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is once known, we are provided with an answer to every importunity.
There is a difference, no doubt, between convivial intemperance, and that solitary sottishness, which waits neither for company nor invitation. But the one, I am afraid, commonly ends in the other : and this last is the baseft degradation, to which the faculties and dignity of human nature can be reduced.
CHA P. Ć H A P. III.
THERE is no subject in morality, itt
1 which the consideration of general consequences is more necessary than in this of suicide. Particular and extreme cases of suicide may be feigned, and may happen, of which it would be difficult to assign the particular harm, from that consideration alone to demonstrate the guilt. And these cases have chiefly occasioned confusion and doubtfulness in the question. Albeit this is no more, than what is sometimes true of the most acknowledged vices. I could propose many possible cafes even of murder, which, if they were detached from the general rule, and governed by their own particular consequences alone, it would be no easy undertaking to prove criminal.
The true question in the argument is no other than this—may every man who pleases to destroy his life, innocently do so? Limit, and distin
guish the subject as you can, it will come at last to this question.
For, shall we say, that we are then only at liberty to commit suicide, when we find our continuance in life become useless to mankind ? Any one, who pleases, may make himself useless ; and melancholy minds are prone to think themfelves useless, when they really are not so. Suppose a law were promulged, allowing each private person to destroy every man he met, whose longer continuance in the world he judged to be useless; who would not condemn the latitude of such a rule? Who does not perceive that it amounts to a permission to commit murder at pleasure ? A similar rule, regulating the rights over our own lives, would be capable of the same extension. Beside which, no one is useless for the purpose of this plea, but he who has lost every capacity and opportunity of being useful, together with the possibility of recovering any degree of either; which is a state of such complete destitution and despair, as cannot, I believe, be predicated of any man living.
Or rather, shall we say, that to depart voluntarily out of life, is lawful for those alone, who leave none to lament their death? If this consideration is to be taken into the account at
all, the subject of debate will be, not whether there are any to sorrow for us, but whether their sorrow for our death will exceed that which we should suffer by continuing to live. Now this is a comparison of things so indeterminate in their nature, capable of so different a judgment, and concerning which the judgment will differ so much, according to the state of the spirits, or the pressure of any present anxiety, that it would vary little in hypochondriacal constitutions from an unqualified licence to commit suicide, whenever the distresses men felt or fancied, rose high enough to overcome the pain and dread of death. Men are never tempted to destroy themselves, but when under the oppression of some grievous uneafiness. The restrictions of the rule, therefore, ought to apply to these cases. But what effect can we look for from a rule, which proposes to weigh our own pain, against that of another ; the misery that is felt, against that which is only conceived ; and in fo corrupt a balance as the party's own distempered imagination?
In like manner, whatever other rule you afsign, it will ultimately bring us to an indiscriminaté toleration of suicide, in all cafes in which there is danger of its being committed,
It remains, therefore, to inquire what would be the effect of such a toleration-evidently, the loss of many lives to the community, of which some might be useful or important; the affliction of many families, and the consternation of all; for mankind must live in continual alarm for the fate of their friends and dearest relations, when the restraints of religion and morality are withdrawn ; when every disgust, which is powerful enough to tempt men to suicide, shall be deemed sufficient to justify it; and when the follies and vices, as well as the inevitable calamities of human life, so often make existence a burthen.
· A second consideration, and perfectly distinct from the former, is this. By continuing in the world, and in the exercise of those virtues which remain within our power, we retain the opportunity of meliorating our condition in a future state. This argument, it is true, does not in strictness prove suicide to be a crime; but if it supply a motive to dissuade us from committing it, it amounts to much the same thing. Now there is no condition in human life which is not capable of some virtue, active or passive. Even piety and resignation under the sufferings to which, we are called, testify a trust and acquiefcence in the divine counsels more acceptable,
in . perhaps,