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DUTIES TO OURSELVES.
THIS division of the subject is retained
1 merely for the sake of method, by which the writer and the reader are equally assisted. To the subject itself it imports nothing; for the obligation of all duties being fundamentally the same, it matters little under what class or title any of them are considered. In strictness, there are few duties or crimes, which terminate in a man's self; and, so far as others are affected by their operation, they have been treated of in some article of the preceding book. We have reserved however to this head the rights of VOL. II.
self-defence ; also the consideration of drunkenness and suicide, as offences against that care of our faculties, and preservation of our person, which we account duties, and call duties to oura selves.
CH A P 1.
THE RIGHTS OF SELF-DEFENCE.
IT has been asserted, that in a state of nature I we might lawfully defend the most insignificant right, provided it were a perfect deterininate right, by any extremities which the obstinacy of the aggressor made necessary. Of this I doubt; because I doubt whether the general rule be worth sustaining at such an expence, and because, apart from the general consequence of yielding to the attempt, it cannot be contended to be for the augmentation of human happiness, that one man should lose his life or a limb, rather than another a pennyworth of his property. Nevertheless, perfect rights can only be distinguished by their value ; and it is impossible to ascertain the value, at which the liberty of using extreme violence begins. The person attacked must balance, as well as he can, between the general consequence of yielding, and the particular effect of resistance. C B 2
However, this right, if it exist in a state of nature, is suspended by the establishment of civil society; because thereby other remedies are provided against attacks upon our property, and because it is necessary to the peace and safety of the community, that the prevention, punishment, and redress of injuries be adjusted by public laws. Moreover, as the individual is afsisted in the recovery of his right, or of a compensation for it, by the public strength, it is no less equitable than expedient, that he should submit to public arbitration, the kind as well as the measure of the fatisfaction which he is to obtain.
There is one case in which all extremities are justifiable, namely, when our life is assaulted, and it becomes necessary for our preservation to kill the assailant. This is evident in a state of nature ; unless it can be shown, that we are bound to prefer the aggressor's life to our own, that is to say, to love our enemy better than ourselves, which can never be a debt of justice, nor any where appears to be a duty of charity. Nor is the case altered by our living in civil society; because, by the supposition, the laws of society cannot interpose to protect us, nor by the nature of the case compel restitution. This liberty is
restrained to cases, in which no other probable means of preserving our life remain, as flight, calling for assistance, disarming the adversary, &c. The rule holds, whether the danger proceed from a voluntary attack, as by an enemy, robber, or affalsın; or from an involuntary one, as by a madman, or person sinking in the water, and dragging us after him; or where two persons are reduced to a situation, in which one or both of them must perish ; as in a shipwreck, where two seize upon a plank, which will support only one: although, to say the truth, these extreme cases, which happen seldom, and hardly, when they do happen, admit of moral agency, are scarcely worth mentioning, much less debating.
The instance, which approaches the nearest to the preservation of life, and which seems to juftify the same extremities, is the defence of chastity.
In all other cases, it appears to me the safest to consider the taking away of life as authorized by the law of the land ; and the person who takes it away, as in the situation of a minister or executioner of the law.
In which view, homicide, in England, is justifiable : B 3