Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

tage to the community. The family of the prince, the order of succession, the prerogative of the crown, the form and parts of the legis lature, together with the respective powers, office, duration, and mutual dependency of the several parts, are all only so many laws, mutable like other laws, whenever expediency requires, either by the ordinary act of the legislature, or, if the occasion deserve it, by the interpofition of the people. These points are wont to be approached with a kind of awe; they are represented to the mind as principles of the constitution settled by our ancestors, and being settled, to be no more committed to innovation or debate; as foundations never to be stirred; as the terms and conditions of the focial compact, to which every citizen of the ftate has engaged his fidelity, by virtue of a promise, which he cannot now recal. Such reafons have no place in our fyftem : to us, if there be any good reason for treating these with more deference and respect than other laws, it is, either the advantage of the present conftitution of government (which reason must be of different force in different countries), or because - In all countries, it is of importance, that the form and usage of governing be acknowledged and

under

understood, as well by the governors as the governed, and because the seldomer it is changed, the more perfectly it will be known by both

fides.

IS

: VI. As all civil obligation is resolved into expediency, what, it may be asked, is the difference between the obligation of an Englishman and a Frenchman? or, why is a Frenchman bound in conscience to bear any thing from his King, which an Englishman would not be bound to bear, since the obligation of both is founded. in the same reafon? Their conditions may differ, but their rights, according to this account, should seem to be equal; and yet we are accustomed to speak of the rights as well as of the happiness of a free people, compared with what belong to the subjects of absolute monarchies : how, you will say, can this comparison be explained, unless we refer to a difference in the compacts, by which they are respectively bound ?- This is a fair question, and the answer to it will afford a further illustration of our principles. We admit then that there are many things which a: Frenchman is bound in conscience, as well as by coercion, to endure at the hands of his prince, to which an Englishman would not be obliged to submit; but we assert, that it is for L 2

these

these two reasons alone : first, because the same act of the prince is not the same grievance where it is agreeable to the constitution, and where it infringes it : secondly, because redress in the two cases is not equally attainable. Resistance cannot be attempted with equal hopes of fuccefs, or with the same prospect of receiving support from others, where the people are reconciled to their sufferings, as where they are alarmed by innovation. In this way, and no otherwise, the subjects of different states possess different civil rights ; the duty of obedience is defined by different boundaries; and the point of justifiable resistance placed at different parts of the scale of fuffering all which is sufficiently intelligible without a social compact.

VII. “ The interest of the whole society is “ binding upon every part of it.” No rule, short of this, will provide for the stability of civil government, or for the peace and safety of social life. Wherefore, as individual members of the state are not permitted to pursue their private emolument to the prejudice of the community, so is it equally a consequence of this rule, that no particular colony, province, town, or district, can juftly concert measures for their feparate intereft, which shall appear at the same

CIIII

time to diminish the sum of public prosperity. I do not mean, that it is necessary to the justice of a measure, that it profit each and every part of the community; for as the happiness of the whole may be increased, whilst that of some parts is diminished, it is poflible, that the conduct of one part of an empire may be detrimental to some other part, and yet just, provided one part gain more in happiness, than the other part loses, so that the common weal be augmented by the change: but what I affirm is, that those counsels can never be reconciled with the obligations resulting from civil union, which cause the whole happiness of the society to be impaired for the conveniency of a part. This conclusion is applicable to the question of right between Great Britain and her revolted colonies. Had I been an American, I should not have thought it enough to have had it even demonstrated, that a separation from the parent state would produce effects beneficial to America; my relation to that ftate imposed upon me a further inquiry, namely, whether the whole happiness of the empire was likely to be promoted by such a measure ?—Not indeed the happiness of every part, that was not necessary, nor to be expected—but whether what Great Britain would lose by the separation

L 3

was

was likely to be compensated to the joint stock of happiness, by the advantages which America would receive from it. The contested claims of sovereign states, and their remote dependencies, may be submitted to the adjudication of this rule with mutual safety. A public advantage is measured by the advantage, which each individual receives, and by the number of those who receive it. A public evil is compounded of the same proportions. Whilst, therefore, a colony is small, or a province thinly inhabited, if a competition of interests arise between the original country and their acquired dominions, the former ought to be preferred, because it is fit, that, if one must necessarily be sacrificed, the less give place to the greater : but when, by an increase of population, the interest of the provinces begins to bear a considerable proportion to the entire interest of the community, it is possible that they may suffer so much by their subjection, that not only theirs, but the whole happiness of the empire may be obstructed by their union. The rule and principle of the calculation being still the same, the result is different; and this difference begets a new situation, which entitles the subordinate parts of the state to more equal terms of confederation, and, if these be refused, to independency.

СНАР.

« AnteriorContinuar »