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so near its final diffolution, that no inference can be drawn from such an expedient. This contest, besides, was founded more on form than party. It was the senate who ordered the comitia tributa, that they might obstruct the meeting of the centuriata, which, by the conftitution, or at least forms of the government, could alone dispose of provinces.
Cicero was recalled by the comitia centuriata, though banished by the tributa, that is, by a plebiscitum. But his banishment, we may observe, never was considered as a legal deed, arising from the free choice and inclination of the people. It was always ascribed to the violence alone of CLODIUS, and to the disorders introduced by him into the government.
III. The third custom, which we propose to remark, regards ENGLAND; and though it be not so important as those which we have pointed out in Athens and ROME, is no less fingular and unexpected. It is a maxim in politics, which we readily admit as undisputed and universal, that a power, however great, when granted by law to an eminent magistrate, is not so dangerous to liberty, as an authority, however inconfiderable, which he acquires from violence and usurpation. For, besides that the law always limits every power which it bestows, the very receiving it as a concession establishes the authority whence it is derived, and preserves the harmony of the constitution. By the same right that one prerogative is assumed without law, another may also be claimed, and another, with still greater facility ; while the first usurpations both serve as precedents to the following, and give force to maintain them. Hence the heroism of HAMPDEN's conduct, who sustained the whole violence of royal prosecution, rather than pay a tax of twenty fhillings, not imposed by parliament; hence the care of
all ENGLISH patriots to guard against the first encroach. ments of the crown; and hence alone the existence, at this day, of ENGLISH liberty.
There is, however, one occasion, where the parliament has departed from this maxim; and that is, in the pressing of seamen. The exercise of an irregular power is here tacitly permitted in the crown; and though it has frequently been under deliberation, how that power might be rendered legal, and granted, under proper reftrictions to the sovereign, no safe expedient could ever be proposed for that purpose ; and the danger to liberty always appeared greater from law than from usurpation. While this power is exercised to no other end than to man the navy, men willingly submit to it, from a sense of its use and necessity; and the sailors, who are alone affected by it, find no body to support them, in claiming the rights and privileges, which the law grants, without distinction, to all ENGLISH subjects. But were this power, on any occasion, made an instrument of faction or ministerial tyranny, the opposite faction, and indeed all lovers of their country, would immediately take the alarm, and support the injured party; the liberty of ENGLISHMEN would be asserted ; juries would be implacable; and the tools of tyranny, acting both against law and equity, would meet with the severeft vengeance. On the other hand, were the parliament to grant such an authority, they would probably fall into one of these two inconveniencies : They would either bestow it under so many restri&ions as would make it lose its effea, by cramping the authority of the crown ; or they would render it so large and comprehensive, as might give occafion to great abuses, for which we could, in that case, have no remedy. The very irregularity of the practice,
at present, prevents its abuses, by affording so easy a remedy against them.
I pretend not, by this reasoning, to exclude all possibility of contriving a register for seamen, which might man the navy, without being dangerous to liberty. I only observe, that no satisfactory scheme of that nature has yet been proposed. Rather than adopt any project hitherto invented, we continue a practice seemingly the must absurd and unaccountable. Authority, in times of full internal peace and concord, is armed against law. A continued violence is permitted in the crown, amidst the greatest jealousy and watchfulness in the people; nay proceeding from those very principles : Liberty, in a country of the highest liberty, is left entirely to its own defence, without any countenance or protection : The wild state of nature is renewed, in one of the most civilized societies of mankind : And great violence and disorder are committed with impunity; while the one party pleads obedience to the supreme magistrate, the other the fanction of fundamental laws.
E S S A Y XI.
Of the POPULOUSNESS of ANCIENT NATIONS.
THERE is very little ground, either from reason or
obfervation, to conclude the world eternal or incorruptible. The continual and rapid motion of maiter, the violent revolutions with which every part is agitated, the changes remarked in the heavens, the plain traces as well as tradition of an universal deluge, or general convulsion of the elements ; all these prove strongly the mortality of this fabric of the world, and its paffage, by corruption or dissolution, from one ftate or order to another. It must therefore, as well as each individual form which it contains, have its infancy, youth, manhood, and old age ; and it is probable, that, in all these variations, man, equally with every animal and vegetable, will partake. In the flourishing age of the world, it may be expected, that the human species should possess greater vigour both of mind and body, more prosperous health, higher spirits, longer life, and a stronger inclination and power of generation. But if the general system of things, and human society of course, have any such gradual revolutions, they are too slow to be discernible in that short period which is comprehended by history and tradition. Stature and force of body, length of life, even courage and extent of genius, seem hitherto to have
been naturally, in all ages, pretty much the same. The arts and sciences, indeed, have flourished in one period, and have decayed in another : But we may observe, that, at the time when they rose to greatest perfection among one people, they wire perhaps totally unknown to all the neighbouring nations; and though they universally decayed in one age, yet in a succeeding generation they again revived, and diffused themselves over the world. As far, therefore, as observation reaches, there is no universal difference discernible in the human species; and though it were allowed, that the universe, like an animal body, had a natural progress from infancy to old age; yet as it must still be uncertain, whether, at present, it be advancing to its point of perfection, or declining from it, we cannot thence presuppose any decay in human nature *. To prove, therefore, or account for the greater populousness of antiquity, by the imaginary youth or vigour of the world, will scarcely be admitted by any just reasoner. These general physical causes ought entirely to be excluded from that question.
There are indeed some more particular physical causes of importance. Diseases are mentioned in antiquity, which are almost unknown to modern medicine; and new diseases have arisen and propagated themselves, of which there are no traces in ancient history. In this particular we may observe, upon comparison, that the disadvantage is much on the side of the moderns. Not to mention fome others of less moment; the small-pox commits fuch ravages, as would almost alone account for the great fuperiority ascribed to ancient times. The tenth or the twelfth part of mankind, destroyed every generation, should make a yaft difference, it may be thought,
* See NOTE [T].