« ZurückWeiter »
gree of equality; but absolute command on the one side, and servile obedience on the other. Whatever we covet, they must instantly resign : Our permission is the only tenure, by which they hold their possessions : Our compassion and kindness the only check, by which they curb our lawless will : And as no inconvenience ever results from the exercise of a power, so firmly established in nature, the restraints of justice and property, being totally useless, would never have place in so unequal a confederacy.
This is plainly the situation of men with regard to animals; and how far these may be said to possess reason, I leave it to others to determine. The great superiority of civilized EUROPEANS above barbarous INDIANS, tempted us to imagine ourselves on the same footing with regard to them, and made us throw off all restraints of justice, and even of humanity, in our treate ment of them. In many nations, the female sex are reduced to like slavery, and are rendered incapable of all property, in opposition to their lordly masters. But though the males, when united, have, in all countries, bodily force sufficient to maintain this severe tyranny ; yet such are the insinuation, address, and charms of their fair companions, that women are commonly able to break the confederacy, and share with the other sex all the rights and privileges of society.
Were the human species so framed by nature as that each individual possessed within himself every faculty, requisite both for his own preservation, and for the propagation of his kind : Were all society and intercourse cut off between man and man, by the primary intention of the Supreme Creator : It seems evident, that so soli. tary a being would be as much incapable of justice, as of social discourse and conversation. Where mutual regards and forbeatance serve to no manner of purpose, they would never direct the conduct of any reasonable män. - The headlong course of the passions would be checked by no reflection on future consequences. And as each män is here supposed to love himself alone, and tò depend only on himself and his own activity for safety and happiness, he would, on every occasion, to the utmost of his power, challenge the preference above every other being; to none of which he is bound by any ties, either of nature or of interest. Seal said
But suppose the conjunction of the sexes to be esta blished in nature, a family immediately arises; and particular rules being found requisite for its subsistence, these are immediately embraced ; though without comprehending the rest of mankind within their prescrip tions. "Suppose that several families unite together into one society, which is totally disjoined from all others, the rules which preserve peace and order enlarge thema selves to the utmost extent of that society, but beco** ming then entirely useless, lose their force when carried one step farther. But, again, suppose that several disa tinct societies maintain a kind of intercourse for mutual convenience and advantage, the boundaries of justice still grow larger, in proportion to the largeness of mens views and the force of their mutual connections. History, exas perience, reason, suficiently instruct us in this natural progress of human sentiments, and in the gradual enlargët? ment of our regards to justice, in proportion as we become keduainted with the extensive utility of that virtuese siet W:: 18& brand idea...
12879 basuot 28 .
PART II....321* sid: aedT If we examine the particular laws by which justiec-is! directed, and property determined, we shall still be preds Se billene
od dana boss alqisming sented with the same conclusion. The good of mankind is the only object of all these laws and regulations. Notonly is it requisites for the peace and interest of society, that mens possessions should be separated ; but the rules which we follow, in making the separation, are such as can best be contrived to serve farther the interests of society. tha to Become
ce We shall suppose, that a creature possessed of reason, but unacquainted with human nature, deliberates with himself what RULES of justice or property would best promote public interest, and establish peace and security among mankind: His most obvious thought would be, to assign the largest possession to the most extensive virtue, and give every one the power of doing good, proportioned to his inclination. In a perfect theocracy, where à being, infinitely intelligent, gaverns by parti'cular volitions, this rule would certainly have place; and might serve to the wisest purposes. But were mankind. to execute such a law, so great is the uncertainty of merit, both from its natural obscurity, and from the selfconceit of each individual, that no determinate rule of conduct would ever result from it, and the total dissom lution of society must be the immediate consequence. Fanaties may suppose, that dominion is founded on grace, and that saints alone inherit the earth, but the civil magistrate very justly puts these sublime theorists on the same footing with common robbers, and teaches them, by the severest discipline, that a tule, which in spectlation may seem the most advantageous to society, may yet be found in practice totally pernicious and destructive.
That there were religious fanaties of this kind in ENGLAND, during the civil wars, we learn from history i though it is probable that the obvious tendency of these principles excited such horror in mankind, as soon
obliged the dangerous enthusiasts to renounce, or at least conceal their tenets. Perhaps the levellers, who claimed an equal distribution of property, were a kind of political fanatics, which arose from the religious spea cies, and more openly avowed their pretensions; as cariying a more plausible appearance, of being practicable in themselves, as well as useful to human society. .
It must, indeed, be confessed, that nature is so liberal to mankind, that, were all her presents equally divided among the species, and improved by art and industry, every individual would enjoy all the necessaries, and even most of the comforts of life ; nor would ever be liable to any ills, but such as might accidentally arise from the sickly frame and constitution of his body. It must also be confessed, that wherever we depart from this equality, we rob the poor of more satisfaction than we add to the rich ; and that the slight gratification of a frivolous vanity, in one individual, frequently costs more than bread to many families, and even provinces. It may appear withal, that the rule of equality, as it would be highly useful, is not altogether impracticable ; but has taken place, at least in an imperfect degree, in some republics; particularly that of SPARTA ; where it was attended, it is said, with the most beneficial consequences. Not to mention, that the AGRARIAN laws, so frequently claimed in Rome, and carried into execution in many GREEK cities, proceeded, all of them, from a general idea of the utility of this principle. · But historians, and even common sense, may inform us, that however specious these ideas of perfect equality may seem, they are really at bottom impracticable ; and were they not so, would be extremely pernicious to human society. Render possessions ever so equal, mens different degrees of art, care, and industry, will immediately break
that equality. Or, if you check these virtues, you reduce society to the most extreme indigence; and, instead of preventing want and beggary in a few; render it unavoidable to the whole community. The most rigorous inquisition, too, is requisite to watch every inequality on its first appearance ; and the most severe jurisdiction, to punish and redress it. But besides; that so much authority must soon degenerate into tyranny, 'and be exerted with great partialities; who can possibly be possessed of it, in such a situation as is here supposed ? Perfect equality of possessions, destroying all subordination, weakens extremely the authority of magistracy, and must reduce all power nearly to a level, as well as property:
We may conclude; therefore, that, in order to establish laws for the regulation of property; we must be acă quainted with the nature and situation of man; must reject appearances, which may be false, though specious ; and must search for those rules, which re, on the whole, most useful and beneficial : Vulgar sense and slight expea rience are sufficient for this purpose ; where men give not way to too selfish avidity, or too extensive enthusiasm.
Who sees not, for instance, that whatever is produced or improved by a man's art or industry, ought for ever to be secured to him, in order to give encouragement to such useful habits and accomplishments ? That the property ought also to descend to children and relations, for the same useful purpose ? That it may be alienated by consent, in order to beget that commerce and intercourse which is so beneficial to human scciety? And that all contracts and promises ought carefully to be fulfilled, in order to secure mutual trust and confidence, by which the general interest of mankind is so much promoted ? si Examine the writers on the laws of nature, and you will always find; that, whatever principles they set out