William Godwin, An Enquiry Concerning Political Justice (1793)

William Godwin (1756-1836)  
[Created: 10 Jan. 2021]
[Updated: April 30, 2023 ]
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William Godwin, An Enquiry Concerning Political Justice, and its Influence on General Virtue and Happiness (London: G.G.J. and J. Robinson, 1793). 2 vols.http://davidmhart.com/liberty/EnglishClassicalLiberals/Godwin/1793-PoliticalJustice/index.html

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This book is part of a collection of works by William Godwin (1756-1836).



Table of Contents





  • CHAP. I. INTRODUCTION. The subject proposed.—System of indifference—of passive obedience—of liberty.—System of liberty extended. Page 1
  • CHAP. II. HISTORY OF POLITICAL SOCIETY. Frequency of war—among the ancients—among the moderns—the French—the English.—Causes of war.—Penal laws.—Despotism.—Deduction.—Enumeration of arguments. Page 5
  • CHAP. III. THE MORAL CHARACTERS OF MEN ORIGINATE IN THEIR PERCEPTIONS. No innate principles.—Objections to this assertion—from the early actions of infants—from the desire of self-preservation—from self-love—from pity—from the vices of children—tyranny—sullenness.—Conclusion. Page 13
    • I. LITERATURE. Benefits of literature.—Examples.—Essential properties of literature.—Its defects.
    • II. EDUCATION. Benefits of education.—Causes of its imbecility.
    • III. POLITICAL JUSTICE. Benefits of political institution.—Universality of its influence—proved by the mistakes of society.—Origin of evil. Page 19
  • CHAP. V. INFLUENCE OF POLITICAL INSTITUTIONS EXEMPLIFIED. Robbery and fraud, two great vices in society—originate, 1. in extreme poverty—2. in the ostentation of the rich—3. in their tyranny—rendered permanent—1. by legislation—2. by the administration of law—3. by the inequality of conditions. Page 33
  • CHAP. VI. HUMAN INVENTIONS CAPABLE OF PERPETUAL IMPROVEMENT. Perfectibility of man—instanced, first, in language.—Its beginnings.—Abstraction.—Complexity of language.—Second instance: alphabetical writing.—Hieroglyphics at first universal.—Progressive deviations.—Application. Page 43
    • PART I. OF MORAL AND PHYSICAL CAUSES. The question stated.—Provinces of sensation and reflection.—Moral causes frequently mistaken for physical.—Superiority of the former evident from the varieties of human character.—Operation of physical causes rare.—Fertility of reflection.—Physical causes in the first instance superior, afterwards moral.—Objection from the effect of breed in animals.—Conclusion. Page 51
    • PART II. OF NATIONAL CHARACTERS. Character of the priesthood.—All nations capable of liberty.—The assertion illustrated.—Experience favours these reasonings.—Means of introducing liberty. Page 60
  • CHAP. VIII. OF THE OBJECTION TO THESE PRINCIPLES FROM THE INFLUENCE OF LUXURY. The objection stated.—Source of this objection.—Refuted from mutability—from mortality—from the nature of truth.—The probability of perseverance considered. Page 71


  • CHAP. I. INTRODUCTION. Nature of the enquiry.—Mode of pursuing it.—Distinction between society and government. Page 77
  • CHAP. II. OF JUSTICE. Connection of politics and morals.—Extent and meaning of justice.—Subject of justice: mankind.—Its distribution measured by the capacity of its subject—by his usefulness.—Family affection considered.—Gratitude considered.—Objections: from ignorance—from utility.—An exception stated.—Degrees of justice.—Application.—Idea of political justice. Page 80
    • APPENDIX, No. I. of suicide. Motives of suicide: 1. escape from pain—2. benevolence.—Martyrdom considered. Page 92
    • APPENDIX, No. II. of duelling. Motives of duelling: 1. revenge—2. reputation for courage.—Fallacy of this motive.—Objection answered.—Illustration. Page 94
  • CHAP. III. OF DUTY. A difficulty stated.—Of absolute and practical virtue.—Impropriety of this distinction.—Universality of what is called practical virtue—instanced in robbery—in religious fanaticism.—The quality of an action distinct from the disposition with which it is performed.—Farther difficulty.—Meaning of the term, duty.—Application.—Inferences. Page 97
  • CHAP. IV. OF THE EQUALITY OF MANKIND. Physical equality.—Objection.—Answers.—Moral equality.—How limited.—Province of political justice. Page 104
  • CHAP. V. RIGHTS OF MAN. The question stated.—Foundation of society.—Opposite rights impossible.—Conclusion from these premises.—Discretion considered.—Rights of kings.—Immoral consequences of the doctrine of rights.—Rights of communities.—Objections: 1. the right of mutual aid.—Explanation.—Origin of the term, right.—2. rights of private judgment and of the press.—Explanation.—Reasons of this limitation upon the functions of the community: 1. the inutility of attempting restraint—2. its pernicious tendency.—Conclusion. Page 109
  • CHAP. VI. OF THE EXERCISE OF PRIVATE JUDGMENT. Foundation of virtue.—Human actions regulated: 1. by the nature of things—2. by positive institution.—Tendency of the latter: 1. to excite virtue.—Its equivocal character in this respect.—2. to inform the judgment.—Its inaptitude for that purpose.—Province of conscience considered.—Tendency of an interference with that province.—Recapitulation.—Arguments in favour of positive institution: 1. the necessity of repelling private injustice.—Objections: the uncertainty of evidence—the diversity of motives—the unsuitableness of the means of correction—either to impress new sentiments—or to strengthen old ones.—Punishment for the sake of example considered.—Urgency of the case.—2. rebellion—3. war.—Objections.—Reply. Page 120


  • CHAP. I. SYSTEMS OF POLITICAL WRITERS. The question stated.—First hypothesis: government founded in superior strength.—Second hypothesis: government jure divino.—Third hypothesis: the social contract.—The first hypothesis examined.—The second.—Criterion of divine right: 1. patriarchal descent—2. justice. Page 139
  • CHAP. II. OF THE SOCIAL CONTRACT. Queries proposed.—Who are the contracting parties?—What is the form of engagement?—Over how long a period does the contract extend?—To how great a variety of propositions?—Can it extend to laws hereafter to be made?—Addresses of adhesion considered.—Power of a majority. Page 143
  • CHAP. III. OF PROMISES. The validity of promises examined.—Shown to be inconsistent with justice—to be foreign to the general good.—Of the expectation excited.—The fulfilling expectation does not imply the validity of a promise.—Conclusion. Page 150
  • CHAP. IV. OF POLITICAL AUTHORITY. Common deliberation the true foundation of government—proved from the equal claims of mankind—from the nature of our faculties—from the object of government—from the effects of common deliberation.—Delegation vindicated.—Difference between the doctrine here maintained and that of a social contract apparent—from the merely prospective nature of the former—from the nullity of promises—from the fallibility of deliberation.—Conclusion. Page 157
  • CHAP. V. OF LEGISLATION. Society can declare and interpret, but cannot enact.—Its authority only executive. Page 166
  • CHAP. VI. OF OBEDIENCE. Obedience not the correlative of authority.—No man bound to yield obedience to another.—Case of submission considered.—Foundation of obedience.—Usefulness of social communication.—Case of confidence considered.—Its limitations.—Mischief of unlimited confidence.—Subjection explained. Page 168
    • APPENDIX. Moral principles frequently elucidated by incidental reflection—by incidental passages in various authors.—Example. Page 176
  • CHAP. VII. OF FORMS OF GOVERNMENT. Argument in favour of a variety of forms—compared with the argument in favour of a variety of religious creeds.—That there is one best form of government proved—from the unity of truth—from the nature of man.—Objection from human weakness and prejudice.—Danger in establishing an imperfect code.—Manners of nations produced by their forms of government.—Gradual improvement necessary.—Simplicity chiefly to be desired.—Publication of truth the grand instrument—by individuals, not by government—the truth entire, and not by parcels.—Sort of progress to be desired. Page 179


  • CHAP. I. OF RESISTANCE. Every individual the judge of his own resistance.—Objection.—Answered from the nature of government—from the modes of resistance.—1. Force rarely to be employed—either where there is small prospect of success—or where the prospect is great.—History of Charles the first estimated.—2. Reasoning the legitimate mode. Page 191
    • SECTION I. DUTIES OF A CITIZEN. Obligation to support the constitution of our country considered—must arise either from the reason of the case, or from a personal and local consideration.—The first examined.—The second. Page 198
    • SECTION II. MODE OF EFFECTING REVOLUTIONS. Persuasion the proper instrument—not violence—nor resentment.—Lateness of event desirable. Page 202
    • SECTION III. OF POLITICAL ASSOCIATIONS. Meaning of the term.—Associations objected to—1. From the sort of persons with whom a just revolution should originate—2. from the danger of tumult.—Objects of association.—In what cases admissible.—Argued for from the necessity to give weight to opinion—from their tendency to ascertain opinion.—Unnecessary for these purposes.—General inutility.—Concessions.—Importance of social communication.—Propriety of teaching resistance considered. Page 205
    • SECTION IV. OF THE SPECIES OF REFORM TO BE DESIRED. Ought it to be partial or entire?—Truth may not be partially taught.—Partial reformation considered.—Objection.—Answer.—Partial reform indispensible.—Nature of a just revolution—how distant? Page 219
  • CHAP. III. OF TYRANNICIDE. Diversity of opinions on this subject.—Argument in its vindication.—The destruction of a tyrant not a case of exception.—Consequences of tyrannicide.—Assassination described.—Importance of sincerity. Page 226
    • SECTION I. OF ABSTRACT OR GENERAL TRUTH. Its importance as conducing—to our intellectual improvement—to our moral improvement.—Virtue the best source of happiness.—Proved by comparison—by its manner of adapting itself to all situations—by its undecaying excellence—cannot be effectually propagated but by a cultivated mind.—Importance of general truth to our political improvement. Page 231
    • SECTION II. OF SINCERITY. Nature of this virtue.—Its effects—upon our own actions—upon our neighbours.—Its tendency to produce fortitude.—Effects of insincerity.—Character which sincerity would acquire to him who practised it.—Objections.—The fear of giving unnecessary pain.—Answer.—The desire of preserving my life.—This objection proves too much.—Answer.—Secrecy considered.—The secrets of others.—State secrets.—Secrets of philanthropy. Page 238
      • Can eminent virtue exist unconnected with talents?—Nature of virtue.—It is the offspring of understanding.—It generates understanding.—Illustration from other pursuits—love—ambition—applied.
      • Can eminent talents exist unconnected with virtue?—Argument in the affirmative from analogy—in the negative from the universality of moral speculation—from the nature of vice as founded in mistake.—The argument balanced.—Importance of a sense of justice.—Its connexion with talents.—Illiberality with which men of talents are usually treated. Page 253
    • APPENDIX, No. II, OF THE MODE OF EXCLUDING VISITORS. Its impropriety argued—from the situation in which it places, 1. the visitor—2. the servant.—Objections:—Pretended necessity of this practice, 1. to preserve us from intrusion—2. to free us from disagreeable acquaintance.—Characters of the honest and dishonest man in this respect compared. Page 265
    • APPENDIX, No. III, SUBJECT OF SINCERITY RESUMED. A case proposed.—Arguments in favour of concealment.—Previous question: Is truth in general to be partially communicated?—Customary effects of sincerity—of insincerity—upon him who practises it—1. the suspension of improvement—2. misanthropy—3. disingenuity—upon the spectators.—Sincerity delineated.—Its general importance.—Application.—Duty respecting the choice of a residence. Page 272
  • CHAP. V. OF FREE WILL AND NECESSITY. Importance of the question.—Definition of necessity.—Why supposed to exist in the operations of the material universe.—The case of the operations of mind is parallel.—Indications of necessity—in history—in our judgments of character—in our schemes of policy—in our ideas of moral discipline.—Objection from the fallibility of our expectations in human conduct.—Answer.—Origin and universality of the sentiment of free will.—The sentiment of necessity also universal.—The truth of this sentiment argued from the nature of volition.—Hypothesis of free will examined.—Self-determination.—Indifference.—The will not a distinct faculty.—Free will disadvantageous to its possessor—of no service to morality. Page 283
  • CHAP. VI. INFERENCES FROM THE DOCTRINE OF NECESSITY. Idea it suggests to us of the universe.—Influence on our moral ideas—action—virtue—exertion—persuasion—exhortation—ardour—complacence and aversion—punishment—repentance—praise and blame—intellectual tranquillity.—Language of necessity recommended. Page 305
  • CHAP. VII. OF THE MECHANISM OF THE HUMAN MIND. Nature of mechanism.—Its classes, material and intellectual.—Material system, or of vibrations.—The intellectual system most probable—from the consideration that thought would otherwise be a superfluity—from the established principles of reasoning from effects to causes.—Objections refuted.—Thoughts which produce animal motion may be—1. Involuntary.—All animal motions were first involuntary.—2. Unattended with consciousness.—The mind cannot have more than one thought at any one time.—Objection to this assertion from the case of complex ideas—from various mental operations—as comparison—apprehension—rapidity of the succession of ideas.—Application.—Duration measured by consciousness.—3. A distinct thought to each motion may be unnecessary—apparent from the complexity of sensible impressions.—The mind always thinks.—Conclusion.—The theory applied to the phenomenon of walking—to the circulation of the blood.—Of motion in general.—Of dreams. Page 318
  • CHAP. VIII. OF THE PRINCIPLE OF VIRTUE. Hypotheses of benevolence and self love—superiority of the former.—Action is either voluntary or involuntary.—Nature of the first of these classes.—Argument that results from it.—Voluntary action has a real existence.—Consequence of that existence.—Experimental view of the subject.—Suppositions suggested by the advocates of self love—that we calculate upon all occasions the advantage to accrue to us.—Falseness of this supposition.—Supposition of a contrary sort.—We do not calculate what would be the uneasiness to result from our refraining to act—either in relieving distress—or in adding to the stock of general good.—Uneasiness an accidental member of the process.—The suppositions inconsistently blended.—Scheme of self love recommended from the propensity of mind to abbreviate its process—from the simplicity that obtains in the natures of things.—Hypothesis of self love incompatible with virtue.—Conclusion.—Importance of the question.—Application. Page 341
  • CHAP. IX. OF THE TENDENCY OF VIRTUE. It is the road to happiness—to the esteem and affection of others.—Objection from misconstruction and calumny.—Answer.—Virtue compared with other modes of procuring esteem.—Vice and not virtue is the subject of obloquy—instanced in the base alloy with which our virtues are mixed—in arrogance and ostentation—in the vices in which persons of moral excellence allow themselves.—The virtuous man only has friends.—Virtue the road to prosperity and success in the world—applied to commercial transactions—to cases that depend upon patronage.—Apparent exceptions where the dependent is employed as the instrument of vice.—Virtue compared with other modes of becoming prosperous.—Source of the disrepute of virtue in this respect.—Concession.—Case where convenient vice bids fair for concealment.—Chance of detection.—Indolence—apprehensiveness—and depravity the offspring of vice. Page 362
Endnotes to Volume I





  • CHAP. I. INTRODUCTION. RETROSPECT of principles already established. — Distribution of the remaining subjects. — Subject of the present book. — Forms of government. — Method of examination to be adopted. p. 379
  • CHAP. II. OF EDUCATION, THE EDUCATION OF A PRINCE. Nature of monarchy delineated. — School of adversity. — Tendency of superfluity to inspire effeminacy — to deprive us of the benefit of experience. — Illustrated in the case of princes. — Manner in which they are addressed. — Inefficacy of the instruction bestowed upon them. p. 383
  • CHAP. III. PRIVATE LIFE OF A PRINCE. Principles by which he is influenced — irresponsibility — impatience of control — habits of dissipation — ignorance — dislike of truth — dislike of justice. — Pitiable situation of princes. p. 397
  • CHAP. IV. OF A VIRTUOUS DESPOTISM. Supposed excellence of this form of government controverted — from the narrowness of human powers. — Case of a vicious administration — of a virtuous administration intended to be formed. — Monarchy not adapted to the government of large states. p. 408
  • CHAP. V. OF COURTS AND MINISTERS. Systematical monopoly of confidence. — Character of ministers — of their dependents. — Venality of courts. — Universality of this principle. p. 414
  • CHAP. VI. OF SUBJECTS. Monarchy founded in imposture. — Kings not entitled to superiority — inadequate to the functions they possess. — Means by which the imposture is maintained — 1. splendour — 2. exaggeration. — This imposture generates — 1. indifference to merit — 2. indifference to truth — 3. artificial desires — 4. pusillanimity. — Moral incredulity of monarchical countries. — Injustice of luxury — of the inordinate admiration of wealth. p. 423
  • CHAP. VII. OF ELECTIVE MONARCHY. Disorders attendant on such an election. — Election is intended either to provide a man of great or of moderate talents. — Consequences of the first — of the second. — Can elective and hereditary monarchy be combined? p. 435
  • CHAP. VIII. OF LIMITED MONARCHY. Liable to most of the preceding objections — to farther objections peculiar to itself. — Responsibility considered. — Maxim, that the king can do no wrong. — Functions of a limited monarch. — Impossibility of maintaining the neutrality required. — Of the dismission of ministers. — Responsibility of ministers — Appointment of ministers, its importance — its difficulties. — Recapitulation. — Strength and weakness of the human species. p. 441
  • CHAP. IX. OF A PRESIDENT WITH REGAL POWERS. Enumeration of powers — that of appointing to inferior offices — of pardoning offences — of convoking deliberative assemblies — of affixing a veto to their decrees. — Conclusion. — The title of king estimated. — Monarchical and aristocratical systems, similarity of their effects. p. 454
  • CHAP. X. OF HEREDITARY DISTINCTION. Birth considered as a physical cause — as a moral cause. — Aristocratical estimate of the human species. — Education of the great. — Recapitulation. p. 461
  • CHAP. XI. MORAL EFFECTS OF ARISTOCRACY. Importance of practical justice. — Species of injustice which aristocracy creates. — Estimate of the injury produced. — Examples. p. 468
  • CHAP. XII. OF TITLES. Their origin and history. — Their miserable absurdity. — Truth the only adequate reward of merit. p. 474
  • CHAP. XIII. OF THE ARISTOCRATICAL CHARACTER. Intolerance of aristocracy — dependent for its success upon the ignorance of the multitude. — Precautions necessary for its support. — Different kinds of aristocracy. — Aristocracy of the Romans: its virtues — its vices. — Aristocratical distribution of property — regulations by which it is maintained — avarice it engenders. — Argument against innovation from the present happy establishment of affairs considered. — Conclusion. p. 478
  • CHAP. XIV. GENERAL FEATURES OF DEMOCRACY. Definition. — Supposed evils of this form of government — ascendancy of the ignorant — of the crafty — inconstancy — rash confidence — groundless suspicion. — Merits and defects of democracy compared. — Its moral tendency. — Tendency of truth. — Representation. p. 489
  • CHAP. XV. OF POLITICAL IMPOSTURE. Importance of this topic. — Example in the doctrine of eternal punishment. — Its inutility argued — from history — from the nature of mind. — Second example: the religious sanction of a legislative system. — This idea is, 1. in strict construction impracticable — 2. injurious. — Third example: principle of political order. — Vice has no essential advantage over virtue. — Imposture unnecessary to the cause of justice — not adapted to the nature of man. p. 499
  • CHAP. XVI. OF THE CAUSES OF WAR. Offensive war contrary to the nature of democracy. — Defensive war exceedingly rare. — Erroneousness of the ideas commonly annexed to the phrase, our country. — Nature of war delineated. — Insufficient causes of war — the acquiring a healthful and vigorous tone to the public mind — the putting a termination upon private insults — the menaces or preparations of our neighbours — the dangerous consequences of concession. — Two legitimate causes of war. p. 511
  • CHAP. XVII. OF THE OBJECT OF WAR. The repelling an invader. — Not reformation — not restraint — not indemnification. — Nothing can be a sufficient object of war that is not a sufficient cause for beginning it. — Reflections on the balance of power. p. 521
  • CHAP. XVIII. OF THE CONDUCT OF WAR. Offensive operations. — Fortifications. — General action. — Stratagem. — Military contributions. Capture of mercantile vessels. — Naval war. — Humanity. — Military obedience. — Foreign possessions. p. 526
  • CHAP. XIX. OF MILITARY ESTABLISHMENTS AND TREATIES. A country may look for its defence either to a standing army or an universal militia. — The former condemned. — The latter objected to as of immoral tendency — as unnecessary — either in respect to courage — or discipline. — Of a commander. — Of treaties. p. 534
  • CHAP. XX. OF DEMOCRACY AS CONNECTED WITH THE TRANSACTIONS OF WAR. External affairs are of subordinate consideration. — Application. — Farther objections to democracy — 1. it is incompatible with secrecy — this proved to be an excellence — 2. its movements are too slow — 3. too precipitate. — Evils of anarchy considered. p. 542
  • CHAP. XXI. OF THE COMPOSITION OF GOVERNMENT. Houses of assembly. — This institution unjust. — Deliberate proceeding the proper antidote. — Separation of legislative and executive power considered. — Superior importance of the latter. — Functions of ministers. p. 550
  • CHAP. XXII. OF THE FUTURE HISTORY OF POLITICAL SOCIETIES. Quantity of administration necessary to be maintained. — Objects of administration: national glory — rivalship of nations. — Inferences: 1. complication of government unnecessary — 2. extensive territory superfluous — 3. constraint, its limitations. — Project of government: police — defence. p. 558
  • CHAP. XXIII. OF NATIONAL ASSEMBLIES. They produce a fictitious unanimity — an unnatural uniformity of opinion. — Causes of this uniformity — Consequences of the mode of decision by vote — 1. perversion of reason — 2. contentious disputes — 3. the triumph of ignorance and vice. — Society incapable of acting from itself — of being well conducted by others. Conclusion. — Modification of democracy that results from these considerations. p. 568
  • CHAP. XXIV. OF THE DISSOLUTION OF GOVERNMENT. Political authority of a national assembly — of juries. — Consequence from the whole. p. 576


  • CHAP. I. GENERAL EFFECTS OF THE POLITICAL SUPERINTENDENCE OF OPINION. Arguments in favour of this superintendence. — Answer. — The exertions of society in its corporate capacity are, 1. unwise — 2. incapable of proper effect. — Of sumptuary laws, agrarian laws and rewards. — Political degeneracy not incurable. — 3. superfluous — in commerce — in speculative enquiry — in morality. — 4. pernicious — as undermining intellectual capacity — as suspending intellectual improvement — contrary to the nature of morality — to the nature of mind. — Conclusion. p. 581
  • CHAP. II. OF RELIGIOUS ESTABLISHMENTS. Their general tendency. — Effects on the clergy: they introduce, 1. implicit faith — 2. hypocrisy: topics by which an adherence to them is vindicated. — Effects on the laity. — Application. p. 603
  • CHAP. III. OF THE SUPPRESSION OF ERRONEOUS OPINION IN RELIGION AND GOVERNMENT. Of heresy. — Arguments by which the suppression of heresy is recommended. — Answer. — Ignorance not necessary to make men virtuous. — Difference of opinion not subversive of public security. — Reason, and not force, the proper corrective of sophistry. — Absurdity of the attempt to restrain thought — to restrain the freedom of speech. — Consequences that would result. — Fallibility of the men by whom authority is exercised. — Of erroneous opinions in government. — Iniquity of the attempt to restrain them. — Tendency of unlimited political discussion. p. 610
  • CHAP. IV. OF TESTS. Their supposed advantages are attended with injustice — are nugatory. — Illustration. — Their disadvantages — they ensnare — example — second example — they are an usurpation. — Influence of tests on the latitudinarian — on the purist. — Conclusion. p. 622
  • CHAP. V. OF OATHS. Oaths of office and duty. — Their absurdity. — Their immoral consequences. — Oaths of evidence less atrocious. — Opinion of the liberal and resolved respecting them. — Their essential features: contempt of veracity — false morality. — Their particular structure. — Abstract principles assumed by them to be true. — Their inconsistency with these principles. p. 631
  • CHAP. VI. OF LIBELS. Public libels. — Injustice of an attempt to prescribe the method in which public questions shall be discussed. — Its pusillanimity. — Invitations to tumult. — Private libels. — Reasons in favour of their being subjected to restraint. — Answer. — 1. It is necessary the truth should be told. — Salutary effects of the unrestrained investigation of character. — Objection: freedom of speech would be productive of calumny, not of justice. — Answer. — Future history of libel. — 2. It is necessary men should be taught to be sincere. — Extent of the evil which arises from a command to be insincere. — The mind spontaneously shrinks from the prosecution of a libel. — Conclusion. p. 637
  • CHAP. VII. OF CONSTITUTIONS. Distinction of regulations constituent and legislative. — Supposed character of permanence that ought to be given to the former — inconsistent with the nature of man. — Source of the error. — Remark. — Absurdity of the system of permanence. — Its futility. — Mode to be pursued in framing a constitution. — Constituent laws not more important than others. — In what manner the consent of the districts is to be declared. — Tendency of the principle which requires this consent. — It would reduce the number of constitutional articles — parcel out the legislative power — and produce the gradual extinction of law. — Objection. — Answer. p. 652
  • CHAP. VIII. OF NATIONAL EDUCATION. Arguments in its favour. — Answer. — 1. It produces permanence of opinion. — Nature of prejudice and judgment described. — 2. It requires uniformity of operation. — 3. It is the mirror and tool of national government. — The right of punishing not founded in the previous function of instructing. p. 665
  • CHAP. IX. OF PENSIONS AND SALARIES. Reasons by which they are vindicated. — Labour in its usual acceptation and labour for the public compared. — Immoral effects of the institution of salaries. — Source from which they are derived. — Unnecessary for the subsistence of the public functionary — for dignity. Salaries of inferior officers — may also be superseded. — Taxation. — Qualifications. p. 673
  • CHAP. X. OF THE MODES OF DECIDING A QUESTION ON THE PART OF THE COMMUNITY. Decision by lot, its origin — founded in the system of discretionary rights — implies the desertion of duty. — Decision by ballot — inculcates timidity — and hypocrisy. — Decision by vote, its recommendations. p. 683


  • CHAP. I. LIMITATIONS OF THE DOCTRINE OF PUNISHMENT WHICH RESULT FROM THE PRINCIPLES OF MORALITY. Definition of punishment. — Nature of crime. — Retributive justice not independent and absolute — not to be vindicated from the system of nature. — Desert a chimerical property. — Conclusion. p. 687
  • CHAP. II. GENERAL DISADVANTAGES OF COERCION. Conscience in matters of religion considered — in the conduct of life. — Best practicable criterion of duty — not the decision of other men — but of our own understanding. — Tendency of coercion. — Its various classes considered. p. 696
  • CHAP. III. OF THE PURPOSES OF COERCION. Nature of defence considered. — Coercion for restraint — for reformation. — Supposed uses of adversity — defective — unnecessary. — Coercion for example — 1. nugatory. — The necessity of political coercion arises from the defects of political institution. — 2. unjust. — Unfeeling character of this species of coercion. p. 705
  • CHAP. IV. OF THE APPLICATION OF COERCION. Delinquency and coercion incommensurable. — External action no proper subject of criminal animadversion. — How far capable of proof. — Iniquity of this standard in a moral — and in a political view. — Propriety of a retribution to be measured by the intention of the offender considered. — Such a project would overturn criminal law — would abolish coercion. — Inscrutability, 1. of motives. — Doubtfulness of history. — Declarations of sufferers. — 2. of the future conduct of the offender — uncertainty of evidence — either of the facts — or the intention. — Disadvantages of the defendant in a criminal suit. p. 715
  • CHAP. V. OF COERCION CONSIDERED AS A TEMPORARY EXPEDIENT. Arguments in its favour. — Answer. — It cannot fit men for a better order of society. — The true remedy to private injustice described — is adapted to immediate practice. — Duty of the community in this respect. — Duty of individuals. — Illustration from the case of war — of individual defence. — Application. — Disadvantages of anarchy — want of security — of progressive enquiry. — Correspondent disadvantages of despotism. — Anarchy awakens, despotism depresses the mind. — Final result of anarchy — how determined. — Supposed purposes of coercion in a temporary view — reformation — example — restraint. — Conclusion. p. 727
  • CHAP. VI. SCALE OF COERCION. Its sphere described. — Its several classes. — Death with torture. — Death absolutely. — Origin of this policy — in the corruptness of political institutions — in the inhumanity of the institutors. — Corporal punishment. — Its absurdity. — Its atrociousness. — Privation of freedom. — Duty of reforming our neighbour an inferior consideration in this case. — Its place defined. — Modes of restraint. — Indiscriminate imprisonment. — Solitary imprisonment. — Its severity. — Its moral effects. — Slavery. — Banishment. — 1. Simple banishment. — 2. Transportation. — 3. Colonisation. — This project has miscarried from unkindness — from officiousness. — Its permanent evils. — Recapitulation. p. 745
  • CHAP. VII. OF EVIDENCE. Difficulties to which this subject is liable — exemplified in the distinction between overt actions and intentions. — Reasons against this distinction. — Principle in which it is founded. p. 760
  • CHAP. VIII. OF LAW. Arguments by which it is recommended. — Answer. — Law is, 1. Endless — particularly in a free state. — Causes of this disadvantage. — 2. Uncertain. — Instanced in questions of property. — Mode in which it must be studied. — 3. Pretends to foretel future events. — Laws are a species of promises — check the freedom of opinion — are destructive of the principles of reason. — Dishonesty of lawyers. — An honest lawyer mischievous. — Abolition of law vindicated on the score of wisdom — of candour — from the nature of man. — Future history of political justice. — Errors that might arise in the commencement. — Its gradual progress. — Its effects on criminal law. — on property. p. 764
  • CHAP. IX. OF PARDONS. Their absurdity. — Their origin. — Their abuses. — Their arbitrary character. — Destructive of morality. p. 781


  • CHAP. I. GENUINE SYSTEM OF PROPERTY DELINEATED. Importance of this topic. — Abuses to which it has been exposed. — Criterion of property: justice. — Entitles each man to the supply of his animal wants as far as the general stock will afford it — to the means of well being. — Estimate of luxury. — Its pernicious effects on the individual who partakes of it. — Idea of labour as the foundation of property considered. — Its unreasonableness. — System of popular morality on this subject. — Defects of that system. p. 787
  • CHAP. II. BENEFITS ARISING FROM THE GENUINE SYSTEM OF PROPERTY. Contrasted with the mischiefs of the present system, as consisting — 1. In a sense of dependence. — 2. In the perpetual spectacle of injustice, leading men astray in their desires — and perverting the integrity of their judgments. — The rich are the true pensioners. — 3. In the discouragement of intellectual attainments. — 4. In the multiplication of vice — generating the crimes of the poor — the passions of the rich — and the misfortunes of war. — 5. In depopulation. p. 799
  • CHAP. III. OF THE OBJECTION TO THIS SYSTEM FROM THE ADMIRABLE EFFECTS OF LUXURY. Nature of the objection. — Luxury not necessary — either to population — or to the improvement of the mind. — Its true character. p. 814
  • CHAP. IV. OF THE OBJECTION TO THIS SYSTEM FROM THE ALLUREMENTS OF SLOTH. The objection stated. — Such a state of society must have been preceded by great intellectual improvement. — The manual labour required in this state will be extremely small. — Universality of the love of distinction. — Operation of this motive under the system in question — will finally be superseded by a better motive. p. 818
  • CHAP. V. OF THE OBJECTION TO THIS SYSTEM FROM THE IMPOSSIBILITY OF ITS BEING RENDERED PERMANENT. Grounds of the objection. — Its serious import. — Answer. — The introduction of such a system must be owing, 1. to a deep sense of justice — 2. to a clear insight into the nature of happiness — as being properly intellectual — not consisting in sensual pleasure — or the pleasures of delusion. — Influence of the passions considered. — Men will not accumulate either from individual foresight — or from vanity. p. 829
  • CHAP. VI. OF THE OBJECTION TO THIS SYSTEM FROM THE INFLEXIBILITY OF ITS RESTRICTIONS. Nature of the objection. — Natural and moral independence distinguished — the first beneficial — the second injurious. — Tendency of restriction properly so called. — The genuine system of property not a system of restrictions — does not require common labour, meals or magazines. — Such restrictions absurd — and unnecessary. — Evils of cooperation. — Its province may perpetually be diminished. — Manual labour may be extinguished. — Consequent activity of intellect. — Ideas of the future state of cooperation. — Its limits. — Its legitimate province. — Evils of cohabitation — and marriage. — They oppose the developement of our faculties — are inimical to our happiness — and deprave our understandings. — Marriage a branch of the prevailing system of property. — Consequences of its abolition. — Education need not in that state of society be a subject of positive institution. — These principles do not lead to a sullen individuality — Partial attachments considered. — Benefits accruing from a just affection — materially promoted by these principles. — The genuine system of property does not prohibit accumulation — implies a certain degree of appropriation — and division of labour. p. 839
  • CHAP. VII. OF THE OBJECTION TO THIS SYSTEM FROM THE PRINCIPLE OF POPULATION. The objection stated. — Remoteness of its operation. — Conjectural ideas respecting the antidote. — Omnipotence of mind. — Illustrations. — Causes of decrepitude. — Youth is prolonged by chearfulness — by clearness of apprehension — and a benevolent character. — The powers we possess are essentially progressive. — Effects of attention. — The phenomenon of sleep explained. — Present utility of these reasonings. — Application to the future state of society. p. 860
  • CHAP. VIII. OF THE MEANS OF INTRODUCING THE GENUINE SYSTEM OF PROPERTY. Apprehensions that are entertained on this subject. — Idea of massacre. — Inference we ought to make upon supposition of the reality of these apprehensions. — Mischief by no means the necessary attendant on improvement. — Duties under this circumstance, 1. Of those who are qualified for public instructors — temper — sincerity. — Pernicious effects of dissimulation in this case. — 2. Of the rich and great. — Many of them may be expected to be advocates of equality. — Conduct which their interest as a body prescribes. — 3. Of the friends of equality in general. — Omnipotence of truth. — Importance of a mild and benevolent proceeding. — Connexion between liberty and equality. — Cause of equality will perpetually advance. — Symptoms of its progress — Idea of its future success. — Conclusion. p. 873


Endnotes to Volume II





FEW works of literature are held in greater estimation, than those which treat in a methodical and elementary way of the principles of science. But the human mind in every enlightened age is progressive; and the best elementary treatises after a certain time are reduced in their value by the operation of subsequent discoveries. Hence it has always been desired by candid enquirers, that preceding works of this kind should from time to time be superseded, and that other productions including the larger views that have since offered themselves, should be substituted in their place.

It would be strange if something of this kind were not desirable in politics, after the great change that has been produced in men's minds upon this subject, and the light that has been [vi] thrown upon it by the recent discussions of America and France. A sense of the value of such a work, if properly executed, was the motive which gave birth to these volumes. Of their execution the reader must judge.

Authors who have formed the design of superseding the works of their predecessors, will be found, if they were in any degree equal to the design, not merely to have collected the scattered information that had been produced upon the subject, but to have increased the science with the fruit of their own meditations. In the following work principles will occasionally be found, which it will not be just to reject without examination, merely because they are new. It was impossible perseveringly to reflect upon so prolific a science, and a science which may be said to be yet in its infancy, without being led into ways of thinking that were in some degree uncommon.


Another argument in favour of the utility of such a work was frequently in the author's mind, and therefore ought to be mentioned. He conceived politics to be the proper vehicle of a liberal morality. That description of ethics deserves to be held in slight estimation, which seeks only to regulate our conduct in articles of particular and personal concern, instead of exciting our attention to the general good of the species. It appeared sufficiently practicable to make of such a treatise, exclusively of its direct political use, an advantageous vehicle of moral improvement. He was accordingly desirous of producing a work, from the perusal of which no man should rise without being strengthened in habits of sincerity, fortitude and justice.

Having stated the considerations in which the work originated, it is proper to mention a few circumstances of the outline of its history. The sentiments it contains are by no means the suggestions of a sudden effervescence of fancy. Political enquiry [viii] had long held a foremost place in the writer's attention. It is now twelve years since he became satisfied, that monarchy was a species of government unavoidably corrupt. He owed this conviction to the political writings of Swift and to a perusal of the Latin historians. Nearly at the same time he derived great additional instruction from reading the most considerable French writers upon the nature of man in the following order, Systéme de la Nature, Rousseau and Helvetius. Long before he thought of the present work, he had familiarised to his mind the arguments it contains on justice, gratitude, rights of man, promises, oaths and the omnipotence of truth. Political complexity is one of the errors that take strongest hold on the understanding; and it was only by ideas suggested by the French revolution, that he was reconciled to the desirableness of a government of the simplest construction. To the same event he owes the determination of mind which gave existence to this work.


Such was the preparation which encouraged him to undertake the present treatise. The direct execution may be dismissed in a few words. It was projected in the month of May 1791: the composition was begun in the following September, and has therefore occupied a space of sixteen months. This period was devoted to the purpose with unremitted ardour. It were to be wished it had been longer; but it seemed as if no contemptible part of the utility of the work depended upon its early appearance.

The printing of the following treatise, as well as the composition, was influenced by the same principle, a desire to reconcile a certain degree of dispatch with the necessary deliberation. The printing was for that reason commenced, long before the composition was finished. Some disadvantages have arisen from this circumstance. The ideas of the author became more perspicuous and digested, as his enquiries advanced. The longer he considered the subject, the more accurately [x] he seemed to understand it. This circumstance has led him into a few contradictions. The principal of these consists in an occasional inaccuracy of language, particularly in the first book, respecting the word government. He did not enter upon the work, without being aware that government by its very nature counteracts the improvement of individual mind; but he understood the full meaning of this proposition more completely as he proceeded, and saw more distinctly into the nature of the remedy. This, and a few other defects, under a different mode of preparation would have been avoided. The candid reader will make a suitable allowance. The author judges upon a review, that these defects are such as not materially to injure the object of the work, and that more has been gained than lost by the conduct he has pursued.

The period in which the work makes its appearance is singular. The people of England have assiduously been excited to declare their loyalty, [xi] and to mark every man as obnoxious who is not ready to sign the Shibboleth of the constitution. Money is raised by voluntary subscription to defray the expence of prosecuting men who shall dare to promulgate heretical opinions, and thus to oppress them at once with the enmity of government and of individuals. This was an accident wholly unforeseen when the work was undertaken; and it will scarcely be supposed that such an accident could produce any alteration in the writer's designs. Every man, if we may believe the voice of rumour, is to be prosecuted who shall appeal to the people by the publication of any unconstitutional paper or pamphlet; and it is added, that men are to be prosecuted for any unguarded words that may be dropped in the warmth of conversation and debate. It is now to be tried whether, in addition to these alarming encroachments upon our liberty, a book is to fall under the arm of the civil power, which, beside the advantage of having for one of its express objects the dissuading from all tumult and violence, [xii] is by its very nature an appeal to men of study and reflexion. It is to be tried whether a project is formed for suppressing the activity of mind, and putting an end to the disquisitions of science. Respecting the event in a personal view the author has formed his resolution. Whatever conduct his countrymen may pursue, they will not be able to shake his tranquillity. The duty he is most bound to discharge is the assisting the progress of truth; and if he suffer in any respect for such a proceeding, there is certainly no vicissitude that can befal him, that can ever bring along with it a more satisfactory consolation.

But, exclusively of this precarious and unimportant consideration, it is the fortune of the present work to appear before a public that is panic struck, and impressed with the most dreadful apprehensions of such doctrines as are here delivered. All the prejudices of the human mind are in arms against it. This circumstance may appear to be of greater importance than the other. [xiii] But it is the property of truth to be fearless, and to prove victorious over every adversary. It requires no great degree of fortitude, to look with indifference upon the false fire of the moment, and to foresee the calm period of reason which will succeed.










the subject proposed.—system of indifference—of passive obedience—of liberty.—system of liberty extended.

THE question which first presents itself in an enquiry concerningThe subject proposed. political institution, relates to the importance of the topic which is made thesubject of enquiry. All men will grant that the happiness of the human speciesis the most desirable object for human science to promote; and that intellectualand moral happiness or pleasure is extremely to be preferred [2] to those which are precarious and transitory. The methods which may be proposedfor the attainment of this object, are various. If it could be proved that asound political institution was of all others the most powerful engine for promotingindividual good, or on the other hand that an erroneous and corrupt governmentwas the most formidable adversary to the improvement of the species, it wouldfollow that politics was the first and most important subject of human investigation.

System of indifference: The opinions of mankind in this respect have been divided. By one set of men it is affirmed, that the different degrees of excellence ascribed to different forms of government are rather imaginary than real; that in the great objects of superintendance no government will eminently fail; and that it is neither the duty nor the wisdom of an honest and industrious individual to busy himself with concerns so foreign to the sphere of his industry.of passive obedience: A second class, in adopting the same principles, have given to them a different turn. Believing that all governments are nearly equal in their merit, they have regarded anarchy as the only political mischief that deserved to excite alarm, and have been the zealous and undistinguishing adversaries of all innovation. Neither of these classes has of course been inclined to ascribe to the science and practice of politics a pre-eminence over every other.

of liberty. But the advocates of what is termed political liberty have al [3] ways been numerous. They have placed this liberty principally in two articles; the security of our persons, and the security of our property. They have perceived that these objects could not be effected but by the impartial administration of general laws, and the investing in the people at large a certain power sufficient to give permanence to this administration. They have pleaded, some for a less and some for a greater degree of equality among the members of the community; and they have considered this equality as infringed or endangered by enormous taxation, and the prerogatives and privileges of monarchs and aristocratical bodies.

But, while they have been thus extensive in the object of their demand, they seem to have agreed with the two former classes in regarding politics as an object of subordinate importance, and only in a remote degree connected with moral improvement. They have been prompted in their exertions rather by a quick sense of justice and disdain of oppression, than by a consciousness of the intimate connection of the different parts of the social system, whether as it relates to the intercourse of individuals, or to the maxims and institutes of states and nations [*].

It may however be reasonable to consider whether the sciencesystem of liberty extended. of politics be not of somewhat greater value than any of these [4] reasoners have been inclined to suspect. It may fairly be questioned, whether government be not still more considerable in its incidental effects, than in those intended to be produced. Vice, for example, depends for its existence upon the existence of temptation. May not a good government strongly tend to extirpate, and a bad one to increase the mass of temptation? Again, vice depends for its existence upon the existence of error. May not a good government by taking away all restraints upon the enquiring mind hasten, and a bad one by its patronage of error procrastinate the discovery and establishment of truth? Let us consider the subject in this point of view. If it can be proved that the science of politics is thus unlimited in its importance, the advocates of liberty will have gained an additional recommendation, and its admirers will be incited with the greater eagerness to the investigation of its principles.




frequency of war—among the ancients—among the moderns—the french—the english.—causes of war.—penal laws.—despotism.—deduction.—enumeration of arguments.

WHILE we enquire whether governmentis capable ofFrequency of war: improvement, we shall do well to considerits present effects. It is an old observation, thatthe history of mankind is little else than the historyof crimes. War has hitherto been considered as theinseparable ally of political institution. Theamong the ancients: earliest records of time are the annals of conquerors and heroes,a Bacchus, a Sesostris, a Semiramis and a Cyrus. Theseprinces led millions of men under their standard, andravaged innumerable provinces. A small number onlyof their forces ever returned to their native homes,the rest having perished of diseases, hardships andmisery. The evils they inflicted, and the mortalityintroduced in the countries against which their expeditionswere directed, were certainly not less severe thanthose which their countrymen suffered. No sooner doeshistory become more precise, than we are presentedwith the four great monarchies, that is, with foursuccessful projects, by means of [6] bloodshed, violence and murder, of enslaving mankind. The expeditionsof Cambyses against Egypt, of Darius against the Scythians,and of Xerxes against the Greeks, seem almost to setcredibility at defiance by the fatal consequences withwhich they were attended. The conquests of Alexandercost innumerable lives, and the immortality of Cæsaris computed to have been purchased by the death ofone million two hundred thousand men. Indeed the Romans,by the long duration of their wars, and their inflexibleadherence to their purpose, are to be ranked amongthe foremost destroyers of the human species. Theirwars in Italy endured for more than four hundred years,and their contest for supremacy with the Carthaginianstwo hundred. The Mithridatic war began with a massacreof one hundred and fifty thousand Romans, and in threesingle actions of the war five hundred thousand menwere lost by the eastern monarch. Sylla, his ferociousconqueror, next turned his arms against his country,and the struggle between him and Marius was attendedwith proscriptions, butcheries and murders that knewno restraint from mercy and humanity. The Romans, atlength, suffered the penalty of their iniquitous deeds;and the world was vexed for three hundred years bythe irruptions of Goths, Vandals, Ostrogoths, Huns,and innumerable hordes of barbarians.

among the moderns: I forbear to detail the victorious progress of Mahomet and the pious expeditions of Charlemagne. I will not enumerate the crusades against the infidels, the exploits of Aurungzebe, [7] Gengiskan and Tamerlane, or the extensive murders of the Spaniards in the new world. Let us examine the civilized and favoured quarter of Europe, or even those countries of Europe which are thought most enlightened.

France was wasted by successive battles during a whole century,the French: for the question of the Salic law, and the claim of the Plantagenets. Scarcely was this contest terminated, before the religious wars broke out, some idea of which we may form from the siege of Rochelle, where of fifteen thousand persons shut up eleven thousand perished of hunger and misery; and from the massacre of Saint Bartholomew, in which the numbers assassinated were forty thousand. This quarrel was appeased by Henry the fourth, and succeeded by the thirty years war in Germany for superiority with the house of Austria, and afterwards by the military transactions of Louis the fourteenth.

In England the war of Cressy and Agincourt only gave placethe English. to the civil war of York and Lancaster, and again after an interval to the war of Charles the first and his parliament. No sooner was the constitution settled by the revolution, than we were engaged in a wide field of continental warfare by king William, the duke of Marlborough, Maria Theresa and the king of Prussia.

And what are in most cases the pretexts upon which war isCauses of war. [8] undertaken? What rational man could possibly have given himself the least disturbance for the sake of choosing whether Henry the sixth or Edward the fourth should have the style of king of England? What Englishman could reasonably have drawn his sword for the purpose of rendering his country an inferior dependency of France, as it must necessarily have been if the ambition of the Plantagenets had succeeded? What can be more deplorable than to see us first engage eight years in war rather than suffer the haughty Maria Theresa to live with a diminished sovereignty or in a private station; and then eight years more to support the free-booter who had taken advantage of her helpless condition?

The usual causes of war are excellently described by Swift. “Sometimes the quarrel between two princes is to decide which of them shall dispossess a third of his dominions, where neither of them pretends to any right. Sometimes one prince quarrels with another, for fear the other should quarrel with him. Sometimes a war is entered upon because the enemy is too strong; and sometimes because he is too weak. Sometimes our neighbours want the things which we have, or have the things which we want; and we both fight, till they take ours, or give us theirs. It is a very justifiable cause of war to invade a country after the people have been wasted by famine, destroyed by pestilence, or embroiled by factions among themselves. It is justifiable to enter into a war against our nearest ally, when one of his towns lies convenient for us, or a territory of land, that [9] would render our dominions round and compact. If a prince sends forces into a nation where the people are poor and ignorant, he may lawfully put the half of them to death, and make slaves of the rest, in order to civilize and reduce them from their barbarous way of living. It is a very kingly, honourable and frequent practice, when one prince desires the assistance of another to secure him against an invasion, that the assistant, when he has driven out the invader, should seize on the dominions himself, and kill, imprison or banish the prince he came to relieve [*] .”

If we turn from the foreign transactions of states with eachPenal laws. other, to the principles of their domestic policy, we shall not find much greater reason to be satisfied. A numerous class of mankind are held down in a state of abject penury, and are continually prompted by disappointment and distress to commit violence upon their more fortunate neighbours. The only mode which is employed to repress this violence, and to maintain the order and peace of society, is punishment. Whips, axes and gibbets, dungeons, chains and racks are the most approved and established methods of persuading men to obedience, and impressing upon their minds the lessons of reason. Hundreds of victims are annually sacrificed at the shrine of positive law and political institution.


Despotism. Add to this the species of government which prevails over nine tenths of the globe, which is despotism: a government, as Mr. Locke justly observes, altogether “vile and miserable,” and “more to be deprecated than anarchy itself. [*]

Deduction. This account of the history and state of man is not a declamation, but an appeal to facts. He that considers it cannot possibly regard political disquisition as a trifle, and government as a neutral and unimportant concern. I by no means call upon the reader implicitly to admit that these evils are capable of remedy, and that wars, executions and despotism can be extirpated out of the world. But I call upon him to consider whether they may be remedied. I would have him feel that civil policy is a topic upon which the severest investigation may laudably be employed.

If government be a subject, which, like mathematics, natural [11] philosophy and morals, admits of argument and demonstration, then may we reasonably hope that men shall some time or other agree respecting it. If it comprehend every thing that is most important and interesting to man, it is probable that, when the theory is greatly advanced, the practice will not be wholly neglected. Men may one day feel that they are partakers of a common nature, and that true freedom and perfect equity, like food and air, are pregnant with benefit to every constitution. If there be the faintest hope that this shall be the final result, then certainly no subject can inspire to a sound mind such generous enthusiasm, such enlightened ardour and such invincible perseverance.

The probability of this improvement will be sufficiently established,Enumeration of arguments. if we consider, first, that the moral characters of men are the result of their perceptions: and, secondly, that of all the modes of operating upon mind government is the most considerable. In addition to these arguments it will be found, thirdly, that the good and ill effects of political institution are not less conspicuous in detail than in principle; and, fourthly, that perfectibility is one of the most unequivocal characteristics of the human species, so that the political, as well as the intellectual state of man, may be presumed to be in a course of progressive improvement.




no innate principles.—objections to this assertion—from the early actions of infants—from the desire of self-preservation—from self-love—from pity—from the vices of children—tyranny.—sullenness.—conclusion.

No innate principles. WE bring into the world with us no innateprinciples: consequently we are neither virtuous norvicious as we first come into existence. No truth canbe more evident than this, to any man who will yieldthe subject an impartial consideration. Every principleis a proposition. Every proposition consists in theconnection of at least two distinct ideas, which areaffirmed to agree or disagree with each other. If thereforethe principles be innate, the ideas must be so too.But nothing can be more incontrovertible, than thatwe do not bring pre-established ideas into the worldwith us.

Let the innate principle be, that virtue is a rule to which we are obliged to conform. Here are three great and leading ideas, not to mention subordinate ones, which it is necessary to form, before we can so much as understand the proposition.


What is virtue? Previously to our forming an idea corresponding to this general term, it seems necessary that we should have observed the several features by which virtue is distinguished, and the several subordinate articles of right conduct, that taken together, constitute that mass of practical judgments to which we give the denomination of virtue. Virtue may perhaps be defined, that species of operations of an intelligent being, which conduces to the benefit of intelligent beings in general, and is produced by a desire of that benefit. But taking for granted the universal admission of this definition, and this is no very defensible assumption, how widely have people of different ages and countries disagreed in the application of this general conception to particulars? a disagreement by no means compatible with the supposition that the sentiment is itself innate.

The next innate idea included in the above proposition, is that of a rule or standard, a generical measure with which individuals are to be compared, and their conformity or disagreement with which is to determine their value.

Lastly, there is the idea of obligation, its nature and source, the obliger and the sanction, the penalty and the reward.

Who is there in the present state of scientifical improvement, that will believe that this vast chain of perceptions and notions is [14] something that we bring into the world with us, a mystical magazine, shut up in the human embryo, whose treasures are to be gradually unfolded as circumstances shall require? Who does not perceive that they are regularly generated in the mind by a series of impressions, and digested and arranged by association and reflexion?

Objections to this assertion: from the early actions of infants: Experience has by many been supposed adverse to these reasonings: but it will upon examination be found to be perfectly in harmony with them. The child at the moment of his birth is totally unprovided with ideas, except such as his mode of existence in the womb may have supplied. His first impressions are those of pleasure and pain. But he has no foresight of the tendency of any action to obtain either the one or the other, previously to experience.

A certain irritation of the palm of the hand will produce that contraction of the fingers, which accompanies the action of grasping. This contraction will at first be unaccompanied with design, the object will be grasped without any intention to retain it, and let go again without thought or observation. After a certain number of repetitions, the nature of the action will be perceived; it will be performed with a consciousness of its tendency; and even the hand stretched out upon the approach of any object that is desired. Present to the child, thus far instructed, a lighted candle. The sight of it will produce a pleasurable state of the organs of [15] perception. He will stretch out his hand to the flame, and will have no apprehension of the pain of burning till he has felt the sensation.

At the age of maturity, the eyelids instantaneously close, when any substance, from which danger is apprehended, is advanced towards them; and this action is so spontaneous, as to be with great difficulty prevented by a grown person, though he should explicitly desire it. In infants there is no such propensity; and an object may be approached to their organs, however near and however suddenly, without producing this effect. Frowns will be totally indifferent to a child, who has never found them associated with the effects of anger. Fear itself is a species of foresight; and in no case exists till introduced by experience.

It has been said, that the desire of self-preservation is innate.from the desire of self-preservation: I demand what is meant by this desire? Must we not understand by it, a preference of existence to non-existence? Do we prefer any thing but because it is apprehended to be good? It follows, that we cannot prefer existence, previously to our experience of the motives for preference it possesses. Indeed the ideas of life and death are exceedingly complicated, and very tardy in their formation. A child desires pleasure and loathes pain, long before he can have any imagination respecting the ceasing to exist.

Again, it has been said, that self-love is innate. But therefrom self-love; cannot be an error more easy of detection. By the love of [16] self we understand the approbation of pleasure, and dislike of pain: but this is only the faculty of perception under another name. Who ever denied that man was a percipient being? Who ever dreamed that there was a particular instinct necessary to render him percipient?

from pity: Pity has sometimes been supposed an instance of innate principle; particularly as it seems to arise more instantaneously in young persons, and persons of little refinement, than in others. But it was reasonable to expect, that threats and anger, circumstances that have been associated with our own sufferings, should excite painful feelings in us in the case of others, independently of any laboured analysis. The cries of distress, the appearance of agony or corporal infliction, irresistibly revive the memory of the pains accompanied by those symptoms in ourselves. Longer experience and observation enable us to separate the calamities of others and our own safety, the existence of pain in one subject and of pleasure or benefit in others, or in the same at a future period, more accurately than we could be expected to do previously to that experience.

from the vices of children: Such then is universally the subject of human institution and education. We bring neither virtue nor vice with us at our entrance into the world. But the seeds of error are ordinarily sown so early as to pass with superficial observers for innate.


Our constitution prompts us to utter a cry at the unexpectedtyranny: sensation of pain. Infants early perceive the assistance they obtain from the volition of others; and they have at first no means of inviting that assistance but by an inarticulate cry. In this neutral and innocent circumstance, combined with the folly and imbecility of parents and nurses, we are presented with the first occasion of vice. Assistance is necessary, conducive to the existence, the health and the mental sanity of the infant. Empire in the infant over those who protect him is unnecessary. If we do not withhold our assistance precisely at the moment when it ceases to be requisite, if our compliance or our refusal be not in every case irrevocable, if we grant any thing to impatience, importunity or obstinacy, from that moment we become parties in the intellectual murder of our offspring.

In this case we instil into them the vices of a tyrant; but wesullenness. are in equal danger of teaching them the vices of a slave. It is not till very late that mankind acquire the ideas of justice, retribution and morality, and these notions are far from existing in the minds of infants. Of consequence, when we strike, or when we rebuke them, we risk at least the exciting in them a sense of injury, and a feeling of resentment. Above all, sentiments of this sort cannot fail to be awakened, if our action be accompanied with symptoms of anger, cruelty, harshness or caprice. The same imbecility, that led us to inspire them with a spirit of tyranny by yielding to their importunities, afterwards dictates to [18] us an inconsistent and capricious conduct, at one time denying them as absurdly, as at another we gratified them unreasonably. Who, that has observed the consequences of this treatment, how generally these mistakes are committed, how inseparable they are in some degree from the wisest and the best, will be surprised at the early indications of depravity in children [*] ?

Conclusion. From these reasonings it sufficiently appears, that the moral qualities of men are the produce of the impressions made upon them, and that there is no instance of an original propensity to evil. Our virtues and vices may be traced to the incidents which make the history of our lives, and if these incidents could be divested of every improper tendency, vice would be extirpated from the world. The task may be difficult, may be of slow progress, and of hope undefined and uncertain. But hope will never desert it; and the man who is anxious for the benefit of his species, will willingly devote a portion of his activity to an enquiry into the mode of effecting this extirpation in whole or in part, an enquiry which promises much, if it do not in reality promise every thing.




    benefits of literature.—examples.—essential properties of literature.—its defects.
    benefits of education.—causes of its imbecility.
    benefits of political institution.—universality of its influence—proved by the mistakes of society.—origin of evil.

THERE are three principal causes by which the human mind is advanced towards a state of perfection; literature, or the diffusion of knowledge through the medium of discussion, whether written or oral; education, or a scheme for the early impression of right principles upon the hitherto unprejudiced mind; and political justice, or the adoption of any principle of morality and truth into the practice of a community. Let us take a momentary review of each of these.



Benefits of literature. FEW engines can be more powerful, and at the same time more salutary in their tendency, than literature. Without enquiring for the present into the cause of this phenomenon, it is sufficiently evident in fact, that the human mind is strongly infected with prejudice and mistake. The various opinions prevailing in different countries and among different classes of men upon the same subject, are almost innumerable; and yet of all these opinions only one can be true. Now the effectual way for extirpating these prejudices and mistakes seems to be literature.

Examples. Literature has reconciled the whole thinking world respecting the great principles of the system of the universe, and extirpated upon this subject the dreams of romance and the dogmas of superstition. Literature has unfolded the nature of the human mind, and Locke and others have established certain maxims respecting man, as Newton has done respecting matter, that are generally admitted for unquestionable. Discussion has ascertained with tolerable perspicuity the preference of liberty over slavery; and the Mainwarings, the Sibthorpes, and the Filmers, the race of speculative reasoners in favour of despotism, are almost extinct. Local prejudice had introduced innumerable privileges and prohibitions upon the subject of trade; speculation has nearly ascertained that perfect freedom is most favour [21] able to her prosperity. If in many instances the collation of evidence have failed to produce universal conviction, it must however be considered, that it has not failed to produce irrefragable argument, and that falshood would have been much shorter in duration, if it had not been protected and inforced by the authority of political government.

Indeed, if there be such a thing as truth, it must infalliblyEssential properties of literature. be struck out by the collision of mind with mind. The restless activity of intellect will for a time be fertile in paradox and error; but these will be only diurnals, while the truths that occasionally spring up, like sturdy plants, will defy the rigour of season and climate. In proportion as one reasoner compares his deductions with those of another, the weak places of his argument will be detected, the principles he too hastily adopted will be overthrown, and the judgments, in which his mind was exposed to no sinister influence, will be confirmed. All that is requisite in these discussions is unlimited speculation, and a sufficient variety of systems and opinions. While we only dispute about the best way of doing a thing in itself wrong, we shall indeed make but a trifling progress; but, when we are once persuaded that nothing is too sacred to be brought to the touchstone of examination, science will advance with rapid strides. Men, who turn their attention to the boundless field of enquiry, and still more who recollect the innumerable errors and caprices of mind, are apt to imagine that the labour is without benefit [22] and endless. But this cannot be the case, if truth at last have any real existence. Errors will, during the whole period of their reign, combat each other; prejudices that have passed unsuspected for ages, will have their era of detection; but, if in any science we discover one solitary truth, it cannot be overthrown.

Its defects. Such are the arguments that may be adduced in favour of literature. But, even should we admit them in their full force, and at the same time suppose that truth is the omnipotent artificer by which mind can infallibly be regulated, it would yet by no means sufficiently follow that literature is alone adequate to all the purposes of human improvement. Literature, and particularly that literature by which prejudice is superseded, and the mind is strung to a firmer tone, exists only as the portion of a few. The multitude, at least in the present state of human society, cannot partake of its illuminations. For that purpose it would be necessary, that the general system of policy should become favourable, that every individual should have leisure for reasoning and reflection, and that there should be no species of public institution, which, having falshood for its basis, should counteract their progress. This state of society, if it did not precede the general dissemination of truth, would at least be the immediate result of it.

But in representing this state of society as the ultimate result, [23] we should incur an obvious fallacy. The discovery of truth is a pursuit of such vast extent, that it is scarcely possible to prescribe bounds to it. Those great lines, which seem at present to mark the limits of human understanding, will, like the mists that rise from a lake, retire farther and farther the more closely we approach them. A certain quantity of truth will be sufficient for the subversion of tyranny and usurpation; and this subversion, by a reflected force, will assist our understandings in the discovery of truth. In the mean time, it is not easy to define the exact portion of discovery that must necessarily precede political melioration. The period of partiality and injustice will be shortened, in proportion as political rectitude occupies a principal share in our disquisition. When the most considerable part of a nation, either for numbers or influence, becomes convinced of the flagrant absurdity of its institutions, the whole will soon be prepared tranquilly and by a sort of common consent to supersede them.


But, if it appear that literature, unaided by the regularityBenefits of education. of institution and discipline, is inadequate to the reformation of the species, it may perhaps be imagined, that education, commonly so called, is the best of all subsidiaries for making up its defects. Education may have the advantage of taking mind in its original state, a soil prepared for culture, and as yet unin [24] fested with weeds; and it is a common and a reasonable opinion, that the task is much easier to plant right and virtuous dispositions in an unprejudiced understanding, than to root up the errors that have already become as it were a part of ourselves. If an erroneous and vicious education be, as it has been shewn to be, the source of all our depravity, an education, deprived of these errors, seems to present itself as the most natural exchange, and must necessarily render its subject virtuous and pure.

I will imagine the pupil never to have been made the victim of tyranny or the slave of caprice. He has never been permitted to triumph in the success of importunity, and cannot therefore well have become restless, inconstant, fantastical or unjust. He has been inured to ideas of equality and independence, and therefore is not passionate, haughty and overbearing. The perpetual witness of a temperate conduct and reasonable sentiments, he is not blinded with prejudice, is not liable to make a false estimate of things, and of consequence has no immoderate desires after wealth, and splendour, and the gratifications of luxury. Virtue has always been presented to him under the most attractive form, as the surest medium of success in every honourable pursuit, the never-failing consolation of disappointment, and infinitely superior in value to every other acquisition.


It cannot be doubted that such an education is calculated toCauses of its imbecility. produce very considerable effects. In the world indeed the pupil will become the spectator of scenes very different from what his preconceived ideas of virtue might have taught him to expect. Let us however admit it to be possible so to temper the mind, as to render it proof against the influence of example and the allurements of luxury. Still it may be reasonable to doubt of the sufficiency of education. How many instances may we expect to find, in which a plan has been carried into execution, so enlightened, unremitted and ardent, as to produce these extraordinary effects? Where must the preceptor himself have been educated, who shall thus elevate his pupil above all the errors of mankind? If the world teach an implicit deference to birth and riches and accidental distinctions, he will scarcely be exempt from this deference. If the world be full of intrigue and rivalship and selfishness, he will not be wholly disinterested. If falshood be with mankind at large reduced to a system, recommended by the prudent, commanded by the magistrate, inforced by the moralist [*] , and practised under a thousand forms, [26] the individual will not always have the simplicity to be sincere, or the courage to be true. If prejudice have usurped the feat of knowledge, if law and religion and metaphysics and government be surrounded with mystery and artifice, he will not know the truth, and therefore cannot teach it; he will not possess the criterion, and therefore cannot furnish it to another. Again; if a man thus mighty, thus accomplished, thus superior to rivalship and comparison, can be found, who will consent to the profanation of employing him in cultivating the mind of a boy, when he should be instructing the world?

Education, in the sense in which it has commonly been understood, though in one view an engine of unlimited power, is [27] exceedingly incompetent to the great business of reforming mankind. It performs its task weakly and in detail. The grand principles that the inventor seeks in his machines, and the philosopher in investigating the system of the universe, are such, as from a few simple data are sufficient to the production of a thousand events. But the education I have been describing is the reverse of this. It employs an immense combination of powers, and an endless chain of causes for the production of a single specimen. No task, which is not in its own nature impracticable, can easily be supposed more difficult, than that of counteracting universal error, and arming the youthful mind against the contagion of general example. The strongest mind that proposed this as its object, would scarcely undertake the forming more than one, or at most a very small number, of pupils. Where can a remedy be found for this fundamental disadvantage? where but in political justice, that all comprehensive scheme, that immediately applies to the removal of counteraction and contagion, that embraces millions in its grasp, and that educates in one school the preceptor and the pupil?


The benefits of political justice will best be understood, ifBenefits of political justice. we consider society in the most comprehensive view, taking into our estimate the erroneous institutions by which the human mind has been too often checked in its career, as well as those [28] well founded opinions of public and individual interest, which perhaps need only to be clearly explained, in order to their being generally received.

Universality of its influence: Now in whatever light it be considered, we cannot avoid perceiving, first, that political institution is peculiarly strong in that very point in which the efficacy of education was deficient, the extent of its operation. That it in some way influences our conduct will hardly be disputed. It is sufficiently obvious that a despotic government is calculated to render men pliant, and a free one resolute and independent. All the effects that any principle adopted into the practice of a community may produce, it produces upon a comprehensive scale. It creates a similar bias in the whole, or a considerable part of the society. The motive it exhibits, the stimulus it begets, are operative, because they are fitted to produce effect upon mind. They will therefore inevitably influence all to whom they are equally addressed. Virtue, where virtue is the result, will cease to be a task of perpetual watchfulness and contention. It will neither be, nor appear to be, a sacrifice of our personal advantage to disinterested considerations. It will render those the confederates, support and security of our rectitude, who were before its most formidable enemies.

proved by the mistakes of society. Again, an additional argument in favour of the efficacy of political institutions, arises from the extensive influence which [29] certain false principles, engendered by an imperfect system of society, have been found to exert. Superstition, an immoderate fear of shame, a false calculation of interest, are errors that have been always attended with the most extensive consequences. How incredible at the present day do the effects of superstition exhibited in the middle ages, the horrors of excommunication and interdict, and the humiliation of the greatest monarchs at the feet of the pope, appear? What can be more contrary to European modes than that dread of disgrace, which induces the Bramin widows of Indostan to destroy themselves upon the funeral pile of their husbands? What more horribly immoral than the mistaken idea which leads multitudes in commercial countries to regard fraud, falshood and circumvention as the truest policy? But, however powerful these errors may be, the empire of truth, if once established, would be incomparably greater. The man, who is enslaved by shame, superstition or deceit, will be perpetually exposed to an internal war of opinions, disapproving by an involuntary censure the conduct he has been most persuaded to adopt. No mind can be so far alienated from truth, as not in the midst of its degeneracy to have incessant returns of a better principle. No system of society can be so thoroughly pervaded with mistake, as not frequently to suggest to us sentiments of virtue, liberty and justice. But truth is in all its branches harmonious and consistent.


The recollection of this circumstance induces me to add as a concluding observation, that it may reasonably be doubted whether error could ever be formidable or long-lived, if government did not lend it support. The nature of mind is adapted to the perception of ideas, their correspondence and difference. In the right discernment of these is its true element and most congenial pursuit. Error would indeed for a time have been the result of our partial perceptions; but, as our perceptions are continually changing, and continually becoming more definite and correct, our errors would have been momentary, and our judgments have hourly approached nearer to the truth. The doctrine of transubstantiation, the belief that men were really eating flesh when they seemed to be eating bread, and drinking human blood when they seemed to be drinking wine, could never have maintained its empire so long, if it had not been reinforced by civil authority. Men would not have so long persuaded themselves that an old man elected by the intrigues of a conclave of cardinals, from the moment of that election became immaculate and infallible, if the persuasion had not been maintained by revenues, endowments and palaces. A system of government, that should lend no sanction to ideas of fanaticism and hypocrisy, would presently accustom its subjects to think justly upon topics of moral worth and importance. A state, that should abstain from imposing contradictory and impracticable oaths, and thus perpetually stimulating its members [31] to concealment and perjury, would soon become distinguished for plain dealing and veracity. A country, in which places of dignity and confidence should cease to be at the disposal of faction, favour and interest, would not long be the residence of servility and deceit.

These remarks suggest to us the true answer to an obviousOrigin of evil. objection, that might otherwise present itself, to the conclusion to which these principles appear to lead. It might be said, that an erroneous government can never afford an adequate solution for the existence of moral evil, since government was itself the production of human intelligence, and therefore, if ill, must have been indebted for its ill qualities to some wrong which had previous existence.

The proposition asserted in this objection is undoubtedly true. All vice is nothing more than error and mistake reduced into practice, and adopted as the principle of our conduct. But error is perpetually hastening to its own detection. Vicious conduct is soon discovered to involve injurious consequences. Injustice therefore by its own nature is little fitted for a durable existence. But government “lays its hand upon the spring there is in society, and puts a stop to its motion [*] .” It gives substance and permanence to our errors. It reverses the genuine propensities [32] of mind, and, instead of suffering us to look forward, teaches us to look backward for perfection. It prompts us to seek the public welfare, not in innovation and improvement, but in a timid reverence for the decisions of our ancestors, as if it were the nature of mind always to degenerate, and never to advance.




robbery and fraud, two great vices in society—originate, 1. in extreme poverty—2. in the ostentation of the rich—3. in their tyranny—rendered permanent—1. by legislation—2. by the administration of law—3. by the inequality of condition.

THE efficacy of political institutions will be rendered still more evident, if we enquire into the history of the most considerable vices at present existing in society; and if it can be shewn that they derive their inveteracy from political institution.

Two of the greatest abuses relative to the interior policy ofRobbery and fraud, two great vices in society: nations, which at this time prevail in the world, will be allowed to consist in the irregular transfer of property, either first by violence, or secondly by fraud. If among the inhabitants of any country there existed no desire in one individual to possess himself of the substance of another, or no desire so vehement and restless, as to prompt him to acquire it by means inconsistent with order and justice; undoubtedly in that country guilt could [34] hardly be known but by report. If every man could with perfect facility obtain the necessaries of life, and, obtaining them, feel no uneasy craving after its superfluities, temptation would lose its power. Private interest would visibly accord with public good; and civil society become all that poetry has feigned of the golden age. Let us enquire into the principles to which these evils owe their existence, and the treatment by which they may be alleviated or remedied.

originate, 1. in extreme poverty. First then it is to be observed, that, in the most refined states of Europe, the inequality of property has arisen to an alarming height. Vast numbers of their inhabitants are deprived of almost every accommodation that can render life tolerable or secure. Their utmost industry scarcely suffices for their support. The women and children lean with an insupportable weight upon the efforts of the man, so that a large family has in the lower order of life become a proverbial expression for an uncommon degree of poverty and wretchedness. If sickness or some of those casualties which are perpetually incident to an active and laborious life, be superadded to these burthens, the distress is yet greater.

It seems to be agreed that in England there is less wretchedness and distress than in most of the kingdoms of the continent. In England the poors' rates amount to the sum of two millions sterling per annum. It has been calculated that one person in [35] seven of the inhabitants of this country derives at some period of his life assistance from this fund. If to this we add the persons, who, from pride, a spirit of independence, or the want of a legal settlement, though in equal distress, receive no such assistance, the proportion will be considerably increased.

I lay no stress upon the accuracy of this calculation; the general fact is sufficient to give us an idea of the greatness of the abuse. The consequences that result are placed beyond the reach of contradiction. A perpetual struggle with the evils of poverty, if frequently ineffectual, must necessarily render many of the sufferers desperate. A painful feeling of their oppressed situation will itself deprive them of the power of surmounting it. The superiority of the rich, being thus unmercifully exercised, must inevitably expose them to reprisals; and the poor man will be induced to regard the state of society as a state of war, an unjust combination, not for protecting every man in his rights and securing to him the means of existence, but for engrossing all its advantages to a few favoured individuals, and reserving for the portion of the rest want, dependence and misery.

A second source of those destructive passions by which the2. in the ostentation of the rich: peace of society is interrupted, is to be found in the luxury, the pageantry and magnificence with which enormous wealth is usually accompanied. Human beings are capable of encoun [36] tering with chearfulness considerable hardships, when those hardships are impartially shared with the rest of the society, and they are not insulted with the spectacle of indolence and ease in others, no way deserving of greater advantages than themselves. But it is a bitter aggravation of their own calamity, to have the privileges of others forced on their observation, and, while they are perpetually and vainly endeavouring to secure for themselves and their families the poorest conveniences, to find others revelling in the fruits of their labours. This aggravation is assiduously administered to them under most of the political establishments at present in existence. There is a numerous class of individuals, who, though rich, have neither brilliant talents nor sublime virtues; and, however highly they may prize their education, their affability, their superior polish and the elegance of their manners, have a secret consciousness that they possess nothing by which they can so securely assert their pre-eminence and keep their inferiors at a distance, as the splendour of their equipage, the magnificence of their retinue and the sumptuousness of their entertainments. The poor man is struck with this exhibition; he feels his own miseries; he knows how unwearied are his efforts to obtain a slender pittance of this prodigal waste; and he mistakes opulence for felicity. He cannot persuade himself that an embroidered garment may frequently cover an aching heart.

3. in their tyranny: A third disadvantage that is apt to connect poverty with [37] discontent consists in the insolence and usurpation of the rich. If the poor man would in other respects compose himself in philosophic indifference, and, conscious that he possesses every thing that is truly honourable to man as fully as his rich neighbour, would look upon the rest as beneath his envy, his neighbour will not permit him to do so. He seems as if he could never be satisfied with his possessions unless he can make the spectacle of them grating to others; and that honest self-esteem, by which his inferior might otherwise arrive at apathy, is rendered the instrument of galling him with oppression and injustice. In many countries justice is avowedly made a subject of solicitation, and the man of the highest rank and most splendid connections almost infallibly carries his cause against the unprotected and friendless. In countries where this shameless practice is not established, justice is frequently a matter of expensive purchase, and the man with the longest purse is proverbially victorious. A consciousness of these facts must be expected to render the rich little cautious of offence in his dealings with the poor, and to inspire him with a temper overbearing, dictatorial and tyrannical. Nor does this indirect oppression satisfy his despotism. The rich are in all such countries directly or indirectly the legislators of the state; and of consequence are perpetually reducing oppression into a system, and depriving the poor of that little commonage of nature as it were, which might otherwise still have remained to them.


The opinions of individuals, and of consequence their desires, for desire is nothing but opinion maturing for action, will always be in a great degree regulated by the opinions of the community. But the manners prevailing in many countries are accurately calculated to impress a conviction, that integrity, virtue, understanding and industry are nothing, and that opulence is every thing. Does a man, whose exterior denotes indigence, expect to be well received in society, and especially by those who would be understood to dictate to the rest? Does he find or imagine himself in want of their assistance and favour? He is presently taught that no merits can atone for a mean appearance. The lesson that is read to him is, Go home, enrich yourself by whatever means, obtain those superfluities which are alone regarded as estimable, and you may then be secure of an amicable reception. Accordingly poverty in such countries is viewed as the greatest of demerits. It is escaped from with an eagerness that has no leisure for the scruples of honesty. It is concealed as the most indelible disgrace. While one man chooses the path of undistinguishing accumulation, another plunges into expences which are to impose him upon the world as more opulent than he is. He hastens to the reality of that penury, the appearance of which he dreads; and, together with his property, sacrifices the integrity, veracity and character which might have consoled him in his adversity.

rendered permanent: Such are the causes, that, in different degrees under the dif [39] ferent governments of the world, prompt mankind openly or secretly to encroach upon the property of each other. Let us consider how far they admit either of remedy or aggravation from political institution. Whatever tends to decrease the injuries attendant upon poverty, decreases at the same time the inordinate desire and the enormous accumulation of wealth. Wealth is not pursued for its own sake, and seldom for the sensual gratifications it can purchase, but for the same reasons that ordinarily prompt men to the acquisition of learning, eloquence and skill, for the love of distinction and fear of contempt. How few would prize the possession of riches, if they were condemned to enjoy their equipage, their palaces and their entertainments in solitude, with no eye to wonder at their magnificence, and no sordid observer ready to convert that wonder into an adulation of the owner? If admiration were not generally deemed the exclusive property of the rich, and contempt the constant lacquey of poverty, the love of gain would cease to be an universal passion. Let us consider in what respects political institution is rendered subservient to this passion.

First then, legislation is in almost every country grossly the1. by legislation: favourer of the rich against the poor. Such is the character of the game laws, by which the industrious rustic is forbidden to destroy the animal that preys upon the hopes of his future subsistence, or to supply himself with the food that unsought thrusts itself in his path. Such was the spirit of the late revenue laws [40] of France, which in several of their provisions fell exclusively upon the humble and industrious, and exempted from their operation those who were best able to support it. Thus in England the land tax at this moment produces half a million less than it did a century ago, while the taxes on consumption have experienced an addition of thirteen millions per annum during the same period. This is an attempt, whether effectual or no, to throw the burthen from the rich upon the poor, and as such is an exhibition of the spirit of legislation. Upon the same principle robbery and other offences, which the wealthier part of the community have no temptation to commit, are treated as capital crimes, and attended with the most rigorous, often the most inhuman punishments. The rich are encouraged to associate for the execution of the most partial and oppressive positive laws. Monopolies and patents are lavishly dispensed to such as are able to purchase them. While the most vigilant policy is employed to prevent combinations of the poor to fix the price of labour, and they are deprived of the benefit of that prudence and judgment which would select the scene of their industry.

2. by the administration of law: Secondly, the administration of law is not less iniquitous than the spirit in which it is framed. Under the late government of France the office of judge was a matter of purchase, partly by an open price advanced to the crown, and partly by a secret douceur paid to the minister. He, who knew best how to manage his market in the retail trade of justice, could afford to purchase the [41] good will of its functions at the highest price. To the client justice was avowedly made an object of personal solicitation, and a powerful friend, a handsome woman, or a proper present, were articles of much greater value than a good cause. In England the criminal law is administered with tolerable impartiality so far as regards the trial itself; but the number of capital offences, and of consequence the frequency of pardons, open even here a wide door to favour and abuse. In causes relating to property the practice of law is arrived at such a pitch as to render all justice ineffectual. The length of our chancery suits, the multiplied appeals from court to court, the enormous fees of counsel, attornies, secretaries, clerks, the drawing of briefs, bills, replications and rejoinders, and what has sometimes been called the glorious uncertainty of the law, render it often more advisable to resign a property than to contest it, and particularly exclude the impoverished claimant from the faintest hope of redress. Nothing certainly is more practicable than to secure to all questions of controversy a cheap and speedy decision, which, combined with the independence of the judges and a few obvious improvements in the construction of juries, would insure the equitable application of general rules to all characters and stations.

Thirdly, the inequality of conditions usually maintained by3. by the inequality of conditions. political institution, is calculated greatly to enhance the imagined excellence of wealth. In the ancient monarchies of the east, and in Turkey at the present day, an eminent station could [42] scarcely fail to excite implicit deference. The timid inhabitant trembled before his superior; and would have thought it little less than blasphemy, to touch the veil drawn by the proud satrap over his inglorious origin. The same principles were extensively prevalent under the feudal system. The vassal, who was regarded as a sort of live stock upon the estate, and knew of no appeal from the arbitrary fiat of his lord, would scarcely venture to suspect that he was of the same species. This however constituted an unnatural and violent situation. There is a propensity in man to look farther than the outside; and to come with a writ of enquiry into the title of the upstart and the successful. In England at the present day there are few poor men who do not console themselves, by the freedom of their animadversions upon their superiors. The new-fangled gentleman is by no means secure against having his tranquillity disturbed by their surly and pointed sarcasms. This propensity might easily be encouraged, and made conducive to the most salutary purposes. Every man might, as was the case in certain countries upon record, be inspired with the consciousness of citizenship, and be made to feel himself an active and efficient member of the great whole. The poor man would then perceive, that, if eclipsed, he could not be trampled upon; and he would no longer be stung with the furies of envy, resentment and despair.




perfectibility of man—instanced, first, in language.—its beginnings.—abstraction.—complexity of language.—second instance: alphabetical writing.—hieroglyphics at first universal.—progressive deviations.—application.

IF we would form to ourselves a solid estimate of political, orPerfectibility of man: indeed of any other science, we ought not to confine our survey to that narrowportion of things which passes under our own immediate inspection, and rashlypronounce every thing that we have not ourselves seen, to be impossible. Thereis no characteristic of man, which seems at present at least so eminently todistinguish him, or to be of so much importance in every branch of moral science,as his perfectibility. Let us carry back our minds to man in his original state,a being capable of impressions and knowledge to an unbounded extent, but nothaving as yet received the one or cultivated the other; and let us contrast thisbeing with all that science and genius have effected: and from hence we may formsome idea what it is of which hu [44] man nature iscapable. It is to be remembered, that this being did not as now derive assistancefrom the communications of his fellows, nor had his feeble and crude conceptionsassisted by the experience of successive centuries; but that in the state weare figuring all men were equally ignorant. The field of improvement was beforethem, but for every step in advance they were to be indebted to their untutoredefforts. Nor is it of any consequence whether such was actually the progressof mind, or whether, as others teach, the progress was abridged, and man wasimmediately advanced half way to the end of his career by the interposition ofthe author of his nature. In any case it is an allowable and no unimproving speculation,to consider mind as it is in itself, and to enquire what would have been itshistory, if, immediately upon its production, it had been left to be acted uponby those ordinary laws of the universe with whose operation we are acquainted.

instanced, I. in language. One of the acquisitions most evidently requisite as a preliminary to our present improvements is that of language. But it is impossible to conceive of an acquisition, that must have been in its origin more different from what at present it is found, or that less promised that copiousness and refinement it has since exhibited.

Its beginning. Its beginning was probably from those involuntary cries, which infants for example are found to utter in the earliest [45] stages of their existence, and which, previously to the idea of exciting pity or procuring assistance, spontaneously arise from the operation of pain upon our animal frame. These cries, when actually uttered, become a subject of perception to him by whom they are uttered; and, being observed to be constantly associated with certain preliminary impressions and to excite the idea of those impressions in the hearer, may afterwards be repeated from reflection and the desire of relief. Eager desire to communicate any information to another, will also prompt us to utter some simple sound for the purpose of exciting attention: this sound will probably frequently recur to organs unpractised to variety, and will at length stand as it were by convention for the information intended to be conveyed. But the distance is extreme from these simple modes of communication, which we possess in common with some of the inferior animals, to all the analysis and abstraction which languages require.

Abstraction indeed, though as it is commonly understood itAbstraction. be one of the sublimest operations of mind, is in some sort coeval with and inseparable from the existence of mind. The next step to simple perception is that of comparison, or the coupling together of two ideas and the perception of their resemblances and differences. Without comparison there can be no preference, and without preference no action: though it must be acknowledged, that this comparison is an operation that may be performed by the mind without adverting to its nature, and that [46] neither the brute nor the savage has any consciousness of the several steps of the intellectual progress. Comparison immediately leads to imperfect abstraction. The sensation of to-day is classed, if similar, with the sensation of yesterday, and an inference is made respecting the conduct to be adopted. Without this degree of abstraction the faint dawnings of language already described could never have existed. Abstraction, which was necessary to the first existence of language, is again assisted in its operations by language. That generalisation, which is implied in the very notion of thought, being thus embodied and rendered palpable, makes the mind acquainted with its own powers and creates a restless desire after farther progress.

Complexity of language. But, though it be by no means impossible, to trace the causes that concurred to the production of language, and to prove them adequate to their effect, it does not the less appear that this is an acquisition of slow growth and inestimable value. The very steps, were we to pursue them, would appear like an endless labyrinth. The distance is immeasurable between the three or four vague and inarticulate sounds uttered by animals, and the copiousness of lexicography or the regularity of grammar. The general and special names by which things are at first complicated and afterwards divided, the names by which properties are separated from their substances and powers from both, the comprehensive distribution of parts of speech, verbs, adjectives and particles, the inflexions of words by which the change [47] of their terminations changes their meaning through a variety of shadings, their concords and their governments, all of them present us with such a boundless catalogue of science, that he, who on the one hand did not know that the boundless task had been actually performed, or who on the other was not intimately acquainted with the progressive nature of mind, would pronounce the accomplishment of them impossible.

A second invention, well calculated to impress us with a senseSecond instance: alphabetical writing. Hieroglyphics at first universal. of the progressive nature of man, is that of alphabetical writing. Hieroglyphical or picture writing appears at some time to have been universal, and the difficulty of conceiving the gradation from this to alphabetical is so great, as to have induced Hartley, one of the most acute of all philosophical writers, to have recourse to miraculous interposition as the only adequate solution. In reality no problem can be imagined more operose, than that of decomposing the sounds of words into four and twenty simple elements or letters, and again finding these elements in all other words. When we have examined the subject a little more closely, and perceived the steps by which this labour was accomplished, perhaps the immensity of the labour will rather gain upon us, as he that shall have counted a million of units, will have a vaster idea upon the subject, than he that only considers them in the gross.

In China hieroglyphical writing has never been superseded byprogressive deviations. [48] alphabetical, and this from the very nature of their language, which is considerably monosyllabic, the same found being made to signify a great variety of objects, by means of certain shadings of tone too delicate for any alphabet to be able to represent. They have however two kinds of writing, one for the learned, and another for the vulgar. The learned adhere closely to their hieroglyphical writing, representing every word by its corresponding picture; but the vulgar are frequent in their deviations from it.

Hieroglyphical writing and speech may indeed be considered in the first instance as two languages, running parallel to each other, but with no necessary connection. The picture and the word each of them represent the idea, one as immediately as the other. But, though independent, they will become accidentally associated; the picture at first imperfectly, and afterwards more constantly suggesting the idea of its correspondent sound. It is in this manner that the mercantile classes of China began to corrupt, as it is styled, their hieroglyphical writing. They had a word suppose of two syllables to write. The character appropriate to that word they were not acquainted with, or it failed to suggest itself to their memory. Each of the syllables however was a distinct word in the language, and the characters belonging to them perfectly familiar. The expedient that suggested itself was to write these two characters with a mark signifying their union, though in reality the characters had hitherto been appropriated to ideas [49] of a different sort, wholly unconnected with that now intended to be conveyed. Thus a sort of rebus or chararde was produced. In other cases the word, though monosyllabic, was capable of being divided into two sounds, and the same process was employed. This is a first step towards alphabetical analysis. Some word, such as the interjection O! or the particle A is already a sound perfectly simple, and thus furnishes a first stone to the edifice. But, though these ideas may perhaps present us with a faint view of the manner in which an alphabet was produced, yet the actual production of a complete alphabet is perhaps of all human discoveries, that which required the most persevering reflection, the luckiest concurrence of circumstances, and the most patient and gradual progress.

Let us however suppose man to have gained the two firstApplication. elements of knowledge, speaking and writing; let us trace him through all his subsequent improvements, through whatever constitutes the inequality between Newton and the ploughman, and indeed much more than this, since the most ignorant ploughman in civilised society is infinitely different from what he would have been, when stripped of all the benefits he has derived from literature and the arts. Let us survey the earth covered with the labours of man, houses, inclosures, harvests, manufactures, instruments, machines, together with all the wonders of painting, poetry, eloquence and philosophy.


Such was man in his original state, and such is man as we at present behold him. Is it possible for us to contemplate what he has already done, without being impressed with a strong presentiment of the improvements he has yet to accomplish? There is no science that is not capable of additions; there is no art that may not be carried to a still higher perfection. If this be true of all other sciences, why not of morals? If this be true of all other arts, why not of social institution? The very conception of this as possible, is in the highest degree encouraging. If we can still farther demonstrate it to be a part of the natural and regular progress of mind, our confidence and our hopes will then be complete. This is the temper with which we ought to engage in the study of political truth. Let us look back, that we may profit by the experience of mankind; but let us not look back, as if the wisdom of our ancestors was such as to leave no room for future improvement.






the question stated.—provinces of sensation and reflection.—moral causes frequently mistaken for physical.—superiority of the former evident from the varieties of human character.—operation of physicalcausesrare.&x2014;fertility of reflection.—physical causes in the first instance superior, afterwards moral.—objection from the effect of breed in animals.—conclusion.

THERE are certain propositions which may be considered indifferently, either as corollaries flowing from the principles already established, or as a source of new arguments against the validity of those principles. In the first view they are entitled to a clear and perspicuous statement, and in the second to a mature examination. For example:


The question stated. The causes which appear to operate upon the human mind may be divided into two classes; perceptions, which are rendered directly a subject of reasoning, and regarded by the intellect as inducements to action; and perceptions, which act indirectly upon the mind, by rendering the animal frame gay, vigorous and elastic, or on the contrary sluggish, morbid and inactive. According to the system already established, the former of these are to be regarded as the whole, the latter being so comparatively inefficient and subordinate as to stand in the estimate as almost nothing. To many reasoners however they have by no means appeared of so trivial importance, and it may not be useless to examine for a moment the ideas they have formed, and the reasons which have induced them to ascribe so much to the meanest branch of the human constitution.

Impressions upon our senses may act either as physical or moral causes. Indisposition of the body operates upon the mind principally in the first of these ways, seeming without any formal deliberation of the understanding to incline us to dissatisfaction and indolence. Corporal punishment affects us principally in the latter mode, since, though it directly introduces a painful state of the mind, it influences our conduct, only as it is reflected upon by the understanding, and converted into a motive of action.

Provinces of sensation and reflection. It may be a curious speculation to examine how far these [53] classes are distinct from each other. It cannot be denied but that sensation is of some moment in the affair. It possesses the initiative. It is that from which all the intellects with which we are acquainted date their operations. Its first effect upon mind does in the majority of cases precede reflection and choice. In some cases the impressions upon our senses are foreseen by us, and may consequently be resisted in the outset. But it would be a contradiction to affirm that they can always be foreseen. Foresight is itself the offspring of experience.

Meanwhile, though they can only in particular instances beMoral causes frequently mistaken for physical. foreseen, and of consequence completely forestalled, yet much of their effect is in all cases to be ascribed to deliberation and choice. “I feel a painful sensation, and I persuade myself that it is wiser to submit, and thus cherish and second its influence, than to resist. I conceive myself unfortunate, oppressed by a combination of unfavourable accidents, and am rendered by this conception gloomy, discontented and wretched. I satisfy myself that my situation is such as to render exertion unreasonable, and believe that the attempt would produce nothing but abortive and fruitless torture. I remain listless, sluggish and inactive.”

How different would be the sum of my situation, if I were animated by sentiments of chearfulness, industry and courage? It has been said “that a rainy day has been known to convert a [54] man of valour into a coward.” How easily would this external disadvantage have been surmounted, if his mind had been more full of the benefits to arise from his valour, if the rainy day had been put in the balance with his wife and children, the most illustrious rewards to be bestowed upon himself, and freedom and felicity to be secured to his country? “Indigestion,” we are told, “perhaps a fit of the tooth-ach, renders a man incapable of strong thinking and spirited exertion.” How long would these be able to hold out against a sudden and unexpected piece of intelligence of the most delightful nature?

When operations of an injurious nature are inflicted on the body, and are encountered by the mind with unalterable firmness, what is the degree of pain which in such instances is suffered? Was the language of Anaxarchus merely a philosophical rant, “Beat on, tyrant! Thou mayest destroy the shell of Anaxarchus, but thou canst not touch Anaxarchus himself?” How much pain was really endured by Mutius Scævola and archbishop Cranmer, when each steadily held his hand to be devoured by the flames? How much is endured by the savage Indians, who sing in the midst of tortures, and sarcastically provoke their tormentors to more ingenious barbarity?

The truth that seems to result from these considerations is, that indisposition only becomes formidable in proportion as it is seconded by the consent of the mind; that our communi [55] cation with the material universe is at the mercy of our choice; and that the inability of the understanding for intellectual exertion is principally an affair of moral consideration, existing only in the degree in which it is deliberately preferred.

“The hero of to-day,” we are told, “shall by an indigestion orSuperiority of the former evident from the varieties of human character. a rainy atmosphere be converted into a coward to-morrow.” Waving the consideration of how far this fact where it exists is in reality of a moral and intellectual nature, let us examine to what degree a principle of this sort is the true index of human actions. We have already established it as a fundamental, that there are no innate ideas. Of consequence, if men were principally governed by external circumstances such as that of atmosphere, their characters and actions would be much alike. The same weather, that made you a coward, would make me so too, and an army would be defeated by a fog. Perhaps indeed this catastrophe would be prevented by the impartiality of the moisture, in proportion as the enemy advanced, which he necessarily must do, into the same atmosphere.

Every thing that checks the uniformity of this effect, and permanently distinguishes the character of one man from that of another, is to be traced to the association of ideas. But association is of the nature of reasoning. The principal, the most numerous and lasting of our associations, are intellectual, not accidental, built upon the resemblances and differences of things, [56] not upon the contingency of their occurring in any given time or place. It is thus that one man appears courageous and another cowardly, one man vigorous and another dull, under the same or nearly the same external circumstances.

Operation of physical causes rare. In reality the atmosphere, instead of considerably affecting the mass of mankind, affects in an eminent degree only a small part of that mass. The majority are either above or below it; are either too gross to feel strongly these minute variations, or too busy to be at leisure to attend to them. It is only a few, whose treatment has been tender enough to imbue them with extreme delicacy, and whose faculties are not roused by strong and unintermitted incitements, who can be thus blindly directed. If it should be said “that the weather indeed is too great a trifle to produce these consequences, but that there are pains and interruptions which scarcely any man can withstand;” it may be answered, that these occur too seldom to be mistaken for the efficient principles of human character, that the system which determines our proceedings rises from a different source, and ordinarily returns when the pain or interruption has subsided.

There can be no question more interesting than that which we are now considering. Upon our decision in this case it depends, whether those persons act wisely who prescribe to themselves a certain discipline and are anxious to enrich their minds with science, or whether on the contrary it be better to [57] trust every thing to the mercy of events. Is it possible that we should not perceive from the very nature of the thing the advantages which the wise man possesses over the foolish one, and that the points in which they resemble will be as nothing compared to those in which they differ? In those particulars in which our conduct is directed merely by external impressions we resemble the inferior animals; we differ from them in the greater facility with which we arrange our sensations, and compare, prefer and judge.

Out of a single sensation a great variety of reflections mayFertility of reflection. be generated. Let the thing perceived be a material substance of certain regular dimensions. I perceive that it has an upper and a lower surface, I can therefore conceive of it as divided. I can conceive of the parts into which it is formed as moving towards and from each other, and hence I acquire the ideas of distance and space. I can conceive of them as striking against each other, and hence I derive the notion of impenetrability, gravity and momentum, the slowness, rapidity and direction of motion. Let the sensation be a pain in the head. I am led to reflect upon its causes, its seat, the structure of the parts in which it resides, the inconvenience it imposes, the consequences with which it may be attended, the remedies that may be applied and their effects, whether external or internal, material or intellectual.

It is true that the infant and inexperienced mind cannot thusPhysical causes in the first instance analyse and conjure up dissertations of philosophy out of its most [58] superior, afterwards moral. trivial sensations. Such a capacity infers a long series of preceding impressions. Mind is in its infancy nearly what these philosophers describe, the creature of contingencies. But the farther it advances, the more it individualises. Each man has habits and prejudices that are properly his own. He lives in a little universe of his own creating, or he communicates with the omnipresent and eternal volume of truth. With these he compares the successive perceptions of his mind, and upon these depend the conclusions he draws and the conduct he observes. Hence it inevitably follows, that physical causes, though of some consequence in the history of man, sink into nothing, when compared with the great and inexpressible operations of reflection. They are the prejudices we conceive or the judgments we form, our apprehensions of truth and falshood, that constitute the true basis of distinction between man and man. The difference between savage and savage indeed, in the first generation of the human species and in perfect solitude, can only be ascribed to the different impressions made upon their senses. But this difference would be almost imperceptible. The ideas of wisdom and folly would never have entered the human mind, if men, like beasts, derived neither good nor evil from the reflections and discoveries of their companions and ancestors.

Objection from the effect of breed in animals. Hence we are furnished with an answer to the analogical argument from the considerable effects that physical causes appear to produce upon brutes. “Breed for example appears to be of unquestionable importance to the character and qualifications of [59] horses and dogs; why should we not suppose this or certain other brute and occult causes to be equally efficacious in the case of men? How comes it that the races of animals perhaps never degenerate, if carefully cultivated; at the same time that we have no security against the wisest philosopher's begetting a dunce?”

I answer, that the existence of physical causes cannot be controverted. In the case of man their efficacy is swallowed up in the superior importance of reflection and science. In animals on the contrary they are left almost alone. If a race of negroes were taken, and maintained each man from his infancy, except so far as was necessary for the propagation of the species, in solitude; or even if they were excluded from an acquaintance with the improvements and imaginations of their ancestors, though permitted the society of each other, the operation of breed might perhaps be rendered as conspicuous among them, as in the different classes of horses and dogs. But the ideas they would otherwise receive from their parents and civilised or half-civilised neighbours would be innumerable: and, if the precautions above mentioned were unobserved, all parallel between the two cases would cease.

Such is the character of man considered as an individual. HeConclusion. is operated upon by exterior causes immediately, producing certain effects upon him independently of the exercise of reason; and he is operated upon by exterior causes mediately, their impressions furnishing him with materials for reflection, and as [60] suming the form of motives to act or to refrain from acting. But the latter of these, at least so far as relates to man in a civilised state, may stand for the whole. He that would change the character of the individual, would miserably misapply his efforts, if he principally sought to effect this purpose by the operations of heat and cold, dryness and moisture upon the animal frame. The true instruments of moral influence, are desire and aversion, punishment and reward, the exhibition of general truth, and the development of those punishments and rewards, which wisdom and error by the very nature of the thing constantly bring along with them.



character of the priesthood.—all nations capable of liberty.—the assertion illustrated.—experience favours these reasonings.—means of introducing liberty.

AS is the character of the individual, so may we expect to find it with nations and great bodies of men. The operations of law and political institution will be important and interesting, the operations of climate trifling and unworthy of notice. Thus there are particular professions, such as that of the priesthood, which must always operate to the production of a particular character.


Priests are upon all occasions accustomed to have their opinionsCharacter of the priesthood. listened to with implicit deference; they will therefore be imperious, dogmatical and impatient of opposition. Their success with mankind depends upon the opinion of their superior innocence; they will therefore be particularly anxious about appearances, their deportment will be grave and their manners formal. The frank and ingenuous sallies of mind they will be obliged to suppress; the errors and irregularities into which they may be drawn they will be studious to conceal. They are obliged at set intervals to assume the exterior of an ardent devotion; but it is impossible that this should at all times be free from occasional coldness and distraction. Their importance is connected with their real or supposed mental superiority over the rest of mankind; they must therefore be patrons of prejudice and implicit faith. Their prosperity depends upon the reception of particular opinions in the world; they must therefore be enemies to freedom of enquiry; they must have a bias upon their minds impressed by something different from the force of evidence. Particular moral causes may in some instances limit, perhaps supersede the influence of general ones, and render some men superior to the character of their profession; but, exclusively of such exceptions, priests of all religions, of all climates and of all ages will have a striking similarity of manners and disposition. In the same manner we may rest assured that free men in whatever country will be firm, vigorous and spirited in proportion to their freedom, and that vassals and slaves will be ignorant, servile and unprincipled.


All nations capable of liberty. The truth of this axiom has indeed been pretty universally admitted; but it has been affirmed to be “impossible to establish a free government in certain warm and effeminate climates.” To enable us to judge of the reasonableness of this affirmation, let us consider what process would be necessary in order to introduce a free government into any country.

The answer to this question is to be found in the answer to that other, whether freedom have any real and solid advantages over slavery? If it have, then our mode of proceeding respecting it ought to be exactly parallel to that we should employ in recommending any other benefit. If I would persuade a man to accept a great estate, supposing that possession to be a real advantage; if I would induce him to select for his companion a beautiful and accomplished woman, or for his friend a wise, a brave and disinterested man; if I would persuade him to prefer ease to pain, and gratification to torture, what more is necessary, than that I should inform his understanding, and make him see these things in their true and genuine colours? Should I find it necessary to enquire first of what climate he was a native, and whether that were favourable to the possession of a great estate, a fine woman, or a generous friend?

The advantages of liberty over slavery are not less real, though unfortunately they are less palpable, than in the cases just enumerated. Every man has a confused sense of these advantages, but he has been taught to believe that men would tear each other to pieces, if they had not priests to direct their con [63] sciences, and lords to consult for their subsistence, and kings to steer them in safety through the inexplicable dangers of the political ocean. But whether they be misled by these or other prejudices, whatever be the fancied terror that induces them quietly to submit to have their hands bound behind them, and the scourge vibrated over their heads, all these are questions of reason. Truth may be presented to them in such irresistible evidence, perhaps by such just degrees familiarised to their apprehension, as ultimately to conquer the most obstinate prepossessions. Let the press find its way into Persia or Indostan, let the political truths discovered by the best of the European sages be transfused into their language, and it is impossible that a few solitary converts should not be made. It is the property of truth to spread; and, exclusively of great national convulsions, its advocates in each succeeding age will be somewhat more numerous than in that which went before. The causes, which suspend its progress, arise, not from climate, but from the watchful and intolerant jealousy of despotic sovereigns.

Let us suppose then that the majority of a nation by howeverThe assertion illustrated slow a progress are convinced of the desirableness, or, which amounts to the same, the practicability of freedom. The supposition would be parallel, if we were to imagine ten thousand men of sound intellect, shut up in a madhouse, and superintended by a set of three or four keepers. Hitherto they have been persuaded, for what absurdity has been too great for human intellect [64] to entertain? that they were destitute of reason, and that the superintendence under which they were placed was necessary for their preservation. They have therefore submitted to whips and straw and bread and water, and perhaps imagined this tyranny to be a blessing. But a suspicion is at length by some means propagated among them, that all they have hitherto endured has been an imposition. The suspicion spreads, they reflect, they reason, the idea is communicated from one to another through the chinks of their cells, and at certain times when the vigilance of their keepers has not precluded them from the pleasures of mutual society. It becomes the clear perception, the settled persuasion of the majority of the persons confined.

What will be the consequence of this opinion? Will the influence of climate prevent them from embracing the obvious means of their happiness? Is there any human understanding that will not perceive a truth like this, when forcibly and repeatedly presented? Is there a mind that will conceive no indignation at so horrible a tyranny? In reality the chains fall off of themselves, when the magic of opinion is dissolved. When a great majority of any society are persuaded to secure any benefit to themselves, there is no need of tumult or violence to effect it. The effort would be to resist reason, not to obey it. The prisoners are collected in their common hall, and the keepers inform them that it is time to return to their cells. They have no longer the power to obey. They look at the impotence of [65] their late masters, and smile at their presumption. They quietly leave the mansion where they were hitherto immured, and partake of the blessings of light and air like other men.

Let us compare this theory with the history of mankind. IfExperience favours these reasonings the theory be true, we may expect to find the inhabitants of neighbouring provinces in different states, widely discriminated by the influence of government, and little assimilated by resemblance of climate. Thus the Gascons are the gayest people in all France; but the moment we pass the Pyrenees, we find the serious and saturnine character of the Spaniard. Thus the Athenians were lively, penetrating and ingenious, but the Thebans unpolished, phlegmatic and dull.—It would be reasonable to expect that different races of men, intermixed with each other, but differently governed, would afford a strong and visible contrast. Thus the Turks are brave, open and sincere, but the modern Greeks mean, cowardly and deceitful.—Wandering tribes closely connected among themselves, and having little sympathy with the people with whom they reside, may be expected to have great similarity of manners. Their situation renders them conspicuous, the faults of individuals reflect dishonour upon the whole, and their manners will be particularly sober and reputable, unless they should happen to labour under so peculiar an odium as to render all endeavour after reputation fruitless. Thus the Armenians in the East are as universally distinguished among the nations with whom they reside, as the Jews in Europe; but the Arme [66] nians are as much noted for probity, as the Jews for extortion.—What resemblance is there between the ancient and the modern Greeks, between the old Romans and the present inhabitants of Italy, between the Gauls and the French? Diodorus Siculus describes the Gauls as particularly given to taciturnity, and Aristotle affirms that they are the only warlike nation who are negligent of women.

If on the contrary climate were principally concerned in forming the characters of nations, we might expect to find heat and cold producing an extraordinary effect upon men, as they do upon plants and inferior animals. But the reverse of this appears to be the fact. Is it supposed that the neighbourhood of the sun renders men gay, fantastic and ingenious? While the French, the Greeks and the Persians have been remarkable for their gaiety, the Spaniards, the Turks and the Chinese are not less distinguished by the seriousness of their deportment. It was the opinion of the ancients that the northern nations were incapable of civilisation and improvement; but the moderns have found that the English are not inferior in literary eminence to any nation in the world. Is it asserted, that the northern nations are more hardy and courageous, and that conquest has usually travelled from that to the opposite quarter? It would have been truer to say that conquest is usually made by poverty upon plenty. The Turks, who from the deserts of Tartary invaded the fertile provinces of the Roman empire, met the Sara [67] cens half way, who were advancing with similar views from the no less dreary deserts of Arabia. In their extreme perhaps heat and cold may determine the characters of nations, of the negroes for example on one side and the Laplanders on the other. Not but that in this very instance much may be ascribed to the wretchedness of a sterile climate on the one hand, and to the indolence consequent upon a spontaneous fertility on the other. As to what is more than this, the remedy has not yet been discovered. Physical causes have already appeared to be powerful, till moral ones can be brought into operation.

Has it been alledged that carnivorous nations are endowed with the greatest courage? The Swedes, whose nutriment is meagre and sparing, have ranked with the most distinguished modern nations in the operations of war.

It is usually said, that northern nations are most addicted to wine, and southern to women. Admitting this observation in its full force, it would only prove that climate may operate upon the grosser particles of our frame, not that it influences those finer organs upon which the operations of intellect depend. But the truth of the first of these remarks may well be doubted. The Greeks appear to have been sufficiently addicted to the pleasures of the bottle. Among the Persians no character was more coveted than that of a hard drinker. It is easy to obtain any thing [68] of the negroes, even their wives and children, in exchange for liquor.

As to women the circumstance may be accounted for from moral causes. The heat of the climate obliges both sexes to go half naked. The animal arrives sooner at maturity in hot countries. And both these circumstances produce vigilance and jealousy, causes which inevitably tend to inflame the passions [*].

Means of introducing liberty The result of these reasonings is of the utmost importance to him who speculates upon principles of government. It is of little consequence what discoveries may be made in moral and political science, if, when we have ascertained most accurately what are the intellectual requisites that lead to wisdom and virtue, a blind and capricious principle is to intrude itself, and taint all our conclusions. Accordingly there have been writers on the subject of government, who, admitting, and even occasionally declaiming with enthusiasm upon the advantages of liberty and the equal claims of mankind to every social benefit, have yet concluded that the corruptions of despotism and the usurpations of aristocracy were congenial to certain ages and divisions of the world, and under proper limitations entitled to our approbation.


But this hypothesis will be found incapable of holding out against a moment's serious reflection. Can there be any state of mankind that renders them incapable of the exercise of reason? Can there be a period in which it is necessary to hold the human species in a condition of pupillage? If there be, it seems but reasonable that their superintendents and guardians, as in the case of infants of another sort, should provide for the means of their subsistence without calling upon them for the exertions of manual industry. Wherever men are competent to look the first duties of humanity in the face, and to provide for their defence against the invasions of hunger and the inclemencies of the sky, there they will out of all doubt be found equally capable of every other exertion that may be necessary to their security and welfare. Present to them a constitution which shall put them into a simple and intelligible method of directing their own affairs, adjudging their contests among themselves, and cherishing in their bosoms a manly sense of dignity, equality and independence, and you need not doubt that prosperity and virtue will be the result.

The real enemies of liberty in any country are not the people, but those higher orders who profit by a contrary system. Infuse just views of society into a certain number of the liberally educated and reflecting members; give to the people guides and instructors; and the business is done. This however is not to be accomplished but in a gradual manner, as will more fully [70] appear in the sequel. The error lies, not in tolerating the worst forms of government for a time, but in supposing a change impracticable, and not incessantly looking forward to its accomplishment.




the objection stated.—source of this objection.—refuted from mutability—from mortality—from sympathy—from the nature of truth.—the probability of perseverance considered.

THERE is another proposition relative to the subject,The objection stated which isless to be considered as an assertion distinct in itself, than as a particularbranch of that which has just been discussed; I mean the proposition which affirms, “thatnations like individuals are subject to the phenomena of youth and old age, andthat, when a people by luxury and depravation of manners have sunk into decrepitude,it is not in the power of legislation to restore them to vigour and innocence.”

This idea has partly been founded upon the romantic notionsSource of this objection of pastoral life and the golden age. Innocence is not virtue. Virtue demands the active employment of an ardent mind in the promotion of the general good. No man can be eminently virtuous, who is not accustomed to an extensive range of reflection. He must see all the benefits to arise from a disinterested [72] proceeding, and must understand the proper method of producing those benefits. Ignorance, the slothful habits and limited views of uncultivated life have not in them more of true virtue, though they may be more harmless, than luxury, vanity and extravagance. Individuals of exquisite feeling, whose disgust has been excited by the hardened selfishness or the unblushing corruption which have prevailed in their own times, have recurred in imagination to the forests of Norway or the bleak and uncomfortable Highlands of Scotland in search of a purer race of mankind. This imagination has been the offspring of disappointment, not the dictate of reason and philosophy.

It may be true, that ignorance is nearer than prejudice to the reception of wisdom, and that the absence of virtue is a condition more hopeful than the presence of its opposite. In this case it would have been juster to compare a nation sunk in luxury, to an individual with confirmed habits of wrong, than to an individual whom a debilitated constitution was bringing fast to the grave. But neither would that comparison have been fair and equitable.

Refuted from mutability: The condition of nations is more fluctuating, and will be found less obstinate in its resistance to a consistent endeavour for their improvement, than that of individuals. In nations some of their members will be less confirmed in error than others. A certain number will be only in a very small degree indisposed [73] to listen to the voice of truth. This number will perpetually increase. Every new convert will be the means of converting others. In proportion as the body of disciples is augmented, the modes of attack upon the prejudices of others will be varied, and suited to the variety of men's tempers and prepossessions.

Add to this that generations of men are perpetually going offfrom mortality: the stage, while other generations succeed. The next generation will not have so many prejudices to subdue. Suppose a despotic nation by some revolution in its affairs to become possessed of a free constitution. The children of the present race will be bred in more firm and independent habits of thinking; the suppleness, the timidity and the vicious dexterity of their fathers will give place to an erect mien, and a clear and decisive judgment. The partial and imperfect change of character which was introduced at first, will in the succeeding age become more unalloyed and complete.

Lastly, the power of social institutions changing the characterfrom sympathy: of nations is very different from and infinitely greater than any power which can ordinarily be brought to bear upon a solitary individual. Large bodies of men, when once they have been enlightened and persuaded, act with more vigour than solitary individuals. They animate the mutual exertions of each other, and the united forces of example and shame urge them to perseverance. The case is not of that customary sort where the [74] power of reason only is tried in curing any person of his errors; but is as if he should be placed in an entirely new situation. His habits are broken through, and his motives of action changed. Instead of being perpetually recalled to vicious practices by the recurrence of his former connections, the whole society receives an impulse from the same cause that acts upon any individual. New ideas are suggested, and the surprise of novelty conspires with the approbation of truth to prevent men from falling back into imbecility and languor.

from the nature of truth The question may in reality be reduced to an enquiry, whether the human understanding can be made the recipient of truth, whether it be possible for an effort so strenuous to exist as to make men aware of their true interests. For let this be granted, and the consequence is inevitable. It has already sufficiently appeared, that whatever is politically right or politically wrong, must be in all cases of no trivial consequence to the welfare of mankind. Monarchy for example will by all men be acknowledged to be attended with many disadvantages. It acts upon insufficient and partial information, it generates intrigue, corruption, adulation and servility. If it could be proved, that it produced no advantages in equal proportion, and that its abolition would not lead to mischief, anarchy and disorder, is there a nation upon the face of the earth to whom these propositions were rendered palpable, that would endure to submit to it? Is there a nation upon the face of the earth, that would submit [75] to the impositions of its administration, the wars it occasions, and the lavish revenues by which it is maintained, if they knew it to be merely an excrescence and a disease in the order of society?

But it has been farther alledged, that, even should a luxuriousThe probability of perseverance considered nation be prompted by intolerable grievances and notorious usurpation to assert the just principles of human society, they would be unable to perpetuate them, and would soon be led back by their evil habits to their former vices and corruption: that is, they would be capable of the heroic energy that should expel the usurper, but not of the moderate resolution that should prevent his return. They would rouse themselves so far from their lethargy as to assume a new character and enter into different views; but, after having for some time acted upon their convictions, they would suddenly become incapable of understanding the truth of their principles and feeling their influence.

Men always act upon their apprehensions of preferableness. There are few errors of which they are guilty, which may not be resolved into a narrow and inadequate view of the alternative presented for their choice. Present pleasure may appear more certain and eligible than distant good. But they never choose evil as apprehended to be evil. Wherever a clear and unanswerable notion of any subject is presented to their view, a correspondent action or course of actions inevitably follows. Having thus gained [76] one step in the acquisition of truth, it cannot easily be conceived of as lost. A body of men, having detected the injurious consequences of an evil under which they have long laboured, and having shaken it off, will scarcely voluntarily restore the mischief they have annihilated. Nothing can reconcile them to the revival of falshood, which does not obliterate their present conviction of truth.








nature of the enquiry—mode of pursuing it.—distinction between society and government.

MR. Locke begins his celebrated Treatise of GovernmentNature of the enquiry with a refutation of the patriarchal scheme of sir Robert Filmer; and, having thus cleared his ground, proceeds to observe, that “he, that will not give just occasion to think that all government in the world is the product only of force and violence, and that men live together by no other rules but that of beasts, [78] must of necessity find out another rise of government, and another original of political power [*] .” Accordingly he proceeds through the greater part of his treatise to reason abstractedly upon the probable history of the early ages of mankind, and concludes that no legitimate government could be built upon any other foundation than that of an original contract.

It is to be suspected that this great man, friend as he was to the liberty and the interests of mankind, intrepid and sagacious in his search after truth, has been guilty of an oversight in the first step of the investigation.

Mode of pursuing it There are two modes, according to which we may enquire into the origin of society and government. We may either examine them historically, that is, consider in what manner they have or ought to have begun, as Mr. Locke has done; or we may examine them philosophically, that is, consider the moral principles upon which they depend. The first of these subjects is not without its use; but the second is of a higher order and more essential importance. The first is a question of form; the second of substance. It would be of trivial consequence practically considered, from what source any form of society flowed, and by what mode its principles were sanctioned, could we be always secure of their conformity to the dictates of truth and justice.


It is farther necessary before we enter upon the subject carefully to distinguish between society and government. Men associated at first for the sake of mutual assistance. They did not foresee that any restraint would be necessary, to regulate the conduct of individual members of the society, towards each other, or towards the whole. The necessity of restraint grew out of the errors and perverseness of a few. An acute writer has expressed this idea with peculiar felicity. “Society and government,” says he, “are different in themselves, and have different origins. Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness. Society is in every state a blessing; government even in its best state but a necessary evil [*] .”




connection of politics and morals.—extent and meaning of justice. —subject of justice: mankind.—its distribution measured by the capacity of its subject—by his usefulness.—family affection consideredx2014gratitudeconsidonsidered.—objections: from ignorance—from utility.—an exception stated.—degrees of justice.—application.—idea of political justice.

Connection of politics and morals FROM what has been said it appears, that the subject of the present enquiry is strictly speaking a department of the science of morals. Morality is the source from which its fundamental axioms must be drawn, and they will be made somewhat clearer in the present instance, if we assume the term justice as a general appellation for all moral duty.

Extent and meaning of justice That this appellation is sufficiently expressive of the subject will appear, if we consider for a moment mercy, gratitude, temperance, or any of those duties which in looser speaking are contradistinguished from justice. Why should I pardon this criminal, [81] remunerate this favour, abstain from this indulgence? If it partake of the nature of morality, it must be either right or wrong, just or unjust. It must tend to the benefit of the individual, either without intrenching upon, or with actual advantage to the mass of individuals. Either way it benefits the whole, because individuals are parts of the whole. Therefore to do it is just, and to forbear it is unjust. If justice have any meaning, it is just that I should contribute every thing in my power to the benefit of the whole.

Considerable light will probably be thrown upon our investigation,Subject of justice: mankind if, quitting for the present the political view, we examine justice merely as it exists among individuals. Justice is a rule of conduct originating in the connection of one percipient being with another. A comprehensive maxim which has been laid down upon the subject is, “that we should love our neighbour as ourselves.” But this maxim, though possessing considerable merit as a popular principle, is not modelled with the strictness of philosophical accuracy.

In a loose and general view I and my neighbour are both ofIts distribution measured by the capacity of its subject: us men; and of consequence entitled to equal attention. But in reality it is probable that one of us is a being of more worth and importance than the other. A man is of more worth than a beast; because, being possessed of higher faculties, he is capable of a more refined and genuine happiness. In the same manner [82] the illustrious archbishop of Cambray was of more worth than his chambermaid, and there are few of us that would hesitate to pronounce, if his palace were in flames, and the life of only one of them could be preserved, which of the two ought to be preferred.

by his usefulness But there is another ground of preference, beside the private consideration of one of them being farther removed from the state of a mere animal. We are not connected with one or two percipient beings, but with a society, a nation, and in some sense with the whole family of mankind. Of consequence that life ought to be preferred which will be most conducive to the general good. In saving the life of Fenelon, suppose at the moment when he was conceiving the project of his immortal Telemachus, I should be promoting the benefit of thousands, who have been cured by the perusal of it of some error, vice and consequent unhappiness. Nay, my benefit would extend farther than this, for every individual thus cured has become a better member of society, and has contributed in his turn to the happiness, the information and improvement of others.

Supposing I had been myself the chambermaid, I ought to have chosen to die, rather than that Fenelon should have died. The life of Fenelon was really preferable to that of the chambermaid. But understanding is the faculty that perceives the truth of this and similar propositions; and justice is the principle that [83] regulates my conduct accordingly. It would have been just in the chambermaid to have preferred the archbishop to herself. To have done otherwise would have been a breach of justice.

Supposing the chambermaid had been my wife, my motherFamily affection considered or my benefactor. This would not alter the truth of the proposition. The life of Fenelon would still be more valuable than that of the chambermaid; and justice, pure, unadulterated justice, would still have preferred that which was most valuable. Justice would have taught me to save the life of Fenelon at the expence of the other. What magic is there in the pronoun “my,” to overturn the decisions of everlasting truth? My wife or my mother may be a fool or a prostitute, malicious, lying or dishonest. If they be, of what consequence is it that they are mine?

“But my mother endured for me the pains of child bearing,Gratitude considered and nourishedme in the helplessness of infancy.” When she first subjected herself tothe necessity of these cares, she was probably influenced by no particular motivesof benevolence to her future offspring. Every voluntary benefit however entitlesthe bestower to some kindness and retribution. But why so? Because a voluntarybenefit is an evidence of benevolent intention, that is, of virtue. It is thedisposition of the mind, not the external action, that entitles to respect. Butthe merit of this disposition is equal, whether the benefit was conferred uponme or upon another. I and another man cannot both be right in preferring [84] ourown individual benefactor, for no man can be at the same time both better andworse than his neighbour. My benefactor ought to be esteemed, not because hebestowed a benefit upon me, but because he bestowed it upon a human being. Hisdesert will be in exact proportion to the degree, in which that human being wasworthy of the distinction conferred. Thus every view of the subject brings usback to the consideration of my neighbour's moral worth and his importance tothe general weal, as the only standard to determine the treatment to which heis entitled. Gratitude therefore, a principle which has so often been the themeof the moralist and the poet, is no part either of justice or virtue. By gratitudeI understand a sentiment, which would lead me to prefer one man to another, fromsome other consideration than that of his superior usefulness or worth: thatis, which would make something true to me (for example this preferableness),which cannot be true to another man, and is not true in itself [*].

Objections: It may be objected, “that my relation, my companion, or my benefactor will of course in many instances obtain an uncommon from ignorance: portion of my regard: for, not being universally capable of discriminating the comparative worth of different men, I shall inevitably judge most favourably of him, of whose virtues I have received the most unquestionable proofs; and thus shall be com [85] pelled to prefer the man of moral worth whom I know, to another who may possess, unknown to me, an essential superiority.”

This compulsion however is founded only in the present imperfection of human nature. It may serve as an apology for my error, but can never turn error into truth. It will always remain contrary to the strict and inflexible decisions of justice. The difficulty of conceiving this is owing merely to our confounding the disposition from which an action is chosen, with the action itself. The disposition, that would prefer virtue to vice and a greater degree of virtue to a less, is undoubtedly a subject of approbation; the erroneous exercise of this disposition by which a wrong object is selected, if unavoidable, is to be deplored, but can by no colouring and under no denomination be converted into right. [*]

It may in the second place be objected, “that a mutualfrom utility commerce of benefitstends to increase the mass of benevolent action, and that to increase the massof benevolent action is to contribute to the general good.” Indeed! Is thegeneral good promoted by falshood, by treating a man of one degree of worth,as if he had ten times that worth? or as if he were in any degree different fromwhat he really is? Would not the most beneficial consequences result from a differentplan; from my [86] constantly and carefully enquiringinto the deserts of all those with whom I am connected, and from their beingsure, after a certain allowance for the fallibility of human judgment, of beingtreated by me exactly as they deserved? Who can tell what would be the effectsof such a plan of conduct universally adopted?

An exception stated There seems to be more truth in the argument, derived chiefly from the unequal distribution of property, in favour of my providing in ordinary cases for my wife and children, my brothers and relations, before I provide for strangers. As long as providing for individuals belongs to individuals, it seems as if there must be a certain distribution of the class needing superintendence and supply among the class affording it, that each man may have his claim and resource. But this argument, if admitted at all, is to be admitted with great caution. It belongs only to ordinary cases; and cases of a higher order or a more urgent necessity will perpetually occur, in competition with which these will be altogether impotent. We must be severely scrupulous in measuring out the quantity of supply; and, with respect to money in particular, must remember how little is yet understood of the true mode of employing it for the public benefit.

Degrees of justice Having considered the persons with whom justice is conversant, let us next enquire into the degree in which we are obliged to consult the good of others. And here I say, that it is just [87] that I should do all the good in my power. Does any person in distress apply to me for relief? It is my duty to grant it, and I commit a breach of duty in refusing. If this principle be not of universal application, it is because, in conferring a benefit upon an individual, I may in some instances inflict an injury of superior magnitude upon myself or society. Now the same justice, that binds me to any individual of my fellow men, binds me to the whole. If, while I confer a benefit upon one man, it appear, in striking an equitable balance, that I am injuring the whole, my action ceases to be right and becomes absolutely wrong. But how much am I bound to do for the general weal, that is, for the benefit of the individuals of whom the whole is composed? Every thing in my power. What to the neglect of the means of my own existence? No; for I am myself a part of the whole. Beside, it will rarely happen but that the project of doing for others every thing in my power, will demand for its execution the preservation of my own existence; or in other words, it will rarely happen but that I can do more good in twenty years than in one. If the extraordinary case should occur in which I can promote the general good by my death, more than by my life, justice requires that I should be content to die. In all other cases, it is just that I should be careful to maintain my body and my mind in the utmost vigour, and in the best condition for service. [*]


I will suppose for example that it is right for one man to possess a greater portion of property than another, either as the fruit of his industry, or the inheritance of his ancestors. Justice obliges him to regard this property as a trust, and calls upon him maturely to consider in what manner it may best be employed for the increase of liberty, knowledge and virtue. He has no right to dispose of a shilling of it at the will of his caprice. So far from being entitled to well earned applause for having employed some scanty pittance in the service of philanthropy, he is in the eye of justice a delinquent if he withhold any portion from that service. Nothing can be more incontrovertible. Could that portion have been better or more worthily employed? That it could is implied in the very terms of the proposition. Then it was just it should have been so employed.—In the same manner as my property, I hold my person as a trust in behalf of mankind. I am bound to employ my talents, my understanding, my strength and my time for the production of the greatest quantity of general good. Such are the declarations of justice, so great is the extent of my duty.

But justice is reciprocal. If it be just that I should confer a benefit, it is just that another man should receive it, and, if I withhold from him that to which he is entitled, he may justly complain. My neighbour is in want of ten pounds that I can spare. There is no law of political institution that has been made to reach this case, and to transfer this property from me to him. [89] But in the eye of simple justice, unless it can be shewn that the money can be more beneficently employed, his claim is as complete, as if he had my bond in his possession, or had supplied me with goods to the amount. [*]

To this it has sometimes been answered, “that there is more than one person, that stands in need of the money I have to spare, and of consequence I must be at liberty to bestow it as I please.” I answer, if only one person offer himself to my knowledge or search, to me there is but one. Those others that I cannot find belong to other rich men to assist (rich men, I say, for every man is rich, who has more money than his just occasions demand), and not to me. If more than one person offer, I am obliged to balance their fitness, and conduct myself accordingly. It is scarcely possible to happen that two men shall be of exactly equal fitness, or that I shall be equally certain of the fitness of the one as of the other.

It is therefore impossible for me to confer upon any man a favour, I can only do him a right. Whatever deviates from the law of justice, even I will suppose in the too much done in favour of some individual or some part of the general whole, is so much subtracted from the general stock, is so much of absolute injustice.


Application The inference most clearly afforded by the preceding reasonings, is the competence of justice as a principle of deduction in all cases of moral enquiry. The reasonings themselves are rather of the nature of illustration and example, and any error that may be imputed to them in particulars, will not invalidate the general conclusion, the propriety of applying moral justice as a criterion in the investigation of political truth.

Idea of political justice Society is nothing more than an aggregation of individuals. Its claims and its duties must be the aggregate of their claims and duties, the one no more precarious and arbitrary than the other. What has the society a right to require from me? The question is already answered: every thing that it is my duty to do. Any thing more? Certainly not. Can they change eternal truth, or subvert the nature of men and their actions? Can they make it my duty to commit intemperance, to maltreat or assassinate my neighbour?—Again. What is it that the society is bound to do for its members? Every thing that can contribute to their welfare. But the nature of their welfare is defined by the nature of mind. That will most contribute to it, which enlarges the understanding, supplies incitements to virtue, fills us with a generous consciousness of our independence, and carefully removes whatever can impede our exertions.

Should it be affirmed, “that it is not in the power of any political system to secure to us these advantages,” the conclusion I [91] am drawing will still be incontrovertible. It is bound to contribute every thing it is able to these purposes, and no man was ever yet found hardy enough to affirm that it could do nothing. Suppose its influence in the utmost degree limited, there must be one method approaching nearer than any other to the desired object, and that method ought to be universally adopted. There is one thing that political institutions can assuredly do, they can avoid positively counteracting the true interests of their subjects. But all capricious rules and arbitrary distinctions do positively counteract them. There is scarcely any modification of society but has in it some degree of moral tendency. So far as it produces neither mischief nor benefit, it is good for nothing. So far as it tends to the improvement of the community, it ought to be universally adopted.



motives of suicide: 1. escape from pain.—2. benevolence.—martyrdom considered.

APPENDIX. Motives of suicide. THIS reasoning will explain to us the long disputed case of suicide. “Have I a right under any circumstances to destroy myself in order to escape from pain or disgrace?” 1. Escape from pain Probably not. It is perhaps impossible to imagine a situation, that shall exclude the possibility of future life, vigour and usefulness. The motive assigned for escape is eminently trivial, to avoid pain, which is a small inconvenience; or disgrace, which is an imaginary evil. The example of fortitude in enduring them, if there were no other consideration, would probably afford a better motive for continuing to live.

2. Benevolence “Is there then no case in which suicide is a virtue?” What shall we think of the reasoning of Lycurgus, who, when he determined upon a voluntary death, remarked, “that all the faculties a rational being possessed were capable of a moral use, and that, after having spent his life in the service of his country, a man ought, if possible, to render his death a source of additional benefit?” This was the motive of the suicide of Codrus, Leonidas and Decius. If the same motive prevailed in the much admired [93] suicide of Cato, if he were instigated by reasons purely benevolent,Appendix it is impossible not to applaud his intention, even if he were mistaken in the application.

The difficulty is to decide in any instance whether the recourse to a voluntary death can overbalance the usefulness I may exert in twenty or thirty years of additional life. But surely it would be precipitate to decide that there is no such instance. There is a proverb which affirms, “that the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” It is commonly supposed that Junius Brutus did right in putting his sons to death in the first year of the Roman republic, and that this action contributed more than any other cause, to generate that energy and virtue for which his country was afterwards so eminently distinguished. The death of Cato produced an effect somewhat similar to this. It was dwelt on with admiration by all the lovers of virtue under the subsequent tyrants of Rome. It seemed to be the lamp from which they caught the sacred flame. Who can tell how much it has contributed to revive that flame in after ages, when it seemed to have been so long extinct?

Let it be observed that all martyrs are suicides by theMartyrdom considered very signification of the term. They die for a testimony ; that is, they have a motive for dying. But motives respect only our own voluntary acts, not the violence put upon us by another.



motives of duelling: 1. revenge.—2. reputation for courage.—fallacy of this motive.—objection answered.—illustration.

Appendix. Motives of duelling IT may be proper in this place to bestowa moment's consideration upon the trite, but very importantcase of duelling. A very short reflection will sufficeto set it in its true light.

1. Revenge This detestable practice was originally invented by barbarians for the gratification of revenge. It was probably at that time thought a very happy project for reconciling the odiousness of malignity with the gallantry of courage.

2. Reputation for courage But in this light it is now generally given up. Men of the best understanding who lend it their sanction, are unwillingly induced to do so, and engage in single combat merely that their reputation may sustain no slander.

Fallacy of this motive Which of these two actions is the truest test of courage: the engaging in a practice which our judgment disapproves, because we cannot submit to the consequences of following that judgment; or the doing what we believe to be right, and chearfully [95] encountering all the consequences that may be annexed to theAppendix. practice of virtue? With what patience can a man of virtue think of cutting off the life of a fellow mortal, or of putting an abrupt close to all the generous projects he may himself conceive for the benefit of others, merely because he has not firmness enough to awe impertinence and falshood into silence?

“But the refusing a duel is an ambiguous action. CowardsObjection may pretend principle to shelter themselves from a danger they dare not meet.”

This is partly true and partly false. There are few actionsAnswered indeed that are not ambiguous, or that with the same general outline may not proceed from different motives. But the manner of doing them will sufficiently shew the principle from which they spring.

He, that would break through an universally received customIllustration because he believes it to be wrong, must no doubt arm himself with fortitude. The point in which we chiefly fail, is in not accurately understanding our own intentions, and taking care beforehand to free ourselves from any alloy of weakness and error. He, who comes forward with no other idea in his mind but that of rectitude, and who expresses, with the simplicity and firmness which full conviction never fails to inspire, the views with which he is impressed, is in no danger of being mistaken for a [96] Appendix. coward. If he hesitate, it is because he has not an idea perfectly clear of the sentiment he intends to convey. If he be in any degree embarrassed, it is because he has not a feeling sufficiently generous and intrepid of the guilt of the action in which he is pressed to engage.

If there be any meaning in courage, its first ingredient must be the daring to speak the truth at all times, to all persons, and in every possible situation. What is it but the want of courage that should prevent me from saying, “Sir, I ought to refuse your challenge. What I ought to do, that I dare do. Have I injured you? I will readily and without compulsion repair my injustice to the uttermost mite. Have you misconstrued me? State to me the particulars, and doubt not that what is true I will make appear to be true. Thus far I will go. But, though I should be branded for a coward by all mankind, I will not repair to a scene of deliberate murder. I will not do an act that I know to be flagitious. I will exercise my judgment upon every proposition that comes before me; the dictates of that judgment I will speak; and upon them I will form my conduct.” He that holds this language with a countenance in unison with his words, will never be suspected of acting from the impulse of fear.




a difficulty stated.—of absolute and practical virtue.—impropriety of this distinction.—universality of what is called practical virtue—instanced in robbery—in religious fanaticism.—thequalityofanactiondistinctfrnct from the disposition with which it is performed—farther difficulty.—meaning of the term, duty.—application.—inferences.

THERE is a difficulty of considerable magnitude as to theA difficulty stated subject of the preceding chapter, founded upon the difference which may exist between abstract justice and my apprehensions of justice. When I do an act, wrong in itself, but which as to all the materials of judging extant to my understanding appears to be right, is my conduct virtuous or vicious?

Certain moralists have introduced a distinction upon this headOf absolute and practical virtue between absolute and practical virtue. “There is one species of virtue,” they say, “which rises out of the nature of things and is immutable, and another which rises out of the views extant to my understanding. Thus for example suppose, I ought to [98] worship Jesus Christ; but, having been bred in the religion of Mahomet, I ought to adhere to that religion, as long as its evidences shall appear to me conclusive. I am impannelled upon a jury to try a man arraigned for murder, and who is really innocent. Abstractedly considered, I ought to acquit him. But I am unacquainted with his innocence, and evidence is adduced such as to form the strongest presumption of his guilt. Demonstration in such cases is not to be attained; I am obliged in every concern of human life to act upon presumption; I ought therefore to convict him.”

Impropriety of this distinction It may be doubted however whether any good purpose is likely to be answered by employing the terms of abstract science in this versatile and uncertain manner. Morality is, if any thing can be, fixed and immutable; and there must surely be some strange deception that should induce us to give to an action eternally and unchangeably wrong, the epithets of rectitude, duty and virtue.

Universality of what is called practical virtue: Nor have these moralists been thoroughly aware to what extent this admission would carry them. The human mind is incredibly subtle in inventing an apology for that to which its inclination leads. Nothing is so rare as pure and unmingled hypocrisy. There is no action of our lives which we were not ready at the time of adopting it to justify, unless so far as we were prevented by mere indolence and unconcern. There is [99] scarcely any justification which we endeavour to pass upon others, which we do not with tolerable success pass upon ourselves. The distinction therefore which is here set up would go near to prove that every action of every human being is entitled to the appellation of virtuous.

There is perhaps no man that cannot recollect the time wheninstanced in robbery he secretly called in question the arbitrary division of property established in human society, and felt inclined to appropriate to his use any thing the possession of which appeared to him desirable. It is probably in some such way that men are usually influenced in the perpetration of robbery. They persuade themselves of the comparative inutility of the property to its present possessor, and the inestimable advantage that would attend it in their hands. They believe that the transfer ought to be made. It is of no consequence that they are not consistent in these views, that the impressions of education speedily recur to their minds, and that in a season of adversity they readily confess the wickedness of their proceeding. It is not less true that they did what at the moment they thought to be right.

But there is another consideration that seems still more decisivein religious fanaticism of the subject before us. The worst actions, the most contrary to abstract justice and utility, have frequently been done from the most conscientious motives. Clement, Ravaillac, Damiens and Gerard had their minds deeply penetrated with anxiety for the [100] eternal welfare of mankind. For these objects they sacrificed their ease, and chearfully exposed themselves to tortures and death. It was benevolence probably that contributed to light the fires of Smithfield, and point the daggers of Saint Bartholomew. The inventors of the Gunpowder Treason were in general men remarkable for the sanctity of their lives and the severity of their manners. It is probable indeed, that some ambitious views, and some sentiments of hatred and abhorrence mixed with the benevolence and integrity of these persons. It is probable that no wrong action was ever committed from views entirely pure. But the deception they put upon themselves might nevertheless be complete. At all events their opinions upon the subject could not alter the real nature of the action.

The quality of an action distinct from the disposition with which it is performed The true solution of the question lies in observing, that the disposition with which an action is adopted is one thing, and the action itself another. A right action may be done from a wrong disposition; in that case we approve the action, but condemn the actor. A wrong action may be done from a right disposition; in that case we condemn the action, but approve the actor. If the disposition by which a man is governed have a systematical tendency to the benefit of his species, he cannot fail to obtain our esteem, however mistaken he may be in his conduct.

Farther difficulty But what shall we say to the duty of a man under these circumstances? Calvin, we will suppose, was clearly and conscien [101] tiously persuaded that he ought to burn Servetus. Ought he to have burned him or not? “If he burned him, he did an action detestable in its own nature; if he refrained, he acted in opposition to the best judgment of his own understanding as to a point of moral obligation.” It is absurd however to say, that it was in any sense his duty to burn him. The most that can be admitted is, that his disposition was virtuous, and that in the circumstances in which he was placed an action greatly to be deplored flowed from that disposition by invincible necessity.

Shall we say then that it was the duty of Calvin, who did not understand the principles of toleration, to act upon a truth of which he was ignorant? Suppose that a person is to be tried at York next week for murder, and that my evidence would acquit him. Shall we say that it was my duty to go to York, though I knew nothing of the matter? Upon the same principles we might affirm that it is my duty to go from London to York in half an hour, as the trial will come on within that time; the impossibility not being more real in one case than in the other. Upon the same principles we might affirm, that it is my duty to be impeccable, omniscient and almighty.

Duty is a term the use of which seems to be to describe the modeMeaning of the term, duty in which any being may best be employed for the general good. It is limited in its extent by the extent of the capacity of that being. Now capacity varies in its idea in proportion as we [102] vary our view of the subject to which it belongs. What I am capable of, if you consider me merely as a man, is one thing; what I am capable of as a man of a deformed figure, of weak understanding, of superstitious prejudices, or as the case may happen, is another. So much cannot be expected of me under these disadvantages, as if they were absent. But, if this be the true definition of duty, it is absurd to suppose in any case that an action injurious to the general welfare can be classed in the rank of duties.

Application To apply these observations to the cases that have been stated. Ignorance, so far as it goes, completely annihilates capacity. As I was uninformed of the trial at York, I could not be influenced by any consideration respecting it. But it is absurd to say that it was my duty to neglect a motive with which I was unacquainted. If you alledge, “that Calvin was ignorant of the principles of toleration, and had no proper opportunity to learn them,” it follows that in burning Servetus he did not violate his duty, but it does not follow that it was his duty to burn him. Upon the supposition here stated duty is silent. Calvin was unacquainted with the principles of justice, and therefore could not practise them. The duty of no man can exceed his capacity; but then neither can in any case an act of injustice be of the nature of duty.

Inferences There are certain inferences that flow from this view of the subject, which it may be proper to mention. Nothing is more [103] common than for individuals and societies of men to alledge that they have acted to the best of their judgment, that they have done their duty, and therefore that their conduct, even should it prove to be mistaken, is nevertheless virtuous. This appears to be an error. An action, though done with the best intention in the world, may have nothing in it of the nature of virtue. In reality the most essential part of virtue consists in the incessantly seeking to inform ourselves more accurately upon the subject of utility and right. Whoever is greatly misinformed respecting them, is indebted for his error to a defect in his philanthropy and zeal.

Secondly, since absolute virtue may be out of the power of a human being, it becomes us in the mean time to lay the greatest stress upon a virtuous disposition, which is not attended with the same ambiguity. A virtuous disposition is of the utmost consequence, since it will in the majority of instances be productive of virtuous actions; since it tends, in exact proportion to the quantity of virtue, to increase our discernment and improve our understanding; and since, if it were universally propagated, it would immediately lead to the great end of virtuous actions, the purest and most exquisite happiness of intelligent beings. But a virtuous disposition is principally generated by the uncontrolled exercise of private judgment, and the rigid conformity of every man to the dictates of his conscience.




physical equality.—objection.—answers.—moral equality.—how limited.—province of political justice.

Physical equality THE equality of mankind is either physical or moral. Their physical equality may be considered either as it relates to the strength of the body or the faculties of the mind.

Objection This part of the subject has been exposed to cavil and objection. It has been said, “that the reverse of this equality is the result of our experience. Among the individuals of our species we actually find that there are not two alike. One man is strong and another weak. One man is wise and another foolish. All that exists in the world of the inequality of conditions is to be traced to this as their source. The strong man possesses power to subdue, and the weak stands in need of an ally to protect. The consequence is inevitable: the equality of conditions is a chimerical assumption, neither possible to be reduced into practice, nor desirable if it could be so reduced.”


Upon this statement two observations are to be made. First,Answers this inequality was in its origin infinitely less than it is at present. In the uncultivated state of man diseases, effeminacy and luxury were little known, and of consequence the strength of every one much more nearly approached to the strength of his neighbour. In the uncultivated state of man the understandings of all were limited, their wants, their ideas and their views nearly upon a level. It was to be expected that in their first departure from this state great irregularities would introduce themselves; and it is the object of subsequent wisdom and improvement to mitigate these irregularities.

Secondly, notwithstanding the incroachments that have been made upon the equality of mankind, a great and substantial equality remains. There is no such disparity among the human race as to enable one man to hold several other men in subjection, except so far as they are willing to be subject. All government is founded in opinion. Men at present live under any particular form, because they conceive it their interest to do so. One part indeed of a community or empire may be held in subjection by force; but this cannot be the personal force of their despot; it must be the force of another part of the community, who are of opinion that it is their interest to support his authority. Destroy this opinion, and the fabric which is built upon it falls to the ground. It follows therefore that all men are essentially independent.—So much for the physical equality.


Moral equality The moral equality is still less open to reasonable exception. By moral equality I understand the propriety of applying one unalterable rule of justice to every case that may arise. This cannot be questioned but upon arguments that would subvert the very nature of virtue. “Equality,” it has been affirmed, “will always be an unintelligible fiction, so long as the capacities of men shall be unequal, and their pretended claims have neither guarantee nor sanction by which they can be inforced [*] .” But surely justice is sufficiently intelligible in its own nature, abstracted from the consideration whether it be or be not reduced into practice. Justice has relation to beings endowed with perception, and capable of pleasure and pain. Now it immediately results from the nature of such beings, independently of any arbitrary constitution, that pleasure is agreeable and pain odious, pleasure to be desired and pain to be obviated. It is therefore just and reasonable that such beings should contribute, so far as it lies in their power, to the pleasure and benefit of each other. Among pleasures some are more exquisite, more unalloyed and less precarious than others. It is just that these should be preferred.

From these simple principles we may deduce the moral equality of mankind. We are partakers of a common nature, [107] and the same causes that contribute to the benefit of one contribute to the benefit of another. Our senses and faculties are of the same denomination. Our pleasures and pains will therefore be the same. We are all of us endowed with reason, able to compare, to judge and to infer. The improvement therefore which is to be desired for the one is to be desired for the other. We shall be provident for ourselves and useful to each other, in proportion as we rise above the atmosphere of prejudice. The same independence, the same freedom from any such restraint, as should prevent us from giving the reins to our own understanding, or from uttering upon all occasions whatever we think to be true, will conduce to the improvement of all. There are certain opportunities and a certain situation most advantageous to every human being, and it is just that these should be communicated to all, as nearly at least as the general economy will permit.

There is indeed one species of moral inequality parallel to theHow limited. physical inequality that has been already described. The treatment to which men are entitled is to be measured by their merits and their virtues. That country would not be the seat of wisdom and reason, where the benefactor of his species was considered in the same point of view as their enemy. But in reality this distinction, so far from being adverse to equality in any tenable sense, is friendly to it, and is accordingly known by the appellation of equity, a term derived from the same origin. Though in some sense an exception, it tends to the same [108] Province of political justice purpose to which the principle itself is indebted for its value. It is calculated to infuse into every bosom an emulation of excellence. The thing really to be desired is the removing as much as possible arbitrary distinctions, and leaving to talents and virtue the field of exertion unimpaired. We should endeavour to afford to all the same opportunities and the same encouragement, and to render justice the common interest and choice.




the question stated.—foundation of society.—opposite rights impossible.—conclusion from these premises.—discretion considered.—rights of kings.—immoral consequences of the doctrine ofrightsx2014rightsofcommunitiemunities.—objections: 1. the right of mutual aid.—explanation.—origin of the term, right.—2. rights of private judgment and of the press.—explanation.—reasons of this limitation upon the functions of the community: 1. the inutility of attempting restraint.—2. its pernicious tendency.—conclusion.

THERE is no subject that has been discussed with moreThe question stated eagerness and pertinacity than the rightsof man. Has he any rights, or has he none? Much mayplausibly be alledged on both sides of this question;and in the conclusion those reasoners appear to expressthemselves with the greatest accuracy who embrace thenegative. There is nothing that has been of greaterdisservice to the cause of truth, than the hasty andunguarded manner in which its advocates have sometimesdefended it: and [110] it will be admitted to be peculiarly unfortunate, if theadvocates on one side of this question should be foundto have the greatest quantity of truth, while theiradversaries have expressed themselves in a manner moreconsonant to reason and the nature of things. Wherethe question has been so extremely darkened by an ambiguoususe of terms, it may at any rate be desirable to try,whether, by a patient and severe investigation ofthe first principles of political society, it may beplaced in a light considerably different from the viewsof both parties.

Foundation of society Political society, as has already been observed, is founded in the principles of morality and justice. It is impossible for intellectual beings to be brought into coalition and intercourse, with out a certain mode of conduct, adapted to their nature and connection, immediately becoming a duty incumbent on the parties concerned. Men would never have associated, if they had not imagined that in consequence of that association they would mutually conduce to the advantage and happiness of each other. This is the real purpose, the genuine basis of their intercourse; and, as far as this purpose is answered, so far does society answer the end of its institution.

Opposite rights impossible There is only one postulate more, that is necessary to bring us to a conclusive mode of reasoning upon this subject. Whatever is meant by the term right, for it will presently appear that the sense of the term itself has never been clearly understood, [111] there can neither be opposite rights, nor rights and duties hostile to each other. The rights of one man cannot clash with or be destructive of the rights of another; for this, instead of rendering the subject an important branch of truth and morality, as the advocates of the rights of man certainly understand it to be, would be to reduce it to a heap of unintelligible jargon and inconsistency. If one man have a right to be free, another man cannot have a right to make him a slave; if one man have a right to inflict chastisement upon me, I cannot have a right to withdraw myself from chastisement; if my neighbour have a right to a sum of money in my possession, I cannot have a right to retain it in my pocket.—It cannot be less incontrovertible, that I have no right to omit what my duty prescribes.

From hence it inevitably follows that men have no rights.Conclusion from these premises By right, as the word is employed in this subject, has always been understood discretion, that is, a full and complete power of either doing a thing or omitting it, without the person's becoming liable to animadversion or censure from another, that is, in other words, without his incurring any degree of turpitude or guilt. Now in this sense I affirm that man has no rights, no discretionary power whatever.

It is commonly said, “that a man has a right to the disposalDiscretion considered of his fortune, a right to the employment of his time, a right to the uncontrolled choice of his profession or pursuits.” But this [112] can never be consistently affirmed till it can be shewn that he has no duties, prescribing and limiting his mode of proceeding in all these respects. My neighbour has just as much right to put an end to my existence with dagger or poison, as to deny me that pecuniary assistance without which I must starve, or as to deny me that assistance without which my intellectual attainments or my moral exertions will be materially injured. He has just as much right to amuse himself with burning my house or torturing my children upon the rack, as to shut himself up in a cell careless about his fellow men, and to hide “his talent in a napkin.”

If men have any rights, any discretionary powers, they must be in things of total indifference, as whether I sit on the right or on the left side of my fire, or dine on beef to day or tomorrow. Even these rights are much fewer than we are apt to imagine, since before they can be completely established, it must be proved that my choice on one side or the other can in no possible way contribute to the benefit or injury of myself or of any other person in the world. Those must indeed be rights well worth the contending for, the very essence of which consists in their absolute nugatoriness and inutility.

In reality nothing can appear more wonderful to a careful enquirer, than that two ideas so incompatible as man and rights should ever have been associated together. Certain it is, that one [113] of them must be utterly exclusive and annihilatory of the other. Before we ascribe rights to man, we must conceive of him as a being endowed with intellect, and capable of discerning the differences and tendencies of things. But a being endowed with intellect, and capable of discerning the differences and tendencies of things, instantly becomes a moral being, and has duties incumbent on him to discharge: and duties and rights, as has already been shewn, are absolutely exclusive of each other.

It has been affirmed by the zealous advocates of liberty, “thatRights of kings princes and magistrates have no rights;” and no position can be more incontrovertible. There is no situation of their lives that has not its correspondent duties. There is no power intrusted to them that they are not bound to exercise exclusively for the public good. It is strange that persons adopting this principle did not go a step farther, and perceive that the same restrictions were applicable to subjects and citizens.

Nor is the fallacy of this language more conspicuous than itsImmoral consequences of the doctrine of rights immoral tendency. To this inaccurate and unjust use of the term right we owe it, that the miser, who accumulates to no end that which diffused would have conduced to the welfare of thousands, that the luxurious man who wallows in indulgence and sees numerous families around him pining in beggary, never fail to tell us of their rights, and to silence animadversion and quiet the censure of their own mind by reminding us, “that they [114] came fairly into possession of their wealth, that they owe no debts, and that of consequence no man has authority to enquire into their private manner of disposing of that which is their own.” A great majority of mankind are conscious that they stand in need of this sort of defence, and are therefore very ready to combine against the insolent intruder, who ventures to enquire into “things that do not concern him.” They forget, that the wise man and the honest man, the friend of his country and his kind, is concerned for every thing by which they may be affected, and carries about with him a diploma, constituting him inquisitor general of the moral conduct of his neighbours, with a duty annexed to recal them to virtue, by every lesson that truth can enable him to read, and every punishment that plain speaking is competent to inflict.

Rights of communities It is scarcely necessary to add, that, if individuals have no rights, neither has society, which possesses nothing but what individuals have brought into a common stock. The absurdity of the common opinion, as applied to this subject, is still more glaring, if possible, than in the view in which we have already considered it. According to the usual sentiment every club assembling for any civil purpose, every congregation of religionists assembling for the worship of God, has a right to establish any provisions or ceremonies, no matter how ridiculous or detestable, provided they do not interfere with the freedom of others. Reason lies prostrate under their feet. They have a right to trample [115] upon and insult her as they please. It is in the same spirit we have been told that every nation has a right to choose its form of government. A most acute, original and inestimable author was probably misled by the vulgar phraseology on this subject, when he asserted, that, “at a time when neither the people of France nor the national assembly were troubling themselves about the affairs of England or the English parliament, Mr. Burke's conduct was unpardonable in commencing an unprovoked attack upon them [*] .”

There are various objections that suggest themselves to theObjections theory which subverts the rights of men; and if the theory be true, they will probably appear in the result to be so far from really hostile to it, as to be found more fairly deducible from and consistent with its principles, than with any of those with which they have inadvertently been connected.

In the first place it has sometimes been alledged, and seems toThe rights of mutual aid. result from the reasonings already adduced under the head of justice, that “men have a right to the assistance and co-operation of their fellows in every honest pursuit.” But, when we assertExplanation this proposition, we mean something by the word right exceedingly different from what is commonly understood by the term. We do not understand something discretionary, which, if not voluntarily fulfilled, cannot be considered as a matter of claim. [116] On the contrary every thing adduced upon that occasion was calculated to shew that it was a matter of strict claim; and perhaps something would be gained with respect to perspicuity, if we rather chose to distinguish it by that appellation, than by a name so much abused, and so ambiguous in its application, as the term right.

Origin of the term, right The true origin of this latter term is relative to the present state of political government, in which many of those actions which moral duty most strictly enjoins us are in no degree brought within the sphere of legislative sanction. Men uninfluenced by comprehensive principles of justice, commit every species of intemperance, are selfish, hard-hearted, licentious and cruel, and maintain their right to all these caprices, because the laws of their country are silent with regard to them. Philosophers and political enquirers have too frequently adopted the same principles with a certain degree of accommodation; though in fact men have no more right to these erroneous propensities in their most qualified sense, than they had to them originally in all their extravagance. It is true, that, under the forms of society now existing in the world, intemperance and the caprices of personal intercourse too frequently escape without animadversion. But in a more perfect form, though they may not fall under the cognisance of law, the offender will probably be so unequivocally reminded by the sincerity of his neighbours of the error he has [117] committed, as to be in no danger of running away with the opinion that he had a right to commit it.

A second and more important objection to the doctrine I am2. Rights of private judgment and of the press. maintaining is derived from the rights as they are called of private judgment, and the liberty of the press. But it may easily be shewn, that these, no more than the articles already mentioned, are rights of discretion. If they were, they would prove, that a man was strictly justifiable in publishing what he believed to be pernicious or false, and that it was a matter of perfect moral indifference whether he conformed to the religious rites of Confucius, of Mahomet, or of Christ. The political freedom ofExplanation conscience and of the press, so far from being as it is commonly supposed an extension, is a new case of the limitation of rights and discretion. Conscience and the press ought to be unrestrained, not because men have a right to deviate from the exact line that duty prescribes, but because society, the aggregate of individuals, has no right to assume the prerogative of an infallible judge, and to undertake authoritatively to prescribe to its members in matters of pure speculation.

One obvious reason against this assumption on the part of theReasons of this limitation upon the functions of the community. society is the impossibility by any compulsatory method of bringing men to uniformity of opinion. The judgment we form upon topics of general truth, is or is imagined to be founded upon1. The inutility of attempting restraint. evidence: and, however it may be soothed by gentle applications [118] to the betraying its impartiality, it is apt to repel with no little pertinacity whatever comes under the form of compulsion. Persecution cannot persuade the understanding, even when it subdues our resolution. It may make us hypocrites; but cannot make us converts. The government therefore, which is anxious above all things to imbue its subjects with integrity and virtue, will be the farthest in the world from discouraging them in the explicit avowal of their sentiments.

2. Its pernicious tendency. But there is another reason of a higher order. Man is not, as has been already shewn, a perfect being, but perfectible. No government, that has yet existed, or is likely presently to exist upon the face of the earth, is faultless. No government ought therefore pertinaciously to resist the change of its own institutions; and still less ought it to set up a standard upon the various topics of human speculation, to restrain the excursions of an inventive mind. It is only by giving a free scope to these excursions, that science, philosophy and morals have arrived at their present degree of perfection, or are capable of going on to that still greater perfection, in comparison of which all that has been already done will perhaps appear childish. But a proceeding, absolutely necessary for the purpose of exciting the mind to these salutary excursions, and still more necessary in order to give them their proper operation, consists in the unrestrained communication of men's thoughts and discoveries to each other. If every man have to begin again at the point from which his [119] neighbour set out, the labour will be endless, and the progress in an unvarying circle. There is nothing that more eminently contributes to intellectual energy, than for every man to be habituated to follow without alarm the train of his speculations, and to utter without fear the conclusions that have suggested themselvesConclusion. to him.—But does all this imply that men have a right to act any thing but virtue, and to utter any thing but truth? Certainly not. It implies indeed that there are points with which society has no right to interfere, not that discretion and caprice are more free, or duty less strict upon these points, than upon any others with which human action is conversant.




foundation of virtue.—human actions regulated: 1. by the nature of things.—2. by positive institution.—tendency of the latter: 1. to excite virtue.—its equivocal character in this respect.—2toinformthejudgmentx2014itsin014;its inaptitude for that purpose.—province of conscience considered. tendency of an interference with that province.—recapitulation.—arguments in favour of positive institution: 1. the necessity of repelling private injustice.—objections: the uncertainty of evidence.—the diversity of motives.—the unsuitableness of the means of correction—either to impress new sentiments—or to strengthen old ones.—punishment for the sake of example considered.—urgency of the case.—2. rebellion.—3. war.—objections.—reply.

Foundation of virtue TO a rational being there can be but one rule of conduct, justice,and one mode of ascertaining that rule, the exercise of his understanding. Ifin any instance I be made the mechanical instrument of absolute violence, inthat instance I fall [121] under no description ofmoral conduct either good or bad. But, if, not being operated upon by absolutecompulsion, I be wholly prompted by something that is frequently called by thatname, and act from the hope of reward or the fear of punishment, my conduct ispositively wrong.

Here however a distinction is to be made. Justice, as it was defined in a preceding chapter, is coincident with utility. I am myself a part of the great whole, and my happiness is a part of that complex view of things by which justice is regulated. The hope of reward therefore and the fear of punishment, confined within certain strict limits, are motives that ought to have influence with my mind.

There are two descriptions of tendency that may belong toHuman actions are regulated, 1. by the nature of things: any action, the tendency which it possesses by the necessary and universal laws of existence, and the tendency which results from the positive interference of some intelligent being. The nature of happiness and misery, pleasure and pain, is independent of all positive institution: that is, it is immutably true that whatever tends to procure a balance of the former is to be desired, and whatever tends to procure a balance of the latter is to be rejected. In like manner the promulgation of virtue, truth and political justice must always be right. There is perhaps no action of a rational being that has not some tendency to promote these objects, and consequently that has not a moral character founded in the abstract nature of things.


2. By positive institution. The tendency of positive institution is of two sorts, to furnish me with an additional motive to the practice of virtue or right, and to inform my understanding as to what actions are Tendency of the latter. right and what actions are wrong. Much cannot be said in commendation of either of these tendencies.

1. To excite virtue. First, positive institution may furnish me with an additional Its equivocal character in this respect. motive to the practice of virtue. I have an opportunity of contributing very essentially to the advantage of twenty individuals; they will be benefited, and no other persons will sustain a material injury. I ought to embrace this opportunity. Here let us suppose positive institution to interfere, and to annex some great personal reward to myself to the performance of my duty. This immediately changes the nature of the action. Before I preferred it for its intrinsic excellence. Now, so far as the positive institution operates, I prefer it, because some person has arbitrarily annexed to it a great weight of self-interest. But virtue, considered as the quality of an intelligent being, depends upon the disposition with which the action is accompanied. Under a positive institution then this very action, which is intrinsically virtuous, may, so far as relates to the agent, become vicious. The vicious man would before have neglected the advantage of these twenty individuals, because he would not bring a certain inconvenience or trouble upon himself. The same man with the same disposition will now promote their advantage, because his own welfare is concerned in it. Twenty, other things [123] equal, is twenty times better than one. He that is not governed by the moral arithmetic of the case, or who acts from a disposition directly at war with that arithmetic, is unjust. In other words, morality requires that we should be attentive only to the tendency which belongs to any action by the necessary and universal laws of existence. This is what is meant by the principle, “that we should do good, regardless of the consequences;” and by that other, “that we may not do evil, from the prospect of good to result from it.” The case would have been rendered still more glaring, if, instead of the welfare of twenty, we had supposed the welfare of millions to have been concerned. In reality, whether the disparity be great or small, the inference ought to be the same.

Secondly, positive institution may inform my understanding2. To inform the judgment. Its inaptitude for that purpose. as to what actions are right and what actions are wrong. Here it is proper for us to reflect upon the terms understanding and information. Understanding, particularly as it is concerned with moral subjects, is the percipient of truth. This is its proper sphere. Information, so far as it is genuine, is a portion detached from the great body of truth. You inform me, “that Euclid asserts the three angles of a plane triangle to be equal to two right angles.” Still I am unacquainted with the truth of this proposition. “But Euclid has demonstrated it. His demonstration has existed for two thousand years, and during that term has proved satisfactory to every man by whom it has been understood.” [124] I am nevertheless uninformed. The knowledge of truth lies in the perceived agreement or disagreement of the terms of a proposition. So long as I am unacquainted with the middle term by means of which they may be compared, so long as they are incommensurate to my understanding, you may have furnished me with a principle from which I may reason truly to farther consequences, but as to the principle itself I may strictly be said to know nothing about it.

Every proposition has an intrinsic evidence of its own. Every consequence has premises from which it flows; and upon them, and not upon any thing else, its validity depends. If you could work a miracle to prove, “that the three angles of a triangle were equal to two right angles,” I should still know, that the proposition was either true or false previously to the exhibition of that miracle; and that there was no necessary connection between any one of its terms and the miracle exhibited. The miracle would take off my attention from the true question to a question altogether different, that of authority. By the authority adduced I might be prevailed on to yield an irregular assent to the proposition; but I could not properly be said to perceive its truth.

But this is not all. If it were, it might perhaps be regarded as a refinement foreign to the concerns of human life. Positive institutions do not content themselves with requiring my assent [125] to certain propositions, in consideration of the respectable testimony by which they are inforced. This would amount to no more, than advice flowing from a respectable quarter, which after all I might reject, if it did not accord with the mature judgment of my own understanding. But in the very nature of these institutions there is included a sanction, a motive either of punishment or reward to induce me to obedience.

It is commonly said, “that positive institutions ought to leaveProvince of conscience considered me perfectly free in matters of conscience, but may properly interfere with my conduct in civil concerns.” But this distinction seems to have been very lightly taken up. What sort of moralist must he be, who makes no conscience of what passes in his intercourse with other men? Such a distinction proceeds upon the supposition, “that it is of great consequence whether I bow to the east or the west; whether I call the object of my worship Jehovah or Alla; whether I pay a priest in a surplice or a black coat. These are points in which an honest man ought to be rigid and inflexible. But as to those other, whether he shall be a tyrant, a slave or a free citizen; whether he shall bind himself with multiplied oaths impossible to be performed, or be a rigid observer of truth; whether he shall swear allegiance to a king de jure or a king de facto, to the best or the worst of all possible governments; respecting these points he may safely commit his conscience to the keeping of the civil magistrate.” In reality there are perhaps no concerns of a rational being, over which [126] morality does not extend its province, and respecting which he is not bound to a conscientious proceeding.

Tendency of an interference with that province I am satisfied at present, that a certain conduct, suppose it be a rigid attention to the confidence of private conversation, is incumbent upon me. You tell me, “there are certain cases of such peculiar emergency as to supersede this rule.” Perhaps I think there are not. If I admit your proposition, a wide field of enquiry is opened, respecting what cases do or do not deserve to be considered as exceptions. It is little likely that we should agree respecting all these cases. How then does the law treat me, for my conscientious discharge of what I conceive to be my duty? Because I will not turn informer (which, it may be, I think an infamous character) against my most valued friend, the law accuses me of misprision of treason, felony or murder, and perhaps hangs me. I believe a certain individual to be a confirmed villain, and a most dangerous member of society, and feel it to be my duty to warn others, perhaps the public, against the effect of his vices. Because I publish what I know to be true, the law convicts me of libel, scandalum magnatum, and crimes of I know not what complicated denomination.

If the evil stopped here, it would be well. If I only suffered a certain calamity, suppose death, I could endure it. Death has hitherto been the common lot of men, and I expect at some time or other to submit to it. Human society must sooner or later [127] be deprived of its individual members, whether they be valuable, or whether they be inconsiderable. But the punishment acts not only retrospectively upon me, but prospectively upon my contemporaries and countrymen. My neighbour entertains the same opinion respecting the conduct he ought to hold as I did. But the executioner of public justice interposes with a powerful argument, to convince him that he has mistaken the path of abstract rectitude.

What sort of converts will be produced by this unfeeling logic? “I have deeply reflected,” suppose, “upon the nature of virtue, and am convinced that a certain proceeding is incumbent on me. But the hangman, supported by an act of parliament, assures me I am mistaken.” If I yield my opinion to his dictum, my action becomes modified, and my character too. An influence like this is inconsistent with all generous magnanimity of spirit, all ardent impartiality in the discovery of truth, and all inflexible perseverance in its assertion. Countries, exposed to the perpetual interference of decrees instead of arguments, exhibit within their boundaries the mere phantoms of men. We can never judge from an observation of their inhabitants what men would be, if they knew of no appeal from the tribunal of conscience, and if, whatever they thought, they dared to speak, and dared to act.

At present there will perhaps occur to the majority of readers [128] but few instances of laws, which may be supposed to interfere with the conscientious discharge of duty. A considerable number will occur in the course of the present enquiry. More would readily offer themselves to a patient research. Men are so successfully reduced to a common standard by the operation of positive law, that in most countries they are capable of little more than like parrots repeating each other. This uniformity is capable of being produced in two ways, by energy of mind and indefatigableness of enquiry, enabling a considerable number to penetrate with equal success into the recesses of truth; and by pusillanimity of temper and a frigid indifference to right and wrong, produced by the penalties which are suspended over such as shall disinterestedly enquire, and communicate and act upon the result of their enquiries. It is easy to perceive which of these is the cause of the uniformity that prevails in the present instance.

Recapitulation If there be any truth more unquestionable than the rest, it is, that every man is bound to the exertion of his faculties in the discovery of right, and to the carrying into effect all the right with which he is acquainted. It may be granted that an infallible standard, if it could be discovered, would be considerably beneficial. But this infallible standard itself would be of little use in human affairs, unless it had the property of reasoning as well as deciding, of enlightening the mind as well as constraining the body. If a man be in some cases obliged to prefer his own [129] judgment, he is in all cases obliged to consult that judgment, before he can determine whether the matter in question be of the sort provided for or no. So that from this reasoning it ultimately appears, that no man is obliged to conform to any rule of conduct, farther than the rule is consistent with justice.

Such are the genuine principles of human society. SuchArguments in favour of positive institution: would be the unconstrained concord of its members, in a state where every individual within the society, and every neighbour without, was capable of listening with sobriety to the dictates of reason. We shall not fail to be impressed with considerable regret, if, when we descend to the present mixed characters of mankind, we find ourselves obliged in any degree to depart from so simple and grand a principle. The universal exercise of private judgment is a doctrine so unspeakably beautiful, that the true politician will certainly resolve to interfere with it as sparingly and in as few instances as possible. Let us consider what are the emergencies that may be thought to demand an exception. They can only be briefly stated in this place, each of them requiring to be minutely examined in the subsequent stages of the enquiry.

In the first place then it seems necessary for some powerful1. The necessity of repelling private injustice arbitrator to interfere, where the proceedings of the individual threaten the most injurious consequences to his neighbours, and where the instant nature of the case will not accord with the [130] uncertain progress of argument and conviction addressed to the mind of the offender. A man, suppose, has committed murder, or, to make the case more aggravated, several murders; and, having thus far over-stepped all those boundaries of innocence and guilt which restrain the generality of men, it is to be presumed from analogy that he may be led to the commission of other murders. At first it may appear to be no great infringement upon the exercise of private judgment, to put it under some degree of restraint, when it leads to the commission of atrocious crimes. There are however certain difficulties in the case which are worthy to be considered.

Objections: First, as soon as we admit the propriety of a rule such as that above stated, our next concern will be with the evidence, which shall lead to the acquittal or conviction of the person accused. the uncertainty of evidence: Now it is well known, that no principles of evidence have yet been laid down that are infallible. Human affairs universally proceed upon presumption and probability. An eye-witness must identify the person of the offender, and in this he may be mistaken. We must necessarily be contented with presumptive proofs of his intention; and often are or imagine ourselves to be obliged to admit presumptive evidence of the fact itself. The consequence is inevitable. And surely it is no trivial evil, to subject an innocent man eventually, to the public award and the established punishment annexed to the most atrocious crimes.


Secondly, the same external action will admit of every possiblethe diversity of motives: shade of virtue or vice. One man shall commit murder, to remove a troublesome observer of his depraved dispositions, who will otherwise counteract and expose him to the world. A second, because he cannot bear the ingenuous sincerity with which he is told of his vices. A third, from his intolerable envy of superior merit. A fourth, because he knows his adversary meditates an act pregnant with extensive mischief, and he perceives no other mode by which its perpetration can be prevented. A fifth, in the actual defence of his father's life or his daughter's chastity. Each of these men, except perhaps the last, may act either from momentary impulse, or from any of the infinite shades and degrees of deliberation. Would you award one individual punishment to all these varieties of action? Can you pretend in each instance to ascertain the exact quantity of wrong, equivalent to each? Strictly speaking no two men were ever guilty of the same crime; but here comes in positive law with its Procrustes's bed, and levels all characters, and tramples upon all distinctions.

Thirdly, punishment is not the appropriate mode of correctingthe unsuitableness of the means of correction: the errors of mankind. It will probably be admitted, that the only true end of punishment is correction. That question will be discussed in another part of the present enquiry. “I have done something, which though wrong in itself, I believe to be right; or I have done something which I usually admit to be [132] wrong; but my conviction upon the subject is not so clear and forcible, as to prevent my yielding to a powerful temptation.” There can be no doubt, that the proper way of conveying to my understanding a truth of which I am ignorant, or of impressing upon me a firmer persuasion of a truth with which I am acquainted, is by an appeal to my reason. Even an angry expostulation with me upon my conduct will but excite similar passions in me, and cloud instead of illuminate my understanding. There is certainly a way of expressing truth, with such benevolence as to command attention, and such evidence as to inforce conviction in all cases whatever.

either to impress new sentiments: Punishment inevitably excites in the sufferer, and ought to excite, a sense of injustice. Let its purpose be to convince me of the truth of a proposition, which I at present believe to be false. It is not abstractedly considered of the nature of an argument, and therefore it cannot begin with producing conviction. Punishment is a specious name, but is in reality nothing more than force put upon one being by another who happens to be stronger. Now strength apparently does not constitute justice, nor ought “might,” according to a trite proverb, to “overcome right.” The case of punishment, which we are now considering, is the case of you and I differing in opinion, and your telling me that you must be right, since you have a more brawny arm, or have applied your mind more to the acquiring skill in your weapons than I have.


But let us suppose, “that I am convinced of myerror, butor To strengthen old ones that my conviction is superficial and fluctuating,and the object you propose is to render it durableand profound.” Ought it to be thus durable andprofound? There are no doubt arguments and reasonscalculated to render it so. Is it in reality problematical,and do you wish by the weight of your blows to makeup for the deficiency of your logic? This can neverbe defended. An appeal to force must appear to bothparties, in proportion to the soundness of their understanding,to be a confession of imbecility. He that has recourseto it, would have no occasion for this expedient, ifhe were sufficiently acquainted with the powers ofthat truth it is his office to communicate. If therebe any man, who, in suffering punishment, is not consciousof injustice, he must have had his mind previouslydebased by slavery, and his sense of moral right andwrong blunted by a series of oppression.

The case is not altered for the better, if I suffer punishment,Punishment for the sake of example considered not for my own correction, but for an example to others. Upon this supposition a new difficulty is introduced, respecting the propriety of one man's being subjected to pain, for the sake of improving the character and eradicating the vices of another. The suffering is here also involuntary. Now, though will cannot alter the nature of justice, it must be admitted that the voluntary sufferer has at least one advantage over the involuntary, in the conscious liberality of his purpose. He that suffers, not for his [134] own correction, but for the advantage of others, stands, so far as relates to that suffering, in the situation of an innocent person. If the suffering had relation to him personally as a vicious or imperfect character, it must have relation to him in respect either to the past or the future. It cannot have relation to him as to the past, for that is concluded and beyond the reach of alteration or remedy. By the supposition it has not relation to him but to others as to the future.

It ought to be observed in this place, that by innocence I do not understand virtue. Innocence is a sort of neutral character, and stands in the mid way between good and harm. Undoubtedly it were better, that a person useless to society should be destroyed than a man of eminent worth, and a person likely to prove injurious than either. I say likely to prove injurious; for the fault already committed, being irrevocable, ought not to enter into the account, and we have nothing to do but with the probability of its repetition. It is in this sense that the sufferer stands upon a level with many of those persons, who are usually denominated innocent.

It must also be allowed, that there are cases in which it is proper that innocent men should suffer for the public good. But this is a question of a very delicate nature, and the severe moralist will be very reluctant to condemn that man to die for the benefit of others, who is desirous to live.


As to every other circumstance in the case of him who is punished for an example to others, it remains precisely the same as when we supposed him to be punished for his own reformation. It is still an argument of the most exceptionable nature employed to correct the opinions of mankind. It is still a menace of violence made use of to persuade them of the truth or falshood of a proposition. It has little chance of making them wise, and can scarcely fail of making them timid, dissembling and corrupt.

Notwithstanding all these objections, it would be difficult toUrgency of the case find a country, respecting which we could say, that the inhabitants might with safety be dismissed from the operation of punishment. So mixed is human character, so wild are its excursions, so calamitous and detestable are the errors into which it occasionally falls, that something more than argument seems necessary for their suppression. Human beings are such tyros in the art of reasoning, that the wisest of us often prove impotent in our attempts, where an instant effect was most powerfully wanted. While I stand still to reason with the thief, the assassin or the oppressor, they hasten to new scenes of devastation, and with unsparing violence confound all the principles of human society. I should obtain little success by the abolition of punishment, unless I could at the same time abolish those causes that generate temptation and make punishment necessary. Meanwhile the arguments already adduced may be sufficient to shew that punish [136] ment is always an evil, and to persuade us never to recur to it but from the most evident necessity.

2. Rebellion. The remaining cases in which it may seem requisite to have 3. War. recourse to the general will of the society, and to supersede the private judgment of individuals, are, when we are called upon to counteract the hostilities of an internal enemy, or to repel Objections the attacks of a foreign invader. Here as in the former instance the evils that arise from an usurpation upon private judgment are many and various. It is wrong that I should contribute in any mode to a proceeding, a war for example, that I believe to be unjust. Ought I to draw my sword, when the adversary appears to me to be employed in repelling a wanton aggression? The case seems not to be at all different, if I contribute my property, the produce it may be of my personal labour; though custom has reconciled us to the one rather than the other.

The consequences are a degradation of character and a relaxation of principle, in the person who is thus made the instrument of a transaction, which his judgment disapproves. In this case, as has been already stated generally, the human mind is compressed and unnerved, till it affords us scarcely the semblance of what it might otherwise have been. And, in addition to the general considerations in similar cases, it may be observed, that the frequent and obstinate wars which at present desolate the [137] human race would be nearly extirpated, if they were supported only by the voluntary contributions of those by whom their principle was approved.

The objection, which has hitherto been permitted practicallyReply to supersede these reasonings, is the difficulty of conducting an affair, in the success of which millions may be interested, upon so precarious a support as that of private judgment. The men, with whom we are usually concerned in human society, are of so mixed a character, and a self-love of the narrowest kind is so deeply rooted in many of them, that it seems nearly unavoidable upon the scheme of voluntary contribution, that the most generous would pay a very ample proportion, while the mean and avaricious, though they contributed nothing, would come in for their full share of the benefit. He that would reconcile a perfect freedom in this respect with the interest of the whole, ought to propose at the same time the means of extirpating selfishness and vice. How far such a proposal is feasible will come hereafter to be considered.









the question stated.—first hypothesis: government founded in superior strength.—second hypothesis: government jure divino.—third hypothesis: the social contract.—the first hypothesisexaminedx2014thesecondxecond—criterion of divine right: 1. patriarchal descent—2. justice.

IT has appeared in the course of our reasonings upon the natureThe question stated of society, that there are occasions in which it may be necessary, to supersede private judgment for the sake of public [140] good, and to control the acts of the individual by an act to be performed in the name of the whole. It is therefore an interesting enquiry to ascertain in what manner such acts are to be originated, or in other words to ascertain the foundation of political government.

First hypothesis: government founded in superior strength There are three hypotheses that have been principally maintained upon this subject. First, the system of force, according to which it is affirmed, “that, inasmuch as it is necessary that the great mass of mankind should be held under the subjection of compulsory restraint, there can be no other criterion of that restraint, than the power of the individuals who lay claim to its exercise, the foundation of which power exists in the unequal degrees, in which corporal strength and intellectual sagacity are distributed among mankind.”

Second hypothesis: government jure divino There is a second class of reasoners, who deduce the origin of all government from divine right, and affirm, “that, as men derived their existence from an infinite creator at first, so are they still subject to his providential care, and of consequence owe allegiance to their civil governors, as to a power which he has thought fit to set over them.”

Third hypothesis: the social contract The third system is that which has been most usually maintained by the friends of equality and justice; the system according to which the individuals of any society are supposed to have [141] entered into a contract with their governors or with each other, and which founds the rights of government in the consent of the governed.

The two first of these hypotheses may easily be dismissed.The first hypothesis examined. That of force appears to proceed upon the total negation of abstract and immutable justice, affirming every government to be right, that is possessed of power sufficient to inforce its decrees. It puts a violent termination upon all political science; and seems intended to persuade men, to sit down quietly under their present disadvantages, whatever they may be, and not exert themselves to discover a remedy for the evils they suffer. The secondThe second. hypothesis is of an equivocal nature. It either coincides with the first, and affirms all existing power to be alike of divine derivation; or it must remain totally useless till a criterion can be found, to distinguish those governments which are approved by God, from those which cannot lay claim to that sanction. TheCriterion of divine right. 1. Patriarchal descent. 2. Justice. criterion of patriarchal descent will be of no avail, till the true claimant and rightful heir can be discovered. If we make utility and justice the test of God's approbation, this hypothesis will be liable to little objection; but then on the other hand little will be gained by it, since those who have not introduced divine right into the argument, will yet readily grant, that a government which can be shewn to be agreeable to utility and justice, is a rightful government.


The third hypothesis demands a more careful examination. If any error have insinuated itself into the support of truth, it becomes of particular consequence to detect it. Nothing can be of more importance, than to separate prejudice and mistake on the one hand, from reason and demonstration on the other. Whereever they have been confounded, the cause of truth must necessarily be a sufferer. That cause, so far from being injured by the dissolution of the unnatural alliance, may be expected to derive from that dissolution an eminent degree of prosperity and lustre.




queries proposed.—who are the contracting parties?—what is the form of engagement?—over how long a period does the contract extend?—to how great a variety of propositions?—can it extend to lawshereaftertobemadex2014addr014;addresses of adhesion considered.—power of a majority.

UPON the first statement of the system of a social contractQueries proposed various difficulties present themselves. Who are the parties to this contract? For whom did they consent, for themselves only or for others? For how long a time is this contract to be considered as binding? If the consent of every individual be necessary, in what manner is that consent to be given? Is it to be tacit, or declared in express terms?

Little will be gained for the cause of equality and justice, ifWho are the contracting parties? our ancestors, at the first institution of government, had a right indeed of choosing the system of regulations under which they thought proper to live, but at the same time could barter away the understandings and independence of all that came after them [144] to the latest posterity. But, if the contract must be renewed in each successive generation, what periods must be fixed on for that purpose? And if I be obliged to submit to the established government till my turn comes to assent to it, upon what principle is that obligation founded? Surely not upon the contract into which my father entered before I was born?

What is the form of engagement? Secondly, what is the nature of the consent, in consequence of which I am to be reckoned the subject of any particular government? It is usually said, “that acquiescence is sufficient; and that this acquiescence is to be inferred from my living quietly under the protection of the laws.” But if this be true, an end is as effectually put to all political science, all discrimination of better and worse, as by any system invented by the most slavish sycophant that ever existed. Upon this hypothesis every government that is quietly submitted to is a lawful government, whether it be the usurpation of Cromwel or the tyranny of Caligula. Acquiescence is frequently nothing more than a choice on the part of the individual of what he deems the least evil. In many cases it is not so much as this, since the peasant and the artisan, who form the bulk of a nation, however dissatisfied with the government of their country, seldom have it in their power to transport themselves to another. It is also to be observed upon the system of acquiescence, that it is in little agreement with the established opinions and practices of mankind. Thus what has been called the law of nations, lays least stress upon the allegiance [145] of a foreigner settling among us, though his acquiescence is certainly most complete; while natives removing into an uninhabited region are claimed by the mother country, and removing into a neighbouring territory are punished by municipal law, if they take arms against the country in which they were born. Now surely acquiescence can scarcely be construed into consent, while the individuals concerned are wholly unapprised of the authority intended to be rested upon it. [*]

Mr. Locke, the great champion of the doctrine of an original contract, has been aware of this difficulty, and therefore observes, that “a tacit consent indeed obliges a man to obey the laws of any government, as long as he has any possessions, or enjoyment of any part of the dominions of that government; but nothing can make a man a member of the commonwealth, but his actually entering into it by positive engagement, and express promise and compact. [ “ A singular distinction; implying upon the face of it, that an acquiescence, such as has just been described, is sufficient to render a man amenable to the penal regulations of society; but that his own consent is necessary to entitle him to its privileges.

A third objection to the social contract will suggest itself, asOver how long a period does the contract extend? soon as we attempt to ascertain the extent of the obligation, even [146] supposing it to have been entered into in the most solemn manner by every member of the community. Allowing that I am called upon, at the period of my coming of age for example, to declare my assent or dissent to any system of opinions or any code of practical institutes; for how long a period does this declaration bind me? Am I precluded from better information for the whole course of my life? And, if not for my whole life, why for a year, a week or even an hour? If my deliberate judgment or my real sentiment be of no avail in the case, in what sense can it be affirmed that all lawful government is founded in my consent?

To how great a variety of propositions? But the question of time is not the only difficulty. If you demand my assent to any proposition, it is necessary that the proposition should be stated simply and clearly. So numerous are the varieties of human understanding, in all cases where its independence and integrity are sufficiently preserved, that there is little chance of any two men coming to a precise agreement about ten successive propositions that are in their own nature open to debate. What then can be more absurd than to present to me the laws of England in fifty volumes folio, and call upon me to give an honest and uninfluenced vote upon their whole contents at once?

Can it extend to laws hereafter to be made? But the social contract, considered as the foundation of civil government, requires more of me than this. I am not only [147] obliged to consent to all the laws that are actually upon record, but to all the laws that shall hereafter be made. It was under this view of the subject, that Rousseau, in tracing the consequences of the social contract, was led to assert, that “the great body of the people, in whom the sovereign authority resides, can neither delegate nor resign it. The essence of that authority,” he adds, “is the general will; and will cannot be represented. It must either be the same or another; there is no alternative. The deputies of the people cannot be its representatives; they are merely its attorneys. The laws, that the community does not ratify in person, are no laws, are nullities.” [*]

The difficulty here stated has been endeavoured to be providedAddresses of adhesion considered against by some late advocates for liberty, in the way of addresses of adhesion; addresses, originating in the various districts and departments of a nation, and without which no regulation of constitutional importance is to be deemed valid. But this is a very inadequate and superficial remedy. The addressers of course have seldom any other remedy than that above described, of in [148] discriminate admission or rejection. There is an infinite difference between the first deliberation, and the subsequent exercise of a negative. The former is a real power, the latter is seldom more than the shadow of a power. Not to add, that addresses are a most precarious and equivocal mode of collecting the sense of a nation. They are usually voted in a tumultuous and summary manner; they are carried along by the tide of party; and the signatures annexed to them are obtained by indirect and accidental methods, while multitudes of bystanders, unless upon some extraordinary occasion, remain ignorant of or indifferent to the transaction.

Power of a majority Lastly, if government be founded in the consent of the people, it can have no power over any individual by whom that consent is refused. If a tacit consent be not sufficient, still less can I be deemed to have consented to a measure upon which I put an express negative. This immediately follows from the observations of Rousseau. If the people, or the individuals of whom the people is constituted, cannot delegate their authority to a representative; neither can any individual delegate his authority to a majority, in an assembly of which he is himself a member. The rules by which my actions shall be directed are matters of a consideration entirely personal; and no man can transfer to another the keeping of his conscience and the judging of his duties. But this brings us back to the point from which we set [149] out. No consent of ours can divest us of our moral capacity. This is a species of property which we can neither barter nor resign; and of consequence it is impossible for any government to derive its authority from an original contract.




the validity of promises examined.—shewn to be inconsistent with justice.—to be foreign to the general good.—of the expectation excited.—the fulfilling expectation does not imply the validity of a promise.—conclusion.

The validity of promises examined THE whole principle of an original contract proceeds upon the obligation under which we are placed to observe our promises. The reasoning upon which it is founded is, “that we have promised obedience to government, and therefore are bound to obey.” It may consequently be proper to enquire into the nature of this obligation to observe our promises.

Shewn to be inconsistent with justice: We have already established justice as the sum of moral and political duty. Is justice then in its own nature precarious or immutable? Surely immutable. As long as men are men, the conduct I am bound to observe respecting them must remain the same. A good man must always be the proper object of my support and cooperation; vice of my censure; and the vicious man of instruction and reform.


What is it then to which the obligation of a promise applies? What I have promised is either right, or wrong, or indifferent. There are few articles of human conduct that fall under the latter class; and the greater shall be our improvements in moral science the fewer still will they appear. Omitting these, let us then consider only the two preceding classes. “I have promised to do something just and right.” This certainly I ought to perform. Why? Not because I promised, but because justice prescribes it. “I have promised to bestow a sum of money upon some good and respectable purpose. In the interval between the promise and my fulfilling it, a greater and nobler purpose offers itself, and calls with an imperious voice for my cooperation.” Which ought I to prefer? That which best deserves my preference. A promise can make no alteration in the case. I ought to be guided by the intrinsic merit of the objects, and not by any external and foreign consideration. No engagements of mine can change their intrinsic claims.

All this must be exceedingly plain to the reader who has followed me in my early reasonings upon the nature of justice. If every shilling of our property, every hour of our time and every faculty of our mind, have already received their destination from the principles of immutable justice, promises have no department left upon which for them to decide. Justice it appears therefore ought to be done, whether we have promised it or not. If we discover any thing to be unjust, we ought to abstain from it, with what [152] ever solemnity we have engaged for its perpetration. We were erroneous and vicious when the promise was made; but this affords no sufficient reason for its performance.

to be foreign to general good But it will be said, “if promises be not made, or when made be not fulfilled, how can the affairs of the world be carried on?” By rational and intelligent beings acting as if they were rational and intelligent. A promise would perhaps be sufficiently innocent, if it were understood merely as declaratory of intention, and not as precluding farther information. Even in this restrained sense however it is far from being generally necessary. Why should it be supposed that the affairs of the world would not go on sufficiently well, though my neighbour could no farther depend upon my assistance than it appeared rational to grant it? This would be a sufficient dependence if I were honest, nor would he if he were honest desire any thing more. If I were dishonest, if I could not be bound by the reason and justice of the case, it would afford him a slender additional dependence to call in the aid of a principle founded in prejudice and mistake: not to say, that, let it afford ever so great advantage in any particular case, the evil of the immoral precedent would outweigh the individual advantage.

It may be farther objected, “that this principle might be sufficiently suited to a better and more perfect state of society, but that at present there are dishonest members of the community, [153] who will not perform their duty, if they be not bound to it by some grosser motive, than the mere moral consideration.” Be it so. This is a question altogether different from that we have been examining. We are not now enquiring whether the community ought to animadvert upon the errors of its members. This animadversion the upright man is not backward to encounter, and willingly risks the penalty, which the society (for the society is more competent to ascertain the just amount of the penalty than the preceding caprice of the parties) has awarded in cases apparently similar, if he conceive that his duty requires from him that risk.

But to return to the case of promises. I shall be told, that,Of the expectation excited “in choosing between two purposes about which to employ my money, my time or my talents, my promise may make an essential difference, and therefore having once been given ought to be fulfilled. The party to whom it was made has had expectations excited in him, which I ought not to disappoint; the party to whom I am under no engagement has no such disappointment to encounter.” What is this tenderness to which I am bound, this expectation I must not dare to disappoint? An expectation that I should do wrong, that I should prefer a less good to a greater, that I should commit absolute evil; for such must be the result when the balance has been struck. “But his expectation has altered the nature of his situation, has engaged him in [154] undertakings from which he would otherwise have abstained.” Be it so. He and all other men will be taught to depend more upon their own exertions, and less upon the assistance of others, which caprice may refuse, or justice oblige me to withhold. He and all others will be taught to acquire such merit, and to engage in such pursuits, as shall oblige every honest man to come to their succour, if they should stand in need of assistance. The resolute execution of justice, without listening to that false pity, which, to do imaginary kindness to one, would lead us to injure the whole, would in a thousand ways increase the independence, the energies and the virtue of mankind.

The fulfilling expectation does not imply the validity of a promise Let us however suppose, “that my conduct ought to be influenced by this previous expectation of the individual.” Let us suppose, “that, in selecting an individual for a certain office, my choice ought not to be governed merely by the abstract fitness of the candidates, but that I ought to take into the account the extreme value of the appointment from certain circumstances to one of the candidates, and its comparative inutility to the other.” Let us farther suppose, “that the expectation excited in one of them has led him into studies and pursuits to qualify himself for the office, which will be useless if he do not succeed to it; and that this is one of the considerations which ought to govern my determination.”—All this does not come up to what we have been taught respecting the obligation of a promise.


For, first, it may be observed, that it seems to be of little consequence in this statement, whether the expectation were excited by a direct promise or in some other manner, whether it were excited by a declaration of mine or of a third person, or lastly, whether it arose singly out of the reason of the case and the pure deductions and reflections of the expecter's mind. Upon every one of these suppositions his conduct, and the injury he may sustain from a disappointment, will remain the same. Here then all that has been commonly understood by the obligation of a promise is excluded. The motive to be attended to, flows from no solemn engagement of mine, but from an incidental consequence of my declaration, and which might just as easily have been the consequence of many other circumstances. The consideration by which it becomes me to be influenced is, not a regard for veracity, or a particular desire to preserve my integrity, both of which are in reality wholly unconcerned in the transaction, but an attention to the injury to be sustained by the losing candidate, whatever might be the original occasion of the conduct out of which the injury has proceeded.

Let us take an example of a still simpler nature. “I live in Westminster; and I engage to meet the captain of a ship from Blackwal at the Royal Exchange. My engagement is of the nature of information to him, that I shall be at the Exchange at a certain hour. He accordingly lays aside his other business, and comes thither to meet me.” This is a reason why I should [156] not fail him unless for some very material cause. But it would seem as if the reason why I should not fail him would be equally cogent, if I knew from any other source that he would be there, and that a quantity of convenience equal to the quantity upon the former supposition would accrue from my meeting him. It may be said, “that it is essential to various circumstances of human intercourse, that we should be able to depend on each other for a steady adherence to engagements of this sort.” The statement however would be somewhat more accurate if we said, “that it was essential to various circumstances of human intercourse, that we should be known to bestow a steady attention upon the quantities of convenience or inconvenience, of good or evil, that might arise to others from our conduct.”

Conclusion It is undoubtedly upon this hypothesis a part of our duty to make as few promises or declarations exciting appropriate expectations as possible. He who lightly gives to another the idea that he will govern himself in his future conduct, not by the views that shall be present to his mind when the conduct shall come to be determined on, but by the view he shall be able to take of it at some preceding period, is vicious in so doing. But the obligation he is under respecting his future conduct is, to act justly, and not, because he has committed one error, for that reason to become guilty of a second.




common deliberation the true foundation of government—proved from the equal claims of mankind—from the nature of our faculties—from the object of government—from the effects of common deliberation.x2014delegationvindicatedx201.—difference between the doctrine here maintained and that of a social contract apparent—from the merely prospective nature of the former—from the nullity of promises—from the fallibility of deliberation.—conclusion.

HAVING rejected the hypotheses that have most generally been adduced to account for the origin of government consistently with the principles of moral justice, let us enquire whether we may not arrive at the same object, by a simple investigation of the obvious reason of the case, without having recourse to any refinement of system or fiction of process.

Government then being introduced for the reasons alreadyCommon deliberation the true foundation of government: assigned, the first and most important principle that can be imagined relative to its form and structure, seems to be this; that, as [158] government is a transaction in the name and for the benefit of the whole, every member of the community ought to have some share in its administration. The arguments in support of this proposition are various.

proved from the equal claims of mankind: 1. It has already appeared that there is no criterion perspicuously designating any one man or set of men to preside over the rest.

from the nature of our faculties: 2. All men are partakers of the common faculty reason, and may be supposed to have some communication with the common preceptor truth. It would be wrong in an affair of such momentous concern, that any chance for additional wisdom should be rejected; nor can we tell in many cases till after the experiment how eminent any individual may one day be found in the business of guiding and deliberating for his fellows.

from the object of government: 3. Government is a contrivance instituted for the security of individuals; and it seems both reasonable that each man should have a share in providing for his own security, and probable that partiality and cabal should by this means be most effectually excluded.

from the effects of common deliberation 4. Lastly, to give each man a voice in the public concerns comes nearest to that admirable idea of which we should never lose sight, the uncontrolled exercise of private judgment. Each man would thus be inspired with a consciousness of his own import [159] ance, and the slavish feelings that shrink up the soul in the presence of an imagined superior would be unknown.

Admitting then the propriety of each man having a share in directing the affairs of the whole in the first instance, it seems necessary that he should concur, in electing a house of representatives, if he be the member of a large state; or, even in a small one, that he should assist in the appointment of officers and administrators; which implies, first, a delegation of authority to these officers, and, secondly, a tacit consent, or rather an admission of the necessity, that the questions to be debated should abide the decision of a majority.

But to this system of delegation the same objections may beDelegation vindicated urged, that were cited from Rousseau in the chapter of the Social Contract. It may be alleged that, “if it be the business of every man to exercise his own judgment, he can in no instance surrender this function into the hands of another.”

To this objection it may be answered, first, that the parallel is by no means complete between an individual's exercise of his judgment in a case that is truly his own, and his exercise of his judgment in an article where the necessity and province of government are already admitted. Wherever there is a government, there must be a will superseding that of individuals. It is absurd [160] to expect that every member of a society should agree with every other member in the various measures it may be found necessary to adopt. The same necessity, that requires the introduction of force to suppress injustice on the part of a few, requires that the sentiments of the majority should direct that force, and that the minority should either secede, or patiently wait for the period when the truth on the subject contested shall be generally understood.

Secondly, delegation is not, as at first sight it might appear to be, the act of one man committing to another a function, which strictly speaking it became him to exercise for himself. Delegation, in every instance in which it can be reconciled with justice, is an act which has for its object the general good. The individuals to whom the delegation is made, are either more likely from talents or leisure to perform the function in the most eligible manner, or at least there is some public interest requiring that it should be performed by one or a few persons, rather than by every individual for himself. This is the case, whether in that first and simplest of all delegations the prerogative of a majority, or in the election of a house of representatives, or in the appointment of public officers. Now all contest as to the person who shall exercise a certain function, and the propriety of resigning it, is frivolous, the moment it is decided how and by whom it can most advantageously be exercised. It is of no consequence [161] that I am the parent of a child, when it has once been ascertained that the child will receive greater benefit by living under the superintendence of a stranger.

Lastly, it is a mistake to imagine that the propriety of restraining me when my conduct is injurious, rises out of any delegation of mine. The justice of employing force when every other means was insufficient, is even prior to the existence of society. Force ought never to be resorted to but in cases of absolute necessity; and, when such cases occur, it is the duty of every man to defend himself from violation. There is therefore no delegation necessary on the part of the offender; but the community in the censure it exercises over him stands in the place of the injured party.

It may perhaps by some persons be imagined, that the doctrineDifference between the doctrine here maintained and that of a social contract apparent: here delivered of the justice of proceeding in common concerns by a common deliberation, is nearly coincident with that other doctrine which teaches that all lawful government derives its authority from a social contract. Let us consider what is the true difference between them.

In the first place, the doctrine of common deliberation is of afrom the merely prospective nature of the former: prospective, and not a retrospective nature. Is the question respecting some future measure to be adopted in behalf of the community? Here the obligation to deliberate in common pre [162] sents itself, as eminently to be preferred to every other mode of deciding upon the interests of the whole. Is the question whether I shall yield obedience to any measure already promulgated? Here I have nothing to do with the consideration of how the measure originated; unless perhaps in a country where common deliberation has in some sort been admitted as a standing principle, and where the object may be to resist an innovation upon this principle. In the case of ship money under king Charles the first, it was perhaps fair to resist the tax, even supposing it to be abstractedly a good one, upon account of the authority imposing it; though that reason might be insufficient, in a country unused to representative taxation.

Exclusively of this consideration, no measure is to be resisted on account of the irregularity of its derivation. If it be just, it is entitled both to my chearful submission and my zealous support. So far as it is deficient in justice, I am bound to resist. My situation in this respect is in no degree different from what it was previously to all organised government. Justice was at that time entitled to my assent, and injustice to my disapprobation. They can never cease to have the same claims upon me, till they shall cease to be distinguished by the same unalterable properties. The measure of my resistance will however vary with circumstances, and therefore will demand from us a separate examination.


Secondly, the distinction between the doctrine here advancedfrom the nullity of promises: and that of a social contract will be better understood, if we recollect what has been said upon the nature and validity of promises. If promise be in all cases a fallacious mode of binding a man to a specific mode of action, then must the argument be in all cases impertinent, that I consented to such a decision, and am therefore bound to regulate myself accordingly. It is impossible to imagine a principle of more injurious tendency, than that which shall teach me to disarm my future wisdom by my past folly, and to consult for my direction the errors in which my ignorance has involved me, rather than the code of eternal truth. So far as consent has any validity, abstract justice becomes a matter of pure indifference: so far as justice deserves to be made the guide of my life, it is in vain to endeavour to share its authority with compacts and promises.

We have found the parallel to be in one respect incompletefrom the fallibility of deliberation between the exercise of these two functions, private judgment and common deliberation. In another respect the analogy is exceedingly striking, and considerable perspicuity will be given to our ideas of the latter by an illustration borrowed from the former. In the one case as in the other there is an obvious principle of justice in favour of the general exercise. No individual can arrive at any degree of moral or intellectual improvement, unless in the use of an independent judgment. No state [164] can be well or happily administered, unless in the perpetual use of common deliberation respecting the measures it may be requisite to adopt. But, though the general exercise of these faculties be founded in immutable justice, justice will by no means uniformly vindicate the particular application of them. Private judgment and public deliberation are not themselves the standard of moral right and wrong; they are only the means of discovering right and wrong, and of comparing particular propositions with the standard of eternal truth.

Conclusion Too much stress has undoubtedly been laid upon the idea, as of a grand and magnificent spectacle, of a nation deciding for itself upon some great public principle, and of the highest magistracy yielding its claims when the general voice has pronounced. The value of the whole must at last depend upon the quality of their decision. Truth cannot be made more true by the number of its votaries. Nor is the spectacle much less interesting, of a solitary individual bearing his undaunted testimony in favour of justice, though opposed by misguided millions. Within certain limits however the beauty of the exhibition must be acknowledged. That a nation should dare to vindicate its function of common deliberation, is a step gained, and a step that inevitably leads to an improvement of the character of individuals. That men should unite in the assertion of truth, is no unpleasing evidence of their virtue. Lastly, that an individual, however great [165] may be his imaginary elevation, should be obliged to yield his personal pretensions to the sense of the community, at least bears the appearance of a practical confirmation of the great principle, that all private considerations must yield to the general good.




society can declare and interpret, but cannot enact.—its authority only executive.

HAVING thus far investigated the nature of political functions, it seems necessary that some explanation should be given in this place upon the subject of legislation. Who is it that has the authority to make laws? What are the characteristics by which that man or body of men is to be known, in whom the faculty is vested of legislating for the rest?

Society can declare and interpret, but cannot enact To these questions the answer is exceedingly simple: Legislation, as it has been usually understood, is not an affair of human competence. Reason is the only legislator, and her decrees are irrevocable and uniform. The functions of society extend, not to the making, but the interpreting of law; it cannot decree, it can only declare that, which the nature of things has already decreed, and the propriety of which irresistibly flows from the circumstances of the case. Montesquieu says, that “in a free [167] state every man will be his own legislator [*].” This is not true, setting apart the functions of the community, unless in the limited sense already explained. It is the office of conscience to determine, “not like an Asiatic cadi, according to the ebbs and flows of his own passions, but like a British judge, who makes no new law, but faithfully declares that law which he finds already written [] .”

The same distinction is to be made upon the subject of authority.Its authority only executive All political power is strictly speaking executive. It has appeared to be necessary, with respect to men as we at present find them, that force should sometimes be employed in repressing injustice; and for the same reasons it appears that this force should as far as possible be vested in the community. To the public support of justice therefore the authority of the community extends. But no sooner does it wander in the smallest degree from the great line of justice, than its authority is at an end, it stands upon a level with the obscurest individual, and every man is bound to resist its decisions.




obedience not the correlative of authority.—no man bound to yield obedience to another.—case of submission considered.—foundation of obedience.—usefulness of social communication.—case of confidence consideredx2014itslits limitations.—mischief of unlimited confidence.—subjection explained.

HAVING enquired into the just and legitimate source of authority, we will next turn our attention to what has usually been considered as its correlative, obedience. This has always been found a subject of peculiar difficulty, as well in relation to the measure and extent of obedience, as to the source of our obligation to obey.

Obedience not the correlative of authority The true solution will probably be found in the observation that obedience is by no means the proper correlative. The object of government, as has been already demonstrated, is the exertion of force. Now force can never be regarded as an appeal to the understanding; and therefore obedience, which is an [169] act of the understanding or will, can have no legitimate connection with it. I am bound to submit to justice and truth, because they approve themselves to my judgment. I am bound to co-operate with government, as far as it appears to me to coincide with these principles. But I submit to government when I think it erroneous, merely because I have no remedy.

No truth can be more simple, at the same time that no truthNo man bound to yield obedience to another has been more darkened by the glosses of interested individuals, than that one man can in no case be bound to yield obedience to any other man or set of men upon earth.

There is one rule to which we are universally bound to conform ourselves, justice, the treating every man precisely as his usefulness and worth demand, the acting under every circumstance in the manner that shall procure the greatest quantity of general good. When we have done thus, what province is there left to the disposal of obedience?

I am summoned to appear before the magistrate to answerCase of submission considered for a libel, an imaginary crime, an act which perhaps I am convinced ought in no case to fall under the animadversion of law. I comply with this summons. My compliance proceeds, perhaps from a conviction that the arguments I shall exhibit in the court form the best resistance I can give to his injustice, or perhaps [170] from perceiving that my non-compliance would frivolously and without real use interrupt the public tranquillity.

A quaker refuses to pay tithes. He therefore suffers a tithe proctor to distrain upon his goods. In this action morally speaking he does wrong. The distinction he makes is the argument of a mind that delights in trifles. That which will be taken from me by force, it is no breach of morality to deliver with my own hand. The money which the robber extorts from me, I do not think it necessary to oblige him to take from my person. If I walk quietly to the gallows, this does not imply my consent to be hanged.

In all these cases there is a clear distinction between my compliance with justice and my compliance with injustice. I conform to the principles of justice, because I perceive them to be intrinsically and unalterably right. I yield to injustice, though I perceive that to which I yield to be abstractedly wrong, and only choose the least among inevitable evils.

Foundation of obedience The case of volition, as it is commonly termed, seems parallel to that of intellect. You present a certain proposition to my mind, to which you require my assent. If you accompany the proposition with evidence calculated to shew the agreement between the terms of which it consists, you may obtain my assent. [171] If you accompany the proposition with authority, telling me that you have examined it and find it to be true, that thousands of wise and disinterested men have admitted it, that angels or Gods have affirmed it, I may assent to your authority; but, with respect to the proposition itself, my understanding of its reasonableness, my perception of that in the proposition which strictly speaking constitutes its truth or its falshood, remain just as they did. I believe something else, but I do not believe the proposition.

Just so in morals. I may be persuaded of the propriety of yielding compliance to a requisition the justice of which I cannot discern, as I may be persuaded to yield compliance to a requisition which I know to be unjust. But neither of these requisitions is strictly speaking a proper subject of obedience. Obedience seems rather to imply the unforced choice of the mind and assent of the judgment. But the compliance I yield to government, independently of my approbation of its measures, is of the same species as my compliance with a wild beast, that forces me to run north, when my judgment and inclination prompted me to go south.

But, though morality in its purest construction altogetherUsefulness of social communication excludes the idea of one man's yielding obedience to another, yet the greatest benefits will result from mutual communication. There is scarcely any man, whose communications will not [172] sometimes enlighten my judgment and rectify my conduct. But the persons to whom it becomes me to pay particular attention in this respect, are not such as may exercise any particular magistracy, but such, whatever may be their station, as are wiser or better informed in any respect than myself.

Case of confidence considered There are two ways in which a man wiser than myself may be of use to me; by the communication of those arguments by which he is convinced of the truth of the judgments he has formed; and by the communication of the judgments themselves independent of argument. This last is of use only in respect to the narrowness of our own understandings, and the time that might be requisite for the acquisition of a science of which we are at present ignorant. On this account I am not to be blamed, if I employ a builder to construct me a house, or a mechanic to sink me a well; nor should I be liable to blame, if I worked in person under their direction. In this case, not having opportunity or ability to acquire the science myself, I trust to the science of another. I choose from the deliberation of my own judgment the end to be pursued; I am convinced that the end is good and commendable; and, having done this, I commit the selection of means to a person whose qualifications are superior to my own. The confidence reposed in this instance is precisely of the nature of delegation in general. No term surely can be more unapt than that of obedience, to express our duty towards the overseer we have appointed in our affairs.


Similar to the confidence I repose in a skilful mechanic is the attention which ought to be paid to the commander of an army. It is my duty in the first place to be satisfied of the goodness of the cause, of the propriety of the war, and of the truth of as many general propositions concerning the conduct of it, as can possibly be brought within the sphere of my understanding. It may well be doubted whether secrecy be in any degree necessary to the conduct of war. It may be doubted whether treachery and surprise are to be classed among the legitimate means of defeating our adversary. But after every deduction has been made for considerations of this sort, there will still remain cases, where something must be confided, as to the plan of a campaign or the arrangement of a battle, to the skill, so far as that skill really exists, of the commander. When he has explained both to the utmost of his ability, there may remain parts, the propriety of which I cannot fully comprehend, but which I have sufficient reason to confide to his judgment.

This doctrine however of limited obedience, or, as it mayIts limitations more properly be termed, of confidence and delegation, ought to be called into action as seldom as possible. Every man should discharge to the utmost practicable extent the duties which arise from his situation. If he gain as to the ability with which they may be discharged, when he delegates them to another, he loses with respect to the fidelity; every one being conscious of the sincerity of his own intention, and no one having equal proof [174] of that of another. A virtuous man will not fail to perceive the obligation under which he is placed to exert his own understanding, and to judge for himself as widely as his circumstances will permit.

Mischief of unlimited confidence The abuse of the doctrine of confidence has been the source of more calamities to mankind than all the other errors of the human understanding. Depravity would have gained little ground in the world, if every man had been in the exercise of his independent judgment. The instrument by which extensive mischiefs have in all ages been perpetrated has been, the principle of many men being reduced to mere machines in the hands of a few. Man, while he consults his own understanding, is the ornament of the universe. Man, when he surrenders his reason, and becomes the partisan of implicit faith and passive obedience, is the most mischievous of all animals. Ceasing to examine every proposition that comes before him for the direction of his conduct, he is no longer the capable subject of moral instruction. He is, in the instant of submission, the blind instrument of every nefarious purpose of his principal; and, when left to himself, is open to the seduction of injustice, cruelty and profligacy.

Subjection explained These reasonings lead to a proper explanation of the word subject. If by the subject of any government we mean a person whose duty it is to obey, the true inference from the preceding principles is, that no government has any subjects. If on the [175] contrary we mean a person, whom the government is bound to protect, or may justly restrain, the word is sufficiently admissible. This remark enables us to solve the long-disputed question, what it is that constitutes a man the subject of any government. Every man is in this sense a subject, whom the government is competent to protect on the one hand, or who on the other, by the violence of his proceedings, renders force requisite to prevent him from disturbing that community, for the preservation of whose peace the government is instituted.



moral principles frequently elucidated by incidental reflection—by incidental passages in various authors.—example.

Appendix Moral principles frequently elucidated by incidental reflection: IT will generally be found that, even where the truth upon any subject has been most industriously obscured, its occasional irradiations have not been wholly excluded. The mind has no sooner obtained evidence of any new truth, especially in the science of morals, but it recollects numerous intimations of that truth which have occasionally suggested themselves, and is astonished that a discovery which was perpetually upon the eve of being made, should have been kept at a distance so long.

by incidental passages in various authors This is eminently the case in the subject of which we are treating. Those numerous passages in poets, divines [*] and philosophers, which have placed our unalterable duty in the strongest contrast with the precarious authority of a superior, and have taught us to disclaim all subordination to the latter, have always been received by the ingenuous mind with a tumult of applause. There is indeed no species of composition, in which the seeds of [177] a morality too perfect for our present improvements in science,Appendix may more reasonably be expected to discover themselves, than in works of imagination. When the mind shakes off the fetters of prescription and prejudice, when it boldly takes a flight into the world unknown, and employs itself in search of those grand and interesting principles which shall tend to impart to every reader the glow of enthusiasm, it is at such moments that the enquiring and philosophical reader may expect to be presented with the materials and rude sketches of intellectual improvement [*].

Among the many passages from writers of every denominationExample that will readily suggest themselves under this head to a well informed mind, we may naturally recollect the spirited reasoning of young Norval in the tragedy of Douglas, when he [178] Appendix is called upon by lord Randolph to state the particulars of a contest in which he is engaged, that lord Randolph may be able to decide between the disputants.

“Nay, my good lord, though I revere you much,
My cause I plead not, nor demand your judgment.
To the liege lord of my dear native land
I owe a subject's homage; but even him
And his high arbitration I reject. Within my bosom reigns another lord—
Honour; sole judge and umpire of itself.”
Act IV.

Nothing can be more accurate than a considerable part of the philosophy of this passage. The term “honour” indeed has been too much abused, and presents to the mind too fantatistical an image, to be fairly descriptive of that principle by which the actions of every intellectual being ought to be regulated. The principle to which it behoves us to attend, is the internal decision of our own understanding; and nothing can be more evident than that the same reasoning, which led Norval to reject the authority of his sovereign in the quarrels and disputes in which he was engaged, ought to have led him to reject it as the regulator of any of his actions, and of consequence to abjure that homage which he sets out with reserving. Virtue cannot possibly be measured by the judgment and good pleasure of any man with whom we are concerned.




argument in favour of a variety of forms—compared with the argument in favour of a variety of religious creeds.—that there is one best form of government proved—from the unity of truth—from the natureofmanx2014objectionfromhumfrom human weakness and prejudice.—danger in establishing an imperfect code.—manners of nations produced by their forms of government.—gradual improvement necessary.—simplicity chiefly to be desired.—publication of truth the grand instrument—by individuals, not by government—the truth entire, and not by parcels.—sort of progress to be desired.

APROPOSITION that by many political reasoners hasArgument in favour of a variety of forms: been vehemently maintained, is that ofthe propriety of instituting different political governmentssuited to the characters, the habits and prejudicesof different nations. “The English constitution,” saythese reasoners, “is adapted to the thoughtful,rough and unsubmitting character of this island race;the [180] slowness and complicationof Dutch formality to the phlegmatic Hollander; andthe splendour of the grand monarque to the vivacityof Frenchmen. Among the ancients what could be betterassorted than a pure democracy to the intellectualacuteness and impetuous energy of the Athenians; whilethe hardy and unpolished Spartan flourished much moreunder the rugged and inflexible discipline of Lycurgus?The great art of the legislator is to penetrate intothe true character of the nation with whom he is concerned,and to discover the exact structure of government whichis calculated to render that nation flourishing andhappy.” Accordingly an Englishman who should reasonupon these postulata might say, “It is not necessaryI should assert the English constitution to be thehappiest and sublimest conception of the human mind;I do not enquire into the abstract excellence of thatgovernment under which France made herself illustriousfor centuries. I contemplate with enthusiasm the venerablerepublics of Greece and Rome. But I am an enemy tothe removing ancient land-marks, and disturbing withour crude devices the wisdom of ages. I regard withhorror the Quixote plan, that would reduce the irregulargreatness of nations to the frigid and impracticablestandard of metaphysical accuracy [*] .”


This question has been anticipated in various parts of the present work; but the argument is so popular and plausible to a superficial view, as justly to entitle it to a separate examination.

The idea bears some resemblance to one which was formerlycompared with the argument in favour of a variety of religious creeds insisted upon by certain latitudinarians in religion. “It is impious,” said they, “to endeavour to reduce all men to uniformity of opinion upon this subject. Men's minds are as various as their faces. God has made them so; and it is to be presumed that he is well pleased to be addressed in different languages, by different names, and with the consenting ardour of disagreeing sects.” Thus did these reasoners confound the majesty of truth with the deformity of falshood; and suppose that that being who was all truth, took delight in the errors, the absurdities, and the vices, for all falshood in some way or other engenders vice, of his creatures. At the same time they were employed in unnerving that activity of mind, which is the single source of human improvement. If truth and falshood be in reality upon a level, I shall be very weakly employed in a strenuous endeavour either to discover truth for myself, or to impress it upon others.

Truth is in reality single and uniform. There must in theThat there is one best [182] form of government proved: nature of things be one best form of government, which all intellects, sufficiently roused from the slumber of savage ignorance, will be irresistibly incited to approve. If an equal participation of the benefits of nature be good in itself, it must be good for you and me and all mankind. Despotism may be of use to keep human beings in ignorance, but can never conduce to render them wise or virtuous or happy. If the general tendency of despotism be injurious, every portion and fragment of it must from the unity of truth: be a noxious ingredient. Truth cannot be so variable, as to change its nature by crossing an arm of the sea, a petty brook or an ideal line, and become falshood. On the contrary it is at all times and in all places the same.

from the nature of man The subject of legislation is every where the same, man. The points in which human beings resemble are infinitely more considerable than those in which they differ. We have the same senses, the same inlets of pleasure and pain, the same faculty to reason, to judge and to infer. The same causes that make me happy will make you happy. We may differ in our opinions upon this subject at first, but this difference is only in prejudice, and is by no means invincible. An event may often conduce most to the benefit of a human being, which his erroneous judgment perhaps regarded with least complacency. A wise superintendent of affairs would pursue with steady attention the real advantage of those over whom he presided, careless of the temporary disapprobation he incurred, and which would last no [183] longer than the partial and misguided apprehension from which it flowed.

Is there a country in which a prudent director of education would propose some other object for his labours than to make his pupil temperate and just and wise? Is there a climate that requires its inhabitants to be hard drinkers or horse-jockies or gamesters or bullies, rather than men? Can there be a corner of the world, where the lover of justice and truth would find himself out of his element and useless? If no; then liberty must be every where better than slavery, and the government of rectitude and impartiality better than the government of caprice.

But to this it may be objected that “men may not be everyObjection from human weakness and prejudice where capable of liberty. A gift however valuable in itself, if it be intended to be beneficial, must be adapted to the capacity of the receiver. In human affairs every thing must be gradual; and it is contrary to every idea that experience furnishes of the nature of mind to expect to advance men to a state of perfection at once. It was in a spirit somewhat similar to this, that Solon, the Athenian lawgiver, apologised for the imperfection of his code, saying, “that he had not sought to promulgate such laws as were good in themselves, but such as his countrymen were able to bear.”

The experiment of Solon seems to be of a dangerous nature.Danger in establishing an imperfect code A code, such as his, bid fair for permanence, and does not [184] appear to have contained in it a principle of improvement. He did not meditate that gradual progress which was above described, nor contemplate in the Athenians of his own time, the root from which were to spring the possible Athenians of some future period, who might realise all that he was able to conceive of good sense, fortitude and virtue. His institutions were rather calculated to hold them down in perpetuity to one certain degree of excellence and no more.

Manners of nations produced by their forms of government This suggestion furnishes us with the real clue to that striking coincidence between the manners of a nation and the form of its government, which was mentioned in the beginning of the chapter, and which has furnished so capital an argument to the advocates for the local propriety of different forms of government. It was in reality somewhat illogical in these reasoners to employ this as an argument upon the subject, without previously ascertaining which of the two things was to be regarded as a cause and which as an effect, whether the government arose out of the manners of the nation, or the manners of the nation out of the government. The last of these statements appears upon the whole to be nearest to the fact. The government may be indebted for its existence to accident or force. Revolutions, as they have most frequently taken place in the world, are epochas, in which the temper and wishes of a nation are least consulted [*] . When it is otherwise, still the real effect of the government [185] which is instituted, is to perpetuate propensities and sentiments, which without its operation would speedily have given place to other propensities. Upon every supposition, the existing correspondence between national character and national government will be found in a just consideration to arise out of the latter.

The principle of gradual improvement advanced in the lastGradual improvement necessary cited objection must be admitted for true; but then it is necessary, while we adopt it, that we should not suffer ourselves to act in direct opposition to it; and that we should choose the best and most powerful means for forwarding that improvement.

Man is in a state of perpetual progress. He must grow eitherSimplicity chiefly to be desired better or worse, either correct his habits or confirm them. The government proposed must either increase our passions and prejudices by fanning the flame, or by gradually discouraging tend to extirpate them. In reality, it is sufficiently difficult to imagine a government that shall have the latter tendency. By its very nature political institution has a tendency to suspend the elasticity, and put an end to the advancement of mind. Every scheme for embodying imperfection must be injurious. That which is to-day a considerable melioration, will at some future period, if preserved unaltered, appear a defect and disease in the body politic. It were earnestly to be desired that each man was wise enough to govern himself without the intervention of any compulsory restraint; and, since government even in its best state is [186] an evil, the object principally to be aimed at is, that we should have as little of it as the general peace of human society will permit.

Publication of truth the grand instrument: But the grand instrument for forwarding the improvement of mind is the publication of truth. Not the publication on the by individuals, not by government: part of government; for it is infinitely difficult to discover infallibly what the truth is, especially upon controverted points, and government is as liable as individuals to be mistaken in this respect. In reality it is more liable; for the depositaries of government have a very obvious temptation to desire, by means of ignorance and implicit faith, to perpetuate the existing state of things. The only substantial method for the propagation of truth is discussion, so that the errors of one man may be detected by the acuteness and severe disquisition of his neighbours. All we have to demand from the officers of government, at least in their public character, is neutrality. The intervention of authority in a field proper to reasoning and demonstration is always injurious. If on the right side, it can only discredit truth, and call off the attention of men to a foreign consideration. If on the wrong, though it may not be able to suppress the spirit of enquiry, it will have a tendency to convert the calm pursuit of knowledge into passion and tumult.

the truth entire, and not by parcels “But in what manner shall the principles of truth be communicated so as best to lead to the practice? By shewing to man [187] kind truth in all its evidence, or concealing one half of it? Shall they be initiated by a partial discovery, and thus led on by regular degrees to conclusions that would at first have wholly alienated their minds?”

This question will come to be more fully discussed in a following chapter. In the mean time let us only consider for the present the quantity of effect that may be expected from these two opposite plans.

An inhabitant of Turkey or Morocco may perhaps be of opinion, that the vesting power in the arbitrary will or caprice of an individual has in it more advantages than disadvantages. If I be desirous to change his opinion, should I undertake to recommend to him in animated language some modification of this caprice? I should attack it in its principle. If I do otherwise, I shall betray the strength of my cause. The principle opposite to his own, will not possess half the irresistible force which I could have given to it. His objections will assume vigour. The principle I am maintaining being half truth and half falshood, he will in every step of the contest possess an advantage in the offensive, of which, if he be sufficiently acute, I can never deprive him.

Now the principle I should have to explain of equal law and equal justice to the inhabitant of Morocco, would be as new to [188] him, as any principle of the boldest political description that I could propagate in this country. Whatever apparent difference may exist between the two cases, may fairly be suspected to owe its existence to the imagination of the observer. The rule therefore which suggests itself in this case is fitted for universal application.

Sort of progress to be desired As to the improvements which are to be introduced into the political system, their quantity and their period must be determined by the degree of knowledge existing in any country, and the state of preparation of the public mind for the changes that are to be desired. Political renovation may strictly be considered as one of the stages in intellectual improvement. Literature and disquisition cannot of themselves be rendered sufficiently general; it will be only the cruder and grosser parts that can be expected to descend in their genuine form to the multitude; while those abstract and bold speculations, in which the value of literature principally consists, must necessarily continue the portion of the favoured few. It is here that social institution offers itself in aid of the abstruser powers of argumentative communication. As soon as any important truth has become established to a sufficient extent in the minds of the enterprising and the wise, it may tranquilly and with ease be rendered a part of the general system; since the uninstructed and the poor are never the strenuous supporters of those complicated systems by which oppression is maintained; and since they have an obvious in [189] terest in the practical introduction of simplicity and truth. One valuable principle being thus realised, prepares the way for the realising of more. It serves as a resting-place to the human mind in its great business of exploring the regions of truth, and gives it new alacrity and encouragement for farther exertions.









every individual the judge of his own resistance.—objection.—answered from the nature of government.—from the modes of resistance.—1. force rarely to be employed—either where there is small prospectofsuccessx2014orwhere where the prospect is great.—history of charles the first estimated.—2. reasoning the legitimate mode.

IT has appeared in the course of our reasonings upon politicalEvery individual the authority, that every man is bound to resist every unjust proceeding on the part of the community. But who is the [192] judge of his own resistance judge of this injustice? The question answers itself: the private judgment of the individual. Were it not so, the appeal would be nugatory, for we have no infallible judge to whom to refer our controversies. He is obliged to consult his own private judgment in this case, for the same reason that obliges him to consult it in every other article of his conduct.

Objection “But is not this position necessarily subversive of all government? Can there be a power to rule, where no man is bound to obey; or at least where every man is to consult his own understanding first, and then to yield his concurrence no farther than he shall conceive the regulation to be just? The very idea of government is that of an authority superseding private judgment; how then can the exercise of private judgment be left entire? What degree of order is to be expected in a community, where every man is taught to indulge his own speculations, and even to resist the decision of the whole, whenever that decision is opposed to the dictates of his own fancy?”

Answered from the nature of government: The true answer to these questions lies in the observation with which we began our disquisition on government, that this boasted institution is nothing more than a scheme for enforcing by brute violence the sense of one man or set of men upon another, necessary to be employed in certain cases of peculiar emergency. Supposing the question then to lie merely between the force of the community on one part, and the force with [193] which any individual member should think it incumbent upon him to resist their decisions on the other, it is sufficiently evident that a certain kind of authority and supremacy would be the result. But this is not the true state of the question.

It is farther evident, that, though the duty of every man to exercise his private judgment be unalterable, yet so far as relates to practice, wherever government subsists, the exercise of private judgment is substantially intrenched upon. The force put by the community upon those who exercise rapine and injustice, and the influence of that force as a moral motive upon its members in general, are each of them exhibitions of an argument, not founded in general reason, but in the precarious interference of a fallible individual. Nor is this all. Without anticipating the question of the different kinds of resistance and the election that it may be our duty to make of one kind rather than another, it is certain in fact, that my conduct will be materially altered by the foresight that, if I act in a certain manner, I shall have the combined force of a number of individuals to oppose me. That government therefore is the best, which in no one instance interferes with the exercise of private judgment without absolute necessity.

The modes according to which an individual may oppose anyfrom the modes of resistance. measure which his judgment disapproves are of two sorts, action and speech. Shall he upon every occasion have recourse to the1. Force rarely to be employed, [194] former? This it is absurd so much as to suppose. The object of every virtuous man is the general good. But how can he be said to promote the general good, who is ready to waste his active force upon every trivial occasion, and sacrifice his life without the chance of any public benefit?

either where there is small prospect of success, “But he reserves himself,” I will suppose, “for some great occasion; and then, careless as to success, which is a large object only to little minds, generously embarks in a cause where he has no hope but to perish. He becomes the martyr of truth. He believes that such an example will tend to impress the minds of his fellow men, and to rouse them from their lethargy.”

The question of martyrdom is of a difficult nature. I had rather convince men by my arguments, than seduce them by my example. It is scarcely possible for me to tell what opportunities for usefulness may offer themselves in the future years of my existence. Nor is it improbable in a general consideration that long and persevering services may be more advantageous than brilliant and transitory ones. The case being thus circumstanced, a truly wise man cannot fail to hesitate as to the idea of offering up his life a voluntary oblation.

Whenever martyrdom becomes an indispensible duty, when nothing can preserve him short of the clearest dereliction of principle and the most palpable desertion of truth, he will then meet [195] it with perfect serenity. He did not avoid it before from any weakness of personal feeling. When it must be encountered, he knows that it is indebted for that lustre which has been so generally acknowledged among mankind, to the intrepidity of the sufferer. He knows that nothing is so essential to true virtue, as an utter disregard to individual advantage.

The objections that offer themselves to an exertion of actual force, where there are no hopes of success, are numerous. Such an exertion cannot be made without injury to the lives of more than a single individual. A certain number both of enemies and friends must be expected to be the victims of so wild an undertaking. It is regarded by contemporaries, and recorded by history as an intemperate ebullition of the passions; and serves rather as a beacon to deter others, than as a motive to animate them. It is not the frenzy of enthusiasm, but the calm, sagacious and deliberate effort of reason, to which truth must be indebted for its progress.

But let us suppose, “that the prospect of success is considerable,or where the prospect is great and that there is reason to believe that resolute violence may in no long time accomplish its purpose.” Even here we may be allowed to hesitate. Force has already appeared to be an odious weapon; and, if the use of it be to be regretted in the hands of government, it does not change its nature though wielded by a band of patriots. If the cause we plead be the cause of truth, [196] there is no doubt that by our reasonings, if sufficiently zealous and constant, the same purpose may be effected in a milder and more liberal way [*].

In a word, it is proper to recollect here what has been established as to the doctrine of force in general, that it is in no case to be employed but where every other means is ineffectual. In the question therefore of resistance to government, force ought never to be introduced without the most imminent necessity; never but in circumstances similar to those of defending my life from a ruffian, where time can by no means be gained, and the consequences instantly to ensue are unquestionably fatal.

History of Charles the first estimated The history of king Charles the first furnishes an instructive example in both kinds. The original design of his opponents was that of confining his power within narrow and palpable limits. This object, after a struggle of many years, was fully accomplished by the parliament of 1640, without bloodshed (except indeed in the single instance of lord Strafford) and without commotion. They next conceived the project of overturning the hierarchy and the monarchy of England, in opposition to great numbers, and in the last point no doubt to a majority of their countrymen. Admitting these objects to have been in the utmost degree excellent, they ought not, for the pur [197] pose of obtaining them, to have precipitated the question to the extremity of a civil war.

“But, since force is scarcely under any circumstances to be2. Reasoning the legitimate mode employed, of what nature is that resistance which ought constantly to be given to every instance of injustice?” The resistance I am bound to employ is that of uttering the truth, of censuring in the most explicit manner every proceeding that I perceive to be adverse to the true interests of mankind. I am bound to disseminate without reserve all the principles with which I am acquainted, and which it may be of importance to mankind to know; and this duty it behoves me to practice upon every occasion and with the most persevering constancy. I must disclose the whole system of moral and political truth, without suppressing any part under the idea of its being too bold and paradoxical, and thus depriving the whole of that complete and irresistible evidence, without which its effects must always be feeble, partial and uncertain.






obligation to support the constitution of our country considered—must arise either from the reason of the case, or from a personal and local consideration.—the first examined.—the second.

Obligation to support the constitution of our country considered: NO question can be more important than that which respects the best mode of effecting revolutions. Before we enter upon it however, it may be proper to remove a difficulty which has suggested itself to the minds of some men, how far we ought generally speaking to be the friends of revolution; or, in other words, whether it be justifiable in a man to be the enemy of the constitution of his country.

“We live,” it will be said, “under the protection of this constitution; and protection, being a benefit conferred, obliges us to a reciprocation of support in return.”


To this it may be answered, first, that this protection is a very equivocal thing; and, till it can be shown that the vices, from the effects of which it protects us, are not for the most part the produce of that constitution, we shall never sufficiently understand the quantity of benefit it includes.

Secondly, gratitude, as has already been proved [*] , is a vice and not a virtue. Every man and every collection of men ought to be treated by us in a manner founded upon their intrinsic qualities and capacities, and not according to a rule which has existence only in relation to ourselves.

Add to this, thirdly, that no motive can be more equivocal than the gratitude here recommended. Gratitude to the constitution, an abstract idea, an imaginary existence, is altogether unintelligible. Affection to my countrymen will be much better proved, by my exertions to procure them a substantial benefit, than by my supporting a system which I believe to be fraught with injurious consequences.

He who calls upon me to support the constitution must foundmust arise either from the reason of the case, or from a personal and local consideration his requisition upon one of two principles. It has a claim upon my support either because it is good, or because it is British.


The first examined Against the requisition in the first sense there is nothing to object. All that is necessary is to prove the goodness which is ascribed to it. But perhaps it will be said, “that, though not absolutely good, more mischief will result from an attempt to overturn it, than from maintaining it with its mixed character of partly right and partly wrong.” If this can be made evident, undoubtedly I ought to submit. Of this mischief however I can be no judge but in consequence of enquiry. To some the evils attendant on a revolution will appear greater, and to others less. Some will imagine that the vices with which the English constitution is pregnant are considerable, and some that it is nearly innocent. Before I can decide between these opposite opinions and balance the existing and the possible evils, I must examine for myself. But examination in its nature implies uncertainty of result. Were I to determine before I sat down on which side the decision should be, I could not strictly speaking be said to examine at all. He that desires a revolution for its own sake is to be regarded as a madman. He that desires it from a thorough conviction of its usefulness and necessity has a claim upon us for candour and respect.

The second As to the demand upon me for support to the English constitution, because it is English, there is little plausibility in this argument. It is of the same nature as the demand upon me to be a Christian, because I am a Briton, or a Mahometan, because [201] I am a native of Turkey. Instead of being an expression of respect, it argues contempt of all government, religion and virtue, and every thing that is sacred among men. If there be such a thing as truth, it must be better than error. If there be such a faculty as reason, it ought to be exerted. But this demand makes truth a matter of absolute indifference, and forbids us the exercise of our reason. If men reason and reflect, it must necessarily happen that either the Englishman or the Turk will find his government to be odious and his religion false. For what purpose employ his reason, if he must for ever conceal the conclusions to which it leads him? How would man have arrived at his present attainments, if he had always been contented with the state of society in which he happened to be born? In a word, either reason is the curse of our species, and human nature is to be regarded with horror; or it becomes us to employ our understanding and to act upon it, and to follow truth wherever it may lead us. It cannot lead us to mischief, since utility, as it regards percipient beings, is the only basis of moral and political truth.




persuasion the proper instrument—not violence—nor resentment.—lateness of event desirable.

Persuasion the proper instrument: TO return to the enquiry respecting the mode of effecting revolutions. If no question can be more important, there is fortunately no question perhaps that admits of a more complete and satisfactory general answer. The revolutions of states, which a philanthropist would desire to witness, or in which he would willingly co-operate, consist principally in a change of sentiments and dispositions in the members of those states. The true instruments for changing the opinions of men are argument and persuasion. The best security for an advantageous issue is free and unrestricted discussion. In that field truth must always prove the successful champion. If then we would improve the social institutions of mankind, we must write, we must argue, we must converse. To this business there is no close; in this pursuit there should be no pause. Every method should be employed,—not so much positively to allure the attention of mankind, or persuasively to invite them to the adoption of our opinions,—as to remove every restraint upon thought, and to [203] throw open the temple of science and the field of enquiry to all the world.

Those instruments will always be regarded by the discerningnot violence: mind as suspicious, which may be employed with equal prospect of success on both sides of every question. This consideration should make us look with aversion upon all resources of violence. When we descend into the listed field, we of course desert the vantage ground of truth, and commit the decision to uncertainty and caprice. The phalanx of reason is invulnerable; it advances with deliberate and determined pace; and nothing is able to resist it. But when we lay down our arguments, and take up our swords, the case is altered. Amidst the barbarous pomp of war and the clamorous din of civil brawls, who can tell whether the event shall be prosperous or miserable?

We must therefore carefully distinguish between informingnor resentment the people and inflaming them. Indignation, resentment and fury are to be deprecated; and all we should ask is sober thought, clear discernment and intrepid discussion. Why were the revolutions of America and France a general concert of all orders and descriptions of men, without so much (if we bear in mind the multitudes concerned) as almost a dissentient voice; while the resistance against our Charles the first divided the nation into two equal parts? Because the latter was the affair of the seventeenth century, and the former happened in the close of the [204] eighteenth. Because in the case of America and France philosophy had already developed some of the great principles of political truth, and Sydney and Locke and Montesquieu and Rousseau had convinced a majority of reflecting and powerful minds of the evils of usurpation. If these revolutions had happened still later, not one drop of the blood of one citizen would have been shed by the hands of another, nor would the event have been marked so much perhaps as with one solitary instance of violence and confiscation.

Lateness of event desirable There are two principles therefore which the man who desires the regeneration of his species ought ever to bear in mind, to regard the improvement of every hour as essential in the discovery and dissemination of truth, and willingly to suffer the lapse of years before he urges the reducing his theory into actual execution. With all his caution it is possible that the impetuous multitude will run before the still and quiet progress of reason; nor will he sternly pass sentence upon every revolution that shall by a few years have anticipated the term that wisdom would have prescribed. But, if his caution be firmly exerted, there is no doubt that he will supersede many abortive attempts, and considerably prolong the general tranquillity.




meaning of the term.—associations objected to—1. from the sort of persons with whom a just revolution should originate—2. from the danger of tumult.—objects of association.—in what cases admissiblex2014arguedforfromthenom the necessity to give weight to opinion—from their tendency to ascertain opinion.—unnecessary for these purposes.—general inutility.—concessions.—importance of social communication.—propriety of teaching resistance considered.

A QUESTION naturally suggests itself in this place respectingMeaning of the term the propriety of associations among the people at large, for the purpose of effectinga change in their political institutions. It should be observed, that the associationshere spoken of are voluntary confederacies of certain members of the societywith each other, the tendency of which is to give weight to the opinions of thepersons so associated, of which the opinions of the unconfederated and insulatedpart of the community are des [206] titute. This questiontherefore has nothing in common with that other, whether in a well organizedstate every individual would not find his place in a deliberative as well asan elective capacity; the society being distributed into districts and departments,and each man possessing an importance, not measured by the capricious standardof some accidental confederacy, but by a rule impartially applied to every memberof the community.

Associations objected to: Relative then to political associations, as thus explained, there are two considerations, which, if they do not afford reason for undistinguishing condemnation, at least tend to diminish our anxiety to their introduction.

1. from the sort of persons with whom a just revolution should originate: In the first place revolutions less originate in the energies of the people at large, than in the conceptions of persons of some degree of study and reflection. I say, originate, for it must be admitted, that they ought ultimately to be determined on by the choice of the whole nation. It is the property of truth to diffuse itself. The difficulty is to distinguish it in the first instance, and in the next to present it in that unequivocal form which shall enable it to command universal assent. This must necessarily be the task of a few. Society, as it at present exists in the world, will long be divided into two classes, those who have leisure for study, and those whose importunate necessities perpetually urge them to temporary industry. It is no doubt to be desired, that the latter class should be made as much as possible [207] to partake of the privileges of the former. But we should be careful, while we listen to the undistinguishing demands of benevolence, that we do not occasion a greater mischief than that we undertake to cure. We should be upon our guard against an event the consequences of which are always to be feared, the propagating blind zeal, where we meant to propagate reason.

The studious and reflecting only can be expected to see deeply into future events. To conceive an order of society totally different from that which is now before our eyes, and to judge of the advantages that would accrue from its institution, are the prerogatives only of a few favoured minds. When these advantages have been unfolded by superior penetration, they cannot yet for some time be expected to be understood by the multitude. Time, reading and conversation are necessary to render them familiar. They must descend in regular gradation from the most thoughtful to the most unobservant. He, that begins with an appeal to the people, may be suspected to understand little of the true character of mind. A sinister design may gain by precipitation; but true wisdom is best adapted to a slow, unvarying, incessant progress.

Human affairs, through every link of the great chain of necessity, are admirably harmonised and adapted to each other. As the people form the last step in the progress of truth, they need least preparation to induce them to assert it. Their [208] prejudices are few and upon the surface. They are the higher orders of society, that find, or imagine they find, their advantage in injustice, and are eager to invent arguments for its defence. In sophistry they first seek an excuse for their conduct, and then become the redoubted champions of those errors which they have been assiduous to cultivate. The vulgar have no such interest, and submit to the reign of injustice from habit only and the want of reflection. They do not want preparation to receive the truth, so much as examples to embody it. A very short catalogue of reasons is sufficient for them, when they see the generous and the wise resolved to assert the cause of justice. A very short period is long enough for them to imbibe the sentiments of patriotism and liberty.

2. from the danger of tumult Secondly, associations must be formed with great caution not to be allied to tumult. The conviviality of a feast may lead to the depredations of a riot. While the sympathy of opinion catches from man to man, especially in numerous meetings, and among persons whose passions have not been used to the curb of judgment, actions may be determined on, which solitary reflection would have rejected. There is nothing more barbarous, cruel and blood-thirsty, than the triumph of a mob. Sober thought should always prepare the way to the public assertion of truth. He, that would be the founder of a republic, should, like the first Brutus, be insensible to the energies of the most imperious passions of our nature.


Upon this subject of associations an obvious distinction is toObjects of association be made. Those, who are dissatisfied with the government of their country, may aim either at the correction of old errors, or the counteracting of new encroachments. Both these objects are legitimate. The wise and the virtuous man ought to see things precisely as they are, and judge of the actual constitution of his country with the same impartiality, as if he had simply read of it in the remotest page of history.

These two objects may be entitled to a different treatment. TheIn what cases admissible first ought undoubtedly to proceed with a leisurely step and in all possible tranquillity. The second appears to require something more of activity. It is the characteristic of truth, to trust much to its own energy, and to resist invasion rather by the force of conviction than the force of arms. The individual oppressed seems however particularly entitled to our assistance, and this can best be afforded by the concurrence of many. The case may require an early and unequivocal display of opinion, and this perhaps will afford an apology for some sort of association, provided it be conducted with all possible attention to peaceableness and good order.

Few arguments can be of equal importance with that which weArgued for from the necessity to give weight to opinion: are here discussing. Few mistakes can be more to be deplored than that which should induce us to employ immoral and injurious methods for the support of a good cause. It may be [210] alledged, “that association is the only expedient for arming the sense of the country against the arts of its oppressors.” Why arm? Why spread a restless commotion over the face of a nation, which may lead to the most destructive consequences? Why seek to bestow upon truth a weight that is not her own? a weight that must always produce some obliquity, some blind and unenlightened zeal? In attempting prematurely to anticipate the conquest of truth, we shall infallibly give birth to deformity and abortion. If we have patience to wait her natural progress, and to assist her cause by no arguments that are not worthy of her, the event will be both certain and illustrious.

from their tendency to ascertain opinion. A similar answer will suggest itself to the objection, “that associationsare necessary unequivocally to ascertain the opinion Unnecessary for these purposes of the people.” Whatsort of opinion is that, which thus stands in need of some sudden violence tooblige it to start from its hiding-place? The sentiments of mankind are thenonly equivocal in external appearance, when they are unformed and uncertain inthe conception. When once the individual knows his own meaning, its symptomswill be clear and unequivocal. Be not precipitate. If the embryo sentiment atpresent existing in my mind be true, there is hope that it will gain strengthby time. If you wish to assist its growth, let it be by instruction, not by attemptingto pass that sentiment for mine which you only wish to be so. If the opinionof the people be not known to-day, it will not fail to shew itself to-morrow.If the opinion [211] of the people be not known to-day,it is because that which you would have supposed to be their opinion is not sufficientlytheir opinion. You might as well think of hiding the inhabitants of England,concealing their towns and their cultivation, and making their country pass fora desert, as of concealing their real and deliberate sentiment.

These are the expedients of men who do not know that truth isGeneral inutility omnipotent. It may appear to die for a time, but it will not fail to revive with fresh vigour. If it have ever failed to produce gradual conviction, it is because it has been told in a meagre, an obscure or a pusillanimous manner. Ten pages that should contain an absolute demonstration of the true interests of mankind in society could no otherwise be prevented from changing the face of the globe, than by the literal destruction of the paper on which they were written. It would become us to repeat their contents as widely as we were able; but, if we attempted any thing more than this, it would be a practical proof that we did not know they contained a demonstration.

Such are the reasonings that should decide upon our abstractConcessions opinion of every case of association that comes before us. But, though from hence it should sufficiently appear that association is scarcely in any case to be desired, there are considerations that should lead us sometimes to judge it with moderation and forbearance. There is one mode, according to which the benefit of mankind [212] may best be promoted, and which ought always to be employed. But mankind are imperfect beings, and there are certain errors of his species which a wise man will be inclined to regard with indulgence. Associations, as a measure intrinsically wrong, he will endeavour at least to postpone as long as he can. But it must not be dissembled that in the crisis of a revolution they will sometimes be unavoidable. While opinion is advancing with silent step, imagination and zeal may be expected somewhat to outrun her progress. Wisdom will be anxious to hold them at bay; and, if her votaries be many, she will be able to do this long enough to prevent tragical consequences. But, when the cast is thrown, when the declaration is made and irrevocable, she will not fail, be the confusion greater or less, to take the side of truth, and forward her reign by the best means that the necessity of the case will admit.

Importance of social communication But, though association, in the received sense of that term, must be granted to be an instrument of a very dangerous nature, it should be remembered that unreserved communication in a smaller circle, and especially among persons who are already awakened to the pursuit of truth, is of unquestionable advantage. There is at present in the world a cold reserve that keeps man at a distance from man. There is an art in the practice of which individuals communicate for ever, without any one telling his neighbour what estimate he should form of his attainments and character, how they ought to be employed, and how to be [213] improved. There is a sort of domestic tactics, the object of which is to instruct us to elude curiosity, and to keep up the tenour of conversation, without the disclosure either of our feelings or our opinions. The philanthropist has no object more deeply at heart than the annihilation of this duplicity and reserve. No man can have much kindness for his species, who does not habituate himself to consider upon each successive occasion of social intercourse how that occasion may be most beneficently improved. Among the topics to which he will be anxious to awaken attention, politics will occupy a principal share.

Books have by their very nature but a limited operation; though, on account of their permanence, their methodical disquisition, and their easiness of access, they are entitled to the foremost place. But their efficacy ought not to engross our confidence. The number of those by whom reading is neglected is exceedingly great. Books to those by whom they are read have a sort of constitutional coldness. We review the arguments of an “insolent innovator” with sullenness, and are unwilling to stretch our minds to take in all their force. It is with difficulty that we obtain the courage of striking into untrodden paths, and questioning tenets that have been generally received. But conversation accustoms us to hear a variety of sentiments, obliges us to exercise patience and attention, and gives freedom and elasticity to our mental disquisitions. A thinking man, if he will recollect his intellectual history, will find that he has derived inestimable advantage from the stimulus and surprise of colloquial suggestions; and, if he [214] review the history of literature, will perceive that minds of great acuteness and ability have commonly existed in a cluster.

It follows that the promising of the best interests of mankind eminently depends upon the freedom of social communication. Let us imagine to ourselves a number of individuals, who, having first stored their minds with reading and reflection, proceed afterwards in candid and unreserved conversation to compare their ideas, to suggest their doubts, to remove their difficulties, and to cultivate a collected and striking manner of delivering their sentiments. Let us suppose these men, prepared by mutual intercourse, to go forth to the world, to explain with succinctness and simplicity, and in a manner well calculated to arrest attention, the true principles of society. Let us suppose their hearers instigated in their turn to repeat these truths to their companions. We shall then have an idea of knowledge as perpetually gaining ground, unaccompanied with peril in the means of its diffusion. Reason will spread itself, and not a brute and unintelligent sympathy. Discussion perhaps never exists with so much vigour and utility as in the conversation of two persons. It may be carried on with advantage in small and friendly societies. Does the fewness of their numbers imply the rarity of their existence? Far otherwise: the time perhaps will come when such institutions will be universal. Shew to mankind by a few examples the advantages of political discussion undebauched by political enmity and vehemence, and the beauty of the spectacle will soon render the example contagious. Every man will [215] commune with his neighbour. Every man will be eager to tell and to hear what the interest of all requires them to know. The bolts and fortifications of the temple of truth will be removed. The craggy steep of science, which it was before difficult to ascend, will be levelled with the plain. Knowledge will be accessible to all. Wisdom will be the inheritance of man, from which none will be excluded but by their own heedlessness and prodigality. If these ideas cannot completely be realised, till the inequality of conditions and the tyranny of government are rendered somewhat less oppressive, this affords no reason against the setting afloat so generous a system. The improvement of individuals and the melioration of political institutions are destined mutually to produce and reproduce each other. Truth, and above all political truth, is not hard of acquisition, but from the superciliousness of its professors. It has been slow and tedious of improvement, because the study of it has been relegated to doctors and civilians. It has produced little effect upon the practice of mankind, because it has not been allowed a plain and direct appeal to their understandings. Remove these obstacles, render it the common property, bring it into daily use, and you may reasonably promise yourself consequences of the most inestimable value.

But these consequences are the property only of independent and impartial discussion. If once the unambitious and candid circles of enquiring men be swallowed up in the insatiate gulf of noisy assemblies, the opportunity of improvement is instantly [216] annihilated. The happy varieties of sentiment which so eminently contribute to intellectual acuteness are lost. Activity of thought is shackled by the fear that our associates should disclaim us. A fallacious uniformity of opinion is produced, which no man espouses from conviction, but which carries all men along with a resistless tide. Clubs, in the old English sense, that is, the periodical meeting of small and independent circles, may be admitted to fall within the line of these principles. But they cease to be admissible, when united with the tremendous apparatus of articles of confederacy and committees of correspondence. Human beings should meet together, not to enforce, but to enquire. Truth disclaims the alliance of marshalled numbers.

It seems scarcely necessary to add, that the individuals who are engaged in the transactions here censured, have frequently been instigated by the best intentions, and informed with the most liberal views. It would be in the highest degree unjust, if their undertakings should be found of dangerous tendency, to involve the authors in indiscriminate censure for consequences which they did not foresee. But at the same time, in proportion to the purity of their views and the soundness of their principles, it were earnestly to be desired that they would seriously reflect on the means they employ. It would be deeply to be lamented, if those who were the truest friends to the welfare of mankind, should come, by the injudiciousness of their conduct, to rank among its enemies.


From what has been said it is sufficiently evident, that no alarmPropriety of teaching resistance considered can be more groundless, than that of violence and precipitation from the enlightened advocates of political justice. There is however another objection which has been urged against them, built upon the supposed inexpediency of inculcating upon the people at large the propriety of occasional resistance to the authority of government. “Obedience,” say these objectors “is the rule; resistance the exception. Now what can be more preposterous, than perpetually to insist with all the pomp of eloquence upon an expedient, to which only an extreme necessity can oblige us to have recourse [*] ?”

It has already been shewn that obedience, that is, a surrender of the understanding to the voice of authority, is a rule to which it can never be creditable to human beings to conform. Tranquillity indeed, a state in which a man shall least be disturbed in the exercise of his private judgment by the interposition of violence, is an object we should constantly endeavour to promote; but this tranquillity the principles here inculcated have little tendency to disturb.

There is certainly no truth which it can be for the general interest to conceal. It must be confessed indeed, that a single [218] truth may be so detached from the series to which it belongs, as, when separately told, to have the nature of falshood. But this is by no means the case in the present instance. To inform mankind of those general principles upon which all political institutions ought to be built, is not to diffuse partial information. To discover to them their true interests, and lead them to conceive of a state of society more uncorrupt and more equitable than that in which they live, is not to inculcate some rare exception to a general rule. If there be any government which must be indebted for its perpetuity to ignorance, that government is the curse of mankind. In proportion as men are made to understand their true interests, they will conduct themselves wisely, both when they act and when they forbear, and their conduct will therefore promise the most advantageous issue. He, whose mind has carefully been inured to the dictates of reason, is of all men least likely to convert into the rash and headstrong invader of the general weal.




ought it to be partial or entire?—truth may not be partially taught.—partial reformation considered.—objection.—answer.—partial reform indispensible.—nature of a just revolution—howdistantnt?

THERE is one more question which cannot fail occasionallyOught it to be partial or entire? to suggest itself to the advocate of social reformation. “Ought we to desire to see this reformation introduced gradually or at once?” Neither side of this dilemma presents us with the proper expedient.

No project can be more injurious to the cause of truth, thanTruth may not be partially taught that of presenting it imperfectly and by parcels to the attention of mankind. Seen in its just light, the effect produced cannot fail to be considerable; but, shewn in some partial and imperfect way, it will afford a thousand advantages to its adversaries. Many objections will seem plausible, which a full view of the subject would have dissipated. Whatever limits truth is error; and of consequence such a limited view cannot fail to include a [220] considerable mixture of error. Many ideas may be excellent as parts of a great whole, which, when violently torn from their connection, will not only cease to be excellent, but may in some cases become positively injurious. In this war of posts and skirmishes victory will perpetually appear to be doubtful, and men will either be persuaded, that truth itself is of little value, or that human intellect is so narrow as to render the discovery of truth a hopeless pursuit.

Partial reformation considered. It may be alledged, that “one of the considerations of greatest influence in human affairs is that of the gradual decline Objection of ill things to worse, till at length the mischief, having proceeded to its highest climax, can maintain itself no longer. The argument in favour of social improvement would lose much of its relative energy, if the opportunity of a secret comparison of possible good with actual evil were taken away. All partial reforms are of the nature of palliatives. They skin over the diseased part instead of extirpating the disease. By giving a small benefit, perhaps a benefit only in appearance, they cheat us of the superior good we ought to have demanded. By stripping error of a part of its enormities, they give it fresh vigour and a longer duration.”

Answer We must be cautious however of pushing this argument too far. To suppose that truth stands in absolute need of a foil, or that she cannot produce full conviction by her native light, is [221] a conception unworthy of her enlightened advocates. The true solution will probably be found in the accurately distinguishing the sources of reform. Whatever reform, general or partial, shall be suggested to the community at large by an unmutilated view of the subject, ought to be seen with some degree of complacency. But a reform, that shall be offered us by those whose interest is supposed to lie in the perpetuating of abuse, and the intention of which is rather to give permanence to error by divesting it of its most odious features, is little entitled to our countenance. The true principle of social improvement lies in the correcting public opinion. Whatever reform is stolen upon the community unregarded, and does not spontaneously flow from the energy of the general mind, is unworthy of congratulation. It is in this respect with nations as with individuals. He that quits a vicious habit, not from reason and conviction, but because his appetites no longer solicit him to its indulgence, does not deserve the epithet of virtuous. The object it becomes us to pursue is, to give vigour to public opinion, not to sink it into listlessness and indifference.

When partial reformation proceeds from its legitimate cause,Gradual reform indispensible the progress society has made in the acquisition of truth, it may frequently be entitled to our applause. Man is the creature of habits. Gradual improvement is a most conspicuous law of his nature. When therefore some considerable advantage is sufficiently understood by the community to induce them to [222] desire its establishment, that establishment will afterwards react to the enlightening of intellect and the generating of virtue. It is natural for us to take our stand upon some leading truth, and from thence explore the regions we have still to traverse.

There is indeed a sense in which gradual improvement is the only alternative between reformation and no reformation. All human intellects are at sea upon the great ocean of infinite truth, and their voyage though attended with hourly advantage will never be at an end. If therefore we will stay till we shall have devised a reformation so complete, as shall need no farther reformation to render it more complete, we shall eternally remain in inaction. Whatever is fairly understood upon general principles by a considerable part of the community, and opposed by none or by a very few, may be considered as sufficiently ripe for execution.

Nature of a just revolution To recapitulate the principal object of this chapter, I would once again repeat, that violence may suit the plan of any political partisan, rather than of him that pleads the cause of simple justice. There is even a sense in which the reform aimed at by the true politician may be affirmed to be less a gradual than an entire one, without contradicting the former position. The complete reformation that is wanted, is not instant but future reformation. It can in reality scarcely be considered as of the nature of action. It consists in an universal illumination. Men feel their situa [223] tion, and the restraints, that shackled them before, vanish like a mere deception. When the true crisis shall come, not a sword will need to be drawn, not a finger to be lifted up. The adversaries will be too few and too feeble to dare to make a stand against the universal sense of mankind.

Nor do these ideas imply, as at first sight they might seem toHow distant? imply, that the revolution is at an immeasurable distance. It is of the nature of human affairs that great changes should appear to be sudden, and great discoveries to be made unexpectedly, and as it were by accident. In forming the mind of a young person, in endeavouring to give a new bent to that of a person of maturer years, I shall for a long time seem to have produced little effect, and the fruits will shew themselves when I least expected them. The kingdom of truth comes not with ostentation. The seeds of virtue may appear to perish before they germinate.

To recur once more to the example of France, the works of her great political writers seemed for a long time to produce little prospect of any practical effect. Helvetius, one of the latest, in a work published after his death in 1771, laments in pathetic strains the hopeless condition of his country. “In the history of every people,” says he, “there are moments, in which, uncertain of the side they shall choose, and balanced between political good and evil, they feel a desire to be instructed; in which the soil, so to express myself, is in some manner prepared, and may easily be [224] impregnated with the dew of truth. At such a moment the publication of a valuable book may give birth to the most auspicious reforms: but, when that moment is no more, the nation, become insensible to the best motives, is by the nature of its government plunged deeper and deeper in ignorance and stupidity. The soil of intellect is then hard and impenetrable; the rains may fall, may spread their moisture upon the surface, but the prospect of fertility is gone. Such is the condition of France. Her people are become the contempt of Europe. No salutary crisis shall ever restore them to liberty [*] .”

But in spite of these melancholy predictions, the work of renovation was in continual progress. The American revolution gave the finishing stroke, and only six years elapsed between the completion of American liberty and the commencement of the French revolution. Will a term longer than this be necessary, [225] before France, the most refined and considerable nation in the world, will lead other nations to imitate and improve upon her plan? Let the true friend of man be incessant in the propagation of truth, and vigilant to counteract all the causes that might disturb the regularity of her progress, and he will have every reason to hope an early and a favourable event.




diversity of opinions on this subject.—argument in its vindication.—the destruction of a tyrant not a case of exception.—consequences of tyrannicide.—assassination described.—importance of sincerity.

Diversity of opinions on this subject A QUESTION, connected with the mode of effecting revolutions, and which has been eagerly discussed among political reasoners, is that of tyrannicide. The moralists of antiquity warmly contended for the lawfulness of this practice; by the moderns it has generally been condemned.

Argument in its vindication The arguments in its favour are built upon a very obvious principle. “Justice ought universally to be administered. Upon lesser criminals it is done, or pretended to be done, by the laws of the community. But criminals by whom law is subverted, and who overturn the liberties of mankind, are out of the reach of the ordinary administration of justice. If justice be partially administered in subordinate cases, and the rich man be able to oppress [227] the poor with impunity, it must be admitted that a few examples of this sort are insufficient to authorise the last appeal of human beings. But no man will deny that the case of the usurper and the despot is of the most atrocious nature. In this instance, all the provisions of civil policy being superseded, and justice poisoned at the source, every man is left to execute for himself the decrees of eternal equity.”

It may however be doubted whether the destruction of a tyrantThe destruction of a tyrant not a case of exception be in any respect a case of exception from the rules proper to be observed upon ordinary occasions. The tyrant has certainly no particular sanctity annexed to his person, and may be killed with as little scruple as any other man, when the object is that of repelling immediate violence. In all other cases, the extirpation of the offender by a self-appointed authority, does not appear to be the proper mode of counteracting injustice.

For, first, either the nation, whose tyrant you would destroy,Consequences of tyrannicide is ripe for the assertion and maintenance of its liberty, or it is not. If it be, the tyrant ought to be deposed with every appearance of publicity. Nothing can be more improper, than for an affair, interesting to the general weal, to be conducted as if it were an act of darkness and shame. It is an ill lesson we read to mankind, when a proceeding, built upon the broad basis of general justice, is permitted to shrink from public scrutiny. The pistol and the dagger may as easily be made the auxiliaries of vice as [228] of virtue. To proscribe all violence, and neglect no means of information and impartiality, is the most effectual security we can have for an issue conformable to the voice of reason and truth.

If the nation be not ripe for a state of freedom, the man, who assumes to himself the right of interposing violence, may indeed shew the fervour of his conception, and gain a certain degree of notoriety. Fame he will not gain, for mankind at present regard an act of this sort with merited abhorrence; and he will inflict new calamities on his country. The consequences of tyrannicide are well known. If the attempt prove abortive, it renders the tyrant ten times more bloody, ferocious, and cruel than before. If it succeed, and the tyranny be restored, it produces the same effect upon his successors. In the climate of despotism some solitary virtues may spring up. But in the midst of plots and conspiracies there is neither truth, nor confidence, nor love, nor humanity.

Assassination described Secondly, the true merits of the question will be still farther understood, if we reflect on the nature of assassination. The mistake, which has been incurred upon this subject, is to be imputed principally to the superficial view that has been taken of it. If its advocates had followed the conspirator through all his windings, and observed his perpetual alarm lest truth should become known, they would probably have been less indiscriminate [229] in their applause. No action can be imagined more directly at war with a principle of ingenuousness and candour. Like all that is most odious in the catalogue of vices, it delights in obscurity. It shrinks from the penetrating eye of wisdom. It avoids all question, and hesitates and trembles before the questioner. It struggles for a tranquil gaiety, and is only complete where there is the most perfect hypocrisy. It changes the use of speech, and composes every feature the better to deceive. Imagine to yourself the conspirators, kneeling at the feet of Cæsar, as they did the moment before they destroyed him. Not all the virtue of Brutus can save them from your indignation.

There cannot be a better instance than that of which we areImportance of sincerity treating, to prove the importance of general sincerity. We see in this example, that an action, which has been undertaken from the best motives, may by a defect in this particular tend to over-turn the very foundations of justice and happiness. Wherever there is assassination, there is an end to all confidence among men. Protests and asseverations go for nothing. No man presumes to know his neighbour's intention. The boundaries, that have hitherto served to divide virtue and vice, are gone. The true interests of mankind require, not their removal, but their confirmation. All morality proceeds upon the assumption of something evident and true, will grow and expand in proportion as these indications are more clear and unequivocal, and could not exist for a moment, if they were destroyed.




PERHAPS there cannot be a subject of greater political importance, or better calculated to lead us in safety through the mazes of controversy, than that of the value of truth. Truth may be considered by us, either abstractedly, as it relates to certain general and unchangeable principles, or practically, as it relates to the daily incidents and ordinary commerce of human life. In whichever of these views we consider it, the more deeply we meditate its nature and tendency, the more shall we be struck with its unrivalled importance.




its importance as conducing—to our intellectual improvement—to our moral improvement.—virtue the best source of happiness.—proved by comparison—by its manner of adapting itself to all situationsx2014byitsundecayingexcel excellence—cannot be effectually propagated but by a cultivated mind.—importance of general truth to our political improvement.

ABSTRACTEDLY considered, it conduces to the perfectionIts importance as conducing of our understandings, our virtue and our political institutions.

In the discovery and knowledge of truth is comprised all thatto our intellectual improvement: which an impartial and reflecting mind is accustomed to admire. It is not possible for us seriously to doubt concerning the preference of a capacious and ardent intelligence over the limited perceptions of a brute. All that we can imagine of angels and Gods consists in superior wisdom. Do you say in power also? It will presently appear that wisdom is power. The truths of [232] general nature, those truths which preceded, either substantially or in the nature of things, the particular existences that surround us, and are independent of them all, are inexhaustible. Is it possible that a knowledge of these truths, the truths of mathematics, of metaphysics and morals, the truths which, according to Plato's conception [*] , taught the creator of the world the nature of his materials, the result of his operations, the consequences of all possible systems in all their detail, should not exalt and elevate the mind? The truths of particular nature, the history of man, the characters and propensities of human beings, the process of our own minds, the capacity of our natures, are scarcely less valuable. The reason they are so will best appear if we consider, secondly, the tendency of truth in conducing to the perfection of our virtue.

to our moral improvement Virtue cannot exist in an eminent degree, unaccompanied by an extensive survey of causes and their consequences, so that, having struck an accurate balance between the mixed benefits and injuries that for the present adhere to all human affairs, we may adopt that conduct which leads to the greatest possible advantage. If there be such a thing as virtue, it must admit of degrees. If it admit of degrees, he must be most virtuous, who chooses with the soundest judgment the greatest possible good of his species. But, in order to choose the greatest possible good, [233] he must be deeply acquainted with the nature of man, its general features and its varieties. In order to execute it, he must have considered all the instruments for impressing mind, and the different modes of applying them, and must know exactly the proper moment for bringing them into action. In whatever light we consider virtue, whether we place it in the action or the disposition, its degree must be intimately connected with the degree of knowledge. No man can love virtue sufficiently, who has not an acute and lively perception of its beauty, and its tendency to produce the only solid and permanent happiness. What comparison can be made between the virtue of Socrates and that of a Hottentot or a Siberian? A humorous example how universally this truth has been perceived might be drawn from Tertullian, who, as a father of the church, was obliged to maintain the hollowness and insignificance of pagan virtues, and accordingly assures us, “that the most ignorant peasant under the Christian dispensation possessed more real knowledge than the wisest of the ancient philosophers [*] .”

We shall be still more fully aware of the connection betweenVirtue the best source of happiness: virtue and knowledge, if we consider that the highest employment of virtue is to propagate itself. Virtue alone is happiness.proved by comparison: The happiness of a brute that spends the greater part of his life in listlessness and sleep, is but one remove from the happiness of a plant that is full of sap, vigour and nutrition. The happiness [234] of a man who pursues licentious pleasure is momentary, and his intervals of weariness and disgust perpetual. He speedily wears himself out in his specious career; and, every time that he employs the means of delight which his corporeal existence affords him, takes so much from his capacity of enjoyment. If he be wise enough like Epicurus to perceive a part of these disadvantages, and to find in fresh herbs and the water of the spring the truest gratification of his appetite, he will be obliged to seek some addition to his stock of enjoyment, and like Epicurus to become benevolent out of pure sensuality. But the virtuous man has a perpetual source of enjoyment. The only reason on account of which the truth of this assertion was ever controverted, is, that men have not understood what it was that constituted virtue.

by its manner of adapting itself to all situations: It is impossible that any situation can occur in which virtue cannot find room to expatiate. In society there is continual opportunity for its active employment. I cannot have intercourse with any human being who may not be the better for that intercourse. If he be already just and virtuous, these qualities are improved by communication. It is from a similar principle that it has been observed that great geniuses have usually existed in a cluster, and have been awakened by the fire struck into them by their neighbours. If he be imperfect and erroneous, there must be always some prejudice I may contribute to destroy, some motive to delineate, some error to remove. [235] If I be prejudiced and imperfect myself, it cannot however happen that my prejudices and imperfections shall be exactly coincident with his. I may therefore inform him of the truths that I know, and even by the collision of prejudices truth is elicited. It is impossible that I should strenuously apply myself to his mind with sincere motives of benevolence without some good being the result. Nor am I more at a loss in solitude. In solitude I may accumulate the materials of social benefit. No situation can be so desperate as to preclude these efforts. Voltaire, when shut up in the Bastille, and for ought he knew for life, deprived of books, of pens and of paper, arranged and in part executed the project of his Henriade. [*]

Another advantage of virtue in this personal view, is that,by its undecaying excellence: while sensual pleasure exhausts the frame, and passions often excited become frigid and callous, virtue has exactly the opposite propensities. Passions, in the usual acceptation of that term, having no absolute foundation in the nature of things, delight only by their novelty. But the more we are acquainted with virtue, the more estimable will it appear; and its field is as endless as the progress of mind. If an enlightened love of it be once excited in the mind, it is impossible that it should not continually increase. By its variety, by its activity it perpetually [236] renovates itself, and renders the intellect in which it resides ever new and ever young.

cannot be effectually propogated but by a cultivated mind All these reasonings are calculated to persuade us that the most precious boon we can bestow upon others is virtue, that the highest employment of virtue is to propagate itself. But, as virtue is inseparably connected with knowledge in my own mind, so can it only by knowledge be communicated to others. How can the virtue we have just been contemplating be created, but by infusing comprehensive views and communicating energetic truths? Now that man alone is qualified to give these views, and communicate these truths, who is himself pervaded with them.

Let us suppose for a moment virtuous dispositions as existing without knowledge or outrunning knowledge, the last of which is certainly possible, and we shall presently find how little such virtue is worthy to be propagated. The most generous views will in such cases frequently lead to the most nefarious actions. A Calvin will burn Servetus, and a Digby generate the gunpowder treason. But, to leave these extreme instances, in all cases where mistaken virtue leads to cruel and tyrannical actions, the mind will be soured and made putrescent by the actions it perpetrates. Truth, immortal and ever present truth, is so powerful, that, in spite of all his inveterate prejudices, the upright man will suspect himself, when he resolves upon an [237] action that is at war with the plainest principles of morality. He will become melancholy, dissatisfied and anxious. His firmness will degenerate into obstinacy, and his justice into inexorable severity. The farther he pursues his system, the more erroneous will he become. The farther he pursues it, the less will he be satisfied with it. As truth is an endless source of tranquillity and delight, error will be a prolific fountain of new mistakes and new discontent.

As to the third point, the tendency of truth to the improvementImportance of general truth to our political improvement of our political institutions, this is in reality the subject of the present volume, and has been particularly argued in some of the earlier divisions of the work. If politics be a science, the investigation of truth must be the means of unfolding it. If men resemble each other in more numerous and essential particulars than those in which they differ, if the best purposes that can be accomplished respecting them be to make them free and virtuous and wise, there must be one best method of advancing these common purposes, one best mode of social existence deducible from the principles of their nature. If truth be one, there must be one code of truths on the subject of our reciprocal duties. Nor is the investigation of truth only the best mode of arriving at the object of all political institutions, but it is also the best mode of introducing and establishing it. Discussion is the path that leads to discovery and demonstration. Motives ferment in the minds of great bodies of men till all is ripe for [238] action. The more familiar the mind becomes with the ideas of which they consist and the propositions that express them, the more fully is it pervaded with their urgency and importance.



nature of this virtue.—its effects—upon our own actions—upon our neighbours.—its tendency to produce fortitude.—effects of insincerity.—character which sincerity would acquire to him whopractiseditx2014objectionsctions.—the fear of giving unnecessary pain.—answer.—the desire of preserving my life.—this objection proves too much.—answer.—secrecy considered.—the secrets of others.—state secrets.—secrets of philanthropy.

Nature of this virtue IT is evident in the last place, thata strict adherence to truth will have the best effectupon our minds in the ordinary commerce of life. Thisis the virtue which has commonly been known by thedenomination of sincerity; and, whatever certain [239] accommodatingmoralists may teach us, the value of sincerity willbe in the highest degree obscured, when it is not complete.Real sincerity deposes me from all authority over thestatement of facts. Similar to the duty which Tullyimposes upon the historian, it compels me not to dare “toutter what is false, or conceal what is true.” Itannihilates the bastard prudence, which would instructme to give language to no sentiment that may be prejudicialto my interests. It extirpates the low and selfishprinciple, which would induce me to utter nothing “tothe disadvantage of him from whom I have received noinjury.” It compels, me to regard the concernsof my species as my own concerns. What I know of truth,of morals, of religion, of government, it compels meto communicate. All the praise which a virtuous manand an honest action can merit, I am obliged to payto the uttermost mite. I am obliged to give languageto all the blame to which profligacy, venality, hypocrisyand circumvention are so justly entitled. I am notempowered to conceal any thing I know of myself, whetherit tend to my honour or to my disgrace. I am obligedto treat every other man with equal frankness, withoutdreading the imputation of flattery on the one hand,without dreading his resentment and enmity on the other.

Did every man impose this law upon himself, he would beIts effects upon our own actions: obliged to consider before he decided upon the commission of an equivocal action, whether he chose to be his own historian, to [240] be the future narrator of the scene in which he was engaging. It has been justly observed that the popish practice of auricular confession has been attended with some salutary effects. How much better would it be, if, instead of a practice thus ambiguous, and which may be converted into so dangerous an engine of ecclesiastical despotism, every man would make the world his confessional, and the human species the keeper of his conscience?

upon our neighbours How extensive an effect would be produced, if every man were sure of meeting in his neighbour the ingenuous censor, who would tell to himself, and publish to the world, his virtues, his good deeds, his meannesses and his follies? I have no right to reject any duty, because it is equally incumbent upon my neighbours, and they do not practise it. When I have discharged the whole of my duty, it is weakness and vice to make myself unhappy about the omissions of others. Nor is it possible to say how much good one man sufficiently rigid in his adherence to truth would effect. One such man, with genius, information and energy, might redeem a nation from vice.

Its tendency to produce fortitude The consequence to myself of telling every man the truth, regardless of personal danger or of injury to my interests in the world, would be uncommonly favourable. I should acquire a fortitude that would render me equal to the most trying situations, that would maintain my presence of mind entire in spite [241] of unexpected occurrences, that would furnish me with extemporary arguments and wisdom, and endue my tongue with irresistible eloquence. Animated by the love of truth, my understanding would always be vigorous and alert, not as before frequently subject to listlessness, timidity and insipidity. Animated by the love of truth, and by a passion inseparable from its nature, and which is almost the same thing under another name, the love of my species, I should carefully seek for such topics as might most conduce to the benefit of my neighbours, anxiously watch the progress of mind, and incessantly labour for the extirpation of prejudice.

What is it that at this day enables a thousand errors to keepEffects of insincerity their station in the world, priestcraft, tests, bribery, war, cabal, and whatever else is the contempt and abhorrence of the enlightened and honest mind? Cowardice. Because, while vice walks erect with an unabashed countenance, men less vicious dare not paint her with that truth of colouring, which should at once confirm the innocent and reform the guilty. Because the majority of those who are not involved in the busy scene, and who, possessing some discernment, see that things are not altogether right, yet see in so frigid a way, and with so imperfect a view. Many, who detect the imposture, are yet absurd enough to imagine that imposture is necessary to keep the world in awe, and that truth being too weak to curb the turbulent passions of mankind, it is exceedingly proper to call in knavery and artifice as the abettors of her power. If every man to-day [242] would tell all the truth he knows, three years hence there would be scarcely a falshood of any magnitude remaining in the civilised world.

Character which sincerity would acquire to him who practised it There is no fear that the character here described should degenerate into ruggedness and brutality [*] . The motive by which it is animated affords a sufficient security against such consequences. “I tell an unpleasant truth to my neighbour from a conviction that it is my duty. I am convinced it is my duty, because I perceive the communication is calculated for his benefit.” His benefit therefore is the motive of my proceeding, and with such a motive it is impossible I should not seek to communicate it in the most efficacious form, not rousing his resentment, but awakening his moral feelings and his energy. Meanwhile the happiest of all qualifications in order to render truth palatable, is that which rises spontaneously in the situation we have been considering. Truth according to the terms of the supposition is to be spoken from the love of truth. But the face, the voice, the gesture are so many indexes to the mind. It is scarcely possible therefore that the person with whom I am conversing should not perceive, that I am influenced by no malignity, acrimony and envy. In proportion as my motive is pure, at least after a few experiments, my manner will become unembarrassed. There will be frankness in my voice, fervour in my gesture, and kindness in my heart. That man's mind must be [243] of a very perverse texture, that can convert a beneficent potion administered with no ungenerous retrospect, no selfish triumph, into rancour and aversion. There is an energy in the sincerity of a virtuous mind that nothing human can resist.

I stop not to consider the objections of the man who is immersedObjections in worldly prospects and pursuits. He that does not know that virtue is better than riches or title must be convinced by arguments foreign to this place.

But it will be asked, “What then, are painful truths to be disclosedThe fear of giving unnecessary pain to persons who are already in the most pitiable circumstances? Ought a woman that is dying of a fever to be informed of the fate of her husband whose skull has been fractured by a fall from his horse?”

The most that could possibly be conceded to a case like this,Answer is, that this perhaps is not the moment to begin to treat like a rational being a person who has through the course of a long life been treated like an infant. But in reality there is a mode in which under such circumstances truth may safely be communicated; and, if it be not thus done, there is perpetual danger that it may be done in a blunter way by the heedless loquaciousness of a chambermaid, or the yet undebauched sincerity of an infant. How many arts of hypocrisy, stratagem and falshood must be employed to cover this pitiful secret? Truth was calculated in [244] the nature of things to discipline the mind to fortitude, humanity and virtue. Who are we, that we should subvert the nature of things and the system of the universe, that we should breed up a set of summer insects, upon which the breeze of sincerity may never blow, and the tempest of misfortune never beat?

The desire of preserving my life “But truth may sometimes be fatal to him that speaks it. A man, who fought for the Pretender in the year 1745, when the event happened that dispersed his companions, betook himself to solitary flight. He fell in with a party of loyalists who were seeking to apprehend him; but not knowing his person, they enquired of him for intelligence to guide them in their pursuit. He returned an answer calculated to cherish them in their mistake, and saved his life.”

This objection proves too much This like the former is an extreme case; but the true answer will probably be found to be the same. If any one should question this, let him consider how far his approbation of the conduct of the person above cited would lead him. The rebels, as they were called, were treated in the period from which the example is drawn with the most illiberal injustice. This man, guided perhaps by the most magnanimous motives in what he had done, would have been put to an ignominious death. But, if he had a right to extricate himself by falshood, why not the wretch who has been guilty of forgery, who has deserved punishment, but who may now be conscious that he has in him [245] materials and inclination to make a valuable member of society? Nor is the inclination an essential part of the supposition. Where-ever the materials exist, it will perhaps be found to be flagrantly unjust on the part of society to destroy them, instead of discovering the means by which they might be rendered innocent and useful. At this rate, a man has nothing to do but to commit one crime, in order to give him a right to commit a second which shall secure impunity to the first.

But why, when so many hundred individuals have been contentedAnswer to become martyrs to the unintelligible principles of a pitiful sect, should not the one innocent man I have been describing be contented to offer himself up a victim at the shrine of veracity? Why should he purchase a few poor years of exile and misery by the commission of falshood? Had he surrendered himself to his pursuers, had he declared in the presence of his judges and his country, “I, whom you think too wicked and degenerate to deserve even to live, have chosen rather to encounter your injustice than be guilty of an untruth: I would have escaped from your iniquity and tyranny if I had been able; but, hedged in on all sides, having no means of deliverance but in falshood, I chearfully submit to all that your malice can inflict rather than violate the majesty of truth:” would he not have done an honour to himself, and afforded an example to the world, that would have fully compensated the calamity of his untimely death? It is in all cases incumbent upon us to dis [246] charge our own duty, without being influenced by the enquiry whether other men will discharge or neglect theirs.

It must be remembered however that this is not the true jet of the argument. The stress does not lie upon the good he would have done: that is precarious. This heroic action, as it is to be feared has been the case with many others, might be consigned to oblivion. The object of true wisdom under the circumstances we are considering, is to weigh, not so much what is to be done, as what is to be avoided. We must not be guilty of insincerity. We must not seek to obtain a desirable object by vile means. We must prefer a general principle to the meretricious attractions of a particular deviation. We must perceive in the preservation of that general principle a balance of universal good, outweighing the benefit to arise in any instance from superseding it. It is by general principles that the business of the universe is carried on. If the laws of gravity and impulse did not make us know the consequences of our actions, we should be incapable of judgment and inference. Nor is this less true in morals. He that, having laid down to himself a plan of sincerity, is guilty of a single deviation, infects the whole, contaminates the frankness and magnanimity of his temper (for fortitude in the intrepidity of lying is baseness), and is less virtuous than the foe against whom he defends himself; for it is more virtuous in my neighbour to confide in my apparent honesty, than in me to abuse his confidence. In the case of mar [247] tyrdom there are two things to be considered. It is an evil not wantonly to be incurred, for we know not what good yet remains for us to do. It is an evil not to be avoided at the expence of principle, for we should be upon our guard against setting an inordinate value upon our own efforts, and imagining that truth would die, if we were to be destroyed.

“But what becomes of the great duty of secrecy, which theSecrecy considered incomparable Fenelonhas made a capital branch in the education of his Telemachus?” It is annihilated.It becomes a truly virtuous man not to engage in any action of which he wouldbe ashamed though all the world were spectator. Indeed Fenelon with all his abilityhas fallen into the most palpable inconsistency upon this subject. In Ithacaa considerable part of the merit of Telemachus consists in keeping his mother'ssecrets [*] .When he arrives in Tyre, he will not be persuaded to commit or suffer a deception,though his life was apparently at stake [].

What is it of which an honest man is commonly ashamed? Of virtuous poverty, of doing menial offices for himself, of having raised himself by merit from a humble situation, and of a thousand particulars which in reality constitute his glory. With respect to actions of beneficence we cannot be too much upon our guard against a spirit of ostentation and the character that imperiously exacts the gratitude of its beneficiaries; but it is certainly an extreme weakness to desire to hide our deserts. So [248] far from desiring to withhold from the world the knowledge of our good deeds, we ought to be forward to exhibit an attractive and illustrious example. We cannot determine to keep any thing secret without risking at the same time to commit a hundred artifices, quibbles, equivocations and falshoods.

The secrets of others. But the secrets of others, “have I a power over them?” Probably not: but you have a duty respecting them. The facts with which you are acquainted are a part of your possessions, and you are as much obliged respecting them as in any other case, to employ them for the public good. Have I no right to indulge in myself the caprice of concealing any of my affairs, and can another man have a right by his caprice to hedge up and restrainState secrets the path of my duty?—“But state secrets?” This perhaps is a subject that ought not to be anticipated. We shall have occasion to enquire how ministers of the concerns of a nation came by their right to equivocate, to juggle and over-reach, while private men are obliged to be ingenuous, direct and sincere.

Secrets of philanthropy There is one case of a singular nature that seems to deserve a separate examination; the case of secrets that are to be kept for the sake of mankind. Full justice is done to the affirmative side of this argument by Mr. Condorcet in his Life of Voltaire, where he is justifying this illustrious friend of mankind, for his gentleness and forbearance in asserting the liberties of the species. He [249] first enumerates the incessant attacks of Voltaire upon superstition, hypocritical austerities and war; and then proceeds: “It is true, the more men are enlightened, the more they will be free; but let us not put despots on their guard, and incite them to form a league against the progress of reason. Let us conceal from them the strict and eternal union that subsists between knowledge and liberty. Voltaire thought proper to paint superstition as the enemy of monarchy, to put kings and princes upon their guard against the gloomy ferocity and ambition of the priesthood, and to demonstrate that, were it not for the freedom of thought and investigation, there would be no security against the return of papal insolence, of proscriptions, assassinations and religious war. Had he taken the other side of the question, had he maintained, which is equally true, that superstition and ignorance are the support of despotism, he would only have anticipated truths for which the public were not ripe, and have seen a speedy end to his career. Truth taught by moderate degrees gradually enlarges the intellectual capacity, and insensibly prepares the equality and happiness of mankind; but taught without prudential restraint would either be nipped in the bud, or occasion national concussions in the world, that would be found premature and therefore abortive [*].”


What a cowardly distrust do reasonings like these exhibit of the omnipotence of truth! With respect to personal safety, it will be found upon an accurate examination that Voltaire with all his ingenuity and stratagem was for sixty years together the object of perpetual, almost daily persecution from courts and ministers [*] . He was obliged to retire from country to country, and at last to take advantage of a residence upon the borders of two states with a habitation in each. His attempts to secure the patronage of princes led only to vicissitude and disgrace. If his plan had been more firm and direct, he would not have been less safe. Timidity, and an anxious endeavour to secure to ourselves a protector, invite persecution. With the advantages of Voltaire, with his talents and independence, he might have held the tyrants of the world in awe.


As to the progress of truth, it is not so precarious as its fearful friends may imagine. Mr. Condorcet has justly insinuated in the course of his argument, that “in the invention of printing is contained the embryo, which in its maturity and vigour is destined to annihilate the slavery of the human race [*] .” Books, if proper precautions be employed, cannot be destroyed. Knowledge cannot be extirpated. Its progress is silent, but infallible; and he is the most useful soldier in this war, who accumulates in an unperishable form the greatest mass of truth.

As truth has nothing to fear from her enemies, she needs not have any thing to fear from her friends. The man, who publishes the sublimest discoveries, is not of all others the most likely to inflame the vulgar, and hurry the great question of human happiness to a premature crisis. The object to be pursued undoubtedly is, the gradual improvement of mind. But this end will be better answered by exhibiting as much truth as possible, enlightening a few, and suffering knowledge to expand in the proportion which the laws of nature and necessity prescribe, than by any artificial plan of piecemeal communication that we can invent. There is in the nature of things a gradation in discovery and a progress in improvement, which do not need to be assisted by the stratagems of their votaries. In a word, there cannot be a more unworthy idea, than that truth and virtue should be [252] under the necessity of seeking alliance with concealment. The man, who would artfully draw me into a little, that by so doing he may unawares surprise me into much, I infallibly regard as an impostor. Will truth, contracted into some petty sphere and shorn of its beams, acquire additional evidence? Rather let me trust to its omnipotence, to its congeniality with the nature of intellect, to its direct and irresistible tendency to produce liberty, and happiness, and virtue. Let me fear that I have not enough of it, that my views are too narrow to produce impression, and anxiously endeavour to add to my stock; not apprehend that, exhibited in its noon-day brightness, its lustre and genial nature should not be universally confessed [*].



can eminent virtue exist unconnected with talents?—nature of virtue—it is the offspring. of understanding.—it generates understanding.—illustration from other pursuits—love—ambition—appliedd.

can eminent talents exist unconnected with virtue?—argument in the affirmative from analogy—in the negative from the universality of moral speculation—from the nature of vice as founded in mistake.—the argument balanced—importance of a sense of justice.—its connexion with talents.—illiberality with which men of talents are usually treated.

APROPOSITION which, however evident in itself, seemsAppendix, No. I. Can eminent virtue exist unconnected with talents? never to have been considered with the attention it deserves, is that which affirms the connexion between understanding and virtue. Can an honest ploughman be as virtuous as [254] Appendix, No. I. Cato? Is a man of weak intellects and narrow education as capable of moral excellence as the sublimest genius or the mind most stored with information and science?

Nature of virtue To determine these questions it is necessary we should recollect the nature of virtue. Considered as a personal quality it consists in the disposition of the mind, and may be defined a desire to promote the benefit of intelligent beings in general, the quantity of virtue being as the quantity of desire. Now desire is another name for preference, or a perception of the excellence real or supposed of any object. I say real or supposed, for an object totally destitute of real and intrinsic excellence, may become an object of desire by means of the imaginary excellence that is ascribed to it. Nor is this the only mistake to which human intelligences are liable. We may desire an object of absolute excellence, not for its real and genuine recommendations, but for some fictitious attractions we may impute to it. This is always in some degree the case, when a beneficial action is performed from an ill motive.

How far is this mistake compatible with real virtue? If I desire the benefit of intelligent beings, not from a clear and distinct perception of what it is in which their benefit consists, but from the unexamined lessons of education, from the physical effect of sympathy, or from any species of zeal unallied to and incommensurate with knowledge, can this desire be admitted for vir [255] tuous? Nothing seems more inconsistent with our ideas of virtue.Appendix, No. I. A virtuous preference is the preference of an object for the sake of certain beneficial qualities which really belong to that object. To attribute virtue to any other species of preference would be the same as to suppose that an accidental effect of my conduct, which was altogether out of my view at the time of adopting it, might entitle me to the appellation of virtuous.

Hence it appears, first, that virtue consists in a desire of theIt is the offspring of understanding benefit of the species: and, secondly, that that desire only can be denominated virtuous, which flows from a distinct perception of the value, and consequently of the nature, of the thing desired. But how extensive must be the capacity that comprehends the full value of that benefit which is the object of virtue! It must begin with a collective idea of the human species. It must discriminate, among all the different causes that produce a pleasurable state of mind, that which produces the most exquisite and durable pleasure. Eminent virtue requires that I should have a grand view of the tendency of knowledge to produce happiness, and of just political institution to favour the progress of knowledge. It demands that I should perceive in what manner social intercourse may be made conducive to virtue and felicity, and imagine the unspeakable advantages that may arise from a coincidence and succession of generous efforts. These things are necessary, not merely for the purpose of enabling me to employ my virtuous disposition in the best manner, but also [256] Appendix, No. I. for the purpose of giving to that disposition a just animation and vigour. God, according to the ideas usually conceived of that being, is more benevolent than man, because he has a constant and clear perception of the nature of that end which his providence pursues.

It generates understanding A farther proof that a powerful understanding is inseparable from eminent virtue will suggest itself, if we recollect that earnest desire never fails to generate capacity.

Illustration from other pursuits: This proposition has been beautifully illustrated by the poets, when they have represented the passion of love as immediately leading in the breast of the lover to the attainment of many love: arduous accomplishments. It unlocks his tongue, and enables him to plead the cause of his passion with insinuating eloquence. It renders his conversation pleasing and his manners graceful. Does he desire to express his feelings in the language of verse? It dictates to him the most natural and pathetic strains, and supplies him with a just and interesting language which the man of mere reflection and science has often fought for in vain.

ambition: No picture can be more truly founded in a knowledge of human nature than this. The history of all eminent talents is of a similar kind. Did Themistocles desire to eclipse the trophies of the battle of Marathon? The uneasiness of this desire would not let him sleep, and all his thoughts were occupied with the [257] invention of means to accomplish the purpose he had chosen. ItAppendix, No. I. is a well known maxim in the forming of juvenile minds, that the instruction, which is communicated by mere constraint, makes a slow and feeble impression; but that, when once you have inspired the mind with a love for its object, the scene and the progress are entirely altered. The uneasiness of mind which earnest desire produces, doubles our intellectual activity; and as surely carries us forward with increased velocity towards our goal, as the expectation of a reward of ten thousand pounds would prompt me to walk from London to York with firmer resolution and in a shorter time.

Let the object be for a person uninstructed in the rudiments of drawing to make a copy of some celebrated statue. At first, we will suppose, his attempt shall be mean and unsuccessful. If his desire be feeble, he will be deterred by the miscarriage of this essay. If his desire be ardent and invincible, he will return to the attack. He will derive instruction from his failure. He will examine where and why he miscarried. He will study his model with a more curious eye. He will perceive that he failed principally from the loose and undigested idea he had formed of the object before him. It will no longer stand in his mind as one general mass, but he will analyse it, bestowing upon each part in succession a separate consideration.

The case is similar in virtue as in science. If I have con [258] Appendix, No. I. ceivedapplied an earnest desire of being a benefactor of my species, I shall no doubt find out a channel in which for my desire to operate, and shall be quick-sighted in discovering the defects or comparative littleness of the plan I have chosen. But the choice of an excellent plan for the accomplishment of an important purpose, and the exertion of a mind perpetually watchful to remove its defects, imply considerable understanding. The farther I am engaged in the pursuit of this plan the more will my capacity increase. If my mind flag and be discouraged in the pursuit, it will not be merely want of understanding, but want of desire. My desire and my virtue will be less, than those of the man, who goes on with unremitted constancy in the same career.

Can eminent talents exist unconnected with virtue? Thus far we have only been considering how impossible it is that eminent virtue should exist in a weak understanding, and it is surprising that such a proposition should ever have been contested. It is a curious question to examine, how far the converse of this proposition is true, and in what degree eminent talents are compatible with the absence of virtue.

Argument in the affirmative from analogy: From the arguments already adduced it appears that virtuous desire is another name for a clear and distinct perception of the nature and value of the object of virtue. Hence it seems most natural to conclude, that, though understanding, or strong percipient power is the indispensible prerequisite of virtue, yet it is [259] necessary that this power should be fixed upon this object, inAppendix, No. I. order to its producing the desired effect. Thus it is in art. Without genius no man ever was a poet; but it is necessary that general capacity should have been directed to this particular channel, for poetical excellence to be the result.

There is however some difference between the two cases.in the negative from the universality of moral speculation: Poetry is the business of a few, virtue and vice are the affairs of all men. To every intellect that exists one or other of these qualities must properly belong. It must be granted that, where every other circumstance is equal, that man will be most virtuous, whose understanding has been most actively employed in the study of virtue. But morality has been in a certain degree an object of attention to all men. No person ever failed more or less to apply the standard of just and unjust to his own actions and those of others; and this has of course been generally done with most ingenuity by men of the greatest capacity.

It must farther be remembered that a vicious conduct is alwaysfrom the nature of vice as founded in mistake the result of narrow views. A man of powerful capacity and extensive observation is least likely to commit the mistake, either of seeing himself as the only object of importance in the universe, or of conceiving that his own advantage may best be promoted by trampling on that of others. Liberal accomplishments are surely in some degree connected with liberal principles. He, who takes into his view a whole nation as the subjects of his [260] Appendix, No. I. operation or the instruments of his greatness, may naturally be expected to entertain some kindness for the whole. He, whose mind is habitually elevated to magnificent conceptions, is not likely to sink without strong reluctance into those sordid pursuits, which engross so large a portion of mankind.

The argument balanced But, though these general maxims must be admitted for true, and would incline us to hope for a constant union between eminent talents and great virtues, there are other considerations which present a strong drawback upon so agreeable an expectation. It is sufficiently evident that morality in some degree enters into the reflections of all mankind. But it is equally evident, that it may enter for more or for less; and that there will be men of the highest talents, who have their attention diverted to other objects, and by whom it will be meditated upon with less earnestness, than it may sometimes be by other men who are in a general view their inferiors. The human mind is in some cases so tenacious of its errors, and so ingenious in the invention of a sophistry by which they may be vindicated, as to frustrate expectations of virtue in other respects the best founded.

Importance of a sense of justice From the whole of the subject it seems to appear, that men of talents, even when they are erroneous, are not destitute of virtue, and that there is a degree of guilt of which they are incapable. There is no ingredient that so essentially contributes to a virtuous character as a sense of justice. Philanthropy, as [261] contradistinguished to justice, is rather an unreflecting feeling,Appendix, No. I. than a rational principle. It leads to an absurd indulgence, which is frequently more injurious than beneficial even to the individual it proposes to favour. It leads to a blind partiality, inflicting calamity without remorse upon many perhaps, in order to promote the imagined interest of a few. But justice measures by one inflexible standard the claims of all, weighs their opposite pretensions, and seeks to diffuse happiness, because happiness is the fit and reasonable adjunct of a conscious being. Wherever therefore a strong sense of justice exists, it is common and reasonable to say, that in that mind exists considerable virtue, though the individual from an unfortunate concurrence of circumstances may with all his great qualities be the instrument of a very small portion of benefit. Can great intellectual energy exist without a strong sense of justice?

It has no doubt resulted from a train of speculation similar toIts connexion with talents this, that poetical readers have commonly remarked Milton's devil to be a being of considerable virtue. It must be admitted that his energies centered too much in personal regards. But why did he rebel against his maker? It was, as he himself informs us, because he saw no sufficient reason for that extreme inequality of rank and power which the creator assumed. It was because prescription and precedent form no adequate ground for implicit faith. After his fall, why did he still cherish the spirit of opposition? From a persuasion that he was hardly and [262] Appendix, No. I. injuriously treated. He was not discouraged by the apparent inequality of the contest: because a sense of reason and justice was stronger in his mind, than a sense of brute force: because he had much of the feelings of an Epictetus or a Cato, and little of those of a slave. He bore his torments with fortitude, because he disdained to be subdued by despotic power. He sought revenge, because he could not think with tameness of the unexpostulating authority that assumed to dispose of him. How beneficial and illustrious might the temper from which these qualities flowed have proved with a small diversity of situation!

Let us descend from these imaginary existences to real history. We shall find that even Cæsar and Alexander had their virtues. There is great reason to believe, that, however mistaken was their system of conduct, they imagined it reconcileable and even conducive to the general good. If they had desired the general good more earnestly, they would have understood better how to promote it.

Upon the whole it appears, that great talents are great energies, and that great energies cannot flow but from a powerful sense of fitness and justice. A man of uncommon genius is a man of high passions and lofty design; and our passions will be found in the last analysis to have their surest foundation in a sentiment of justice. If a man be of an aspiring and ambitious temper, it is because at present he finds himself out of his place, [263] and wishes to be in it. Even the lover imagines that his qualitiesAppendix, No. I. or his passion give him a title superior to that of other men. If I accumulate wealth, it is because I think that the most rational plan of life cannot be secured without it; and, if I dedicate my energies to sensual pleasures, it is that I regard other pursuits as irrational and visionary. All our passions would die in the moment they were conceived, were it not for this reinforcement. A man of quick resentment, of strong feelings, and who pertinaciously resists every thing that he regards as an unjust assumption, may be considered as having in him the seeds of eminence. Nor is it easily to be conceived that such a man should not proceed from a sense of justice to some degree of benevolence; as Milton's hero felt real compassion and sympathy for his partners in misfortune.

If these reasonings are to be admitted, what judgment shallIlliberality with which men of talents are usually treated we form of the decision of doctor Johnson, who, speaking of a certain obscure translator of the odes of Pindar, says, that he was “one of the few poets to whom death needed not to be terrible [*] ?” Let it be remembered that the error is by no means peculiar to doctor Johnson, though there are few instances in which it is carried to a more violent extreme, than in the general tenour of the work from which this quotation is taken. It was natural to expect that there would be a combination among the multitude to pull down intellectual eminence. Ambition is com [264] Appendix, No. I. mon to all men; and those, who are unable to rise to distinction, are at least willing to reduce others to their own standard. No man can completely understand the character of him with whom he has no sympathy of views, and we may be allowed to revile what we do not understand. But it is deeply to be regretted that men of talents should so often have entered into this combination. Who does not recollect with pain the vulgar abuse that Swift has thrown upon Dryden, and the mutual jealousies and animosities of Rousseau and Voltaire, men who ought to have co-operated for the salvation of the world?.



its impropriety argued—from the situation in which it places, 1. the visitor—2. the servant.—objections:—pretended necessity of this practice, 1. to preserve us from intrusion—2. to free us fromdisagreeableacquaintancexe.—characters of the honest and dishonest man in this respect compared.

THIS principle respecting the observation of truth in theAppendix, No. II. Its impropriety argued: common intercourses of life cannot perhaps be better illustrated, than from the familiar and trivial case, as it is commonly supposed to be, of a master directing his servant to say he is not at home, as a means of freeing him from the intrusion of impertinent guests. No question of morality can be foreign to the science of politics; nor will those few pages of the present work be found perhaps the least valuable, which here and in other places [*] are dedicated to the refutation of errors, that by their extensive influence have perverted the foundation of moral and political justice.


Appendix, No. II. from the situation in which it places, 1. the visitor: Let us first, according to the well known axiom of morality, put ourselves in the place of the person whom this answer excludes. It seldom happens but that he is able, if he be in possession of any discernment, to discover with tolerable accuracy whether the answer he receives be true or false. There are a thousand petty circumstances by which falshood continually detects itself. The countenance and the voice of the servant, unless long practised indeed in this lesson of deceit, his cold and reserved manner in the one case, and his free, ingenuous and unembarrassed air in the other, will almost always speak a language less ambiguous than his lips. But let us suppose only that we vehemently suspect the truth. It is not intended to keep us in ignorance of the existence of such a practice. He that adopts it, is willing to avow in general terms that such is his system, or he makes out a case for himself much less favourable than I was making out for him. The visitor then who receives this answer, feels in spite of himself a contempt for the prevarication of the person he visits. I appeal to the feelings of every man in the situation described, and I have no doubt that he will find this to be their true state in the first instance, however he may have a set of sophistical reasonings at hand by which he may in a few minutes reason down the first movements of indignation. He feels that the trouble he has taken and the civility he intended intitled him at least to truth in return.


Having put ourselves in the place of the visitor, let us nextAppendix, No. II. 2. the servant put ourselves in the place of the poor despised servant. Let us suppose that we are ourselves destined as sons or husbands to give this answer that our father or our wife is not at home, when he or she is really in the house. Should we not feel our tongues contaminated with the base plebeian lie? Would it be a sufficient opiate to our consciences to say that “such is the practice, and it is well understood?” It never can be understood: its very intention is, not to be understood. We say that “we have certain arguments that prove the practice to be innocent.” Are servants only competent to understand these arguments? Surely we ought best to be able to understand our own arguments, and yet we shrink with abhorrence from the idea of personally acting upon them.

Whatever sophistry we may have to excuse our error, nothing is more certain than that our servants understand the lesson we teach them to be a lie. It is accompanied by all the retinue of falshood. Before it can be gracefully practised, the servant must be no mean proficient in the mysteries of hypocrisy. By the easy impudence with which it is uttered, he best answers the purpose of his master, or in other words the purpose of deceit. By the easy impudence with which it is uttered, he best stifles the upbraidings of his own mind, and conceals from others the shame imposed on him by his despotic task-master. Before this can be sufficiently done, he must have discarded the ingenuous [268] Appendix, No. II. frankness by means of which the thoughts find easy commerce with the tongue, and the clear and undisguised countenance which ought to be the faithful mirror of the mind. Do you think, when he has learned this degenerate lesson in one instance, that it will produce no unfavourable effects upon his general conduct? Surely, if we will practise vice, we ought at least to have the magnanimity to practise it in person, not cowardlike corrupt the principles of another, and oblige him to do that which we have not the honesty to dare to do for ourselves.

Objections: But it is said, “that this lie is necessary, and that the intercourse Pretended necessity of this practice, 1. to preserve us from intrusion: of human society cannot be carried on without it.” What, is it not as easy to say, “I am engaged,” or “indisposed,” or as the case may happen, as “I am not at home?” Are these answers more insulting, than the universally suspected answer, the notorious hypocrisy of “I am not at home?”

The purpose indeed for which this answer is usually employed is a deceit of another kind. Every man has in the catalogue of his acquaintance some that he particularly loves, and others to whom he is indifferent, or perhaps worse than indifferent. This answer leaves the latter to suppose, if they please, that they are in the class of the former. And what is the benefit to result from this indiscriminate, undistinguishing manner of treating our neighbours? Whatever benefit it be, it no doubt [269] exists in considerable vigour in the present state of polished society,Appendix, No. II. where forms perpetually intrude to cut off all intercourse between the feelings of mankind; and I can scarcely tell a man on the one hand “that I esteem his character and honour his virtues,” or on the other “that he is fallen into an error which will be of prejudicial consequence to him,” without trampling upon all the barriers of politeness. But is all this right? Is not the esteem or the disapprobation of others among the most powerful incentives to virtue or punishments of vice? Can we even understand virtue and vice half so well as we otherwise should, if we be unacquainted with the feelings of our neighbours respecting them? If there be in the list of our acquaintance any person whom we particularly dislike, it usually happens that it is for some moral fault that we perceive or think we perceive in him. Why should he be kept in ignorance of our opinion respecting him, and prevented from the opportunity either of amendment or vindication? If he be too wise or too foolish, too virtuous or too vicious for us, why should he not be ingenuously told of his mistake in his intended kindness to us, rather than be suffered to find it out by six months enquiry from our servants?

This leads us to yet one more argument in favour of this disingenuous2. to free us from disagreeable acquaintance practice. We are told, “there is no other by which we can rid ourselves of disagreeable acquaintance.” How long shall this be one of the effects of polished society, to persuade us [270] Appendix, No. II. that we are incapable of doing the most trivial offices for ourselves? You may as well tell me, “that it is a matter of indispensible necessity to have a valet to put on my stockings.” In reality the existence of these troublesome visitors is owing to the hypocrisy of politeness. It is that we wear the same indiscriminate smile, the same appearance of cordiality and complacence to all our acquaintance. Ought we to do thus? Are virtue and excellence entitled to no distinctions? For the trouble of these impertinent visits we may thank ourselves. If we practised no deceit, if we assumed no atom of cordiality and esteem we did not feel, we should be little pestered with these buzzing intruders. But one species of falshood involves us in another; and he, that pleads for these lying answers to our visitors, in reality pleads the cause of a cowardice, that dares not deny to vice the distinction and kindness that are exclusively due to virtue.

Characters of the honest and dishonest man in this respect compared The man who acted upon this system would be very far removed from a Cynic. The conduct of men formed upon the fashionable system is a perpetual contradiction. At one moment they fawn upon us with a servility that dishonours the dignity of man, and at another treat us with a neglect, a sarcastic insolence, and a supercilious disdain, that are felt as the severest cruelty, by him who has not the firmness to regard them with neglect. The conduct of the genuine moralist is equable and uniform. He loves all mankind, he desires the benefit of all, and this love and this desire are legible in his conduct. Does [271] he remind us of our faults? It is with no mixture of asperity,Appendix, No. II. of selfish disdain and insolent superiority. Of consequence it is scarcely possible he should wound. Few indeed are those effeminate valetudinarians, who recoil from the advice, when they distinguish the motive. But, were it otherwise, the injury is nothing. Those who feel themselves incapable of suffering the most benevolent plain dealing, would derive least benefit from the prescription, and they avoid the physician. Thus is he delivered, without harshness, hypocrisy and deceit, from those whose intercourse he had least reason to desire; and the more his character is understood, the more his acquaintance will be select, his company being chiefly sought by the ingenuous, the well disposed, and those who are desirous of improvement.



a case proposed.—arguments in favour of concealment.—previous question: is truth in general to be partially communicated?—customary effects of sincerity—of insincerity—upon him who practisesitx20141thesuspensionofimprovof improvement—2. misanthropy—3. disingenuity—upon the spectators.—sincerity delineated—its general importance.—application.—duty respecting the choice of a residence.

Appendix, No. III. A case proposed TO enable us more accurately to judge of the extent of the obligation to be sincere, let us suppose, “that I am resident, as a native or otherwise, in the kingdom of Portugal, and that I am of opinion that the establishment, civil and religious, of that country is in a high degree injurious to the welfare and improvement of the inhabitants.” Ought I explicitly to declare the sentiments I entertain? To this question I answer, that “my immediate duty is to seek for myself a different residence.”


The arguments in favour of concealment in this case are obvious.Appendix, No. III. Arguments in favour of concealment “That countryis subject to a high degree of despotism, and, if I delivered my sentiments inthis frank manner, especially if along with this I were ardent and indefatigablein endeavouring to proselyte the inhabitants, my sincerity would not be endured.In that country the institution of the holy inquisition still flourishes, andthe fathers of this venerable court would find means effectually to silence me,before I had well opened my commission. The inhabitants, wholly unaccustomedto such bold assertions as those I uttered, would feel their pious ears inexpressiblyshocked, and the martyrdom I endured, instead of producing the good effects withwhich martyrdom is sometimes attended, would soon be forgotten, and, as longas it was remembered, would be remembered only with execrations of my memory.If on the contrary I concealed my sentiments, I might spend a long life in actsof substantial benevolence. If I concealed them in part, I might perhaps by aprudent and gradual disclosure effect that revolution in the opinions of theinhabitants, which by my precipitation in the other case I defeated in the outset.These arguments in favour of concealment are not built upon cowardice and selfishness,or upon a recollection of the horrible tortures to which I should be subjected.They flow from considerations of philanthropy, and an endeavour fairly to estimatein what mode my exertions may be rendered most conducive to the general good.”


Appendix, No. III. Previous question: Is truth in general to be partially communicated? Before we enter upon their direct examination, it may be proper to premise some general observations. In the first place, let us calmly enquire whether the instance here stated be of the nature of an exception or a rule. “Ought I universally to tell only a small part of the truth at a time, careful not to shock the prejudices of my hearers, and thus lead them imperceptibly to conclusions which would have revolted them at first; or am I to practise this method only, where the risk is great, and my life may be the forfeit?” It would seem as if truth were a sacred deposit, which I had no right to deal out in shreds to my fellow men, just as my temper or my prudence should dictate. It would seem as if it were an unworthy artifice, by an ingenious arrangement of my materials to trick men into a conclusion, to which frankness, ingenuity and sincerity would never have conducted them. It would seem as if the shock I am so careful to avoid were favourable to the health and robust constitution of mind; and that, though I might in this way produce least temporary effect, the ultimate result would afford a balance greatly in favour of undisguised sincerity.

Customary effects of sincerity: A second preliminary proper to be introduced in this place consists in a recollection of the general effects of sincerity and insincerity, the reasons for which the one is commonly laudable and the other to be blamed, independently of the subjects about which they may be employed. Sincerity is laudable, on account of the firmness and energy of character it never fails to produce. [275] “An upright man,” it has sometimes been said, “ought toAppendix, No. III. carry his heart in his hand.” He ought to have an ingenuousness which shrinks from no examination. The commerce between his tongue and his heart is uniform. Whatever he speaks you can depend upon to be the truth and the whole truth. The designs he has formed he employs no artifice to conceal. He tells you in the first instance: “This is the proposition I mean to demonstrate. I put you upon your guard. I will not take you by surprise. If what I affirm be the truth, it will bear your scrutiny. If it were error, I could have recourse to no means more equivocal, than that of concealing in every step of the process the object in which my exertions were intended to terminate.”

Insincerity is to be blamed, because it has an immediateof insincerity: tendency to vitiate the integrity of character. “I must concealupon him who practises it: the opinions I entertain,” suppose, “from the holy father inquisitor.” What method shall I employ for this purpose? Shall I1. the suspension of improvement: hide them as an impenetrable secret from all the world? If this be the system I adopt, the consequence is an instant and immediate end to the improvement of my mind. It is by the efforts of a daring temper that improvements and discoveries are made. The seeds of discovery are scattered in every thinking mind, but they are too frequently starved by the ungenial soil upon which they fall. Every man suspects the absurdity of kings and lords, and the injustice of that glaring and oppressive inequality which subsists in most civilised countries. But he dares not let his [276] Appendix, No. III. mind loose in so adventurous a subject. If I tell my thoughts, I derive from the act of communication encouragement to proceed. I perceive in what manner they are received by others, and this perception acts by rebound upon my own progress. If they be received cordially, I derive new encouragement from the approbation of others. If they be received with opposition and distrust, I am induced to revise them. I detect their errors, or I strengthen my arguments, and add new truths to those which I had previously accumulated. What can excite me to the pursuit of discovery, if I know that I am never to communicate my discoveries? It is in the nature of things impossible, that the man, who has determined with himself never to utter the truths he knows, should be an intrepid and indefatigable thinker. The link which binds together the inward and the outward man is indissoluble; and he, that is not bold in speech, 2. misanthropy: will never be ardent and unprejudiced in enquiry. Add to this, that conscious disguise has the worst effect upon the temper, and converts virtue, which ought to be frank, social and ingenuous, into a solitary, morose and misanthropical principle.

3. disingenuity: But let us conceive that the method I employ to protect myself from persecution is different from that above stated. Let us suppose that I communicate my sentiments, but with caution and reserve. This system involves with it an endless train of falshood, duplicity and tergiversation. When I communicate my sentiments, it is under the inviolable seal of secrecy. If my [277] zeal carry me any great lengths, and my love of truth be ardent,Appendix, No. III. I shall wish to communicate it as far as the bounds of prudence will possibly admit, and it will be strange if in a course of years I do not commit one mistake in my calculation. My grand secret is betrayed, and suspicion is excited in the breast of the father inquisitor. What shall I do now? I must, I suppose, stoutly deny the fact. I must compose my features into a consistent expression of the most natural ignorance and surprise, happy if I have made such progress in the arts of hypocrisy and falshood, as to put the change upon the wild beast who is ready to devour me. The most consummate impostor is upon this hypothesis the man of most perfect virtue.

But this is not all. My character for benevolence being well known, I am likely to be surrounded by persons of good humoured indiscretion rather than by inveterate enemies. Of every man who questions me about my real sentiments I must determine first, whether he simply wish to be informed, or whether his design be to betray me. The character of virtue seems in its own nature to be that of firm and unalterable resolution, confident in its own integrity. But the character that results from this system begins in hesitation, and ends in disgrace. I am questioned whether such be my real sentiments. I deny it. My questioner returns to the charge with an, “Oh, but I heard it from such a one, and he was present when you delivered them.” What am I to do now? Am I to asperse the character of [278] Appendix, No. III. the honest reporter of my words? Am I to make an impotent effort to get rid of the charge; and, instead of establishing my character for orthodoxy, astonish my informer with my cool and intrepid effrontery?

upon the spectators Insincerity has the worst effect both upon him who practises, and upon them who behold it. It deprives virtue of that conscious magnanimity and ease, which ought ever to be ranked among its noblest effects. It requires the perpetual exercise of presence of mind, not for the purpose of telling the most useful truths in the best manner, but in order to invent a consistent catalogue of lies, and to utter them with a countenance at war with every thing that is passing in my heart. It destroys that confidence on the part of my hearers, which ought to be inseparable from virtue. They cannot all of them be expected to understand the deep plan of benevolence and the total neglect of all selfish and timid considerations by which I am supposing my conduct to be regulated. But they can all see my duplicity and tergiversation. They all know that I excel the most consummate impostor in the coolness with which I can utter falshood, and the craft with which I can support it.

Sincerity delineated Sincerity has sometimes been brought into disrepute by the absurd system according to which it has been pursued, and still oftener by the whimsical picture which the adversaries of undistinguishing sincerity have made of it. It is not necessary that I [279] should stop every person that I meet in the street to inform himAppendix, No. III. of my sentiments. It is not necessary that I should perpetually talk to the vulgar and illiterate of the deepest and sublimest truths. All that is necessary is, that I should practise no concealment, that I should preserve my disposition and character untainted. Whoever questions me, it is necessary that I should have no secrets or reserves, but be always ready to return a frank and explicit answer. When I undertake by argument to establish any principle, it is necessay that I should employ no circuitous methods, but clearly state in the first instance the object I have in view. Having satisfied this original duty, I may fairly call upon my hearer for the exercise of his patience. “It is true,” I may say, “that the opinion I deliver will appear shocking to your prejudices, but I will now deliberately and minutely assign the reasons upon which it is founded. If they appear satisfactory, receive; if they be inconclusive, reject it.” This is the ground work of sincerity. The superstructure is the propagation of every important truth, because it conduces to the improvement of man whether individually or collectively; and the telling all I know of myself and of my neighbour, because strict justice and unequivocal publicity are the best security for every virtue.

Sincerity then, in ordinary cases at least, seems to be of soIts general importance much importance, that it is my duty first to consider how to [280] Appendix, No. III. preserve my sincerity untainted, and afterwards to select the best means in my power in each particular situation, of benefiting mankind. Sincerity is one of those paramount and general rules, which is never to give way to the affair of the day. I may imagine perhaps that falshood and deceit may be most beneficial in some particular instances, as I might imagine upon the subject of a preceding chapter, that it would be virtuous to plant my dagger in the heart of a tyrant. But we should be cautious of indulging our imaginations in these instances. The great law of always employing ingenuous and honourable means seems to be of more importance than the exterminating any local and temporary evils. I well know in the present case what good will result from a frank and undisguised principle of action, and what evil from deceit, duplicity and falshood. But I am much less certain of the good that will arise under particular circumstances from a neglect of these principles.

Application Having thus unfolded the true ground of reasoning upon this subject, we will return to the question respecting the conduct to be observed by the reformer in Portugal.

Duty respecting the choice of a residence And here the true answer will perhaps be found to be that which has been above delivered, that a person so far enlightened upon these subjects, ought by no consideration to be prevailed upon to settle in Portugal; and, if he were there already, ought [281] to quit the country with all convenient speed. His efforts in PortugalAppendix, No. III. would probably be vain; but there is some other country in which they will be attended with the happiest consequences.

It may be objected, “that some person must begin the work of reformation in Portugal, and why should it not be the individual of whom we are treating?” But the answer is, that, in the sense supposed in this objection, it is not necessary that any body should begin. These great and daring truths ought to be published in England, France and other countries; and the dissemination that will attend them here, will produce a report and afford an example, which after some time may prepare them a favourable reception there.

The great chain of causes from which every event in the universe takes its rise, has sufficiently provided for the gradual instruction of mankind, without its being necessary that individuals should violate their principles and sacrifice their integrity to accomplish it. Perhaps there never was a mind that so far outran the rest of the species, but that there was some country in which the man that possessed it might safely tell all he knew. The same causes that ripen the mind of the individual are acting generally, ripening similar minds, and giving a certain degree of similar impression to whole ages and countries. There exist perhaps at this very moment in Portugal, or soon will exist, minds, which, though mere children in science compared with [282] Appendix, No. III. their gigantic neighbours in a more favoured soil, are yet accurately adapted to the improvement of their countrymen. If by any sport of nature an exotic should spring up, let him be transplanted to a climate that will prove more favourable to his vigour and utility. Add to this, that, when we are inclined to set an inordinate value upon our own importance, it may be reasonable to suspect that we are influenced by some lurking principle of timidity or vanity. It is by no means certain that the individual ever yet existed, whose life was of so much value to the community, as to be worth preserving at so great an expence, as that of his sincerity.




importance of the question.—definition of necessity.—why supposed to exist in the operations of the material universe.—the case of the operations of mind is parallel.—indications of necessity—in history—in our judgments of character—in our schemes of policy—in our ideas of moral discipline.—objection from the fallibility of our expectations in human conduct.—answer.—origin and universality of the sentiment of free will.—the sentiment of necessity also universal.—the truth of this sentiment argued from the nature of volition.—hypothesis of free will examined.—self-determination.—indifference.—the will not a distinct faculty.—free will disadvantageous to its possessor.—of no service to morality.

HAVING now finished the theoretical part of our enquiry, so far as appeared to be necessary to afford a foundation for our reasoning respecting the different provisions of political [284] institution, we might directly proceed to the consideration of those provisions. It will not however be useless to pause in this place, in order to consider those general principles of the human mind, which are most intimately connected with the topics of political reasoning [*].

None of these principles seems to be of greater importance than that which affirms that all actions are necessary.

Importance of the question Most of the reasonings upon which we have hitherto been employed, though perhaps constantly built upon this doctrine as a postulate, will yet by their intrinsic evidence, however inconsistently with his opinion upon this primary topic, be admitted by the advocate of free will. But it ought not to be the present design of political enquirers to treat the questions that may present themselves superficially. It will be found upon maturer reflection that this doctrine of moral necessity includes in it consequences of the highest moment, and leads to a bold and comprehensive view of man in society, which cannot possibly be entertained by him who has embraced the opposite opinion. Severe method would have required that this proposition should have been established in the first instance, as an indispensible [285] foundation of moral reasoning of every sort. But there are well disposed persons, who notwithstanding the evidence with which it is attended, have been alarmed at its consequences; and it was perhaps proper, in compliance with their mistake, to shew that the moral reasonings of this work did not stand in need of this support, in any other sense than moral reasonings do upon every other subject.

To the right understanding of any arguments that may beDefinition of necessity. adduced under this head, it is requisite that we should have a clear idea of the meaning of the term necessity. He who affirms that all actions are necessary, means, that, if we form a just and complete view of all the circumstances in which a living or intelligent being is placed, we shall find that he could not in any moment of his existence have acted otherwise than he has acted. According to this assertion there is in the transactions of mind nothing loose, precarious and uncertain. Upon this question the advocate of liberty in the philosophical sense must join issue. He must, if he mean any thing, deny this certainty of conjunction between moral antecedents and consequents. Where all is constant and invariable, and the events that arise uniformly flow from the circumstances in which they originate, there can be no liberty.

It is acknowledged that in the events of the material universe everyWhy supposed to exist [286] in the operations of the material universe thing is subjected to this necessity. The tendency of investigation and enquiryrelatively to this topic of human knowledge has been, more effectually to excludechance, as our improvements extended. Let us consider what is the species ofevidence that has satisfied philosophers upon this point. Their only valid groundof reasoning has been from experience. The argument which has induced mankindto conceive of the universe as governed by certain laws, and to entertain theidea of necessary connexion between successive events, has been an observed similarityin the order of succession. If, when we had once remarked two events succeedingeach other, we had never had occasion to see that individual succession repeated;if we saw innumerable events in perpetual progression without any apparent order,so that all our observation would not enable us, when we beheld one, to pronouncethat another of such a particular class might be expected to follow; we shouldnever have conceived of the existence of necessary connexion, or have had anidea corresponding to the term cause.

Hence it follows that all that strictly speaking we know of the material universe is this succession of events. Uniform succession irresistibly forces upon the mind the idea of abstract connexion. When we see the sun constantly rise in the morning and set at night, and have had occasion to observe this phenomenon invariably taking place through the whole period of our [287] existence, we cannot avoid believing that there is some cause producing this uniformity of event. But the principle or virtue by which one event is conjoined to another we never see.

Let us take some familiar illustrations of this truth. Can it be imagined that any man by the inspection and analysis of gunpowder would have been enabled, previously to experience, to predict its explosion? Would he previously to experience have been enabled to predict, that one piece of marble having a flat and polished surface might with facility be protruded along another in a horizontal, but would with considerable pertinacity resist separation in a perpendicular direction? The simplest phenomena of the most hourly occurrence were originally placed at an equal distance from human sagacity.

There is a certain degree of obscurity incident to this subject arising from the following circumstance. All human knowledge is the result of perception. We know nothing of any substance but by experience. If it produced no effects, it would be no subject of human intelligence. We collect a considerable number of these effects, and, by their perceived uniformity having reduced them into general classes, form a general idea annexed to the subject that produces them. It must be admitted, that a definition of any substance, that is, any thing that deserves to be called knowledge respecting it, will enable us to predict some of its future possible effects, and that for this plain reason, that defi [288] nition is prediction under another name. But, though, when we have gained the idea of impenetrability as a general phenomenon of matter, we can predict some of its effects, there are others which we cannot predict: or in other words, we know none of its effects but such as we have actually remarked, added to an expectation that similar events will arise under similar circumstances, proportioned to the constancy with which they have been observed to take place in our past experience. Finding as we do by repeated experiments, that material substances have the property of resistance, and that one substance in a state of rest, when impelled by another, passes into a state of motion, we are still in want of more particular observation to enable us to predict the specific effects that will follow from this impulse in each of the bodies. Enquire of a man who knows nothing more of matter than its general property of impenetrability, what will be the result of one ball of matter impinging upon another, and you will soon find how little this general property can inform him of the particular laws of motion. We suppose him to know that it will communicate motion to the second ball. But what quantity of motion will it communicate? What effects will the impulse produce upon the impelling ball? Will it continue to move in the same direction? will it recoil in the opposite direction? will it fly off obliquely, or will it subside into a state of rest? All these events will appear equally probable to him whom a series of observations upon the past has not instructed as to what he is to expect from the future.


From these remarks we may sufficiently collect what is the species of knowledge we possess respecting the laws of the material universe. No experiments we are able to make, no reasonings we are able to deduce, can ever instruct us in the principle of causation, or shew us for what reason it is that one event has, in every instance in which it has been known to occur, been the precursor of another event of a certain given description. Yet we reasonably believe that these events are bound together by a perfect necessity, and exclude from our ideas of matter and motion the supposition of chance or an uncaused event. Association of ideas obliges us, after having seen two events perpetually conjoined, to pass, as soon as one of them occurs, to the recollection of the other: and, in cases where this transition never deceives us, but the ideal succession is always found to be an exact copy of the future event, it is impossible that this species of foresight should not convert into a general foundation of reasoning. We cannot take a single step upon this subject, which does not partake of the species of operation we denominate abstraction. Till we have been led to consider the rising of the sun to-morrow as an incident of the same species as its rising today, we cannot deduce from it similar consequences. It is the business of science to carry this task of generalisation to its farthest extent, and to reduce the diversified events of the universe to a finall number of original principles.

Let us proceed to apply these reasonings concerning matter toThe case of the opera [290] tions of mind is parallel the illustration of the theory of mind. Is it possible in this latter theory, as in the former subject, to discover any general principles? Can intellect be made a topic of science? Are we able to reduce the multiplied phenomena of mind to any certain standard of reasoning? If the affirmative of these questions be conceded, the inevitable consequence appears to be, that mind, as well as matter, exhibits a constant conjunction of events, and affords a reasonable presumption to the necessary connexion of those events. It is of no importance that we cannot see the ground of that connexion, or imagine how propositions and reasoning, when presented to the mind of a percipient being, are able by necessary consequence to generate volition and animal motion; for, if there be any truth in the above reasonings, we are equally incapable of perceiving the ground of connexion between any two events in the material universe, the common and received opinion that we do perceive such ground of connexion being in reality nothing more than a vulgar prejudice.

Indications of necessity: That mind is a topic of science may be argued from all those branches of literature and enquiry which have mind for their in history: subject. What species of amusement or instruction would history afford us, if there were no ground of inference from moral causes to effects, if certain temptations and inducements did not in all ages and climates produce a certain series of actions, if we were unable to trace connexion and a principle of unity in men's tempers, propensities and transactions? The amusement would [291] be inferior to that which we derive from the perusal of a chronological table, where events have no order but that of time; since, however the chronologist may neglect to mark the internal connexion between successive transactions, the mind of the reader is busied in supplying that connexion from memory or imagination: but the very idea of such connexion would never have suggested itself, if we had never found the source of that idea in experience. The instruction arising from the perusal of history would be absolutely none; since instruction implies in its very nature the classing and generalising of objects. But, upon the supposition on which we are arguing, all objects would be unconnected and disjunct, without the possibility of affording any grounds of reasoning or principles of science.

The idea correspondent to the term character inevitably includesin our judgments of character: in it the assumption of necessary connexion. The character of any man is the result of a long series of impressions communicated to his mind, and modifying it in a certain manner, so as to enable us, from a number of these modifications and impressions being given, to predict his conduct. Hence arise his temper and habits, respecting which we reasonably conclude, that they will not be abruptly superseded and reversed; and that, if they ever be reversed, it will not be accidentally, but in consequence of some strong reason persuading, or some extraordinary event modifying his mind. If there were not this original and essential connexion between motives and actions, and, which [292] forms one particular branch of this principle, between men's past and future actions, there could be no such thing as character, or as a ground of inference enabling us to predict what men would be from what they have been.

in our schemes of policy: From the same idea of necessary connexion arise all the schemes of policy, in consequence of which men propose to themselves by a certain plan of conduct to prevail upon others to become the tools and instruments of their purposes. All the arts of courtship and flattery, of playing upon men's hopes and fears, proceed upon the supposition that mind is subject to certain laws, and that, provided we be skilful and assiduous enough in applying the cause, the effect will inevitably follow.

in our ideas of moral discipline Lastly, the idea of moral discipline proceeds entirely upon this principle. If I carefully persuade, exhort, and exhibit motives to another, it is because I believe that motives have a tendency to influence his conduct. If I reward or punish him, either with a view to his own improvement or as an example to others, it is because I have been led to believe that rewards and punishments are calculated in their own nature to affect the sentiments and practices of mankind.

Objection from the fallibility of our expectations in human conduct There is but one conceivable objection against the inference from these premises to the necessity of human actions. It may be alledged, that “though there is a real connexion between [293] motives and actions, yet that this connexion may not amount to a certainty, and that of consequence the mind still retains an inherent activity by which it can at pleasure dissolve this connexion. Thus for example, when I address argument and persuasion to my neighbour to induce him to adopt a certain species of conduct, I do it not with a certain expectation of success, and am not utterly disappointed if all my efforts fail of their effect. I make a reserve for a certain faculty of liberty he is supposed to possess, which may at last counteract the best digested projects.”

But in this objection there is nothing peculiar to the case ofAnswer mind. It is just so in matter. I see a part only of the premises, and therefore can pronounce only with uncertainty upon the conclusion. A philosophical experiment, which has succeeded a hundred times, may altogether fail upon the next trial. But what does the philosopher conclude from this? Not that there is a liberty of choice in his retort and his materials, by which they baffle the best formed expectations. Not that the connexion between effects and causes is imperfect, and that part of the effect happens from no cause at all. But that there was some other cause concerned whose operation he did not perceive, but which a fresh investigation will probably lay open to him. When the science of the material universe was in its infancy, men were sufficiently prompt to refer events to accident and chance; but the farther they have extended their enquiries and [294] observation, the more reason they have found to conclude that every thing takes place according to necessary and universal laws.

The case is exactly parallel with respect to mind. The politician and the philosopher, however they may speculatively entertain the opinion of free will, never think of introducing it into their scheme of accounting for events. If an incident turn out otherwise than they expected, they take it for granted, that there was some unobserved bias, some habit of thinking, some prejudice of education, some singular association of ideas, that disappointed their prediction; and, if they be of an active and enterprising temper, they return, like the natural philosopher, to search out the secret spring of this unlooked for event.

Origin and universality of the sentiment of free will The reflections into which we have entered upon the doctrine of causes, not only afford us a simple and impressive argument in favour of the doctrine of necessity, but suggest a very obvious reason why the doctrine opposite to this has been in a certain degree the general opinion of mankind. It has appeared that the idea of necessary connexion between events of any sort is the lesson of experience, and the vulgar never arrive at the universal application of this principle even to the phenomena of the material universe. In the easiest and most familiar instances, such as the impinging of one ball of matter upon another and its consequences, they willingly admit the interference of chance, [295] or an event uncaused. In this instance however, as both the impulse and its effects are subjects of observation to the senses, they readily imagine that they perceive the absolute principle which causes motion to be communicated from the first ball to the second. Now the very same prejudice and precipitate conclusion, which induce them to believe that they discover the principle of motion in objects of sense, act in an opposite direction with respect to such objects as cannot be subjected to the examination of sense. The manner in which an idea or proposition suggested to the mind of a percipient being produces animal motion they never see; and therefore readily conclude that there is no necessary connexion between these events.

But, if the vulgar will universally be found to be the advocatesThe sentiment of necessity also universal of free will, they are not less strongly, however inconsistently, impressed with the belief of the doctrine of necessity. It is a well known and a just observation, that, were it not for the existence of general laws to which the events of the material universe always conform, man could never have been either a reasoning or a moral being. The most considerable actions of our lives are directed by foresight. It is because he foresees the regular succession of the seasons, that the farmer sows his field, and after the expiration of a certain term expects a crop. There would be no kindness in my administering food to the hungry, and no injustice in my thrusting a drawn sword against the [296] bosom of my friend, if it were not the established quality of food to nourish, and of a sword to wound.

But the regularity of events in the material universe will not of itself afford a sufficient foundation of morality and prudence. The voluntary conduct of our neighbours enters for a share into almost all those calculations upon which our own plans and determinations are founded. If voluntary conduct, as well as material impulse, were not subjected to general laws, included in the system of cause and effect, and a legitimate topic of prediction and foresight, the certainty of events in the material universe would be productive of little benefit. But in reality the mind passes from one of these topics of speculation to the other, without accurately distributing them into classes, or imagining that there is any difference in the certainty with which they are attended. Hence it appears that the most uninstructed peasant or artisan is practically a necessarian. The farmer calculates as securely upon the inclination of mankind to buy his corn when it is brought into the market, as upon the tendency of the seasons to ripen it. The labourer no more suspects that his employer will alter his mind and not pay him his daily wages, than he suspects that his tools will refuse to perform those functions today, in which they were yesterday employed with success [*].


Another argument in favour of the doctrine of necessity, notThe truth of this sentiment argued from the nature of volition less clear and irresistible than that from the consideration of cause and effect, will arise from any consistent explication that can be given of the nature of voluntary motion. The motions of the animal system distribute themselves into two great classes, voluntary and involuntary. Involuntary motion, whether it be conceived to take place independently of the mind, or to be the result of thought and perception, is so called, because the consequences of that motion, either in whole or in part, did not enter into the view of the mind when the motion commenced. Thus the cries of a new-born infant are not less involuntary than the circulation of the blood; it being impossible that the sounds first resulting from a certain agitation of the animal frame should be foreseen, since foresight is the fruit of experience.

From these observations we may deduce a rational and consistent account of the nature of volition. Voluntary motion is that which is accompanied with foresight, and flows from intention and design. Volition is that state of an intellectual being, in which, the mind being affected in a certain manner by the apprehension of an end to be accomplished, a certain motion of the organs and members of the animal frame is found to be produced.

Here then the advocates of intellectual liberty have a clear [298] dilemma proposed to their choice. They must ascribe this freedom, this imperfect connexion of effects and causes, either to our voluntary or our involuntary motions. They have already made their determination. They are aware that to ascribe freedom to that which is involuntary, even if the assumption could be maintained, would be altogether foreign to the great subjects of moral, theological or political enquiry. Man would not be in any degree more of an agent or an accountable being, though it could be proved that all his involuntary motions sprung up in a fortuitous and capricious manner.

But on the other hand to ascribe freedom to our voluntary actions is an express contradiction in terms. No motion is voluntary any farther than it is accompanied with intention and design, and flows from the apprehension of an end to be accomplished. So far as it flows in any degree from another source, so far it is involuntary. The new-born infant foresees nothing, therefore all his motions are involuntary. A person arrived at maturity takes an extensive survey of the consequences of his actions, therefore he is eminently a voluntary and rational being. If any part of my conduct be destitute of all foresight of the effects to result, who is there that ascribes to it depravity and vice? Xerxes acted just as soberly as such a reasoner, when he caused his attendants to inflict a thousand lashes on the waves of the Hellespont.


The truth of the doctrine of necessity will be still more evident,Hypothesis of free will examined. if we consider the absurdity of the opposite hypothesis. One of its principal ingredients is self determination. Liberty in an imperfect and popular sense is ascribed to the motions ofSelf determination the animal system, when they result from the foresight and deliberation of the intellect, and not from external compulsion. It is in this sense that the word is commonly used in moral and political reasoning. Philosophical reasoners therefore, who have desired to vindicate the property of freedom, not only to our external motions, but to the acts of the mind, have been obliged to repeat this process. Our external actions are then said to be free, when they truly result from the determination of the mind. If our volitions, or internal acts be also free, they must in like manner result from the determination of the mind, or in other words, “the mind in adopting them” must be “self determined.” Now nothing can be more evident than that that in which the mind exercises its freedom, must be an act of the mind. Liberty therefore according to this hypothesis consists in this, that every choice we make has been chosen by us, and every act of the mind been preceded and produced by an act of the mind. This is so true, that in reality the ultimate act is not styled free from any quality of its own, but because the mind in adopting it was self determined, that is, because it was preceded by another act. The ultimate act resulted completely from the determination that was its precursor. It was itself necessary; and, if we would look for freedom, it must be in the preceding act. But in that [300] preceding act also, if the mind were free, it was self determined, that is, this volition was chosen by a preceding volition, and by the same reasoning this also by another antecedent to itself. All the acts except the first were necessary, and followed each other as inevitably as the links of a chain do, when the first link is drawn forward. But then neither was this first act free, unless the mind in adopting it were self determined, that is, unless this act were chosen by a preceding act. Trace back the chain as far as you please, every act at which you arrive is necessary. That act, which gives the character of freedom to the whole, can never be discovered; and, if it could, in its own nature includes a contradiction.

Indifference Another idea which belongs to the hypothesis of self determination, is, that the mind is not necessarily inclined this way or that by the motives which are presented to it, by the clearness or obscurity with which they are apprehended, or by the temper and character which preceding habits may have generated; but that by its inherent activity it is equally capable of proceeding either way, and passes to its determination from a previous state of absolute indifference. Now what sort of activity is that which is equally inclined to all kinds of actions? Let us suppose a particle of matter endowed with an inherent propensity to motion. This propensity must either be to move in one particular direction, and then it must for ever move in that direction unless counteracted by some external impression; or it must [301] have an equal tendency to all directions, and then the result must be a state of perpetual rest.

The absurdity of this consequence is so evident, that the advocates of intellectual liberty have endeavoured to destroy its force by means of a distinction. “Motive,” it has been said, “is indeed the occasion, the sine qua non of volition, but it has no inherent power to compel volition. Its influence depends upon the free and unconstrained surrender of the mind. Between opposite motives and considerations the mind can choose as it pleases, and by its determination can convert the motive which is weak and insufficient in the comparison into the strongest.” But this hypothesis will be found exceedingly inadequate to the purpose for which it is produced. Motives must either have a necessary and irresistible influence, or they can have no influence at all.

For, first, it must be remembered, that the ground or reason of any event, of whatever nature it be, must be contained among the circumstances which precede that event. The mind is supposed to be in a state of previous indifference, and therefore cannot be, in itself considered, the source of the particular choice that is made. There is a motive on one side and a motive on the other: and between these lie the true ground and reason of preference. But, wherever there is tendency to preference, there may be degrees of tendency. If the degrees be [302] equal, preference cannot follow: it is equivalent to the putting equal weights into the opposite scales of a balance. If one of them have a greater tendency to preference than the other, that which has the greatest tendency must ultimately prevail. When two things are balanced against each other, so much amount may be conceived to be struck off from each side as exists in the smaller sum, and the overplus that belongs to the greater is all that truly enters into the consideration.

Add to this, secondly, that, if motive have not a necessary influence, it is altogether superfluous. The mind cannot first choose to be influenced by a motive, and afterwards submit to its operation: for in that case the preference would belong wholly to this previous volition. The determination would in reality be complete in the first instance; and the motive, which came in afterwards, might be the pretext, but could not be the true source of the proceeding [*].

The will not a distinct faculty Lastly, it may be observed upon the hypothesis of free will, that the whole system is built upon a distinction where there is no difference, to wit, a distinction between the intellectual and active powers of the mind. A mysterious philosophy taught men to suppose, that, when the understanding had perceived any object to be desirable, there was need of some distinct [303] power to put the body in motion. But reason finds no ground for this supposition; nor is it possible to conceive, that, in the case of an intellectual faculty placed in an aptly organised body, preference can exist, together with a consciousness, gained from experience, of our power to obtain the object preferred, without a certain motion of the animal frame being the necessary result. We need only attend to the obvious meaning of the terms in order to perceive that the will is merely, as it has been happily termed, the last act of the understanding, one of the different cases of the association of ideas. What indeed is preference, but a perception of something that really inheres or is supposed to inhere in the objects themselves? It is the judgment, true or erroneous, which the mind makes respecting such things as are brought into comparison with each other. If this had been sufficiently attended to, the freedom of the will would never have been gravely maintained by philosophical writers, since no man ever imagined that we were free to feel or not to feel an impression made upon our organs, and to believe or not to believe a proposition demonstrated to our understanding.

It must be unnecessary to add any thing farther on this head,Free will disadvantageous to its possessor: unless it be a momentary recollection of the sort of benefit that freedom of the will would confer upon us, supposing it to be possible. Man being, as we have now found him to be, a simple substance, governed by the apprehensions of his understanding, nothing farther is requisite but the improvement of his [304] reasoning faculty, to make him virtuous and happy. But, did he possess a faculty independent of the understanding, and capable of resisting from mere caprice the most powerful arguments, the best education and the most sedulous instruction might be of no use to him. This freedom we shall easily perceive to be his bane and his curse; and the only hope of lasting benefit to the species would be, by drawing closer the connexion between the external motions and the understanding, wholly to extirpate it. The virtuous man, in proportion to his improvement, will be under the constant influence of fixed and invariable principles; and such a being as we conceive God to be, can never in any one instance have exercised this liberty, that is, can never of no service to morality have acted in a foolish and tyrannical manner. Freedom of the will is absurdly represented as necessary to render the mind susceptible of moral principles; but in reality, so far as we act with liberty, so far as we are independent of motives, our conduct is as independent of morality as it is of reason, nor is it possible that we should deserve either praise or blame for a proceeding thus capricious and indisciplinable.




idea it suggests to us of the universe.—influence on our moral ideas—action—virtue—exertion—persuasion—exhortation—ardour—complacence and aversion—punishment—repentance—praise and bland blame—intellectual tranquillity.—language of necessity recommended.

CONSIDERING then the doctrine of moral necessity asIdea it suggests to us of the universe sufficiently established, let us proceed to the consequences that are to be deduced from it. This view of things presents us with an idea of the universe as connected and cemented in all its parts, nothing in the boundless progress of things being capable of happening otherwise than it has actually happened. In the life of every human being there is a chain of causes, generated in that eternity which preceded his birth, and going on in regular procession through the whole period of his existence, in consequence of which it was impossible for him to act in any instance otherwise than he has acted.


Influence on our moral ideas: The contrary of this having been the conception of the mass of mankind in all ages, and the ideas of contingency and accident having perpetually obtruded themselves, the established language of morality has been universally tinctured with this error. It will therefore be of no trivial importance to enquire how much of this language is founded in the truth of things, and how much of what is expressed by it is purely imaginary. Accuracy of language is the indispensible prerequisite of sound knowledge, and without attention to that subject we can never ascertain the extent and importance of the consequences of necessity.

action: First then it appears, that, in the emphatical and refined sense in which the word has sometimes been used, there is no such thing as action. Man is in no case strictly speaking the beginner of any event or series of events that takes place in the universe, but only the vehicle through which certain causes operate, which causes, if he were supposed not to exist, would cease to operate. Action however, in its more simple and obvious sense, is sufficiently real, and exists equally both in mind and in matter. When a ball upon a billiard board is struck by a person playing, and afterwards impinges upon a second ball, the ball which was first in motion is said to act upon the second, though it operate in the strictest conformity to the impression it received, and the motion it communicates be precisely determined by the circumstances of the case. Exactly similar to this, upon the prin [307] ciples already explained, are the actions of the human mind. Mind is a real cause, an indispensible link in the great chain of the universe; but not, as has sometimes been supposed, a cause of that paramount description, as to supersede all necessities, and be itself subject to no laws and methods of operation. Upon the hypothesis of a God, it is not the choice, apprehension or judgment of that being, so properly as the truth which was the foundation of that judgment, that has been the source of all contingent and particular existences. His existence, if necessary, was necessary only as the sensorium of truth and the medium of its operation.

Is this view of things incompatible with the existence ofvirtue: virtue?

If by virtue we understand the operation of an intelligent being in the exercise of an optional power, so that under the same precise circumstances it might or might not have taken place, undoubtedly it will annihilate it.

But the doctrine of necessity does not overturn the nature of things. Happiness and misery, wisdom and error will still be distinct from each other, and there will still be a connexion between them. Wherever there is distinction there is ground for preference and desire, or on the contrary for neglect and aversion. Happiness and wisdom will be objects worthy to be [308] desired, misery and error worthy to be disliked. If therefore by virtue we mean that principle which asserts the preference of the former over the latter, its reality will remain undiminished by the doctrine of necessity.

Virtue, if we would speak accurately, ought to be considered by us in the first instance objectively, rather than as modifying any particular beings. It is a system of general advantage, in their aptitude or inaptitude to which lies the value or worthlessness of all particular existences. This aptitude is in intelligent beings usually termed capacity or power. Now power in the sense of the hypothesis of liberty is altogether chimerical. But power in the sense in which it is sometimes affirmed of inanimate substances, is equally true of those which are animate. A candlestick has the power or capacity of retaining a candle in a perpendicular direction. A knife has a capacity of cutting. In the same manner a human being has a capacity of walking: though it may be no more true of him, than of the inanimate substance, that he has the power of exercising or not exercising that capacity. Again, there are different degrees as well as different classes of capacity. One knife is better adapted for the purposes of cutting than another.

Now there are two considerations relative to any particular being, that excite our approbation, and this whether the being be possessed of consciousness or no. These considerations are [309] capacity and the application of that capacity. We approve of a sharp knife rather than a blunt one, because its capacity is greater. We approve of its being employed in carving food, rather than in maiming men or other animals, because that application of its capacity is preferable. But all approbation or preference is relative to utility or general good. A knife is as capable as a man of being employed in the purposes of virtue, and the one is no more free than the other as to its employment. The mode in which a knife is made subservient to these purposes is by material impulse. The mode in which a man is made subservient is by inducement and persuasion. But both are equally the affair of necessity. The man differs from the knife, just as the iron candlestick differs from the brass one; he has one more way of being acted upon. This additional way in man is motive, in the candlestick is magnetism.

But virtue has another sense, in which it is analogous to duty. The virtue of a human being is the application of his capacity to the general good; his duty is the best possible application of that capacity. The words thus explained are to be considered as rather similar to grammatical distinction, than to real and philosophical difference. Thus in Latin bonus is good as affirmed of a man, bona is good as affirmed of a woman. In the same manner we can as easily conceive of the capacity of an inanimate as of an animate substance being applied to the general good, and as accurately describe the best possible application of the one [310] as of the other. There is no essential difference between the two cases. But we call the latter virtue and duty, and not the former. These words may in a popular sense be considered as either masculine or feminine, but never neuter.

exertion: But, if the doctrine of necessity do not annihilate virtue, it tends to introduce a great change into our ideas respecting it. According to this doctrine it will be absurd for a man to say, “I will exert myself,” “I will take care to remember,” or even “I will do this.” All these expressions imply as if man was or could be something else than what motives make him. Man is in reality a passive, and not an active being. In another sense however he is sufficiently capable of exertion. The operations of his mind may be laborious, like those of the wheel of a heavy machine in ascending a hill, may even tend to wear out the substance of the shell in which it acts, without in the smallest degree impeaching its passive character. If we were constantly aware of this, our minds would not glow less ardently with the love of truth, justice, happiness and mankind. We should have a firmness and simplicity in our conduct, not wasting itself in fruitless struggles and regrets, not hurried along with infantine impatience, but seeing events with their consequences, and calmly and unreservedly given up to the influence of those comprehensive views which this doctrine inspires.

persuasion: As to our conduct towards others in instances where we were [311] concerned to improve and meliorate their minds, we should address our representations and remonstrances to them with double confidence. The believer in free will can expostulate with or correct his pupil with faint and uncertain hopes, conscious that the clearest exhibition of truth is impotent, when brought into contest with the unhearing and indisciplinable faculty of will; or in reality, if he were consistent, secure that it could produce no effect at all. The necessarian on the contrary employs real antecedents, and has a right to expect real effects.

But, though he would represent, he would not exhort, forexhortation: this is a term without a meaning. He would suggest motives to the mind, but he would not call upon it to comply, as if it had a power to comply or not to comply. His office would consist of two parts, the exhibition of motives to the pursuit of a certain end, and the delineation of the easiest and most effectual way of attaining that end.

There is no better scheme for enabling us to perceive how far any idea that has been connected with the hypothesis of liberty has a real foundation, than to translate the usual mode of expressing it into the language of necessity. Suppose the idea of exhortation so translated to stand thus: “To enable any arguments I may suggest to you to make a suitable impression it is necessary that they should be fairly considered. I proceed therefore to evince to you the importance of attention, knowing, [312] that, if I can make this importance sufficiently manifest attention will inevitably follow.” I should however be far better employed in enforcing directly the truth I am desirous to impress, than in having recourse to this circuitous mode of treating attention as if it were a separate faculty. Attention will in reality always be proportionate to our apprehension of the importance of the subject before us.

ardour: At first sight it may appear as if, the moment I was satisfied that exertion on my part was no better than a fiction, and that I was the passive instrument of causes exterior to myself, I should become indifferent to the objects which had hitherto interested me the most deeply, and lose all that inflexible perseverance, which seems inseparable from great undertakings. But this cannot be the true state of the case. The more I resign myself to the influence of truth, the clearer will be my perception of it. The less I am interrupted by questions of liberty and caprice, of attention and indolence, the more uniform will be my constancy. Nothing could be more unreasonable than that the sentiment of necessity should produce in me a spirit of neutrality and indifference. The more certain is the connexion between effects and causes, the more chearfulness should I feel in yielding to painful and laborious employments.

complacence and aversion: It is common for men impressed with the opinion of free will to entertain resentment, indignation and anger against those [313] who fall into the commission of vice. How much of these feelings is just, and how much erroneous? The difference between virtue and vice will equally remain upon the opposite hypothesis. Vice therefore must be an object of rejection and virtue of preference; the one must be approved and the other disapproved. But our disapprobation of vice will be of the same nature as our disapprobation of an infectious distemper.

One of the reasons why we are accustomed to regard the murderer with more acute feelings of displeasure than the knife he employs, is that we find a more dangerous property, and greater cause for apprehension, in the one than in the other. The knife is only accidentally an object of terror, but against the murderer we can never be enough upon our guard. In the same manner we regard the middle of a busy street with less complacency as a place for walking than the side, and the ridge of a house with more aversion than either. Independently therefore of the idea of freedom, mankind in general find in the enormously vicious a sufficient motive of antipathy and disgust. With the addition of that idea, it is no wonder that they should be prompted to expressions of the most intemperate abhorrence.

These feelings obviously lead to the prevailing conceptions onpunishment: the subject of punishment. The doctrine of necessity would teach us to class punishment in the list of the means we possess of re [314] forming error. The more the human mind can be shewn to be under the influence of motive, the more certain it is that punishment will produce a great and unequivocal effect. But the doctrine of necessity will teach us to look upon punishment with no complacence, and at all times to prefer the most direct means of encountering error, which is the development of truth. Whenever punishment is employed under this system, it will be employed, not for any intrinsic recommendation it possesses, but just so far as it shall appear to conduce to general utility.

On the contrary it is usually imagined, that, independently of the utility of punishment, there is proper desert in the criminal, a certain fitness in the nature of things that renders pain the suitable concomitant of vice. It is therefore frequently said, that it is not enough that a murderer should be transported to a desert island, where there should be no danger that his malignant propensities should ever again have opportunity to act; but that it is also right the indignation of mankind against him should express itself in the infliction of some actual ignominy and pain. On the contrary, under the system of necessity the ideas of guilt, crime, desert and accountableness have no place.

repentance: Correlative to the feelings of resentment, indignation and anger against the offences of others, are those of repentance, contrition and sorrow for our own. As long as we admit of an [315] essential difference between virtue and vice, no doubt all erroneous conduct whether of ourselves or others will be regarded with disapprobation. But it will in both cases be considered, under the system of necessity, as a link in the great chain of events which could not have been otherwise than it is. We shall therefore no more be disposed to repent of our own faults than of the faults of others. It will be proper to view them both as actions, injurious to the public good, and the repetition of which is to be deprecated. Amidst our present imperfections it will perhaps be useful to recollect what is the error by which we are most easily seduced. But in proportion as our views extend, we shall find motives enough to the practice of virtue, without any partial retrospect to ourselves, or recollection of our own propensities and habits.

In the ideas annexed to the words resentment and repentancepraise and blame: there is some mixture of true judgment and a sound conception of the nature of things. There is perhaps still more justice in the notions conveyed by praise and blame, though these also are for the most part founded in the hypothesis of liberty. When I speak of a beautiful landscape or an agreeable sensation, I employ the language of panegyric. I employ it still more emphatically, when I speak of a good action; because I am conscious that panegyric has a tendency to procure a repetition of such actions. So far as praise implies nothing more than this, it perfectly accords with the severest philosophy. So far as it im [316] plies that the man could have abstained from the virtuous action I applaud, it belongs only to the delusive system of liberty.

intellectual tranquillity A farther consequence of the doctrine of necessity is its tendency to make us survey all events with a tranquil and placid temper, and approve and disapprove without impeachment to our self possession. It is true, that events may be contingent as to any knowledge we possess respecting them, however certain they are in themselves. Thus the advocate of liberty knows that his relation was either lost or saved in the great storm that happened two months ago; he regards this event as past and certain, and yet he does not fail to be anxious about it. But it is not less true, that all anxiety and perturbation imply an imperfect sense of contingency, and a feeling as if our efforts could make some alteration in the event. When the person recollects with clearness that the event is over, his mind grows composed; but presently he feels as if it were in the power of God or man to alter it, and his distress is renewed. All that is more than this is the impatience of curiosity; but philosophy and reason have an evident tendency to prevent an useless curiosity from disturbing our peace. He therefore who regards all things past, present and to come as links of an indissoluble chain, will, as often as he recollects this comprehensive view, be superior to the tumult of passion; and will reflect upon the moral concerns of mankind with the same clearness of perception, the same unalterable firmness of judgment, and the same [317] tranquillity as we are accustomed to do upon the truths of geometry.

It would be of infinite importance to the cause of science andLanguage of necessity recommended virtue to express ourselves upon all occasions in the language of necessity. The contrary language is perpetually intruding, and it is difficult to speak two sentences upon any topic connected with human action without it. The expressions of both hypotheses are mixed in inextricable confusion, just as the belief of both hypotheses, however incompatible, will be found to exist in all uninstructed minds. The reformation of which I speak would probably be found exceedingly practicable in itself; though, such is the subtlety of error, that we should at first find several revisals and much laborious study necessary before it could be perfectly weeded out. This must be the author's apology for not having attempted in the present work what he recommends to others. Objects of more immediate importance demanded his attention, and engrossed his faculties.




nature of mechanism—its classes, material and intellectual.—material system, or of vibrations.—the intellectual system most probable—from the consideration that thought would otherwise be a superfluityx2014fromtheestablishedprished principles of reasoning from effects to causes.—objections refuted.—thoughts which produce animal motion may be—1. involuntary. all animal motions were first involuntary.—2. unattended with consciousness.—the mind cannot have more than one thought at any one time.—objection to this assertion from the case of complex ideas—from various mental operations—as comparison—apprehension—rapidity of the succession of ideas.—application.—duration measured by consciousness.—3. a distinct thought to each motion may be unnecessary.—apparent from the complexity of sensible impressions.—the mind always thinks.—conclusion.—the theory applied to the phenomenon of walking—to the circulation of the blood.—of motion in general.—of dreams.

Nature of mechanism: THE doctrine of necessity being admitted, it follows that the theory of the human mind is properly, like the theory of every other series of events with which we are ac [319] quainted, a system of mechanism; understanding by mechanism nothing more than a regular connexion of phenomena without any uncertainty of event, so that every incident requires a specific cause, and could be no otherwise in any respect than as the cause determined it to be.

But there are two sorts of mechanism capable of being appliedits classes material and intellectual to the solution of this case, one which has for its medium only matter and motion, the other which has for its medium thought. Which of these is to be regarded as most probable?

According to the first we may conceive the human bodyMaterial system, or of vibrations to be so constituted as to be susceptible of vibrations, in the same manner as the strings of a musical instrument are susceptible of vibrations. These vibrations, having begun upon the surface of the body, are conveyed to the brain; and, in a manner that is equally the result of construction, produce a second set of vibrations beginning in the brain, and conveyed to the different organs or members of the body. Thus it may be supposed, that a piece of iron considerably heated is applied to the body of an infant, and that the report of this uneasiness, or irritation and separation of parts being conveyed to the brain, vents itself again in a shrill and piercing cry. It is in this manner that we are apt to imagine certain convulsive and spasmodic affections to take place in the body. The case, as here described, is similar to that of the bag of a pair of bagpipes, which, being [320] pressed in a certain manner, utters a groan, without any thing more being necessary to account for this phenomenon, than the known laws of matter and motion. Let us add to these vibrations a system of associations to be carried on by traces to be made upon the medullary substance of the brain, by means of which past and present impressions are connected according to certain laws, as the traces happen to approach or run into each other; and we have then a complete scheme for accounting in a certain way for all the phenomena of human action. It is to be observed, that, according to this system, mind or perception is altogether unnecessary to explain the appearances. It might for other reasons be desirable or wise, in the author of the universe for example, to introduce a thinking substance or a power of perception as a spectator of the process. But this percipient power is altogether neutral, having no concern either as a medium or otherwise in producing the events [*].

The intellectual system most probable: The second system, which represents thought as the medium [321] of operation, is not less a system of mechanism, according to the doctrine of necessity, than the other, but it is a mechanism of a totally different kind.

There are various reasons calculated to persuade us that this lastfrom the consideration that thought would otherwise be a superfluity: hypothesis is the most probable. No inconsiderable argument may be derived from the singular and important nature of that property of human beings, which we term thought; which it is surely somewhat violent to strike out of our system as a mere superfluity.

A second reason still more decisive than the former, arisesfrom the established principles of reasoning from effects to causes from the constancy with which thought in innumerable instances accompanies the functions of this mechanism. Now this constancy of conjunction has been shewn to be the only ground we have in any imaginable subject for inferring necessary connexion, or that species of relation which exists between cause and effect. We cannot therefore reject the principle which supposes thought to have an efficient share in the mechanism of man, but upon grounds that would vitiate all our reasonings from effects to causes.

It may be objected, “that, though this contiguity of eventObjections refuted argues necessary connexion, yet the connexion may be exactly the reverse of what is here stated, motion being in all instances the cause, and thought never any thing more than an effect.” But this is contrary to every thing we know of the system of [322] the universe, in which each event appears to be alternately both the one and the other, nothing terminating in itself, but every thing leading on to an endless chain of consequences.

It would be equally vain to object, “that we are unable to conceive how thought can have any tendency to produce motion in the animal system;” since it has just appeared that this ignorance is by no means peculiar to the subject before us. We are universally unable to perceive the ground of necessary connexion.

Thoughts which produce animal motion may be, It being then sufficiently clear that there are cogent reasons to persuade us that thought is the medium through which the motions of the animal system are generally carried on, let us proceed to consider what is the nature of those thoughts by which the limbs and organs of our body are set in motion. It will then probably be found, that the difficulties which have clogged the intellectual hypothesis, are principally founded in erroneous notions derived from the system of liberty; as if there were any essential difference between those thoughts which are the medium of generating motion, and thoughts in general.

1. involuntary First, thought may be the source of animal motion, without partaking in any degree of volition, or design. It is certain that there is a great variety of motions in the animal system, which are in every view of the subject involuntary. Such, for example, are the cries of an infant, when it is first impressed [323] with the sensation of pain. Such must be all those motions which flowed from sensation previously to experience. Volition implies that something which is the subject of volition, is regarded as desirable; but we cannot desire any thing, till we have an idea corresponding to the term futurity. Volition implies intention, or design; but we cannot design any thing, till we have the expectation that the existence of that thing is in some way connected with the means employed to produce it. An infant, when he has observed that a voice exciting compassion is the result of certain previous emotions, may have the idea of that voice predominant in his mind during the train of emotions that produce it. But this could not have been the case the first time it was uttered. In the first motions of the animal system, nothing of any sort could possibly be foreseen, and therefore nothing of any sort could be intended. Yet in the very instances here produced the motions have sensation or thought for their constant concomitant; and therefore all the arguments, which have been already alledged, remain in full force to prove that thought is the medium of their production.

Nor will this appear very extraordinary, if we consider the nature of volition itself. In volition, if the doctrine of necessity be true, the mind is altogether passive. Two ideas present themselves in some way connected with each other; and a perception of preferableness necessarily follows. An object having certain desirable qualities, is perceived to be within my reach; [324] and my hand is necessarily stretched out with an intention to obtain it. If a perception of preferableness and a perception of desirableness irresistibly lead to animal motion, why may not the mere perception of pain? All that the adversary of automatism is concerned to maintain is, that thought is an essential link in the chain; and that, the moment it is taken away, the links that were before it have no longer any tendency to produce motion in the links that were after it. It is possible, that, as a numerous class of motions have their constant origin in thought, so there may be no thoughts altogether unattended with motion.

All animal motions were first involuntary Here it may be proper to observe, that, from the principles already delivered, it follows that all the original motions of the animal system are involuntary. In proportion however as we obtain experience, they are successively made the subjects of reflection and foresight; and of consequence become many of them the themes of intention and design, that is, become voluntary. We shall presently have occasion to suspect that motions, which were at first involuntary, and afterwards by experience and association are made voluntary, may in the process of intellectual operation be made involuntary again.—But to proceed.

2. unattended with consciousness Secondly, thought may be the source of animal motion, and yet be unattended with consciousness. This is undoubtedly a distinction of considerable refinement, depending upon the pre [325] cise meaning of words; and, if any person should choose to express himself differently on the subject, it would be useless obstinately to dispute that difference with him. By the consciousness which accompanies any thought there seems to be something implied distinct from the thought itself. Consciousness is a sort of supplementary reflection, by which the mind not only has the thought, but adverts to its own situation and observes that it has it. Consciousness therefore, however nice the distinction, seems to be a second thought.

In order to ascertain whether every thought be attended withThe mind cannot have more than one thought at any one time consciousness, it may be proper to consider whether the mind can ever have more than one thought at any one time. Now this seems altogether contrary to the very nature of mind. My present thought is that to which my present attention is yielded; but I cannot attend to several things at once. This assertion appears to be of the nature of an intuitive axiom; and experience is perpetually reminding us of its truth. In comparing two objects we frequently endeavour as it were to draw them together in the mind, but we seem to be obliged to pass successively from the one to the other.

But this principle, though apparently supported both by reasonObjection to This Assertion from the case of complex ideas: and experience, is not unattended with difficulties. The first is that which arises from the case of complex ideas. This will best be apprehended if we examine it as relates to visible objects. [326] “Let us suppose that I am at present employed in the act of reading. I appear to take in whole words and indeed clusters of words by a single act of the mind. But let it be granted for a moment that I see each letter successively. Yet each letter is made up of parts: the letter D for example of a right line and a curve, and each of these lines of the successive addition or fluxion of points. If I consider the line as a whole, yet its extension is one thing, and its terminations another. I could not see the letter if the black line that describes it and the white surface that bounds it were not each of them in the view of my organ. There must therefore, as it should seem, upon the hypothesis above stated, be an infinite succession of ideas in the mind, before it could apprehend the simplest objects with which we are conversant. But we have no feeling of any such thing, but rather of the precise contrary. Thousands of human beings go out of the world without ever apprehending that lines are composed of the addition or fluxion of points. An hypothesis therefore, that is in direct opposition to so many apparent facts, must have a very uncommon portion of evidence to sustain it, if indeed it can be sustained at all.”

The true answer to this objection seems to be the following. The mind can apprehend only a single idea at once, but that idea needs not be in every sense of the word a simple idea. The mind can apprehend two or more objects at a single effort, but it cannot apprehend them as two. There seems no sufficient [327] reason to deny that all those objects which are painted at once upon the retina of the eye, produce a joint and simultaneous impression upon the mind. But they are not immediately conceived by the mind as many, but as one: so soon as the idea suggests itself that they are made up of parts, these parts cannot be considered by us otherwise than successively. The resolution of objects into their simple elements, is an operation of science and improvement; but it is altogether foreign to our first and original conceptions. In all cases the operation is rather analytical than synthetical, rather that of resolution than composition. We do not begin with the successive perception of elementary parts till we have obtained an idea of a whole; but, beginning with a whole, are capable of reducing it into its elements.

The second difficulty is of a much subtler nature. It consistsfrom various mental operations : in the seeming “impossibility of performing any mental operation, such as comparison for example, which has relation to twoas comparison: or more ideas, if we have not both ideas before us at once, if one of them be completely vanished and gone, before the other begins to exist.” The cause of this difficulty seems to lie in the mistake of supposing that there is a real interval between the two ideas. It will perhaps be found upon an accurate examination, that, though we cannot have two ideas at once, yet it is not just to say, that the first has perished before the second begins to exist. The instant that connects them, is of no real magnitude, [328] and produces no real division. The mind is always full. It is this instant therefore that is the true point of comparison.

It may be objected, “that this cannot be a just representation, since comparison is rather a matter of retrospect deciding between two ideas that have been completely apprehended, than a perception which occurs in the middle, before the second has been yet observed.” To this objection experience will perhaps be found to furnish the true answer. We find in fact that we cannot compare two objects till we have passed and repassed them in the mind.

apprehension: “Supposing this account of the operation of the mind in comparison to be admitted, yet what shall we say to a complex sentence containing twenty ideas, the sense of which I fully apprehend at a single hearing, nay, even in some cases by that time one half of it has been uttered?”

The mere task of understanding what is affirmed to us is of a very different nature from that of comparison, or any other species of judgment that is to be formed concerning this affirmation. When a number of ideas are presented in a train, though in one sense there be variety, yet in another there is unity. First, there is the unity of uninterrupted succession, the perennial flow as of a stream, where the drop indeed that succeeds is numerically distinct from that which went before, but there is no [329] cessation. Secondly, there is the unity of method. The mind apprehends, as the discourse proceeds, a strict association, from similarity or some other source, between each idea as it follows in the process, and that which went before it.

The faculty of understanding the different parts of a discourse in their connexion with each other, simple as it appears, is in reality of gradual and slow acquisition. We are by various causes excluded from a minute observation of the progress of the infant mind, and therefore do not readily conceive by how imperceptible advances it arrives at a quickness of apprehension relative to the simplest sentences. But we more easily remark its subsequent improvement, and perceive how long it is before it can apprehend a discourse of any length or a sentence of any abstraction.

Nothing is more certain than the possibility of my perceiving the sort of relation that exists between the different parts of a methodical discourse, for example, Mr. Burke's Speech upon Oeconomical Reform, though it be impossible for me after the severest attention to consider the several parts otherwise than successively. I have a latent feeling of this relation as the discourse proceeds, but I cannot give a firm judgment respecting it otherwise than by retrospect. It may however be suspected that, even in the case of simple apprehension, an accurate attention to the operations of mind would show, that we scarcely [330] in any instance hear a single sentence, without returning again and again upon the steps of the speaker, and drawing more closely in our minds the preceding members of his period, before he arrives at its conclusion; though even this exertion of mind, subtle as it is, be not of itself thought sufficient to authorise us to give a judgment upon the whole. There may perhaps be cases where the apprehension is more instantaneous. A similar exception appears to take place even in some cases of judgment or comparison. A new association, or a connecting of two ideas by means of a middle term, which were never brought into this relation before, is a task of such a nature, that the strongest mind feels some sense of effort in the operation. But, where the judgment accurately speaking is already made, the operation is in a manner instantaneous. If you say, that a melon is a larger fruit than a cherry, I immediately assent. The judgment, though perhaps never applied to this individual subject, may be said to have been made by me long before. If again you tell me that Cæsar was a worse man than Alexander, I instantly apprehend your meaning; but, unless I have upon some former occasion considered the question, I can neither assent nor dissent till after some reflection.

Rapidity of the succession of ideas But, if the principle here stated be true, how infinitely rapid must be the succession of ideas? While I am speaking no two ideas are in my mind at the same time, and yet with what facility do I pass from one to another? If my discourse be argu [331] mentative, how often do I pass the topics of which it consists in review before I utter them, and even while I am speaking continue the review at intervals without producing any pause in my discourse? How many other sensations are perceived by me during this period, without so much as interrupting, that is, without materially diverting the train of my ideas? My eye successively remarks a thousand objects that present themselves. My mind wanders to the different parts of my body, and receives a sensation from the chair upon which I sit, from the table upon which I lean; from the pinching of a shoe, from a singing in my ear, a pain in my head, or an irritation of the breast. When these most perceptibly occur, my mind passes from one to another, without feeling the minutest obstacle, or being in any degree distracted by their multiplicity. From this cursory view of the subject it appears that we have a multitude of different successive perceptions in every moment of our existence [*].

Consciousness, as it has been above defined, appears to be oneApplication of the departments of memory. Now the nature of memory, so far as it relates to the subject of which we are treating, is exceedingly obvious. An infinite number of thoughts passed [332] through my mind in the last five minutes of my existence. How many of them am I now able to recollect? How many of them shall I recollect to-morrow? One impression after another is perpetually effacing from this intellectual register. Some of them may with great attention and effort be revived; others obtrude themselves uncalled for; and a third sort are perhaps out of the reach of any power of thought to reproduce, as having never left their traces behind them for a moment. If the memory be capable of so many variations and degrees of intensity, may there not be some cases with which it never connects itself? If the succession of thoughts be so inexpressibly rapid, may they not pass over some topics with so delicate a touch, as to elude the supplement of consciousness?

Duration measured by consciousness It seems to be consciousness, rather than the succession of ideas, that measures time to the mind. The succession of ideas is in all cases exceedingly rapid, and it is by no means clear that it can be accelerated. We find it impracticable in the experiment to retain any idea in our minds unvaried for any perceptible duration. Continual flux appears to take place in every part of the universe. It is perhaps a law of our nature, that thoughts shall at all times succeed to each other with equal rapidity. Yet time seems to our apprehension to flow now with a precipitated and now with a tardy course. The indolent man reclines for hours in the shade; and, though his mind be perpetually at work, the silent lapse of duration is unobserved. [333] But, when acute pain or uneasy expectation obliges consciousness to recur with unusual force, the time then appears insupportably long. Indeed it is a contradiction in terms to suppose that the succession of thoughts, where there is nothing that perceptibly links them together, where they totally elude or instantly vanish from the memory, can be a measure of time to the mind. That there is such a state of mind in some cases assuming a permanent form, has been so much the general opinion of mankind, that it has obtained a name, and is called reverie. It is probable from what has been said that thoughts of reverie, understanding by that appellation thoughts untransmitted to the memory, perpetually take their turn with our more express and digested thoughts, even in the most active scenes of our life.

Lastly, thought may be the source of animal motion, and yet3. a distinct thought to each motion may be unnecessary there may be no need of a distinct thought producing each individual motion. This is a very important point in the subject before us. In uttering a cry for example, the number of muscles and articulations of the body concerned in this operation is very great; shall we say that the infant has a distinct thought for each motion of these articulations?

The answer to this question will be considerably facilitated, ifapparent from the complexity of sensible impressions we recollect the manner in which the impressions are blended, which we receive from external objects. The sense of feeling is diffused over every part of my body, I feel the different sub [334] stances that support me, the pen I guide, various affections and petty irregularities in different parts of my frame, nay, the very air that environs me. But all these impressions are absolutely simultaneous, and I can have only one perception at once. Out of these various impressions, the most powerful, or that which has the greatest advantage to solicit my attention, overcomes and drives out the rest; or, which not less frequently happens, some idea of association suggested by the last preceding idea wholly withdraws my attention from every external object. It is probable however that this perception is imperceptibly modified by the miniature impressions that accompany it, just as we actually find that the very same ideas presented to a sick man, take a peculiar tinge, that renders them exceedingly different from what they are in the mind of a man in health. It has been already shown, that, though there is nothing less frequent than the apprehending of a simple idea, yet every idea, however complex, offers itself to the mind under the conception of unity. The blending of numerous impressions into one perception is a law of our nature, and the customary train of our perceptions is entirely of this denomination. Mean while it deserves to be remarked by the way, that, at the very time that the most methodical series of perceptions is going on in the mind, there is another set of perceptions, or rather many sets playing an under or intermediate part; and, though these perpetually modify each other, yet the manner in which it is done is in an eminent degree minute and unobserved.


These remarks furnish us with an answer to the long disputedThe mind always thinks question, whether the mind always thinks? It appears that innumerable impressions are perpetually made upon our body, and the only way, in which the slightest of these is prevented from conveying a distinct report to the mind, is in consequence of its being overpowered by some more considerable impression. It cannot therefore be alledged, “that, as one impression is found to be overpowered by another while we wake, the strongest only of the simultaneous impressions furnishing an idea to the mind; so the whole set of simultaneous impressions during sleep may be overpowered by some indisposition of the sensorium, and entirely fail of its effect.” For, first, the cases are altogether different. From the explication above given it appeared, that not one of the impressions was really lost, but tended, though in a very limited degree, to modify the predominant impression. Secondly, nothing can be more unintelligible than this indisposition. Were it of the nature which the objection requires, sleep ought to cease of its own accord after the expiration of a certain term, but to be incapable of interruption from any experiment I might make upon the sleeper. To what purpose call or shake him? Shall we say, that it requires an impression of a certain magnitude to excite the sensorium? But a clock shall strike in the room and not wake him, when a voice of a much lower key produces that effect. What is the precise degree of magnitude necessary? We actually find the ineffectual calls that are addressed to us, as well as various other sounds, occasionally [336] mixing with our dreams, without our being aware from whence this new perception arose.

To apply these observations. If a number of impressions may come blended to the mind, so as to make up one thought or perception, why may not one thought, in cases where the mind acts as a cause, produce a variety of motions? It has already been shown that there is no essential difference between the two cases. The mind is completely passive in both. Is there any sufficient reason to show, that, though it be possible for one substance considered as the recipient of effects to be the subject of a variety of simultaneous impressions, yet it is impossible for one substance considered as a cause to produce a variety of simultaneous motions? If it be granted that there is not, if the mere modification of a thought designing a motion in chief, may produce a secondary motion, then it must perhaps farther be confessed possible for that modification which my first thought produced in my second, to carry on the motion, even though the second thought be upon a subject altogether different.

Conclusion The consequences, which seem deducible from this theory of mind, are sufficiently memorable. By showing the extreme subtlety and simplicity of thought, it removes many of the difficulties that might otherwise rest upon its finer and more evanescent operations. If thought, in order to be the cause of animal motion, need not have either the nature of volition, or the [337] concomitant of consciousness, and if a single thought may become a complex cause and produce a variety of motions, it will then become exceedingly difficult to trace its operations, or to discover any circumstances in a particular instance of animal motion, which can sufficiently indicate that thought was not the principle of its production, and by that means supersede the force of the general arguments adduced in the beginning of this chapter. Hence therefore it appears that all those motions which are observed to exist in substances having perception, and which are not to be discovered in substances of any other species, may reasonably be suspected to have thought, the distinguishing peculiarity of such substances, for their cause.

There are various classes of motion which will fall underThe theory applied to the phenomenon of walking this definition, beside those already enumerated. An example of one of these classes suggests itself in the phenomenon of walking. An attentive observer will perceive various symptoms calculated to persuade him, that every step he takes during the longest journey is the production of thought. Walking is in all cases originally a voluntary motion. In a child when he learns to walk, in a rope dancer when he begins to practise that particular exercise, the distinct determination of mind preceding each step is sufficiently perceptible. It may be absurd to say, that a long series of motions can be the result of so many express volitions, when these supposed volitions leave no trace in the memory. But it is not unreasonable to believe, that a [338] species of motion which began in express design, may, though it ceases to be the subject of conscious attention, owe its continuance to a continued series of thoughts flowing in that direction, and that, if life were taken away, material impulse would not carry on the exercise for a moment. We actually find, that, when our thoughts in a train are more than commonly earnest, our pace slackens, and sometimes our going forward is wholly suspended, particularly in any less common species of walking, such as that of descending a flight of stairs. In ascending the case is still more difficult, and accordingly we are accustomed wholly to suspend the regular progress of reflection during that operation.

to the circulation of the blood Another class of motions of a still subtler nature, are the regular motions of the animal economy, such as the circulation of the blood, and the pulsation of the heart. Are thought and perception the medium of these motions? We have the same argument here as in the former instances, conjunction of event. When thought begins, these motions also begin; and, when it ceases, they are at an end. They are therefore either the cause or effect of percipiency, or mind; but we shall be inclined to embrace the latter side of this dilemma, when we recollect that we are probably acquainted with many instances in which thought is the immediate cause of motions, which scarcely yield in subtlety to these; but that, as to the origin of thought, we are wholly uninformed. Add to this, that there are probably [339] no motions of the animal economy, which we do not find it in the power of volition, and still more of our involuntary sensations, to hasten or retard.

It is far from certain that the phenomenon of motion can anyOf motion in general where exist where there is not thought. Motion may be distributed into four classes; the simpler motions which result from what are called the essential properties of matter and the laws of impulse; the more complex ones which cannot be accounted for by the assumption of these laws, such as gravitation, elasticity, electricity and magnetism; and the motions of the vegetable and animal systems. Each of these seems farther than that which preceded it from being able to be accounted for by any thing we understand of the nature of matter.

Some light may be derived from what has been here advancedOf dreams upon the phenomenon of dreams. “In sleep we sometimes imagine” for example “that we read long passages from books, or hear a long oration from a speaker. In all cases scenes and incidents pass before us that in various ways excite our passions and interest our feelings. Is it possible that these should be the unconscious production of our own minds?”

It has already appeared, that volition is the accidental, and by no means the necessary concomitant, even of those thoughts which are most active and efficient in the producing of motion. [340] It is therefore no more to be wondered at that the mind should be busied in the composition of books which it appears to read, than that a train of thoughts of any other kind should pass through it without a consciousness of its being the author. In fact we perpetually annex wrong and erroneous ideas to this phrase, that we are the authors. Though mind be a real and efficient cause, it is in no case a first cause. It is the medium through which operations are produced. Ideas succeed each other in our sensorium according to certain necessary laws. The most powerful impression, either from without or from within, constantly gets the better of all its competitors, and forcibly drives out the preceding thought, till it is in the same irresistible manner driven out by its successor.




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THE subject of intellectual mechanism suggested itself as the most suitable introduction to an enquiry into the moral principles of human conduct. Having first ascertained [342] that thought is the real and efficient source of animal motion, it remains to be considered what is the nature of those particular thoughts in which the moral conduct of man originates.

Hypotheses of benevolence and self love. Upon this question there are two opinions. By some it is supposed that the human mind is of a temper considerably ductile, so that, as we in certain instances evidently propose our own advantage for the object of our pursuit, so we are capable no less sincerely and directly in other instances of desiring the benefit of our neighbour. By others it is affirmed, that we are incapable of acting but from the prospect or stimulant of personal advantage, and that, when our conduct appears most retrograde from this object, the principle from which it flows is Superiority of the former secretly the same. It shall be the business of this chapter to prove that the former hypothesis is conformable to truth.

Action is either voluntary or involuntary It is to be presumed from the arguments of the preceding chapter, that there exist in the theory of the human mind two classes of action, voluntary and involuntary. The last of these we have minutely investigated. It has sufficiently appeared that there are certain motions of the animal system, which have sensation or thought for their medium of production, and at the same time arise, to have recourse to a usual mode of expression, spontaneously, without foresight of or a direct reflecting on the result which is to follow. But, if we admit the existence of this phenomenon, there does not seem less reason to admit the existence of the other class of action above enumerated, which [343] is accompanied in its operation with a foresight of its result, and to which that foresight serves as the reason and cause of existence.

Nature of the first of these classes Voluntary action cannot proceed from all perceptions indiscriminately, but only from perceptions of a peculiar class, viz. such perceptions as are accompanied with the idea of something as true respecting them, something which may be affirmed or denied. One of the first inferences therefore from the doctrine of voluntary action, is the existence of the understanding as a faculty distinct from sensation, or, to speak more accurately, the possibility of employing the general capacity of perception, not merely as the vehicle of distinct ideas, but as the medium of connecting two or more ideas together. This particular habit, when it has once been created, gradually extends itself to every province of the mind, till at length it is impossible for any thing to make a clear and distinct impression upon the sensorium, without its being followed with some judgment of the mind concerning it.

It is thus that man becomes a moral being. He is no farther so than he is capable of connecting and comparing ideas, of making propositions concerning them, and of foreseeing certain consequences as the result of certain motions of the animal system.

But, if the foresight of certain consequences to result may be [344] the sufficient reason of action, that is, if there be such a thing as volition, then every foresight of that kind has a tendency to action. If the perception of something as true, joined with the consciousness of my capacity to act upon this truth, be of itself sufficient to produce motion in the animal system, then every perception so accompanied has a tendency to motion. To apply this to the subject before us.

Argument that results from it I perceive a certain agreeable food, I perceive in myself an appetite which this food is adapted to gratify, and these perceptions are accompanied with a consciousness of my power to appropriate this food. If no other consideration exist in my mind beyond those which have just been stated, a certain motion of the animal system irresistibly follows.

Suppose now that the person about whose appetites these propositions are conversant, is not myself but another. This variation cannot materially alter the case. Still there remain all the circumstances necessary to generate motion. I perceive the food, I am acquainted with the wants of the person in question, and I am conscious of my power of administering to them. Nothing more is necessary in order to produce a certain movement of my body. Therefore, if, as in the former case, no other consideration exist in my mind, a certain motion of the animal system irresistibly follows. Therefore, if ten thousand other considerations exist, yet there was in this, separately con [345] sidered, a tendency to motion. That which, when alone, must inevitably produce motion, must, however accompanied, retain its internal character.

Voluntary action has a real existence Let us however suppose, which seems the only consistent mode of supporting the doctrine of self love, “that there is no such thing practically considered as volition, that man never acts from a foresight of consequences, but always continues to act, as we have proved him to act at first, from the mere impulse of pain, and precisely in the manner to which that impulse prompts him, without the rational faculty having any tendency to prolong, to check or to regulate his actions.” What an incredible picture does this exhibit to us of the human mind? We form to ourselves, for this cannot be disputed, opinions, we measure the tendency of means to the promotion of ends, we compare the value of different objects, and we imagine our conduct to be influenced by the judgments we are induced to make. We perceive the preferableness of one thing to another, we desire, we chuse; all this cannot be denied. But all this is a vain apparatus; and the whole system of our conduct proceeds, uninfluenced by our apprehension of the relative value of objects, and our foresight of consequences favourable or adverse.

There is no other alternative. Once admit the understandingConsequence of that existence to an efficient share in the business, and there is no reason that [346] can possibly be assigned, why every topic, which is the object of human understanding, should not have its portion of efficiency. Once admit that we act upon the apprehension of something that may be affirmed or denied respecting an idea, and we shall be compelled to acknowledge that every proposition including in it the notion of preferableness or the contrary, of better or worse, will, so far as it falls within the compass of our power real or supposed to effect, afford a motive inducing, though with different degrees of energy, to animal motion. But this is directly contrary to the theory of self love. They who maintain that self love is the only spring of action, say in effect, not only that no action is disinterested, but that no disinterested consideration contributes in any degree as an inducement to action. If I relieve the virtuous distress of the best of men, I am influenced according to them by no particle of love for the individual or compassion for his distress, but exclusively by the desire of procuring gratification to myself.

Let us consider this case a little more closely. If I perceive either that my prosperity or existence must be sacrificed to those of twenty men as good as myself, or theirs to mine, surely this affords some small inducement to adopt the former part of the alternative. It may not be successful, but does it excite no wish however fleeting, no regret however ineffectual? The decision of the question is in reality an affair of arithmetic; is there no human being that was ever competent to understand [347] it? The value of a man is his usefulness; has no man ever believed that another's capacity for usefulness was equal to his own? I am as 40, consequently the others are as 800; if the 40 were not myself, I should perceive that it was less than 800; is it possible I should not perceive it, when the case becomes my own?

But the advocates for the system of self love generally admit, “that it is possible for a man to sacrifice his own existence in order to preserve that of twenty others;” but they affirm, “that in so doing he acts from personal interest. He perceives that it is better for him to die with the consciousness of an heroic action, than live with the remorse of having declined it.” That is, here is an action attended with various recommendations, the advantage to arise to twenty men, their tranquillity and happiness through a long period of remaining existence, the benefits they will not fail to confer on thousands of their contemporaries, and through them on millions of posterity, and lastly his own escape from remorse and momentary exultation in the performance of an act of virtue. From all these motives he selects the last, the former he wholly disregards, and adopts a conduct of the highest generosity from no view but to his own advantage. Abstractedly and impartially considered, and putting self as such out of the question, this is its least recommendation, and he is absolutely and unlimitedly callous to all the rest.

Considering then the system of disinterestedness as sufficientlyExperimental view of the subject. [348] Suppositions suggested by the advocates of self love: established in theory, let us compare it with the lessons of experience. There are two different hypotheses by which this theory is opposed; the one affirming “that in every thing we do, we employ, previously to the choice of the mind, a calculation by which we determine how far the thing to be done will conduce to our own advantage;” the other ascribing our actions “to the same blind and unintelligent principle, by which, when a child cries, he frequently utters a sound unexpected by himself, but which inevitably results from a certain connexion of an organized body with an irritated mind.”

that we calculate upon all occasions the advantage to accrue to us How far does experience agree with the first of these hypotheses? Surely nothing can be more contrary to any thing we are able to observe of ourselves, than to imagine, that in every act, of pity suppose, we estimate the quantity of benefit to arise to ourselves, before we yield to the emotion. It might be said indeed, that the mind is very subtle in its operations, and that, a certain train of reasoning having been rendered familiar to us, we pass it over in our reflections with a rapidity that leaves no trace in the memory. But this, though true, will contribute little to relieve the system we are considering, since it unfortunately happens that our first emotions of pity are least capable of being accounted for in this way.

Falseness of this supposition To understand this let us begin with the case of an infant. Before he can feel sympathy, he must have been led by a [349] series of observations to perceive that his nurse for example, is a being possessed of consciousness, and susceptible like himself of the impressions of pleasure and pain. Having supplied him with this previous knowledge, let us suppose his nurse to fall from a flight of stairs and break her leg. He will probably feel some concern for the accident; he will understand the meaning of her cries, similar to those he has been accustomed to utter in distress; and he will discover some wish to relieve her. Pity is perhaps first introduced by a mechanical impression upon the organs, in consequence of which the cries uttered by another prompt the child without direct design to utter cries of his own. These are at first unaccompanied with compassion, but they naturally induce the mind of the infant to yield attention to the appearance which thus impressed him.

In the relief he wishes to communicate is he prompted by reflecting on the pleasures of generosity? This is by the supposition the first benevolent emotion he has experienced, and previously to experience it is impossible he should foresee the pleasures of benevolence. Shall we suppose that he is influenced by other selfish considerations? He considers, that, if his nurse die, he will be in danger of perishing; and that, if she be lame, he will be deprived of his airings. Is it possible that any man should believe, that, in the instantaneous impulse of sympathy, the child is guided by these remote considerations? Indeed it was unnecessary to have instanced in an action apparently benevolent, since it is equally clear that our [350] most familiar actions are inconsistent with this explanation. We do not so much as eat and drink, from the recollection that these functions are necessary to our support.

Supposition of a contrary sort. The second of the two hypotheses enumerated, is diametrically the reverse of the first. As the former represented all human actions as proceeding from a very remote deduction of the intellect, the latter considers the whole as merely physical. In its literal sense, as has already been seen, nothing can be more incompatible with experience. Its advocates therefore are obliged to modify their original assumption, and to say, not that we act merely from sensation, but that sensation affords the basis for reflection; and that, though we be capable of conducting ourselves by system and foresight, yet the only topic to which we can apply that foresight is the removal of pain. In reality all that which is regularly adapted to the accomplishment of a certain purpose, must be admitted to flow from the dictates of reflection. The tear starts, the cry is uttered at the prompting of sensation only, but we cannot lift a finger to relieve except as we are commanded by the understanding.

We do not calculate what would be the uneasiness to result from our refraining to act: Here then we are presented with the commencement of a new series. If uneasiness be still the source of the phenomena, at least it is now under a different form. Before, a certain emotion was produced, respecting which no intention was extant in the either in relieving distress: mind. Now an action or a series of actions is adopted with a certain view and leading to a certain end. This end is said to [351] be the removal of uneasiness. Whether it be or no is a question which recollection in many cases is competent to enable us to decide. If we frequently deceive ourselves as to the motive by which we are prompted to act, this is chiefly owing to vanity, a desire of imputing to ourselves, or being understood by the world to act from a principle more elevated than that which truly belongs to us. But this idea is least prevalent with children and savages, and of consequence they ought to be most completely aware that the project they have conceived is that of removing uneasiness. It seems to be an uncommon refinement in absurdity to say, that the end we really pursue is one to which we are in no instance conscious; that our action is wholly derived from an unperceived influence, and the view extant in the understanding altogether impotent and unconcerned.

In the case we have just examined uneasiness is the first stepor in adding to the stock of general good. in the process; in others which might be stated uneasiness is not the first step. “In the pursuit” suppose “of a chemical process I accidentally discover a circumstance, which may be of great benefit to mankind. I instantly quit the object I was originally pursuing, prosecute this discovery, and communicate it to the world.” In the former proceeding a sensation of pain was the initiative, and put my intellectual powers into action. In the present case the perception of truth is the original mover. Whatever uneasiness may be supposed to exist, rendering me anxious for the publication of this benefit, is the consequence of [352] the perception. The uneasiness would never have existed if the perception had not gone before it.

Uneasiness an accidental member of the process. But it has been said, “that, though the perception of truth in this casegoes first, the pain was not less indispensible in the process, since, withoutthat, action would never have followed. Action is the child of desire, and acold and uninteresting decision of the understanding would for ever have laiddormant in the mind.” Granting that pain in a certain modified degree isa constant step in the process, it may nevertheless be denied that it is in thestrictest sense of the word indispensible. To perceive that I ought to publisha certain discovery, is to perceive that publishing is preferable to not publishingit. But to perceive a preference is to prefer, and to prefer is to choose. Theprocess is in this case complete, and pain, in the sense in which it comes inat all, is merely an accident. Why do I feel pain in the neglect of an act ofbenevolence, but because benevolence is judged by me to be a conduct which itbecomes me to adopt? Does the understanding wait to enquire what advantage willresult from the propositions, that two and two make four, or that such and suchcauses will contribute to the happiness of my neighbour, before it is capableof perceiving them to be true?

The same principle which is applied here, is not less applicable to fame, wealth and power, in a word to all those pursuits which engage the reflecting and speculative part of the civilised [353] world. None of these objects would ever have been pursued, if the decisions of the intellect had not gone first, and informed us that they were worthy to be pursued.

Neither of the two hypotheses we have been examining wouldThe suppositions inconsistently blended perhaps have been reckoned so much as plausible in themselves, if they had not been blended together by the inadvertence of their supporters. The advocates of self love have been aware, that the mere sensitive impulse of pain would account for a very small part of the history of man; and they have therefore insensibly elided from the consideration of uneasiness to be removed, to that of interest to be promoted. They have confounded the two cases of sensation and reflection; and, taking it for granted in the latter that private gratification was the object universally pursued, have concluded that they were accounting for all human actions from one principle. In reality no two principles can be more distinct, than the impulse of uneasiness, which has very improperly been denominated the love of ourselves, and that deliberate self love, by which of set design we pursue our own advantage. One circumstance only they have in common, that of representing us as incapable of understanding any proposition, till we have in some way or other connected it with personal interest. This is certainly a just representation of their consequences; since, if I were capable of understanding the naked proposition, that my neighbour stood in need, of a candle for [354] instance to be removed from one end of a room to the other, this would be a reason of action, a motive, either strong or weak, either predominant or the contrary. But, if this consideration entered for any thing into the ground of my proceeding, the whole would not be resolvable into self love.

Scheme of self love recommended from the propensity of mind to abbreviate its process An hypothesis, which has been thought to have some tendency to relieve the difficulties of the system of self love, is that “of the mind's reasoning out for itself certain general principles, which are a sort of resting-places in the process, to which it afterwards recurs, and upon which it acts, without being at the trouble in each instance of application, of repeating the reasons upon which the general principle was founded. Thus in geometry, as we proceed to the higher branches, we perpetually refer to the earlier propositions as established and certain, without having at the time in our minds perhaps the smallest recollection of the way in which those early propositions were demonstrated.” But this representation, though true, has very little tendency to decide in the subject before us. It is still true, that, if I be capable of understanding a proposition as it relates to the interest of my neighbour, any reasoning about the proposition by which it is indirectly connected with my own interest, is unnecessary to put me into a state of action. It is still true, that my action has a direct and an indirect tendency; and, till it can be shown that there is something in the nature of [355] mind that unfits it for entertaining the direct purpose, an unprejudiced enquirer will be very little disposed universally to have recourse to that which is indirect.

The hypothesis of self love seems to have been originally inventedfrom the simplicity that obtains in the natures of things from a love of “that simplicity, which appears to be the ultimate term in all grand discoveries relative to the system of the universe.” But simplicity, though well deserving our approbation, can scarcely of itself be a sufficient support for any opinion. The simplicity however in this case is more apparent than real. Not to repeat what has been said relative to the coalition of two hypotheses very incongruous in their own nature, there is little genuine simplicity in a scheme, that represents us as perpetually acting from a motive which we least suspected, and seeks by a circuitous and intricate method for a recommendation of little intrinsic value, rejecting in all cases the great and obvious reason which the first view of the subject suggested. True simplicity is altogether on the side of the opposite system, which represents man as capable of being governed by the nature of the thing, and of acting from the motive which he supposes to influence him; which requires nothing but perception to account for all the phenomena of mind, and, when a reason exciting to action is apprehended, does not seek for an additional principle to open a communication between the judgment and the choice.


Hypothesis of self love incompatible with virtue There is one observation more, which, though it be not so conclusive as some of those which have been mentioned, ought not to be omitted. If self love be the only principle of action, there can be no such thing as virtue. Virtue is a principle in the mind, by which we are enabled to form a true estimate of the pretensions of different reasons inviting us to preference. He, that makes a false estimate, and prefers a trivial and partial good to an important and comprehensive one, is vicious. It is in the disposition and view of the mind, and not in the good which may accidentally and unintentionally result, that virtue consists. Judas's act in betraying Christ, according to the Christian system, may be regarded as a real and essential cause conducing to the salvation of mankind. Yet Judas's act was not virtuous, but vicious. He thought only of the forty pieces of silver, the price of his treachery, and neglected every consideration of public utility and justice. Just so in the case stated early in the present chapter, the public benefactor, absolutely and strictly speaking, prefers forty to eight hundred or eight hundred millions. So far as relates to the real merits of the case, his own advantage or pleasure is a very insignificant consideration, and the benefit to be produced, suppose to a world, is inestimable. Yet he falsely and unjustly prefers the first, and regards the latter, abstractedly considered, as nothing. If there be such a thing as justice, if I have a real and absolute value, upon which truth can decide, and which can be compared with what is greater or less, then, according to this system, the best action that [357] ever was performed, may, for any thing we know, have been the action in the whole world of the most exquisite and deliberate injustice. Nay, it could not have been otherwise, since it produced the greatest good, and therefore was the individual instance in which the greatest good was most directly postponed to personal gratification.

Nor will this objection be much relieved by the system already alluded to of resting-places, enabling a man in a certain degree to forget the narrow and selfish principles in which his conduct originated. It can scarcely be questioned, that the motives which induced a man to adopt his system of conduct, and without which he never would have adopted it, are of more importance, than the thoughtlessness and inattention by which they are forgotten, in deciding upon the morality of his character.

From this train of reasoning the result is, that men are capableConclusion of understanding the beauty of virtue, and the claims of other men upon their benevolence; and, understanding them, that these views, as well as every other perception of the intellect, are of the nature of motives, sometimes overpowered by other considerations, and sometimes overpowering them, but always in their own nature capable of exciting to action, when not counteracted by pleas of a different sort. Men are capable no doubt of preferring an inferior interest of their own to a superior interest of other people; but to this preference it is [358] perhaps necessary, that they should imagine the benefit to themselves to be great and the injury to others comparatively small, or else that they should have embraced the pernicious opinion that the general good is best served by each man's applying himself exclusively to his personal advantage.

Importance of the question There is no doctrine in which the generous and elevated mind rests with more satisfaction, than in that of which we are treating. If it be false, it is no doubt incumbent upon us to make the best of the small remnant of good that remains. But it is a heartless prospect for the moralist, who, when he has done all, has no hope to persuade mankind to one atom of real affection towards any one individual of their species. We may be made indeed the instruments of good, but in a way less honourable, than that in which a frame of wood or a sheet of paper may be made the instrument of good. The wood or the paper are at least neutral. But we are drawn into the service with affections of a diametrically opposite direction. When we do the most benevolent action, it is with a view only to our own advantage, and with the most sovereign and unreserved neglect of that of others. We are instruments of good, just in the same manner as bad men are said to be the instruments of providence, even when their inclinations are most refractory to its decrees. In this sense we may admire the system of the universe, where public utility results from each man's contempt of that utility, and where the most beneficial actions of those, whom we have been [359] accustomed to term the best men, are only instances in which justice and the real merits of the case are most flagrantly violated. But we can think with little complacence of the individuals of whom this universe is composed. It is no wonder that philosophers, whose system has taught them to look upon their fellow men as thus perverse and unjust, have been frequently cold, phlegmatic and unanimated. It is no wonder that Rousseau, the most benevolent of all these philosophers, and who most escaped the general contagion, has been driven to place the perfection of all virtue in doing no injury. [*] Neither philosophy nor morality nor politics will ever show like themselves, till man shall be acknowledged for what he really is, a being capable of justice, virtue and benevolence, and who needs not always to be led to a philanthropical conduct by foreign and frivolous considerations.

The system of disinterested benevolence proves to us, that it is possible to be virtuous, and not merely to talk of virtue; that all which has been said by philosophers and moralists respecting impartial justice is not an unmeaning rant; and that, when we call upon mankind to divest themselves of selfish and personal considerations, we call upon them for something which they are able to practise. An idea like this reconciles us to our species; teaches us to regard with enlightened admiration the men who [360] have appeared to lose the feeling of their personal existence in the pursuit of general advantage; and gives us reason to expect, that, as men collectively advance in science and useful institution, they will proceed more and more to consolidate their private judgment and their individual will with abstract justice and the unmixed approbation of general happiness.

Application What are the inferences that ought to be made from this doctrine with respect to political institution? Certainly not that the interest of the individual ought to be made incompatible with the part he is expected to take in the interest of the whole. This is neither desirable, nor even possible. But that social institution needs not despair of seeing men influenced by other and better motives. The legislator is bound to recollect that the true perfection of mind consists in disinterestedness. He should regard it as the ultimate object of his exertions, to induce men to estimate themselves at their true value, and neither to grant to themselves nor claim from others a higher consideration than they justly deserve. Above all he should be careful not to add to the vigour of the selfish passions. He should gradually wean men from contemplating their own benefit in all that they do, and induce them to view with complacency the advantage that is to result to others.

The last perfection of this feeling consists in that state of mind which bids us rejoice as fully in the good that is done by others, [361] as if it were done by ourselves. The truly wise man will be actuated neither by interest nor ambition, the love of honour nor the love of fame. He has no emulation. He is not made uneasy by a comparison of his own attainments with those of others, but by a comparison with the standard of right. He has a duty indeed obliging him to seek the good of the whole; but that good is his only object. If that good be effected by another hand, he feels no disappointment. All men are his fellow labourers, but he is the rival of no man. Like Pedaretus in ancient story, he exclaims: “I also have endeavoured to deserve; but there are three hundred citizens in Sparta better than myself, and I rejoice.”




it is the road to happiness—to the esteem and affection of others.—objection from misconstruction and calumny.—answer.—virtue compared with other modes of procuring esteem.—vice and not virtue is the subject of obloquyx#x2014;instanced in the base alloy with which our virtues are mixed—in arrogance and ostentation—in the vices in which persons of moral excellence allow themselves.—the virtuous man only has friends.—virtue the road to prosperity and success in the world—applied to commercial transactions—to cases that depend upon patronage.—apparent exceptions where the dependent is employed as the instrument of vice.—virtue compared with other modes of becoming prosperous.—source of the disrepute of virtue in this respect.—concession.—case where convenient vice bids fair for concealment.—chance of detection.—indolence—apprehensiveness—and depravity the offspring of vice.

HAVING endeavoured to establish the theory of virtue upon its true principle, and to shew that self interest is neither its basis in justice and truth, nor by any means necessary [363] to incite us to the practice, it may not be improper to consider in what degree public interest is coincident with private, and by that means at once to remove one of the enticements and apologies of vice, and afford an additional encouragement and direction to the true politician.

In the first place then, there appears to be sufficient reasonIt is the road to happiness: to believe, that the practice of virtue is the true road to individual happiness. Many of the reasons which might be adduced in this place have been anticipated in the chapter of the Cultivation of Truth. Virtue is a source of happiness that does not pall in the enjoyment, and of which no man can deprive us. [*] The essence of virtue consists in the seeing every thing in its true light, and estimating every thing at its intrinsic value. No man therefore, so far as he is virtuous, can be in danger to become a prey to sorrow and discontent. He will habituate himself, respecting every species of conduct and temper, to look at its absolute utility, and to tolerate none from which benefit cannot arise either to himself or others. Nor will this be so difficult a task as it is commonly imagined. The man, who is accustomed upon every occasion to consult his reason, will speedily find a habit of this nature growing upon him, till the just and dispassionate value of every incident that befals him will come at length spontaneously to suggest itself. Those evils which prejudice has [364] taught so great a part of mankind to regard with horror, will appear to his understanding disarmed of their terrors. Poverty, obloquy and disgrace will be judged by him to be very trivial misfortunes. Few conditions can be so destitute as to deprive us of the means of obtaining for ourselves a subsistence. The reasonable mind perceives at once the possibility of this and the best method of executing it; and it needs no great stretch of understanding to decide, that real happiness does not consist in luxurious accommodations. With respect to obloquy and disgrace, the wise man may lament the tendency they possess to narrow the sphere of his usefulness; but he will readily perceive, that, separately from this consideration, they are no evils. My real value depends upon the qualities that are properly my own, and cannot be diminished by the slander and contempt of the whole world. Even bodily pain loses much of its sting, when it is encountered by a chearful, a composed, and a determined spirit. To all these negative advantages of virtue, we may add the positive satisfaction of a mind conscious of rectitude, rejoicing in the good of the whole, and perpetually exerted for the promotion of that good.

There are indeed some extreme cases of the election of a virtuous conduct, respecting which it is difficult to pronounce. Was it Regulus's interest to return to Carthage to a tormenting death, rather than save his life by persuading the Roman senate to an exchange of prisoners? Probably it was. Probably, with [365] the exquisite feeling of duty with which Regulus was animated, a life that was to be perpetually haunted with the recollection of his having omitted the noblest opportunity of public service, was not worth his purchase. His reasoning, so far as related to personal interest, might be like that of Cato in the play:

“A day, an hour, of virtuous liberty
Is worth a whole eternity in bondage [*].”

Secondly, virtue not only leads to the happiness of him whoto the esteem and affection of others practises it, but to the esteem and affection of others. Nothing can be more indisputable, than that the direct road to the esteem of mankind, is by doing things worthy of their esteem. The most artful scheme for passing things upon others for somewhat different from what they really are, is in momentary danger of detection; and it would be an egregious mistake to suppose, that men esteem any thing but what comes to them under the ap [366] pearance of virtue. No man ever existed of a taste so depraved as to feel real approbation of another, for the artfulness of his flattery, or the cunning with which he over-reached his neighbours.

Objection from misconstruction and calumny There is indeed one disadvantage that occurs under this head, consisting in this circumstance, “that no man truly admires what he does not understand. Now, in order thoroughly to comprehend the value of any mental effort, whether of a purely intellectual or moral nature, it is perhaps necessary that the genius or virtue of the spectator should be equal to that of him by whom it is made. It is an inevitable law of our nature, that we should in a great measure judge of others by ourselves, and form our standard of human nature by an investigation of our own minds. That, respecting which we feel a clear and distinct conviction that we are ourselves incapable, we are prone to suspect to be mere show and deception in others. We are the more inclined to this, because we feel their virtues to be a reproach to our indolence, and therefore are little disposed to make a liberal estimate of them.”

Answer But, though there be some truth in these observations, they have frequently been made much too indiscriminate, by the misanthropy and impatience of those, who have conceived their estimation with their neighbours or the world to fall greatly short of their merit. It must be admitted that mankind are [367] reluctant to acknowledge a wisdom or a virtue superior to their own; but this reluctance is by no means invincible. It is absurd to suppose that no man believes himself the inferior of his neighbour, or that, when he reads the plays of Shakespeare, the philosophy of Rousseau, or the actions of Cato, he says, “I am as skilful, as wise, or as virtuous as this man.” It would be still more absurd to suppose that men may not in a considerable degree perceive the beauty of passages they could never have written, and actions they would never have performed.

It is true that men of high moral excellence are seldom estimatedVirtue compared with other modes of procuring esteem at their true value, especially by their contemporaries. But the question does not relate to this point, but to that other, whether they be not esteemed more than persons of any other description, and of consequence whether virtue be not the best road to esteem? Now, let a specious appearance be maintained with ever so much uniformity of success, it is perpetually in danger of detection. It will always want something of animation, of consistency and firmness that true virtue would produce. The imitation will never come up to the life. That temporising and compliance, which are careful not to contradict too much the prejudices of mankind, and in which the principal advantage of a merely exterior virtue consists, will always bear something suspicious about them. Men do not love him who is perpetually courting their applause. They do not give with a liberal spirit what is sought with too unwearied an assiduity. But their praise [368] is involuntarily extorted, by him who is not so anxious to obtain success, as to deserve it.

Vice and not virtue is the subject of obloquy: If men of virtue be frequently misinterpreted or misunderstood, this is in a great degree to be ascribed to the imperfection of their virtue and the errors of their conduct. True virtue instanced in the base alloy with which our virtues are mixed: should hold no commerce with art. We ought not to be so desirous to exhibit our virtue to advantage, as to give it free scope and suffer it to exhibit itself. Art is nearly allied to selfishness; and true virtue has already been shown to be perfectly disinterested. The mind should be fixed only on the object pursued, and not upon the gracefulness or gallantry of the pursuit. We should be upon all occasions perfectly ingenuous, expressing with simplicity the sentiments of our heart, and speaking of ourselves, when that may be necessary, neither with ostentation and arrogance on the one hand, nor with the frequently applauded lies of a cowardlike humility on the other. There is a charm in sincerity that nothing can resist. If once a man could be perfectly frank, open and firm in all his words and actions, it would be impossible for that man to be misinterpreted.

in arrogance and ostentation: Another fruitful source of misrepresentation has appeared to be envy. But, if we be regarded with envy, it may be suspected to be in a great measure our own fault. He will always be envied most, who is most arrogant, and whose mind [369] most frequently recurs to his own attainments and the inferiority of others. Our virtues would seldom be contemplated with an uneasy sense of reproach, if they were perfectly unassuming. Any degree of ostentation in their less corrupted neighbour, as it humbles the vanity of mankind, must be expected to excite in them a desire of retaliation. But he whose virtues flow from philanthropy alone, whose heart expands with benevolence and good will, and who has no desire to make his superiority felt, will at all times have many friends and few enemies.

Virtue has also frequently been subject to misrepresentationin the vices in which persons of moral excellence allow themselves from a farther circumstance which is most properly chargeable upon the sufferers, and that is, the inequality of their actions. It is no wonder, if we first rouse the angry passions of mankind by our arrogance, and then render our motives suspected by a certain mixture of art in the exhibition of our characters, that the follies and vices we commit, if they be of a glaring kind, should too often furnish a triumphant argument to support against us the accusation of hypocrisy and deceit. It unfortunately happens, that, when men of an ardent spirit fall into error, their errors are inevitably conspicuous. It happens, that men, who have dedicated the flower of their strength to laudable purposes, too often think they have a right to indulge in relaxations unworthy of the energy of their characters. They would surely avoid this fatal mistake, if they duly reflected, that it is not their individual character only that is at stake, but that they [370] are injuring the cause of justice and general good. Prudential and timid virtues, unalloyed with imprudent and thoughtless vices, are best understood by the vulgar. Their reign indeed is short; they triumph only for a day: but that they are transitory is of little avail, while those who are most worthy of lasting esteem, wantonly barter it for gratifications, contemptible in themselves, and fatally important in their effects.

The virtuous man only has friendsBut to return to the comparison between the esteem and affection that accrue from virtue, and from any other plan of conduct. The produce in the latter case must always be in a considerable degree barren, and of very short duration. Whether the good name acquired by virtue be more or less, virtue will appear in the end to be the only mode for its acquisition. He who merits the esteem of his neighbours and fellow citizens, will at least be understood by a few. Instances might be adduced in which persons instigated by the purest motives have been eminently unpopular. But there is perhaps no instance in which such men have not had a few friends of tried and zealous attachment. There is no friendship but this. No man was ever attached to an individual but for the good qualities he ascribed to him; and the degree of attachment will always bear some proportion to the eminence of the qualities. Who would ever have redeemed the life of a knave at the expence of his own? And how many instances do there occur of such heroic friendship where the character was truly illustrious?


Virtue the road to prosperity and success in the world: In the third place, virtue will probably be found the securest road to outward prosperity and success in the world, according to the old maxim, “that honesty is the best policy.” It is indeed natural to suppose that a good name should eminently contribute to our success. This is evident even in the humblest walks of life. That tradesman, other things equal, will alwaysapplied to commercial transactions: be most prosperous, who is most fair and equitable in his dealings. Which is most likely to succeed, he who never gives expectations that he cannot fulfil, or who is perpetually disappointing his customers? he who is contented with a reasonable profit, or who is ever upon the watch to outwit those with whom he deals? he who puts one constant price upon his commodities, or who takes whatever he can get, favouring a suspicious customer unreasonably, and extorting with merciless avarice from an easy one? in a word, he who wishes to keep the persons with whom he is concerned in present good humour, or who would give them permanent satisfaction?

There is no doubt, that, though the former may obtain by his artifices a momentary success, the latter will in the sequel be generally preferred. Men are not so blind to their own interest as they have sometimes been represented, and they will soon feel the advantage of dealing with the person upon whom they can depend. We do not love to be perpetually upon our guard against an enemy, and for ever prying into the tricks and subterfuges of a depraved heart.


to cases that depend upon patronage. But what shall we say to those cases in which advancement depends upon patronage? There are two circumstances under this head which seem to form an exception to the rule above Apparent exception where the dependent is employed as the instrument of vice delivered. The first is that of a patron, whose vicious and imperfect character renders the co-operation of vicious men necessary to his pursuits, whom therefore he will be contented to reward, even while he despises. The second is that of an office, and it is to be feared such offices exist, which may require a compliant and corrupt character in the person who is to fill it, and for the obtaining of which vice of a certain sort is a necessary recommendation.

Virtue compared with other modes of becoming prosperous It must no doubt be admitted as to this subject in general, that, so far as relates to success in the world, vicious men will often prove fortunate. But it may reasonably be questioned, whether vice be in the first instance the most likely road to fortune. The candidates for this equivocal species of preferment may be numerous. An individual cannot distinguish himself in the crowd but by a portion of ability, which it may well be supposed would not have been unsuccessful in the career of virtue. After all, not every candidate, not even every skilful candidate, will be victorious. There is always a struggle in the breast of the patron between contempt and a corrupt motive; and, where there is struggle, the decision will sometimes be on the side which the client least desires. Even when fortune seems to have overtaken him, his situation is still precarious. His success is founded upon a local and mutable basis; his [373] patron may desert him, may be deprived of his power or his life; and the client, who, after having sacrificed every principle to his hopes of advantage, misses his aim, or is cut short in his career, is in all cases a subject of derision. A bad eminence is always unstable; and, if we could sum up the numbers of those who have sacrificed their virtue to their ambition, we should probably find that a great majority of them had egregiously miscarried in their calculation.

In the mean time, if we turn to the other side of the estimate, we shall in the first place inevitably suspect that esteem must lead to some of the fruits of esteem. But, exclusively of this consideration, if there be offices for which vice of a certain sort is a necessary qualification, there are also undoubtedly a multitude of offices which cannot be well discharged but by a man of integrity. The patron, though he would perhaps willingly provide for his pander or his parasite at the expence of his country, will not be inclined to trust a man of accommodating principles with the superintendence of his fortune or the education of his child. With the exception of the two cases that have been stated, integrity, as it is the first qualification for discharging a function with propriety, will always occupy a foremost place in the recommendation of the client. The employer, whose object is the real interest of himself, his friends or his country, will have a powerful motive inducing him to prefer the honest candidate. Ability may be almost equally requisite; but ability and virtue, [374] if we should choose to suppose that there is no necessary alliance between them, will at least by no person be thought exclusive of each other. If a knave may in some cases obtain an employment of trust and real importance, it is vehemently to be suspected that this would not have happened, if an honest man of equal ability had been at hand. Add to this that virtue is perpetually gaining ground upon us. The more it is tried, and the more it is known, the more will it be respected. It is to the man of real virtue, whose character is not brought into suspicion by the equivocal nature of some of his proceedings, whose virtue consists in benevolence, equanimity and justice, that all will have recourse, when they have the success of the affair in which they are concerned deeply at heart.

Source of the disrepute of virtue in this respect Nothing has tended more to bring honesty as an instrument of success into general disrepute, than the sort of complaint that is frequently heard from such as are unsuccessful. These men will naturally have recourse to the most specious topic of self consolation, and there is none that more obviously suggests itself than the supposition that they failed through their too much virtue. Thus the man of rugged temper who is perpetually insulting the foibles of others, the timid man who is incapable of embracing at once a perilous alternative, the scrupulous man who knows not what to admit or reject and is always undetermined upon his course of action, and a thousand others, are forward to impute their miscarriage to their integrity, though strictly speaking it was in every one of these cases to be ascribed to their vices.


There is another consideration which deserves to be takenConcession into account in this estimate. There is a degree of virtue which would probably render me disinclined to fill many eminent stations, to be a great lawyer, a great senator, or a great minister. The functions of these situations in the present state of mankind are of so equivocal a nature, that a man, whose moral views are in the highest degree sublime, will perhaps find in himself little forwardness to exercise them. He will perhaps conceive that in a private station, unincumbered with engagements, unwarped by the sinister motives that high office will not fail to present, he may render more lasting services to mankind. But surely it is no very formidable objection to say, that honesty will prevent a man from acquiring what he has no wish to acquire.

A case of somewhat a different nature has been suggested, andCase where convenient vice bids fair for concealment it has been asked, “Whether honesty be the best road to success, where the violation of it bids fair for perpetual concealment? Fortune has led me to the military profession, I lack advancement, but promotions in the army are customarily made by purchase. Thus circumstanced, I find by accident a sum of money, in secreting which I am in little danger of detection, and I apply this sum to purchase me a commission. Should I have more effectually promoted my worldly success by a more scrupulous conduct?”

The answer to this question ought probably to be affirmative.Chance of detection [376] In the first place we are to consider the chance of detection. The direct tendency of the laws of the material universe is such, as to force the more considerable and interesting actions of human beings into publicity. No man can render himself invisible. The most artful conspirator cannot sufficiently provide against a thousand petty circumstances, that will lead, if not to conviction, at least to presumption against him. Who is there that would wish to have fastened upon him the suspicion of a base and disingenuous procedure? This feature in human affairs is so remarkable, as to have furnished topics to the literary industry of former centuries, and to have been interpreted God's revenge against the unjust. Suppose that in this case I found the money dropped in a field. Will the owner have no suspicion where he lost it? Will no human being have observed that I was near the spot at the questionable period? The chances are certainly against me, and a mere balance of chance would probably have been sufficient to prove that honesty is the best policy. The bare circumstance of my suddenly possessing a sum of money without visible means of acquiring it, a circumstance to which the attention of my neighbours is always sufficiently alive, would cast an unpleasant stain upon my character. How often has the well contrived train of the politician, triumphing in the inscrutability of his wisdom, been baffled by the most trivial accidents? Since therefore, “the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong,” the truest wisdom is to act so as to fear no detection.


Indolence: There are other circumstances which tend to establish the same proposition. The man, who depends upon his courage, his ability, or his amiable character for recommendation, will perpetually cultivate these. His constancy will be unwearied; and, conscious of the integrity of his means, his spirit will be intrepid and erect. The progress of this man, if his ardour be sufficiently great to inspire him with ability, and to render him quick sighted to the detection of his mistakes, will be incessant. But the man who has employed foul means, will depend partly upon them, and cannot be so fervent in the cultivation of the true. If he always escape detection, he will always fear it, andapprehensiveness: this will sully the clearness of his spirit. Vice cannot compare with virtue in its tendency to individual happiness. This is not the subject we are considering in this place; but this will apply to our subject. Remorse, uneasiness and confusion of mind are calculated to prevent me from perceiving the true point of projection in my affairs, and detract much from the probability of my rising to eminence in any profession.

Lastly, the man who has once yielded to a dishonest temptation,and depravity the offspring of vice will yield to it again. He has lost the consistency of character and disdain of vice, which were his firmest securities. He that says, “I will be dishonest now, and dishonest no more,” forgets some of the most obvious and characteristic features of the human mind. If he escape suspicion in the first instance, he will [378] only disgrace himself more foully in the second: if the remorse and degradation of spirit arising from one base action could perish, they would be fixed and invigorated by other base actions growing out of the first.



Endnotes to Volume 1

[*] These remarks will apply to the English writers upon politics in general, from Sydney and Locke to the author of the Rights of Man. The more comprehensive view has been perspicuously treated by Rousseau and Helvetius.

[*] Gulliver's Travels, Part IV. Ch. v.

[*] Locke on Government, Book I. Ch. i. §. 1; and Book II. Ch. vii. §. 91. The words in the last place are: “Wherever any two men are, who have no standing rule and common judge to appeal to on earth for the determination of controversies of right betwixt them, there they are still in the state of nature, and under all the inconveniences of it, with only this woeful difference to the subject, &c.”

Most of the above arguments may be found much more at large in Burke's Vindication of Natural Society; a treatise, in which the evils of the existing political institutions are displayed with incomparable force of reasoning and lustre of eloquence, while the intention of the author was to shew that these evils were to be considered as trivial.

[*] The arguments of this chapter are for the most part an abstract, the direct ones from Locke on the Human Understanding, those which relate to experience from Hartley's Observations on Man, and those respecting education from the Emile of J. J. Rousseau.

[*] The following passage is extracted from Lord Kaimes, late one of the judges of the kingdom of Scotland.

“Custom-house oaths now a-days go for nothing. Not that the world grows more wicked, but because nobody lays any stress upon them. The duty on French wine is the same in Scotland and in England. But as we cannot afford to pay this high duty, the permission underhand to pay Spanish duty for French wine, is found more beneficial to the revenue than the rigour of the law. The oath however must be taken that the wine we import is Spanish, to entitle us to the ease of the Spanish duty. Such oaths at first were highly criminal because directly a fraud against the public; but now that the oath is only exacted for form's sake, without any faith intended to be given or received, it becomes very little different from saying in the way of civility, 'I am, sir, your friend, or your obedient servant.”—Loose Hints upon Education, Appendix, p. 362. Edinburgh, 1781.

Archdeacon Paley in a work, the seventh edition of which lies before me, and which is used as a text book in the university of Cambridge, speaks thus:

“There are falshoods which are not lies; that is, which are not criminal; as—a servant's denying his master, a prisoner's pleading not guilty, an advocate asserting the justice, or his belief of the justice of his client's cause. In such instances no confidence is destroyed, because none was reposed.” Principles of Moral and Political Philosophy, Book III. Part I. Chap. xv. London, 1790.

[*] Logan, Philosophy of History, p. 69.

[*] The majority of instances in the three preceding pages are taken from Hume's Essay on National Characters, where this subject is treated with much ability. Essays, Vol. 1, Part 1, Essay xxi.

[*] Book II. Chap. i. § 1.

[*] Common Sense, p. 1.

[*] This argument respecting gratitude is stated with great clearness in an Essay on the Nature of True Virtue, by the Rev. Jonathan Edwards. 12mo. Dilly.

[*] See this subject more copiously treated in the following chapter.

[*] Vide Appendix to this chapter, No. I.

[*] A spirited outline of these principles is sketched in Swift's Sermon on Mutual Subjection.

[*] “On a dit—que nous avions tous les mêmes droits. S'ignore ce que c'est que les mêmes droits, où il y a inégalité de talens on de force, & nulle garantie, nulle sanction.” Raynal, Revolution d'Amerique, p. 34.

[*] Rights of Man, page 1.

[*] See Hume's Essays. Part II. Essay xii.

[] Treatise of Government. Book II. Ch. viii. §. 119, 122.

[*] “ Le souveraineté ne peut être representée, par la même raison qu'elle ne peut être alienée: elle consiste essentiellement dans la volonté générale, et la volonté ne se represente point: elle est la même, ou elle est autre; il n'y a point de milieu. les deputés du peiple ne sont donc point ses representans, ils ne sont que les commissaires; ils ne peuvent rien conclure definitivement. Toute loi que le peuple en personne n'a pas ratifiée, est nulle; ce n'est poiint une loi.” Du Contrat Social. Liv. III. Chap. XV.

[*] “Dans un état libre, tout homme qui est censé avoir une ame libre, doit être gouverné par lui-même.” Esprit des Lois, Liv. XI. Ch. vi.

[] Sterne's Sermons.—“On a Good Conscience.”

[*] “Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do.” Luke,Ch. XII. Ver. 4.

[*] This was the opinion of the celebrated Mr. Turgot. “He thought that the moral sentiments of mankind might be considerably strengthened, and the perception of them rendered more delicate and precise, either by frequent exercise, or the perpetually subjecting them to the anatomy of a pure and enlightened understanding. For this reason he considered romances as holding a place among treatises of morality, and even as the only books in which he was aware of having seen moral principles treated in an impartial manner.” “M. Turgot pensoit qu'on peut parvenir à fortifier dans les hommes leurs sentimens moraux, à les rendre plus délicats et plus justes, soit par l'exercise de ces sentimens, soit en apprenant à les soumettre à l'analyse d'une raison saine et éclairée. C'est par ce motif qu'il regardoit les romans comme les livres de morales, et même, disoit-il, comme les seuls où il eῦt vu de la morale.” Vie de M.Turgot, par M. de Condorcet.

[*] These arguments bear some resemblance to those of Mr. Burke. It was not necessary that they should do so precisely, or that we should take advantage of the argumentum ad hominem built upon his fervent admiration of the English constitution. Not to say that we shall feel ourselves more at our ease in examining the question generally, than in a personal attack upon this illustrious and virtuous hero of former times.

[*] See Hume's Essays. Part II. Essay xii.

[*] See this case more fully discussed in the following chapter.

[*] Book II. chap. ii. p. 83.

[*] This argument, nearly in the words here employed, may be found in Hume's Essay on Passive Obedience. Essays, Part II, Essay xiii.

[*] “Dans chaque nation il est des momens où les citoyens, incertains du parti qu'ils doivent prendre, et suspendus entre un bon et un mauvais gouvernement, eprouvent la soif de l'instruction, où les esprits, si je l'ose dire, préparés et ameublis peuvent étre facilement pénétrés de la rosée de la vérité. Qu'en ce moment un bon ouvrage paroisse, il put opéer d'heureuse réformes: mails cet instant passe, les citoyens, insensibles à la gloire, sont par la forme de leur gouvernement invinciblement entraînés vers l'ignorance et l'abrutissement. Alors les esprits sont la terre endurcie: l'eau de la vérité y tombe, y coule, mais sans la féconder. Tel est l'état de la France. Cette nation avilie est aujourd'hui le mépris de l'Europe. Nulle crise salutaire ne lui rendra la liberté.” De l'Homme, Préface.

[*] See the Parmenides.

[*] Apologia, Cap. xlvi. See this subject farther pursued in Appendix, No. 1.

[*] Vie de Voltaire, par M*** (said to be the marquis de Villette). A Geneve, 1786. Chap. iv. This is probably the best history of this great man which has yet appeared.

[*] See a particular case of this sincerity discussed in Appendix, No. II.

[*] Telémaque. Liv. XVI.

[] Liv. III.

[*] “Plus les hommes seront éclairés, plus ils seront libres. - Mais n'avertissons point les oppresseurs de former une ligue contre la raison, cachons leur l'étroite et nécessoire unions des lumières et de la liberté. - Quel sera donc le devoir d'un philosophe? - Il éclairera les gouvernemens sur tout ce qu'ils ont à craindre des prêtres. - Ils sera voir que sans la liberté de penser le même esprit dans la clergé ramènerait les mêmes assassinats, les mêmes supplices, les mêmes proscriptions, les mêmes guerres civiles. - Au lieu de montrer que la superstition est l'appui du despotisme, avant que la raison ait rassemblé assez de force, il prouvera qu'elle est l'ennemie des rois. - Tel est l'esprit de tous les ouvrages de Voltaire. - Que des hommes, inferieurs à lui, ne voyent pas que si Voltaire eῦt fait autrement, ni Montesquieu ni Rousseau n'auraient pu écrire leurs ourvrages, que l'Europe serait encore superstitieuses, et resterait long-tems esclave. - En attaquant les oppresseurs avant d'avoir éclairé les citoyens, on risque de perdre la liberté et d'étouffer la raison. L'histoire offre la preuve de cette vérité. Combien de fois, malgré les généreux efforts des amis de la liberté, une seule bataille n'a-t-elle pas réduit des nations à une servitude de plusieurs siècles! - Pourquoi ne pas profiter de cette expérience funeste, et savoir attendre des progrès des lumières une liberté plus réelle, plus durable et plus paisible?”

[*] Vie de Voltaire, par M***, throughout.

[*] “Peut-être avant l'invention de l'imprimerie était-il impossible à se soustraire au joug.”

[*] See this subject farther pursued in Appendix, No. III.

[*] Lives of the Poets: Life of West.

[*] Vide Appendices to Book II, Chap. II.

[*] The reader, who is indisposed to abstruse speculations, will find the other members of the enquiry sufficiently connected, without an express reference to the remaining part of the present book.

[*] The reader will find the substance of the above arguments in a more diffusive form in Hume's Enquiry concerning Human Understanding, being the third part of his Essays.

[*] The argument from the impossibility of free will is treated with great force of reasoning in Jonathan Edwards's Enquiry into the Freedom of the Will.

[*] The above will be found to be a tolerably accurate description of the hypothesis of the celebrated Hartley. It was unnecessary to quote his words, as it would be foreign to the plan of the present work to enter into a refutation of any individual writer. The sagacity of Hartley, in having pointed out the necessary connexion of the phenomena of mind, and shewn the practicability of reducing its different operations to a simple principle, cannot be too highly applauded. The reasonings of the present chapter, if true, may be considered as giving farther stability to his principal doctrine by freeing it from the scheme of material automatism with which it was unnecessarily clogged.

[*] An attempt has been made to calculate these, but there is no reason to believe that the calculation deserves to be considered as a standard of truth. Sensations leave their images behind them, some for a longer and some for a shorter time; so that, in two different instances, the calculation is in one case eight, and in another three hundred and twenty to a second. See Watson on Time, Ch.II.

[*] “La plus sublime vertu est négative; elles nous instruit de ne jamais faire du mal à personne.” EMILE, LIV. II.

[*] Ch. IV. p. 233.

[*] The first of the three heads discussed in this chapter is inserted chiefly for the sake of method, few persons having really doubted that virtue is the most genuine source of individual tranquillity and happiness. It is therefore dismissed with all practicable brevity. The two remaining heads had a stronger claim to discussion. It unfortunately happens to be the generally received opinion, that rigid virtue is neither the surest road to other men's approbation and esteem, nor the most probable means of securing our external prosperity. If the author had known of any work at present existing, that had appeared to him to place this subject in any degree in its true light, he would have omitted the reasonings of this chapter.








retrospect of principles already established.—distribution of the remaining subjects.—subject of the present book.—forms of government.—method of examination to be adopted.

In the preceding divisions of this work the ground has beenretrospect of principles already established. sufficiently cleared to enable us to proceed with considerable explicitness and satisfaction to the practical detail of political institution. It has appeared that an enquiry concerning the principles and conduct of social intercourse is the most important topic upon which the mind of man can be exercised [*]; that upon those principles well or ill conceived, and the manner in which they are executed, the vices and virtues of individuals depend [380] that political institution to be good must have its sole foundation in the rules of immutable justice [*]; and that those rules, uniform in their nature, are equally applicable to the whole human race []

Distribution of the remaining subjects. The different topics of political institution cannot perhaps be more perspicuously distributed than under the four following heads: provisions for general administration; provisions for the intellectual and moral improvement of individuals; provisions for the administration of criminal justice; and provisions for the regulation of property. Under each of these heads it will be our business, in proportion as we adhere to the great and comprehensive principles already established, rather to clear away abuses than to recommend farther and more precise regulations, rather to simplify than to complicate. Above all we should not forget, that government is an evil, an usurpation upon the private judgment and individual conscience of mankind; and that, however we may be obliged to admit it as a necessary evil for the present, it behoves us, as the friends of reason and the human species, to admit as little of it as possible, and carefully to observe whether, in consequence of the gradual illumination of the human mind, that little may not hereafter be diminished.

Subject of the present book. And first we are to consider the different provisions that may be made for general administration; including under the phrase [381] general administration all that shall be found necessary of what has usually been denominated legislative and executive power. Legislation has already appeared to be a term not applicable to human society [*]. Men cannot do more than declare and interpret law; nor can there be an authority so paramount, as to have the prerogative of making that to be law, which abstract and immutable justice had not made to be law previously to that interposition. But it might notwithstanding this be found necessary, that there should be an authority empowered to declare those general principles, by which the equity of the community will be regulated, in particular cases upon which it may be compelled to decide. The question concerning the reality and extent of this necessity it is proper to reserve for after consideration. Executive power consists of two very distinct parts: general deliberations relative to particular emergencies, which, so far as practicability is concerned, may be exercised either by one individual or a body of individuals, such as peace and war, taxation [], and the selection of proper periods for convoking deliberative assemblies: and particular functions, such as those of financial detail, or minute superintendence, which cannot be exercised unless by one or at most by a small number of persons.

In reviewing these several branches of authority, and consideringForms of government. the persons to whom they may be most properly confided, we [382] Method of examination to be adopted. cannot do better than adopt the ordinary distribution of forms of government into monarchy, aristocracy and democracy. Under each of these heads we may enquire into the merits of their respective principles, first absolutely, and upon the hypothesis of their standing singly for the whole administration; and secondly, in a limited view, upon the supposition of their constituting one branch only of the system of government. It is usually alike incident to them all to confide the minuter branches of executive detail to inferior agents.

One thing more it is necessary to premise. The merits of each of the three heads I have enumerated are to be considered negatively. The corporate duties of mankind are the result of their irregularities and follies in their individual capacity. If they had no imperfection, or if men were so constituted as to be sufficiently and sufficiently early corrected by persuasion alone, society would cease from its functions. Of consequence, of the three forms of government and their compositions that is the best, which shall least impede the activity and application of our intellectual powers. It was in the recollection of this truth that I have preferred the term political institution to that of government, the former appearing to be sufficiently expressive of that relative form, whatever it be, into which individuals would fall, when there was no need of force to direct them into their proper channel, and were no refractory members to correct.




nature of monarchy delineated.—school of adversity.—tendency of superfluity to inspire effeminacy—to deprive us of the benefit of experience—illustrated in the case of princes.—manner in which they are addressed.—inefficacy of the instruction bestowed upon them.

First then of monarchy; and we will first suppose the succession to the monarchy to be hereditary. In this case we have the additional advantage of considering this distinguished mortal, who is thus set over the heads of the rest of his species, from the period of his birth.

The abstract idea of a king is of an extremely momentousNature of monarchy delineated. and extraordinary nature; and, though the idea has by the accident of education been rendered familiar to us from our infancy, yet perhaps the majority of readers can recollect the period, when it struck them with astonishment and confounded their powers of apprehension. It being sufficiently evident that some species of government was necessary, and that individuals [384] must concede a part of that sacred and important privilege by which each man is constituted judge of his own words and actions, for the sake of general good, it was next requisite to consider what expedients might be substituted in the room of this original claim. One of these expedients has been monarchy. It was the interest of each individual that his individuality should be invaded as rarely as possible; that no invasion should be permitted to flow from wanton caprice, from sinister and disingenuous views, or from the instigation of anger, partiality and passion; and that this bank, severely levied upon the peculium of each member of the society, should be administered with frugality and discretion. It was therefore without doubt a very bold adventure to commit this precious deposit to the custody of a single man. If we contemplate the human powers whether of body or mind, we shall find them much better suited to the superintendence of our private concerns and to the administering occasional assistance to others, than to the accepting the formal trust of superintending the affairs and watching for the happiness of millions. If we recollect the physical and moral equality of mankind, it will appear a very violent usurpation upon this principle to place one individual at so vast an interval from the rest of his species. Let us then consider how such persons are usually educated, or may be expected to be educated, and how well they are prepared for this illustrious office.

School of adversity. It is a common opinion that adversity is the school in which all [385] extraordinary virtue must be formed. Henry the fourth of France and Elizabeth of England experienced a long series of calamities before they were elevated to a throne. Alfred, of whom the obscure chronicles of a barbarous age record such superior virtues, passed through the vicissitudes of a vagabond and a fugitive. Even the mixed, and upon the whole the vicious, yet accomplished, characters of Frederic and Alexander, were not formed without the interference of injustice and persecution.

This hypothesis however seems to have been pushed too far. It is no more reasonable to suppose that virtue cannot be matured without injustice, than to believe, which has been another prevailing opinion, that human happiness cannot be secured without imposture and deceit. Both these errors have a common source, a distrust of the omnipotence of truth. If their advocates had reflected more deeply upon the nature of the human mind, they would have perceived that all our voluntary actions are judgments of the understanding, and that actions of the most judicious and useful nature must infallibly flow from a real and genuine conviction of truth.

But, though the exaggerated opinion here stated of the usefulnessTendency of superfluity to inspire effeminacy: of adversity be erroneous, it is, like many other of our errors, allied to important truth. If adversity be not necessary, it must be allowed that prosperity is pernicious. Not a genuine and philosophical prosperity, which requires no more than sound [386] health with a sound intellect, the capacity of procuring for ourselves by a moderate and well regulated industry the means of subsistence, virtue and wisdom: but prosperity as it is usually understood, that is, a competence, provided for us by the caprice of human institution, inviting our bodies to indolence, and our minds to lethargy; and still more prosperity, as it is understood in the case of noblemen and princes, that is, a superfluity of wealth, which deprives us of all intercourse with our fellow men upon equal terms, and makes us prisoners of state, gratified indeed with baubles and splendour, but shut out from the real benefits of society and the perception of truth. If truth be so intrinsically powerful as to make adversity unnecessary to excite our attention to it, it is nevertheless certain that luxury and wealth have the most fatal effects in distorting it. If it require no foreign aid to assist its energies, we ought however to be upon our guard against principles and situations the tendency of which may be perpetually to counteract it.

Nor is this all. One of the most essential ingredients of virtue is fortitude. It was the plan of many of the Grecian philosophers, and most of all of Diogenes, to show to mankind how very limited was the supply that our necessities required, and how little dependent our real welfare and prosperity were upon the caprice of others. Among innumerable incidents upon record that illustrate this principle, a single one may suffice to suggest to our minds its general spirit. Diogenes had a slave [387] whose name was Menas, and Menas thought proper upon some occasion to elope. “Ha!” said the philosopher, “can Menas live without Diogenes, and cannot Diogenes live without Menas?” There can be no lesson more important than that which is thus conveyed. The man that does not know himself not to be at the mercy of other men, that does not feel that he is invulnerable to all the vicissitudes of fortune, is incapable of a constant and inflexible virtue. He, to whom the rest of his species can reasonably look up with confidence, must be firm, because his mind is filled with the excellence of the object he pursues; and chearful, because he knows that it is out of the power of events to injure him. If any one should choose to imagine that this idea of virtue is strained too high, yet all must allow that no man can be entitled to our confidence, who trembles at every wind, who can endure no adversity, and whose very existence is linked to the artificial character he sustains. Nothing can more reasonably excite our contempt, than a man who, if he were once reduced to the genuine and simple condition of man, would be reduced to despair, and find himself incapable of consulting and providing for his own subsistence. Fortitude is a habit of mind that grows out of a sense of our own independence. If there be a man, who dares not even trust his own imagination with the fancied change of his circumstances, he must necessarily be effeminate, irresolute and temporising. He that loves sensuality or ostentation better than virtue, may be entitled to our pity, but a madman only would entrust to his disposal any thing that was dear to him.


to deprive us of the benefit of experience: Again, the only means by which truth, however immutable in its own nature, can be communicated to the human mind is through the inlet of the senses. It is perhaps impossible that a man shut up in a cabinet can ever be wise. If we would acquire knowledge, we must open our eyes, and contemplate the universe. Till we are acquainted with the meaning of terms and the nature of the objects around us, we cannot understand the propositions that may be formed concerning them. Till we are acquainted with the nature of the objects around us, we cannot compare them with the principles we have formed, and understand the modes of employing them. There are other ways of attaining wisdom and ability beside the school of adversity, but there is no way of attaining them but through the medium of experience. That is, experience brings in the materials with which intellect works; for it must be granted that a man of limited experience will often be more capable than he who has gone through the greatest variety of scenes; or rather perhaps, that one man may collect more experience in a sphere of a few miles square, than another who has sailed round the world.

To conceive truly the value of experience we must recollect the infinite improvements the human mind has received in a long series of ages, and how an enlightened European differs from a solitary savage. However multifarious are these improvements, there are but two ways in which they can be appropriated by any individual; either at second hand by books and [389] conversation, or at first hand by our own observations of men and things. The improvement we receive in the first of these modes is unlimited; but it will not do alone. We cannot understand books, till we have seen the subjects of which they treat.

He that knows the mind of man, must have observed it for himself; he that knows it most intimately, must have observed it in its greatest variety of situations. He must have seen it without disguise, when no exterior situation puts a curb upon its passions, and induces the individual to exhibit a studied, not a spontaneous character. He must have seen men in their unguarded moments, when the eagerness of temporary resentment tips their tongue with fire, when they are animated and dilated by hope, when they are tortured and anatomised by despair, when the soul pours out its inmost self into the bosom of an equal and a friend. Lastly, he must himself have been an actor in the scene, have had his own passions brought into play, have known the anxiety of expectation and the transport of success, or he will feel and understand about as much of what he sees, as mankind in general would of the transactions of the vitriolised inhabitants of the planet Mercury, or the salamanders that live in the sun.—Such is the education of the true philosopher, the genuine politician, the friend and benefactor of human kind.

What is the education of a prince? Its first quality is extremeillustrated in the case of princes. [390] tenderness. The winds of heaven are not permitted to blow upon him. He is dressed and undressed by his lacqueys and valets. His wants are carefully anticipated; his desires without any effort of his profusely supplied. His health is of too much importance to the community to permit him to exert any considerable effort either of body or mind. He must not hear the voice of reprimand or blame. In all things it is first of all to be remembered that he is a prince, that is, some rare and precious creature, but not of human kind.

Manner in which they are addressed. As he is the heir to a throne, it is never forgotten by those about him, that considerable importance is to be annexed to his favour or his displeasure. Accordingly they never express themselves in his presence frankly and naturally, either respecting him or themselves. They are supporting a part. They play under a mask. Their own fortune and emolument is always uppermost in their minds, at the same time that they are anxious to appear generous, disinterested and sincere. All his caprices are to be complied with. All his gratifications are to be studied. They find him a depraved and sordid mortal; they judge of his appetites and capacities by their own; and the gratifications they recommend serve to sink him deeper in folly and vice.

What is the result of such an education? Having never experienced contradiction, the young prince is arrogant and presumptuous. Having always been accustomed to the slaves of necessity [391] or the slaves of choice, he does not understand even the meaning of the word freedom. His temper is insolent, and impatient of parley and expostulation. Knowing nothing, he believes himself sovereignly informed, and runs headlong into danger, not from firmness and courage, but from the most egregious wilfulness and vanity. Like Pyrrho among the ancient philosophers, if his attendants were at a distance, and he trusted himself alone in the open air, he would perhaps be run over by the next coach, or fall down the first precipice. His violence and presumption are strikingly contrasted with the extreme timidity of his disposition. The first opposition terrifies him, the first difficulty seen and understood appears insuperable. He trembles at a shadow, and at the very semblance of adversity is dissolved into tears. It has accordingly been observed that princes are commonly superstitious beyond the rate of common mortals.

Above all, simple, unqualified truth is a stranger to his ear. It either never approaches; or is so unexpected a guest should once appear, it meets with so cold a reception, as to afford little encouragement to a second visit. The longer he has been accustomed to falshood and flattery, the more grating will it sound. The longer he has been accustomed to falshood and flattery, the more terrible will the task appear to him, to change his tastes, and discard his favourites. He will either place a blind confidence in all men, or, having detected the insincerity of those who were most agreeable to him, will conclude that all men are [392] knavish and designing. As a consequence of this last opinion, he will become indifferent to mankind, callous to their sufferings, and will believe that even the virtuous are knaves under a craftier mask. Such is the education of an individual, who is destined to superintend the affairs and watch for the happiness of millions.

In this picture are indeed contained all those features which naturally constitute the education of a prince, into the conducting of which no person of energy and virtue has by accident been introduced. In real life it will be variously modified, but the majority of the features, unless in very rare instances, will remain the same. In no case can the education of a friend and benefactor of human kind, as sketched in a preceding page, by any speculative contrivance be communicated.

Inefficacy of the instruction bestowed upon them. Nor is there any difficulty in accounting for this universal miscarriage. The wisest preceptor thus circumstanced must labour under insuperable disadvantages. No situation can be so unnatural as that of a prince, so difficult to be understood by him who occupies it, so irresistibly propelling the mind to mistake. The first ideas it suggests are of a tranquillising and soporific nature. It fills him with the opinion of his secretly possessing some inherent advantage over the rest of his species, by which he is formed to command and they to obey. If you assure him of the contrary, you can expect only an imperfect and temporary credit; for facts, which in this case depose against you, speak a [393] language more emphatic and intelligible than words. If it were not as he supposes, why should every one that approaches be eager to serve him? The sordid and selfish motives by which they are really animated he is very late in detecting. It may even be doubted whether the individual, who was never led to put the professions of others to the test by his real wants, has in any instance been completely aware of the little credit that is often due to them. A prince finds himself courted and adored long before he can have acquired a merit entitling him to such distinctions. By what arguments can you persuade him laboriously to pursue what appears so completely superfluous? How can you induce him to be dissatisfied with his present acquisitions, while every other person assures him that his accomplishments are admirable and his mind a mirror of sagacity? How will you persuade him who finds all his wishes anticipated, to engage in any arduous undertaking, or propose any distant object for his ambition?

But, even should you succeed in this, his pursuits may be expected to be either mischievous or useless. His understanding is distorted; and the basis of all morality, the recollection that other men are beings of the same order with himself, is extirpated. It would be unreasonable to expect from him any thing generous and humane. Unfortunate as he is, his situation is continually propelling him to vice, and destroying the germs of integrity and virtue before they are unfolded. If sensibility begin [394] to discover itself, it is immediately poisoned by the blighting winds of flattery. Amusement and sensuality call with an imperious voice, and will not allow him time to feel. Artificial as is the character he fills, even should he aspire to fame, it will be by the artificial methods of false refinement, or the barbarous inventions of usurpation and conquest, not by the plain and unornamented road of benevolence.

Some idea of the methods usually pursued, and the effects produced in the education of a prince, may be collected from a late publication of the celebrated madame de Genlis, in which she gives an account of her own proceedings in relation to the children of the duke d’Orleans. She thus describes the features of their disposition and habits at the time they were committed to her care. “The duke de Valois (the eldest) is frequently coarse in his manners and ignoble in his expressions. He finds a great deal of humour in describing mean and common objects by vulgar expressions; and all this seasoned with the proverbial fertility of Sancho Panza himself, and set off with a loud forced laugh. His prate is eternal, nor does he suspect but that it must be an exquisite gratification to any one to be entertained with it; and he frequently heightens the jest by a falshood uttered in the gravest manner imaginable. Neither he nor his brother has the least regard for any body but himself; they are selfish and grasping to an extreme, considering every thing that is done for them as their due, and imagining that they are in no respect obliged [395] to consult the happiness of others. The slightest reproof is beyond measure shocking to them, and the indignation they conceive at it immediately vents itself in sullenness or tears. They are in an uncommon degree effeminate, afraid of the wind or the cold, unable to run or to leap, or even so much as to walk at a round pace, or for more than half an hour together. The duke de Valois has an extreme terror of dogs, to such a degree as to turn pale and shriek out at the sight of one.” “When the children of the duke d’Orleans were committed to my care, they had been accustomed in winter to wear under-waistcoats, two pair of stockings, gloves, muffs, &c. The eldest, who was eight years of age, never came down stairs without being supported by the arm of one or two persons; the domestics were obliged to render them the meanest services, and, for a cold or any slight indisposition, sat up with them for nights together. []


Madame de Genlis, a woman of uncommon talents and comprehensive views, though herself infected with a considerable number of errors, corrected these defects in the young princes. But few princes have the good fortune to be educated by a mind so powerful and wise as that of madame de Genlis, and we may safely take our standard for the average calculation rather from her predecessors than herself. She forms the exception; they the rule. Even were it otherwise, we have already seen what it is that a preceptor can do in the education of a prince. Nor should it be forgotten that these were not of the class of princes destined to a throne.




principles by which he is influenced—irresponsibility—impatience of control—habits of dissipation—ignorance—dislike of truth—dislike of justice—pitiable situation of princes.

Such is the culture; the fruit that it produces may easily be conjectured. The fashion which is given to the mind in youth, it ordinarily retains in age; and it is with ordinary cases only that the present argument is concerned. If there have been kings, as there have been other men, in the forming of whom particular have outweighed general causes, the recollection of such exceptions has little to do with the question, whether monarchy be generally speaking a benefit or an evil. Nature has no particular mould of which she forms the intellects of princes; monarchy is certainly not jure divino; and of consequence, whatever system we may adopt upon the subject of natural talents, the ordinary rate of kings will possess at best but the ordinary rate of human understanding. In what has been said, and in what remains to say, we are not to fix our minds upon prodigies, but to think of the species as it is usually found.


But, though education for the most part determines the character of the future man, it may not be useless to follow the disquisition a little farther. Education in one sense is the affair of youth, but in a stricter and more accurate sense the education of an intellectual being can terminate only with his life. Every incident that befals us is the parent of a sentiment, and either confirms or counteracts the preconceptions of the mind.

Principles by which he is influenced: Now the causes that acted upon kings in their minority, continue to act upon them in their maturer years. Every thing is carefully kept out of sight that may remind them they are menirresponsibility:. Every means is employed that can persuade them that they are of a different species of beings, and subject to different laws of existence. “A king,” such at least is the maxim of absolute monarchies, “though obliged by a rigid system of duties, is accountable for his discharge of those duties only to God.” That is, exposed to a hundred fold more seductions than ordinary men, he has not like them the checks of a visible constitution of things, perpetually through the medium of the senses making their way to the mind. He is taught to believe himself superior to the restraints that bind ordinary men, and subject to a rule peculiarly his own. Every thing is trusted to the motives of an invisible world; which, whatever may be the estimate to which they are entitled in the view of philosophy, mankind are not now to learn are weakly felt by those who are immerged in splendour or affairs, and have little chance of success in contending [399] with the impressions of sense and the allurements of visible objects.

It is a maxim generally received in the world “thatevery kingimpatience of control: is a despot in his heart,” and themaxim can seldom fail to be verified in the experiment. A limited monarch and an absolute monarch, though inmany respects different, approach in more points thanthey separate. A monarch, strictly without limitation, is perhaps a phenomenon that never yet existed. Allcountries have possessed some check upon despotism, which to their deluded imaginations appeared a sufficientsecurity for their independence. All kings have possessedsuch a portion of luxury and ease, have been so farsurrounded with servility and falshood, and to sucha degree exempt from personal responsibility, as todestroy the natural and wholesome complexion of thehuman mind. Being placed so high, they find but onestep between them and the summit of social authority, and they cannot but eagerly desire to gain that step. Having so frequent occasions of seeing their behestsimplicitly obeyed, being trained in so long a sceneof adulation and servility, it is impossible they shouldnot feel some indignation at the honest firmness thatsets limits to their omnipotence. But to say, “thatevery king is a despot in his heart,” will presentlybe shown to be the same thing as to say, that everyking is by unavoidable necessity the enemy of the human race.


habits of dissipation: The principal source of virtuous conduct is to recollect the absent. He that takes into his estimate present things alone, will be the perpetual slave of sensuality and selfishness. He will have no principle by which to restrain appetite, or to employ himself in just and benevolent pursuits. The cause of virtue and innocence, however urgent, will no sooner cease to be heard, than it will be forgotten. Accordingly nothing is found more favourable to the attainment of moral excellence than meditation: nothing more inimical than an uninterrupted succession of amusements. It would be absurd to expect from kings the recollection of virtue in exile or disgrace. It has generally been observed, that even for the loss of a flatterer or a favourite they speedily console themselves. Image after image so speedily succeed in their sensorium, that no one of them leaves a durable impression. A circumstance which contributes to this moral insensibility, is the effeminacy and cowardice which grow out of perpetual indulgence. Their minds spontaneously shrink from painful ideas, from motives that would awaken them to effort, and reflections that would demand severity of disquisition.

ignorance: What situation can be more unfortunate than that of a stranger, who cannot speak our language, knows nothing of our manners and customs, and enters into the busy scene of our affairs, without one friend to advise with or assist him? If any thing is to be got by such a man, we may depend upon seeing him instantly surrounded with a group of thieves, sharpers and [401] extortioners. They will make him swallow the most incredible stories, will impose upon him in every article of his necessities or his commerce, and he will leave the country at last, as unfriended and in as absolute ignorance as he entered it. Such a stranger is a king; but with this difference, that the foreigner, if he be a man of sagacity and penetration, may make his way through this crowd of intruders, and discover a set of persons worthy of his confidence, which can scarcely in any case happen to a king. He is placed in a vortex peculiarly his own. He is surrounded with an atmosphere through which it is impossible for him to discover the true colours and figure of things. The persons that are near him are in a cabal and conspiracy of their own, and there is nothing about which they are more anxious than to keep truth from approaching him. The man, who is not accessible to every comer, who delivers up his person into the custody of another, and may, for any thing that he can tell, be precluded from that very intercourse and knowledge it is most important for him to possess, whatever name he may bear, is in reality a prisoner.

Whatever the arbitrary institutions of men may pretend, the more powerful institutions of nature forbid one man to transact the affairs and provide for the welfare of millions. A king soon finds the necessity of entrusting his functions to the administration of his servants. He acquires the habit of seeing with their eyes and acting with their hands. He finds the necessity of confiding [402] implicitly in their fidelity. Like a man long shut up in a dungeon, his organs are not strong enough to bear the irradiation of truth. Accustomed to receive information of the feelings and sentiments of mankind through the medium of another person, he cannot bear directly to converse with business and affairs. Whoever would detach his confidence from his present favourites, and induce him to pass over again in scrutiny the principles and data upon which he has already determined, requires of him too painful a task. He hastens from his informer to communicate the accusation to his favourite, and the tongue that has been accustomed to gain credit, easily varnishes over this new discovery. He flies from uncertainty, anxiety and doubt to his routine of amusements; or amusement presents itself, is importunate to be received, and presently obliterates the tale that overspread the mind with melancholy and suspicion. Much has been said of intrigue and duplicity. They have been alledged to intrude themselves into the walks of commerce, to haunt the intercourse of men of letters, and to rend the petty concerns of a village with faction. But, wherever else they may be strangers, in courts they undoubtedly find a congenial climate. The intrusive talebearer, who carries knowledge to the ear of kings, is within that circle an object of general abhorrence. The favourite marks him for his victim; and the inactive and unimpassioned temper of the monarch soon resigns him to the vindictive importunity of his adversary. It is in the contemplation of these circumstances that Fenelon has remarked that [403] “kings are the most unfortunate and the most misled of all human beings [*]

But in reality were they in possession of purer sources of information,Dislike of truth: it would be to little purpose. Royalty inevitably allies itself to vice. Virtue, in proportion as it has taken possession of any character, is just, consistent and sincere. But kings, debauched by their education, ruined by their situation, cannot endure an intercourse with these attributes. Sincerity, that would tell them of their errors and remind them of their cowardice; justice, that, uninfluenced by the trappings of majesty, would estimate the man at his true desert; consistency, that no temptation would induce to part with its principles; are odious and intolerable in their eyes. From such intruders they hasten to men of a pliant character, who will flatter their mistakes, put a false varnish on their actions, and be visited by no impertinent scruples in assisting the indulgence of their appetites. There is scarcely in human nature an inflexibility that can resist perpetual flattery and compliance. The virtues that grow up among us are cultured in the open soil of equality, not in the artificial climate of greatness. We need the winds to harden, as much as [404] the heat to cherish us. Many a mind, that promised well in its outset, has been found incapable to stand the test of perpetual indulgence and ease, without one shock to waken, and one calamity to stop it in its smooth career.

dislike of justice Monarchy is in reality so unnatural an institution, that mankind have at all times strongly suspected it was unfriendly to their happiness. The power of truth upon important topics is such, that it may rather be said to be obscured than obliterated; and falshood has scarcely ever been so successful, as not to have had a restless and powerful antagonist in the heart of its votaries. The man who with difficulty earns his scanty subsistence, cannot behold the ostentatious splendour of a king; without being visited by some sense of injustice. He inevitably questions in his mind the utility of an officer whose services are hired at so enormous a price. If he consider the subject with any degree of accuracy, he is led to perceive, and that with sufficient surprise, that a king is nothing more than a common mortal, exceeded by many and equalled by more in every requisite of strength, capacity and virtue. He feels therefore that nothing can be more groundless and unjust than the supposing that one such man as this is the fittest and most competent instrument for regulating the affairs of nations.

These reflections are so unavoidable that kings themselves have often been aware of the danger to their imaginary happiness [405] with which they are pregnant. They have sometimes been alarmed with the progress of thinking, and oftener regarded the ease and prosperity of their subjects as a source of terror and apprehension. They justly consider their functions as a sort of public exhibition, the success of which depends upon the credulity of the spectators, and which good sense and courage would speedily bring to a termination. Hence the well known maxims of monarchical government, that ease is the parent of rebellion, and that it is necessary to keep the people in a state of poverty and endurance in order to render them submissive. Hence it has been the perpetual complaint of despotism, that “the restive knaves are overrun with ease, and plenty ever is the nurse of faction [*].” Hence it has been the lesson perpetually read to monarchs: “Render your subjects prosperous, and they will speedily refuse to labour; they will become stubborn, proud, unsubmissive to the yoke, and ripe for revolt. It is impotence and misery that alone will render them supple, and prevent them from rebelling against the dictates of authority [].”

Pitiable situation of princes. It is a common and vulgar observation that the state of a king is greatly to be pitied. “All his actions are hemmed in with [406] anxiety and doubt. He cannot, like other men, indulge the gay and careless hilarity of his mind; but is obliged, if he be of an honest and conscientious disposition, to consider how necessary the time, which he is thoughtlessly giving to amusement, may be to the relief of a worthy and oppressed individual; how many benefits might in a thousand instances result from his interference; how many a guileless and undesigning heart might be cheared by his justice. The conduct of kings is the subject of the severest criticism, which the very nature of their situation disables them to encounter. A thousand things are done in their name in which they have no participation; a thousand stories are so disguised to their ear as to render the truth absolutely undiscoverable; and the kingis the general scape-goat, loaded with the offences of all his dependents.”

No picture can be more just, judicious and humane than that which is thus exhibited. Why then should the advocates of antimonarchical principles be considered as the enemies of kings? They would relieve them from “a load would fink a navy, too much honour [].” They would exalt them to the happy and enviable condition of private individuals. In reality nothing can be more iniquitous and cruel than to impose upon a man the unnatural office of a king. It is not less inequitable towards him that exercises it, than towards them who are subjected to it. [407] Kings, if they understood their own interests, would be the first to espouse these principles, the most eager to listen to them, the most fervent in expressing their esteem of the men who undertake to impress upon their species this important truth.




supposed excellence of this form of government controverted—from the narrowness of human powers.—case of a vicious administration—of a virtuous administration intended to be formed.—monarchy not adapted to thegovernmentoflargerge states.

Supposed excellence of this form of government controverted: There is a principle frequently maintained upon this subject, which is well entitled to our impartial consideration. It is granted by those who espouse it, “that absolute monarchy, from the imperfection of those by whom it is administered, is most frequently attended with evil;” but they assert, “that it is the best and most desirable of all forms under a good and virtuous prince. It is exposed,” say they, “to the fate of all excellent natures, and from the best thing frequently, if corrupted, becomes the worst.” This remark is certainly not very decisive of the general question, so long as any weight shall be attributed to the arguments which have been adduced to evince what sort of character and disposition may be ordinarily expected in princes. It may however be allowed, if true, to create in the mind a sort of partial retrospect to this happy and perfect [409] despotism; and, if it can be shown to be false, it will render the argument for the abolition of monarchy, so far as it is concerned, more entire and complete.

Now, whatever dispositions any man may possess in favourfrom the narrowness of human powers. of the welfare of others, two things are necessary to give them validity; discernment and power. I can promote the welfare of a few persons, because I can be sufficiently informed of their circumstances. I can promote the welfare of many in certain general articles, because for this purpose it is only necessary that I should be informed of the nature of the human mind as such, not of the personal situation of the individuals concerned. But for one man to undertake to administer the affairs of millions, to supply, not general principles and perspicuous reasoning, but particular application, and measures adapted to the necessities of the moment, is of all undertakings the most extravagant and absurd.

The most natural and obvious of all proceedings is for each man to be the sovereign arbiter of his own concerns. If the imperfection, the narrow views and the mistakes of human beings render this in certain cases inexpedient and impracticable, the next resource is to call in the opinion of his peers, persons who from their vicinity may be presumed to have some general knowledge of the case, and who have leisure and means minutely to investigate the merits of the question. It cannot reasonably [410] be doubted, that the same expedient which men employed in their civil and criminal concerns, would by uninstructed mortals be adopted in the assessment of taxes, in the deliberations of commerce, and in every other article in which their common interests were involved, only generalising the deliberative assembly or pannel in proportion to the generality of the question to be decided.

Monarchy, instead of referring every question to the persons concerned or their neighbours, refers it to a single individual placed at the greatest distance possible from the ordinary members of the society. Instead of distributing the causes to be judged into as many parcels as they would conveniently admit for the sake of providing leisure and opportunities of examination, it draws them to a single centre, and renders enquiry and examination impossible. A despot, however virtuously disposed, is obliged to act in the dark, to derive his knowledge from other men's information, and to execute his behests by other men's instrumentality. Monarchy seems to be a species of government proscribed by the nature of man; and those persons, who furnished their despot with integrity and virtue, forgot to add omniscience and omnipotence, qualities not less necessary to fit him for the office they had provided.

case of a vicious administration: Let us suppose this honest and incorruptible despot to be served by ministers, avaricious, hypocritical and interested. What will [411] the people gain by the good intentions of their monarch? He will mean them the greatest benefits, but he will be altogether unacquainted with their situation, their character and their wants. The information he receives will frequently be found the very reverse of the truth. He will be taught that one individual is highly meritorious and a proper subject of reward, whose only merit is the profligate cruelty with which he has served the purposes of his administration. He will be taught that another is the pest of the community, who is indebted for this report to the steady virtue with which he has traversed and defeated the wickedness of government. He will mean the greatest benefits to his people; but when he prescribes something calculated for their advantage, his servants under pretence of complying shall in reality perpetrate diametrically the reverse. Nothing will be more dangerous than to endeavour to remove the obscurity with which his ministers surround him. The man, who attempts so hardy a task, will become the incessant object of their hatred. Though the sovereign should be ever so severely just, the time will come when his observation will be laid asleep, while malice and revenge are ever vigilant. Could he unfold the secrets of his prison houses of state, he would find men committed in his name whose crimes he never knew, whose names he never heard of, perhaps men whom he honoured and esteemed. Such is the history of the benevolent and philanthropic despots whom memory has recorded; and the conclusion from the whole is, that, wherever despotism exists, [412] there it will always be attended with the evils of despotism, capricious measures and arbitrary infliction.

of a virtuous administration intended to be formed. “But will not a wise king take care to provide himself with good and virtuous servants?” Undoubtedly he will effect a part of this, but he cannot supersede the essential natures of things. He that executes any office as a deputy will never discharge it in the same perfection as if he were the principal. Either the minister must be the author of the plans which he carries into effect, and then it is of little consequence, except so far as relates to his integrity in the choice of his servants, what sort of mortal the sovereign shall be found; or he must play a subordinate part, and then it is impossible to transfuse into his mind the perspicacity and energy of his master. Wherever despotism exists, it cannot remain in a single hand, but must be transmitted whole and entire through all the progressive links of authority. To render despotism auspicious and benign it is necessary, not only that the sovereign should possess every human excellence, but that all his officers should be men of penetrating genius and unspotted virtue. If they fall short of this, they will, like the ministers of Elizabeth, be sometimes specious profligates [*], and sometimes men, who, however admirably adapted for business, consult on many occasions exclusively their private advantage, worship the rising sun, enter into vindictive cabals, and cuff [413] down new fledged merit [*]. Wherever the continuity is broken, the flood of vice will bear down all before it. One weak or disingenuous man will be the source of unbounded mischief. It is the nature of monarchy under all its forms to confide greatly in the discretion of individuals. It provides no resource for maintaining and diffusing the spirit of justice. Every thing rests upon the permanence and extent of influence of personal virtue.

Another position, not less generally asserted than that of theMonarchy not adapted to the government of large states. desirableness of a virtuous despotism, is, “that republicanism is a species of government practicable only in a small state, while monarchy is best fitted to embrace the concerns of a vast and flourishing empire.” The reverse of this, so far at least as relates to monarchy, appears at first sight to be the truth. The competence of any government cannot be measured by a purer standard, than the extent and accuracy of its information. In this respect monarchy appears in all cases to be wretchedly deficient; but, if it can ever be admitted, it must surely be in those narrow and limited instances where an individual can with least absurdity be supposed to be acquainted with the affairs and interests of the whole.




systematical monopoly of confidence.—character of ministers—of their dependents.—venality of courts.—universality of this principle.

We shall be better enabled to judge of the dispositions with which information is communicated and measures are executed in monarchical countries, if we reflect upon another of the evil consequences attendant upon this species of government, the existence and corruption of courts.

Systematical monopoly of confidence. The character of this, as well as of every other human institution, arises out of the circumstances with which it is surrounded. Ministers and favourites are a sort of people who have a state prisoner in their custody, the whole management of whose understanding and actions they can easily engross. This they completely effect with a weak and credulous master, nor can the most cautious and penetrating entirely elude their machinations. They unavoidably desire to continue in the administration of his functions, whether it be emolument, or the love of homage, or any more generous motive by which they are [415] attached to it. But the more they are confided in by the sovereign, the greater will be the permanence of their situation; and the more exclusive is their possession of his ear, the more implicit will be his confidence. The wisest of mortals are liable to error; the most judicious projects are open to specious and superficial objections; and it can rarely happen but a minister will find his ease and security in excluding as much as possible other and opposite advisers, whose acuteness and ingenuity are perhaps additionally whetted by a desire to succeed to his office.

Ministers become a sort of miniature kings in their turn.Character of ministers: Though they have the greatest opportunity of observing the impotence and unmeaningness of the character, they yet envy it. It is their trade perpetually to extol the dignity and importance of the master they serve; and men cannot long anxiously endeavour to convince others of the truth of any proposition without becoming half convinced of it themselves. They feel themselves dependent for all that they most ardently desire upon this man's arbitrary will; but a sense of inferiority is perhaps the never failing parent of emulation or envy. They assimilate themselves therefore of choice to a man to whose circumstances their own are considerably similar.

In reality the requisites, without which monarchical governmentof their dependents. cannot be preserved in existence, are by no means sufficiently [416] supplied by the mere intervention of ministers. There must be the ministers of ministers, and a long bead roll of subordination descending by tedious and complicated steps. Each of these lives on the smile of the minister, as he lives on the smile of the sovereign. Each of these has his petty interests to manage, and his empire to employ under the guise of servility. Each imitates the vices of his superior, and exacts from others the adulation he is obliged to pay.

It has already appeared that a king is necessarily and almost unavoidably a despot in his heart. He has been used to hear those things only which were adapted to give him pleasure; and it is with a grating and uneasy sensation that he listens to communications of a different sort. He has been used to unhesitating compliance; and it is with difficulty he can digest expostulation and opposition. Of consequence the honest and virtuous character, whose principles are clear and unshaken, is least qualified for his service; he must either explain away the severity of his principles, or he must give place to a more crafty and temporising politician. The temporising politician expects the same pliability in others that he exhibits in himself; and the fault which he can least forgive is an ill timed and inauspicious scrupulosity.

Expecting this compliance from all the coadjutors and instruments of his designs, he soon comes to set it up as a standard [417] by which to judge of the merit of all other men. He is deaf to every recommendation but that of a fitness for the secret service of government, or a tendency to promote his interest and extend the sphere of his influence. The worst man with this argument in his favour will seem worthy of encouragement; the best man who has no advocate but virtue to plead for him will be treated with superciliousness and neglect. It is true the genuine criterion of human desert can never be superseded and reversed. But it will appear to be reversed, and appearance will produce many of the effects of reality. To obtain honour it will be thought necessary to pay a servile court to administration, to bear with unaltered patience their contumely and scorn, to flatter their vices, and render ourselves useful to their private gratification. To obtain honour it will be thought necessary by assiduity and intrigue to make to ourselves a party, to procure the recommendation of lords and the good word of women of pleasure and clerks in office. To obtain honour it will be thought necessary to merit disgrace. The whole scene consists in hollowness, duplicity and falshood. The minister speaks fair to the man he despises, and the slave pretends a generous attachment, while he thinks of nothing but his personal interest. That these principles are interspersed under the worst governments with occasional deviations into better it would be folly to deny; that they do not form the great prevailing features wherever a court and a monarch are to be found it would be madness to assert.


The fundamental disadvantage of such a form of government is, that it renders things of the most essential importance subject through successive gradations to the caprice of individuals. The suffrage of a body of electors will always bear a resemblance more or less remote to the public sentiment. The suffrage of an individual will depend upon caprice, personal convenience or pecuniary corruption. If the king be himself inaccessible to injustice, if the minister disdain a bribe, yet the fundamental evil remains, that kings and ministers, fallible themselves, must upon a thousand occasions depend upon the recommendation of others. Who will answer for these through all their classes, officers of state and deputies of department, humble friends and officious valets, wives and daughters, concubines and confessors?

Venality of courts. It is supposed by many, that the existence of permanent hereditary distinction is necessary to the maintenance of order among beings so imperfect as the human species. But it is allowed by all, that permanent hereditary distinction is a fiction of policy, not an ordinance of immutable truth. Wherever it exists, the human mind, so far as relates to political society, is prevented from settling upon its true foundation. There is a perpetual struggle between the genuine sentiments of understanding, which tell us that all this is an imposition, and the imperious voice of government, which bids us, Reverence and obey. In this unequal contest, alarm and apprehension will perpetually haunt the minds of those who exercise usurped power. In this artificial [419] state of man powerful engines must be employed to prevent him from rising to his true level. It is the business of the governors to persuade the governed, that it is their interest to be slaves. They have no other means by which to create this fictitious interest, but those which they derive from the perverted understandings and burdened property of the public, to be returned in titles, ribbands and bribes. Hence that system of universal corruption without which monarchy could not exist.

It has sometimes been supposed that corruption is particularlyUniversality of this principle. incident to a mixed government. “In such a government the people possess a certain portion of freedom; privilege finds its place as well as prerogative; a certain sturdiness of manner and consciousness of independence are the natives of these countries. The country gentleman will not abjure the dictates of his judgment without a valuable consideration. There is here more than one road to success; popular favour is as sure a means of advancement as courtly patronage. In despotic countries the people may be driven like sheep; however unfortunate is their condition, they know of no other, and they submit to it as an inevitable calamity. Their characteristic feature is a torpid dullness in which all the energies of man are forgotten. But in a country calling itself free the minds of the inhabitants are in a perturbed and restless state, and extraordinary means must be employed to calm their vehemence.” It has sometimes happened to men whose hearts have been pervaded with the love of [420] virtue, of which pecuniary prostitution is the most odious corruption, to prefer, while they have contemplated this picture, an acknowledged despotism to a state of specious and imperfect liberty.

But this picture is not accurate. As much of it as relates to a mixed government must be acknowledged to be true. But the features of despotism are much too favourably touched. Whether privilege be conceded by the forms of the constitution or no, a whole nation cannot be kept ignorant of its force. No people were ever yet so sunk in stupidity as to imagine one man, because he bore the appellation of a king, literally equal to a million. In a whole nation, as monarchical nations at least must be expected to be constituted, there will be nobility and yeomanry, rich and poor. There will be persons who by their situation, or their wealth, or their talents, form a middle rank between the monarch and the vulgar, and who by their confederacies and their intrigues can hold the throne in awe. These men must be bought or defied. There is no disposition that clings so close to despotism as incessant terror and alarm. What else gave birth to the armies of spies and the numerous state prisons under the late government of France? The eye of the tyrant is never closed. How numerous are the precautions and jealousies that these terrors dictate? No man can go out or come into the country but he is watched. The press must issue no productions that have not the imprimatur of government. [421] All coffee houses and places of public resort are objects of attention. Twenty people cannot be collected together, unless for the purposes of superstition, but it is immediately suspected that they may be conferring about their rights. Is it to be supposed, that, where the means of jealousy are employed, the means of corruption will be forgotten? Were it so indeed, the case would not be much improved. No picture can be more disgustful, no state of mankind more depressing, than that in which a whole nation is held in obedience by the mere operation of fear, in which all that is most eminent among them, and that should give example to the rest, is prevented under the severest penalties from expressing its real sentiments, and by necessary consequence from forming any sentiments that are worthy to be expressed. But in reality fear was never employed for these purposes alone. No tyrant was ever so unsocial as to have no confederates in his guilt. This monstrous edifice will always be found supported by all the various instruments for perverting the human character, severity, menaces, blandishments, professions and bribes. To this it is in a great degree owing that monarchy is so very costly an establishment. It is the business of the despot to distribute his lottery of seduction into as many prizes as possible. Among the consequences of a pecuniary polity these are to be reckoned the foremost, that every man is supposed to have his price, and that, the corruption being managed in an underhand manner, many a man, [422] who appears a patriot, may be really a hireling; by which means virtue itself is brought into discredit, is either regarded as mere folly and romance, or observed with doubt and suspicion, as the cloke of vices which are only the more humiliating the more they are concealed.




monarchy founded in imposture.—kings not entitled to superiority—inadequate to the functions they possess.—means by which the imposture is maintained—i. splendour—2. exaggeration.—this imposture generatesx20141in1. indifference to merit—2. indifference to truth—3. artificial desires—4. pusillanimity.—moral incredulity of monarchical countries.—injustice of luxury—of the inordinate admiration of wealth.

Let us proceed to consider the moral effects which the institutionMonarchy founded in imposture. of monarchical government is calculated to produce upon the inhabitants of the countries in which it flourishes. And here it must be laid down as a first principle that monarchy is founded in imposture. It is false that kings are entitled toKings not entitled to superiority: the eminence they obtain. They possess no intrinsic superiority over their subjects. The line of distinction that is drawn is the offspring of pretence, an indirect means employed for effecting certain purposes, and not the offspring of truth. It tramples upon the genuine nature of things, and depends for its support [424] upon this argument, “that, were it not for impositions of a similar nature, mankind would be miserable.”

inadequate to the functions they possess. Secondly, it is false that kings can discharge the functions of royalty. They pretend to superintend the affairs of millions, and they are necessarily unacquainted with these affairs. The senses of kings are constructed like those of other men, they can neither see nor hear what is transacted in their absence. They pretend to administer the affairs of millions, and they possess no such supernatural powers as should enable them to act at a distance. They are nothing of what they would persuade us to believe them. The king is often ignorant of that of which half the inhabitants of his dominions are informed. His prerogatives are administered by others, and the lowest clerk in office is frequently to this and that individual more effectually the sovereign than the king himself. He knows nothing of what is solemnly transacted in his name.

Means by which the imposture is supported: 1. splendour: To conduct this imposture with success it is necessary to bring over to its party our eyes and our ears. Accordingly kings are always exhibited with all the splendour of ornament, attendance and equipage. They live amidst a sumptuousness of expence; and this not merely to gratify their appetites, but as a necessary instrument of policy. The most fatal opinion that could lay hold upon the minds of their subjects is that kings are but men. Accordingly they are carefully withdrawn from the profaneness [425] of vulgar inspection; and, when they are exhibited, it is with every artifice that may dazzle our sense and mislead our judgment.

The imposture does not stop with our eyes, but addresses2. exaggeration. itself to our ears. Hence the inflated style of regal formality. The name of the king every where obtrudes itself upon us. It would seem as if every thing in the country, the lands, the houses, the furniture and the inhabitants were his property. Our estates are the king's dominions. Our bodies and minds are his subjects. Our representatives are his parliament. Our courts of law are his deputies. All magistrates throughout the realm are the king's officers. His name occupies the foremost place in all statutes and decrees. He is the prosecutor of every criminal. He is “Our Sovereign Lord the King.” Were it possible that he should die, “the fountain of our blood, the means by which we live,” would be gone: every political function would be suspended. It is therefore one of the fundamental principles of monarchical government that “the king cannot die.” Our moral principles accommodate themselves to our veracity: and accordingly the sum of our political duties (the most important of all duties) is loyalty; to be true and faithful to the king; to honour a man, whom it may be we ought to despise; and to obey; that is, to acknowledge no immutable criterion of justice and injustice.


This imposture generates, I. indifference to merit: What must be the effects of this machine upon the moral principles of mankind? Undoubtedly we cannot trifle with the principles of morality and truth with impunity. However gravely the imposture may be carried on, it is impossible but that the real state of the case should be strongly suspected. Man in a state of society, if undebauched by falshoods like these, which confound the nature of right and wrong, is not ignorant of what it is in which merit consists. He knows that one man is not superior to another except so far as he is wiser or better. Accordingly these are the distinctions to which he aspires for himself. These are the qualities he honours and applauds in another, and which therefore the feelings of each man instigate his neighbour to acquire. But what a revolution is introduced among these original and undebauched sentiments by the arbitrary distinctions which monarchy engenders? We still retain in our minds the standard of merit, but it daily grows more feeble and powerless, we are persuaded to think that it is of no real use in the transactions of the world, and presently lay it aside as Utopian and visionary.

2. indifference to truth: Consequences equally injurious are produced by the hyperbolical pretensions of monarchy. There is a simplicity in truth that refuses alliance with this impudent mysticism. No man is entirely ignorant of the nature of man. He will not indeed be incredulous to a degree of energy and rectitude that may exceed the standard of his preconceived ideas. But for one man to [427] pretend to think and act for a nation of his fellows is so preposterous as to set credibility at defiance. Is he persuaded that the imposition is salutary? He willingly assumes the right of introducing similar falshoods into his private affairs. He becomes convinced that veneration for truth is to be classed among our errors and prejudices, and that, so far from being, as it pretends to be, in all cases salutary, it would lead, if ingenuously practised, to the destruction of mankind.

Again, if kings were exhibited simply as they are in themselves3. artificial desire: to the inspection of mankind, the salutary prejudice, as it has been called, which teaches us to venerate them, would speedily be extinct: it has therefore been found necessary to surround them with luxury and expence. Thus are luxury and expence made the standard of honour, and of consequence the topics of anxiety and envy. However fatal this sentiment may be to the morality and happiness of mankind, it is one of those illusions which monarchical government is eager to cherish. In reality, the first principle of virtuous feeling, as has been elsewhere said, is the love of independence. He that would be just must before all things estimate the objects about him at their true value. But the principle in regal states has been to think your father the wisest of men because he is your father [*], and [428] your king the foremost of his species because he is a king. The standard of intellectual merit is no longer the man but his title. To be drawn in a coach of state by eight milk-white horses is the highest of all human claims to our veneration. The fame principle inevitably runs through every order of the state, and men desire wealth under a monarchical government, for the same reason that under other circumstances they would have desired virtue.

Let us suppose an individual who by severe labour earns a scanty subsistence, to become by accident or curiosity a spectator of the pomp of a royal progress. Is it possible that he should not mentally apostrophise this elevated mortal, and ask, “What has made thee to differ from me?” If no such sentiment pass through his mind, it is a proof that the corrupt institutions of society have already divested him of all sense of justice. The more simple and direct is his character, the more certainly will these sentiments occur. What answer shall we return to his enquiry? That the well being of society requires men to be treated otherwise than according to their intrinsic merit? Whether [429] he be satisfied with this answer or no, will he not aspire to possess that (which in this instance is wealth) to which the policy of mankind has annexed such high distinction? Is it not indispensible, that, before he believes in the rectitude of this institution, his original feelings of right and wrong should be wholly reversed? If it be indispensible, then let the advocate of the monarchical system ingenuously declare, that, according to that system, the interest of society in the first instance requires the total subversion of all principles of moral truth and justice.

With this view let us again recollect the maxim adopted in monarchical countries, “that the king never dies.” Thus with true oriental extravagance we salute this imbecil mortal, “O king, live for ever!” Why do we this? Because upon his existence the existence of the state depends. In his name the courts of law are opened. If his political capacity be suspended for a moment, the centre to which all public business is linked, is destroyed. In such countries every thing is uniform: the ceremony is all, and the substance nothing. In the riots in the year 1780 the mace of the house of lords was proposed to be sent into the passages by the terror of its appearance to quiet the confusion; but it was observed that, if the mace should be rudely detained by the rioters, the whole would be thrown into anarchy. Business would be at a stand, their insignia, and with their insignia their legislative and deliberative functions be gone. Who can expect firmness and energy in a country, where every thing is made to [430] depend not upon justice, public interest and reason, but upon a piece of gilded wood? What conscious dignity and virtue can there be among a people, who, if deprived of the imaginary guidance of one vulgar mortal, are taught to believe that their faculties are benumbed, and all their joints unstrung?

4. pusillanimity. Lastly, one of the most essential ingredients in a virtuous character is undaunted firmness; and nothing can more powerfully tend to destroy this principle than the spirit of a monarchical government. The first lesson of virtue is, Fear no man; the first lesson of such a constitution is, Fear the king. The first lesson of virtue is, Obey no man [*]; the first lesson of monarchy is, Obey the king. The true interest of mind demands the annihilation of all factitious and imaginary distinctions; it is inseparable from monarchy to support and render them more palpable than ever. He that cannot speak to the proudest despot with a consciousness that he is a man speaking to a man, and a determination to yield him no superiority to which his inherent qualifications do not entitle him, is wholly incapable of sublime virtue. How many such men are bred within the pale of monarchy? How long would monarchy maintain its ground in a nation of such men? Surely it would be the wisdom of society, instead of conjuring up a thousand phantoms to induce us into error, instead of surrounding us with a thousand fears to deprive [431] us of true energy, to remove every obstacle and smooth the path of improvement.

Virtue was never yet held in much honour and esteem in aMoral incredulity of monarchical countries. monarchical country. It is the inclination and the interest of courtiers and kings to bring it into disrepute; and they are but too successful in the attempt. Virtue is in their conception arrogant, intrusive, unmanageable and stubborn. It is an assumed outside, by which those who pretend to it intend to gratify their rude tempers or their secret views. Within the circle of monarchy virtue is always regarded with dishonourable incredulity. The philosophical system which affirms self love to be the first mover of all our actions and the falsity of human virtues, is the growth of these countries [*]. Why is it that the language of integrity and public spirit is constantly regarded among us as hypocrisy? It was not always thus. It was not till the usurpation of Cæsar, that books were written by the tyrant and his partisans to prove that Cato was no better than a snarling pretender [].

: There is a farther consideration, which has seldom beenInjustice of luxury adverted to upon this subject, but which seems to be of no inconsiderable [432] importance. In our definition of justice it appeared that our debt to our fellow men extended to all the efforts we could make for their welfare, and all the relief we could supply to their necessities. Not a talent do we possess, not a moment of time, not a shilling of property, for which we are not responsible at the tribunal of the public, which we are not obliged to pay into the general bank of common advantage. Of every one of these things there is an employment which is best, and that best justice obliges us to select. But how extensive is the consequence of this principle with respect to the luxuries and ostentation of human life? Are there many of these luxuries that will stand the test, and approve themselves upon examination to be the best objects upon which our property can be employed? Will it often come out to be true, that hundreds of individuals ought to be subjected to the severest and most incessant labour, that one man may spend in idleness what would afford to the general mass ease, leisure, and consequently wisdom?

of the inordinate admiration of wealth. Whoever frequents the habitation of the luxurious will speedily be infected with the vices of luxury. The ministers and attendants of a sovereign, accustomed to the trappings of magnificence, will turn with disdain from the merit that is obscured with the clouds of adversity. In vain may virtue plead, in vain may talents solicit distinction, if poverty seem to the fastidious sense of the man in place to envelop them as it were [433] with its noisome effluvia. The very lacquey knows how to repel unfortunate merit from the great man's door.

Here then we are presented with the lesson which is loudly and perpetually read through all the haunts of monarchy. Money is the great requisite for the want of which nothing can atone. Distinction, the homage and esteem of mankind, are to be bought, not earned. The rich man need not trouble himself to invite them, they come unbidden to his surly door. Rarely indeed does it happen, that there is any crime that gold cannot expiate, any baseness and meanness of character that wealth cannot cover with oblivion. Money therefore is the only object worthy of your pursuit, and it is of little importance by what sinister and unmanly means, so it be but obtained.

It is true that virtue and talents do not stand in need of the great man's assistance, and might, if they did but know their worth, repay his scorn with a just and enlightened pity. But unfortunately they are too often ignorant of their strength, and adopt the errors they see universally espoused in the world. Were it otherwise, they would indeed be happier, but the general manners would probably remain the same. The general manners are fashioned by the form and spirit of the national government; and, if in extraordinary cases they become discordant, they speedily subvert it.

The evils indeed that arise out of avarice, an inordinate admiration [434] of wealth and an intemperate pursuit of it, are so obvious, that they have constituted a perpetual topic of lamentation and complaint. The object in this place is to consider how far they are extended and aggravated by a monarchical government, that is, by a constitution the very essence of which is to accumulate enormous wealth upon a single head, and to render the ostentation of splendour the chosen instrument for securing honour and veneration. The object is to consider in what degree the luxury of courts, the effeminate softness of favourites, the system, never to be separated from the monarchical form, of putting men's approbation and good word at a price, of individuals buying the favour of government, and government buying the favour of individuals, is injurious to the moral improvement of mankind. As long as the unvarying practice of courts is cabal, and as long as the unvarying tendency of cabal is to bear down talents, and discourage virtue, to recommend cunning in the room of sincerity, a servile and supple disposition in preference to firmness and inflexibility, a convenient morality as better than a strict one, and the study of the red book of promotion rather than the study of general welfare, so long will monarchy be the bitterest and most potent of all the adversaries of the true interests of mankind.




disorders attendant on such an election.—election is intended either to provide a man of great or of moderate talents.—consequences of the first—of the second.—can elective and hereditary monarchy be combined?

Having considered the nature of monarchy in general, itDisorders attendant on such an election. is incumbent on us to examine how far its mischiefs may be qualified by rendering the monarchy elective.

One of the most obvious objections to this remedy is the difficulty that attends upon the conduct of such an election. There are machines that are too mighty for the human hand to conduct; there are proceedings that are too gigantic and unwieldy for human institutions to regulate. The distance between the mass of mankind and a sovereign is so immense, the trust to be confided so inestimably great, the temptations of the object to be decided on so alluring, as to set every passion that can vex the mind in tumultuous conflict. Election will therefore either dwindle into an empty form, a congé à élire with the successful candidate's name at full length in the conclusion, [436] an election perpetually continued in the same family, perhaps in the same lineal order of descent; or will become the signal of a thousand calamities, foreign cabal and domestic war. These evils have been so generally understood, that elective monarchy in the strict sense of that appellation has very few advocates.

Rousseau, who in his advice to the Polish nation appears to be one of those few, that is, one of those who without loving monarchy conceive an elective sovereignty greatly preferable to an hereditary one, endeavours to provide against the disorders of an election by introducing into it a species of sortition. [*] In another part of the present enquiry it will be our business to examine how far chance and the decision by lot are compatible with the principles either of sound morality or sober reason. For the present it will be sufficient to say, that the project of Rousseau will probably fall under one part of the following dilemma, and of consequence will be refuted by the same arguments that bear upon the mode of election in its most obvious idea.

The design of election is either to provide an officer of great or of moderate talents. The design with which election can be introduced into the constitution of a monarchy must either be that of raising to the kingly office a man of superlative talents and uncommon genius, or of providing a moderate portion of wisdom and good intention for the discharge of these functions, and preventing them [437] from falling to the lot of persons of notorious imbecility. ToConsequences of the first: the first of these designs it will be objected by many, “that genius is frequently nothing more in the hands of its possessor than an instrument for accomplishing the most pernicious intentions.” And, though in this assertion there is much partial and mistaken exaggeration, it cannot however be denied that genius, such as we find it a midst the present imperfections of mankind, is compatible with very serious and essential errors. If then genius can by temptations of various sorts be led into practical mistake, may we not reasonably entertain a fear respecting the effect of that situation which of all others is most pregnant with temptation? If considerations of inferior note be apt to mislead the mind, what shall we think of this most intoxicating draught, of a condition superior to restraint, stripped of all those accidents and vicissitudes from which the morality of human beings has flowed, with no salutary check, with no intellectual warfare where mind meets mind on equal terms, but perpetually surrounded with sycophants, servants and dependents? To suppose a mind in which genius and virtue are united and permanent, is also undoubtedly to suppose something which no calculation will teach us to expect should offer upon every vacancy. And, if the man could be found, we must imagine to ourselves electors almost as virtuous as the elected, or else error and prejudice, faction and intrigue will render his election at least precarious, perhaps improbable. Add to this that it is sufficiently evident from the unalterable evils of monarchy already enumerated, [438] and which I shall presently have occasion to recapitulate, that the first act of sovereignty in a virtuous monarch, whose discernment was equal to his virtue, would be to annihilate the constitution, which had raised him to a throne.

of the second. But we will suppose the purpose of instituting an elective monarchy not to be that of constantly filling the throne with a man of sublime genius, but merely to prevent the sovereignty from falling to the lot of persons of notorious mental imbecility. Such is the strange and pernicious nature of monarchy, that it may be doubted whether this be a benefit. Wherever monarchy exists, courts and administrations must, as long as men can see only with their eyes and act only with their hands, be its constant attendants. But these have already appeared to be institutions so mischievous, that perhaps one of the greatest injuries that can be done to mankind is to persuade them of their innocence. Under the most virtuous despot favour and intrigue, the unjust exaltation of one man and depression of another will not fail to exist. Under the most virtuous despot the true spring there is in mind, the desire to possess merit, and the consciousness that merit will not fail to make itself perceived by those around it, and through their esteem to rise to its proper sphere, will be cut off; and mean and factitious motives be substituted in its room. Of what consequence is it that my merit is perceived by mortals who have no power to advance it? The monarch, shut up in his sanctuary and surrounded with formalities, will never hear of [439] it. How should he? Can he know what is passing in the remote corners of his kingdom? Can he trace the first timid blossoms of genius and virtue? The people themselves will lose their discernment of these things, because they will perceive their discernment to be powerless in effects. The offspring of mind is daily sacrificed by hecatombs to the genius of monarchy. The seeds of reason and truth become barren and unproductive in this unwholesome climate. And the example perpetually exhibited of the preference of wealth and craft over integrity and talents, produces the most powerful effects upon that mass of mankind, who at first sight may appear least concerned in the objects of generous ambition. This mischief, to whatever it amounts, becomes more strongly fastened upon us under a good monarch than under a bad one. In the latter case it only restrains our efforts by violence, in the former it seduces our understandings. To palliate the defects and skin over the deformity of what is fundamentally wrong, is certainly very perilous, perhaps very fatal to the best interests of mankind.

A question has been started, whether it be possible to blendCan elective and hereditary monarchy be combined? elective and hereditary monarchy, and the constitution of England has been cited as an example of this possibility. What was it that the parliament effected at the revolution, and when they settled the succession upon the house of Hanover? They elected not an individual, but a new race of men to fill the throne of these kingdoms. They gave a practical instance of [440] their power upon extraordinary emergencies to change the succession. At the same time however that they effected this in action, they denied it in words. They employed the strongest expressions that language could furnish to bind themselves, their heirs and posterity for ever to adhere to this settlement. They considered the present as an emergence, which, taking into the account the precautions and restrictions they had provided, could never occur again.

In reality what sort of sovereignty is that which is partly hereditary and partly elective? That the accession of a family or race of men should originally be a matter of election has nothing particular in it. All government is founded in opinion; and undoubtedly some sort of election, made by a body of electors more or less extensive, originated every new establishment. To whom in this amphibious government does the sovereignty belong upon the death of the first possessor? To his heirs and descendants. What sort of choice shall that be considered, which is made of a man half a century before he begins to exist? By what designation does he succeed? Undoubtedly by that of hereditary descent. A king of England therefore holds his crown independently, or, as it has been energetically expressed, “in contempt” of the choice of the people [*].




liable to most of the preceding objections—to farther objections peculiar to itself.—responsibility considered.—maxim, that the king can do no wrong.—functions of a limited monarch.—impossibility of maintainingtheneutrarality required.—of the dismission of ministers.—responsibility of ministers.—appointment of ministers, its importance—its difficulties.—recapitulation.—strength and weakness of the human species.

I proceed to consider monarchy, not as it exists in countries where it is unlimited and despotic, but, as in certain instances it has appeared, a branch merely of the general constitution.

Here it is only necessary to recollect the objections whichLiable to most of the preceding objections: applied to it in its unqualified state, in order to perceive that they bear upon it with the same explicitness, if not with equal force, under every possible modification. Still the government is [442] founded in falshood, affirming that a certain individual is eminently qualified for an important situation, whose qualifications are perhaps scarcely superior to those of the meanest member of the community. Still the government is founded in injustice, because it raises one man for a permanent duration over the heads of the rest of the community, not for any moral recommendation he possesses, but arbitrarily and by accident. Still it reads a constant and powerful lesson of immorality to the people at large, exhibiting pomp and splendour and magnificence instead of virtue, as the index to general veneration and esteem. The individual is, not less than in the most absolute monarchy, unfitted by his education to become either respectable or useful. He is unjustly and cruelly placed in a situation that engenders ignorance, weakness and presumption, after having been stripped in his infancy of all the energies that should defend him against the inroads of these adversaries. Finally, his existence implies that of a train of courtiers and a series of intrigue, of servility, secret influence, capricious partialities and pecuniary corruption. So true is the observation of Montesquieu, that “we must not expect under a monarchy to find the people virtuous [*].”

to farther objections peculiar to itself. But if we consider the question more narrowly, we shall perhaps find, that limited monarchy has other absurdities and vices which are peculiarly its own. In an absolute sovereignty [443] the king may if he please be his own minister; but in a limited one a ministry and a cabinet are essential parts of the constitution. In an absolute sovereignty princes are acknowledged to be responsible only to God; but in a limited one there is a responsibility of a very different nature. In a limited monarchy there are checks, one branch of the government counteracting the excesses of another, and a check without responsibility is the most flagrant of all contradictions.

There is no subject that deserves to be more maturely consideredResponsibility considered. than this of responsibility. To be responsible is to be liable to be called into an open judicature, where the accuser and the defendant produce their allegations and evidence on equal terms. Every thing short of this is mockery. Every thing that would give to either party any other influence than that of truth and virtue is subversive of the great ends of justice. He that is arraigned of any crime must descend a private individual to the level plain of justice. If he can bias the sentiments of his judges by his possession of power, or by any compromise previous to his resignation, or by the mere sympathy excited in his successors, who will not be severe in their censures, lest they should be treated with severity in return, he cannot truly be said to be responsible at all. From the honest insolence of despotism we may perhaps promise ourselves better effects, than from the hypocritical disclaimers of a limited government. Nothing can be more pernicious than falshood, and no falshood can be more palpable [444] than that which pretends to put a weapon into the hands of the general interest, which constantly proves blunt and powerless in the very act to strike.

Maxim, that the king can do no wrong. It was a confused feeling of these truths, that introduced into limited monarchies the principle “that the king can do no wrong.” Observe the peculiar consistency of this proceeding. Consider what a specimen it affords us of plain dealing, frankness and unalterable sincerity. An individual is first appointed, and endowed with the most momentous prerogatives, and then it is pretended that, not he, but other men are answerable for the abuse of these prerogatives. This pretence may appear tolerable to men bred among the fictions of law, but justice, truth and virtue revolt from it with indignation.

Functions of a limited monarch. Having first invented this fiction, it becomes the business of such constitutions as nearly as possible to realise it. A ministry must be regularly formed; they must concert together; and the measures they execute must originate in their own discretion. The king must be reduced as nearly as possible to a cypher. So far as he fails to be completely so, the constitution must be imperfect.

What sort of figure is it that this miserable wretch exhibits in the face of the world? Every thing is with great parade transacted in his name. He assumes all the inflated and oriental style which has been already described, and which indeed was upon [445] that occasion transcribed from the practice of a limited monarchy. We find him like Pharaoh's frogs “in our houses and upon our beds, in our ovens and our kneading troughs.”

Now observe the man himself to whom all this importance is annexed. To be idle is the abstract of all his duties. He is paid an immense revenue only to dance and to eat, to wear a scarlet robe and a crown. He may not choose any one of his measures. He must listen with docility to the consultations of his ministers, and sanction with a ready assent whatever they determine. He must not hear any other advisers, for they are his known and constitutional counsellors. He must not express to any man his opinion, for that would be a sinister and unconstitutional interference. To be absolutely perfect he must have no opinion, but be the vacant and colourless mirror by which theirs is reflected. He speaks, for they have taught him what he should say; he affixes his signature, for they inform him that it is necessary and proper.

A limited monarchy in the articles I have described might beImpossibility of maintaining the neutrality required. executed with great facility and applause, if a king were what such a constitution endeavours to render him, a mere puppet regulated by pullies and wires. But it is perhaps the most egregious and palpable of all political mistakes to imagine that we can reduce a human being to this state of neutrality and torpor. He will not exert any useful and true activity, but he [446] will be far from passive. The more he is excluded from that energy that characterises wisdom and virtue, the more depraved and unreasonable will he be in his caprices. Is any promotion vacant, and do we expect that he will never think of bestowing it on a favourite, or of proving by an occasional election of his own that he really exists? This promotion may happen to be of the utmost importance to the public welfare; or, if not;—every promotion unmeritedly given is pernicious to national virtue, and an upright minister will refuse to assent to it. A king does not fail to hear his power and prerogatives extolled, and he will no doubt at some time wish to essay their reality in an unprovoked war against a foreign nation or against his own citizens.

To suppose that a king and his ministers should through a period of years agree in their genuine sentiments upon every public topic, is what human nature in no degree authorises. This is to attribute to the king talents equal to those of the most enlightened statesmen, or at least to imagine him capable of understanding all their projects, and comprehending all their views. It is to suppose him unspoiled by education, undebauched by rank, and with a mind ingenuously disposed to receive the impartial lessons of truth.

Of the dismission of ministers. “But, if they disagree, the king can choose other ministers.” We shall presently have occasion to consider this prerogative in a general view; let us for the present examine it in its application [447] to the differences that may occur between the sovereign and his servants. It is an engine for ever suspended over the heads of the latter to persuade them to depart from the sternness of their integrity. The compliance that the king demands from them is perhaps at first but small; and the minister, strongly pressed, thinks it better to sacrifice his opinion in this inferior point than to sacrifice his office. One compliance of this sort leads on to another, and he that began perhaps only with the preference of an unworthy candidate for distinction ends with the most atrocious political guilt. The more we consider this point, the greater will its magnitude appear. It will rarely happen but that the minister will be more dependent for his existence on the king, than the king upon his minister. When it is otherwise, there will be a mutual compromise, and both in turn will part with every thing that is firm, generous, independent and honourable in man.

And in the mean time what becomes of responsibility? TheResponsibility of ministers. measures are mixed and confounded as to their source, beyond the power of human ingenuity to unravel. Responsibility is in reality impossible. “Far otherwise,” cries the advocate of monarchical government: “it is true that the measures are partly those of the king and partly those of the minister, but the minister is responsible for all.” Where is the justice of that? It were better to leave guilt wholly without censure, than to condemn a man for crimes of which he is innocent. In this case the grand criminal escapes with impunity, and the severity [448] of the law falls wholly upon his coadjutors. The coadjutors receive that treatment which constitutes the essence of all bad policy: punishment is profusely menaced against them, and antidote is wholly forgotten. They are propelled to vice by irresistible temptations, the love of power and the desire to retain it; and then censured with a rigour altogether disproportioned to their fault. The vital principle of the society is tainted with injustice, and the same neglect of equity and partial respect of persons will extend itself over the whole.

Appointment of ministers, its importance. I proceed to consider that prerogative in limited monarchy, which, whatever others may be given or denied, is inseparable from its substance, the prerogative of the king to nominate to public offices. If any thing be of importance, surely this must be of importance, that such a nomination be made with wisdom and integrity, that the fittest persons be appointed to the highest trusts the state has to confer, that an honest and generous ambition be cherished, and that men who shall most ardently qualify themselves for the care of the public welfare be secure of having the largest share in its superintendence.

Its difficulties. This nomination is a most arduous task, and requires the wariest circumspection. It approaches more nearly than any other affair of political society to the exercise of discretion. In all other cases the line of rectitude seems visible and distinct. Justice in the contests of individuals, justice in questions of peace [449] and war, justice in the ordination of law, will not obstinately withdraw itself from the research of an impartial and judicious enquirer. But to observe the various portions of capacity scattered through a nation, and minutely to decide among the qualifications of innumerable pretenders, must after all our accuracy be committed to some degree of uncertainty.

The first difficulty that occurs is to discover those whom genius and ability have made in the best sense candidates for the office. Ability is not always intrusive; talents are often to be found in the remoteness of a village, or the obscurity of a garret. And, though self consciousness and self possession are to a certain degree the attributes of genius, yet there are many things beside false modesty, that may teach its possessor to shun the air of a court.

Of all men a king is least qualified to penetrate these recesses, and discover merit in its hiding place. Encumbered with forms, he cannot mix at large in the society of his species. He is too much engrossed with the semblance of business or a succession of amusements to have leisure for such observations as should afford a just estimate of men's characters. In reality the task is too mighty for any individual, and the benefit can only be secured by the mode of election.

Other disadvantages attendant on this prerogative of choosing [450] his own ministers it is needless to enumerate. If enough have not been already said to explain the character of a monarch as growing out of the functions with which he is invested, a laboured repetition in this place would be both tedious and vain. If there be any dependence to be placed upon the operation of moral causes, a king will in almost every instance be found among the most undiscriminating, the most deceived, the least informed and the least heroically disinterested of mankind.

Recapitulation. Such then is the genuine and uncontrovertible scene of a mixed monarchy. An individual placed at the summit of the edifice, the centre and the fountain of honour, and who is neutral, or must seem neutral in the current transactions of his government. This is the first lesson of honour, virtue and truth, which mixed monarchy reads to its subjects. Next to the king come his administration and the tribe of courtiers; men driven by a fatal necessity to be corrupt, intriguing and venal; selected for their trust by the most ignorant and ill informed of their countrymen; made solely accountable for measures of which they cannot solely be the authors; threatened, if dishonest, with the vengeance of an injured people; and, if honest, with the surer vengeance of their sovereign's displeasure. The rest of the nation, the subjects at large—

Was ever a name so fraught with degradation and meanness as this of subjects? I am, it seems, by the very place of my birth [451] become a subject. Of what, or whom? Can an honest man consider himself as the subject of any thing but the laws of justice? Can he acknowledge a superior, or hold himself bound to submit his judgment to the will of another, not less liable than himself to prejudice and error? Such is the idol that monarchy worships in lieu of the divinity of truth and the sacred obligation of public good. It is of little consequence whether we vow fidelity to the king and the nation, or to the nation and the king, so long as the king intrudes himself to tarnish and undermine the true simplicity, the altar of virtue.

Are mere names beneath our notice, and will they produce no sinister influence upon the mind? May we bend the knee before the shrine of vanity and folly without injury? Far otherwise. Mind had its beginning in sensation, and it depends upon words and symbols for the progress of its associations. The true good man must not only have a heart resolved, but a front erect. We cannot practise abjection, hypocrisy and meanness, without becoming degraded in other men's eyes and in our own. We cannot “bow the head in the temple of Rimmon,” without in some degree apostatising from the divinity of truth. He that calls a king a man, will perpetually hear from his own mouth the lesson, that he is unfit for the trust reposed in him: he that calls him by any sublimer appellation, is hastening fast into the most palpable and dangerous errors.


Strength and weakness of the human species. But perhaps “mankind are so weak and imbecil, that it is in vain to expect from the change of their institutions the improvement of their character.” Who made them weak and imbecil? Previously to human institutions they had certainly none of this defect. Man considered in himself is merely a being capable of impression, a recipient of perceptions. What is there in this abstract character that precludes him from advancement? We have a faint discovery in individuals at present of what our nature is capable: why should individuals be fit for so much, and the species for nothing? Is there any thing in the structure of the globe that forbids us to be virtuous? If no, if nearly all our impressions of right and wrong flow from our intercourse with each other, why may not that intercourse be susceptible of modification and amendment? It is the most cowardly of all systems that would represent the discovery of truth as useless, and teach us that, when discovered, it is our wisdom to leave the mass of our species in error.

There is not in reality the smallest room for scepticism respecting the omnipotence of truth. Truth is the pebble in the lake; and however slowly in the present case the circles succeed each other, they will infallibly go on till they overspread the surface. No order of mankind will for ever remain ignorant of the principles of justice, equality and public good. No sooner will they understand them, than they will perceive the coincidence of virtue and public good with private interest: nor will any [453] erroneous establishment be able effectually to support itself against general opinion. In this contest sophistry will vanish, and mischievous institutions sink quietly into neglect. Truth will bring down all her forces, mankind will be her army, and oppression, injustice, monarchy and vice will tumble into a common ruin.




enumeration of powers—that of appointing to inferior offices—ofpardoning offences—of convoking deliberative assemblies—of affixing a veto to their decrees.—conclusion.—the title of king estimatedx2014monarchicalacal and aristocratical systems, similarity of their effects.

Still monarchy it seems has one refuge left. “We will not,” say some men, “have an hereditary monarchy, we acknowledge that to be an enormous injustice. We are not contented with an elective monarchy, we are not contented with a limited one. We admit the office however reduced, if the tenure be for life, to be an intolerable grievance. But why not have kings, as we have magistrates and legislative assemblies, renewable by frequent elections? We may then change the holder of the office as often as we please.”

Enumeration of powers: Let us not be seduced by a mere plausibility of phrase, nor employ words without having reflected on their meaning. [455] What are we to understand by the appellation, a king? If the office have any meaning, it seems reasonable that the man who holds it, should possess the privilege, either of appointing to certain employments at his own discretion, or of remitting the decrees of criminal justice, or of convoking and dismissing popular assemblies, or of affixing and refusing his sanction to the decrees of those assemblies. Most of these privileges may claim a respectable authority in the powers delegated to their president by the United states of America.

Let us however bring these ideas to the touchstone of reason.that of appointing to inferior offices: Nothing can appear more adventurous than the reposing, unless in cases of absolute necessity, the decision of any affair of importance to the public, in the breast of one man. But this necessity will scarcely be alledged in any of the articles just enumerated. What advantage does one man possess over a society or council of men in any of these respects? The disadvantages under which he labours are obvious. He is more easily corrupted, and more easily misled. He cannot possess so many advantages for obtaining accurate information. He is abundantly more liable to the attacks of passion and caprice, of unfounded antipathy to one man and partiality to another, of uncharitable censure or blind idolatry. He cannot be always upon his guard; there will be moments in which the most exemplary vigilance is liable to surprise. Meanwhile we are placing the subject in much too [456] favourable a light. We are supposing his intentions to be upright and just; but the contrary of this will be more frequently the truth. Where powers beyond the capacity of human nature are intrusted, vices the disgrace of human nature will be engendered. Add to this, that the same reasons, which prove that government, wherever it exists, should be directed by the sense of the people at large, equally prove that, wherever public officers are necessary, the sense of the whole, or of a body of men most nearly approaching in spirit to the whole, ought to decide on their pretensions.

of pardoning offences: These objections are applicable to the most innocent of the privileges above enumerated, that of appointing to the exercise of certain employments. The case will be still worse if we consider the other privileges. We shall have occasion hereafter to examine the propriety of pardoning offences, considered independently of the persons in whom that power is vested: but, in the mean time, can any thing be more intolerable than for a single individual to be authorised, without assigning a reason, or assigning a reason upon which no one is allowed to pronounce, to supersede the grave decisions of a court of justice, foundedof convoking deliberative assemblies: upon a careful and public examination of evidence? Can any thing be more unjust than for a single individual to assume the function of informing a nation when they are to deliberate, and when they are to cease from deliberation?


The remaining privilege is of too iniquitous a nature to be anof affixing a veto to their decrees. object of much terror. It is not in the compass of credibility to conceive, that any people would remain quiet spectators, while the sense of one man was openly and undisguisedly set against the sense of the national representative in frequent assembly, and suffered to overpower it. Two or three direct instances of the exercise of this negative could not fail to annihilate it for ever. Accordingly, wherever it is supposed to exist, we find it softened and nourished by the genial dew of pecuniary corruption; either rendered unnecessary beforehand by a sinister application to the frailty of individual members, or disarmed and made palatable in the sequel by a copious effusion of venal emollients. If it can in any case be endured, it must be in countries where the degenerate representative no longer possesses the sympathy of the public, and the haughty president is made sacred, by the blood of an exalted ancestry which flows through his veins, or the holy oil which the representatives of the Most High have poured on his head. A common mortal, periodically selected by his fellow-citizens to watch over their interests, can never be supposed to possess this stupendous virtue.

If there be any truth in these reasonings, it inevitably followsConclusion. that there are no important functions of general superintendence that can justly be delegated to a single individual. If the office of a president be necessary, either in a deliberative assembly or an administrative council, supposing such a council to exist, his [458] employment will have relation to the order of their proceedings, and by no means consist in the arbitrary preferring and carrying into effect his private decision. A king, if unvarying usage can have given meaning to a word, designs a man upon whose single discretion some part of the public interest is made to depend. What use can there be for such a man in an unperverted and well ordered state? With respect to its internal affairs certainly none. How far the office can be of advantage in our transactions with foreign governments we shall hereafter have occasion to decide.

The title of the king estimated. Let us beware by an unjustifiable perversion of terms of confounding the common understanding of mankind. A king is the well known and standing appellation for an office, which, if there be any truth in the arguments of the preceding chapters, has been the bane and the grave of human virtue. Why endeavour to purify and exorcise what is entitled only to execration? Why not suffer the term to be as well understood and as cordially detested, as the once honourable appellation of tyrant afterwards was among the Greeks? Why not suffer it to rest a perpetual monument of the folly, the cowardice and misery of our species?

Monarchical and aristocratical Systems, similarity of their effects. in proceeding from the examination of monarchical to that of aristocratical government, it is impossible not to remark that [459] there are several disadvantages common to both. One of these is the creation of a separate interest. The benefit of the governed is made to lie on one side, and the benefit of the governors on the other. It is to no purpose to say that individual interest accurately understood will always be found to coincide with general, if it appear in practice, that the opinions and errors of mankind are perpetually separating them and placing them in opposition to each other. The more the governors are fixed in a sphere distinct and distant from the governed, the more will this error be cherished. Theory, in order to produce an adequate effect upon the mind, should be favoured, not counteracted, by practice. What principle in human nature is more universally confessed than self love, that is, than a propensity to think individually of a private interest, to discriminate and divide objects which the laws of the universe have indissolubly united? None, unless it be the esprit de corps, the tendency of bodies of men to aggrandise themselves, a spirit, which, though less ardent than self love, is still more vigilant, and not exposed to the accidents of sleep, indisposition and mortality. Thus it appears that, of all impulses to a narrow, self-interested conduct, those afforded by monarchy and aristocracy are the greatest.

Nor must we be too hasty and undistinguishing in applying the principle, that individual interest accurately understood will always be found to coincide with general. Relatively to individuals considered as men it is true; relatively to individuals [460] considered as lords and kings it is false. The man will be served by the sacrifice of all his little peculium to the public interest, but the king will be annihilated. The first sacrifice that justice demands at the hand of monarchy and aristocracy, is that of their immunities and prerogatives. Public interest dictates the laborious dissemination of truth and the impartial administration of justice. Kings and lords subsist only under favour of error and oppression. They will therefore resist the progress of knowledge and illumination; the moment the deceit is dispelled, their occupation is gone.

In thus concluding however we are taking for granted that aristocracy will be found an arbitrary and pernicious institution, as monarchy has already appeared to be. It is time that we should enquire in what degree this is actually the case.




birth considered as a physical cause—as a moral cause.—aristocratical estimate of the human species.—education of the great.—recapitulation.

A principle deeply interwoven with both monarchyBirth considered as a physical cause: and aristocracy in their most flourishing state, but most deeply with the latter, is that of hereditary preheminence. No principle can present a deeper insult upon reason and justice. Examine the new born son of a peer and a mechanic. Has nature designated in different lineaments their future fortune? Is one of them born with callous hands and an ungainly form? Can you trace in the other the early promise of genius and understanding, of virtue and honour? We have been told indeed that “nature will break out [*],” and that

“The eaglet of a valiant nest will quickly tower
Up to the region of his fire;”

and the tale was once believed. But mankind will not soon again be persuaded, that one lineage of human creatures produces beauty and virtue, and another vice.


An assertion thus bold and unfounded will quickly be refuted if we consider the question a priori. Mind is the creature of sensation; we have no other inlet of knowledge. What are the sensations that the lord experiences in his mother's womb, by which his mind is made different from that of the peasant? Is there any variation in the finer reticulated substance of the brain, by which the lord is adapted to receive clearer and stronger impressions than the husbandman or the smith?

“But a generous blood circulates in his heart and enriches his veins.” What are we to understand by this hypothesis? Men's actions are the creatures of their perceptions. He that apprehends most strongly will act most intrepidly. He, in whose mind truth is most distinctly impressed, who, understanding its nature, is best aware of its value, will speak with the most heart-felt persuasion, and write with the greatest brilliancy and energy. By intrepidity and firmness in action we must either understand the judicious and deliberate constancy of a Regulus or a Cato, or the brute courage of a private soldier, which is still an affair of mind, consisting in a slight estimate of life which affords him few pleasures, and a thoughtless and stupid oblivion of danger. What has the blood to do with this?—Health is undoubtedly in most cases the prerequisite of the best exertions of mind. But health itself is a mere negation, the absence of disease. A man must have experienced or imagined the inconveniences of sickness, before he can derive positive pleasure from the enjoyment [463] of health. Again, however extravagant we may be in our estimate of the benefit of health, is it true in fact that the lord enjoys a more vigorous health, experiences a more uniform chearfulness, and is less a prey to weariness and languor than the rustic? High birth may inspire high thoughts as a moral cause; but is it credible that it should operate instinctively and when its existence is unknown, while, with every external advantage to assist, the noblest families so often produce the most degenerate sons? Into its value then as a moral cause let us proceed to enquire.

The persuasion of its excellence in this respect is an opinionas a moral cause. probably as old as the institution of nobility itself. The veryAristocratical estimate of the human species. etymology of the word expressing this particular form of government is built upon this idea. It is called aristocracy or the government of the best αριςοι. In the writings of Cicero and the speeches of the Roman senate this order of men is styled the “optimates,” the “virtuous,” the “liberal,” and the “honest.” It is taken for granted, “that the multitude is an unruly beast, with no sense of honour or principle, guided by sordid interest or not less sordid appetite, envious, tyrannical, inconstant and unjust.” From hence they deduced as a consequence, “the necessity of maintaining an order of men of liberal education and elevated sentiments, who should either engross the government of the humbler and more numerous class incapable of governing themselves, or at least should be placed as a rigid guard upon their excesses, with powers adequate to their correction and [464] restraint.” The greater part of these reasonings will fall under our examination when we consider the disadvantages of democracy. So much as relates to the excellence of aristocracy it is necessary at present to discuss.

The whole proceeds upon a supposition that, “if nobility should not, as its hereditary constitution might seem to imply, be found originally superior to the ordinary rate of mortals, it is at least rendered eminently so by the power of education. Men, who grow up in unpolished ignorance and barbarism, and are chilled with the icy touch of poverty, must necessarily be exposed to a thousand sources of corruption, and cannot have that delicate sense of rectitude and honour, which literature and manly refinement are found to bestow. It is under the auspices of indulgence and ease that civilisation is engendered. A nation must have surmounted the disadvantages of a first establishment, and have arrived at some degree of leisure and prosperity, before the love of letters can take root among them. It is in individuals as in large bodies of men. A few exceptions will occur; but, bating these, it can hardly be expected that men, who are compelled in every day by laborious corporal efforts to provide for the necessities of the day, should arrive at great expansion of mind and comprehensiveness of thinking.”

Education of the great. In certain parts of this argument there is considerable truth. The real philosopher will be the last man to deny the power [465] and importance of education. It is therefore necessary, either that a system should be discovered for securing leisure and prosperity to every member of the community, or that a paramount influence and authority should be given to the liberal and the wise over the illiterate and ignorant. Now, supposing for the present that the former of these measures is impossible, it may yet be reasonable to enquire whether aristocracy be the most judicious scheme for obtaining the latter. Some light may be collected on this subject from what has already appeared respecting education under the head of monarchy.

Education is much, but opulent education is of all its modes the least efficacious. The education of words is not to be despised, but the education of things is on no account to be dispensed with. The former is of admirable use in inforcing and developing the latter; but, when taken alone, it is pedantry and not learning, a body without a soul. Whatever may be the abstract perfection of which mind is capable, we seem at present frequently to need being excited, in the case of any uncommon effort, by motives that address themselves to the individual. But so far as relates to these motives, the lower classes of mankind, had they sufficient leisure, have greatly the advantage of the higher. The plebeian must be the maker of his own fortune; the lord finds his already made. The plebeian must expect to find himself neglected and despised in proportion as he is remiss [466] in cultivating the objects of esteem; the lord will always be surrounded with sycophants and slaves. The lord therefore has no motive to industry and exertion; no stimulus to rouse him from the lethargic, “oblivious pool,” out of which every finite intellect originally rose. It must indeed be confessed, that truth does not need the alliance of circumstances, and that a man may arrive at the temple of fame by other pathways than those of misery and distress. But the lord does not content himself with excluding the spur of adversity: he goes farther than this, and provides himself with fruitful sources of effeminacy and error. Man cannot offend with impunity against the great principle of universal good. He that accumulates to himself luxuries and titles and wealth to the injury of the whole, becomes degraded from the rank of man; and, however he may be admired by the multitude, is pitied by the wise and wearisome to himself. Hence it appears, that to elect men to the rank of nobility is to elect them to a post of moral danger and a means of depravity; but that to constitute them hereditarily noble is to preclude them, bating a few extraordinary accidents, from all the causes that generate ability and virtue.

Recapitulation. The reasonings we have here repeated upon the subject of hereditary distinction are so obvious, that nothing can be a stronger instance of the power of prejudice instilled in early youth, than the fact of their having been at any time called in [467] question. If we can in this manner produce an hereditary legislator, why not an hereditary moralist or an hereditary poet [*]? In reality an attempt in either of these kinds would be more rational and feasible than in the other. From birth as a physical cause it sufficiently appears that little can be expected: and, for education, it is practicable in a certain degree, nor is it easy to set limits to that degree, to infuse poetical or philosophical emulation into a youthful mind; but wealth is the fatal blast that destroys the hopes of a future harvest. There was once indeed a gallant kind of virtue, that, by irresistibly seizing the senses, seemed to communicate extensively to young men of birth, the mixed and equivocal accomplishments of chivalry; but, since the subjects of moral emulation have been turned from personal prowess to the energies of intellect, and especially since the field of that emulation has been more widely opened to the species, the lists have been almost uniformly occupied by those, whose narrow circumstances have goaded them to ambition, or whose undebauched habits and situation in life have rescued them from the poison of flattery and effeminate indulgence.




importance of practical justice.—species of injustice which aristocracy creates.—estimate of the injury produced.—examples.

Importance of practical justice. There is one thing, more than all the rest, of importance to the well being of mankind, justice. Can there be any thing problematical or paradoxical in this fundamental principle, that all injustice is injury; and a thousand times more injurious by its effects in perverting the understanding and overturning our calculations of the future, than by the immediate calamity it may produce?

All moral science may be reduced to this one head, calculation of the future. We cannot reasonably expect virtue from the multitude of mankind, if they be induced by the perverseness of the conductors of human affairs to believe that it is not their interest to be virtuous. But this is not the point upon which the question turns. Virtue, is nothing else but the pursuit of general good. Justice, is the standard which discriminates the advantage of the many and of the few, of the whole and a part. [469] If this first and most important of all subjects be involved in obscurity, how shall the well being of mankind be substantially promoted? The most benevolent of our species will be engaged in crusades of error; while the cooler and more phlegmatic spectators, discerning no evident clue that should guide them amidst the labyrinth, sit down in selfish neutrality, and leave the complicated scene to produce its own denouement.

It is true that human affairs can never be reduced to that state of depravation as to reverse the nature of justice. Virtue will always be the interest of the individual as well as of the public. Immediate virtue will always be beneficial to the present age, as well as to their posterity. But, though the depravation cannot rise to this excess, it will be abundantly sufficient to obscure the understanding, and mislead the conduct. Human beings will never be so virtuous as they might easily be made, till justice be the spectacle perpetually presented to their view, and injustice be wondered at as a prodigy.

Of all the principles of justice there is none so material to theSpecies of injustice which aristocracy creates. moral rectitude of mankind as this, that no man can be distinguished but by his personal merit. Why not endeavour to reduce to practice so simple and sublime a lesson? When a man has proved himself a benefactor to the public, when he has already by laudable perseverance cultivated in himself talents, which need only encouragement and public favour to bring them [470] to maturity, let that man be honoured. In a state of society where fictitious distinctions are unknown, it is impossible he should not be honoured. But that a man should be looked up to with servility and awe, because the king has bestowed on him a spurious name, or decorated him with a ribband; that another should wallow in luxury, because his ancestor three centuries ago bled in the quarrel of Lancaster or York; do we imagine that these iniquities can be practised without injury?

Estimate of the injury produced. Let those who entertain this opinion converse a little with the lower orders of mankind. They will perceive that the unfortunate wretch, who with unremitted labour finds himself incapable adequately to feed and clothe his family, has a sense of injustice rankling at his heart.

“One whom distress has spited with the world,
Is he whom tempting fiends would pitch upon
To do such deeds, as make the prosperous men
Lift up their hands and wonder who could do them [*].”

Such is the education of the human species. Such is the fabric of political society.

But let us suppose that their sense of injustice were less acute than it is here described, what favourable inference can be drawn from that? Is not the injustice real? If the minds of men be so [471] withered and stupefied by the constancy with which it is practised, that they do not feel the rigour that grinds them into nothing, how does that improve the picture?

Let us for a moment give the reins no reflexion, and endeavour accurately to conceive the state of mankind where justice should form the public and general principle. In that case our moral feelings would assume a firm and wholsome tone, for they would not be perpetually counteracted by examples that weakened their energy and confounded their clearness. Men would be fearless, because they would know that there were no legal snares lying in wait for their lives. They would be courageous, because no man would be pressed to the earth that another might enjoy immoderate luxury, because every one would be secure of the just reward of his industry and prize of his exertions. Jealousy and hatred would cease, for they are the offspring of injustice. Every man would speak truth with his neighbour, for there would be no temptation to falshood and deceit. Mind would find its level, for there would be every thing to encourage and to animate. Science would be unspeakably improved, for understanding would convert into a real power, no longer an ignis fatuus, shining and expiring by turns, and leading us into sloughs of sophistry, false science and specious mistake. All men would be disposed to avow their dispositions and actions: none would endeavour to suppress the just eulogium of his neighbour, for, so long as there were tongues to record, the [472] suppression would be impossible; none fear to detect the misconduct of his neighbour, for there would be no laws converting the sincere expression of our convictions into a libel.

Examples. Let us fairly consider for a moment what is the amount of injustice included in the institution of aristocracy. I am born, suppose, a Polish prince with an income of £300,000 per annum. You are born a manorial serf or a Creolian negro, by the law of your birth attached to the soil, and transferable by barter or otherwise to twenty successive lords. In vain shall be your most generous efforts and your unwearied industry to free yourself from the intolerable yoke. Doomed by the law of your birth to wait at the gates of the palace you must never enter, to sleep under a ruined weather-beaten roof, while your master sleeps under canopies of state, to feed on putrefied offals while the world is ransacked for delicacies for his table, to labour without moderation or limit under a parching sun while he basks in perpetual sloth, and to be rewarded at last with contempt, reprimand, stripes and mutilation. In fact the case is worse than this. I could endure all that injustice or caprice could inflict, provided I possessed in the resource of a firm mind the power of looking down with pity on my tyrant, and of knowing that I had that within, that sacred character of truth, virtue and fortitude, which all his injustice could not reach. But a slave and a serf are condemned to stupidity and vice, as well as to calamity.


Is all this nothing? Is all this necessary for the maintenance of civil order? Let it be recollected that for this distinction there is not the smallest foundation in the nature of things, that, as we have already said, there is no particular mould for the construction of lords, and that they are born neither better nor worse than the poorest of their dependents. It is this structure of aristocracy in all its sanctuaries and fragments against which reason and philosophy have declared war. It is alike unjust, whether we consider it in the casts of India, the villainage of the feudal system, or the despotism of the patricians of ancient Rome dragging their debtors into personal servitude to expiate loans they could not repay. Mankind will never be in an eminent degree virtuous and happy, till each man shall possess that portion of distinction and no more, to which he is entitled by his personal merits. The dissolution of aristocracy is equally the interest of the oppressor and the oppressed. The one will be delivered from the listlessness of tyranny, and the other from the brutalising operation of servitude. How long shall we be told in vain, “that mediocrity of fortune is the true rampart of personal happiness?”




their origin and history.—their miserable absurdity.—truth the only adequate reward of merit.

Their origin and history. The case of mere titles is so absurd that it would deserve to be treated only with ridicule, were it not for the serious mischiefs it imposes on mankind. The feudal system was a ferocious monster devouring wherever it came all that the friend of humanity regards with attachment and love. The system of titles appears under a different form. The monster is at length destroyed, and they who followed in his train, and fattened upon the carcasses of those he slew, have stuffed his skin, and by exhibiting it hope still to terrify mankind into patience and pusillanimity. The system of the Northern invaders, however odious, escaped the ridicule of the system of titles. When the feudal chieftains assumed a geographical appellation, it was from some place really subject to their authority; and there was no more absurdity in the style they assumed, than in our calling a man at present the governor of Tangiers or the governor of Gibraltar. The commander in chief or the sovereign did not [475] then give an empty name; he conferred an earldom or a barony, a substantial tract of land, with houses and men, and producing a real revenue. He now grants nothing but the privilege of calling yourself Tom who were beforetime called Will; and, to add to the absurdity, your new appellation is borrowed from some place perhaps you never saw, or some country you never visited. The style however is the same; we are still earls and barons, governors of provinces and commanders of forts, and that with the same evident propriety as the elector of Hanover and arch treasurer of the empire styles himself king of France.

Their miserable absurdity Can there be any thing more ludicrous, than that the man, who was yesterday Mr. St. John, the most eloquent speaker of the British house of commons, the most penetrating thinker, the umpire of maddening parties, the restorer of peace to bleeding and exhausted Europe, should be to-day lord Bolingbroke? In what is he become greater and more venerable than he was? In the pretended favour of a stupid and besotted woman, who always hated him, as she uniformly hated talents and virtue, though for her own interest she was obliged to endure him.

The friends of a man upon whom a title has recently been conferred, must either be wholly blinded by the partiality of friendship not to feel the ridicule of his situation, or completely debased by the parasitical spirit of dependence not to betray their feelings. Every time they essay to speak, they are in danger of [476] blundering upon the inglorious appellations of Mr. and Sir [*]. Every time their tongue faulters with unconfirmed practice, the question rushes upon them with irresistible force, “What change has my old friend undergone; in what is he wiser or better, happier or more honourable?” The first week of a new title is a perpetual war of the feelings in every spectator, the genuine dictates of common sense against the arbitrary institutions of society. To make the farce more perfect these titles are subject to perpetual fluctuations, and the man who is to-day earl of Kensington, will to-morrow resign with unblushing effrontery all appearance of character and honour to be called marquis of Kew. History labours under the Gothic and unintelligible burden; no mortal patience can connect the different stories of him who is to-day lord Kimbolton, and to-morrow earl of Manchester; to-day earl of Mulgrave, and to-morrow marquis of Normanby and duke of Buckinghamshire.

Truth the only adequate reward of merit. The absurdity of these titles strikes us the more, because they are usually the reward of intrigue and corruption. But, were it otherwise, still they would be unworthy of the adherents of reason and justice. When we speak of Mr. St. John, as of the man, who by his eloquence swayed contending parties, who withdrew the conquering sword from suffering France, and gave [477] forty years of peace and calm pursuit of the arts of life and wisdom to mankind, we speak of something eminently great. Can any title express these merits? Is not truth the consecrated and single vehicle of justice? Is not the plain and simple truth worth all the cunning substitutions in the world? Could an oaken garland or a gilded coronet have added one atom to his real greatness? Garlands and coronets may be bestowed on the unworthy and prostituted to the intriguing. Till mankind be satisfied with the naked statement of what they really perceive, till they confess virtue to be then most illustrious when she most disdains the aid of ornament, they will never arrive at that manly justice of sentiment, at which they are destined one day to arrive. By this scheme of naked truth, virtue will be every day a gainer; every succeeding observer will more fully do her justice, while vice, deprived of that varnish with which she delighted to gloss her actions, of that gaudy exhibition which may be made alike by every pretender, will speedily sink into unheeded contempt.




intolerance of aristocracy—dependent for its success upon the ignorance of the multitude.—precautions necessary for its support.—different kinds of aristocracy.—aristocracy of the romans: its virtues—itsvicesx2014aristoristocratical distribution of property—regulations by which it is maintained—avarice it engenders.—argument against innovation from the present happy establishment of affairs considered.—conclusion.

Intolerance of aristocracy; Aristocracy in its proper signification implies neither less nor more than a scheme for rendering more permanent and visible by the interference of political institution the inequality of mankind. Aristocracy, like monarchy, is founded in falshood, the offspring of art foreign to the real nature of things, and must therefore, like monarchy, be supported by artifice and false pretences. Its empire however is founded in principles more gloomy and unsocial than those of [479] monarchy. The monarch often thinks it advisable to employ blandishments and courtship with his barons and officers; but the lord deems it sufficient to rule with a rod of iron.

Both depend for their perpetuity upon ignorance. Coulddependent for its success upon the ignorance of the multitude. they, like Omar, destroy the productions of profane reasoning, and persuade mankind that the Alcoran contained every thing which it became them to study, they might then renew their lease of empire. But here again aristocracy displays its superior harshness. Monarchy admits of a certain degree of monkish learning among its followers. But aristocracy holds a stricter hand. Should the lower ranks of society once come to be generally taught to write and read, its power would be at an end. To make men serfs and villains it is indispensibly necessary to make them brutes. This is a question which has long been canvassed with great eagerness and avidity. The resolute advocates of the old system have with no contemptible foresight opposed this alarming innovation. In their well known observation, “that a servant who has been taught to write and read ceases to be any longer a passive machine,” is contained the embryo from which it would be easy to explain the whole philosophy of human society.

And who is there that can reflect with patience upon the malevolentPrecautions necessary for its support. contrivances of these insolent usurpers, contrivances the end of which is to keep the human species in a state of endless [480] degradation? It is in the subjects we are here examining that the celebrated maxim of “many made for one” is brought to the real test. Those reasoners were no doubt wise in their generation, who two centuries ago conceived alarm at the blasphemous doctrine, “that government was instituted for the benefit of the governed, and, if it proposed to itself any other object, was no better than an usurpation.” It will perpetually be found that the men, who in every age have been the earliest to give the alarm of innovation, and have been ridiculed on that account as bigoted and timid, were in reality persons of more than common discernment, who saw, though but imperfectly, in the rude principle the inferences to which it inevitably led. It is time that men of reflexion should choose between the two alternatives: either to go back fairly and without reserve to the primitive principles of tyranny; or, adopting any one of the axioms opposite to these, however neutral it may at first appear, not feebly and ignorantly to shut their eyes upon its countless host of consequences.

Different kinds of aristocracy. It is not necessary to enter into a methodical disquisition of the different species of aristocracy, since, if the above reasonings have any force, they are equally cogent against them all. Aristocracy may vest its prerogatives principally in the individual, as in Poland; or entirely restrict them to the nobles in their corporate capacity, as in Venice. The former will be more tumultuous and disorderly; the latter more jealous, intolerant and severe. The magistrates may either recruit their body by election among [481] themselves, as in Holland; or by the choice of the people, as in ancient Rome.

The aristocracy of ancient Rome was incomparably the mostAristocracy of the Romans: its virtues: venerable and illustrious that ever existed upon the face of the earth. It may not therefore be improper to contemplate in them the degree of excellence to which aristocracy may be raised. They included in their institution some of the benefits of democracy, as generally speaking no man became a member of the senate, but in consequence of his being elected by the people to the superior magistracies. It was reasonable therefore to expect that the majority of the members would possess some degree of capacity. They were not like modern aristocratical assemblies, in which, as primogeniture and not selection decides upon their prerogatives, we shall commonly seek in vain for capacity, except in a few of the lords of recent creation. As the plebeians were long restrained from looking for candidates except among the patricians, that is, the posterity of senators, it was reasonable to suppose that the most eminent talents would be confined to that order. A circumstance which contributed to this was the monopoly of liberal education and the cultivation of the mind, a monopoly which the art of printing has at length fully destroyed. Accordingly all the great literary ornaments of Rome were either patricians, or of the equestrian order, or their immediate dependents. The plebeians, though in their corporate capacity they possessed for some centuries the virtues of sincerity, intrepidity, [482] love of justice and of the public, could never boast of any of those individual characters in their party that reflect lustre on mankind, except the two Gracchi: while the patricians told of Brutus, Valerius, Coriolanus, Cincinnatus, Camillus, Fabricius, Regulus, the Fabii, the Decii, the Scipios, Lucullus, Marcellus, Cato, Cicero, and innumerable others. With this retrospect continually suggested to their minds it was almost venial for the stern heroes of Rome and the last illustrious martyrs of the republic to entertain aristocratical sentiments.

its vices. Let us however consider impartially this aristocracy, so incomparably superior to any other of ancient or modern times. Upon the first institution of the republic, the people possessed scarcely any authority except in the election of magistrates, and even here their intrinsic importance was eluded by the mode of arranging the assembly, so that the whole decision vested in the richer classes of the community. No magistrates of any description were elected but from among the patricians. All causes were judged by the patricians, and from their judgment there was no appeal. The patricians intermarried among themselves, and thus formed a republic of narrow extent in the midst of the nominal one, which was held by them in a state of abject servitude. The idea which purified these usurpations in the minds of the usurpers, was, “that the vulgar are essentially coarse, groveling and ignorant, and that there can be no security for the empire of justice and consistency but in the decided ascendancy of the liberal.” Thus, even while [483] they opposed the essential interests of mankind, they were animated with public spirit and an unbounded enthusiasm of virtue. But it is not less true that they did oppose the essential interests of mankind. What can be more extraordinary than the declamations of Appius Claudius in this style, at once for the moral greatness of mind by which they were dictated, and the cruel intolerance they were intended to inforce? It is inexpressibly painful to see so much virtue through successive ages employed in counteracting the justest requisitions. The result was, that the patricians, notwithstanding their immeasurable superiority in abilities, were obliged to yield one by one the exclusions to which they so obstinately clung. In the interval they were led to have recourse to the most odious methods of counteraction; and every man among them contended who should be loudest in applause of the nefarious murder of the Gracchi. If the Romans were distinguished for so many virtues, constituted as they were, what might they not have been but for the iniquity of aristocratical usurpation? The indelible blemish of their history, the love of conquest, originated in the same cause. Their wars, through every period of the republic, were nothing more than the contrivance of the patricians, to divert their countrymen from attending to the sentiments of unalterable truth, by leading them to scenes of conquest and carnage. They understood the art, common to all governments, of confounding the understandings of the multitude, and persuading them that the most unprovoked [484] hostilities were merely the dictates of necessary defence.

Aristocratical distribution of property: The principle of aristocracy is founded in the extreme inequality of conditions. No man can be an useful member of society, except so far as his talents are employed in a manner conducive to the general advantage. In every society the produce, the means of contributing to the necessities and conveniencies of its members, is of a certain amount. In every society the bulk at least of its members contribute by their personal exertions to the creation of this produce. What can be more reasonable and just, than that the produce itself should with some degree of equality be shared among them? What more injurious than the accumulating upon a few every means of superfluity and luxury, to the total destruction of the ease, and plain, but plentiful, subsistence of the many? It may be calculated that the king even of a limited monarchy, receives as the salary of his office, an income equivalent to the labour of fifty thousand men [*]. Let us set out in our estimate from this point, and figure to ourselves the shares of his counsellors, his nobles, the wealthy commoners by whom the nobility will be emulated, their kindred and dependents. Is it any wonder that in such countries the lower orders of the community are exhausted by all the hardships of penury and immoderate fatigue? When we see the wealth of a province spread [485] upon the great man's table, can we be surprised that his neighbours have not bread to satiate the cravings of hunger?

Is this a state of human beings that must be considered as the last improvement of political wisdom? In such a state it is impossible that eminent virtue should not be exceedingly rare. The higher and the lower classes will be alike corrupted by their unnatural situation. But to pass over the higher class for the present, what can be more evident than the tendency of want to contract the intellectual powers? The situation which the wise man would desire for himself and for those in whose welfare he was interested, would be a situation of alternate labour and relaxation, labour that should not exhaust the frame, and relaxation that was in no danger to degenerate into indolence. Thus industry and activity would be cherished, the frame preserved in a healthful tone, and the mind accustomed to meditation and reflection. But this would be the situation of the whole human species, if the supply of our wants were equally distributed. Can any system be more worthy of our disapprobation than that which converts nineteen-twentieths of them into beasts of burden, annihilates so much thought, renders impossible so much virtue and extirpates so much happiness?

But it may be alledged, “that this argument isforeign to theregulations by which it is maintained: subject of aristocracy; the inequalityof conditions being the inevitable [486] consequenceof the institution of property.” It is true thatmany disadvantages flow out of this institution inits simplest form; but these disadvantages, to whateverthey may amount, are greatly aggravated by the operationsof aristocracy. Aristocracy turns the stream of propertyout of its natural channel, and forwards with the mostassiduous care its accumulation in the hands of a veryfew persons. The doctrines of primogeniture and entails, as well as the immense volumes of the laws of transferand inheritance which have infested every part of Europe, were produced for this express purpose.

avarice it engenders. At the same time that it has endeavoured to render the acquisition of permanent property difficult, aristocracy has greatly increased the excitements to that acquisition. All men are accustomed to conceive a thirst after distinction and pre-eminence, but they do not all fix upon wealth as the object of this passion, but variously upon skill in any particular art, grace, learning, talents, wisdom and virtue. Nor does it appear that these latter objects are pursued by their votaries with less assiduity, than wealth is pursued by those who are anxious to acquire it. Wealth would be still less capable of being mistaken for the universal passion, were it not rendered by political institution, more than by its natural influence, the road to honour and respect.


There is no mistake more thoroughly to be deplored on thisArgument against innovation from the present happy establishment of affairs considered. subject, than that of persons, sitting at their ease and surrounded with all the conveniences of life, who are apt to exclaim, “We find things very well as they are;” and to inveigh bitterly against all projects of reform, as “the romances of visionary men, and the declamations of those who are never to be satisfied.” Is it well, that so large a part of the community should be kept in abject penury, rendered stupid with ignorance and disgustful with vice, perpetuated in nakedness and hunger, goaded to the commission of crimes, and made victims to the merciless laws which the rich have instituted to oppress them? Is it sedition to enquire whether this state of things may not be exchanged for a better? Or can there be any thing more disgraceful to ourselves than to exclaim that “All is well,” merely because we are at our ease, regardless of the misery, degradation and vice that may be occasioned in others?

There is one argument to which the advocates of monarchyConclusion. and aristocracy always have recourse when driven from every other pretence; the mischievous nature of democracy. “However imperfect the two former of these institutions may be in themselves, they are found necessary,” we are told, “as accommodations to the imperfection of human nature.” It is for the reader who has considered the arguments of the preceding chapters to decide, how far it is probable that circumstances can [488] occur, which should make it our duty to submit to these complicated evils. Meanwhile let us proceed to examine that democracy of which so alarming a picture has uniformly been exhibited.




definition.—supposed evils of this form of government—ascendancy of the ignorant—of the crafty—inconstancy—rash confidence—groundless suspicion.—merits and defects of democracy compared.—its moral tendendency.—tendency of truth.—representation.

Democracy is a system of government according toDefinition. which every member of society is considered as a man and nothing more. So far as positive regulation is concerned, if indeed that can with any propriety be termed regulation which is the mere recognition of the simplest of all principles, every man is regarded as equal. Talents and wealth, wherever they exist, will not fail to obtain a certain degree of influence, without requiring any positive institution of society to second their operation.

But there are certain disadvantages that may seem the necessarySupposed evils of democracy: result of democratical equality. In political society it is reasonable to suppose that the wise will be outnumbered by the [490] ascendancy of the ignorant: unwise, and it will be inferred “that the welfare of the whole will therefore be at the mercy of ignorance and folly.” It is true that the ignorant will generally be sufficiently willing to be guided by the judicious, “but their very ignorance will incapacitate them from discerning the merit of their guides. The turbulentof the crafty: and crafty demagogue will often possess greater advantages for inveigling their judgment, than the man who with purer intentions may possess a less brilliant talent. Add to this, that the demagogue has a never failing resource in the ruling imperfection of human nature, that of preferring the specious present to the substantial future. This is what is usually termed, playing upon the passions of mankind. Political truth has hitherto proved an enigma, that all the wit of man has been insufficient to solve. Is it to be supposed that the uninstructed multitude should always be able to resist the artful sophistry and captivating eloquence that will be employed to darken it? Will it not often happen that the schemes proposed by the ambitious disturber will possess a meretricious attraction, which the severe and sober project of the discerning statesman shall be unable to compensate?

inconstancy: “One of the most fruitful sources of human happiness is to be found in the steady and uniform operation of certain fixed principles. But it is the characteristic of a democracy to be wavering and inconstant. The philosopher only, who has deeply meditated his principles, is inflexible in his adherence to them. The mass of mankind, as they have never arranged their [491] reflections into system, are at the mercy of every momentary impulse, and liable to change with every wind. But this inconstancy is directly the reverse of every idea of political justice.

“Nor is this all. Democracy is a monstrous and unwieldyrash confidence: vessel launched upon the sea of human passions without ballast. Liberty in this unlimited form is in danger to be lost almost as soon as it is obtained. The ambitious man finds nothing in this scheme of human affairs to set bounds to his desires. He has only to dazzle and deceive the multitude in order to rise to absolute power.

“A farther ill consequence flows out of this circumstance.groundless suspicion. The multitude, conscious of their weakness in this respect, will, in proportion to their love of liberty and equality, be perpetually suspicious and uneasy. Has any man displayed uncommon virtues or rendered eminent services to his country? He will presently be charged with secretly aiming at the tyranny. Various circumstances will come in aid of this accusation, the general love of novelty, envy of superior merit, and the incapacity of the multitude to understand the motives and character of those who so far excel them. Like the Athenian, they will be tired of hearing Aristides constantly called the Just. Thus will merit be too frequently the victim of ignorance and envy. Thus will all that is liberal and refined, whatever the human mind in its highest state of improvement is able to conceive, be [492] often overpowered by the turbulence of unbridled passion and the rude dictates of savage folly.”

If this picture must inevitably be realised wherever democratical principles are established, the state of human nature would be peculiarly unfortunate. No form of government can be devised which does not partake of monarchy, aristocracy or democracy. We have taken a copious survey of the two former, and it would seem impossible that greater or more inveterate mischiefs can be inflicted on mankind, than those which are inflicted by them. No portrait of injustice, degradation and vice can be exhibited, that can surpass the fair and inevitable inferences from the principle upon which they are built. If then democracy could by any arguments be brought down to a level with such monstrous institutions as these, in which there is neither integrity nor reason, our prospects of the future happiness of mankind would indeed be deplorable.

Merits and defects of democracy compared. But this is impossible. Supposing that we should even be obliged to take democracy with all the disadvantages that were ever annexed to it, and that no remedy could be discovered for any of its defects, it would be still greatly preferable to the exclusive system of other forms. Let us take Athens with all its turbulence and instability; with the popular and temperate usurpations of Pisistratus and Pericles; with their monstrous ostracism, by which with undisguised injustice they were accustomed periodically [493] to banish some eminent citizen without the imputation of a crime; with the imprisonment of Miltiades, the exile of Aristides and the murder of Phocion:—with all these errors on its head, it is incontrovertible that Athens exhibited a more illustrious and enviable spectacle than all the monarchies and aristocracies that ever existed. Who would reject the gallant love of virtue and independence, because it was accompanied with some irregularities? Who would pass an unreserved condemnation upon their penetrating mind, their quick discernment and their ardent feeling, because they were subject occasionally to be intemperate and impetuous? Shall we compare a people of such incredible achievements, such exquisite refinement, gay without insensibility and splendid without intemperance, in the midst of whom grew up the greatest poets, the noblest artists, the most finished orators and political writers, and the most disinterested philosophers the world ever saw,—shall we compare this chosen seat of patriotism, independence and generous virtue, with the torpid and selfish realms of monarchy and aristocracy? All is not happiness that looks tranquillity. Better were a portion of turbulence and fluctuation, than that unwholesome calm which is a stranger to virtue.

In the estimate that is usually made of democracy, one of theIts moral tendency. most flagrant sources of error lies in our taking mankind such as monarchy and aristocracy have made them, and from thence judging how fit they are to legislate for themselves. Monarchy [494] and aristocracy would be no evils, if their tendency were not to undermine the virtues and the understandings of their subjects. The thing most necessary is to remove all those restraints which hold mind back from its natural flight. Implicit faith, blind submission to authority, timid fear, a distrust of our powers, an inattention to our own importance and the good purposes we are able to effect, these are the chief obstacles to human improvement. Democracy restores to man a consciousness of his value, teaches him by the removal of authority and oppression to listen only to the dictates of reason, gives him confidence to treat all other men as his fellow beings, and induces him to regard them no longer as enemies against whom to be upon his guard, but as brethren whom it becomes him to assist. The citizen of a democratical state, when he looks upon the miserable oppression and injustice that prevail in the countries around him, cannot but entertain an inexpressible esteem for the advantages he enjoys, and the most unalterable determination at all hazards to preserve them. The influence of democracy upon the sentiments of its members is altogether of the negative sort, but its consequences are inestimable. Nothing can be more unreasonable than to argue from men as we now find them, to men as they may hereafter be made. Strict and accurate reasoning, instead of suffering us to be surprised that Athens did so much, would at first induce us to wonder that she retained so many imperfections.

Tendency of truth. The road to the improvement of mankind is in the utmost [495] degreesimple, to speak and act the truth. If the Athenianshad had more of this, it is impossible they shouldhave been so flagrantly erroneous. To tell the truthin all cases without reserve, to administer justicewithout partiality, are principles which, when oncerigorously adopted, are of all others the most prolific. They enlighten the understanding, give energy to thejudgment, and strip misrepresentation of its speciousnessand plausibility. In Athens men suffered themselvesto be dazzled by splendour and show. If the error intheir constitution which led to this defect can bediscovered, if a form of political society can be devisedin which men shall be accustomed to judge strictlyand soberly, and habitually exercised to the plainnessand simplicity of truth, democracy would in that societycease from the turbulence, instability, ficklenessand violence that have too often characterised it. Nothing can be more certain than the omnipotence oftruth, or, in other words, than the connexion betweenthe judgment and the outward behaviour. If sciencebe capable of perpetual improvement, men will alsobe capable of perpetually advancing in practical wisdomand justice. Once establish the perfectibility of man, and it will inevitably follow that we are advancingto a state, in which truth will be too well known tobe easily mistaken, and justice too habitually practisedto be voluntarily counteracted. Nor shall we see reasonto think upon severe reflection, that this state isso distant as we might at first be inclined to imagine. Error is principally indebted for its permanence tosocial institution. Did we leave individuals to [496] the progress of their own minds, without endeavouring toregulate them by any species of public foundation, mankind would in no very long period convert to theobedience of truth. The contest between truth and falshoodis of itself too unequal, for the former to stand inneed of support from any political ally. The more itbe discovered, especially that part of it which relatesto man in society, the more simple and self evidentwill it appear; and it will be found impossible anyotherwise to account for its having been so long concealed, than from the pernicious influence of positive institution.

Representation. There is another obvious consideration that has frequently been alledged to account for the imperfection of ancient democracies, which is worthy of our attention, though it be not so important as the argument which has just been stated. The ancients were unaccustomed to the idea of deputed, or representative assemblies; and it is reasonable to suppose that affairs might often be transacted with the utmost order in such assemblies, which might be productive of much tumult and confusion, if submitted to the personal discussion of the citizens at large [*]. By this happy expedient we secure many of the pretended benefits of aristocracy, as well as the real benefits of democracy. The discussion of national affairs is brought before persons of [497] superior education and wisdom: we may conceive of them, not only as the appointed medium of the sentiments of their constituents, but as authorised upon certain occasions to act on their part, in the same manner as an unlearned parent delegates his authority over his child to a preceptor of greater accomplishments than himself. This idea within proper limits might be entitled to our approbation, provided the elector had the wisdom not to relax in the exercise of his own understanding in all his political concerns, exerted his censorial power over his representative, and were accustomed, if the representative were unable after the fullest explanation to bring him over to his opinion, to transfer his deputation to another.

The true value of the system of representation is as follows. It is not reasonable to doubt that mankind, whether acting by themselves or their representatives, might in no long time be enabled to contemplate the subjects offered to their examination with calmness and true discernment, provided no positive obstacles were thrown in their way by the errors and imperfection of their political institutions. This is the principle in which the sound political philosopher will rest with the most perfect satisfaction. But, should it ultimately appear that representation, and not the intervention of popular assemblies, is the mode which reason prescribes, then an error in this preliminary question, will of course infer errors in the practice which is built upon it. We cannot make one false step, without involving [498] ourselves in a series of mistakes and ill consequences that must be expected to grow out of it.

Such are the general features of democratical government: but this is a subject of too much importance to be dismissed without the fullest examination of every thing that may enable us to decide upon its merits. We will proceed to consider the farther objections that have been alledged against it.




importance of this topic.—example in the doctrine of eternal punishment—its inutility argued—from history—from the nature of mind.—second example: the religious sanction of a legislative system.—thisideais1instriin strict construction impracticable—2. injurious.—third example: principle of political order.—vice has no essential advantage over virtue.—imposture unnecessary to the cause of justice—not adapted to the nature of man.

All the arguments that have been employedto prove theImportance of this topic. insufficiency of democracy grow out ofthis one root, the supposed necessity of deceptionand prejudice for restraining the turbulence of humanpassions. Without the assumption of this principlethe argument could not be sustained for a moment. Thedirect and decisive answer would be, “Are kingsand lords intrinsically wiser and better than theirhumbler neighbours? Can there be any solid ground ofdistinction except what is founded in personal merit? Are not men, really and [500] strictly considered, equal, except so far as what is personal and inalienablemakes them to differ?” To these questions therecan be but one reply, “Such is the order of reasonand absolute truth, but artificial distinctions arenecessary for the happiness of mankind. Without deceptionand prejudice the turbulence of human passions cannotbe restrained.” Let us then examine the meritsof this theory; and these will best be illustratedby an instance.

Example in the doctrine of eternal punishment: It has been held by some divines and some politicians, that the doctrine which teaches that men will be eternally tormented in another world for their errors and misconduct in this, is “in its own nature unreasonable and absurd, but that it is nevertheless necessary, to keep mankind in awe. Do we not see,” say they, “that notwithstanding this terrible denunciation the world is overrun with vice? What then would be the case, if the irregular passions of mankind were set free from their present restraint, and they had not the fear of this retribution before their eyes?”

its inutility argued from history: This argument seems to be founded in a singular inattention to the dictates of history and experience, as well as to those of reason. The ancient Greeks and Romans had nothing of this dreadful apparatus of fire and brimstone, and a torment “the smoke of which ascends for ever and ever.” Their religion was less personal than political. They confided in the Gods as protectors of the state, and this inspired them with invincible courage. [501] In periods of public calamity they found a ready consolation in expiatory sacrifices to appease the anger of the Gods. The attention of these beings was conceived to be principally directed to the ceremonial of religion, and very little to the moral excellencies and defects of their votaries, which were supposed to be sufficiently provided for by the inevitable tendency of moral excellence or defect to increase or diminish individual happiness. If their systems included the doctrine of a future existence, little attention was paid by them to the connecting the moral deserts of individuals in this life with their comparative situation in another. The same defect ran through the systems of the Persians, the Egyptians, the Celts, the Phenicians, the Jews, and indeed every system which has not been in some manner or other the offspring of the Christian. If we were to form our judgment of these nations by the above argument, we should expect to find every individual among them cutting his neighbour's throat, and hackneyed in the commission of every enormity without measure and without remorse. But they were in reality as susceptible of the regulations of government and the order of society, as those whose imaginations have been most artfully terrified by the threats of future retribution, and some of them were much more generous, determined and attached to the public weal.

Nothing can be more contrary to a just observation of thefrom the nature of mind. nature of the human mind, than to suppose that these speculative [502] tenets have much influence in making mankind more virtuous than they would otherwise be found. Human beings are placed in the midst of a system of things, all the parts of which are strictly connected with each other, and exhibit a sympathy and unison by means of which the whole is rendered intelligible and as it were palpable to the mind. The respect I shall obtain and the happiness I shall enjoy for the remainder of my life are topics of which my mind has a complete comprehension. I understand the value of plenty, liberty and truth to myself and my fellow men. I perceive that these things and a certain conduct intending them are connected, in the visible system of the world, and not by the supernatural interposition of an invisible director. But all that can be told me of a future world, a world of spirits or of glorified bodies, where the employments are spiritual and the first cause is to be rendered a subject of immediate perception, or of a scene of retribution, where the mind, doomed to everlasting inactivity, shall be wholly a prey to the upbraidings of remorse and the sarcasms of devils, is so foreign to the system of things with which I am acquainted, that my mind in vain endeavours to believe or to understand it. If doctrines like these occupy the habitual reflections of any, it is not of the lawless, the violent and ungovernable, but of the sober and conscientious, persuading them passively to submit to despotism and injustice, that they may receive the recompense of their patience hereafter. This objection is equally applicable to every species of deception. Fables may amuse the imagination; but can never stand [503] in the place of reason and judgment as the principles of human conduct.—Let us proceed to a second instance.

It is affirmed by Rousseau in his treatise of the Social Contract,Second example: the religious sanction of a legislative system. “that no legislator could ever establish a grand political system without having recourse to religious imposture. To render a people who are yet to receive the impressions of political wisdom susceptible of the evidence of that wisdom, would be to convert the effect of civilisation into the cause. The legislator ought not to employ force and cannot employ reasoning; he is therefore obliged to have recourse to authority of a different sort, which may draw without compulsion, and persuade without conviction [*].”


These are the dreams of a fertile conception, busy in the erection of imaginary systems. To a rational mind that project would seem to promise little substantial benefit, which set out from so erroneous a principle. To terrify men into the reception of a system the reasonableness of which they were unable to perceive, is surely a very indirect method of rendering them sober, judicious, fearless and happy.

This idea is, 1. in strict construction impracticable: In reality no grand political system ever was introduced in the [505] manner Rousseau describes. Lycurgus, as he observes, obtained the sanction of the oracle at Delphi to the constitution he had established. But was it by an appeal to Apollo that he persuaded the Spartans to renounce the use of money, to consent to an equal division of land, and to adopt various other regulations the most contrary to their preconceived prejudices? No; it was by an appeal to their understandings, in the midst of long debate and perpetual counteraction, and through the inflexibility of his courage and resolution, that he at last attained his purpose. Lycurgus thought proper, after the whole was concluded, to obtain the sanction of the oracle, conceiving that it became him to neglect no method of substantiating the benefit he had conferred on his countrymen. It is indeed hardly possible to persuade a society of men to adopt any system without convincing them that it is their wisdom to adopt it. It is difficult to conceive of a society of such miserable dupes as to receive a code, without any imagination that it is reasonable or wise or just, but upon this single recommendation that it is delivered to them from the Gods. The only reasonable, and infinitely the most efficacious method of changing the institutions of any people, is by creating in them a general opinion of their erroneousness and insufficiency.

But, if it be indeed impracticable to persuade men into the2. injurious. adoption of any system, without employing as our principal argument the intrinsic rectitude of that system, what is the argument which he would desire to use, who had most at heart the [506] welfare and improvement of the persons concerned? Would he begin by teaching them to reason well, or to reason ill? by unnerving their mind with prejudice, or new stringing it with truth? How many arts, and how noxious to those towards whom we employ them, are necessary, if we would successfully deceive? We must not only leave their reason in indolence at first, but endeavour to supersede its exertion in any future instance. If men be for the present kept right by prejudice, what will become of them hereafter, if by any future penetration or any accidental discovery this prejudice shall be annihilated? Detection is not always the fruit of systematical improvement, but may be effected by some solitary exertion of the faculty or some luminous and irresistible argument, while every thing else remains as it was. If we would first deceive, and then maintain our deception unimpaired, we shall need penal statutes, and licensers of the press, and hired ministers of falshood and imposture. Admirable modes these for the propagation of wisdom and virtue!

Third example: principle of political order. There is another case similar to that stated by Rousseau, upon which much stress has been laid by political writers. “Obedience,” say they, “must either be courted or compelled. We must either make a judicious use of the prejudices and the ignorance of mankind, or be contented to have no hold upon them but their fears, and maintain social order entirely by the severity of punishment. To dispense us from this painful necessity, authority ought carefully to be invested with a sort of magic persuasion. [507] Citizens should serve their country, not with a frigid submission that scrupulously weighs its duties, but with an enthusiasm that places its honour in its loyalty. For this reason our governors and superiors must not be spoken of with levity. They must be considered, independently of their individual character, as deriving a sacredness from their office. They must be accompanied with splendour and veneration. Advantage must be taken of the imperfection of mankind. We ought to gain over their judgments through the medium of their senses, and not leave the conclusions to be drawn, to the uncertain process of immature reason [*].”

This is still the same argument under another form. It takesVice has no essential advantage over virtue. for granted that reason is inadequate to teach us our duty; and of consequence recommends an equivocal engine, which may with equal ease be employed in the service of justice and injustice, but would surely appear somewhat more in its place in the service of the latter. It is injustice that stands most in need of superstition and mystery, and will most frequently be a gainer by the imposition. This hypothesis proceeds upon an assumption, which young men sometimes impute to their parents and preceptors. It says, “Mankind must be kept in ignorance: if they know vice, they will love it too well; if they perceive the charms [508] of error, they will never return to the simplicity of truth.” And, strange as it may appear, this barefaced and unplausible argument has been the foundation of a very popular and generally received hypothesis. It has taught politicians to believe that a people once sunk into decrepitude, as it has been termed, could never afterwards be endued with purity and vigour [*].

Imposture unnecessary to the cause of justice. Is it certain that there is no alternative between deceit and unrelenting severity? Does our duty contain no inherent recommendations? If it be not our own interest that we should be temperate and virtuous, whose interest is it? Political institution, as has abundantly appeared in the course of this work, and will still farther appear as we go forward, has been too frequently the parent of temptations to error and vice of a thousand different denominations. It would be well, if legislators, instead of contriving farther deceptions and enchantments to retain us in our duty, would remove the impostures which at present corrupt our hearts and engender at once artificial wants and real distress. There would be less need, under the system of plain, unornamented truth, than under theirs, that “every visto should be terminated with the gallows [].”

Why deceive me? It is either my wisdom to do the thing you require of me, or it is not. The reasons for doing it are either sufficient or insufficient. If sufficient, why should not they be the [509] machine to govern my understanding? Shall I most improve while I am governed by false reasons, by imposture and artifice, which, were I a little wiser, I should know were of no value in whatever cause they may be employed; or, while my understanding grows every day sounder and stronger by perpetual communication with truth? If the reasons for what you demand of me be insufficient, why should I comply? It is strongly to be suspected that that regulation, which dares not rest upon its own reasonableness, conduces to the benefit of a few at the expence of the many. Imposture was surely invented by him, who thought more of securing dignity to himself, than of prevailing on mankind to consent to their own welfare. That which you require of me is wise, no farther than it is reasonable. Why endeavour to persuade me that it is more wise, more essential than it really is, or that it is wise for any other reason than the true? Why divide men into two classes, one of which is to think and reason for the whole, and the other to take the conclusions of their superiors on trust? This distinction is not founded in the nature of things; there is no such inherent difference between man and man as it thinks proper to suppose. The reasons that should convince us that virtue is better than vice are neither complicated nor abstruse; and the less they be tampered with by the injudicious interference of political institution, the more will they come home to the understanding and approve themselves to the judgment of every man.


Not adapted to the nature of man. Nor is the distinction less injurious, than it is unfounded. The two classes which it creates, must be more and less than man. It is too much to expect of the former, while we consign to them an unnatural monopoly, that they should rigidly consult for the good of the whole. It is an iniquitous requisition upon the latter, that they should never employ their understandings, never penetrate into the essences of things, but always rest in a deceitful appearance. It is iniquitous, that we should seek to withhold from them the principles of simple truth, and exert ourselves to keep alive their fond and infantine mistakes. The time must probably come when the deceit shall vanish; and then the impostures of monarchy and aristocracy will no longer be able to maintain their ground. The change will at that time be most auspicious, if we honestly inculcate the truth now, secure that men's minds will grow strong enough to endure the practice, in proportion as their understanding of the theory excites them to demand it.




offensive war contrary to the nature of democracy.—defensive war exceedingly rare.—erroneousness of the ideas commonly annexed to the phrase, our country.—nature of war delineated.—insufficient causes of war—the acquiringng a healthful and vigorous tone to the public mind—the putting a termination upon private insults—the menaces or preparations of our neighbours—the dangerous consequences of concession.—two legitimate causes of war.

Exclusively of those objections which have been urged against the democratical system as it relates to the internal management of affairs, there are others upon which considerable stress has been laid in relation to the transaction of a state with foreign powers, to war and peace, to treaties of alliance and commerce.

There is indeed an eminent difference with respect to theseOffensive war contrary to the nature of democracy. between the democratical system and all others. It is perhaps [512] impossible to shew that a single war ever did or could have taken place in the history of mankind, that did not in some way originate with those two great political monopolies, monarchy and aristocracy. This might have formed an additional article in the catalogue of evils to which they have given birth, little inferior to any of those we have enumerated. But nothing could be more superfluous than to seek to overcharge a subject the evidence of which is irresistible.

What could be the source of misunderstanding between states, where no man or body of men found encouragement to the accumulation of privileges to himself at the expence of the rest? A people among whom equality reigned, would possess every thing they wanted, where they possessed the means of subsistence. Why should they pursue additional wealth or territory? These would lose their value the moment they became the property of all. No man can cultivate more than a certain portion of land. Money is representative, and not real wealth. If every man in the society possessed a double portion of money, bread and every other commodity would sell at double their present price, and the relative situation of each individual would be just what it had been before. War and conquest cannot be beneficial to the community. Their tendency is to elevate a few at the expence of the rest, and consequently they will never be undertaken but where the many are the instruments of the few. But this cannot happen in a democracy, till the democracy shall become [513] such only in name. If expedients can be devised for maintaining this species of government in its purity, or if there be any thing in the nature of wisdom and intellectual improvement which has a tendency daily to make truth prevail more over falshood, the principle of offensive war will be extirpated. But this principle enters into the very essence of monarchy and aristocracy.

Meanwhile, though the principle of offensive war be incompatibleDefensive war exceedingly rare. with the genius of democracy, a democratical state may be placed in the neighbourhood of states whose government is less equal, and therefore it will be proper to enquire into the supposed disadvantages which the democratical state may sustain in the contest. The only species of war in which it can consistently be engaged, will be that, the object of which is to repel wanton invasion. Such invasions will be little likely frequently to occur. For what purpose should a corrupt state attack a country, which has no feature in common with itself upon which to build a misunderstanding, and which presents in the very nature of its government a pledge of its own inoffensiveness and neutrality? Add to which, it will presently appear that this state, which yields the fewest incitements to provoke an attack, will prove a very impracticable adversary to those by whom an attack shall be commenced.

One of the most essential principles of political justice is diametricallyErroneousness of the ideas commonly annexed to the phrase, our country. [514] the reverse of that which impostors and patriots have too frequently agreed to recommend. Their perpetual exhortation has been, “Love your country. Sink the personal existence of individuals in the existence of the community. Make little account of the particular men of whom the society consists, but aim at the general wealth, prosperity and glory. Purify your mind from the gross ideas of sense, and elevate it to the single contemplation of that abstract individual of which particular men are so many detached members, valuable only for the place they fill [*].”

The lessons of reason on this head are precisely opposite. “Society is an ideal existence, and not on its own account entitled to the smallest regard. The wealth, prosperity and glory of the whole are unintelligible chimeras. Set no value on any thing, but in proportion as you are convinced of its tendency to make individual men happy and virtuous. Benefit by every practicable mode man wherever he exists; but be not deceived by the specious idea of affording services to a body of men, for which no individual man is the better. Society was instituted, not for the sake of glory, not to furnish splendid materials for the page of history, but for the benefit of its members. The love of our country, if we would speak accurately, is another of those specious illusions, which have been invented by impostors [515] in order to render the multitude the blind instruments of their crooked designs.”

Meanwhile let us beware of passing from one injurious extreme to another. Much of what has been usually understood by the love of our country is highly excellent and valuable, though perhaps nothing that can be brought within the strict interpretation of the phrase. A wise man will not fail to be the votary of liberty and equality. He will be ready to exert himself in their defence wherever they exist. It cannot be a matter of indifference to him, when his own liberty and that of other men with whose excellence and capabilities he has the best opportunity of being acquainted, are involved in the event of the struggle to be made. But his attachment will be to the cause, and not to the country. Wherever there are men who understand the value of political justice and are prepared to assert it, that is his country. Wherever he can most contribute to the diffusion of these principles and the real happiness of mankind, that is his country. Nor does he desire for any country any other benefit than justice.

To apply these principles to the subject of war. And, before that application can be adequately made, it is necessary to recollect for a moment the force of the term.

Because individuals were liable to error, and suffered their apprehensions [516] Nature of war delineated. of justice to be perverted by a bias in favour of themselves, government was instituted. Because nations were susceptible of a similar weakness, and could find no sufficient umpire to whom to appeal, war was introduced. Men were induced deliberately to seek each other's lives, and to adjudge the controversies between them, not according to the dictates of reason and justice, but as either should prove most successful in devastation and murder. This was no doubt in the first instance the extremity of exasperation and rage. But it has since been converted into a trade. One part of the nation pays another part to murder and be murdered in their stead; and the most trivial causes, a supposed insult or a sally of youthful ambition, have sufficed to deluge provinces with blood.

We can have no adequate idea of this evil, unless we visit, at least in imagination, a field of battle. Here men deliberately destroy each other by thousands without any resentment against or even knowledge of each other. The plain is strewed with death in all its various forms. Anguish and wounds display the diversified modes in which they can torment the human frame. Towns are burned, ships are blown up in the air while the mangled limbs descend on every side, the fields are laid desolate, the wives of the inhabitants exposed to brutal insult, and their children driven forth to hunger and nakedness. It would be despicable to mention, along with these scenes of horror, and the total subversion of all ideas of moral justice they must occasion [517] in the auditors and spectators, the immense treasures which are wrung in the form of taxes from those inhabitants whose residence is at a distance from the scene.

After this enumeration we may venture to enquire what are the justifiable causes and rules of war.

It is not a justifiable reason, “that we imagineour own peopleInsufficient causes of war: the acquiring a healthful and vigorous tone to the public mind: would be rendered more cordial and orderly, if we could find a neighbour with whom to quarrel, and who might serve as a touchstone to try the charactersand dispositions of individuals among ourselves [*].” Weare not at liberty to have recourse to the most complicatedand atrocious of all mischiefs, in the way of an experiment.


the putting a termination upon private insults: It is not a justifiable reason, “that we have been exposed to certain insults, and that tyrants perhaps have delighted in treating with contempt the citizens of our happy state who have visited their dominions.” Government ought to protect the tranquillity of those who reside within the sphere of its functions; but, if individuals think proper to visit other countries, they must then be delivered over to the protection of general reason. Some proportion must be observed between the evil of which we complain, and the evil which the nature of the proposed remedy inevitably includes.

the menaces or preparations of our neighbours: It is not a justifiable reason, “that our neighbour is preparing or menacing hostilities.” If we be obliged to prepare in our turn, the inconvenience is only equal; and it is not to be believed, that a despotic country is capable of more exertion than a free one, when the task incumbent on the latter is indispensible precaution.

the dangerous consequences of concession: It has sometimes been held to be sound reasoning upon this subject, “that we ought not to yield little things, which may not in themselves be sufficiently valuable to authorise this tremendous appeal, because a disposition to yield only invites farther experiments [*].” Far otherwise; at least when the character of [519] such a nation is sufficiently understood. A people that will not contend for nominal and trivial objects, that maintains the precise line of unalterable justice, and that does not fail to be moved at the moment that it ought to be moved, is not the people that its neighbours will delight to urge to extremities.

“The vindication of national honour” is a very insufficientthe vindication of national honour. reason for hostilities. True honour is to be found only in integrity and justice. It has been doubted how far a view to reputation ought in matters of inferior moment to be permitted to influence the conduct of individuals; but, let the case of individuals be decided as it may, reputation, considered as a separate motive in the instance of nations, can never be justifiable. In individuals it seems as if I might, consistently with the utmost real integrity, be so misconstrued and misrepresented by others, as to render my efforts at usefulness almost always abortive. But this reason does not apply to the case of nations. Their real story cannot easily be suppressed. Usefulness and public spirit in relation to them chiefly belong to the transactions of their members among themselves; and their influence in the transactions of neighbouring nations is a consideration evidently subordinate. The question which respects the justifiable causes of war, would be liable to few difficulties, if we were accustomed, along with the word, strongly to call up to our minds the thing which that word is intended to represent.


Two legitimate causes of war. Accurately considered, there can probably be but two justifiable causes of war, and one of them is among those which the logic of sovereigns and the law of nations, as it has been termed, proscribe: these are the defence of our own liberty and of the liberty of others. The well known objection to the latter of these cases, is, “that one nation ought not to interfere in the internal transactions of another;” and we can only wonder that so absurd an objection should have been admitted so long. The true principle, under favour of which this false one has been permitted to pass current, is, “that no people and no individual are fit for the possession of any immunity, till they understand the nature of that immunity, and desire to possess it.” It may therefore be an unjustifiable undertaking to force a nation to be free. But, when the people themselves desire it, it is virtue and duty to assist them in the acquisition. This principle is capable of being abused by men of ambition and intrigue; but, accurately considered, the very same argument that should induce me to exert myself for the liberties of my own country, is equally cogent, so far as my opportunities and ability extend, with respect to the liberties of any other country. But the morality that ought to govern the conduct of individuals and of nations is in all cases the same.




the repelling an invader.—not reformation—not restraint—not indemnification.—nothing can be a sufficient object of war that is not a sufficient cause for beginning it.—reflections on the balance of power.

Let us pass from the causes to the objects of war. AsThe repelling an invader. defence is the only legitimate cause, the object pursued, reasoning from this principle, will be circumscribed within very narrow limits. It can extend no farther than the repelling the enemy from our borders. It is perhaps desirable that, in addition to this, he should afford some proof that he does not propose immediately to renew his invasion; but this, though desirable, affords no sufficient apology for the continuance of hostilities. Declarations of war and treaties of peace are inventions of a barbarous age, and would never have grown into established usages, if war had customarily gone no farther than to the limits of defence.

It will hereafter appear that what has been termed the criminalNot reformation: [522] justice of nations within themselves, has only two legitimate objects, restraint and reformation. Neither of these objects applies to the case of war between independent states; and therefore ideas of criminal justice are altogether foreign to this subject. War, as we have already seen, perhaps never originates on the offending side in the sentiments of a nation, but of a comparatively small number of individuals: and, if it were otherwise, it is not in a reciprocation of hostilities that good sense would teach us to look for the means of reform.

not restraint: Restraint appears to be sometimes necessary with respect to the offenders that exist in the midst of a community, because it is the property of such offenders to assault us with unexpected violence; but nations cannot move with such secrecy as to make an unforeseen attack an object of considerable apprehension. The only effectual means of restraint in this last case is by disabling, impoverishing and depopulating the country of our adversaries; and, if we recollected that they were men as well as ourselves, and the great mass of them innocent of the quarrel against us, we should be little likely to consider these expedients with complacency.

not indemnification. Nothing can be a sufficient object of war that is not a sufficient cause for beginning it. Indemnification is another object of war which the same mode of reasoning will not fail to condemn. The true culprits can never be discovered, and the attempt would only serve to confound the innocent and the guilty: not to mention that, nations [523] having no common umpire, the reverting, in the conclusion of every war, to the justice of the original quarrel and the indemnification to which the parties were entitled, would be a means of rendering the controversy endless. The question respecting the justifiable objects of war would be liable to few difficulties, if we laid it down as a maxim, that, as often as the principle or object of a war already in existence was changed, this was to be considered as equivalent to the commencement of a new war. This maxim impartially applied would not fail to condemn objects of prevention, indemnification and restraint.

The celebrated topic of the balance of power is a mixed consideration,Reflections on the balance of power. having sometimes been proposed as the cause for beginning a war, and sometimes as an object to be pursued in a war already begun. A war, undertaken to maintain the balance of power, may be either of defence, as to protect a people who are oppressed, or of prevention to counteract new acquisitions, or to reduce the magnitude of old possessions. We shall be in little danger of error however, if we pronounce wars undertaken to maintain the balance of power to be universally unjust. If any people be oppressed, it is our duty, as we have already said, as far as our ability extends, to fly to their succour. But it would be well if in such cases we called our interference by the name which justice prescribes, and sought against the injustice, and not the power. All hostilities against a neighbouring people, because they are powerful, or because we impute to them evil [524] designs which they have not yet begun to carry in execution, are an enormous violation of every principle of morality. If one nation chuse to be governed by the sovereign or an individual allied to the sovereign of another, as seems to have been the case of the people of Spain upon the extinction of the elder branch of the house of Austria, we may endeavour to enlighten them on the subject of government and imbue them with principles of liberty, but it is an execrable piece of tyranny to tell them, “You shall exchange the despot you love for the despot you hate, on account of certain remote consequences we apprehend from the accession of the former.” The pretence of the balance of power has in a multitude of instances served as a veil to the intrigue of courts, but it would be easy to show that the present independence of the different states of Europe has in no instance been materially supported by the wars undertaken for that purpose. The fascination of a people desiring to become the appendage of a splendid despotism can rarely occur, and might perhaps easily be counteracted by peaceable means and the dissemination of a few of the most obvious truths. The defence of a people struggling with oppression must always be just, with this single limitation, that the entering into it without urgent need on their part, would unnecessarily spread the calamities of war, and diminish those energies, the exertion of which would contribute to their virtue and happiness. Add to this, that the object itself, the independence of the different states of Europe, is of an equivocal nature. The despotism, which at present prevails among [525] them, is certainly not so excellent as to make us very anxious for its preservation. The press is an engine of so admirable a nature for the destruction of despotism, as to elude the sagacity perhaps of the most vigilant police; and the internal checks upon freedom in a mighty empire and distant provinces, can scarcely be expected to be equally active with those of a petty tyrant. The reasoning will surely be good with respect to war, which has already been employed upon the subject of government, that an instrument, evil in its own nature, ought never to be selected as the means of promoting our purpose, in any case in which selection can be practised.




offensive operations.—fortifications.—general action.—stratagem.—military contributions.—capture of mercantile vessels.—naval war.—humanity.—military obedience.—foreign possessions.

Offensive operations. Another topic respecting war, which it is of importance to consider in this place, relates to the mode of conducting it. Upon this article our judgments will be greatly facilitated by a recollection of the principles already established, first, that no war is justifiable but a war purely defensive; and secondly, that a war already begun is liable to change its character in this respect, the moment the object pursued in it becomes in any degree varied. From these principles it follows as a direct corollary, that it is never allowable to make an expedition into the provinces of the enemy, unless for the purpose of assisting its oppressed inhabitants. It is scarcely necessary to add that all false casuistry respecting the application of this exception would be particularly odious; and that it is better undisguisedly to avow the corrupt principles of policy by which we conduct ourselves, than hypocritically to claim the praise of better principles, which we fail not [527] to wrest to the justification of whatever we desire. The case of relieving the inhabitants of our enemy's territory and their desire of obtaining relief ought to be extremely unequivocal; we shall be in great danger of misapprehension on the subject, when the question comes under the form of immediate benefit to ourselves; and above all we must recollect that human blood is not to be shed upon a precarious experiment.

The little advantages of war that might be gained by offensive operations will be abundantly compensated, by the character of magnanimous forbearance that a rigid adherence to defence will exhibit, and the effects that character will produce upon foreign nations and upon our own people. Great unanimity at home can scarcely fail to be the effect of severe political justice. The enemy who penetrates into our country, wherever he meets a man, will meet a foe. Every obstacle will oppose itself to his progress, while every thing will be friendly and assisting to our own forces. He will scarcely be able to procure the slightest intelligence, or understand in any case his relative situation. The principles of defensive war are so simple as to procure an almost infallible success. Fortifications are a very equivocal species ofFortifications. General action. protection, and will oftener be of advantage to the enemy, by being first taken, and then converted into magazines for his armies. A moving force on the contrary, if it only hovered about his march, and avoided general action, would always preserve the real superiority. The great engine of military success or miscarriage, [528] is the article of provisions; and the farther the enemy advanced into our country, the more easy would it be to cut off his supply; at the same time that, so long as we avoided general action, any decisive success on his part would be impossible. These principles, if rigidly practised, would soon be so well understood, that the entering in a hostile manner the country of a neighbouring nation would come to be regarded as the infallible destruction of the invading army. Perhaps no people were ever conquered at their own doors, unless they were first betrayed either by divisions among themselves or by the abject degeneracy of their character. The more we come to understand of the nature of justice, the more it will show itself to be stronger than a host of foes. Men, whose bosoms are truly pervaded with this principle, cannot perhaps be other than invincible. Among the various examples of excellence in almost every department that ancient Greece has bequeathed us, the most conspicuous is her resistance with a handful of men against three millions of invaders.

Stratagem. One branch of the art of war, as well as of every other human art, has hitherto consisted in deceit. If the principles of this work be built upon a sufficiently solid basis, the practice of deceit ought in all instances to be condemned, whether it proceed from false tenderness to our friends, or from a desire to hasten the downfal of injustice. Vice is neither the most allowable nor effectual weapon with which to contend against vice. Deceit is [529] not less deceit, whether the falshood be formed into words or be conveyed through the medium of fictitious appearances. We should no more allow ourselves to mislead the enemy by false intelligence or treacherous ambuscade, than by the breach of our declarations, or feigned demonstrations of friendship. There is no essential difference between throwing open our arms to embrace them, and advancing towards them with neutral colours or covering ourselves with a defile or a wood. By the practice of surprise and deceit we shall oftenest cut off their straggling parties and shed most blood. By an open display of our force we shall prevent detachments from being made, shall intercept the possibility of supply without unnecessary bloodshed, and there seems no reason to believe that our ultimate success will be less certain. Why should war be made the science of disingenuousness and mystery, when the plain dictates of good sense would answer all its legitimate purposes? The first principle of defence is firmness and vigilance. The second perhaps, which is not less immediately connected with the end to be attained, is frankness and the open disclosure of our purpose even to our enemies. What astonishment, admiration and terror would this conduct excite in those with whom we had to contend? What confidence and magnanimity would accompany it in our own bosoms? Why should not war, as a step towards its complete abolition, be brought to such perfection, as that the purposes of the enemy might be utterly baffled without firing a musket or drawing a sword?


Another corollary not less inevitable from the principles which have been delivered, is that the operations of war should be limited as accurately as possible to the generating no farther evils than defence inevitably requires. Ferocity ought carefully to be banished from it. Calamity should as entirely as possible be prevented to every individual who is not actually in arms, and whose fate has noMilitary contributions. immediate reference to the event of the war. This principle condemns the levying military contributions, and theCapture of mercantile vessels. capture of mercantile vessels. Each of these atrocities would be in another way precluded by the doctrine of simple defence. We should scarcely think of levying such contributions, if we never attempted to pass the limits of our own territory; and every speciesNaval war. of naval war would perhaps be proscribed.

Humanity. The utmost benevolence ought to be practised towards our enemies. We should refrain from the unnecessary destruction of a single life, and afford every humane accommodation to the unfortunate. The bulk of those against whom we have to contend are comparatively speaking innocent of the projected injustice. Those by whom it has been most assiduously fostered are entitled to our kindness as men, and to our compassion as mistaken. It has already appeared that all the ends of punishment are foreign to the business of war. It has appeared that the genuine melioration of war, in consequence of which it may be expected absolutely to cease, is by gradually disarming it of its ferocity. The horrors of war have sometimes been apologised by a supposition [531] that the more intolerable it was made, the more quickly would it cease to infest the world. But the direct contrary of this is the truth. Severities do but beget severities in return. It is a most mistaken way of teaching men to feel that they are brothers, by imbuing their minds with unrelenting hatred. The truly just man cannot feel animosity, and is therefore little likely to act as if he did.

Having examined the conduct of war as it respects our enemiesMilitary obedience., let us next consider it in relation to the various descriptions of persons by whom it is to be supported. We have seen how little a just and upright war stands in need of secrecy. The plans for conducting a campaign, instead of being, as artifice and ambition have hitherto made them, inextricably complicated, will probably be reduced to two or three variations, suited to the different circumstances that can possibly occur in a war of simple defence. The better these plans are known to the enemy, the more advantageous will it be to the resisting party. Hence it follows that the principles of implicit faith and military obedience will be no longer necessary. Soldiers will cease to be machines. The essential circumstance that constitutes men machines in this sense of the word, is not the uniformity of their motions, when they see the reasonableness of that uniformity. It is their performing any motion, or engaging in any action, the object and utility of which they do not clearly understand. It is true that in every state of human society there will be men of an intellectual [532] capacity much superior to their neighbours. But defensive war, and probably every other species of operation in which it will be necessary that many individuals should act in concert, will perhaps be found so simple in their operations, as not to exceed the apprehension of the most common capacities. It is ardently to be desired that the time should arrive, when no man should lend his assistance to any operation, without at the same time exercising his judgment respecting the honesty and the expected event of that operation.

Foreign possessions. The principles here delivered on the conduct of war lead the mind to a very interesting subject, that of foreign and distant territories. Whatever may be the value of these principles considered in themselves, they become altogether nugatory the moment the idea of foreign dependencies is admitted. But in reality what argument possessing the smallest degree of plausibility can be alledged in favour of that idea? The mode in which dependencies are acquired, must be either conquest, cession or colonization. The first of these no true moralist or politician will attempt to defend. The second is to be considered as the same thing in substance as the first, but with less openness and ingenuity. Colonization, which is by much the most specious pretence, is however no more than a pretence. Are these provinces held in a state of dependence for our own sake or for theirs? If for our own, we must recollect this is still an usurpation, and that justice requires we should yield to others what we demand [533] for ourselves, the privilege of being governed by the dictates of their own reason. If for theirs, they must be told, that it is the business of associations of men to defend themselves, or, if that be impracticable, to look for support to the confederation of their neighbours. They must be told, that defence against foreign enemies is a very inferior consideration, and that no people were ever either wise or happy who were not left to the fair development of their inherent powers. Can any thing be more absurd than for the West India islands for example to be defended by fleets and armies to be transported across the Atlantic? The support of a mother country extended to her colonies, is much oftener a means of involving them in danger, than of contributing to their security. The connexion is maintained by vanity on one side and prejudice on the other. If they must sink into a degrading state of dependence, how will they be the worse in belonging to one state rather than another? Perhaps the first step towards putting a stop to this fruitful source of war, would be to annihilate that monopoly of trade which all enlightened reasoners at present agree to condemn, and to throw open the ports of our colonies to all the world. The principle which will not fail to lead us right upon this subject of foreign dependencies, as well as upon a thousand others, is, that that attribute, however splendid, is not really beneficial to a nation, that is not beneficial to the great mass of individuals of which the nation consists.




a country may look for its defence either to a standing army or an universal militia.—the former condemned.—the latter objected to as of immoral tendency—as unnecessary—either in respect to courage—or disciplinex2014ofa;of a commander.—of treaties.

The last topic which it may be necessary to examine as to the subject of war, is the conduct it becomes us to observe respecting it in a time of peace. This article may be distributed into two heads, military establishments and treaties of alliance.

A country may look for its defence either to a standing army or an universal militia. If military establishments in time of peace be judged proper, their purpose may be effected either by consigning the practice of military discipline to a certain part of the community, or by making every man whose age is suitable for that purpose a soldier.

The former condemned. The preferableness of the latter of these methods to the former [535] is obvious. The man that is merely a soldier, must always be uncommonly depraved. War in his case inevitably degenerates from the necessary precautions of a personal defence, into a trade by which a man sells his skill in murder and the safety of his existence for a pecuniary recompense. The man that is merely a soldier, ceases to be, in the same sense as his neighbours, a citizen. He is cut off from the rest of the community, and has sentiments and a rule of judgment peculiar to himself. He considers his countrymen as indebted to him for their security; and, by an unavoidable transition of reasoning, believes that in a double sense they are at his mercy. On the other hand that every citizen should exercise in his turn the functions of a soldier, seems peculiarly favourable to that confidence in himself and in the resources of his country, which it is so desirable he should entertain. It is congenial to that equality, which must subsist in an eminent degree before mankind in general can be either virtuous or wise. And it seems to multiply the powers of defence in a country, so as to render the idea of its falling under the yoke of an enemy in the utmost degree improbable.

There are reasons however that oblige us to doubt respectingThe latter objected to as of immoral tendency: the propriety of cultivating under any form the system of military discipline in time of peace. It is in this respect with nations as it is with individuals. The man that with a pistol bullet is sure of his mark, or that excels his contemporaries in the exercise of the sword, can hardly escape those obliquities of understanding [536] which these accomplishments are calculated to nourish. It is not to be expected that he should entertain all that confidence in reason and distaste of violence which severe truth prescribes. It is beyond all controversy that war, though the practice of it under the present state of the human species may in some instances be unavoidable, is an idea pregnant with calamity and vice. It cannot be a matter of indifference, for the human mind to be systematically familiarised to thoughts of murder and desolation. The disciple of mere reason would not fail at the sight of a musket or a sword to be impressed with sentiments of abhorrence. Why expel these sentiments? Why connect the discipline of death with ideas of festivity and splendour; which will inevitably happen, if the citizens, without oppression, are accustomed to be drawn out to encampments and reviews? Is it possible that he who has not learned to murder his neighbour with a grace, is imperfect in the trade of man?

If it be replied, “that the generating of error is not inseparable from military discipline, and that men may at some time be sufficiently guarded against the abuse, even while they are taught the use of arms;” it will be found upon reflection that this argument is of little weight. Though error be not unalterably connected with the science of arms, it will for a long time remain so. When men are sufficiently improved to be able to handle familiarly and with application of mind the instruments of death without injury, they will also be sufficiently improved to be able [537] to master any study with much greater facility than at present, and consequently the cultivation of the art military in time of peace will have still fewer inducements to recommend it to our choice.—To apply these considerations to the present situation of mankind.

We have already seen that the system of a standing army isas unnecessary: altogether indefensible, and that an universal militia is a much more formidable defence, as well as infinitely more agreeable to the principles of justice and political happiness. It remains to be seen what would be the real situation of a nation surrounded by other nations in the midst of which standing armies were maintained, which should nevertheless upon principle wholly neglect the art military in seasons of peace. In such a nation it will probably be admitted, that, so far as relates to mere numbers, an army may be raised upon the spur of occasion, nearly as soon as in a nation the citizens of which had been taught to be soldiers. But this army, though numerous, would be in want of many of those principles of combination and activity which are of material importance in a day of battle. There is indeed included ineither in respect to courage: the supposition, that the internal state of this people is more equal and free than that of the people by whom they are invaded. This will infallibly be the case in a comparison between a people with a standing army and a people without one; between a people who can be brought blindly and wickedly to the invasion of their peaceful neighbours, and a people who will not be induced to [538] fight but in their own defence. The latter therefore will be obliged to compare the state of society and government in their own country and among their neighbours, and will not fail to be impressed with great ardour in defence of the inestimable advantages they possess. Ardour, even in the day of battle, might prove sufficient. A body of men, however undisciplined, whom nothing could induce to quit the field, would infallibly be victorious over their veteran adversaries, who, under the circumstances of the case, could not possibly have an accurate conception of the object for which they were fighting, and therefore could not entertain an invincible love for it. It is not certain that activity and discipline opposed to ardour, have even a tendency to turn the balance of slaughter against the party that wants them. Their great advantage consists in their power over the imagination to astonish, to terrify and confound. An intrepid courage in the party thus assailed would soon convert them from sources of despair into objects of contempt.

or discipline. But it would be extremely unwise in us to have no other resource but in the chance of this intrepidity. A resource much surer and more agreeable to justice is in recollecting that the war of which we treat is a war of defence. Battle is not the object of such a war. An army, which, like that of Fabius, by keeping on the hills, or by whatever other means, rendered it impracticable for the enemy to force them to an engagement, might look with scorn upon his impotent efforts to enslave the [539] country. One advantage included in such a system of war is, that, as its very essence is protraction, the defending army might in a short time be rendered as skilful as the assailants. Discipline, like every other art, has been represented by vain and interested men as surrounded with imaginary difficulties, but is in reality exceedingly simple; and would be learned much more effectually in the midst of real war than in the puppet show exhibitions of a period of peace.

It is desirable indeed that we should have a commander of considerableOf a commander. skill, or rather of considerable wisdom, to reduce this patient and indefatigable system into practice. This is of much more importance than the mere discipline of the ranks. But the nature of military wisdom has been greatly misrepresented. Experience in this, as well as in other arts, has been unreasonably magnified, and the general power of a cultivated mind been thrown into shade. It will probably be no long time before this quackery of professional men will be thoroughly exploded. How perpetually do we meet with those whom experience finds incorrigible; while it is recorded of one of the greatest generals of antiquity, that he set out for his appointment wholly unacquainted with his art, and was indebted for that skill, which broke out immediately upon his arrival, to the assiduousness of his enquiries, and a careful examination of those writers by whom the art had most successfully been illustrated [*]? At all events it will be admitted, [540] that the maintenance of a standing army or the perpetual discipline of a nation is a very dear price to pay for the purchase of a general, as well as that the purchase would be extremely precarious, if we were even persuaded to consent to the condition. It may perhaps be true, though this is not altogether clear, that a nation by whom military discipline was wholly neglected would be exposed to some disadvantage. In that case it becomes us to weigh the neglect and cultivation together, and to cast the balance on that side to which upon mature examination it shall appear to belong.

Of treaties. A second article which belongs to the military system in a season of peace is that of treaties of alliance. This subject may easily be dispatched. Treaties of alliance are in all cases wrong, in the first place, because all absolute promises are wrong, and neither individuals nor bodies of men ought to preclude themselves from the benefit of future improvement and deliberation. Secondly, they are wrong, because they are in all cases nugatory. Governments, and public men, will not, and ought not to hold themselves bound to the injury of the concerns they conduct, because a parchment, to which they or their predecessors were a party, requires it at their hands. If the concert demanded in time of need, approve itself to their judgment or correspond with their inclination, it will be yielded, though they were under no previous engagement for that purpose. Treaties of alliance serve to no other end, than to exhibit by their violation an appearance [541] of profligacy and vice, which unfortunately becomes too often a powerful encouragement to the inconsistency of individuals. Add to this, that, if alliances were engines as powerful, as they are really impotent, they could seldom be of use to a nation uniformly adhering to the principles of justice. They would be useless, because they are in reality ill calculated for any other purposes than those of ambition. They might be pernicious, because it would be beneficial for nations as for individuals to look for resources at home, instead of depending upon the precarious compassion of their neighbours.




external affairs are of subordinate consideration.—application.—farther objections to democracy—i. it is incompatible with secrecy—this proved to be an excellence—2. its movements are too slow—3. tooprecipitatex20—evils of anarchy considered.

External affairs are of subordinate consideration. Having thus endeavoured to reduce the subject of war to its true principles, it is time that we should recur to the maxim delivered at our entrance upon this subject, that individuals are every thing, and society, abstracted from the individuals of which it is composed, nothing. An immediate consequence of this maxim is, that the internal affairs of the society are entitled to our principal attention, and the external are matters of inferior and subordinate consideration. The internal affairs are subjects of perpetual and hourly concern, the external are periodical and precarious only. That every man should be impressed with the consciousness of his independence, and rescued from the influence of extreme want and artificial [543] desires, are purposes the most interesting that can suggest themselves to the human mind; but the life of man might pass, in a state uncorrupted by ideal passions, without its tranquillity being so much as once disturbed by foreign invasions. The influence that a certain number of millions, born under the same climate with ourselves, and known by the common appellation of English or French, shall possess over the administrative councils of their neighbour millions, is a circumstance of much too airy and distant consideration, to deserve to be made a principal object in the institutions of any people. The best influence we can exert is that of a sage and upright example.

If therefore it should appear that of these two articles, internalApplication. and external affairs, one must in some degree be sacrificed to the other, and that a democracy will in certain respects be less fitted for the affairs of war than some other species of government, good sense would not hesitate between these alternatives. We should have sufficient reason to be satisfied, if, together with the benefits of justice and virtue at home, we had no reason to despair of our safety from abroad. A confidence in this article will seldom deceive us, if our countrymen, however little trained to formal rules and the uniformity of mechanism, have studied the profession of man, understand his attributes and his nature, and have their necks unbroken to the yoke of blind credulity and abject submission. Such men, inured, as we are now supposing them, to a rational state of society, will be full of calm confidence [544] and penetrating activity, and these qualities will stand them in stead of a thousand lessons in the school of military mechanism. If democracy can be proved adequate to wars of defence, and other governments be better fitted for wars of a different sort, this would be an argument, not of its imperfection, but its merit.

Farther objections to democracy: 1. it is incompatible with secrecy: It has been one of the objections to the ability of a democracy in war, “that it cannot keep secrets. The legislative assembly, whether it possess the initiative, or a power of control only, in executive affairs, will be perpetually calling for papers, plans and information, cross examining ministers, and sifting the policy and the justice of public undertakings. How shall we be able to cope with an enemy, if he know precisely the points we mean to attack, the state of our fortifications, and the strength and weakness of our armies? How shall we manage our treaties with skill and address, if he be informed precisely of the sentiments of our mind and have access to the instructions of our ambassadors?”

this proved to be an excellence: It happens in this instance, that that which the objection attacks as the vice of democracy, is one of its most essential excellencies. The trick of a mysterious carriage is the prolific parent of every vice; and it is an eminent advantage incident to democracy, that, though the proclivity of mind has hitherto reconciled this species of administration in some degree to the keeping of secrets, yet [545] its inherent tendency is to annihilate them. Why should disingenuity and concealment be more virtuous or more beneficial in nations than in individuals? Why should that, which every man of an elevated mind would disdain in his personal character, be entitled to more lenity and toleration, if undertaken by him as a minister of state? Who is there that sees not, that this inextricable labyrinth was artfully invented, lest the people should understand their own affairs, and, understanding, become inclined to conduct them? With respect to treaties, it is to be suspected that they are in all instances superfluous. But, if public engagements ought to be entered into, what essential difference is there between the governments of two countries endeavouring to overreach each other, and the buyer and seller in any private transaction adopting a similar proceeding?

This whole system proceeds upon the idea of national grandeur and glory, as if in reality these words had any specific meaning. These contemptible objects, these airy names, have from the earliest page of history been made the ostensible colour for the most pernicious undertakings. Let us take a specimen of their value from the most innocent and laudable pursuits. If I aspire to be a great poet, a great historian, so far as I am influenced by the dictates of reason, it is that I may be useful to mankind, and not that I may do honour to my country. Is Newton the better because he was an Englishman, or Galileo the worse because he was an Italian? Who can endure to put this high [546] sounding nonsense in the balance against the best interests of mankind, which will always suffer a mortal wound, when dexterity, artifice and concealment are made topics of admiration and applause? The understanding and the virtues of mankind will always keep pace with the manly simplicity of their designs and the undisguised integrity of their hearts.

2. its movements are too slow: It has farther been objected to a democratical state in its transactions with foreign powers, “that it is incapable of those rapid and decisive proceedings, which in some situations have so eminent a tendency to ensure success.” If by this objection it be understood that a democratical state is ill fitted for dexterity and surprise, the rapidity of an assassin, it has already received a sufficient answer. If it be meant that the regularity of its proceedings may ill accord with the impatience of a neighbouring despot, and, like the Jews of old, we desire a king “that we may be like the other nations,” this is a very unreasonable requisition. A just and impartial reasoner will be little desirous to see his country figure high in the diplomatical roll, deeply involved in the intrigues of nations, and assiduously courted by foreign princes as the instrument of their purposes. A more groundless and absurd passion cannot seize upon any people than that of glory, the preferring their influence in the affairs of Europe to their internal happiness and virtue, for these objects will perpetually counteract and clash with each other.


But democracy is by no means necessarily of a phlegmatic character, or obliged to take every proposition that is made to it, ad referendum, for the consideration of certain primary assemblies, like the states of Holland. The first principle in the institution of government itself, is the necessity, under the present imperfections of mankind, of having some man or body of men to act on the part of the whole. Wherever government subsists, the authority of the individual must be in some degree superseded. It does not therefore seem unreasonable for a representative national assembly to exercise in certain cases a discretionary power. Those privileges, which are vested in individuals selected out of the mass by the voice of their fellows, and who will speedily return to a private station, are by no means liable to the same objections, as the exclusive and unaccommodating privileges of an aristocracy. Representation, together with many disadvantages, has this benefit, that it is able impartially and with discernment to call upon the most enlightened part of the nation to deliberate for the whole, and may thus generate a degree of wisdom, a refined penetration of sentiment, which it would have been unreasonable to expect as the result of primary assemblies.

A third objection more frequently offered against democratical3. too precipitate. government is, “that it is incapable of that mature and deliberate proceeding which is alone suitable to the decision of such important concerns. Multitudes of men have appeared subject [548] to fits of occasional insanity: they act from the influence of rage, suspicion and despair: they are liable to be hurried into the most unjustifiable extremes by the artful practices of an impostor.” One of the most obvious answers to this objection is, that we must not judge of a sovereign people by the example of the rude multitude in despotic states. We must not judge of men born to the exercise of rational functions, by the example of men rendered mad with oppression, and drunk with the acquisition of new born power. Another answer is, that for all men to share the privileges of all is the law of our nature and the dictate of justice. The case in this instance is parallel to that of an individual in his private concerns. It is true that, while each man is master of his own affairs, he is liable to all the starts of passion. He is attacked by the allurements of temptation and the tempest of rage, and may be guilty of the most fatal errors, before reflection and judgment come forward to his aid. But this is no sufficient reason for depriving men of the direction of their own concerns. We should endeavour to make them wise, and not to make them slaves. The depriving men of their self-government is in the first place unjust, while in the second this self-government, imperfect as it is, will be found more salutary than any thing that can be substituted in its place.

Evils of anarchy considered. The nature of anarchy has never been sufficiently understood. It is undoubtedly a horrible calamity, but it is less horrible than despotism. Where anarchy has slain its hundreds, despotism has [549] sacrificed millions upon millions, with this only effect, to perpetuate the ignorance, the vices and the misery of mankind. Anarchy is a short lived mischief, while despotism is all but immortal. It is unquestionably a dreadful remedy, for the people to yield to all their furious passions, till the spectacle of their effects gives strength to recovering reason: but, though it be a dreadful remedy, it is a sure one. No idea can be supposed, more pregnant with absurdity, than that of a whole people taking arms against each other till they are all exterminated. It is to despotism that anarchy is indebted for its sting. If despotism were not ever watchful for its prey, and mercilessly prepared to take advantage of the errors of mankind, this ferment, like so many others, being left to itself, would subside into an even, clear and delightful calm. Reason is at all times progressive. Nothing can give permanence to error, that does not convert it into an establishment, and arm it with powers to resist an invasion.




houses of assembly.—this institution unjust.—deliberate proceeding the proper antidote.—separation of legislative and executive power considered.—superior importance of the latter.—functions of ministers.

Houses of assembly. One of the articles which has been most eagerly insisted on by the advocates of complexity in political institutions, is that of “checks, by which a rash proceeding may be prevented, and the provisions under which mankind have hitherto lived with tranquillity, may not be reversed without mature deliberation.” We will suppose that the evils of monarchy and aristocracy are by this time too notorious to incline the speculative enquirer to seek for a remedy in either of these. “Yet it is possible, without the institution of privileged orders, to find means that may answer a similar purpose in this respect. The representatives of the people may be distributed for example into two assemblies; they may be chosen with this particular view to constitute an upper and a lower house, and may be distinguished from each other, either by various qualifications of age or fortune, or by [551] being chosen by a greater or smaller number of electors, or for a shorter or longer term.”

To every inconvenience that experience can produce or imaginationThis institution unjust. suggest there is probably an appropriate remedy. This remedy may either be sought in the dictates of reason or in artificial combinations encroaching upon those dictates. Which are we to prefer? There is no doubt that the institution of two houses of assembly is contrary to the primary dictates of reason and justice. How shall a nation be governed? Agreeably to the opinions of its inhabitants, or in opposition to them? Agreeably to them undoubtedly. Not, as we cannot too often repeat, because their opinion is a standard of truth, but because, however erroneous that opinion may be, we can do no better. There is no effectual way of improving the institutions of any people, but by enlightening their understandings. He that endeavours to maintain the authority of any sentiment, not by argument, but by force, may intend a benefit, but really inflicts an extreme injury. To suppose that truth can be instilled through any medium but that of its intrinsic evidence, is the most flagrant of all errors. He that believes the most fundamental proposition through the influence of authority, does not believe a truth, but a falshood. The proposition itself he does not understand, for thoroughly to understand it, is to perceive the degree of evidence with which it is accompanied; thoroughly to understand; it is to know the full meaning of its terms, and, by necessary consequence, to perceive [552] in what respects they agree or disagree with each other. All that he believes is, that it is very proper he should submit to usurpation and injustice.

It was imputed to the late government of France, that, when they called an assembly of notables in 1787, they contrived, by dividing the assembly into seven distinct corps, and not allowing them to vote otherwise than in these corps, that the vote of fifty persons should be capable of operating as if they were a majority in an assembly of one hundred and forty-four. It would have been still worse, if it had been ordained that no measure should be considered as the measure of the assembly, unless it were adopted by the unanimous voice of all the corps: eleven persons might then, in voting a negative, have operated as a majority of one hundred and forty-four. This may serve as a specimen of the effects of distributing a representative national assembly into two or more houses. Nor should we suffer ourselves to be deceived under the pretence of the innocence of a negative in comparison with an affirmative. In a country in which universal truth was already established, there would be little need of a representative assembly. In a country into whose institutions error has insinuated itself, a negative upon the repeal of those errors is the real affirmative.

The institution of two houses of assembly is the direct method to divide a nation against itself. One of these houses will in a [553] greater or less degree be the asylum of usurpation, monopoly and privilege. Parties would expire as soon as they were born, in a country where opposition of sentiments and a struggle of interests were not allowed to assume the formalities of distinct institution.

Meanwhile a species of check perfectly simple, and which appearsDeliberate proceeding the proper antidote. sufficiently adequate to the purpose, suggests itself in the idea of a slow and deliberate proceeding which the representative assembly should prescribe to itself. Perhaps no proceeding of this assembly should have the force of a general regulation till it had undergone five or six successive discussions in the assembly, or till the expiration of one month from the period of its being proposed. Something like this is the order of the English house of commons, nor does it appear to be by any means among the worst features of our constitution. A system like this would be sufficiently analogous to the proceedings of a wise individual, who certainly would not wish to determine upon the most important concerns of his life without a severe examination, and still less would omit this examination, if his decision were destined to be a rule for the conduct and a criterion to determine upon the rectitude of other men.

Perhaps, as we have said, this slow and gradual proceeding ought in no instance to be dispensed with by the national representative assembly. This seems to be the true line between the [554] functions of the assembly and its ministers. It would give a character of gravity and good sense to this central authority, that would tend eminently to fix the confidence of the citizens in its wisdom and justice. The mere votes of the assembly, as distinguished from its acts and decrees, might serve as an encouragement to the public functionaries, and as affording a certain degree of hope respecting the speedy cure of those evils of which the public might complain; but they should never be allowed to be pleaded as the legal justification of any action. A precaution like this would not only tend to prevent the fatal consequences of any precipitate judgment of the assembly within itself, but of tumult and disorder from without. An artful demagogue would find it much more easy to work up the people into a fit of momentary insanity, than to retain them in it for a month in opposition to the efforts of their real friends to undeceive them. Meanwhile the consent of the assembly to take their demand into consideration might reasonably be expected to moderate their violence.

Separation of legislative and executive power considered. Scarcely any plausible argument can be adduced in favour of what has been denominated by political writers a division of powers. Nothing can seem less reasonable, than to prescribe any positive limits to the topics of deliberation in an assembly adequately representing the people; or peremptorily to forbid them the exercise of functions, the depositaries of which are placed under their inspection and censure. Perhaps upon any emergence, [555] totally unforeseen at the time of their election, and uncommonly important, they would prove their wisdom by calling upon the people to elect a new assembly with a direct view to that emergence. But the emergence, as we shall have occasion more fully to observe in the sequel, cannot with any propriety be prejudged, and a rule laid down for their conduct by a body prior to or distinct from themselves. The distinction of legislative and executive powers, however intelligible in theory, will by no means authorise their separation in practice.

Legislation, that is, the authoritative enunciation of abstract orSuperior importance of the latter. general propositions, is a function of equivocal nature, and will never be exercised in a pure state of society, or a state approaching to purity, but with great caution and unwillingness. It is the most absolute of the functions of government, and government itself is a remedy that inevitably brings its own evils along with it. Administration on the other hand is a principle of perpetual application. So long as men shall see reason to act in a corporate capacity, they will always have occasions of temporary emergency for which to provide. In proportion as they advance in social improvement, executive power will, comparatively speaking, become every thing, and legislative nothing. Even at present, can there be any articles of greater importance than those of peace and war, taxation, and the selection of proper periods for the meeting of deliberative assemblies, which, as was observed in the commencement of the present book, are articles of temporary [556] regulation [*]? Is it decent, can it be just, that these prerogatives should be exercised by any power less than the supreme, or be decided by any authority but that which most adequately represents the voice of the nation? This principle ought beyond question to be extended universally. There can be no just reason for excluding the national representative from the exercise of any function, the exercise of which on the part of the society is at all necessary.

Functions of ministers. The functions therefore of ministers and magistrates commonly so called, do not relate to any particular topic, respecting which they have a right exclusive of the representative assembly. They do not relate to any supposed necessity for secrecy; for secrets are always pernicious, and, most of all, secrets relating to the interests of any society, which are to be concealed from the members of that society. It is the duty of the assembly to desire information without reserve for themselves and the public upon every subject of general importance, and it is the duty of ministers and others to communicate such information, though it should not be expressly desired. The utility therefore of ministerial functions being less than nothing in these respects, there are only two classes of utility that remain to them; particular functions, such as those of financial detail or minute superintendence, which cannot be exercised unless by one or at most by a small number of persons []; [557] and measures, proportioned to the demand of those necessities which will not admit of delay, and subject to the revision and censure of the deliberative assembly. The latter of these classes will perpetually diminish as men advance in improvement; nor can any thing be of greater importance than the reduction of that discretionary power in an individual, which may greatly affect the interests or fetter the deliberations of the many.




quantity of administration necessary to be maintained.—objects of administration: national glory—rivalship of nations.—inferences: i. complication of government unnecessary—2. extensive territory superfluous—3. constraint, its limitations.—project of government: police—defence.

Quantity of administration necessary to be maintained. We have now endeavoured to deduce certaingeneral principles upon most of the subjects of legislativeand executive power. But there is one very importanttopic which remains to be discussed. How much of eitherof these powers does the benefit of society requireus to maintain?

Objects of administration: national glory: We have already seen that the only legitimate object of political institution is the advantage of individuals. All that cannot be brought home to them, national wealth, prosperity and glory, can be advantageous only to those self interested impostors, who, from the earliest accounts of time, have confounded the understandings [559] of mankind the more securely to sink them in debasement and misery.

The desire to gain a more extensive territory, to conquer orrivalship of nations. to hold in awe our neighbouring states, to surpass them in arts or arms, is a desire founded in prejudice and error. Power is not happiness. Security and peace are more to be desired than a name at which nations tremble. Mankind are brethren. We associate in a particular district or under a particular climate, because association is necessary to our internal tranquillity, or to defend us against the wanton attacks of a common enemy. But the rivalship of nations is a creature of the imagination. If riches be our object, riches can only be created by commerce; and the greater is our neighbour's capacity to buy, the greater will be our opportunity to sell. The prosperity of all is the interest of all.

The more accurately we understand our own advantage, the less shall we be disposed to disturb the peace of our neighbour. The same principle is applicable to him in return. It becomes us therefore to desire that he may be wise. But wisdom is the growth of equality and independence, not of injury and oppression. If oppression had been the school of wisdom, the improvement of mankind would have been inestimable, for they have been in that school for many thousand years. We ought therefore to desire that our neighbour should be independent. We [560] ought to desire that he should be free; for wars do not originate in the unbiassed propensities of nations, but in the cabals of government and the propensities that governments inspire into the people at large. If our neighbour invade our territory, all we should desire is to repel him from it; and for that purpose it is not necessary we should surpass him in prowess, since upon our own ground his match is unequal. Not to say that to conceive a nation attacked by another, so long as its own conduct is sober, equitable and moderate, is an exceedingly improbable supposition.

Where nations are not brought into avowed hostility, all jealousy between them is an unintelligible chimera. I reside upon a certain spot, because that residence is most conducive to my happiness or usefulness. I am interested in the political justice and virtue of my species, because they are men, that is, creatures eminently capable of justice and virtue; and I have perhaps additional reason to interest myself for those who live under the same government as myself, because I am better qualified to understand their claims, and more capable of exerting myself in their behalf. But I can certainly have no interest in the infliction of pain upon others, unless so far as they are expressly engaged in acts of injustice. The object of sound policy and morality is to draw men nearer to each other, not to separate them; to unite their interests, not to oppose them.


Individuals cannot have too frequent or unlimited intercourseInferences: 1. complication of government unnecessary: with each other; but societies of men have no interests to explain and adjust, except so far as error and violence may render explanation necessary. This consideration annihilates at once the principal objects of that mysterious and crooked policy which has hitherto occupied the attention of governments. Before this principle officers of the army and the navy, ambassadors and negociators, and all the train of artifices that has been invented to hold other nations at bay, to penetrate their secrets, to traverse their machinations, to form alliances and counter alliances, sink into nothing. The expence of government is annihilated, and together with its expence the means of subduing and undermining the determination of its subjects.

Another of the great opprobriums of political science is at the2. extensive territory superfluous. same time completely removed, that extent of territory subject to one head, respecting which philosophers and moralists have alternately disputed whether it be most unfit for a monarchy or for a democratical government. The appearance which mankind in a future state of improvement may be expected to assume, is a policy that in different countries will wear a similar form, because we have all the same faculties and the same wants; but a policy the independent branches of which will extend their authority over a small territory, because neighbours are best informed of each other's concerns, and are perfectly equal to their adjustment. No recommendation can be [562] imagined of an extensive rather than a limited territory, except that of external security.

Whatever evils are included in the abstract idea of government, are all of them extremely aggravated by the extensiveness of its jurisdiction, and softened under circumstances of an opposite species. Ambition, which may be no less formidable than a pestilence in the former, has no room to unfold itself in the latter. Popular commotion is like the waves of the sea, capable where the surface is large of producing the most tragical effects, but mild and innocuous when confined within the circuit of an humble lake. Sobriety and equity are the obvious characteristics of a limited circle.

It may indeed be objected, “that great talents are the offspring of great passions, and that in the quiet mediocrity of a petty republic the powers of intellect may be expected to subside into inactivity.” This objection, if true, would be entitled to the most serious consideration. But it is to be considered that, upon the hypothesis here advanced, the whole human species would constitute in one sense one great republic, and the prospects of him who desired to act beneficially upon a great surface of mind, would become more animating than ever. During the period in which this state was growing but not yet complete, the comparison of the blessings we enjoyed with the iniquities practising [563] among our neighbours would afford an additional stimulus to exertion [*].

Ambition and tumult are evils that arise out of government in3. constraint, its limitations. an indirect manner, in consequence of the habits which government introduces of material action extending itself over multitudes of men. There are other evils inseparable from its existence. The objects of government are the suppression of violence, either external or internal, which might otherwise destroy or bring into jeopardy the well being of the community or its members; and the means it employs is violence of a more regulated kind. For this purpose the concentration of individual forces becomes necessary, and the method in which this concentration is usually obtained, is also constraint. The evils of constraint have been considered on a former occasion []. Constraint employed against delinquents or persons to whom delinquency is imputed, is by no means without its mischiefs. Constraint employed by the majority of a society against the minority who may differ from them upon some question of public good, is calculated at first sight at least to excite a still greater disapprobation.

Both of these exertions may indeed appear to rest upon the same principle. Vice is unquestionably no more than error of [564] judgment, and nothing can justify an attempt to correct it by force but the extreme necessity of the case [*]. The minority, if erroneous, fall under precisely the same general description, though their error may not be of equal magnitude. But the necessity of the case can seldom be equally impressive. If the idea of secession for example were somewhat more familiarised to the conceptions of mankind, it could seldom happen that the secession of the minority could in any degree compare in mischievous tendency with the hostility of a criminal offending against the most obvious principles of social justice. The cases are parallel to those of offensive and defensive war. In putting constraint upon a minority, we yield to a suspicious temper that tells us the opposing party may hereafter in some way injure us, and we will anticipate his injury. In putting constraint upon a criminal, we seem to repel an enemy who has entered our territory and refuses to quit it.

Project of government: police: Government can have no more than two legitimate purposes, the suppression of injustice against individuals within the community, and the common defence against external invasion. The first of these purposes, which alone can have an uninterrupted claim upon us, is sufficiently answered by an association of such an extent as to afford room for the institution of a jury, to decide upon the offences of individuals within the community, and upon the questions and controversies respecting property which may [565] chance to arise. It might be easy indeed for an offender to escape from the limits of so petty a jurisdiction; and it might seem necessary at first that the neighbouring parishes or jurisdictions should be governed in a similar manner, or at least should be willing, whatever was their form of government, to co-operate with us in the removal or reformation of an offender, whose present habits were alike injurious to us and to them. But there will be no need of any express compact, and still less of any common centre of authority, for this purpose. General justice and mutual interest are found more capable of binding men than signatures and seals. In the mean time all necessity for causing the punishment of the crime to pursue the criminal, would soon at least cease, if it ever existed. The motives to offence would become rare: its aggravations few: and rigour superfluous. The principal object of punishment is restraint upon a dangerous member of the community; and the end of this restraint would be answered, by the general inspection that is exercised by the members of a limited circle over the conduct of each other, and by the gravity and good sense that would characterise the censures of men, from whom all mystery and empiricism were banished. No individual would be hardy enough in the cause of vice, to defy the general consent of sober judgment that would surround him. It would carry despair to his mind, or, which is better, it would carry conviction. He would be obliged, by a force not less irresistible than whips and chains, to reform his conduct.


defence. In this sketch is contained the rude outline of political government. Controversies between parish and parish would be in an eminent degree unreasonable, since, if any question arose, about limits for example, justice would presently teach us that the individual who cultivates any portion of land, is the properest person to decide to which district he would belong. No association of men, so long as they adhered to the principles of reason, could possibly have any interest in extending their territory. If we would produce attachment in our associates, we can adopt no surer method than that of practising the dictates of equity and moderation; and, if this failed in any instance, it could only fail with him who, to whatever society he belonged, would prove an unworthy member. The duty of any society to punish offenders is not dependent upon the hypothetical consent of the offender to be punished, but upon the duty of necessary defence.

But however irrational might be the controversy of parish with parish in such a state of society, it would not be the less possible. For such extraordinary emergencies therefore provision ought to be made. These emergencies are similar in their nature to those of foreign invasion. They can only be provided against by the concert of several districts, declaring and, if needful, inforcing the dictates of justice.

One of the most obvious remarks that suggests itself upon [567] these two cases, of hostility between district and district, and of foreign invasion which the interest of all calls upon them jointly to repel, is, that it is their nature to be only of occasional recurrence, and that therefore the provisions to be made respecting them need not be in the strictest sense of perpetual operation. In other words, the permanence of a national assembly, as it has hitherto been practised in France, cannot be necessary in a period of tranquillity, and may perhaps be pernicious. That we may form a more accurate judgment of this, let us recollect some of the principal features that enter into the constitution of a national assembly.




they produce a fictitious unanimity—an unnatural uniformity of opinion.—causes of this uniformity.—consequences of the mode of decision by vote—1. perversion of reason—2. contentious disputes—3. the triumph of ignoranceandvicex2014societyincapableofactingfromitselfx2014ofbeingwellconductedbyothersx2014conclusionx2014modificationofsion.—modification of democracy that results from these considerations.

I They produce a fictitious unanimity: In the first place the existence of a national assembly introduces the evils of a fictitious unanimity. The public, guided by such an assembly, acts with concert, or else the assembly is a nugatory excrescence. But it is impossible that this unanimity can really exist. The individuals who constitute a nation, cannot take into consideration a variety of important questions, without forming different sentiments respecting them. In reality all matters that are brought before such an assembly are decided by a majority of votes, and the minority, after having exposed with all the power of eloquence and force of reasoning of which they are [569] capable the injustice and folly of the measures adopted, are obliged in a certain sense to assist in carrying them into execution. Nothing can more directly contribute to the depravation of the human understanding and character. It inevitably renders mankind timid, dissembling and corrupt. He that is not accustomed exclusively to act upon the dictates of his own understanding, must fall infinitely short of that energy and simplicity of which our nature is capable. He that contributes his personal exertions or his property to the support of a cause which he believes to be unjust, will quickly lose that accurate discrimination and nice sensibility of moral rectitude which are the principal ornaments of reason.

Secondly, the existence of national councils produces a certainan unnatural uniformity of opinions. species of real unanimity, unnatural in its character, and pernicious in its effects. The genuine and wholsome state of mind is, to be unloosed from shackles, and to expand every fibre of its frame according to the independent and individual impressions of truth upon that mind. How great would be the progress of intellectual improvement, if men were unfettered by the prejudices of education, unseduced by the influence of a corrupt state of society, and accustomed to yield without fear to the guidance of truth, however unexplored might be the regions and unexpected the conclusions to which she conducted us? We cannot advance in the voyage of happiness, unless we be wholly at large upon the stream that would carry us thither: the anchor, that we at first looked upon as the instrument of our safety, will [570] at last appear to be the means of detaining our progress. Unanimity of a certain species will be the result of perfect freedom of enquiry, and this unanimity would, in a state of perfect freedom, become hourly more conspicuous. But the unanimity, that results from men's having a visible standard by which to adjust their sentiments, is deceitful and pernicious.

Causes of this uniformity. In numerous assemblies a thousand motives influence our judgments, independently of reason and evidence. Every man looks forward to the effects which the opinions he avows will produce on his success. Every man connects himself with some sect or party. The activity of his thought is shackled at every turn by the fear that his associates may disclaim him. This effect is strikingly visible in the present state of the British parliament, where men, whose faculties are comprehensive almost beyond all former example, are induced by these motives sincerely to espouse the most contemptible and clearly exploded errors.

Consequences of the mode of decision by vote: 1. perversion of reason: Thirdly, the debates of a national assembly are distorted from their reasonable tenour by the necessity of their being uniformly terminated by a vote. Debate and discussion are in their own nature highly conducive to intellectual improvement; but they lose this salutary character the moment they are subjected to this unfortunate condition. What can be more unreasonable, than to demand, that argument, the usual quality of which is gradually and imperceptibly to enlighten the mind, should declare its [571] effect in the close of a single conversation? No sooner does this circumstance occur than the whole scene changes its character. The orator no longer enquires after permanent conviction, but transitory effect. He seeks rather to take advantage of our prejudices than to enlighten our judgment. That which might otherwise have been a scene of philosophic and moral enquiry, is changed into wrangling, tumult and precipitation.

Another circumstance that arises out of the decision by vote,2. contentious disputes: is the necessity of constructing a form of words that shall best meet the sentiments and be adapted to the preconceived ideas of a multitude of men. What can be conceived of at once more ludicrous and disgraceful, than the spectacle of a set of rational beings employed for hours together in weighing particles and adjusting commas? Such is the scene that is perpetually witnessed in clubs and private societies. In parliaments this sort of business is usually adjusted before the measure becomes a subject of public inspection. But it does not the less exist; and sometimes it occurs in the other mode, so that, when numerous amendments have been made to suit the corrupt interest of imperious pretenders, the Herculean task remains at last to reduce the chaos into a grammatical and intelligible form.

The whole is then wound up with that intolerable insult upon3. the triumph of ignorance and vice. all reason and justice, the deciding upon truth by the casting up of numbers. Thus every thing that we have been accustomed [572] to esteem most sacred, is determined, at best by the weakest heads in the assembly, but, as it not less frequently happens, by the most corrupt and dishonourable intentions.

Society incapable of acting from itself: In the last place, national assemblies will by no means be thought to deserve our direct approbation, if we recollect for a moment the absurdity of that fiction by which society is considered, as it has been termed, as a moral individual. It is in vain that we endeavour to counteract the immutable laws of necessity. A multitude of men after all our ingenuity will still remain no more than a multitude of men. Nothing can intellectually unite them short of equal capacity and identical perception. So long as the varieties of mind shall remain, the force of society can no otherwise be concentrated, than by one man for a shorter or a longer term taking the lead of the rest, and employing their force, whether material or dependent on the weight of their character, in a mechanical manner, just as he would employ the force of a tool or a machine. All government corresponds in a certain degree to what the Greeks denominated a tyranny. The difference is, that in despotic countries mind is depressed by an uniform usurpation; while in republics it preserves a greater portion of its activity, and the usurpation more easily conforms itself to the fluctuations of opinion.

of being well conducted by others. The pretence of collective wisdom is the most palpable of all impostures. The acts of the society can never rise above the [573] suggestions of this or that individual who is a member of it. Let us enquire whether society, considered as an agent, can really become the equal of certain individuals of whom it is composed. And here, without staying to examine what ground we have to expect that the wisest member of the society will actually take the lead in it, we find two obvious reasons to persuade us that, whatever be the degree of wisdom inherent in him that really superintends, the acts which he performs in the name of the society will be both less virtuous and less able, than under other circumstances they might be expected to be. In the first place, there are few men who, with the consciousness of being able to cover their responsibility under the name of a society, will not venture upon measures, less direct in their motives, or less justifiable in the experiment, than they would have chosen to adopt in their own persons. Secondly, men who act under the name of a society, are deprived of that activity and energy which may belong to them in their individual character. They have a multitude of followers to draw after them, whose humours they must consult, and to whose slowness of apprehension they must accommodate themselves. It is for this reason that we frequently see men of the most elevated genius dwindle into vulgar leaders, when they become involved in the busy scenes of public life.

From these reasonings we are sufficiently authorised to conclude,Conclusion. that national assemblies, or in other words assemblies instituted for the joint purpose of adjusting the differences [574] between district and district, and of consulting respecting the best mode of repelling foreign invasion, however necessary to be had recourse to upon certain occasions, ought to be employed as sparingly as the nature of the case will admit. They should either never be elected but upon extraordinary emergencies, like the dictator of the ancient Romans, or else sit periodically, one day for example in a year, with a power of continuing their sessions within a certain limit; to hear the complaints and representations of their constituents. The former of these modes is greatly to be preferred. Several of the reasons already adduced are calculated to show, that election itself is of a nature not to be employed but when the occasion demands it. There would be no difficulty in suggesting expedients relative to the regular originating of national assemblies. It would be most suitable to past habits and experience, that a general election should take place whenever a certain number of districts demanded it. It would be most agreeable to rigid simplicity and equity that an assembly of two or two hundred districts should take place, in exact proportion to the number of districts by whom that measure was desired.

Modification of democracy that results from these considerations. It cannot reasonably be denied that all the objections which have been most loudly reiterated against democracy, become null in an application to the form of government which has now been delineated. Here is no opening for tumult, for the tyranny of a multitude drunk with unlimited power, for political ambition [575] on the part of the few, or restless jealousy and precaution on the part of the many. Here no demagogue would find a suitable occasion for rendering the multitude the blind instrument of his purposes. Men in such a state of society would understand their happiness and cherish it. The true reason why the mass of mankind has so often been made the dupe of knaves, has been the mysterious and complicated nature of the social system. Once annihilate the quackery of government, and the most homebred understanding will be prepared to scorn the shallow artifices of the state juggler that would mislead him.




political authority of a national assembly—of juries.—consequence from the whole.

Political authority of a national assembly: It remains for us to consider what is the degree of authority necessary to be vested in such a modified species of national assembly as we have admitted into our system. Are they to issue their commands to the different members of the confederacy? Or is it sufficient that they should invite them to co-operate for the common advantage, and by arguments and addresses convince them of the reasonableness of the measures they propose? The former of these would at first be necessary. The latter would afterwards become sufficient. The Amphictyonic council of Greece possessed no authority but that which derived from its personal character. In proportion as the spirit of party was extirpated, as the restlessness of public commotion subsided, and as the political machine became simple, the voice of reason would be secure to be heard. An appeal by the assembly to the several districts would not fail to obtain the approbation of all reasonable men, unless it contained in it something so evidently [577] questionable, as to make it perhaps desirable that it should prove abortive.

This remark leads us one step farther. Why should not theof juries. same distinction between commands and invitations, which we have just made in the case of national assemblies, be applied to the particular assemblies or juries of the several districts? At first, we will suppose, that some degree of authority and violence would be necessary. But this necessity does not arise out of the nature of man, but out of the institutions by which he has already been corrupted. Man is not originally vicious. He would not refuse to listen, or to be convinced by the expostulations that are addressed to him, had he not been accustomed to regard them as hypocritical, and to conceive that, while his neighbour, his parent and his political governor pretended to be actuated by a pure regard to his interest, they were in reality, at the expence of his, promoting their own. Such are the fatal effects of mysteriousness and complexity. Simplify the social system in the manner which every motive but those of usurpation and ambition powerfully recommends; render the plain dictates of justice level to every capacity; remove the necessity of implicit faith; and the whole species will become reasonable and virtuous. It will then be sufficient for juries to recommend a certain mode of adjusting controversies, without assuming the prerogative of dictating that adjustment. It will then be sufficient for them to invite [578] offenders to forsake their errors. If their expostulations proved in a few instances ineffectual, the evils arising out of this circumstance would be of less importance, than those which proceed from the perpetual violation of the exercise of private judgment. But in reality no evils would arise, for, where the empire of reason was so universally acknowledged, the offender would either readily yield to the expostulations of authority; or, if he resisted, though suffering no personal molestation, he would feel so uneasy under the unequivocal disapprobation and observant eye of public judgment, as willingly to remove to a society more congenial to his errors.

Consequence from the whole. The reader has probably anticipated me in the ultimate conclusion, from these remarks. If juries might at length cease to decide and be contented to invite, if force might gradually be withdrawn and reason trusted alone, shall we not one day find that juries themselves and every other species of public institution, may be laid aside as unnecessary? Will not the reasonings of one wise man be as effectual as those of twelve? Will not the competence of one individual to instruct his neighbours be a matter of sufficient notoriety, without the formality of an election? Will there be many vices to correct and much obstinacy to conquer? This is one of the most memorable stages of human improvement. With what delight must every well informed friend of mankind look forward to the auspicious period, the dissolution [579] of political government, of that brute engine, which has been the only perennial cause of the vices of mankind, and which, as has abundantly appeared in the progress of the present work, has mischiefs of various sorts incorporated with its substance, and no otherwise to be removed than by its utter annihilation!








arguments in favour of this superintendence.—answer.—the exertions of society in its corporate capacity are, 1. unwise—2. incapable of proper effect.—of sumptuary laws, agrarian laws and rewards.—political degeneracy not incurable.—3. superfluous—in commerce—in speculative enquiry—in morality.—4. pernicious—as undermining intellectual capacity—as suspending intellectual improvement—contrary [582] to the nature of morality—to the nature of mind.—conclusion.

Arguments in favour of this superintendence. A principle, which has entered deeplyinto the systems of the writers on political law, isthat of the duty of governments to watch over the mannersof the people. “Government,” say they, “playsthe part of an unnatural step-mother, not of an affectionateparent, when she is contented by rigorous punishmentsto avenge the commission of a crime, while she is whollyinattentive beforehand to imbue the mind with thosevirtuous principles, which might have rendered punishmentunnecessary. It is the business of a sage and patrioticmagistracy to have its attention ever alive to thesentiments of the people, to encourage such as arefavourable to virtue, and to check in the bud suchas may lead to disorder and corruption. How long shallgovernment be employed to display its terrors, withoutever having recourse to the gentleness of invitation? How long shall she deal in retrospect and censure tothe utter neglect of prevention and remedy?” Thesereasonings have in some respects gained additionalstrength by means of the latest improvements and clearestviews upon the subject of political truth. It has beenrendered more evident than in any former period, thatgovernment, instead of being an object of secondaryconsideration, has been the principal vehicle of extensiveand permanent evil to mankind. It was natural thereforeto say, “since government can produce so muchpositive mischief, surely it can do some positive good.”


Answer. But these views, however specious and agreeable they may in the first instance appear, are liable to very serious question. If we would not be seduced by visionary good, we ought here more than ever, to recollect the principles that have repeatedly been insisted upon and illustrated in this work, “that government is in all cases an evil,” and “that it ought to be introduced as sparingly as possible.” Nothing can be more unquestionable than that the manners and opinions of mankind are of the utmost consequence to the general welfare. But it does not follow that government is the instrument by which they are to be fashioned.

One of the reasons that may lead us to doubt of its fitness forThe exertions of society in its corporate capacity are, 1. unwise: this purpose, is to be drawn from the view we have already taken of society considered as an agent [*]. A multitude of men may be feigned to be an individual, but they cannot become a real individual. The acts which go under the name of the society, are really the acts now of one single person and now of another. The men who by turns usurp the name of the whole, perpetually act under the pressure of incumbrances that deprive them of their true energy. They are fettered by the prejudices, the humours, the weakness and the vice of those with whom they act; and, after a thousand sacrifices to these contemptible interests, their project comes out at last distorted in every joint, abortive and monstrous. Society therefore in its corporate capacity can by no [584] means be busy and intrusive with impunity, since its acts must be expected to be deficient in wisdom.

2. incapable of proper effect. Secondly, they will not be less deficient in efficacy than they are in wisdom. The object at which we are supposing them to aim, is to improve the opinions, and through them the manners of mankind; for manners are nothing else but opinions carried out into action: such as is the fountain, such will be the streams that are supplied from it. But what is it upon which opinion must be founded? Surely upon evidence, upon the perceptions of the understanding. Has society then any particular advantage in its corporate capacity for illuminating the understanding? Can it convey into its addresses and expostulations a compound or sublimate of the wisdom of all its members, superior in quality to the individual wisdom of any? If so, why have not societies of men written treatises of morality, of the philosophy of nature, or the philosophy of mind? Why have all the great steps of human improvement been the work of individuals?

If then society considered as an agent have no particular advantage for enlightening the understanding, the real difference between the dicta of society and the dicta of individuals must be looked for in the article of authority. But is authority a proper instrument for influencing the opinions and manners of men? If laws were a sufficient means for the reformation of error and vice, it is not to be believed but that the world long ere this [585] would have become the seat of every virtue. Nothing can be more easy than to command men to be just and good, to love their neighbours, to practise universal sincerity, to be content with a little, and to resist the enticements of avarice and ambition. But, when you have done, will the characters of men be altered by your precepts? These commands have been issued for thousands of years; and, if it had been decreed that every man should be hanged that violated them, it is vehemently to be suspected that this would not have secured their influence.

But it will be answered, “that laws need not deal thus in generals,Of sumptuary laws, agrarian laws and rewards. butmay descend to particular provisions calculated to secure their success. We mayinstitute sumptuary laws, limiting the expence of our citizens in dress and food. We may institute agrarian laws, forbidding any man to possess more than a certainannual revenue. We may proclaim prizes as the reward of acts of justice, benevolenceand public virtue.” And, when we have done this, how far are we really advancedin our career? If the people be previously inclined to moderation in expence, the laws are a superfluous parade. If they are not inclined, who shall executethem, or prevent their evasion? It is the misfortune in these cases, that regulationscannot be executed but by individuals of that very people they are meant to restrain. If the nation at large be infested with vice, who shall secure us a successionof magistrates that are free from the contagion? Even if we could surmount thisdifficulty, still it would be vain. Vice is ever more [586] ingeniousin evasion, than authority in detection. It is absurd to imagine that any lawcan be executed, that directly contradicts the propensities and spirit of thenation. If vigilance were able fully to countermine the subterfuges of art, themagistrates, who thus pertinaciously adhered to the practice of their duty, wouldnot fail to be torn in pieces.

What can be more contrary to the most rational principles of human intercourse than the inquisitorial spirit which such regulations imply? Who shall enter into my house, scrutinise my expenditure and count the dishes upon my table? Who shall detect the stratagems I employ to cover my real possession of an enormous income, while I seem to receive but a small one? Not that there is really any thing unjust and unbecoming, as has been too often supposed, in my neighbour's animadverting with the utmost freedom upon my personal conduct. But that such regulations include a system of petty watchfulness and inspection; not contenting themselves with animadversion whenever the occasion is presented, but making it the business of one man constantly to pry into the proceedings of another, the whole depending upon the uniformity with which this is done; creating a perpetual struggle between the restless curiosity of the first, and the artful concealment of the second. By what motives will you make a man an informer? If by public spirit and philanthropy inciting him to brave obloquy and resentment for the sake of duty, will sumptuary laws be very necessary among a people thus far advanced [587] in virtue? If by sinister and indirect considerations, will not the vices you propagate be more dangerous than the vices you suppress?

Such must be the case in extensive governments: in governments of smaller dimensions opinion would be all sufficient; the inspection of every man over the conduct of his neighbours, when unstained with caprice, would constitute a censorship of the more irresistible nature. But the force of this censorship would depend upon its freedom, not following the positive dictates of law, but the spontaneous decisions of the understanding.

Again, in the distribution of rewards who shall secure us against error, partiality and intrigue, converting that which was meant for the support of virtue into a new engine for her ruin? Not to add, that prizes are a very feeble instrument for the generation of excellence, always inadequate to its reward where it really exists, always in danger of being bestowed on its semblance, continually misleading the understanding by foreign and degenerate motives of avarice and vanity.

In truth, the whole system of such regulations is a perpetual struggle against the laws of nature and necessity. Mind will in all instances be swayed by its own views and propensities. No project can be more absurd, than that of reversing these propensities [588] by the interposition of authority. He that should command a conflagration to cease or a tempest to be still, would not display more ignorance of the system of the universe, than he, who, with a code of regulations, whether general or minute, that he has framed in his closet, expects to restore a corrupt and luxurious people to temperance and virtue.

Political degeneracy not incurable. The force of this argument respecting the inefficacy of regulations has often been felt, and the conclusions that are deduced from it have been in a high degree discouraging. “The character of nations,” it has been said, “is unalterable, or at least, when once debauched, can never be recovered to purity. Laws are an empty name, when the manners of the people are become corrupt. In vain shall the wisest legislator attempt the reformation of his country, when the torrent of profligacy and vice has once broken down the bounds of moderation. There is no longer any instrument left for the restoration of simplicity and frugality. It is useless to declaim against the evils that arise from inequality of riches and rank, where this inequality has already gained an establishment. A generous spirit will admire the exertions of a Cato and a Brutus; but a calculating spirit will condemn them, as inflicting useless torture upon a patient whose disease is irremediable. It was from a view of this truth that the poets derived their fictions respecting the early history of mankind; well aware that, when luxury was introduced and the springs of mind unbent, it would be a vain expectation that should hope to recal [589] men from passion to reason, and from effeminacy to energy [*].” But this conclusion from the inefficacy of regulations is so far from being valid, that in reality,

A third objection to the positive interference of society in its3. superfluous: corporate capacity for the propagation of truth and virtue is, that such interference is altogether unnecessary. Truth and virtue are competent to fight their own battles. They do not need to be nursed and patronised by the hand of power.

The mistake which has been made in this case, is similar toin commerce: the mistake which is now universally exploded upon the subject of commerce. It was long supposed that, if any nation desired to extend its trade, the thing most immediately necessary was for government to interfere, and institute protecting duties, bounties and monopolies. It is now well known that commerce never flourishes so much, as when it is delivered from the guardianship of legislators and ministers, and is built upon the principle, not of forcing other people to buy our commodities dear when they might purchase them elsewhere cheaper and better, but of ourselves feeling the necessity of recommending them by their intrinsic advantages. Nothing can be at once so unreasonable and hopeless, as to attempt by positive regulations to disarm the unalterable laws of the universe.


in speculative enquiry: The same truth which has been felt under the article of commerce, has also made a considerable progress as to the subjects of speculative enquiry. Formerly it was thought that the true religion was to be defended by acts of uniformity, and that one of the principal duties of the magistrate was to watch the progress of heresy. It was truly judged that the connexion between error and vice is of the most intimate nature, and it was concluded that no means could be more effectual to prevent men from deviating into error, than to check their wanderings by the scourge of authority. Thus writers, whose political views in other respects have been uncommonly enlarged, have told us “that men ought indeed to be permitted to think as they please, but not to propagate their pernicious opinions; as they may be permitted to keep poisons in their closet, but not to offer them to sale under the denomination of cordials [*].” Or, if humanity have forbidden them to recommend the extirpation of a sect which has already got footing in a country, they have however earnestly advised the magistrate to give no quarter to any new extravagance that might be attempted to be introduced [].—The reign of these two errors respecting commerce and theoretical speculation is nearly at an end, and it is reasonable to believe that the idea of teaching virtue through the instrumentality of government will not long survive them.


All that is to be asked on the part of government in behalf ofin morality: morality and virtue is a clear stage upon which for them to exert their own energies, and perhaps some restraint for the present upon the violent disturbers of the peace of society, that the efforts of these principles may be allowed to go on uninterrupted to their natural conclusion. Who ever saw an instance in which error unaided by power was victorious over truth? Who is there so absurd as to believe, that with equal arms truth can be ultimately defeated? Hitherto every instrument of menace or influence has been employed to counteract her. Has she made no progress?—Has the mind of man the capacity to chuse falshood and reject truth, when her evidence is fairly presented? When it has been once thus presented and has gained a few converts, does she ever fail to go on perpetually increasing the number of her votaries? Exclusively of the fatal interference of government, and the violent irruptions of barbarism threatening to sweep her from the face of the earth, has not this been in all instances the history of science?

Nor are these observations less true in their application to the manners and morals of mankind. Do not men always act in the manner which they esteem best upon the whole or most conducive to their interest? Is it possible then that evidence of what is best or what is most beneficial can be thrown away upon them? The real history of the changes of character they experience in this respect is this. Truth for a long time spreads itself [592] unobserved. Those who are the first to embrace it are little aware of the extraordinary effects with which it is pregnant. But it goes on to be studied and illustrated. It perpetually increases in clearness and amplitude of evidence. The number of those by whom it is embraced is gradually enlarged. If it have relation to their practical interests, if it show them that they may be a thousand times more happy and free than at present, it is impossible that in its perpetual increase of evidence and energy, it should not at last break the bounds of speculation, and become an animating principle of action. What can be more absurd than the opinion, which has so long prevailed, “that justice and an equal distribution of the means of happiness may appear ever so clearly to be the only reasonable foundation of political society, without ever having any chance of being reduced into practice? that oppression and misery are draughts of so intoxicating a nature, that, when once tasted, we can never afterwards refuse to partake of them? that vice has so many advantages over virtue, that the reasonableness and wisdom of the latter, however powerfully exhibited, can never obtain a hold upon our affections?”

While therefore we decry the efficacy of unassisted laws, we are far from throwing any discouragement by that means upon the prospect of social improvement. The true tendency of this view of the subject is to suggest indeed a different, but a more consistent and promising method by which this improvement is [593] to be produced. The legitimate instrument of effecting political reformation is truth. Let truth be incessantly studied, illustrated and propagated, and the effect is inevitable. Let us not vainly endeavour by laws and regulations to anticipate the future dictates of the general mind, but calmly wait till the harvest of opinion is ripe. Let no new practice in politics be introduced, and no old one anxiously superseded, till called for by the public voice. The task, which for the present should wholly occupy the friend of man, is enquiry, instruction, discussion. The time may come when his task shall be of another sort. Error, being completely detected, may indeed sink into unnoticed oblivion, without one partisan to interrupt her fall. This would inevitably be the event, were it not for the restlessness and inconsiderate impetuosity of mankind. But the event may be otherwise. Political change, by advancing too rapidly to its crisis, may become attended with commotion and hazard; and it will then be incumbent on him actively to assist in unfolding the catastrophe. The evils of anarchy have been shown to be much less than they are ordinarily supposed [*]; but, whatever be their amount, the friend of man will not, when they arise, timidly shrink from the post of danger. He will on the contrary by social emanations of wisdom endeavour to guide the understandings of the people at large to the perception of felicity.


4. pernicious: In the fourth place the interference of an organised society for the purpose of influencing opinions and manners, is not only useless, but pernicious. We have already found that such interference is in one view of the subject ineffectual. But here a distinction is to be made. Considered with a view to the introduction of any favourable changes in the state of society, it is altogether impotent. But, though it be inadequate to change, it is powerful to prolong. This property in political regulation is so far from being doubtful, that to it alone we are to ascribe all the calamities that government has inflicted on mankind. When regulation coincides with the habits and propensities of mankind at the time it is introduced, it will be found sufficiently capable of maintaining those habits and propensities in the greater part unaltered for centuries. In this view it is doubly pernicious.

as undermining intellectual capacity: To understand this more accurately, let us apply it to the case of rewards, which has always been a favourite topic with the advocates of an improved legislation. How often have we been told, “that talents and virtues would spring up spontaneously in a country, one of the objects of whose constitution should be to secure to them an adequate reward?” Now to judge of the propriety of this aphorism we should begin with recollecting that the discerning of merit is an individual, and not a social capacity. What can be more reasonable than that each man for himself should estimate the merits of his neighbour? [595] To endeavour to institute a general judgment in the name of the whole, and to melt down the different opinions of mankind into one common opinion, appears at first sight so monstrous an attempt, that it is impossible to augur well of its consequences. Will this judgment be wise, reasonable or just? Wherever each man is accustomed to decide for himself, and the appeal of merit is immediately to the opinion of its contemporaries, there, were it not for the false bias of some positive institution, we might expect a genuine ardour in him who aspired to excellence, creating and receiving impressions in the judgment of an impartial audience. We might expect the judgment of the auditors to ripen by perpetual exercise, and mind, ever curious and awake, continually to approach nearer to the standard of truth. What do we gain in compensation for this, by setting up authority as the general oracle, from which the active mind is to inform itself what sort of excellence it should seek to acquire, and the public at large what judgment they should pronounce upon the efforts of their contemporaries? What should we think of an act of parliament appointing some particular individual president of the court of criticism, and judge in the last resort of the literary merit of dramatic compositions? Is there any solid reason why we should expect better things, from authority usurping the examination of moral or political excellence?

Nothing can be more unreasonable than the attempt to retain men in one common opinion by the dictate of authority. The [596] opinion thus obtruded upon the minds of the public is not their real opinion; it is only a project by which they are rendered incapable of forming an opinion. Whenever government assumes to deliver us from the trouble of thinking for ourselves, the only consequences it produces are those of torpor and imbecility. Wherever truth stands in the mind unaccompanied by the evidence upon which it depends, it cannot properly be said to be apprehended at all. Mind is in this case robbed of its essential character and genuine employment, and along with them must be expected to lose all that which is capable of rendering its operations salutary and admirable. Either mankind will resist the assumptions of authority undertaking to superintend their opinions, and then these assumptions will produce no more than an ineffectual struggle; or they will submit, and then the effects will be injurious. He that in any degree consigns to another the task of dictating his opinions and his conduct, will cease to enquire for himself, or his enquiries will be languid and inanimate.

Regulations will originally be instituted in favour either of falshood or truth. In the first case no rational enquirer will pretend to alledge any thing in their defence; but, even should truth be their object, yet such is their nature, that they infallibly defeat the very purpose they were intended to serve. Truth, when originally presented to the mind, is powerful and invigorating; but, when attempted to be perpetuated by political institution, becomes flaccid and lifeless. Truth in its unpatronised state strengthens and [597] improves the understanding; because in that state it is embraced only so far as it is perceived to be truth. But truth, when recommended by authority, is weakly and irresolutely embraced. The opinions I entertain are no longer properly my own; I repeat them as a lesson appropriated by rote, but I do not strictly speaking understand them, and I am not able to assign the evidence upon which they rest. My mind is weakened, while it is pretended to be improved. Instead of the firmness of independence, I am taught to bow to authority I know not why. Persons thus trammelled, are not strictly speaking capable of a single virtue. The first duty of man is to take none of the principles of conduct upon trust, to do nothing without a clear and individual conviction that it is right to be done. He that resigns his understanding upon one particular topic, will not exercise it vigorously upon others. If he be right in any instance, it will be inadvertently and by chance. A consciousness of the degradation to which he is subjected will perpetually haunt him; or at least he will want the consciousness that accrues from independent consideration, and will therefore equally want that intrepid perseverance, that calm self approbation that grows out of independence. Such beings are the mere dwarfs and mockery of men, their efforts comparatively pusillanimous, and the vigour with which they should execute their purposes, superficial and hollow.

Strangers to conviction, they will never be able to distinguishas suspending intellectual improvement: between prejudice and reason. Nor is this the worst. Even [598] when the glimpses of enquiry suggest themselves, they will not dare to yield to the temptation. To what purpose enquire, when the law has told me what to believe and what must be the termination of my enquiries? Even when opinion properly so called suggests itself, I am compelled, if it differ in any degree from the established system, to shut my eyes, and loudly profess my adherence where I doubt the most. This compulsion may exist in many different degrees. But, supposing it to amount to no more than a very flight temptation to be insincere, what judgment must we form of such a regulation either in a moral or intellectual view? of a regulation, inviting men to the profession of certain opinions by the proffer of a reward, and deterring them from a severe examination of their justice by penalties and disabilities? A system like this does not content itself with habitually unnerving the mind of the great mass of mankind through all its ranks, but provides for its own continuance by debauching or terrifying the few individuals, who, in the midst of the general emasculation, might retain their curiosity and love of enterprise. We may judge how pernicious it is in its operation in this respect by the long reign of papal usurpation in the dark ages, and the many attacks upon it that were suppressed, previously to the successful one of Luther. Even yet, how few are there that venture to examine into the foundation of Mahometanism and Christianity, or the effects of monarchy and aristocratical institution, in countries where those systems are established by law? Supposing men were free from persecution for their [599] hostilities in this respect, yet the investigation could never be impartial, while so many allurements are held out, inviting men to a decision in one particular way.

To these considerations it should be added, that what is rightcontrary to the nature of morality: under certain circumstances to-day, may by an alteration in those circumstances become wrong to-morrow. Right and wrong are the result of certain relations, and those relations are founded in the respective qualities of the beings to whom they belong. Change those qualities, and the relations become altogether different. The treatment that I am bound to bestow upon any one depends upon my capacity and his circumstances. Increase the first, or vary the second, and I am bound to a different treatment. I am bound at present to subject an individual to forcible restraint, because I am not wise enough by reason alone to change his vicious propensities. The moment I can render myself wise enough, I ought to confine myself to the latter mode. It is perhaps right to suffer the negroes in the West Indies to continue in slavery, till they can be gradually prepared for a state of liberty. Universally it is a fundamental principle in sound political science, that a nation is best fitted for the amendment of its civil government by being made to understand and desire the advantage of that amendment, and the moment it is so understood and desired it ought to be introduced. But, if there be any truth in these views, nothing can be more adverse to reason or inconsistent [600] with the nature of man, than positive regulations tending to continue a certain mode of proceeding when its utility is gone.

to the nature of mind. If we would be still more completely aware of the pernicious tendency of positive institutions, we ought in the last place explicitly to contrast the nature of mind and the nature of government. It is one of the most unquestionable properties of mind to be susceptible of perpetual improvement. It is the inalienable tendency of positive institution, to retain that with which it is conversant for ever in the same state. Is then the perfectibility of understanding an attribute of trivial importance? Can we recollect with coldness and indifference the advantages with which this quality is pregnant to the latest posterity? And how are these advantages to be secured? By incessant industry, by a curiosity never to be disheartened or fatigued, by a spirit of enquiry to which a sublime and philanthropic mind will allow no pause. The circumstance of all others most necessary, is that we should never stand still, that every thing most interesting to the general welfare, wholly delivered from restraint, should be in a state of change, moderate and as it were imperceptible, but continual. Is there any thing that can look with a more malignant aspect upon the general welfare, than an institution tending to give permanence to certain systems and opinions? Such institutions are two ways pernicious; first, which is most material, because they render [601] all the future advances of mind infinitely tedious and operose; secondly, because, by violently confining the stream of reflexion, and holding it for a time in an unnatural state, they compel it at last to rush forward with impetuosity, and thus occasion calamities, which, were it free from restraint, would be found extremely foreign to its nature. Is it to be believed that, if the interference of positive institution were out of the question, the progress of mind in past ages would have been so slow, as to have struck the majority of ingenuous observers with despair? The science of Greece and Rome upon the subjects of political justice was in many respects extremely imperfect: yet could we have been so long in appropriating their discoveries, had not the allurements of reward and the menace of persecution united to induce us, not to trust to the first and fair verdict of our own understandings?

The just conclusion from the above reasonings is nothing moreConclusion. than a confirmation, with some difference in the mode of application, of the fundamental principle, that government is little capable of affording benefit of the first importance to mankind. It is calculated to induce us to lament, not the apathy and indifference, but the inauspicious activity of government. It incites us to look for the moral improvement of the species, not in the multiplying of regulations, but in their repeal. It teaches us that truth and virtue, like commerce, will then flourish most, when least subjected to the mistaken guardianship of authority and laws. This maxim will rise upon us in its importance, in [602] proportion as we connect it with the numerous departments of political justice to which it will be found to have relation. As fast as it shall be adopted into the practical system of mankind, it will go on to deliver us from a weight intolerable to mind, and in the highest degree inimical to the progress of truth.




their general tendency.—effects on the clergy: they introduce, 1. implicit faith—2. hypocrisy: topics by which an adherence to them is vindicated.—effects on the laity.—application..

One of the most striking instances of the injurious effectsTheir general tendency. of the political patronage ofopinion, as it at present exists in the world, is tobe found in the system of religious conformity. Letus take our example from the church of England, bythe constitution of which subscription is requiredfrom its clergy to thirty-nine articles of preciseand dogmatical assertion upon almost every subjectof moral and metaphysical enquiry. Here then we haveto consider the whole honours and revenues of the church, from the archbishop who takes precedence next afterthe princes of the blood royal to the meanest curatein the nation, as employed in support of a system ofblind submission and abject hypocrisy. Is there oneman through this numerous hierarchy that is at libertyto think for himself? Is there one man among them thatcan lay his hand upon his heart, and declare, uponhis honour and conscience, that his emoluments haveno effect in influencing his [604] judgment? The declaration is literally impossible. The most thatan honest man under such circumstances can say is, “Ihope not; I endeavour to be impartial.”

Effects on the clergy: they introduce, 1. implicit faith: First, the system of religious conformity is a system of blind submission. In every country possessing a religious establishment, the state, from a benevolent care it may be for the manners and opinions of its subjects, publicly encourages a numerous class of men to the study of morality and virtue. What institution, we might naturally be led to enquire, can be more favourable to public happiness? Morality and virtue are the most interesting topics of human speculation; and the best effects might be expected to result from the circumstance of many persons, perpetually receiving the most liberal education, and setting themselves apart, for the express cultivation of these topics. But unfortunately these very men are fettered in the outset by having a code of propositions put into their hands, in a conformity to which all their enquiries must terminate. The natural tendency of science is to increase from age to age, and proceed from the humblest beginnings to the most admirable conclusions. But care is taken in the present case to anticipate these conclusions, and to bind men by promises and penalties not to improve upon the wisdom of their ancestors. The plan is to guard against degeneracy and decline, but never to advance. It is founded in the most sovereign ignorance of the nature of mind, which never fails to do either the one or the other.


Secondly, the tendency of a code of religious conformity is to2. hypocrisy: topics by which an adherence to them is vindicated. make men hypocrites. To understand this it may be useful to recollect the various subterfuges that have been invented by ingenious men to apologise for the subscription of the English clergy. It is observable by the way that the articles of the church are founded upon the creed of the Calvinists, though for one hundred and fifty years past it has been accounted disreputable among the clergy to be of any other than the opposite, or Arminian tenets. Volumes have been written to prove that, while these articles express predestinarian sentiments, they are capable of a different construction, and that the subscriber has a right to take advantage of that construction. Divines of another class have rested their arguments upon the known good character and benevolent intentions of the first reformers, and have concluded that they could never intend to tyrannise over the consciences of men, or preclude the result of farther