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Le plus fort n'est jamais assez fort pour être toujours le maître, s'il ne transforme sa force en droit et l'obeissance en devoir.
Viribus parantur provinciæ, jure retinentur. Igitur breve id gaudium, quippe Germani victi magis, quam domiti. FLORUS, iv. 12.*
The strongest is never strong enough to be always the master, unless he transforms his power into right, and obedience into duty.
Provinces are taken by force, but they are kept by right. This exultation therefore was of brief continuance, inasmuch as the Germans had been overcome, but not subdued.
A TRULY great man,† the best and greatest public character that I had ever the opportunity of making myself acquainted with,- -on assuming the command of a man of war, found a mutinous crew, more than one half of them uneducated Irishmen, and of the remainder no small portion had become sailors by compromise of punishment. What terror could effect by severity and frequency of acts of discipline, had been already effected. And what was this effect? Something like that of a polar winter on a flask of brandy. The furious spirit concentered itself with tenfold strength at the heart; open violence was changed into secret plots and conspiracies; and the consequent orderliness of the crew, as far as they were orderly, was but the brooding of a tempest. The new commander instantly commenced a system of discipline as near as possible to that of ordinary law ;—as much as possible, he avoided, in his own person, the appearance of any will or arbitrary power to vary, or to remit, punishment. The rules to be observed were affixed to a conspicuous part of the ship, with the particular penalties for the breach of each particular rule; and care was taken that every individual of the ship should know and understand this code. With a single exception in the case of mutinous behavior, a space of twenty-four hours *Slightly altered.-Ed. Sir Alexander Ball.-Ed.
was appointed between the first charge and the second hearing of the cause, at which time the accused person was permitted and required to bring forward whatever he thought conducive to his defence or palliation. If, as was commonly the case—for the officers well knew that the commander would seriously resent in them all caprice of will, and by no means permit to others what he denied to himself,- -no answer could be returned to the three ́questions—Did you not commit the act? Did you not know that it was in contempt of such a rule, and in defiance of such a punishment? And was it not wholly in your own power to have obeyed the one and avoided the other ?-the sentence was then passed with the greatest solemnity, and another, but shorter, space of time was again interposed between it and its actual execution. During this space the feelings of the commander, as a man, were so well blended with his inflexibility, as the organ of the law; and how much he suffered previously to and during the execution of the sentence was so well known to the crew, that it became a common saying with them when a sailor was about to be punished, the captain takes it more to heart than the fellow himself. But whenever the commander perceived any trait of pride in the offender, or the germs of any noble feeling, he lost no opportunity of saying, "It is not the pain that you are about to suffer which grieves me! You are none of you, I trust, such cowards as to turn faint-hearted at the thought of that! but that, being a man, and one who is to fight for his king and country, you should have made it necessary to treat you as a vicious beast,-it is this that grieves me.”
I have been assured, both by a gentleman who was a lieutenant on board that ship at the time when the heroism of its captain, aided by his characteristic calmness and foresight, greatly influenced the decision of the most glorious battle recorded in the annals of our naval history; and very recently by a gray-headed sailor, who did not even know my name, or could have suspected that I was previously acquainted with the circumstances—I have been assured, I say, that the success of this plan was such as astonished the oldest officers, and convinced the most incredulous. Ruffians, who, like the old Buccaneers, had been used to inflict torture on themselves for sport, or in order to harden themselves beforehand, were tamed and overpowered, how or why they themselves knew not.
From the fiercest spirits were heard the
most earnest entreaties for the forgiveness of their commander: not before the punishment, for it was too well known that then they would have been to no purpose, but days after it, when the bodily pain was remembered but as a dream. An invisible power it was, that quelled them, a power, which was therefore irresistible, because it took away the very will of resisting. It was the awful power of law, acting on natures pre-configured to its influences. A faculty was appealed to in the offender's own being: a faculty and a presence, of which he had not been previously made aware,—but it answered to the appeal; its real existence therefore could not be doubted, or its reply rendered inaudible; and the very struggle of the wilder passions to keep uppermost counteracted their own purpose, by wasting in internal contest that energy which before had acted in its entireness on external resistance or provocation. Strength may be met with strength; the power of inflicting pain may be baffled by the pride of endurance; the eye of rage may be answered by the stare of defiance, or the downcast look of dark and revengeful resolve; and with all this there is an outward and determined object to which the mind can attach its passions and purposes, and bury its own disquietudes in the full occupation of the senses. But who dares struggle with an invisible combatant,-with an enemy which exists and makes us know its existence-but where it is, we ask in vain ?-No space contains it-time promises no control over it-it has no ear for my threats it has no substance, that my hands can grasp, or my weapons find vulnerable-it commands and can not be commanded-it acts and is insusceptible of my reaction-the more I strive to subdue it, the more am I compelled to think of it—and the more I think of it, the more do I find it to possess a reality out of myself, and not to be a phantom of my own imagination; that all, but the most abandoned men, acknowledge its authority, and that the whole strength and majesty of my country are pledged to support it; and yet that for me its power is the same with that of my own permanent self, and that all the choice, which is permitted to me, consists in having it for my guardian angel or my avenging fiend! This is the spirit of law! the lute of Amphion, the harp of Orpheus! This is the true necessity, which compels man into the social state, now and always, by a still-beginning, never-ceasing, force of moral cohesion.
Thus is man to be governed, and thus only can he be governed. For from his creation the objects of his senses were to become his subjects, and the task allotted to him was to subdue the visible world within the sphere of action circumscribed by those senses, as far as they could act in concert. What the eye beholds, the hand strives to reach; what it reaches, it conquers, and makes the instrument of further conquest. We can be subdued by that alone which is analogous in kind to that by which we subdue therefore by the invisible powers of our nature, whose immediate presence is disclosed to our inner sense, and only as the symbols and language of which all shapes and modifications of matter become formidable to us.
A machine continues to move by the force which first set it in motion. If only the smallest number in any state, properly so called, hold together through the influence of any fear that does not itself pre-suppose the sense of duty, it is evident that the state itself could not have commenced through animal fear. We hear, indeed, of conquests; but how does history represent these? Almost without exception as the substitution of one set of governors for another and so far is the conqueror from relying on fear alone to secure the obedience of the conquered, that his first step is to demand an oath of fealty from them, by which he would impose upon them the belief, that they become subjects; for who would think of administering an oath to a gang of slaves? But what can make the difference between slave and subject, if not the existence of an implied contract in the one case, and not in the other? And to what purpose would a contract serve, if, however it might be entered into through fear, it were deemed binding only in consequence of fear? To repeat my former illustration-where fear alone is relied on, as in a slave ship, the chains that bind the poor victims must be material chains: for these only can act upon feelings which have their source wholly in the material organization. Hobbes has said, that laws without the sword are but bits of parchment. How far this is true, every honest man's heart will best tell him, if he will content himself with asking his own heart, and not falsify the answer by his notions concerning the hearts of other men. But were it true, still the fair answer would be-Well! but without the laws the sword is but a piece of iron. The wretched tyrant, who disgraces the present age and human nature itself, had exhausted
the whole magazine of animal terror, in order to consolidate his truly Satanic government. But look at the new French catechism, and in it read the misgivings of his mind, as to the sufficiency of terror alone! The system, which I have been confuting, is indeed so inconsistent with the facts revealed to us by our own mind, and so utterly unsupported by any facts of history, that I should be censurable in wasting my own time and my reader's patience by the exposure of its falsehood, but that the arguments adduced have a value of themselves independently of their present application. Else it would have been an ample and satisfactory reply to an assertor of this bestial theory-Government is a thing which relates to men, and what you say applies only to beasts.
Before I proceed to the second of these systems, let me remove a possible misunderstanding that may have arisen from the use of the word contract: as if I had asserted, that the whole duty of obedience to governors is derived from, and dependent on, the fact of an original contract. I freely admit, that to make this the cause and origin of political obligation, is not only a dangerous but an absurd theory; for what could give moral force to the contract? The same sense of duty which binds us to keep it, must have pre-existed as impelling us to make it. For what man in his senses would regard the faithful observation of a contract entered into to plunder a neighbor's house, but as a treble crime? First the act, which is a crime of itself; secondly, the entering into a contract which it is a crime to observe, and yet a weakening of one of the main pillars of human confidence not to observe, and thus voluntarily placing ourselves under the necessity of choosing between two evils;-and thirdly, the crime of choosing the greater of the two evils, by the unlawful observance of an unlawful promise. But in my sense, the word contract is merely synonymous with the sense of duty acting in a specific direction, that is, determining our moral relations, as members of a body politic. If I have referred to a supposed origin of government, it has been in courtesy to a common notion : for I myself regard the supposition as no more than a means of simplifying to our apprehension the ever-continuing causes of social union, even as the conversation of the world may be represented as an act of continued creation. For, what if an original contract had really been entered into, and formally recorded?