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to fall by this one only. All writers on the science of policy are agreed, and they agree with experience, that all governments must frequently infringe the rules of justice to support themselves ; that truth must give way to dissimulation; honesty to convenience; and humanity itself to the reigning interest.
The whole of this mystery of iniquity is called the reason of state. It is a reason which I own I cannot penetrate. What sort of a protection is this of the general right, that is maintained by infringing the rights of particulars ? What sort of justice is this, which is enforced by breaches of its own laws? These paradoxes I leave to be solved by the able heads of legislators and politicians. For my part, I say what a plain man would say on such an oc
I can never believe, that any institution, agreeable to nature, and proper for mankind, could find it necessary, or even expedient, in any case whatsoever, to do, what the best and worthiest instincts of mankind warn us to avoid. But no wonder, that what is set up in opposition to the state of nature should preserve itself by trampling upon the law of nature. To
prove that these sorts of policed societies are a violation offered to nature, and a constraint upon the human mind, it needs only to look upon the sanguinary measures, and instruments of violence, which are everywhere used to support them. Let us take a review of the dungeons, whips, chains, racks, gibbets, with which every society is abundantly stored; by which hundreds of victims are annually offered up to support a dozen or two in pride and madness, and millions in an abject servitude and dependence. There was a time, when I looked with a reverential awe on these mysteries of policy; but age, experience, and philosophy, have rent the veil ; and I view this sanctum sanctorum, at least, without an enthusiastic admiration. I acknowledge, indeed, the necessity of such a proceeding in such institutions; but I must have a very mean opinion of institutions where such proceedings are necessary.
It is a misfortune, that in no part of the globe natural liberty and natural religion are to be found pure, and free from the mixture of political adulterations. Yet we have implanted in us by Providence, ideas, axioms, rules, of what is pious, just, fair, honest, which no political craft, nor learned sophistry, can entirely expel from our breasts. By these we judge, and we cannot otherwise judge, of the several artificial modes of religion and society, and determine of them as they approach to, or recede from, this standard.
The simplest form of government is despotism, where all the inferior orbs of power are moved merely by the will of the
supreme, and all that are subjected to them directed in the same manner, merely by the occasional will of the magistrate. This form, as it is the most simple, so it is infinitely the most general. Scarce any part of the world is exempted from its power. And in those few places where men enjoy what they call liberty, it is continually in a tottering situation, and makes greater and greater strides to that gulf of despotism, which at last swallows up every species of government. The manner of ruling being directed merely by the will of the weakest, and generally the worst, man in the society, becomes the most foolish and capricious thing, at the same time that it is the most terrible and destructive, that well can be conceived. In a despotism the principal person finds, that, let the want, misery, and indigence of his subjects be what they will, he can yet possess abundantly of everything to gratify his most insatiable wishes. He does more. He finds that these gratifications increase in proportion to the wretchedness and slavery of his subjects. Thus encouraged both by passion and interest to trample on the public welfare, and by his station placed above both shame and fear, he proceeds to the most horrid and shocking outrages upon mankind. Their persons become victims of his suspicions. The slightest displeasure is death ; and a disagreeable aspect is often as great a crime as high treason. In the court of Nero, a person
of learning, of unquestioned merit, and of unsuspected loyalty, was put to death for no other reason, than that he had a pedantic countenance which displeased the emperor. This very monster of mankind appeared in the beginning of his reign to be a person of virtue. Many of the greatest tyrants on the records of history have begun their reigns in the fairest manner. But the truth is, this unnatural power corrupts both the heart and the understanding. And to prevent the least hope of amendment, a king is ever surrounded by a crowd of infamous flatterers, who find their
A VINDICATION OF NATURAL SOCIETY.
account in keeping him from the least light of reason, till all ideas of rectitude and justice are utterly erased from his mind. When Alexander had in his fury inhumanly butchered one of his best friends and bravest captains, on the return of reason he began to conceive a horror suitable to the guilt of such a murder. In this juncture, his council came to his assistance. But what did his council ? They found him out a philosopher who gave him comfort. And in what manner did this philosopher comfort him for the loss of such a man, and heal his conscience, flagrant with the smart of such a crime ? You have the matter at length in Plutarch. He told him, “ that let a sovereign do what he will, all his actions are just and lawful, because they are his.” The palaces of all princes abound with such courtly philosophers. The consequence was such as might be expected. He grew every day a monster more abandoned to unnatural lust, to debauchery, to drunkenness, and to murder. And yet this was originally a great man, of uncommon capacity, and a strong propensity to virtue. But unbounded power proceeds step by step, until it has eradicated every laudable principle. It has been remarked, that there is no prince so bad, whose favourites and ministers are not worse. There is hardly any prince without a favourite, by whom he is governed in as arbitrary a manner as he governs the wretches subjected to him. Here the tyranny is doubled. There are two courts, and two interests; both very different from the interests of the people. The favourite knows that the regard of a tyrant is as inconstant and capricious as that of a woman; and concluding his time to be short, he makes haste to fill up the measure of his iniquity, in rapine, in luxury, and in revenge. Every avenue to the throne is
He oppresses and ruins the people, whilst he persuades the prince, that those murmurs raised by his own oppression are the effects of disaffection to the prince's government. Then is the natural violence of despotism inflamed and aggravated by hatred and revenge. To deserve well of the state is a crime against the prince. lar, and to be a traitor, are considered as synonymous terms. Even virtue is dangerous, as an aspiring quality, that claims an esteem by itself
, and independent of the countenance of the court. What has been said of the chief, is true of the
To be popuinferior officers of this species of government; each in his province exercising the same tyranny, and grinding the people by an oppression, the more severely felt, as it is near them, and exercised by base and subordinate persons. For the
gross of the people; they are considered as a mere herd of cattle; and really in a little time become no better; all principle of honest pride, all sense of the dignity of their nature, is lost in their slavery. The day, says Homer, which makes man a slave, takes away half his worth; and in fact, he loses every impulse to action, but that low and base one of fear.—In this kind of government, human nature is not only abused, and insulted, but it is actually degraded and sunk into a species of brutality. The consideration of this made Mr. Locke say, with great justice, that a government of this kind was worse than anarchy; indeed it is so abhorred and detested by all who live under forms that have a milder appearance, that there is scarce a rational man in Europe that would not prefer death to Asiatic despotism. Here then we have the acknowledgment of a great philosopher, that an irregular state of nature is preferable to such a government; we have the consent of all sensible and generous men, who carry it yet further, and avow that death itself is preferable; and yet this species of government, so justly condemned, and so generally detested, is what infinitely the greater part of mankind groan under, and have groaned under from the beginning. So that, by sure and uncontested principles, the greatest part of the
governments on earth must be concluded tyrannies, impostures, violations of the natural rights of mankind, and worse than the most disorderly anarchies. How much other forms exceed this, we shall consider immediately.
In all parts of the world, mankind, however debased, retains still the sense of feeling ; the weight of tyranny, at last, becomes insupportable ; but the remedy is not so easy: in general, the only remedy by which they attempt to cure the tyranny, is to change the tyrant. This is, and always was, the case, for the greater part. In some countries, however, were found men of more penetration ; who discovered,“ that to live by one man's will, was the cause of all men's misery." They therefore changed their former method, and, assembling the men in their several societies, the most respectable for their understanding and fortunes, they confided to them the charge of the public welfare. This originally formed what is called an aristocracy. They hoped it would be impossible that such a number could ever join in any design against the general good; and they promised themselves a great deal of security and happiness, from the united counsels of so many able and experienced persons. But it is now found by abundant experience, that an aristocracy and a despotism differ but in
name ; and that a people, who are in general excluded from
any share of the legislative, are, to all intents and purposes, as much slaves, when twenty, independent of them, govern, as when but one domineers. The tyranny is even more felt, as every individual of the nobles has the haughtiness of a sultan; the people are more miserable, as they seem on the verge of liberty, from which they are for ever debarred; this fallacious idea of liberty, whilst it presents a vain shadow of bappiness to the subject, binds faster the chains of his subjection. What is left undone by the natural avarice and pride of those who are raised above the others, is completed by their suspicions, and their dread of losing an authority, which has no support in the common utility of the nation. A Genoese or a Venetian republic, is a concealed despotism; where you find the same pride of the rulers, the same base subjection of the people, the same bloody maxims of a suspicious policy. In one respect the aristocracy is worse than the despotism. A body politic, whilst it retains its authority, never changes its maxims; a despotism, which is this day horrible to a supreme degree, by the caprice natural to the heart of man, may, by the same caprice otherwise exerted, be as lovely the next; in a succession, it is possible to meet with some good princes. If there have been l'iberiuses, Caligulas, Neros, there have been likewise the serener days of Vespasians, Tituses, Trajans, and Antonines. But a body politic is not influenced by caprice or whim ; it proceeds in a regular manner; its succession is insensible; and every man, as he enters it, either has, or soon attains, the spirit of the whole body. Never was it known, that an aristocracy, which was baughty and tyrannical in one century, became easy and mild in the next. In effect, the yoke of this species of government is so galling, that whenever the people have got the least power, they have shaken it off with the utmost in