Nay, it is greatly overrated; and it is our selfishness which overrates it.
How far the extraordinary corruption of private morals which has gained for the restoration period so unenviable a notoriety was owing to the king's own example of flagrant debauchery, how far to the natural reaction from an artificial Puritanism, is uncertain, but it is incontestable that Charles's cynical selfishness was the chief cause of the degradation of public life which marks his reign, and of the disgraceful and unscrupulous betrayal of the national interests which raised France to a threatening predominance and imperilled the very existence of Britain for generations.
Yet it may be doubted whether any such division can be safely assumed; and it may suffice to repeat that no domestic tragedy has ever taught with more effective simplicity and thrilling truthfulness the homely double lesson of the folly of selfishness and the mad rashness of crime.
Their mutual jealousies, combined with the prestige of the empire, and possibly with the selfishness of the pope, who had secured his own position, and was not likely to foster a national spirit that would have threatened the ecclesiastical supremacy, deprived the Italians of the only great opportunity they ever had of forming themselves into a powerful nation.
The gross selfishness of the Spartans, herein exemplified, was emphasized by their capture of the Theban citadel, and, after their expulsion, by the raid upon Attica in time of peace by the Spartan Sphodrias, and his immunity from punishment at Sparta (summer of 378 B.C.).
He understood that political materialism, selfishness and corruption in federal administration afford the strongest possible argument for those who advocate strengthening the independent power of the separate states at the expense of nationalism.
It is perhaps easy to understand how, in the crisis of 1640, when the ethico-political system of Hobbes first took written shape, a peace-loving philosopher should regard the claims of individual conscience as essentially anarchical, and dangerous to social well-being; but however strong might be men's yearning for order, a view of social duty, in which the only fixed positions were selfishness everywhere and unlimited power somewhere, could not but appear offensively paradoxical.
But he is best vindicated from the charges of selfishness and cowardice by the thoughts and meditations contained in his private diaries and papers, where the purity and honour of his motives are clearly seen.
But Miranda's desire - that all the South American colonies should form a federal republic - awoke the selfishness of provincial administrations, and the cause was believed to be hateful to heaven owing to a great earthquake on the 26th of March 1812.
It is not easy to see how Washington survived the year 1775; the colonial poverty, the exasperating annoyances, the outspoken criticism of those who demanded active operations, the personal and party dissensions in Congress, the selfishness or stupidity which cropped out again and again among some of the most patriotic of his coadjutors were enough to have broken down most men.