Imatges de pÓgina

or lose strength in proportion to the acceffion or desertion of its numbers; and nothing fo attractive, as the plaufibility and truth of the principles, which are fuppofed or represented to actuate and support the party. It is flattering to all men to judge in their own caufe; it is the favourite maxim of modern politicians, to inculcate the right of every one to judge and act for himself; and it is artfully holden out by many, that whoever is not directed by his own opinion and judgment, is kept in darkness, and deprived of that freedom, which has been given to every individual by an allwife Creator.

When I call to my recollection the effects of former attempts to deduce falfe doctrines from true principle, I am neceffitated to conclude, that if fome true principles now established and supported by the minority, are denied by the majority, the daily defertions from the one to the other will very quickly invert the prefent proportion of their refpective numbers; for undeniable truth will ever make its own way, and by degrees gain over the multitude; amongst whom more will be, in the end, left to the unbiaffed freedom of their own judgment, than to the dictates of interested power and influence. It was long ago faid, decipimur fpecie reɛti:


Truth will in

the end make

its own way.

when depravity difpofes to evil, the strongest incentive to the actual commiffion of it is a plaufible appearance of its rectitude. Much as I reprobate the modern doctrine of civil equalization, with all its tremendous train of deftructive concomitants, fo do I hold, that the denial of the truth of uncontrovertible principles must rather neceffitate, than provoke men into the adoption of any doctrine, which leaves them the liberty of a free affent to fuch felf-evident propofitions.

I am happy in being fanctioned in my principle of reafoning, by the great apostle of modern liberty. "The jefuits," fays he, "about two centuries ago, in order to vindicate their king-killing † principles, happened,

Priestley's Effays upon the First Principles of Government, p. 27, 28.

The works of Bufenbaum, a German jefuit, were burnt by the late parliament of Paris, for teaching thefe principles. It will be candid, and, perhaps, fatiffactory to the curious, to flate the words, in which this king-killing doctrine is expreffed by this author; as the judgment upon it will vary according to the admiffibility of the doctrines of paffive obedience and nonrefiftance. <c Ad defenfionem vitæ E integritatis membrorum, licet etiam filio, religiofo & fubdito fe tueri, fi opus fit, cum occifione, contra ipfum parentem, abbatem, principem; nifi forte propter mortem hujus fecutura effent nimis magna incommoda, ut bella, Sc." lib. 3. pars 1. de Homicidio, art. "To defend one's life, or limbs, it is lawful for a


[ocr errors]

pened, among other arguments, to make ufe of this great and juft principle, that all civil power is ultimately derived from the people; and their adverfaries, in England and elsewhere, instead of fhewing how they abused and perverted that fundamental principle of all government, in the cafe in question, did what difputants, warmed with controversy, are very apt to do; they denied the principle itself, and maintained that all civil power is derived from God; as if the Jewish theocracy had been eftablished throughout the whole world."-And, "The hiftory of this controverfy, about the doctrine of paffive obedience and non-refiftance, affords a ftriking example of the danger of having recourfe to falfe prin

child, a religious man or a fubject to defend himself against his parent, fuperior, or fovereign, if it be neceffary, even by killing the aggreffor; unlefs by killing him very great mischiefs indeed should happen, as wars, &c." To Englishmen, who fometimes foften their verdict by finding a fe defendendo, these principles may not feem more outrageous, than Dr. Prieftley's own dectrines. "If it be afked, how far a people may lawfully go, in punishing their chief magiftrates, I anfwer, that if the enormity of the offence (which is of the fame extent as the injury done to the public) be confidered, any punishment is juftifiable, that a man can incur in human fociety." Effays on the First Principles of Government, p. 36.

Priestley, ibid. p. 29.


ciples in controverfy. They may ferve a particular turn, but, in other cafes, may be сараble of the most dangerous application; whereas univerfal truth will, in all poffible cases, have the best consequences, and be ever favourable to the true interefts of mankind."





is fingular, that in the variety of ancient and modern authors, who speak familiarly of the conftitution, I scarcely find one, that attempts to define it; and yet I think it the first duty of every writer to define, at least according to his own conceptions, that, which he undertakes to discuss *.

By the constitution of England, I mean those immediate emanations from the first principles of civil government, which the community have adopted as general rules for carrying into action that right or power of sovereignty, which unalienably refides with them, and which confequently form the immediate bafis or ground, upon which all the laws of the community are founded. The tranfcendent force of the reafons for these

« By conftitution we mean, whenever we speak with propriety and exactnefs, that affemblage of laws, inftitutions, and cuftoms, derived from certain fixed principles of reason, directed to certain fixed objects of public good, that compofe the general system, according to which the community hath agreed to be governed." Differtation upon Parties, Letter x. p. 103, printed 1739.



Definition of

the conftitu


« AnteriorContinua »