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us under another, which might. For at the king's return, such was the just indignation of the public at what it had seen, and fear of feeling again what it had felt from the popular side; such the depression and compliance, not only of the more guilty, but also of those who, with better meaning, had gone on with them; and a great deal too far many of this character had gone; and such the undistinguishing distrust the people had of them all, that the chief securities of our liberties seem to have been, their not being attempted at that time.
But though persons contributed to all this mischief and danger with different degrees of guilt, none could contribute to them with innocence, who at all knew what they were about. Indeed, the destruction of a free constitution of government, though men see or fancy many defects in it, and whatever they design or pretend, ought not to be thought of without horror. For the design is in itself unjust, since it is romantic to suppose it legal: it cannot be prosecuted without the most wicked means, nor accomplished but with the present ruin of liberty, religious as well as civil; for it must be the ruin of its present security. Whereas the restoration of it must depend upon a thousand future contingencies, the integrity, understanding, power, of the persons into whose hands anarchy and confusion should throw things; and who they will be, the history before us may surely serve to show no human foresight can determine; even though such a terrible crisis were to happen in an age, not distinguished for the want of principle and public spirit, and when nothing particular were to be apprehended from abroad. It would be partiality to say, that no constitution of government can possibly be imagined more perfect than our own; and ingenuous youth may be warmed with the idea of one, against which nothing can be objected. But it is the strongest objection against attempting to put in practice the most perfect theory, that it is impracticable, or too dangerous to be attempted. And whoever will thoroughly consider, in what degree mankind are really influenced
by reason, and in what degree by custom, may, I think, be convinced, that the state of human affairs does not even admit of an equivalent, for the mischief of setting things afloat, and the danger of parting with those securities of liberty, which arise from regulations of long prescription and ancient usage ; especially at a time when the directors are so very numerous, and the obedient so few. Reasonable men, therefore, will look upon the general plan of our constitution, transmitted down to us by our ancestors, as sacred; and content themselves with calmly doing what their station requires, towards rectifying the particular things which they think amiss, and supplying the particular things which they think deficient in it, so far as is practicable without endangering the whole.
But liberty is in many other dangers from itself, besides those which arise from formed designs of destroying it, under hypocritical pretences, or romantic schemes of restoring it upon a more perfect plan. It is particularly liable to become excessive, and to degenerate insensibly into licentiousness; in the same manner as liberality, for example, is apt to degenerate into extravagance. And as men cloak their extravagance to themselves under the notion of liberality, and to the world under the name of it, so licentiousness passes under the name and notion of liberty. Now it is to be observed, that there is, in some respects or other, a very peculiar contrariety between those vices which consist in excess, and the virtues of which they are said to be the excess, and the resemblance, and whose names they affect to bear; the excess of any thing being always to its hurt, and tending to its destruction. In this manner licentiousness is, in its very nature, a present infringement upon liberty, and dangerous to it for the future. Yet it is treated by many persons with peculiar indulgence under, this very notion, as being an excess of liberty. And an excess of liberty it is to the licentious themselves: but what is it to those who suffer by them, and who do not think that amends is at all made them by having it left in their power to retaliate safely?
When by popular insurrections, or defamatory libels, or in any like way, the needy and the turbulent securely injure quiet people in their fortune or good name, so far quiet people are no more free than if a single tyrant used them thus. A particular man may be licentious without being less free; but a community cannot, since the licentiousness of one will unavoidably break in upon the liberty of another. Civil liberty, the liberty of a community, is a severe and a restrained thing; implies in the notion of it, authority, settled subordinations, subjection, and obedience; and is altogether as much hurt by too little of this kind as by too much of it. And the love of liberty, when it is indeed the love of liberty which carries us to withstand tyranny, will as much carry us to reverence authority, and support it; for this most obvious reason, that one is as necessary to the very being of liberty, as the other is destructive of it. And therefore the love of liberty, which, does not produce this effect; the love of liberty, which is not a real principle of dutiful behaviour towards authority; is as hypocritical, as the religion which is not productive of a good life. Licentiousness is, in truth, such an excess of liberty, as is of the same nature with tyranny. For, what is the difference between them, but that one is lawless power exercised under pretence of authority, or by persons invested with it; the other, lawless power exercised under pretence of liberty, or without any pretence at all? A people, then, must always be less free, in proportion as they are more licentious; licentiousness being not only different from liberty, but directly contrary to it; a direct breach upon it.
It is moreover of a growing nature, and of speedy growth too; and, with the culture which it has amongst us, needs no great length of time to get to such a height as no legal government will be able to restrain, or subsist under; which is the condition the historian describes, in saying, they could neither bear their vices, nor the remedies of them.* I said legal government; for, in the pre
* Nec vitia nostra, nec remedia pati possumus.
Liv. 1. i. c. 1.
sent state of the world, there is no danger of our becoming savages. Had licentiousness finished its work, and destroyed our constitution, power would not be wanting, from one quarter or another, sufficient to subdue us and keep us in subjection. But government, as distinguished from mere power, free government, necessarily implies reverence in the subjects of it, for authority or power regulated by laws, and a habit of submission to the subordinations in civil life, throughout its several ranks; nor is a people capable of liberty without somewhat of this kind. But it must be observed, and less surely cannot be observed, this reverence and submission will, at best, be very precarious, if it be not founded upon a sense of authority being God's ordinance, and the subordinations in life a providential appointment of things. Now, let it be considered, for surely it is not duly considered, what is really the short amount of those representations which persons of superior rank give, and encourage to be given of each other, and which are spread over the nation? Is it not somewhat, in itself, and in its circumstances, beyond any thing in any other age or country of the world? And what effect must the continuance of this extravagant licentiousness in them, not to mention other kinds of it, have upon the people in those respects just mentioned? Must it not necessarily tend to wear out of their minds all reverence for authority, and respect for superiors of every sort; and, joined with the irreligious principles we find so industriously propagated, to introduce a total profligateness amongst them; since, let them be as bad as they will,it is scarce possible they can be so bad as they are instructed they may be, or worse than they are told their superiors are? And is their no danger that all this, to mention only one supposable course of it, may raise somewhat like that levelling spirit, upon atheistical principles, which, in the last age, prevailed upon enthusiastic ones? not to speak of the possibility, that different sorts of people may unite in it, upon these contrary principles. And may not this spirit, together with a concurrence of ill humors, and of
persons who hope to find their account in confusion, soon prevail to such a degree, as will require more of the good old principles of loyalty and of religion to withstand it, than appear to be left amongst us?
What legal remedies can be provided against these mischiefs, or whether any at all, are considerations the farthest from my thoughts. No government can be free, which is not administered by general stated laws; and these cannot comprehend every case, which wants to be provided against; nor can new ones be made for every particular case, as it arises and more particular laws, as well as more general ones, admit of infinite evasions; and legal government forbids any but legal methods of redress, which cannot but be liable to the same sort of imperfections, besides the additional one of delay; and whilst redress is delayed, however unavoidably, wrong subsists. Then there are very bad things, which human authority çan scarce provide against at all, but by methods dangerous to liberty; nor fully, but by such as would be fatal to it. These things show, that liberty, in the very nature of it, absolutely requires, and even supposes, that people be able to govern themselves in those respects in which they are free; otherwise their wickedness will be in proportion to their liberty, and this greatest of blessings wil become a curse.
III. These things show likewise, that there is but one adequate remedy to the forementioned evils, even that which the apostle prescribes in the last words of the text, to consider ourselves "as the servants of God," who enjoins dutiful submission to civil authority as his ordinance; and to whom we are accountable for the use we make of the liberty which we enjoy under it. Since men cannot live out of society, nor in it, without government, government is plainly a divine appointment; and consequently submission to it, a most evident duty of the law of nature. And we all know in how forcible a manner it is put upon our consciences in Scripture. Nor can this obligation be denied formally upon any principles, but such as sub