Imatges de pÓgina

The steps by which the argument proceeds are few and direct. “ It is the will of God that " the happiness of human life be promoted :". this is the first step, and the foundation not only of this, but of every moral conclusion. “ Civil society conduces to that end:”-this is the second propofition.

" Civil societies cannot “ be upheld, unless, in each, the interest of the “ whole fociety be binding upon every part and “ member of it:”- this is the third step, and conducts us to the conclusion, namely, “ that “ so long as the interest of the whole society “ requires it, that is, so long as the established

government cannot be resisted or changed “ without public inconveniency, it is the will “ of God (which will universally determines

our duty) that the established government be « obeyed,”—and no longer.

This principle being admitted, the justice of every particular case of resistance is reduced to a coinputation of the quantity of the danger and grievance on the one side, and of the probability and expence of redressing it on the other.

But who shall judge of this ? We answer, Every man for himself.” In contentions between the sovereign and the fu'ject, the parties


acknowledge no common arbitrator; and it would be absurd to refer the decision to those whose conduct has provoked the question, and whose own interest, authority, and fate, are immediately concerned in it. The danger of error and abuse is no objection to the rule of expediency, because every other rule is liable to the fame or greater ; and every rule that can be propounded upon the subject (like all rules indeed which appeal to, or bind, the conscience) must in the application depend upon private judgment. It may be observed, however, that it ought equally to be accounted the exercise of a man's private judgment, whether he be determined by reasonings and conclusions of his own, or submit to be directed by the advice of others, provided he be free to choose his guide.

We proceed to point out fome easy but important inferences, which result from the substitution of public expediency into the place of all implied compacts, promises, or conventions whatsoever.

I. It may be as much a duty, at one time, to relift government, as it is, at another, to obey it; to wit, whenever more advantage will, in our


opinion, accrue to the community, from resiste ance, than mischief.

II. The lawfulness of resistance, or the lawfulness of a revolt, does not depend alone upon the grievance which is sustained or feared, but also upon the probable expence and event of the contest. They who.concerted the Revolution in England were justifiable in their counsels, because from the apparent disposition of the nation, and the strength and character of the parties engaged, the measure was likely to be brought about with little mischief or bloodshed; whereas, it might have been a question with many friends of their country, whether the injuries then endured and threatened would have authorized the renewal of a doubtful civil war.

III. Irregularity in the first foundation of a ftate, or subsequent violence, fraud, or injustice in getting possession of the supreme power, are not sufficient reasons for resistance, after the government is once peaceably settled. No subject of the British empire conceives himself engaged to vindicate the justice of the Norman claim or conquest, or apprehends that his duty in

any manner depends upon that controversy. So, likewise, if the house of Lancaster, or even the posterity of Cromwell, had been at this day



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seated upon the throne of England, we should have been as little concerned to enquire how the founder of the family came there. No civil contests are so futile, although none have been so furious and fanguinary, as those which are excited by a disputed succession.

IV. Not every invasion of the subject's rights, or liberty, or of the constitution; not every breach of promise, or of oath; not every stretch of prerogative, abuse of power, or neglect of duty by the chief magistrate, or by the whole or any branch of the legislative body, justifies resistance, unless these crimes draw after them public confequences of sufficient magnitude to outweigh the evils of civil disturbance. Never

violation of the constitution ought to be watched with jealousy, and resented as fuch, beyond what the quantity of estimable damage would require or warrant; because a known and settled usage of governing affords the only security against the enormities of uncontrolled dominion, and because this security is weakened by every encroachment which is made without oppofition, or opposed without effect.

V. No usage, law, or authority whatever, is so binding, that it need or ought to be continued, when it

may be changed with advanVOL. II.

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tage to the community. The family of the prince, the order of succession, the prerogative of the crown, the form and parts of the legislature, together with the respective powers, office, duration, and mutual dependency of the feveral parts, are all only so many laws, mutable like other laws, whenever expediency requires, either by the ordinary act of the legislature, or, if the occasion deserve it, by the interposition of the people. These points are wont to be approached with a kind of awę; they are represented to the mind as principles of the constitution, settled by our ancestors, and, being fettled, to be no more committed to innovation or debate ; as foundations never to be ftirred; as, the terms and conditions of the social compact, to which every citizen of the ftate has engaged his fidelity, by virtue of a promise which he cannot now recall. Such reasons have no place in our fyftem : to us, if there be any good reason for treating these with more deference and respect than other laws, it is, either the advantage of the present constitution of government (which reason must be of different force in different countries), or because in all countries it is of importance, that the form and usage of governing be acknowledged and 3.

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