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because the transgression of that law doth not much alarm plain people: but where manners and refined sentiments prevail, the mind is susceptible of more grievous wounds than the body; and therefore, without that law, a polished society could have no long endurance.
By adultery, mischief is done both external and internal. Each sex is so constituted, as to require strict fidelity and attachment in a mate. The breach of these duties is the greatest external harm that can befal them: it harms them also internally, by breaking their peace of mind. It has indeed been urged, that no harm will ensue, if the adultery be kept secret; and consequently, that there can be no crime where the fact is kept secret. But such as reason thus do not advert, that to declare secret adultery to be lawful, is in effect to overturn every foundation of mutual trust and fidelity in the matrimonial state. It is clear beyond all doubt, says a reputable writer, that no man is permitted to violate his faith; and that the man is unjust and barbarous who deprives his wife of the only reward she has for adhering to the austere duties of her sex. But an unfaithful wife
no culpa. But had Labeo and Celsus adverted, that these cases belong to a different head, viz. the duty of recompence, where one suffers loss by benefiting another, they themselves would have no difficulty of sustaining a claim or making up that loss.
wife is still more criminal, by dissolving the whole ties of nature in giving to her husband children that are not his, she betrays both, and joins perfidy to infidelity *.
Veracity is commonly ranked among the active duties; but erroneously: for if a man be not bound to speak, he cannot be bound to speak truth. It is therefore only a restraining duty, prohibiting us to deceive others, by affirming what is not true. Among the many corresponding principles in the human mind that in conjunction tend to make society comfortable, a principle of veracity †, and a principle that leads us to rely on human testimony, are two without the latter, the former would be an useless principle; and without the former, the latter would lay us open to fraud and treachery. The moral sense accordingly dictates, that we ought
*Emile, liv. 5.
† Truth is always uppermost, being the natural issue of the mind it requires no art nor training, no inducement nor temptation, but only that we yield to natural impulse. Lying, on the contrary, is doing violence to our nature; and is never practised, even by the worst of men, without some temptation. Speaking truth is like using our natural food, which we would do from appetite although it answered no end: lying is like taking physic, which is nauseous to the taste, and which no man takes but for some end which he cannot otherwise attain. Dr Reid's Inquiry into the human mind.
ought to adhere strictly to truth, without regard
It must not be inferred, that we are bound to explain our thoughts, when truth is demanded from us by unlawful means. Words uttered voluntarily, are naturally relied on, as expressing the speaker's mind; and if his mind differ from his words, he tells a lie, and is guilty of deceit. But words drawn from a man by torture, are no indication of his mind; and he is not guilty of deceit in uttering whatever words may be agreeable, however alien from his thoughts: if the author of the unlawful violence suffer himself to be deceived, he ought to blame himself, not the speaker.
It need scarce be mentioned, that the duty of veracity excludes not fable, nor any liberty of speech intended for amusement only.
Active duties, as hinted above, are all of them directed to particular persons. And the first I shall mention, is that between parent and child. The relation of parent and child, the strongest that can exist between individuals, binds these persons to exert their utmost powers in mutual good offices. Benevolence among other blood-relations, is also a duty; but not so indispensable, being proportioned to the inferior degree of relation.
Gratitude is a duty directed to our benefactors. But though gratitude is strictly a duty, the measure of performance, and the kind, are left mostly to our own choice. It is scarce necessary to add,
that the active duties now mentioned, are acknowledged by all to be absolutely inflexible, perhaps more so than the restraining duties: many find excuses for doing harm; but no one hears with patience an excuse for deviating from truth, friendship, or gratitude.
Distress, though it has a tendency to convert benevolence into a duty, is not sufficient without other concurring circumstances; for to relieve every person in distress, is beyond the power of any human being. Our relations in distress claim that duty from us, and even our neighbours: but distant distress, without a particular connection, scarce rouses our sympathy, and never is an object of duty. Many other connections, too numerous for this short essay, extend the duty of relieving others from distress; and these make a large branch of equity. Though in various instances benevolence is converted into a duty by distress, it fol-lows not, that the duty is always proportioned to the degree of distress. Nature has more wisely provided for the support of virtue: a virtuous person in distress commands our pity: a vicious person in distress has much less influence; and if by vice he have brought on the distress, indignation is raised, not pity *.
One great advantage of society, is the co-operation of many to accomplish some useful work, where a single hand would be insufficient. Arts, manufactures,
*See Elements of Criticism, vol. i. p. 187. edit. 5.
manufactures, and commerce, require many hands: but as hands cannot be secured without a previous engagement, the performance of promises and covenants is, upon that account, a capital duty in society. In their original occupations of hunting and fishing, men living scattered and dispersed, have seldom opportunity to aid and benefit each other; and in that situation, covenants, being of little use, are little regarded: but husbandry, requiring the co-operation of many hands, draws men together for mutual assistance; and then covenants make a figure: arts and commerce make them more and more necessary; and in a polished society great regard is paid to them.
But contracts and promises are not confined to commercial dealings: they serve also to make benevolence a duty; and are even extended to connect the living with the dead: a man would die with regret, if he thought his friends were not bound by their promises to fulfil his will after his death and to quiet the minds of men with respect to futurity, the moral sense makes the performing such promises our duty. Thus, if I promise to my friend to erect a monument for him after his death, conscience binds me, even though no person alive be entitled to demand performance every one perceives this to be my duty; and I must expect to suffer reproach and blame if I neglect my engagement.