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depravity, which deprives the government of sufficient means to carry the best laws into execution. “Give me,” said Archi
Whether virtue is capable of being taught ? at length sums up the whole in this manner: “ If,” says he, “we have rightly conducted our inquiry, this is the conclusion; that virtue is neither derived from nature nor instruction, but is a divine gift or allotment.” It appears there were at that time certain sophists, who went about pretending to teach virtue, and this upon mere human principles; just as they would teach some secular art or science, without looking for any superior aid or assistance; these Socrates encountered in his usual way by argument and raillery; and was Socrates to rise again, he would doubtless encounter, in the same strain, those legislative sophists who have lately set up the same pretensions.
It might indeed be granted to these sages, if that was all they intended, that a certain kind and degree of virtue is producible by human institutions ; but when they endeavour to substitute this in the place of that genuine virtue which is the offspring of religion, we must take the liberty to charge the attempt either upon their ignorance, or their design to impose upon their fellow-creatures in a point which most highly concerns them. That virtue which is learnt in the schools of human policy must partake of the baseness of its original, is neither much to be depended on in this world, nor is likely to meet with any recompense in another. What is possible to be done, however, by civil regu
medes,“ where to place my engines, and I will move the earth.” Was any part of society perfectly uncorrupt, it would afford a stable ground on which the powers of government might rest and act, with an energy and effect that has never yet been experienced. As things now are, no entirely sound part is to be found; the whole head is sick, and the whole heart is faint ; the legislator and magistrate are of the same depraved mass with the people ; and while they govern others, have need themselves to be controlled by the universal laws of reason and equity.
If, therefore, the situation of a country be such, as to afford redress for gross violations of liberty and property, and a comfortable subsistence for the honest and industrious, it is all that can be expected from political wisdom, operating in the most favourable circumstances.
lations, ought diligently to be endeavoured; they may powerfully restrain vice, though their influence be less in promoting virtue; and may remove many obstacles to piety, though its progress depends upon higher causes.
On the second Rule to be observed by a
good Citizen, namely, To distinguish real political Evils from imaginary ones, and from those various Evils which arise out of the common Condition of Man in this World : Also, Not to aggravate or rashly oppose the First; to dismiss the Second ; and to suffer patiently the Last.
I. POLITICAL evils proceed either from inexpedient laws; from the abuse of power in the hands of magistrates, or of other executive officers; or from unseasonably permitting either the legislative or executive power to lie dormant. From these causes, under a weak or tyrannic government, a country may be reduced from opulence to beggary, from liberty to slavery, and from a high degree of temporal felicity to the most abject state of wretchedness. Even under a wise and moderate government, these evils cannot always, and in every degree, be excluded; the necessary resources of a country may be impaired, or individual injuries sustained, by improvident laws and the abuse of power, notwithstanding every precaution on the part of the legislature, and the utmost care in selecting fit persons to carry its provisions into execution. An attempt to enumerate these evils would be endless and unnecessary, as every reader's reflection will easily supply him with instances more than sufficient.
To distinguish between imaginary political evils and such as are real, we shall recur to an axiom before established, namely, That the best possible state of civil society is, when the mass of its members can subsist comfortably with moderate labour, and cannot subsist without it; provided, at the same time, that the stability of this order of things be reasonably secured.
From this axiom it will follow, that in proportion as the state of a nation answers to the description here given, all apprehensions of public grievances must, in the same proportion, be irrational and unfounded.
Let us endeavour to illustrate this in a few instances.
1. First, in respect to the general state of commerce. All political complaints upon this subject, in the circumstances now supposed, must, in the main, be groundless. They are the complaints of the merchant or manufacturer, in contrariety to the interest of the poor artizan; in other words, they are the complaints of the few, opposed to the interest of the many, whose new and imaginary wants, excited, in a progressive state of commerce, by an advance of wages, and the luxurious example of their superiors, would multiply faster than their means of supplying them; and, consequently, in no long time, must sink their relative situation below what it was before. It would be only the merchant and manufacturer, who, by increasing their wealth at such a prosperous period beyond their increased expences, would be able permanently to