« AnteriorContinua »
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 consequences of sufficient magnitude to outweigh the evils of civil disturbance. Nevertheless, every 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 ufage, law, or authority whatever, is so binding, that it need or ought to be continued, when it may be changed with advanVOL. II.
cage 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.
understood, as well by the governors as by the governed, and because the seldomer it is changed, the more perfectly it will be known by both fides.
VI. As all civil obligation is resolved into expediency, what, it may be asked, is the difference between the obligation of an Englishman and a Frenchman ; or, why, since the obligation of both appears to be founded in the same reason, is a Frenchman bound in conscience to bear any thing from his king, which an Englishman would not be bound to bear? Their conditions may differ, but their rights, according to this account, should seem to be equal; and yet we are accustomed to speak of the rights as well as of the happiness of a free people, compared with what belong to the subjects of absolute monarchies : how, you will say, can this comparison be explained, unless we refer to a difference in the compacts by which they are respectively bound?_This is a fair question, and the answer to it will afford a further illustration of our principles. We admit then that there are many things which a Frenchman is bound in conscience, as well as by coercion, to endure at the hands of his prince, to which an Englishman would not be obliged to submit; but we assert, that it is for L 2
these two reasons alone: first, because the same act of the prince is not the same grievance where it is agreeable to the constitution, and where it infringes it ; secondly, because redress in the two cales is not equally attainable. Resistance cannot be attempted with equal hopes of success, or with the same prospect of receiving support from others, where the people are reconciled to their sufferings, as where they are alarmed by innovation. In this way, and no otherwise, the subjects of different states possess different civil rights ; the duty of obedience is defined by different boundaries; and the point of justifiable sebitance placed at different parts of the scale of fuffering—all which is sufficiently intelligible . without a social compact.
VII. “ The interest of the whole fociety is
binding upon every part of it.” No rule, short of this, will provide for the stability of civil government, or for the peace and safety of focial life. Wherefore, as individual members of the state are not permitted to pursue their private emolument to the prejudice of the community, so is it equally a consequence of this rule, that no particular colony, province, town, or district, can juftly concert measures for their Separate interest, which hall appear at the same
time to diminish the sum of public prosperity. I do not mean, that it is necessary to the justice of a measure, that it profit each and every part of the community ; (for, as the happiness of the whole may be increased, whilst that of some parts is diminished, it is possible that the conduct of une part of an empire may be detrimental to some other part, and yet just, provided one part gain more in happiness than the other part loses, so that the common weal be augmented by the change :) but what I affirın is, that those counsels can never be reconciled with the obligations resulting from civil union, which cause the whole happiness of the society to be impaired for the conveniency of a part. This conclusion is applicable to the question of right between Great Britain and her revolted colonies. Had I been an American, I should not have thought it enough to have had it even demonstrated, that a separation from the parent state would produce effects beneficial to America ; my relation to that ftate imposed upon me a further enquiry, namely, whether the whole happiness of the empire was likely to be promoted by such a measure : Not indeed the happiness of every part ; that was not necessary, nor to be expected—but whether what Great Britain would lose by the feparation