Imatges de pÓgina
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it lawful to give tribute unto Cæsar?" it may be presumed that doubts had been started in the Jew. ish schools concerning the obligation, or even the lawfulness, of submission to the Roman yoke. The accounts delivered by Josephus, of various insurrections of the Jews of that and the following age, excited by this principle, or upon this pretence, confirm the presumption. Now, as the Christians were at first chiefly taken from the Jews, confound ed with them by the rest of the world, and, from the affinity of the two religions, apt to intermix the doctrines of both, it is not to be wondered at, that a tenet, so flattering to the self-importance of those who embraced it, should have been communicated to the new institution. Again, the teachers of Christianity, amongst the privileges which their religion conferred upon its professors, were wont to extol the "liberty into which they were called,”"in which Christ had made them free." This li berty, which was intended of a deliverance from the various servitude in which they had heretofore lived, to the dominion of sinful passions, to the su perstition of the Gentile idolatry, or the encumber ed ritual of the Jewish dispensation, might by some be interpreted to signify an emancipation from all restraint which was imposed by an autho rity merely human. At least, they might be repre sented by their enemies as maintaining notions of this dangerous tendency. To some error or calumny of this kind, the words of St. Peter seem to allude:-"For so is the will of God, that with welldoing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: as free, and not using your liberty for a cloak of maliciousness (i. e. sedition,) but as the servants of God." After all, if any one think this conjecture too feebly supported by testimony, to be relied upon in the interpretation of Scripture, he will then revert to the considerations alleged in | the preceding part of this chapter.

After so copious an account of what we appre hend to be the general design and doctrine of these much-agitated passages, little need be added in explanation of particular clauses. St. Paul has said,

Whosoever resisteth the power, resisteth the or dinance of God." This phrase, "the ordinance of

God," is by many so interpreted as to authorize the most exalted and superstitious ideas of the regal character. But surely, such interpreters have sacrificed truth to adulation. For, in the first place, the expression, as used by St. Paul, is just as applicable to one kind of government, and to one kind of succession, as to another;-to the elective magistrates of a pure republic, as to an absolute hereditary monarch. In the next place it is not affirmed of the supreme magistrate exclusively, that he is the ordinance of God, the title, whatever it imports, belongs to every inferior officer of the state as much as to the highest. The divine right of kings is, like the divine right of other magistrates-the law of the land, or even actual and quiet possession of their office;-a right ratified, we humbly presume, by the Divine approbation, so long as obedience to their authority appears to be necessary or conducive to the common welfare. Princes are ordained of God by virtue only of that general decree by which he assents, and adds the sanction of his will, to every law of society which promotes his own purpose, the communication of human happiness; according to which idea of their origin and constitution (and without any repugnancy to the words of St. Paul,) they are by St. Peter denominated the ordinance of man.

CHAP. V.

Of civil liberty.

CIVIL LIBERTY is the not being restrained by any law, but what conduces in a greater degree to the public welfare.

To do what we will is natural liberty to do what we will, consistently with the interest of the community to which we belong, is civil liberty: that is to say, the only liberty to be desired in a state of civil society.

I should wish, no doubt, to be allowed to act in every instance as I pleased, but I reflect that the rest also of mankind would then do the same; in which state of universal independence and self-di

rection, I should meet with so many checks and obstacles to my own will, from the interference and opposition of other men's, that not only my happi ness, but my liberty, would be less, than whilst the whole community were subject to the dominion of equal laws.

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The boasted liberty of a state of nature exists or ano only in a state of solitude. In every kind and de-alike gree of union and intercourse with his species, it is possible that the liberty of the individual may be Hen augmented by the very laws which restrain it be cause he may gain more from the limitation of other men's freedom than he suffers by the diminution his own. Natural liberty is the right of common upon a waste; civil liberty is the safe, exclusive, unmolested enjoyment of a cultivated enclosure.

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The definition of civil liberty above laid down, appea: imports that the laws of a free people impose no repasser straints upon the private will of the subject, which do not conduce in a greater degree to the public happiness; by which it is intimated, 1st, That re straint itself is an evil; 2dly, That this evil ought to be overbalanced by some public advantage 3dly, That the pro ofof this advantage lies upon the Would legislature; 4thly, That a law being found to produce no sensible good effects, is a sufficient reason for repealing it, as adverse and injurious to the rights of a free citizen, without demanding specific evidence of its bad effects. This maxim might be remembered with advantage in a revision of many laws of this country; especially of the game-laws; of the poor-laws, so far as they lay restrictions upon the poor themselves; of the laws against Papists and dissenters: and, amongst people enamoured to excess and jealous of their liberty, it seems a mat ter of surprise that this principle has been so im perfectly attended to.

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The degree of actual liberty always bearing, ac cording to this account of it, a reversed proportion to the number and severity of the restrictions which are either useless, or the utility of which does not outweigh the evil of the restraint, it follows, that the u every nation possesses some, no nation perfect, li ampl berty that this liberty may be enjoyed under every jeet, form of government: that it may be impaired, o

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increased, but that it is neither gained, nor lost, nor recovered, by any single regulation, change, or event whatever that consequently, those popular phrases which speak of a free people; of a nation of slaves; which call one revolution the era of liberty, or another the loss of it; with many expressions of a like absolute form; are intelligible only in a comparative sense.

Hence also we are enabled to apprehend the distinction between personal and civil liberty. A citizen of the freest republic in the world may be imprisoned for his crimes; and though his personal freedom be restrained by bolts and fetters, so long as his confinement is the effect of a beneficial public law, his civil liberty is not invaded. If this instance appear dubious, the following will be plainer. A passenger from the Levant, who, upon his return to England, should be conveyed to a lazaretto by an order of quarantine, with whatever impatience he might desire his enlargement, and though he saw a guard placed at the door to oppose his escape, or even ready to destroy his life if he attempted it, would hardly accuse government of encroaching upon his civil freedom; nay, might, perhaps, be ali the while congratulating himself that he had at length set his foot again in a land of liberty. The manifest expediency of the measure not only justifies it, but reconciles the most odious confinement with the perfect possession, and the loftiest notions, of civil liberty. And if this be true of the coercion of a prison, that it is compatible with a state of civil freedom, it cannot with reason be disputed of those more moderate constraints which the ordinary operation of government imposes upon the will of the individual. It is not the rigour, but the inexpediency of laws, and acts of authority, which makes them tyrannical.

There is another idea of civil liberty, which, though neither so simple nor so accurate as the former, agrees better with the signification, which the usage of common discourse, as well as the example of many respectable writers upon the subject, has affixed to the term. This idea places liberty in security; making it to consist, not merely in an actual exemption from the constraint of useless

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and noxious laws and acts of dominion, but in be ing free from the danger of having such hereafter imposed or exercised. Thus, speaking of the po litical state of modern Europe, we are accustomed to say of Sweden, that she hath lost her liberty by the revolution which lately took place in that country; and yet we are assured that the people continue to be governed by the same laws as before, or by others which are wiser, milder, and more equi table. What then have they lost? They have lost the power and functions of their diet; the constitution of their states and orders, whose deliberations and concurrence were required in the formation and establishment of every public law; and thereby have parted with the security which they possessed against any attempts of the crown to harass its subjects, by oppressive and useless exertions of prerogative. The loss of this security we denominate the loss of liberty. They have changed, not their laws, but their legislature; not their enjoy. ment, but their safety; not their present burdens, but their prospects of future grievances: and this we pronounce a change from the condition of freemen to that of slaves. In like manner, in our own country, the act of parliament, in the reign of Henry the Eighth, which gave to the king's proclamation the force of law, has properly been called a complete and formal surrender of the liberty of the nation; and would have been so, although no proclamation were issued in pursuance of these new powers, or none but what was recommended by the highest wisdom and utility. The security was gone. Were it probable that the welfare and accommodation of the people would be as studiously, and as providently, consulted in the edicts of a despotic prince, as by the resolutions of a popu lar assembly, then would an absolute form of government be no less free than the purest democra cy. The different degree of care and knowledge of the public interest which may reasonably be ex pected from the different form and composition of the legislature, constitutes the distinction, in respect of liberty, as well between these two extremes, as between all the intermediate modifica tions of civil government.

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