Sidor som bilder

sudden emotion of envy, or even from mere wantonness and caprice, the character of a neighbour or friend is lightly treated, or injuriously depreciated. To moralists in every age this has been a standing topic of complaint, as involving no small part of the misery of human life.

Yet these are evils, however great, which must generally be suffered in order to avoid still greater: if every word or action that might be construed into sedition or defamation was liable to a legal process, our civil liberties might be endangered; human life would become a scene of perpetual litigation; a gloomy suspicion would hang over our social intercourse; the harmless pleasantry of familiar conversation would be checked; while ingenious malice would still continue to diffuse its poison in a manner too subtle for legal cognizance.

Upon the whole then it appears, that both our life, our health, and character, (which we have ranked under the head of personal security) are blessings, after all the precautions that can be taken, of a very precarious nature; that in every stage of our journey they are exposed to the incursions of innumerable wrongs and mischances, against which it would be in vain to look for protection to laws and government, or to any human power or prudence. · All that these can do is to plant a guard, oftentimes weak and ineffectual, at a few of the avenues through which they are assailable, while a thousand others are left naked and without defence.

III. The third end of government above stated, is property, concerning which let it be first observed, that, if the great law which commands us to love our neighbour as ourselves had universally prevailed, a community of goods might not have been inconsistent with public order, since every man would then have readily furnished his contingent of labour, and required no more from the common stock than a moderate supply of his wants.

In such a state of mutual benevolence a nation would have resembled children of the same family, and their dwellings so many apartments in the same house; no bars and bolts' would have been necessary to prevent violent intrusion, and they would have sat down at each other's table with the familiarity of brethren. : :: :

The world, however, at present, is too much under the rule of selfish passions to admit of such an intercommunity.'. There would be so many drones in the hive, that the labouring bees would never be able to furnish the supplies; whichi alone (omitting other considerations) shows the expediency, if not the necessity, of that policy, by which every one enjoys his peculium under the joint protection of the community. ", ..;

For a man to possess something that he can say is mine, to sit down in his own house as in a castle, , and quietly eat the fruit of his own labour, or enjoy his paternal inheritance without fear of injury or annoyance; is a blessing which can be duly estimated by those only who have experienced the insecurity of a tyrannic or savage state. Even merely, to contemplate a constitution of so

ciety, which communicates this blessing to - millions, must yield an exquisite satisfaction to every mind that is sensible to order and general happiness.

Yet here also, as in the case of personal security, riches, of whatever kind, in spite of all laws and precautions, are not exempt from the common instability of other sublunary things; they are exposed to continual frauds and depredations; to innumerable disasters and casualties; so great is their uncertainty, as if it grew out of their own nature: They make themselves wings, says Solomon, they fly away*. -.2. With relation to the distribution of property, the best possible state of society seems to be, when the bulk of a people can subsist comfortably with moderate labour, and cannot subsist without it. And indeed no society can enjoy much permanency beyond this state; for suppose it elevated a few degrees higher, whether by a sudden influx of wealth, or by any other means, the number of idle hands that would thus be thrown upon it, and the consequent deficiency of labour, would probably soon

: * Prov. xxii. 5,

reduce it more below its proper situation, than it had been raised above it.

There is no way, that I know of, for the body of citizens to relieve themselves of the necessity of labour, but by a most detestable division of mankind into freemen and slaves; by which the one part constitute themselves the lords and tyrants of the other. This we know was a practice with the most celebrated republics of antiquity, and notwithstanding the greater light and liberty of the present times, is still a practice; which, however, we have reason to believe is drawing towards a close, if not by an act of voluntary abolition (an honour to which our rulers seem not forward to aspire) yet from the general state and circumstances of the world, that will no longer endure the continuance of a grievance, under which it has groaned for so many ages.

· IV. There remains now only the last end of government, above specified, to be briefly considered.

No rational policy will permit the dignity of society to be violated, or its peace dis

« FöregåendeFortsätt »