 No. 63
Civil Liberty produces all Civil Blessings, and how; with the baneful Nature of Tyranny.

 No. 64
NO. 64. Trade and Naval Power the Offspring of Civil Liberty, and cannot subsist without it.

 No. 65
Military Virtue produced and supported by Civil Liberty only.

 No. 66
Arbitrary Government proved incompatible with true Religion, whether Natural or Revealed..

 No. 67
Arts and Sciences the Effects of Civil Liberty only, and ever destroyed or oppressed by Tyranny.

 No. 68
Property and Commerce secure in a free Government only; with the consuming Miseries under simple Monarchies.

 No. 69
Address to the Freeholders, &c. about the Choice of their Representatives.

 No. 70
Second Address to the Freeholders, &c. upon the same Subject.

 No. 71
Polite Arts and Learning naturally produced in free States, and marred by such as are not free.

 No. 72
In absolute Monarchies the Monarch seldom rules, but his Creatures instead of him. That Sort of Government a Gradation of Tyrants.

 No. 73
A Display of Tyranny, its destructive Nature, and Tendency to dispeople the Earth.

 No. 74
The Vanity of Conquerors, and the Calamities attending Conquests.

 No. 75
Of the Restraints which ought to be laid upon publick Rulers.

 No. 76
The same Subject continued.

 No. 77
Of superstitious Fears, and their Causes natural and accidental.

 No. 78
The common Notion of Spirits, their Power and Feats, exposed.

 No. 79
A further Detection of the vulgar Absurdities about Ghosts and Witches.

 No. 80
That the two great Parties in England do not differ so much as they think in Principles of Politicks.

 No. 81
The Established Church of England in no Danger from Dissenters.

 No. 82
The Folly and Characters of such as would overthrow the present Establishment.

 No. 83
The vain Hopes of the Pretender and his Party.

 No. 84
Property the first Principle of Power. The Errors of our Princes who attended not to this.

 No. 85
Britain incapable of any Government but a limited Monarchy; with the Defects of a neighbouring Republick.

 No. 86
The terrible Consequences of a War to England, and Reasons against engaging in one.

 No. 87
Gold and Silver in a Country to be considered only as Commodities.

 No. 88
The Reasonableness and Advantage of allowing the Exportation of Silver and Gold, with the Impossibility of preventing the same.

 No. 89
Every Man's true Interest found in the general Interest. How little this is considered.

 No. 90
Monopolies and exclusive Companies, how pernicious to Trade.

 No. 91
How exclusive Companies influence and hurt our Government.

 No. 92
Against the Petition of the South-Sea Company, for a Remittance of Two Millions of their Debt to the Publick.

 No. 93
An Essay upon Heroes.

 No. 94
Against standing Armies.

 No. 95
Further Reasonings against standing Armies.

 No. 96
Of Parties in England; how they vary, and interchange Characters, just as they are in Power, or out of it, yet still keep their former Names.

 No. 97
How much it is the Interest of Governors to use the Governed well; with an Enquiry into the Causes of Disaffection in England.

 No. 98
Address to the Members of the House of Commons.

 No. 99
The important Duty of Attendance in Parliament, recommended to the Members.

 No. 100
Discourse upon Libels.

 No. 101
Second Discourse upon Libels.

 No. 102
The Contemptibleness of Grandeur without Virtue.

 No. 103
Of Eloquence, considered politically.

 No. 104
Of Eloquence, considered philosophically.

 No. 105
Of the Weakness of the human Mind; how easily it is misled.

 No. 106
Of Plantations and Colonies.

 No. 107
Of publick Credit and Stocks.

 No. 108
Inquiry into the Source of moral Virtues.

 No. 109
Inquiry into the Origin of Good and Evil.

 No. 110
Of Liberty and Necessity.

 No. 111
The same Subject continued.

 No. 112
Fondness for Posterity nothing else but Self-love. Such as are Friends to publick Liberty, are the only true Lovers of Posterity.

 No. 113
Letter to Cato, concerning his many Adversaries and Answerers.

 No. 114
The necessary Decay of Popish States strewn from the Nature of the Popish Religion.

 No. 115
The encroaching Nature of Power, ever to be watched and checked.

 No. 116
That whatever moves and acts, does so mechanically and necessarily.

 No. 117
Of the Abuse of Words, applied more particularly to the covetous Man and the Bigot.

 No. 118
Free States vindicated from the common Imputation of Ingratitude.

 No. 119
The same Subject continued.

 No. 120
Of the proper Use of Words.

 No. 121
Of good Breeding.

 No. 122
Inquiry concerning the Operations of the Mind of Man, and those of other Animals.

 No. 123
Inquiry concerning Madness, especially religious Madness, called Enthusiasm.

 No. 124
Further Reasonings upon Enthusiasm.

 No. 125
The Spirit of the Conspirators, Accomplices with Dr. Atterbury, in 1723, considered and exposed.

 No. 126
Address to those of the Clergy who are fond of the Pretender and his Cause.

 No. 127
The same Address continued.

 No. 128
Address to such of the Laity as are Followers of the disaffected Clergy, and of their Accomplices.

 No. 129
The same Address continued.

 No. 130
The same Address continued.

 No. 131
Of Reverence true or false.

 No. 132
Inquiry into the Doctrine of Hereditary Right.

 No. 133
Of Charity and Charity-Schools.

 No. 134
What small and foolish Causes often misguide and animate the Multitude.

 No. 135
Inquiry into the indelible Character claimed by some of the Clergy.

 No. 136
The Popish Hierarchy deduced in a great Measure from that of the Pagans.

 No. 137
Of the different and absurd Notions which Men entertain of God.

 No. 138
Cato's Farewell.


"After Mr. Trenchard and I had agreed to conclude 'Cato’s Letters,' we likewise agreed to publish occasional papers upon such subjects of moment as occurred to us. But as he was not long after seized with the distemper that soon bereft the publick of his valuable life, the pursuit of that design was left altogether to me; and I continued to publish from time to time several papers upon religious subjects, and a few upon political subjects. The latter, six in number, are therefore subjoined to this edition of 'Cato’s Letters,' as naturally belonging to that collection..."

--Thomas Gordon

 No. 1
That ambitious Princes rule and conquer only for their own Sakes; illustrated in a Dialogue between Alexander the Great and a Persian.

 No. 2
Considerations upon the Conditions of an absolute Prince.

 No. 3
The same Subject continued.

 No. 4
The same Subject continued.

 No. 5
Considerations upon the Conditions of Prime Ministers of State.

 No. 6
The same Subject continued.

 Classical Liberals