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fully persuaded, that experience has already brought to light all conceivable sorts of political institutions under which human society can be maintained in concord, and likewise the chief means of directing the multitude, or retaining them within given boundaries : so that I can hardly believe, that on this subject the deepest research would arrive at any result, not abhorrent from experience and practice, which has not been already tried and proved.
When, therefore, I applied my thoughts to the study of political philosophy, I proposed to myself nothing original or strange as the fruits of my refiections; but simply to demonstrate from plain and undoubted principles, or to deduce from the very condition and necessities of human nature, those plans and maxims which square the best with practice. And that in all things which relate to this province, I might conduct my investigations with the same freedom of intellect with which we proceed in questions of pure science, I sedulously disciplined my mind neither to laugh at, nor bewail, nor detest, the actions of men ; but to understand them. For to the safety of the state it is not of necessary importance what motives induce men to administer public affairs rightly, provided only that public affairs be rightly administered.* For moral strength, or freedom from the selfish passions, is the virtue of individuals ; but security is the virtue of a state.
ON THE PRINCIPLES OF POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY.
All the different philosophical systems of political justice, all the theories on the rightful origin of government, are reducible in the end to three classes, correspondent to the three different points of view, in which the human being itself may be contemplated. The first denies all truth and distinct meaning to the words, right and duty; and affirming that the human mind consists of nothing but the manifold modifications of passive sensation, considers men as the highest sort of animals indeed, but at the same time the most wretched ; inasmuch as their defenceless nature forces them into society : while such is the multiplicity of wants engendered by the social state, that the wishes of one are sure to be in contradiction to those of some other. The assertors of this system consequently ascribe the origin and continuance of government to fear, or the power of the stronger, aided by the force of custom. This is the system of Hobbes. Its statement is its confutation. It is, indeed, in the literal sense
* I regret, that I should have given, by thus selecting it for my motto, an implied consent to this very plausible, but false and dangerous position.
of the word, preposterous : for fear pre-supposes conquest, and conquest a previous union and agreement between the conquerors. A vast empire may perhaps be governed by fear; at least the supposition is not absolutely inconceivable, under circumstances which prevent the consciousness of a common strength. A million of men united by mutual confidence and free intercourse of thoughts form one power, and this is as much a real thing as a steam-engine ; but a million of insulated individuals is only an abstraction of the mind, and but one told so many times over without addition, as an idiot would tell the clock at noon-one, one, one. But when, in the first instances, the descendants of one family joined together to attack those of another family, it is impossible that their chief or leader should have appeared to them stronger than all the rest together; they must therefore have chosen him, and this as for particular purposes, so doubtless under particular conditions, expressed or understood. Such we know to be the case with the North American tribes at present; such, we are informed by history, was the case with our own remote ancestors. Therefore, even on the system of those who, in contempt of the oldest and most authentic records, consider the savage as the first and natural state of man, government must have originated in choice and an agreement. The apparent exceptions in Africa and Asia are, if possible, still more subversive of this system : for they will be found to have originated in religious imposture, and the first chiefs to have secured a willing and enthusiastic obedience to themselves as delegates of the Deity.
But the whole theory is baseless. We are told by history, we learn from our experience, we know from our own hearts, that fear, of itself, is utterly incapable of producing any regular, continuous, and calculable effect, even on an individual ; and that the fear, which does act systematically upon the mind, always pre-supposes a sense of duty, as its cause.
The most cowardly of the European nations, the Neapolitans and Sicilians, those among whom the fear of death exercises the most tyrannous influence relatively to their own persons, are the very men who least fear to take away the life of a fellow-citizen by poison or assassination ; while in Great Britain, a tyrant, who has abused the
power, which a vast property has given him, to oppress a whole neighborhood, can walk in safety unarmed and unattended,
amid a hundred men, each of whom feels his heart burn with rage and indignation at the sight of him. It was this man who broke my father's heart; or, it is through him that my
children are clad in rags, and cry for the food which I am no longer able to provide for them. And yet they dare not touch a hair of his head! Whence does this arise ? Is it from a cowardice of sensibility that makes the injured man shudder at the thought of shedding blood ? Or from a cowardice of selfishness which makes him afraid of hazarding his own life? Neither the one nor the other! The field of Waterloo, as the most recent of a hundred equal proofs, has borne witness that,
-bring a Briton frae his hill,
Say, such is royal George's will,
An' there's the foe,
Twa at a blow.
And when he fa's,
In faint huzzas. *
Whence then arises the difference of feeling in the former case ? To what does the oppressor owe his safety ? To the spirit-quell. ing thought ;-the laws of God and of my country have made his life sacred! I dare not touch a hair of his head ! -'Tis conscience that makes cowards of us all,—but oh! it is conscience too which makes heroes of us all.
Le plus fort n'est jamais assez fort pour être toujours le maître, s'il ne transforme sa force en droit et l'obeissance en devoir.
ROUSSEAU. Viribus parantur provinciæ, jure retinentur. Igitur breve id gaudium, quippe Germani victi magis, quam domiti.
FLORUS, iv. 12.* The strongest is never strong enough to be always the master, unless he transforms his power into right, and obedience into duty.
Provinces are taken by force, but they are kept by right. This exultation therefore was of brief continuance, inasmuch as the Germans had been overcome, but not subdued.
A TRULY great man,t the best and greatest public character that I had ever the opportunity of making myself acquainted with,
;-on assuming the command of a man of war, found a mutinous crew, more than one half of them uneducated Irishmen, and of the remainder no small portion had become sailors by compromise of punishment. What terror could effect by severity and frequency of acts of discipline, had been already effected. And what was this effect? Something like that of a polar winter on a flask of brandy. The furious spirit concentered itself with tenfold strength at the heart; open violence was changed into secret plots and conspiracies; and the consequent orderliness of the crew, as far as they were orderly, was but the brooding of a tempest. The new commander instantly commenced a system of discipline as near as possible to that of ordinary law ;-as much as possible, he avoided, in his own person, the appearance of any will or arbitrary power to vary, or to remit, punishment. The rules to be observed were affixed to a conspicuous part of the ship, with the particular penalties for the breach of each particular rule; and care was taken that every individual of the ship should know and understand this code. With a single exception in the case of mutinous behavior, a space of twenty-four hours Slightly altered.--Ed.
+ Sir Alexander Ball. --Ed.
was appointed between the first charge and the second hearing of the cause, at which time the accused person was permitted and required to bring forward whatever he thought conducive to his defence or palliation. If, as was commonly the case—for the officers well knew that the commander would seriously resent in them all caprice of will, and by no means permit to others what he denied to himself, no answer could be returned to the three questions-Did you not commit the act ? Did you not know that it was in contempt of such a rule, and in defiance of such a punishment ? And was it not wholly in your own power to have obeyed the one and avoided the other ?—the sentence was then passed with the greatest solemnity, and another, but shorter, space of time was again interposed between it and its actual execution. During this space the feelings of the commander, as a man, were so well blended with his inflexibility, as the organ of the law; and how much he suffered previously to and during the execution of the sentence was so well known to the crew, that it became a common saying with them when a sailor was about to be punished, the captain takes it more to heart than the fellow himself. But whenever the commander perceived any trait of pride in the offender, or the germs of any noble feeling, he lost no opportunity of saying, “ It is not the pain that you are about to suffer which grieves me! You are none of you, I trust, such cowards as to turn faint-hearted at the thought of that! but that, being a man, and one who is to fight for his king and country, you should have made it necessary to treat you as a vicious beast,-it is this that grieves me.”.
I have been assured, both by a gentleman who was a lieutenant on board that ship at the time when the heroism of its captain, aided by his characteristic calmness and foresight,. greatly influenced the decision of the most glorious battle recorded in the annals of our naval history; and very recently by a gray-headed sailor, who did not even know my name, or could have suspected that I was previously acquainted with the circumstances—I have been assured, I say, that the success of this plan was such as astonished the oldest officers, and convinced the most incredulous. Ruffians, who, like the old Buccaneers, had been used to inflict torture on themselves for sport, or in order to harden themselves beforehand, were tamed and overpowered, how or why they themselves knew not. From the fiercest spirits were heard the