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(as all mankind do that are born under established governments) that by his birth he owes allegiance to a certain prince, or certain form of government; it would be absurd to infer a consent or choice, which he expressly, in this case, renounces and disclaims.
Can we seriously say, that a poor peasant, or artisan, has a free choice to leave his country, when he knows no foreign language, or manners, and lives from day to day, by the small wages which he acquires? We may as well assert that a man, by remaining in a vessel, freely consents to the dominion of the master; though he was carried on board while asleep, and must leap into the ocean, and perish the moment he leaves her.
The truest tacit consent of this kind, that is ever observed, is when a foreigner settles in any country, and is beforehand acquainted with the prince, and government, and laws, to which he must submit: yet is his allegiance, though more voluntary, much less expected or depended on, than that of a natural born subject. On the contrary, his native prince still asserts a claim to him, and if he punish not the renegade, when he seizes him in war with the new prince's commission, this clemency is not founded on the municipal law, which in all countries condemns the prisoner; but on the consent of princes, who have agreed to this indulgence, in order to prevent reprisals.
Did one generation of men go off the stage at once, and another succeed, as is the case with
silk-worms and butterflies, the new race, if they had sense enough to choose their government, which surely is never the case with men, might voluntarily, and by general consent, establish their own form of civil polity, without any regard to the laws and precedents which prevailed among their ancestors. But as human society is in perpetual flux, one man every hour going out of the world, another coming into it, it is [impossible ]
The case is precisely the same with the civil duty of allegiance, as with the natural duties of justice and fidelity. Our primary- instincts lead us either to indulge ourselves in unlimited freedom, or to seek dominion over others and it is reflection only, which engages us to sacrifice such strong passions to the interests of public order. A small degree of experience and observation suffices to teach us, that society cannot possibly be maintained without the authority of magistrates, and that this authority must soon fall into contempt, where exact obedience is not paid ro it. The observation of these general and obvious interests, is the source of all allegiance, and of that moral obligation which we attribute to it.
What necessity therefore is there to found the duty of allegiance or obedience to magistrates on that of fidelity or a regard to promises, and to suppose that it is the consent of each individual, which subjects him to government; when it appears that both allegiance and fidelity stand precisely on the same foundation, and are both submitted to by mankind, on account of the appa
rent interests and necessities of human society? We are bound to obey our sovereign, it is said; because we have given a tacit promise to that purpose. But why are we bound to observe our promise? It must here be asserted that the commerce and intercourse of mankind, which are of such mighty advantage, can have no security where men pay no regard to their engagements. In like manner may it be said, that men could not live at all in society, at least in a civilized society, without laws, and magistrates, and judges, to prevent the encroachments of the strong upon the weak, of the violent upon the just and equitable. The obligation to allegiance being of like force and authority with. the obligation to fidelity, we gain nothing by resolving the one into the other. The general interests or necessities of society are sufficient to establish both.
If the reason be asked of that obedience which we are bound to pay to government, I readily answer, because society could not otherwise subsist: and this answer is clear and intelligible to all mankind. Your answer is, because we should keep our word. But besides, that no body, till trained in a philosophical system, can either comprehend or relish this answer; besides this, I say, you find yourself embarrassed when it is asked, why we are bound to keep our word. Nor can you give any answer, but what would immediately, without any circuit, have accounted for our obligation to allegiance.
Essays, vol. ii. p. 408.
Now it is reason and time that I show you when and wherefore ye may change your counsel without reproof. A man may change his purpose and his counsel, if the cause ceaseth, or when a new cause betideth. For the law saith, that upon things that newly betideth, behoveth new counsel. Thou mayst also change thy counsel, if so be thou find that by error or by any other cause, harm or damage may betide. Also if thy counsel be dishonest, or otherwise come of dishonest cause, change thy counsel. For the law saith, that all behests that be dishonest be of no value. And eke if so be that it be impossible or may not gladly be performed or kept.
And take this for a. general rule, that every counsel that is enforced so strongly, that it may not be changed for no condition that may betide, say that such counsel is wicked.
Works, folio 74, edition 1598
THE whole principle of an original contract proceeds upon the obligation under which we are placed to observe our promises. The reasoning upon which it is founded is, that we have promised obedience to government, and therefore are bound to obey.
What is it then to which the obligation of a promise applies? What I have promised is either right or wrong. "I have promised to do something just and right." This certainly I ought
to perform. Why? Not because I promised,
but because justice prescribes it. "I have pro"mised to bestow a sum of money upon some good and respectable purpose. In the interval "between the promise and my fulfilling it, a greater and nobler purpose offers itself, and "calls with an imperious voice for my co-ope"ration." Which ought I to prefer? That which best deserves my preference. A promise can make no alteration in the case. I ought to be guided by the intrinsic merits of the objects, and not by any external and foreign consideration. No engagements of mine can change their intrin
Justice it appears therefore ought to be done, whether we have promised it or not. If we discover any thing to be unjust, we ought to abstain from it, with whatever solemnity we have engaged for its perpetration. We were erroneous and vicious when the promise was made; but this affords no sufficient reason for the perform
Political Justice, vol. i. b. iii. ch. 3.
POLITICAL Society is founded in the principles of morality and justice. It is impossible for intellectual beings to be brought into coalition and intercourse without a certain mode of conduct, adapted to their nature and connection, immediately becoming a duty on the parties concerned. Men would never have associated, if they had not imagined that in consequence of that as