Imatges de pàgina
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ters, so lòng as his confinement is the effect of a beneficial public law, his civil liberty is not invaded.“ If this instance appear 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 poffeffion, and the loftiest 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 indi. vidual. It is not the rigour, but the inexpediency of laws and acis 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 assured 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 prerogative. The loss of this fecurity we dinominaie t'e loss of liberty.

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They have changed not their laws, but their legillature; 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 flaves. 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 recom

mended 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 Jiberty, as well between these two extremes, as

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between all the intermediate modifications of civil government.

The definitions which have been framed of civil liberty, and which have become the subject of much unnecessary altercation, are most of them adapted to this idea. Thus one political writer makes the very essence of the subje&t's liberty to consist in his being governed by no laws but those to which he hath actually consented ; another is satisfied with an indirect and virtual consent; another again places civil liberty in the separation of the legislative and exeeutive offices of government; another in the being governed by law, that is, by known, preconstituted, inflexible rules of action and adjudication ; a fifth in the exclusive right of the people to tax themselves by their own representatives; a sixth in the freedom and purity of elections of representatives ; a seventh in the control which the democratic part of the constitution possesses over the military establishment. Concerning which, and some other similar accounts of civil liberty, it may be observed, that they all labour under one inaccuracy, viz. that they describe not so much liberty itself as the safeguards and preservatives of liberty: for ex

ample, ample, a man's being governed by no laws, but those to which he has given his consent, were it practicable, is no otherwise necessary to the enjoyment of civil liberty, than as it affords à probable security against the dictation of laws, imposing superfluous restrictions upon his pri-, vate will. This remark is applicable to the rest. The diversity of these definitions will not sure' prise us, when we consider that there is no contrariety or opposition amongst them whatever; for, by how many different provisions and precautions civil liberty is fenced and protected, so many different accounts of liberty itself, all sufficiently consistent with truth and with each other, may, according to this mode of explaining the term, be framed and adopted.

Truth cannot be offended by a definition, but propriety may. In which view those definitions of liberty ought to be rejected, which, by making that effential to civil freedom which is unattainable in experience, inflame expectations that can never be gratified, and disturb the public content with complaints, which no wisdom or benevolence of government can remove.

It will not be thought extraordinary, that an idea, which occurs so much oftener as the subject of panegyric and careless declamation, than of

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