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Dum politici sæpiuscule hominibus magis insidiantur quam consulunt, potius callidi quam sapientes; theoretici e contrario se rem divinam facere et sapientiæ culmen attingere credunt, quando humanam naturam, quæ nullibi est, multis modis laudare, et eam, quæ re vera est, dictis lacessere norunt. Unde factum est, ut nunquam politicam conceperint quæ possit ad usum revocari; sed quæ in Utopia vel in illo poetarum aureo sæculo, ubi scilicet minime necesse erat, institui potuisset. At mihi plane persuadeo, experientiam omnia civitatum genera, quæ concipi possunt ut homines concorditer vivant, et simul media, quibus multitudo dirigi, seu quibus intra certos. limites contineri debeat, ostendisse: ita ut non credam, nos posse aliquid, quod ab experientia sive praxi non abhorreat, cogitatione de hac re assequi, quod nondum expertum compertumque sit.
Cum igitur animum ad politicam applicuerim, nihil quod novum vel inauditum est; sed tantum ea quæ cum praxi optime conveniunt, certa et indubitata ratione demonstrare aut ex ipsa humanæ naturæ conditione deducere, intendi. Et ut ea quæ ad hanc scientiam spectant, eadem animi libertate, qua res mathematicas solemus, inquirerem, sedulo curavi humanas actiones non ridere, non lugere, neque detestari; sed intelligere. Nec ad imperii securitatem refert quo animo homines inducantur ad res recte administrandas, modo res recte administrentur. Animi enim libertas, seu fortitudo, privata virtus est; at imperii virtus securitas. SPINOSA Op. Post. p. 267.
While the mere practical statesman too often rather plots against mankind, than consults their interest, crafty, not wise; the mere theorists, on the other hand, imagine that they are employed in a glorious work, and believe themselves at the very summit of earthly wisdom, when they are able, in set and varied language, to extol that human nature, which exists nowhere, except indeed in their own fancy, and to accuse and vilify our nature as it really is. Hence it has happened, that these men have never conceived a practicable scheme of civil policy, but, at best, such forms of government only, as might have been instituted in Utopia, or during the golden age of the poets: that is to say, forms of government excellently adapted for those who need no government at all. But I am
fully persuaded, that experience has already brought to light all conceivable sorts of political institutions under which human society can be maintained in concord, and likewise the chief means of directing the multitude, or retaining them within given boundaries: so that I can hardly believe, that on this subject the deepest research would arrive at any result, not abhorrent from experience and practice, which has not been already tried and proved.
When, therefore, I applied my thoughts to the study of political philosophy, I proposed to myself nothing original or strange as the fruits of my reflections; but simply to demonstrate from plain and undoubted principles, or to deduce from the very condition and necessities of human nature, those plans and maxims which square the best with practice. And that in all things which relate to this province, I might conduct my investigations with the same freedom of intellect with which we proceed in questions of pure science, I sedulously disciplined my mind neither to laugh at, nor bewail, nor detest, the actions of men; but to understand them. For to the safety of the state it is not of necessary importance what motives induce men to administer public affairs rightly, provided only that public affairs be rightly administered.* For moral strength, or freedom from the selfish passions, is the virtue of individuals; but security is the virtue of a state.
ON THE PRINCIPLES OF POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY.
ALL the different philosophical systems of political justice, all the theories on the rightful origin of government, are reducible in the end to three classes, correspondent to the three different points of view, in which the human being itself may be contemplated. The first denies all truth and distinct meaning to the words, right and duty; and affirming that the human mind consists of nothing but the manifold modifications of passive sensation, considers men as the highest sort of animals indeed, but at the same time the most wretched; inasmuch as their defenceless nature forces them into society: while such is the multiplicity of wants engendered by the social state, that the wishes of one are sure to be in contradiction to those of some other. The assertors of this system consequently ascribe the origin and continuance of government to fear, or the power of the stronger, aided by the force of custom. This is the system of Hobbes. Its statement is its confutation. It is, indeed, in the literal sense
* I regret, that I should have given, by thus selecting it for my motto, an implied consent to this very plausible, but false and dangerous position.
of the word, preposterous: for fear pre-supposes conquest, and conquest a previous union and agreement between the conquerors. A vast empire may perhaps be governed by fear; at least the supposition is not absolutely inconceivable, under circumstances which prevent the consciousness of a common strength. A million of men united by mutual confidence and free intercourse of thoughts form one power, and this is as much a real thing as a steam-engine; but a million of insulated individuals is only an abstraction of the mind, and but one told so many times over without addition, as an idiot would tell the clock at noon-one, one, one. But when, in the first instances, the descendants of one family joined together to attack those of another family, it is impossible that their chief or leader should have appeared to them stronger than all the rest together; they must therefore have chosen him, and this as for particular purposes, so doubtless under particular conditions, expressed or understood. we know to be the case with the North American tribes at present; such, we are informed by history, was the case with our own remote ancestors. Therefore, even on the system of those who, in contempt of the oldest and most authentic records, consider the savage as the first and natural state of man, government must have originated in choice and an agreement. The apparent exceptions in Africa and Asia are, if possible, still more subversive of this system: for they will be found to have originated in religious imposture, and the first chiefs to have secured a willing and enthusiastic obedience to themselves as delegates of the Deity.
But the whole theory is baseless. We are told by history, we learn from our experience, we know from our own hearts, that fear, of itself, is utterly incapable of producing any regular, continuous, and calculable effect, even on an individual; and that the fear, which does act systematically upon the mind, always pre-supposes a sense of duty, as its cause. The most cowardly of the European nations, the Neapolitans and Sicilians, those among whom the fear of death exercises the most tyrannous influence relatively to their own persons, are the very men who least fear to take away the life of a fellow-citizen by poison or assassination; while in Great Britain, a tyrant, who has abused the power, which a vast property has given him, to oppress a whole neighborhood, can walk in safety unarmed and unattended,
amid a hundred men, each of whom feels his heart burn with rage and indignation at the sight of him. It was this man who broke my father's heart; or, it is through him that my children are clad in rags, and cry for the food which I am no longer able to provide for them. And yet they dare not touch a hair of his head! Whence does this arise? Is it from a cowardice of sensibility that makes the injured man shudder at the thought of shedding blood? Or from a cowardice of selfishness which makes him afraid of hazarding his own life? Neither the one nor the other! The field of Waterloo, as the most recent of a hundred equal proofs, has borne witness that,—
Say, such is royal George's will,
An' there's the foe,
He has nae thought but how to kill
Nae cauld, faint-hearted doubtings tease him;
His latest draught o' breathin' leaves him
Whence then arises the difference of feeling in the former case ? To what does the oppressor owe his safety? To the spirit-quelling thought;—the laws of God and of my country have made his life sacred! I dare not touch a hair of his head !-'Tis conscience that makes cowards of us all,-but oh! it is conscience too which makes heroes of us all.