Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

COMModus. He was immediately faluted emperor by the officer and his attendants; chearfully proclaimed by the populace; unwillingly submitted to by the guards ; formally recognized by the senate; and passively received by the provinces and armies of the empire.

The discontent of the Prætorian bands broke out in a fudden fedition, which occasioned the murder of that excellent prince: And the world being now without a Dafter and without government, the guards thought proper to set the empire formally to fale. JULIAN, the purchaser, was proclaimed by the soldiers, recognized by the senate, and submitted to by the people; and must also have been submitted to by the provinces, had not the envy of the legions begot opposition and resistance. PesceNNIUS Niger in SYRIA elected himself emperor, gained the tumultuary consent of his army, and was attended with the secret good-will of the fenate and people of Rome. ALBINUS in BRITAIN found an equal right to set up his claim; but Severus, who governed PanNONIA, prevailed in the end above both of them. That able politician and warrior, finding his own birth and dignity too much inferior to the imperial crown, professed, at first, an intention only of revenging the death of PERTINAX. He marched as general into ITALY; defeated JULIAN; and without our being able to fix any precise commencement even of the soldiers' confent, he was from neceflity acknowledged emperor by the senate and people; and fully established in his violent authority by subduing Niger and ALBINUS .

Inter hæc Gordianus CÆS4R (says CAPITOLINUS, speaking of another period) fublatus a militibus, Imperator

+ HERODIAN, lib. ii.

eft appellatus, quia non erat alius in præfenti. It is to be remarked that GORDIAN was a boy of fourteen years

of age.

Frequent instances of a like nature occur in the history of the emperors; in that of ALEXANDER's successors; and of many other countries : Nor can any thing be more unhappy than a despotic government of that kind; where the succession is disjointed and irregular, and must be determined, on every vacancy, by force or election. In a free government, the matter is often unavoidable, and is also much less dangerous. The interests of liberty may there frequently lead the people, in their own defence, to alter the fucceffion of the crown. And the constitution, being compounded of parts, may still maintain a sufficient stability, by resting on the aristocratical or democratical members, though the monarchical be altered, from time to time, in order to accommodate it to the former.

In an absolute government, when there is no legal prince, who has a title to the throne, it may safely be determined to belong to the first occupier. Instances of this kind are but too frequent, especially in the eastern monarchies. When any race of princes expires, the will or destination of the last fovereign will be regarded as a title. Thus the edict of Lewis the XIVth, who called the bastard princes to the fucceffion in case of the failure of all the legitimate princes, would, in such an event, have some authority to Thus the will of CHARLES the Second difposed of the whole SPANISH monarchy. The cefsion of the ancient proprietor, especially when joined to conqueft, is likewise deemed a good title. The general bond or obligation, which binds us to government, is

+ See NOTE (TT).

the

the interest and necessities of society; and this obligation is very strong. The determination of it to this or that particular prince or form of government is frequently more uncertain and dubious. Present possession has considerable authority in these cases, and greater than in private property ; because of the disorders which attend all revolutions and changes of government.

We shall only observe, before we conclude, that, though an appeal to general opinion may justly, in the speculative sciences of metaphysics, natural philosophy, or astronomy, be esteemed unfair and inconclusive, yet in all questions with regard to morals, as well as criticism, there is really no other standard, by which any controversy can ever be decided. And nothing is a clearer proof, that a theory of this kind is erroneous, than to find, that it leads to paradoxes, repugnant to the common sentiments of mankind, and to the practice and opinion of all nations and all ages. The doctrine, which founds all lawful government on an original contract, or consent of the people, is plainly of this kind; nor has the most noted of its partizans, in profecution of it, fcrupled to affirm, that absolute monarchy is inconfiltent with civil society, and so can be no form of civil government at all *; and that the supreme power in a state cannot take from any man, by taxes and impositions, any part of his property, without his own consent or that of his representatives +. What authority any moral reasoning can have, which leads into opinions so wide of the general practice of mankind, in every place but this single kingdom, it is easy to determine.

The only passage I meet with in antiquity, where the obligation of obedience to government is ascribed to a

* See Locke on government, chap. vii: § 90.
of Id. chap. xi. § 138, 139, 140.
I i3

promise,

promise, is in Plato's Crito; where SOCRATES refuses to escape from prison, because he had tacitly promised to obey the laws. Thus he builds a tory consequence of pasive obedience, on a whiz foundation of the original contract.

New discoveries are not to be expected in these mate ters. If scarce any man, till very lately, ever imagined that government was founded on contract, it is certain, that it cannot, in general, have any fuch foundation.

The crime of rebellion among the ancients was commonly expressed by the terms VWTEPISEiv, novas res moliri,

E S S A Y

XIII.

Of PASSIVE OBEDIENCE.

IN

N the former essay, we endeavoured to refute the Speculative systems of politics advanced in this nation

; as well the religious system of the one party, as the philosophical of the other. We come now to examine the practical consequences, deduced by each party, with regard to the measures of submission due to sovereigns.

As the obligation to justice is founded entirely on the interests of society, which require mutual abstinence from property, in order to preserve peace among mankind; it is evident, that, when the execution of justice would be attended with very pernicious consequences, that virtue must be suspended, and give place to public utility, in such extraordinary and such presling emergencies. The maxim, fiat Juftitia & ruat Cælum, let justice be performed, though the universe be destroyed, is apparently false, and by facrificing the end to the means, shews a preposterous idea of the subordination of duties. What governor of a town makes any scruple of burning the suburbs, when they facilitate the approaches of the enemy? Or what general abstains from plundering a neutral country, when the necessities of war require it, and he cannot otherwise maintain his army? The case is the same with the duty of allegiance; and com,non

fense

Ii 4

« ZurückWeiter »