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whole vigour of the passion is required to secure individuals from the injustice and oppression of others.*
A wicked or disgraceful action is disagreeable, not only to others, but even to the delinquent himself: and raises in both a painful emotion, including a desire of punishment. The painful emotion felt by the delinquent, is distinguished by the name of remorse ; which naturally excites him to punish himself. There cannot be imagined a better contrivance to deter us from vice; for remorse itself is a severe punishment. That passion, and the desire of self-punishment derived from it, are touched delicately by Terence:
Menedemus. Ubi comperi ex iis, qui ei fuere conscii,
solus faciam ? sed gnatum unicum,
* See Historical Law Tracts, tract 1.
Omnes produxi ac vendidi ; inscripsi illico
Heautontimorumenos, Act I. Sc. 1.
Otway reaches the same sentiment:
Monimia. Let mischiefs multiply! let every hour Of
my loath'd life yield me increase of horror! Oh let the sun to these unhappy eyes Ne'er shine again, but be eclips'd for ever! May every thing I look on seem a prodigy, To fill my soul with terror, till I quite Forget I ever had humanity, And grow a curser of the works of nature! Orphan, Act IV.
In the cases mentioned, benevolence alone, or desire of punishment alone, governs without a rival; and it was necessary to handle these cases separately, in order to elucidate a subject which by writers is left in great obscurity. But neither of these principles operates always without rivalship: cases may be figured, and cases actually exist, where the same person is an object both of sympathy and of punishment. Thus the sight of a profligate in the venereal disease, overrun with blotches and sores, puts both principles in motion : while his distress fixes my attention, sympathy prevails ; but as soon as I think of his profligacy, hatred prevails, accompanied sometimes with a desire to punish. This, in general, is the case of distress occasioned by immoral actions that are not highly criminal: and if the distress and the immoral action make impressions equal or nearly so, sympathy and hatred, counterbalancing each other, will not suffer
me either to afford relief, or to inflict punishment. What then will be the result? The principle of self-love solves the question: abhorring an object so loathsome, I naturally avert my eye, and walk off as fast as I can, in order to be relieved from the pain.
The present subject-gives birth to several other observations, for which I could not find room above, without relaxing more from the strictness of order and connexion, than with safety could be indulged in discoursing upon an intricate subject. These observations I shall throw out loosely as they occur.
No action, right or wrong, is indifferent even to a mere spectator: if right, it inspires esteem ; disgust, if wrong. But it is remarkable, that these emotions seldom are accompanied with desire : the abilities of man are limited, and he finds sufficient employment, in relieving the distressed, in requiting his benefactors, and in punishing those who wrong him, without moving out of his sphere for the benefit or chastisement of those with whom he has no connexion.
If the good qualities of others raise my esteem, the same qualities in myself must produce a similar effect in a superior degree, upon account of the natural partiality every man hath for himself: and this increases self-love. If these qualities be of a high rank, they produce a conviction of superiority, which excites me to assume some sort of government over others. Mean qualities, on the other hand, produce in me a conviction of inferiority, which makes me submit to others. These convictions, distributed among individuals, by measure and proportion, may justly be esteemed the solid basis of government; because upon them depend the natural submission of the many to the few, without which even the mildest government would be in a violent state, and have a constant tendency to dissolution.
No other branch of the human constitution shows
more visibly our destination for society, nor tends more to our improvement, than appetite for fame or esteem: for as the whole conveniences of life are derived from mutual aid and support in society, it ought to be a capital aim to secure these conveniences, by gaining the esteem and affection of others. Reason, indeed, dictates that lesson : but reason alone is not sufficient in a matter of such importance; and the appetite mentioned is a motive more powerful than reason, to be active in gaining esteem and affection. That appetite, at the same time, is finely adjusted to the moral branch of our constitution, by promoting all the moral virtues: for what means are there to attract love and esteem so effectual as a virtuous course of life? if a man be just and beneficent, if he be temperate, modest, and prudent, he will infallibly gain the esteem and love of all who know him.
Communication of passion to related objects, is an illustrious instance of the care of Providence to extend social connexions as far as the limited nature of man can admit. That communication is so far hurtful, as to spread the malevolent passions beyond their natural bounds : but let it be remarked, that this unhappy effect regards savages only, who give way to malevolent passions : for under the discipline of society, these passions being subdued, are in a good measure eradicated : and in their place succeed the kindly affections, which, meeting with all encouragement, take possession of the mind, and govern all our actions. In that condition, the progress of passion along related objects, by spreading the kindly affections through a multitude of individuals, hath a glorious effect.
Nothing can be niore entertaining to a rational mind, than the economy of the human passions, of which I have attempted to give some faint notion. It must, however, be acknowledged, that our passions when they happen to swell beyond proper limits, take on a less regular appearance: reason may proclaim our duty, but the will, influenced by passion, makes gratification always welcome. Hence the power of passion, which, when in excess, cannot be resisted but by the utmost fortitude of mind: it is bent upon gratification ; and where proper objects are wanting, it clings to any object at hand without distinction. Thus joy inspired by a fortunate event, is diffused upon every person around by acts of benevolence; and resentment for an atrocious injury done by one out of reach, seizes the first object that occurs to vent itself upon. Those who believe in prophecies, even wish the accomplishment; and a weak mind is disposed voluntarily to fulfil a prophecy, in order to gratify its wish. Shakspeare, whom no particle of human nature hath escaped, how-, ever remote from common observation, describes that weakness :
King Henry. Doth any name particular belong Unto that lodging where I first did swoon?
Warwick. 'Tis callid Jerusalem, my noble Lord.
King Henry. Laud be to God! e'en there my life must end, It hath been prophesy'd to me many years, I should not die but in Jerusalem, Which vainly I suppos'd the Holy Land. But bear me to that chamber, there I'll lie : In that Jerusalem shall Henry die.
Second part, Henry IV. Act. IV. Sc. last.
I could not deny myself the amusement of the foregoing observation, though it doth not properly come under my plan. The irregularities of passion proceeding from peculiar weaknesses and biasses, I do not undertake to justify; and of these we have had many examples.* It is sufficient that passions common to all, are made subservient to beneficent purposes. I shall only observe, that, in a polished society, instances of irregular passions are rare, and that their mischief doth not extend far.
* Part. V. of the present chapter.