« VorigeDoorgaan »
Lared upon-in other words, unless some curiosity was excited before it was attempted to be satisfied, the labour of the teacher was lost. When infor mation was not desired, it was seldom, I found, retained. I have made this observation my guide in the following work : that is, upon each occasion I have endeavoured, before I suffered myself to ptoceed in the disquisition, to put the reader in complete possession of the question ; and to do it in the way that I thought most likely to stir up his own doubts
and solicitude about it. In pursuing the principle of inorals through the detail of cases to which it is applicable, I have had in view to accommodate both the choice of the subjects and the manner of handling them, to the situations which arise in the life of an inhabitant of this country in these times. This is the thing that I think to be principally wanting in former treatises ; and perhaps the chief advantage which will be found in mine. I have examined no doubts, I have discussed no obscurities, I have encountered no errors, I have adverted to no controversies, but what I have seen actually to exist. If some of the questions treated of, appear to a more instructed reader minute or puerile, I desire such reader to be assured that I have found them occasions of difficulty to young minds; and what I have observed in young minds, I should expect to meet with in all who approach these subjects for the first time. Upon each article of human duty; I have combined with the conclusions of reason the declarations of Scripture, when they are to be had, as of co-ordinate authority, as both terminating in the same sanctions,
In the manner of the work, I have endeavoured so to attemper the opposite plans above animadverted upon, as that the reader may not accuse me either of too much haste, or too much delay. I have bestowed upon each subject enough of dissertation to give a body and substance to the chapter in which it is treated of, as well as coherence and perspicuity : on the other hand, I have seldom, I hope, exercised the patience of the reader by the length and prolixity of my essays, or disappointed
that patience at last by the tenuity and unimpor. tance of the conclusion.
There are two particulars in the following work, for which it may be thought necessary that I should offer some excuse.
The first of which is, that I have scarcely ever referred to any other book; or mentioned the name of the author whose thoughts, and sometimes, possibly, whose very expressions, I have adopted. My method of writing has constantly been this; to extract what I could from my own stores and my own reflections in the first place; to put down that, and afterward to consult upon each subject such readings as fell in my way : which order, 'I am convinced, is the only one whereby any person can keep his thoughts from sliding into other men's trains. The effect of such a plan upon the production itself will be, that, whilst some parts in matter or manner may be new,
others will be little else than a repetiton of the old.' I make no pretensions to perfect originality : I claim to be something more than a mere compiler. Much, no doubt, is berrowed; but the fact is, that the notes for this work having been prepared for some years, and such things having been fr time to time inserted in them as appeared to me worth preserving, and such insertions made commonly without the name of the author from whom they were taken, I should, at this time, have found a difficulty in recovering those names with sufficient exactness to be able to render to every man his own.
Nor, to speak the truth, did it appear to me worth while to repeat the search merely for this purpose. When authorities are relied upon, names must be produced: when a discovery has been made in science,
be unjust to borrow the invention without acknowledging the author. But in an argumentative treatise, and upon a subject which alIows no place for discovery or invention, properly so called; and in which all that can belong ton writer is his mode of reasoning, or his judgment of probabilities; I should have thought it superfluous, ijad it been easier to me than it was, to have interrupted my text, or crowded my margin, with rete
tences to every author whose sentiments I have made use of. There is, however, one work to which I owe so much, that it would be ungrateful not to confess the obligation : I mean the writings of the late Abraham Tucker, Esq. part of which were published by himself, and the remainder since his death, under the title of “ The Light of Nature pursned, by Edward Search, Esq." I have found in this writer more original thinking and observation upon the several subjects that he has taken in hand, than in any other, not to say, than in all others put together. His talent also for illustration is unrivalled. But his thoughts are diffused through a long, various, and irregular work. I shall account it no mean praise, if I have been sometimes. able to dispose into method, to collect into heads and articles, or to exhibit in more compact and tangible masses, what in that otherwise excellent performance, is spread over too much surface.
The next circumstance for which some apology may be expected, is the joining of moral and poli. tical philosophy together, or the addition of a book of politics to a system of ethics. Against this objection, if it be made one, I might defend myself by the example of many approved writers, who have treated de officiis hominis et civis, or, as some choose to express it,“ of the rights and obligations of man, in his individual and social capacity," in the samé book. I might allege, also, that the part a member of the commonwealth shall take in political contentions, the vote he shall give, the counsels he shall approve, the support he shall afford, or the opposition he shall make, to any system of public measures, is as much a question of personal duty, as much concerns the conscience of the individual who deliberates, as the determination of any doubt which relates to the conduct of private life ; that consequently political philosophy.is, properly speaking, a continuation of moral philosophy; or rather indeed a part of it, supposing moral philosophy to have for its aim the information of the human conscience in every deliberation that is likely to come before it. I might avail myself of these excuses, if I wanted them ; but the
vindication upon which I rely is the following In stating the principle of morals, the reader will observe that I have employed some industry in explaining the theory, and showing the necessity of general rules; without the full and constant consideration of which I am persuaded that no system of moral philosophy can be satisfactory or consist. ent. This foundation being laid, or rather this habit being formed, the discussion of political subjects, to which, more than to almost any other, general rules are applicable, became clear and easy ; Whereas, had these topics been assigned to a distinct work, it would have been necessary to have repeated the same rudiments, to have established over again the same principles, as those which we had already exemplified, and rendered familiar to the reader, in the former parts of this. In a word, if there appear to any one too great a diversity, or too wide a distance, between the subjects treated of in the course of the present volume, let him be reminded, that the doctrine of general rules pervades and connects the whole.
It may not be improper, however, to admonish the reader, that, under the name of politics, he is not to look for those occasional controversies, which the occurrences of the present day, or any temporary situation of public affairs, may excite; and most of which, if not beneath the dignity, it is beside the purpose, of a philosophical institution to advert to. He will perceive that the several disquisitions are framed with a reference to the condition of this country, and of this government : but it seemed to me to belong to the design of a work like the following, not so much to discuss each altercated point with the particularity of a political pamphlet upon the subject, as to deliver those universal principles, and to exhibit that mode and train of reasoning in politics, by the due application of which every man might be enabled to attain to just conclusions of his own. I am not ig: norant of an objection that has been advanced against all abstract speculations concerning the origin, principle, or limitation, of civil authority ; namely, that such speculations possess little or no
influence upon the conduct either of the state or of the subject, of the governors or the governed; nor are attended with any useful consequences i either; that in times of tranquillity they are not wanted; in times of confusion they are never
heard. This representation, however, in my opi. !nion, is not just. Times of tumult, it is true, are
not the times to learn; but the choice which men make of their side and party, in the most critical bocasions of the commonwealth, may nevertheless depend upon the lessons they have received, the books they have read, and the opinions they have imbibed, in seasons of leisure and quietness. Some judicious persons, who were present at Geneva during the troubles which lately convulsed that city, thought they perceived, in the contentions there carrying on, the operation of that political theory, which the writings of Rousseau, and the unbounded esteem in which these writings are holden by his countrymen, had diffused amongst the people. Throughout the political disputes that have within these few years taken place in Great Britain, in her sister-kingdom, and in her foreign dependencies, it was impossible not to observe, io the language of party, in the resolutions of public meetings, in debate, in conversation, in the general strain of those fugitive and diurnal addresses to the public which such occasions call forth, the prevalency of those ideas of civil authority which are displayed in the works of Mr. Locke. The credit of that great name, the courage and liberality of his principles, the skill and clearness with which his arguments are proposed, no less than the weight of the arguments themselves, have given a reputation and currency to his opinions, of which I am persuaded, in any unsettled state of public affairs, the influence would be felt. As this is not a place for examining the truth or tendency of these doctrines, I would not be understood by what I have said, to express any judgment con. cerning either. I mean only to remark, that such doctrines are not without effect; and that it is of practical importance to have the principles from which the obligation of social union, and the ex