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the Apotheosis of John Howard
from the Apocrypha of Tacitus

...and, it was at about this time that, following upon the demise of Sir Phillip Lynch, one John Howard succeeded to the Treasury. As yet little known to the populace, he united in his person both the detriments of a mean origin, and an ill countenance only exceeded by the malignity of his disposition.

Needy, obscure, and restless, he spurned the faction of his forbears and, in hubris, clutched at the party of oligarchy, deriving great benefit from early servility until his pride swelled beyond measure. Upon loss of power and, with growing ambition seemingly watered by the tears of his departing leader, Howard contended with one Andrew Peacock for leadership of the forces of opposition, despite the contempt of the populace for his rapacious conduct and notorious failures of policy.

Formed by nature and trained by habit to hide his hatred under delusive flattery, Howard apparently returned to early servility, following his failure to secure leadership but, his overweening pride nourished in secret a personal following even more corrupt in habit than himself. Playing upon the very essence of oligarchy, which sees long-continued license for wrong as if it were right and justice, he suborned the arrogant youth of his faction into abandoning the obligations of natural wealth for blind rapacity, and a heedlessness for the good of the state which at times even exceeded his own.

As one who screened himself while attacking others, he then swayed his faction to undermine the leadership, whilst cloaking his lust for supremacy in the affectation of humility. Cringing and imperious, Howard was widely distrusted amongst the virtuous in opposition, whose every rebuff he stored away. For he would twist a word or a look into a crime, and treasure it up in his memory.

Preparing himself for fresh iniquities as the term of government drew to a close, Howard divided the opposition, turning its strengths to feud and bitterness, sacrificing all chance of success in his inordinate quest for personal power. And, as in all campaigns, it was the force under divided leadership which was driven ignominiously from the field. Without pause, he then turned upon the leader his cunning and hypocricy had betrayed, and vilely built his own success upon the other’s failure. The leadership of opposition was his.

Meanwhile, it is necessary to first detail the conduct of government in this period. Whilst proclaiming their loyalty to the commons, the party of labour heeded the hypocritical importunities of usury and market power, fatally weakening the restraints upon such evils, then basking in their chorus of loathsome flattery. Even good faith could not be upheld in its integrity, and men looked only to the greatness of their gains. It is in times such as these that men such as Howard, deaf to all claims of virtue, and heeding merely propriety and self-interest, gain the repute of an honesty they know not, for veiling their lusts and working in secret, like the worms that gnaw at the roots of trees.

Emboldened by the acts of those claiming to represent labour, Howard then gave licence to those of his faction who had cast aside all care for justice and, under the banner of free debate, undermined all disinterested claims of the liberal tradition. Resentful by nature and hating all good, yet not fearing discovery amidst the politics of greed, he plotted anew the destruction of those illustrious men who had scorned him, casting their virtue in the language of insult and despite.

With honour at such a low ebb in the actions of political men, all were united in praise for the idols of new wealth, who strove to surpass each other in vulgarity of display and constant business, building empires of paper upon the corpses of genuine endeavour. But, formed for malice rather than mateship, Howard remained shunned by these new gods, and he failed to reap full benefit in an age when mere show counted above the rewards of further greed. For, although deriving nothing from their slavish associations but what was low and degrading, the party of labour yet retained the name of power, although all true rule had passed to those who had grasped at wealth.

In defeat, many empowered by Howard’s schemes turned upon him, in emulation of his own treachery, to raise his old rival anew. But, the power they extended was a mockery, designed merely to mask the unchanging viciousness of their plans, and they continued to drive the virtuous out, seeking only those most debased by greed and hatred to join their counsels. Now consumed by his lust for supremacy. Howard joined with this purge, striving to rebuild anew his dominance. Torn by expulsions, and eaten from within by secret rivalry, the party of opposition endured its fourth defeat with little grace, striking down for a second time the Peacock. But, dwelling upon failure with more resentment than fortitude, they had no stomach for the past, and no time for  John Howard.

Casting aside he who had led all in iniquity, they searched out one John Hewson, who had profited much from greed, and confounded vilest slavery with freedom, yet expounded this paradoxical creed with the composure of true belief. So, whilst the party of labour shamelessly indulged in the vices of long rule, with egotism and excess weaning hubris on its own flesh in the struggle for domination, opposition nurtured a plan born of previous policy, but which in scope beggared all the previous infamies of this degenerate age.

There occurred too a thick series of portents, which signified nothing. In the north, a woman gave birth to a snake which, speaking, arose from the dead. And the sun was suddenly darkened over a city then suffering from its laws, as it had hitherto suffered from its vices. The opposition took heart from these signs, though none could clearly interpret their true import, and each strove to surpass all others in expounding the rigour and purity of their creed.

In this struggle, Howard distinguished himself, though the severity of the measures he proposed, it was suspected, were more to glut one man’s cruelty than destroy an iniquitous growth. These suspicions greatly contributed to the fifth loss which the public, wearied of labour’s rule, yet inflicted upon the party of opposition.

A period of turmoil then ensued within the faction, as leadership faltered, and a strange woman roamed the land, turning to her glory every incident, however trivial. Unmasked, she fell swiftly, yet not so swift as to fail to carry the enfeebled leader with her. Howard, meantimes, was almost ready, his schemes nurtured in secrecy whilst hypocritically proclaiming his innocence. But, unsated with newness, Alexander Downer and Peter Costello were chosen, seemingly that these two might have double the chance for failure.

Perpetually under the lash of popular talk, the new died virtually stillborn, yet were sustained by Howard’s treachery, which would not allow such a fall until his plans were fully ripe. Seemingly called reluctantly, he hid his febrile lust for domination under a mask grown more seamless as his infamy aged, so that the conspirator was now hailed as peacemaker, whilst few outside his inner circle suspected the truth.

Remarkably, to all but those who were aware of the depth of his perfidy, the party of opposition now were united under Howard, other contenders both divided and inexpert at secret planning. Applying the same methods as had served him well within the party, he then sought to bring all events under unfavourable regard, prepared to sacrifice any good to satisfy the lust of domination, which inflamed his heart beyond all other passions.

Seeming to have left his cruelty behind him, Howard then played the slave to make himself the master. Nothing was to be done under his rule that had not already received sanction, and new devices in wickedness were veiled under ancient names, that none should forsee their advent. Relieved of all fears of change, the populace then took their long-delayed revenge upon the government of labour, looking more to punishment than reward in their choice of Howard’s rule.

But...all composure was short-lived, as there was more grand sentiment than faith in Howard’s claims to conserve. Inimical to all measures he did not originate, he persisted in private animosities to the public ruin, yet cloaking all under the figures of a sybil whose advice, though heeded by all, had yet to bring other than hardship and despair, save to those sunken in venality.

His foul and infamous character forgotten by most, Howard found the usual substitute in awaiting the folly of others, charging his subordinates with the prosecution of his malice, and basking in a chorus of vile flatteries as his slavish following burned, despoiled, and plundered, as amongst enemies, whilst his duplicity, honed in opposition, rose to new heights in government, where his hatreds were well-concealed by pleas of necessity.

Whilst it is not so easy to determine what is best to be done, under Howard it was sure that what was done would be the very worst which could be shielded under benign prospect. For, what others call crimes he calls reforms and, by similar misnomers, he speaks of strictness instead of barbarity, and of economy instead of avarice, whilst the cruelties and affronts he inflicts upon you he calls discipline. To such a man, ill-omened, and delighting in the debasement of others, we have repeatedly entrusted the rule of our commonwealth. Disgrace we have exhausted in such a selection: only virtue remains unplumbed in the policy of today. That such a one should gain luster from the perfidy of others speaks to a failure of memory, and a depth of treachery, that are only now beginning to be revealed...

John Henry Calvinist