Imatges de pÓgina
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perior to what belong to the modern acts and edicts of the legislature, they secretly refer us to what passed at the original convention. They would teach us to believe, that certain rules and ordinances were established by the people, at the same time that they settled the charter of government, and the powers as well as the form of the future legislature; that this legislature consequently, deriving its commission and existence from the consent and act of the primitive assembly (of which indeed it is only the standing deputation), continues subject in the exercise of its offices, and as to the extent of its power, to the rules, reservations, and limitations which the same afsembly then made and prescribed to it.

" As the first members of the state were bound " by express stipulation to obey the government “ which they had erected, so the succeeding in- i " habitants of the fame country are understood “ to promise allegiance to the constitution and

government they find established, by accept“ing its protection, claiming its privileges, and

acquiescing in its laws; more especially, by “the purchase or inheritance of lands, to the “ possession of which, allegiance to the state is " annexed, as the very fervice and condition of " the tenure.” Smoothly as this train of argu

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ment proceeds, little of it will endure examina. tion. The native subjects of modern states are not conscious of any ftipulation with their sovereigns, of ever exercising an election whether they will be bound or not by the acts of the legislature, of any alternative being proposed to their choice, of a promise either required or given; nor do they apprehend that the validity or authority of the laws depends at all upon their recognition or consent. In all ftipulations, whether they be expressed or implied, private or public, formal or constructive, the parties ftipu, lating must both possess the liberty of assent and refusal, and also be conscious of this liberty ; which cannot with truth be affirmed of the subjects of civil government, as government is now, or ever was, actually administered. This is a defect, which no arguments can excuse or supply: all presumptions of confent, without this consciousness, or in opposition to it, are vain and erroneous. Still less is it possible to reconcile with any idea of stipulation the pra&ice, in which all European nations agree, of founding allegiance upon the circumstance of nativity, that is, of claiming and treating as subjects all those who are born within the confines of their dominions, although removed to another country in

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their youth or infancy. In this instance certainly the state does not presume a compact. Also if the subject be bound only by his own consent, and if the voluntary abiding in the country be the proof and intimation of that confent, by what arguments should we defend the right, which sovereigns universally affume, of prohibiting, when they please, the departure of their subjects out of the realm ?

Again, when it is contended that the taking and holding possession of land amounts to an acknowledgment of the sovereign, and a virtual promise of allegiance to his laws, it is necessary to the validity of the argument to prove, that the inhabitants, who first composed and con-. stituted the state, collectively possessed a right to the soil of the country--a right to parcel it out to whom they pleased, and to annex to the donation what conditions they thought fit. How came they by this right? An agreement amongst themselves would not confer it: that could only adjust what already belonged to them. A fociety of men vote themselves to be the owners of a region of the world ;-does that vote, unaccompanied especially with any culture, inclosure, or proper act of occupation, make it theirs ? does it entitle them to exclude others from it,

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or to dictate the conditions upon which it shall be enjoyed? Yet this original collective right and ownership is the foundation of all the reasoning by which the duty of allegiance is inferred from the possession of land.

The theory of government which affirms the existence and the obligation of a social compact, would, after all, merit little discussion, and, however groundless and unnecessary, should receive no opposition from 1:3, did it not appear to lead to conclusions unfavourable to the improvement, and to the peace, of human society.

ist. Upon the supposition that government was first erected by, and that it derives all its just authority from, refolutions entered into by a convention of the people, it is capable of being presumed, that many points were settled by that convention, anterior to the establiihment of the subsisting legislature, and which the legislature, consequently, has no right to alter, or interfere with. These points are called the fundamentals of the constitution ; and as it is impoflible to determine how many, or what they are, the suggesting of any fuch, ferves extremely to embarrass the deliberations of the legislature, and affords a dangerous pretence for disputing the authority of the laws. It was this sort of reason,

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ing (so far as reasoning of any kind rvas employed in the question) that produced in this nation the doubt, which so much agitated the minds of men in the reign of the second Charles, whether an Act of Parliament could of right alter or limit the fucceffion of the Crown.

zdly. If it be by virtue of a compact, that the subject owes obedience to civil government, it will follow, that he ought to abide by the form of government which he finds established, be it ever so absurd, or inconvenient. He is bound by his bargain. It is not permitted to any man to retreat from his engagement, merely because he finds the performance disadvantageous, or because he has an opportunity of entering into a better. This law of contracts, is universal: and to call the relation between the sovereign and the subjects a contract, yet not to apply to it the rules, or allow of the effects of a contract, is an arbitrary use of names, and an unsteadiness in reasoning, which can teach nothing. Resistance to the encroachments of the supreme magistrate may be justified upon this principle ; recourse to arms, for the purpose of bringing about an amendment of the conftitution, never can. No form of government contains a provision for its own dissolution; and

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