Imatges de pÓgina
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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 piaces civil liberty in the separation of the legislative and executive 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 pra&icable, is no otherwise necessary to the enjoyment of civil liberty, than as it affords à probable security against the di&tation of laws, imposing superfluous restrictions upon his pri-, vate will. This remark is applicable to the rest. The diversity of these definitions will not surprise us, when we consider that there is no contrariety or opposition amongst them whatever

i 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 carclefs declamation, than of

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just reasoning or correct knowledge, should be attended with uncertainty and confusion; or that it should be found impossible to contrive a definition, which may include the numerous, unsettled, and ever varying significations, which the term is made to stand for, and at the same time accord with the condition and experience of social life.

Of the two ideas that have been stated of civil liberty, whichever we assume, and whatever reasoning we found upon them, concerning its extent, nature, value, and preservation, this is the conclusion that that people, government, and conftitution, is the freest, which makes the best provision for the enacting of expedient and falus

tary laws.

C H A P.

CH A P.

VI.

OF DIFFERENT FORMS OF GOVERNMENT.

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S a series of appeals must be finite, there

necessarily exists in every government a power

from which the constitution has provided no appeal ; and which power, for that reason, may be termed absolute, omnipotent, uncontrolable, arbitrary, despotic ;'and is alike so in all countries.

The person, or assembly, in whom this power resides, is called the sovereign, or the supreme power of the state.

Since to the same power universally appertains the office of establishing public laws, it is called also the legislature of the state.

A governmenë receives its denomination from the form of the legislature; which form is likewise what we commonly mean by the conftitution of a country.

Political writers enumerate three principal forms of government, which, however, are to be

regarded

regarded rather as the fimple forms,' by some combination and intermixture of which all actual governments are composed, than as any where existing in a pure and elementary state. These forms are,

I. Despotism, or abfolute MONARCHY, where the legislature is in a single person.

II. An ARISTOCRACY, where the legislature is in a select assembly, the members of which either fill up by election the vacancies in their own body, or succeed to their places in it by inheritance, property, tenure of certain lands, or in respect of some personal right, or qualification.

III. A REPUBLIC, or democracy, where the people at large, either collectively or by representation, consitute the legislature.

The separate advantages of MONARCHY are, unity of council, activity, decision, secrecy, difpatch; the military strength and energy which result from these qualities of government; the exclusion of popular and aristocratical contentions; the preventing, by a known rule of fuccellion, of all competition for the supreme power; and thereby repressing the hopes, intrigues, and dangerous ambition of aspiring citizeus.

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