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E S S A Y XII. OF PASSIVE O B E D I EN C E.
TN the former essay, we endeavored to refute the speculative systems of poli
I tics,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 praetical confequences, deduced by each party, with regard to the measures of submission due to sovereigns.
As the obligation to justice is founded intirely on the interests of society, which require mutual abstinence from property, in order to preserve peace among mankind; 'tis 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 pressing emergencies. The maxini, fiat Justitia & ruat Cælum, let justice be performed, tho'the universe be destroyed, is apparently false, and by sacrificing 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 advances 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 common sense teaches us, that as government obliges to obedience only on account of its tendency to public utility, that duty must always, in extraordinary cases, when public ruin would evidently attend obedience, yield to the primary and original obligation. Salus populi fuprema Lex, the safety of the people is the supreme law. This maxim is agreeable to the sentiments of mankind in all ages: Nor is any one, when he reads of the insurrections against a Nero, or a Philip, so infatuated with party-systems, as not to wish success to the enterprize, and praise the undertakers. Even our high monarchical party, in spite of their sublime theory, are forced, in such cases, to judge, and feel, and approve, in conformity to the rest of mankind.
RESISTANCE, therefore, being admitted in extraordinary emergencies, the question can only be, among good reasoners, with regard to the degree of necesfity, which can justify resistance, and render it lawful or commendable. And here I must confess, that I shall always incline to their sidė, who draw the bond of allegiance the closest possible, and consider an infringement of it, as the last refuge, in desperate cases, when the public is in the highest danger, froin violence and tyranny. For besides the mischiefs of a civil war, which commonly attends insurrection ; 'tis certain, that where a disposition to rebellion appears among any people, it is one chief cause of tyranny in the rulers, and forces them into many violent measures, which they never would have embraced, had every one seemed inclined to submission and obedience. 'Tis thus the tyrannicide or assassination, approved of by ancient maxims, instead of keeping tyrants and usurpers in awe, made them ten times more fierce and unrelenting ; and is now justly, upon that account, abolished by the laws of nations, and universally condemned as a base and treacherous method of bringing to justice these disturbers of society.
Venhoror a Philip, som is any one, when hn is agreeable to the
Besides; we must consider, that as obedience is our duty in the common course of things, it ought chiefly to be inculcated ; nor can any thing be more preposterous than an anxious care and sollicitude in ftating all the cases, in which resistance may be allowed. Thus, tho' a philosopher reasonably acknowleges, in the course of an argument, that the rules of justice may be dispensed with in cases of urgent necessity; what should we think of a preacher or casuist, who should make it his chief study to find out such cases, and enforce them with all the vehemence of argument and eloquence? Would he not be better employed in inculcating the general doctrine, than in displaying the particular exceptions, which we are, perhaps, but too much inclined, of ourselves, to embrace, and to extend ?
There are, however, two reasons, which may be pleaded in defence of that party among us, who have, with so much industry, propagated the maxims of resistance ; maxins, which, it must be confeft, are, in general, so pernicious, and so destructive of çivil fociety. The first is, that their antagonists carrying the doctrine of obedience to such an extravagant height, as not only never to mention the exceptions in extraordinary cases (which might, perhaps, be excusable) but even positively to exclude them; it became necessary to insist on these exceptions, and defend the rights of injured truth and liberty. The second, and, perhaps, better reason, is founded on the nature of the British constitution and form of government.
'Tis almost peculiar to our constiution to establish a first magistrate with such high pre-eminence and dignity, that, tho' limited by the laws, he is, in a manner, so far as regards his own person, above the laws, and can neither be questioned nor punished for any injury or wrong, wbich may be committed by him. His ministers alone, or those who act by his commission, are obnoxious to justice; and while the prince is thus allured, by the prospect of personal safety, to give the laws their free course, an equal security is, in effect, obtained, by the punishment of lesser offenders, and at the same time a civil war is avoided, which would be the infallible consequence, were an attack, at every turn, made directly upon the sovereign. But tho' the constitution pays this falutary compliment to the prince, it can never reasonably be understood, by that maxim, to have determined its own destruction, or to have established a tame submission, where he protects his ministers, perseveres in injustice, and usurps the whole power of the commonwealth. This case, indeed, is never expressly put by the laws; because it is impossible for them, in their ordinary course, to provide a remedy for it, or establish any magistrate, with superior authority, to chastise the exorbitancies of the prince. But as a right without a remedy would be the greatest of all absurdities; the remedy, in this case, is the extraordinary one of resistance, when affairs come to that extremity, that the constitution can be defended by it alone. Resistance, therefore, must, of course, become more frequent in the British government, than in others, which are simpler, and consist of fewer parts and inovements. Where the king is an absolute sovereign, he has little temptation to commit such enormous tyranny as may justly provoke rebellion : But where he is limited, his imprudent ambition, without any great vices, may run him into that perillous situation. This was evidently the case with CHARLES the First ; and if we may now speak truth, after animosities are laid, this was also the case with James the Second. These were harmless, if
not, not, in their private character, good men ; but mistaking the nature of our constitution, and engrossing the whole legislative power, it became necessary to oppose them with some vehemence, and even to deprive the latter formally of that authority, which he had used with such imprudence and indiscretion.
E S S A Y XIII. OF THE PROTESTANT SUCCESS I O N.
T SUPPOSE, that a member of parliament, in the reign of King WILLIAM I or Queen Anne, while the establishment of the Protestant Succefion was yet uncertain, were deliberating concerning the party he would choose in that important question, and weighing, with impartiality, the advantages and disadvantages on each side. I believe the following particulars would have entered into his confideration.
He would easily perceive the great advantages resulting from the restoration of the STUART family; by which we should preserve the succession clear and undif. puted, free from a pretender, with such a specious title as that of blood, which, with the multitude, is always the claim, the strongest and most easily comprehended. 'Tis in vain to say, as many have done, that the question with regard to governors, independent of government, is frivolous, and little worth disputing, much less fighting about. The generality of mankind never will enter into these sentiments; and 'tis much happier, I believe, for society, that they do not, but ra. ther continue in their natural prejudices and prepossessions. How could stability be preserved in any monarchical government, (which, tho' perhaps, not the best, is, and always has been, the most common of any) unless men had lo passionate a regard for the true heir of their royal family, and even tho' weak in understanding, or infirm in years, gave him so great a preference above persons the most accomplished in shining talents, or celebrated for great atchievements ? Would not every popular leader put in his claim at every vacancy, or even without any vacancy; and the kingdom become the theatre of perpetual wars and convulsions ? The condition of the Roman empire, surely, was not, in this respect, much to be envied ; nor is that of the Eastern nations, who pay little regard to the title of their sovereigns, but sacrifice them, every day, to the caprice or momentary humor of the populace or soldiery. 'Tis but a foolish wisdom, which is so carefully displayed, in undervaluing princes, and placing them on a level with the meanest of mankind. To be sure, an anatomist finds no more in the greatest monarch than in the lowest peasant or day-laborer; and a moralist may, perhaps, frequently find less. But what do all these reflections tend to? We, all of us, still retain these prejudices in favor of birth and family; and neither in our serious occupations, nor most careless amusements, can we ever get entirely rid of them. A tragedy, that would represent the adventures of sailors, or porters, or even of private gentlemen, would presently disgust us ; but one that introduces kings and princes, acquires in our eyes an air of importance and dignity. Or should a man be able, by his superior wisdom, Mm
to get entirely above such prepossessions, he would foon, by means of the same wisdom, again bring himself down to them, for the sake of society, whose welfare he would perceive to be intimately connected with them. Far from endeavoring to undeceive the people in this particular, he would cherish such sentiments of reverence to their princes; as requisite to preserve a due subordination in society. And tho’ the lives of twenty thousand men be often facrificed to maintain a king in poffefsion of his throne, or preserve the right of succession undirturbed, he entertains no indignation at the loss, on pretence that every individual of these was, perhaps, in himself, as valuable as the prince he served. He considers the consequences of violating the hereditary rights of kings : Consequences, which may be felt for many centuries; while the loss of several thousand men brings so little prejudice to a large kingdom, that it may not be perceived a few years afterwards.
The advantages of the HANOVER succession are of an opposite nature, and arise from this very circumstance, that it violates hereditary right; and places on the throne a prince, to whom birth gave no title to that dignity. 'Tis evident to any one who confiders the history of this island, that the privileges of the people have, during the two last centuries, been continually upon the increase, by the division of the church-lands, by the alienations of the barons estates, -by the progress of trade, and above all, by the happiness of our situation, which, for a long time, gave us sufficient security, without any standing army or military establishment. On the contrary, public liberty has, almost in every other nation of EuROPE, been, during the sanie period, extremely upon the decline; while the people were disgusted at the hardships of the old Gothic militia, and chose rather to intrust their prince with mercenary armies, which he easily turned against themselves. It was nothing extraordinary, therefore, that some of our British lovereigns mistook the nature of the constitution, and genius of the people, and as they embraced all the favorable precedents left them by their ancestors, they overlooked all those which were contrary, and which suppofed a limitation in our government. They were encouraged in this mistake, by the example of all the neighboring princes, who, bearing the same title or appellation, and being ada orned with the same ensigns of authority, naturally led them to claim the same powers and prerogatives. The fiattery of courtiers farther blinded them; and o
It appears from the speeches, and proclama: guised: As we may learn from a story told in the tions, and whole train of King James J.'s actions, life of Mr. WaLLER, and which that poet uled as well as his son's, that they considered the Eng. frequently to repeat. When Mr. WALI. Er was LISH government as a simple monarchy, and ne- young, he had the curiosity to go to court; and ver imagined that any considerable part of their he stood in the circle, and saw King James dine, subjects entertained a contrary idea. . This made where, amongst other company, there fac at table them discover their pretensions, without preparing two bishops. The King, openly and aloud, proa any force to support them ; and even without re- posed this question, Whether he might not také bis ferve or disguise, which are always employed by subje&ts money, when he had'occasion for it, without all those, who enter upon any new project, or endea- this formality of parliament? The one bishop readily vor to innovate in any government. King James replied, God forbid you should not : For you are the told his parliament plainly, when they meddled breath of our nostrils. The other bishop declined in state affairs, Ne sutor ultra crepidam. He used answering, and said he was not skilled in parliaal.o, at his table, in promiscuous companies, to mentary cases : But upon the King's urging him, advance his notions, in a manner ftill more undis- and saying he would admit of no evasion, his
above all, that of the clergy, who from several passages of scripture, and these wrested too, had erected a regular and avowed system of tyranny and despotic power. The only method of destroying, at once, all these exorbitant claims and pretensions, was to depart from the true hereditary line, and chuse a prince, who, being plainly a creature of the public, and receiving the crown on conditions, expressed and avowed, found his authority established on the same bottom with the privileges of the people. By electing him in the royal line, we cut off all hopes of ambitious subjects, who might, in future emergencies, disturb the government by their cabals and pretensions : By rendering the crown hereditary in his family, we avoided all the inconveniencies of elective monarchy: And by excluding the lineal heir, we fecured all our constitutional limitations, and rendered our government uniform and of a piece. The people cherish monarchy, because protected by it: The monarch favors liberty, because created by it. And thus every advantage is obtained by the new establishment, as far as human skill and wisdoin can extend itself.
These are the separate advantages of fixing the succession, either in the house of STUART, or in that of HANOVER. There are also disadvantages in each establishment, which an impartial patriot would ponder and examine, in order to form a just judgment upon the whole.
The disadvantages of the Protestant succession consist in the foreign dominions, which are possessed by the princes of the Hanover line, and which, it might be supposed, would engage us in the intrigues and wars of the continent, and lose us, in some measure, the inestimable advantage we possess, of being surrounded and guarded by the sea, which we command. The disadvantages of recalling the abdicated family consist chiefly in their religion, which is more preju. dicial to society than that established amongst us, is contrary to it, and affords no toleration or peace or security to any other religion.
It appears to me, that all these advantages and disadvantages are allowed on both sides ; at least, by every one, who is at all susceptible of argument or reasoning. No subject, however loyal, pretends to deny, that the disputed title and foreign dominions of the present royal family are a loss; nor is there any partizan of the STUART family, but will confefs, that the claim of hereditary, indefeasible right, and the Roman Catholic religion, are also disadvantages in that family. It belongs, therefore, to a philosopher alone, who is of neither party, to put all these circumstances in the scale, and assign to each of them its proper
nator security, tohle advantages i susceptible o he disputed
tolera appears tot 'by every
Lordship replyed very pleasantly, Why, then, I “ sonable, yet now are most unreasonable and think your Majesty may lawfully take my brother's “ inconvenient. But all there will eally be cut money : For he offers it. In Sir Walter Ra- “ off with the superior power of her Majesty's LEIGH's preface to the History of the world, there " prerogative, against which her own grants are is this remarkable paflige. Philip II. by strong “ not to be pleaded or inforced.” State of Irehand and main force, attempted to make himself not LAND, p. 1537. Edit. 1705. only an absolute monarch over the Netherlands, As these were very common, if not, perhaps, like unio the kings and sovereigns of England and the universal notions of the times, the two firit France ; but Turk-like, to tread under his feet all princes of the house of STUART were the more their natural and fundamental laws, privileges, and excusable for their mistake. And RAPIN, suitable antient rights. Spenser, speaking of some grants to his usual malignity and partiality, seems to of the English kings to the Irish corporations, treat them with too much severity, upon account says, “ All which, tho', at the time of their first of it. “ grant, they were tolerable, and perhaps rea.
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