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1. As life is fundamental to every other blessing, it must be a primary object of all political union to secure it against assault. And this end, in a good measure, is attained under any regular government. By the 1 dread of just punishment which it creates, added to the terror inspired by nature for deeds of blood, the hand of the ruffian is powerfully withheld; and every good citizen may go about his business, or retire to his rest, without fear of violence or molestation.
But though the life of every member of a well-ordered community is thus protected, it is far from being placed in a situation of absolute safety. There is no man, it has been said, and truly, who is not master of another's life, provided he is willing to risk his own; nor is the prince himself, in the midst of his guards, secure from the hand of the assassin; of which we have had more than one alarming instance in our own times and country.
And as life is thus exposed to danger, from human violence, so is it likewise from
human inadvertence or accident; and still more from the various casualties and disasters which happen in the course of the natural world. Our ordinary journals will afford us a melancholy history of the sudden extinction of life ;-by shipwrecks; by hurricanes and inundations; by fire; sometimes by thunder and lightning, or tremendous earthquakes ; by the suffocation of mines, or a pestilential atmosphere; and by other disorders of the elements, equally unforeseen and irresistible: all which may teach us the great insecurity of our present being, after the utmost care we can employ for its preservation.
2. Another branch of personal security which falls under the care of civil government, is the health of the subject. Among the means which a wise policy would employ to this purpose may be reckoned, the prevention of idleness; the restraint of vice and luxury; the encouragement of agriculture, and other manly occupations, in order to lessen the number of sedentary employments, and to reduce the extent and population of cities and large towns, which are
the graves of the human species; above all, the affording of due countenance to piety and virtue, which, according to one of our medical philosophers, contain the true se. cret of health and long life. Yet though by these and similar methods, many of those maladies which now severely afflict the world, might be prevented, and a consider-' able portion added to the stock of public health, there would still remain behind, to evince the impotency of all human efforts, the incurable malady of old age, which nothing but a return to the dust whence we were taken can either prevent or terminate,
3. The last branch of personal security we have specified, is character ; a possession by many more valued, though often more pre. carious and exposed, than any other.
The love of consequence we have seen is a prevailing passion in man; and reputation, by which we hold a place in the good opinion of others, may be considered as a species of consequence. This, when sought, as it too often is, by base or crooked means, and with no higher views than to advance a name, or promote some temporal interest,
is certainly a vicious object of pursuit, and then only becomes allowable, when it is prosecuted in a just and laudable manner, and with an entire reference to God, who is the only fountain of all true honour.
But however sought or obtained, it is a possession very frail in its nature, and eminently exposed to the attacks of malignity and envy..
Such is its frailty, that no delicacy of health can be more alive to the impressions of the atmosphere, than the tenderness of reputation is sensible to fame and rumour. Every day's experience may convince us, that the least breath of calumny is enough to injure, and a violent blast to destroy, the most established character. And how much a distinguished name is exposed to the attacks of envy and malignity, we may learn from the readiness with which it is run down even by those who have no interest in its abasement; of which, we have a trite instance in the illiterate clown who gave his vote for the banishment of Aristides, for no other reason than because he heard him everywhere celebrated under the title of the just*. And this spirit will discover itself still more in those who are themselves engaged in the race of honour, and at the same time are actuated by no higher motive than that of surpassing others. A man of this description is capable of any meanness or injustice. He will be disposed to view with jealousy a rising reputation, though it should not obstruct his own; in case of rival. ship, if he cannot fairly outstrip a competitor, he will employ every art to supplant him; and if compelled to own his superiority, he will accompany the acknowledgment with every circumstance of invidious derogation. Nor is competition for wealth or pleasure less disparaging and injurious than emulation of excellence.
Further: The same spirit may be remarked in the readiness with which libels, satires, and other malicious tracts, are circulated in public; and perhaps still more in the liberty generally taken with the good name of the absent in our ordinary intercourse; when to indulge a sally of wit, or a momentary triumph of vanity, to gratify a
* See Plutarch.