Imatges de pÓgina

only in a state of solitude. In

In every kind and degree of union and intercourse with liis fpecies, it is possible that the liberty of the individual may be augmented by the very laws which restrain it; because he may gain more from the limitation of other men's freedom than he suffers by the diminution of his own. Natural liberty is the right of common upon a waste; civil liberty is the safe, exclusive, unmolested enjoyment of a cultivated inclosure.

The definition of civil liberty above laid down, imports that the laws of a free people impose no restraints upon the private will of the subject, which do not conduce in a greater degree to the public happiness : by which it is intimated, ift, that restraint itself is an evil ; 2dly, that this evil ought to be overbalanced by some public advantage; 3dly, that the proof of this advantage lies upon the legillature ; 4ihly, that a law being found to produce no sensible good effects, is a suffici, nt reason for repealing it, as adverse and injurious to the rights of a free citizen, without demanding specific evidence of its bad effects. This maxim might be remembered with advantage in a revision of of this country; esp cially of the game laws; of the poor laws, so far as they lay restrictions M3


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the poor themselves; of the laws against papists and dissenters: and, amongst people enamoured to excess and jealous of their liberty, it seems a matter of surprise that this principle has been so imperfectly attended to.

The degree of actual liberty always bearing, according to this account of it, a reversed proportion to the number and severity of the restrictions which are either useless, or the utility of which does not outweigh the evil of the restraint; it follows that every nation poffefses some, no nation perfect liberty; that this liberty may be enjoyed under every form of government; that it

may be impaired indeed, or increased, but that it is neither gained, nor lost, nor recovered, by any single regulation, change, or event whatever; that, consequently, those popular phrases which speak of a free people, of a nation of slaves; which call one revolution the æra of liberty, or another the loss of it; with many expressions of a like absolute form, are intelligible only in a comparative sense.

Hence allo we are enabled to apprehend the distinction between personal and civil liberty. A citizen of the freest republic in the world may be imprisoned for his crimes; and though his personal freedom be restrained by bolts and setters, so long as his confinement is the effect of a beneficial public law, his civil liberty is not invaded. If this instance app ar dubious, the following will be plainer. A passenger from the Levant, who, upon his return to England, should be conveyed to a lazaretto by an order of


quarantine, with whatever impatience he might desire his enlargement, and though he saw a guard placed at the door to oppose his escape, or even ready to destroy his life if he attempted it, would hardly accuse government of incroaching upon his civil freedom ; nay, might, perhaps, be all the while congratulating himself that he had at length set his foot again in a land of liberty, The manifest expediency of the measure not only justifies it, but reconciles the most odious confinement with the perfect possession, and the loftieft notions of civil liberty. And if this be true of the coercion of a prison, that it is compatible with a state of civil freedom; it cannot with reason be disputed of those more moderate constraints which the ordinary operation of government imposes upon the will of the individual. It is not the rigour, but the inexpediency of laws and acts of authority, which makes them tyrannical. There is another idea of civil liberty, which, M4


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though neither so simple nor so accurate as the former, agrees better with the fignification, which the usage of common discourse, as well as the example of many respectable writers upon the subject, has affixed to the term. This idea places liberty in security; making it to consist not merely in an actual exemption from the constraint of useless and noxious laws and acts of dominion, but in being free from the danger of having any such hereafter imposed or exercised. Thus, speaking of the political state of modern Europe, we are accustomed to say of Sweden, that she hath lost her liberty by the revolution which lately took place in that country; and yet we are allured that the people continue to be governed by the same laws as before, or by others which are wiser, milder, and more equitable. What then have they lost? They have lost the power and functions of their diet; the constitution of their states and orders, whose deliberations and concurrence were required in the forination and establishment of every public law; and thereby have parted with the security which they poffeffed against any attempts of the crown to harass its subjects, by oppressive and useless exertions of prerogitive. The loss of this fecurity we dinominate the loss of liberty.


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They have changed not their laws, but their legilature ; not their enjoyment, but their safety; not their present burthens, but their prospects of future grievances: and this we pronounce a change from the condition of freemen to that of slaves. In like manner, in our own country, the act of parliament, in the reign of Henry the Eighth, which gave to the king's proclamation the force of law, has properly been called a complete and formal surrender of the liberty of the nation ; and would have been so, although no proclamation were issued in pursuance of these new powers, or none but what was recommended by the highest wisdom and utility. The security was gone. Were it probable that the welfare and accommodation of the people would be as studiously, and as providently, consulted in the edi&ts of a despotic prince, as by the resolutions of a popular assembly, then would an absolute form of government be no less free than the purest democracy. The different degree of care and knowledge of the public interest which may reasonably be expected from the different form and composition of the legislature, constitutes the distinction, in respect of liberty, as well between these two extremes, as


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