Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

purest intentions, been made from Mr. Locke's principles. And as the best things are liable to be perverted to the worst purposes, I should think myself happy if, by suggesting a few salutary hints or cautions, I could in any degree contribute to prevent the noble and generous maxims of that justly celebrated writer, fo favourable to the liberty, dignity, and happiness of mankind, from being abused or made subservient to the vile purposes of faction, anarchy, or licentiousness,

I have now before me a very able pamphlet, published at the commencement of the late war with America, which bears the name of a most respectable man, who has equally and honourably distinguished himself in the different capacities of a divine, a philosopher, and a politician. The publication I allude to, in particular, contains very ftriking marks of wisdom and penetration : happy would it have been for this nation, had she listened to his voice, and been guided by his counsels; but alas, “ the things that belonged to “ her peace were at that time hid from her “ eyes." There are, however, some general re, marks on the nature of Civil Liberty prefixed to this publication, which were, I think, justly regarded as exceptionable by many zealous friends of Liberty, and which gave occasion to much ani. madversion at the time they first appeared, and upon which I now propose to offer fome impartial fric

Tures.

Liberty is a term of very comprehensive import, and the celebrated author I refer to, Dr. Price,

chufes

[ocr errors]

chufes to consider it under four general divisions:
-ist. Physical liberty ; by which he means the
principle of spontaneity. - 2dly. Moral liberty;
or, a freedom from the internal control or domi-
nion of vice.-3dly. Religious liberty; or, a freedom
from external constraint in matters of conscience:
and 4thly. Civil Liberty; which he defines to be
the
power

of a civil society or state to govern itself by its own discretion, without being subject to the impofitions of any extraneous will or powera It is very observable, that Civil Liberty, according to the definition here given of it, however just that definition may be when applied to a state or civil community, is not at all analogous to the other kinds of Liberty here enumerated, which are entirely of a personal nature; and it seems to me that the Doctor has greatly confused his argument, by not sufficiently attending to the distinction between that species of Liberty which belongs to a state, and that which is the right of a simple individual. Civil Liberty in the latter sense is, according to the accurate definition of Archdeacon Paley, " the not being restrained by any law but what con“ duces in a greater degree to the public welfare ;" but the restraints which the public welfare indifpensably requires every government to impose, are fo numerous and important, that it is very evident the Liberty of the individual must be extremely circumscribed, in comparison of that of the community. I do not mean to enter into the

question, question, whether one state or community may lawfully exercise authority over another; or to what limitations such authority ought to be subje&: all I pretend to show is, that Civil Liberty, considered as a personal right, is incapable of being enjoyed in that extensive and romantic fenfe for which Dr. Price seems to contend. I agree with Dr. Price then, that a civil society, as such, enjoys Civil Liberty, strictly and properly speaking, when it is not subject to the control of any foreign power; but when he afterwards takes occasion to affirm, that Civil Liberty, in its most perfect de. gree, can only be enjoyed by small states, where ' every member is capable of giving his fuffrage in perfon, I confess I am perplexed and embarrassed. Is it the Liberty of the state, or of the individual, which the Doctor is here speaking of ? Not of the ftate ; because Civil Liberty, when applied to a community is, agreeably to his own definition, but another word for independency. Not of the individual ; because every citizen enjoys Civil Li. berty in its most perfect degree, who is subject to no other restraints than such as the public welfare, and consequently his own happinefs, render necessary. In short, the Doctor seems to me here evidently to confound the most perfect degree of Civil Liberty with the most perfect mode of establishing and securing that Liberi. I as readily acknowledge as Dr. Price himself can do, that all just Government is derived from the people, and that their happiness is the sole end and object of it; but I cannot

comprehend

comprehend how, under any form of government, the people can rationally desire or aim at any thing farther, than the full possession of Liberty as above described, and the best security which the nature of the case will admit for the continuance of it. If we apply these observations to the reafonings of Dr. Price, we shall find that he is chargeable with a grofs error; he has confounded the Liberty of the people with the power of the people. If the enjoyment of Civil Liberty is, as Dr. P. asserts, and all allow, what every man has a right to claim, it must be of some importance to ascertain in what that Liberty consists. Dr. Price seems to imagine, that Liberty consists in a man's actually sharing in the powers of Government, either in his own person, or in the person of his representative. I maintain, that Liberty consists in a total exemption from all unnecessary restraint ; and that power is no otherwise desirable than as it contributes to the security of Liberty. It is very certain, indeed, that a degree of power is absolutely necessary for the accomplishment of that purpose; and a Government administered by the representatives of the people is on this account, and on this account only, preferable to a despotic Government; because under such a Government there is a moral certainty that Liberty will be better promoted and secured. Civil Liberty is a natural indefeasible. right; but no particular form of Government can pretend to stand upon such a foundation. Government is an institution for the benefit of the people

governed;

governed'; and that form of Government which best conduces to the advancement of public happiness, is the best government, whether it be mo. narchical, aristocratical, or democratical; and dif. ferent nations, in different states of society, may require very different modes and forms of go. vernment. But if Liberty consists in a man's being his own legislator, then all forms of Government but that of a pure democracy are unlawful. But Dr. Price allows that there may be the best reasons for joining to a popular afsembly an hereditary council, and a supreme executive magistrate; but what reasons can those be which will authorize a violation of the first principles of Liberty? For if perfect Liberty consists in a participation of the powers of Government, by a delegation to a body of representatives chosen for a short term, and subject to the instructions of their constituents; the establishment of an hereditary legislative council, invested with equal or nearly equal powers, must be a flagrant encroachment on Liberty, and the negative voice of a single individual upon the resolutions of the representative body must be abfo. lutely irreconcileable with the fainteft image of it. Again, if the essence of Liberty consists in a man's being empowered to give his fuffrage on public meafures, either personally, or by the intervention of a representative, then it follows, that those who do not actually enjoy this privilege, and who con. stitute a very great majority even in this country of freedom, are in a state of slavery ; and the fe

male

« ПредишнаНапред »