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itfelf, but by the mutual affiftance and combination of its correfpondent parts.
All the laws of nature, which regulate property, as well as all civil laws, are general; and regard alone fome effential circumstances of the cafe, without taking into confideration the characters, fituations and connections of the perfons concerned, or any particular confequences, that may refult from the determination of thefe laws, in every particular cafe that offers. They deprive, without fcruple, a beneficent man of all his poffeffions, if acquired by miftake, without a good title in order to bestow them on a felfish mifer, who has already heaped up immense stores of fuperfluous riches. Public utility requires, that property fhould be regulated by general inflexible rules, and though fuch rules are adopted as beft ferve the fame end of public utility, it is impoffible for them to prevent all particular hardships, or make beneficial confequences refult from every individual cafe. It is fufficient, if the whole plan or fcheme be neceffary to the fupport of civil fociety, and if the balance of good, in the main, does thereby preponderate much above that of evil. Even the general laws of the universe, though planned by infinite wisdom, cannot exclude all evil or inconvenience, in every particular operation.'
After this, our author proceeds to confider in what sense juftice may be faid to arife from human conventions. • If by convention,' fays he, be here meant a promise (which is the most useful fenfe of the word) nothing can be more abfurd, than this pofition. The obfervance of promises is itself, one of the most confiderable parts of justice; and we are not furely bound to keep our word, because we have given our word to keep it. But if by convention be meant a fenfe of common intereft; which fense each man feels in his own breast, which he observes in his fellows, and which carries him, in concurrence with others, into a general plan or fyftem of actions, that tends to public utility; it must be owned, that, in this fenfe, juftice arifes from human conventions. For if it be allowed (what is, indeed, evident) that the particular confequences of a particular act of juftice, may be hurtful to the public as well as to individuals; it follows, that every man, in embracing that virtue, must have an eye to the whole plan or fyftem, and must expect the concurrence of his fellows in the fame conduct and behaviour. Were all his views to terminate in the particular confequences of each particular act of
his own, his benevolence and humanity, as well as felflove, might often prefcribe to him measures of conduct very different from thefe, which are agreeable to the ftrict rules of right and juftice.
Thus two men pull the oars of a boat, by common convention, for common intereft, without any promife or contract; thus gold and filver are made the measures of exchange; thus fpeech and words and language are fixt, by human convention and Whatever is advantageous to agreement. two or more perfons, if all perform their part; but what lofes all advantage, if only one perform, can arise from no other principle. There would otherwife be no motive for any one of them to enter into that scheme of conduct.
The word, natural, is commonly taken in so many fenfes, and is of fuch loofe fignification, that it seems to little purpose to difpute, whether juftice is natural or not. If felf-love, if benevolence be natural to man; if reason and fore-thought be alfo natural; then may the fame epithet be applied to juftice, order, fidelity, property, fociety. Men's inclination, their neceffities lead them to combine; their understanding and experience tell them, that this combination is impoffible, where each governs himself by no rule, and pays no regard to the poffeffions of others; and from thefe paffions and reflections conjoined, as foon as we obferve like paffions and reflections in others, the fentiment of juftice, through all ages, has infallibly and certainly had place, to fome degree or other, in every individual of human fpecies. In fo fagacious an animal, what neceffarily arifes from the exertion of his intellectual faculties may juftly be esteemed natural.
Amongst all civilized nations, it has been the conftant endeavour to remove every thing arbitrary and partial from the decifion of property, and to fix the fentence of judges by fuch general views and confiderations, as may be equal to every member of the fociety. For befides, that nothing could be more dangerous than to accuftom the bench, even in the fmalleft inftance, to regard private friendship or enmity; it is certain, that men, where they imagine, that there was no other reason for the preference of their adverfary, but perfonal favour, are apt to entertain the ftrongeft jealoufy and ill-will against the magiftrates and judges. When natural reafon, therefore, points out no fixt view of public utility, by which a controversy of property can be decided, pofitive laws are often framed to fupply its place, and direct the procedure of all courts of VOL. VI
judicature. Where thefe two fail, as often happens, precedents are called for; and a former decifion, though given itself without any fufficient reason, justly becomes a fufficient reafon for a new decifion. If direct laws and precedents be wanting, imperfect and indirect ones are brought in aid; and the controverted cafe is ranged under them, by analogical reafonings, and comparifons, and fimilitudes, and correfpondencies, that are often more fanciful than real. In general, it may eafily be afferted, that jurifprudence is, in this refpect, different from all the fciences; and in many of its nicer queftions, there cannot properly be faid to be truth or falfhood on either fide. If one pleader brings the cafe under any former law or precedent, by a refined analogy or comparison, the oppofite pleader is not at a lofs to find an oppofite analogy or comparifon; and the preference given by the judge, is often founded more on tafte and imagination than on any folid argument. Public utility is the general view of all courts of judicature; and this utility too requires a staple rule in all controverfies; but where feveral rules, nearly equal and indifferent, prefent themselves, 'tis a very flight turn of thought, which fixes the decifion in favour of either party.'
Our author concludes his ingenious performance with a very entertaining dialogue, wherein he prefents us with a picture of Athenian and French manners, to fhew what wide differences, in the fentiments of morals, are to be found betwixt different nations. He endeavours to make it appear, that the principles, upon which men reafon, in morals, are always the fame; though the conclufions they draw, are often very different. As many ages, fays he, as have elapfed, fince the fall of Greece and Rome, and fuch changes as have arrived in religion, language, laws and cuftoms, none of thefe revolutions have ever produced any confiderable innovation in the primary fentiments of morals, more than in thofe of external beauty. Some minute differences, perhaps, may be obferved in both, Horace celebrates a low forehead, and Anacreon joined eye-brows; but the Apollo and the Venus of antiquity, are ftill our models for male and female beauty; in like manner, as the character of Scipio continues our standard for the glory of heroes, and that of Cornelia for the honour of matrons.
It appears, that there never was any quality, recommended by any one, as a virtue or moral excellence; but on account of its being useful, or agreeable to a man himself, or to others. For what other reafon can there ever be
for praife or approbation? Or where would be the fenfe of extolling a good character or action, which at the fame time, is allowed to be good for nothing? All the differences, therefore, in morals, may be reduced to this one general foundation, and may be accounted for by the different views which people take of these circumstances.'
Political Difcourfes. By David Hume, Efq; 8vo. 3s. Printed at Edinburgh; for Kincaid and Do
EW writers are better qualified, either to inftruct or entertain their readers, than Mr. Hume. On whatever fubject he employs his pen, he prefents us with fomething new; nor is this his only merit, his writings (as we obferved in the preceding article) receive a farther recommendation from that elegance and fpirit which appears in them, and that clearness of reafoning, which diftinguishes them from most others. The difcourfes now before us, are upon curious and interefting fubjects; abound with folid reflections; and fhew the author's great knowledge of ancient and modern hiftory, and his comprehenfive views of things. To fuch indeed, as have not accustomed themfelves to general reafonings on political fubjects, feveral principles laid down in them, will, doubtless appear too refined and fubtile: but, as our author obferves, when we reafon upon general subjects, it may juftly be affirmed, that our fpeculations can fcarce ever be too fine, provided they be juft.
The fubject of his firft difcourfe is Commerce; it is introduced with fome general reflections, after which he proceeds as follows. The greatnefs of a state, fays he, and the happinefs of its fubjects, however independent they may be fuppofed in fome refpects, are commonly allowed to be infeparable with regard to commerce; and as private men receive greater fecurity, in the poffeffion of their trade and riches, from the power of the public, fo the public becomes powerful in proportion to the riches and extenfive commerce of private men. This maxim is true in general; though I cannot forbear thinking, that it may pombly admit of fome exceptions, and that we often establish it with too little referve and limitation. There may be fome circumftance, where the commerce and riches, and luxury of individuals, inftead of adding ftrength to the public, may ferve only to thin its armies,
and diminish its authority among the neighbouring nations. Man is a variable being, and fufceptible of many different opinions, principles, and rules of conduct. What may be true while he adheres to one way of thinking, will be found falfe, when he has embraced an oppofite set of manners and opinions.
The bulk of every ftate may be divided into husbandmen and manufacturers. The former are employed in the culture of the land. The latter work up the materials furnished by the former, into all the commodities which are neceffary or ornamental to human life. As foon as men quit their favage ftate, where they live chiefly by hunting and fifhing, they muft fall into thefe two claffes; tho' the arts of agriculture employ at first the most numerous part of the fociety. Time and experience improve so much these arts, that the land may eafily maintain a much greater number of men, than those who are immediately employed in its cultivation, or who furnifh the more neceffary manufactures to fuch as are fo employed.
If these fuperfluous hands be turned towards the finer arts, which are commonly denominated the arts of luxury; they add to the happiness of the ftate: fince they afford to many the opportunity of receiving enjoyments, with which they would otherwife have been unacquainted. But may not another fcheme be propofed for the employment of thefe fuperfluous hands? may not the fovereign Jay claim to them, and employ them in fleets and armies, to encrease the dominions of the ftate abroad, and fpread its fame over diftant nations: 'tis certain, that the fewer defires and wants are found in the proprietors and labourers of land, the fewer hands do they employ; and confequently the fuperfluities of the land, inftead of maintaining tradesmen and manufacturers, may fupport fleets and armies to a much greater extent, than where a great many arts are required to minifter to the luxury of particular perfons. Here therefore seems to be a kind of oppofition betwixt the greatnefs of the ftate, and the happiness of the fubjects. A ftate is never greater, than when all its fuperfluous hands are employed in the fervice of the public. The eafe and convenience of private perfons require, that thefe hands fhould be employed in their fervice. The one can never be fatisfied, but at the expence of the other. As the ambition of the fovereign muft entrench on the luxury of individuals; fo the luxury of individuals must diminish the force, and check the ambition of the fovereign.'