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Still it could do no more than bind the contracting parties to act for the general good in the best manner, that the existing relations among themselves (state of property, religion, and so forth), on the one hand, and the external circumstances on the other (ambitious or barbarous neighbors, and the like), required or permitted. In after-times it could be appealed to only for the general principle, and no more, than the ideal contract, could it affect a question of ways and means. As each particular age brings with it its own exigencies, so must it rely on its own prudence for the specific measures by which they are to be encountered.
Nevertheless, it assuredly can not be denied, that an original, -more accurately, an ever-originating,-contract is a very natural and significant mode of expressing the reciprocal duties of subject and sovereign. We need only consider the utility of a real and formal state contract,—the Bill of Rights for instance, -as a sort of est demonstratum in politics; and the contempt lavished on this notion, though sufficiently compatible with the tenets of a Hume, will seem strange to us in the writings of a Protestant clergyman,* who surely owed some respect to a mode of thinking which God himself had authorized by his own example, in the establishment of the Jewish constitution. In this instance there was no necessity for deducing the will of God from the tendency of the laws to the general happiness: his will was expressly declared. Nevertheless, it seemed good to the divine wisdom, that there should be a covenant, an original contract, between himself as sovereign, and the Hebrew nation as subjects, This I admit was a written and formal contract; but the relations of mankind, as members of a body spiritual, or religious commonwealth, to the Saviour, as its head or regent ;-is not this, too, styled a covenant, though it would be absurd to ask for the material instrument that contained it, or the time when it was signed or voted by the members of the church collectively.†
* See Paley's Moral and Political Philosophy. B. vi. c. 3.—Ed.
+ It is perhaps to be regretted, that the words, Old and New Testament, -they having lost the sense intended by the translators of the Bible,have not been changed into the Old and New Covenant. We can not too carefully keep in sight a notion, which appeared to the Primitive Church the fittest and most scriptural mode of representing the sum of the contents of the sacred writings.
With this explanation, the assertion of an original or a perpetual contract is rescued from all rational objection; and however speciously it may be urged, that history can scarcely produce a single example of a state dating its primary establishment from a free and mutual covenant, the answer is ready: if there be any difference between a government and a band of robbers, an act of consent must be supposed on the part of the people governed.
Human institutions can not be wholly constructed on principles of science, which is proper to immutable objects. In the government of the visible world the Supreme Wisdom itself submits to be the author of the better; not of the best, but of the best possible in the subsisting relations. Much more must all human legislators give way to many evils rather than encourage the discontent that would lead to worse remedies. If it is not in the power of man to construct even the arch of a bridge that shall exactly correspond in its strength to the calculations of geometry, how much less can human science construct a constitution except by rendering itself flexible to experience and expediency: where so many things must fall out accidentally, and come not into any compliance with the preconceived ends: but men are forced to comply subsequently, and to strike in with things as they fall out, by after applications of them to their purposes, or by framing their purposes to them. SOUTH.
THE second system corresponds to the second point of view under which the human being may be considered, namely, as an animal gifted with understanding, or the faculty of suiting measures to circumstances. According to this theory, every institu tion of national origin needs no other justification than a proof, that under the particular circumstances it is expedient. Having in my former essays expressed myself,-so at least I am conscious I shall have appeared to do to many persons ;-with comparative slight of the understanding considered as the sole guide of human conduct, and even with something like contempt and reprobation of the maxims of expedience, when represented as the only steady light of the conscience, and the absolute foundation of all morality; I shall perhaps seem guilty of an inconsistency, in declaring myself an adherent of this second system, a zealous advocate for
deriving the various forms and modes of government from human prudence, and of deeming that to be just which experience has proved to be expedient. From this charge of inconsistency* I shall best exculpate myself by the full statement of the third system, and by the exposition of its grounds and consequences.
* Distinct notions do not suppose different things. When I make a threefold distinction in human nature, I am fully aware, that it is a distinction, not a division, and that in every act of mind the man unites the properties of sense, understanding, and reason. Nevertheless it is of great practical importance, that these distinctions should be made and understood, the ignorance or perversion of them being alike injurious; as the first French constitution has most lamentably proved. It was the fashion in the profligate times of Charles II. to laugh at the Presbyterians, for distinguishing between the person and the king; while in fact they were ridiculing the * most venerable maxims of English law;-the king never dies-the king can do no wrong, and subverting the principles of genuine loyalty, in order to prepare the minds of the people for despotism.
Under the term "sense," I comprise whatever is passive in our being, without any reference to the question of materialism or immaterialism; all that man is in common with animals, in kind at least-his sensations, and impressions, whether of his outward senses, or the inner sense of imagination. This, in the language of the schools, was called the vis receptiva, or recipient property of the soul, from the original constitution of which we perceive and imagine all things under the forms of space and time. By the "understanding," I mean the faculty of thinking and forming judgments on the notices furnished by the sense, according to certain rules existing in itself, which rules constitute its distinct nature. By the pure "reason," I mean the power by which we become possessed of principles,—the eternal verities of Plato and Descartes, and of ideas, not images—as the ideas of a point, a line, a circle, in mathematics;* and of justice, holiness, free-will, and the like, in morals. Hence in works of pure science the definitions of necessity precede the reasoning, in other works they more aptly form the conclusion.
To many of my readers it will, I trust, be some recommendation of these distinctions, that they are more than once expressed, and everywhere supposed, in the writings of St. Paul. I have no hesitation in undertaking to prove, that every heresy which has disquieted the Christian Church, from Tritheism to Socinianism, has originated in and supported itself by arguments rendered plausible only by the confusion of these faculties, and thus demanding for the objects of one, a sort of evidence appropriated to those of another faculty. These disquisitions have the misfortune of being in illreport, as dry and unsatisfactory; but I hope, in the course of the work, to gain them a better character-and if elucidations of their practical impor
*In the severity of logic, the geometrical point, line, surface, circle, and so forth, are theorems, not ideas.
The third and last system, then, denies all rightful origin to government, except as far as it is derivable from principles contained in the reason of man, and judges all the relations of man in society by the laws of moral necessity, according to ideas. I here use the word in its highest and primitive sense, and as nearly synonymous with the modern word ideal,—according to arche typal ideas co-essential with the reason, the consciousness of these ideas being indeed the sign and necessary product of the full development of the reason. The following then is the fundamental principle of this theory: Nothing is to be deemed rightful in civil society, or to be tolerated as such, but what is capable of being demonstrated out of the original laws of the pure reason. Of course, as there is but one system of geometry, so according to this theory there can be but one constitution and one system of legislation, and this consists in the freedom, which is the common right of all men, under the control of that moral necessity, which is the common duty of all men. Whatever is not everywhere necessary, is nowhere right. On this assumption the whole theory is built. To state it nakedly is to confute it satisfactorily. So at least it should seem. But in how winning and specious a manner this system may be represented even to minds of the loftiest order, if undisciplined and unhumbled by practical experience, has been proved by the general impassioned admiration and momentous effects of Rousseau's Du Contrat Social, and the writings of the French economists, or, as they more appropriately entitled themselves, physiocratic philosophers: and in how tempting and dangerous a manner it may be represented to the populace, has been made too evident in our own country by the temporary effects of Paine's Rights of Man. Relatively, however, to this latter work it should be observed, that it is not a legitimate offspring of any one theory, but a confusion of the immortality of the first system with the misapplied universal principles of the tance from the most momentous events of history, can render them interesting, to give them that interest at least. Besides, there is surely some good in the knowledge of truth, as truth-we were not made to live by bread alone-and in the strengthening of the intellect. It is an excellent remark of Scaliger's-Harum indagatio subtilitatum, etsi non est utilis ad machinas farinarias conficiendas, exuit animum tamen inscitiæ rubigine, acuitque ad alia.—Exerc. 307. §§ 3. The investigation of these subtleties, though of no use to the construction of machines for grinding corn, yet clears the mind from the rust of ignorance, and sharpens it or other things.
last and in this union, or rather lawless alternation, consists the essence of Jacobinism, as far as Jacobinism is any thing but a term of abuse, or has any meaning of its own distinct from democracy and sedition.
A constitution equally suited to China and America, or to Russia and Great Britain, must surely be equally unfit for both, and deserve as little respect in political, as a quack's panacea in medical, practice. Yet there are three weighty motives for a distinct exposition of this theory,* and of the ground on which its pretensions are bottomed : "and I dare affirm, that for the same reasons there are few subjects which in the present state of the world have a fairer claim to the attention of every serious Englishman, who is likely, directly or indirectly, as partisan or as opponent, to interest himself in schemes of reform.
The first motive is derived from the propensity of mankind to mistake the abhorrence occasioned by the unhappy effects or accompaniments of a particular system for an insight into the falsehood of its principles. And it is the latter only, a clear insight, not any vehement emotion, that can secure its permanent rejection. For by a wise ordinance of nature our feelings have no `abiding-place in our memory; nay, the more vivid they are in the moment of their existence, the more dim and difficult to be remembered do they make the thoughts which accompanied them. Those of my readers, who at any time of their life have been in the habit of reading novels, may easily convince themselves of this truth, by comparing their recollections of those stories which most excited their curiosity, and even painfully affected their feelings, with their recollections of the calm and meditative pathos of Shakspeare and Milton. Hence it is that human experience, like the stern lights of a ship at sea, illumines only the path which we have passed over. The horrors of the Peasants' War in Germany, and the direful effects of the Anabaptist tenets, which were only nominally different from those of
* As metaphysics are the science which determines what can, and what can not, be known of being and the laws of being, à priori,—that is, from those necessities of the mind or forms of thinking, which, though first revealed to us by experience, must yet have pre-existed in order to make experience itself possible, even as the eye must exist previously to any particular act of seeing, though by sight only can we know that we have eyesso might the philosophy of Rousseau and his followers not inaptly be entitled, metapolitics, and the doctors, of this school metapoliticians