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deemed by some the only true state of nature, the more vigorous we find that passion which attaches them to their little communities. What then is the result ? Why clearly, that the Author of existence, to fit man for society and civil government, has implanted the principles of this passion in his nature.


Of a disposition in man to abuse the powers of government with which he

is intrusted.

The question whether man'be originally depraved; whether a disposition to evil, a relish for vice as such, be a part of his nature in the present state, I leave to be discussed by the moralist and the divine. I am here to consider his natural powers, his disposition and actions, as they relate solely to his political state.

Moralists have embraced different systems respecting the origin of moral evil, and the natural disposition of man, as affected to virtue and vice. Political writers have uniform!y agreed. From Machiavel to Dr. Price, all have asserted or admitted, that, in a political character, when intrusted with power, man is totally depraved, wicked, and corrupt; that in. power, the utmost perverseness is inherent in his very nature ; that he is never good, but through necessity. Hence mutual checks, restraints, and opposition of powers are found necessary to guard against the oppression of rulers. This, if true, refutes the opinion which I have attempted to establish; that man, by the original constitution of his nature, is fitted for civil government; or, as I have elsewhere expressed it, Deity has implanted in him the germ of every necessary qualification for that state. Little, however, is man fitted for civil government, if no one

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can be found fit to be intrusted with the execution of its powers. Before we admit an opinion which so much vilifies the nature of man, and must, if fully believed, almost tempt one to call in question the goodness of the Author of that nature, let us candidly consider the reasons on which the opinion is founded.

It is said, and truly, that every page of history furnishes us with instances of the abuse of power. The long line of Roman Emperors, with very few exceptions were scourges of the earth. All the kings and princes of ancient and modern times, not excepting the philosophic Frederick of Prussia,* have given full and convincing proofs of the danger of intrusting the powers of government to be exercised without control. An effect universal, it is said, must have a universal cause in the nature of man. All this is true ; and yet I will venture, at the hazard of being thought to be singular, to dissent from the common opinion, respecting the real cause. I apprehend the effect so general is not produced by any malignity, any culpable disposition in the nature of man; but that it is mostly the effect of situation. I do not doubt of the universality of the effect, or if you please, of the event, of a constant abuse of power in certain situations. I doubt of the cause only. I think the cause to be very different from that which has been usually assigned ; that it is more complex, and is the effect of other causes, some existing in the nature of man, others arising from the nature of the power, and from the mode in which it has been intrusted or assumed.

It may perhaps be urged, that if experience has evinced a general propensity in rulers, to abuse the powers which they possess, it is of little consequence to the science of government, what may be the particular cause of that propensity. The same checks, the same opposition of powers, will be necessary to guard against the abuse. But let it be remembered, that in applying a remedy to any evil, little success can be expected, if the cause of the evil be unknown or mistaken. It is much more eligible, where there is a possibility, to remove or prevent the cause, than to be obliged to maintain a constant struggle

* Note.

against the effect, or be perpetually employéd, in palliating or diverting its malignity. According to our different apprehension of the cause, the remedy applied will be different, and the event more or less successful.

It must be remembered that man is a complex being, and by nature constituted with a variety of passions, appetites, powers, propensities, and susceptibilites; with external senses, and an internal discernment adapted to the perception of objects physical and moral. Some of these have a more immediate relation to his individual being and happiness, yet so as not to be opposed to society, while others relate more immediately to society, yet not to the exelusion of self. He was not made for independence, but for mutual connexion, mútual dependence ; and to this every thing in his nature is more or less relative. iu

On the right discernment of moral relations, either singly, or in their various combinations, arising from various objects, situations, and circumstances, depends the justness of his moral perceptions ; on a full and right comprehension of the result, depends the knowledge of his duty. He is from the constitution of his nature, capable of impressions from an infinite variety of objects external and internal ; for the operations and affections: of the mind by reflection become objects, and again have their impressions. These impressions give an equal variety to the modifications of his passions, appetites, powers, and faculties. The result of all these constitutes the temper, disposition, and character of the man; and from the various modifieation arises, in a principal degree, the various influence of motives. Were man left in this situation he would be the sport of blind impulses ;-there is evidently a necessity for a balanée, as well as some arbiter of moral action. Reason, by which he combines, compares, distinguishes, and marks the result, has been considered by many, if not most of our ethical writers, as being to man the balance of his moral powers and the arbiter of his actions. I think this is not the office of reason. Reason is the hand that adjusts the balance, extends and limits it, rather than the balance itself. Let it be observed, that reason is here used, not for simple intellect or intelligence, but for ratiocination or the power of reasoning. However nice and metaphyisical these distinctions may appear, they lead to some important consequences in the moral economy of man.

What then, it will be asked, is to man the arbiter of his actions? what the balance of his moral powers? I answer, the moral sense or conscience, as explained in the preceding chapter, is, in all cases, the arbiter of moral action. Reason is an advocate to argue, compare, and inform; but to conscience or the moral sense, is left the ultimate decision. I believe every one will be capable of perceiving this distinction. The remaining part of the subject is, indeed, a little more intricate ; but I hope to make it intelligible to all, who will attend to what passes in their own minds.

We have seen that man is a being constituted with a great variety of powers, faculties, passions, and appetites; that these, from the various impressions to which the mind is subjected, are capable of an almost endless variety of modifications and combinations, which furnish to motives different directions, and different degrees of force. To a being thus constituted, some balance, to prevent the utmost capriciousness of conduct, and give him a command of choice in his actions, some constant regulator is necessary. A little attention to those faculties, that constitute the reasoning powers, to their operation, to the manner in which they are affected, influenced, and biassed by impulses internal and external, will discover that reason, instead of being qualified to serve as a regulator, has itself need of a balance, some steady principle for its regulation. Nature, always equal to her wants, has provided such a principle. This, in addition to the moral sense, is found in that sense of accountability, which is common to man. The sense of accountability has already been investigated and explained; but it will be here necessary to examine it with a little more attention, and that we may have at once, an entire view of the subject, to repeat some things that have been said before.

The principie of accountability having its immediate origin in the sentiment of approbation and disapprobation, of which a man is conscious in regard to his own actions, it will be necessary to keep in view, as well the faculty, by which we discern moral relations, and the moral quality of actions, as the sense of desert which accompanies that consciousness. Man, as before observed, has a passion, a desire, an appetite call it by what name you please, for the approbation of others;



and he extends it to all intelligent beings, whom he conceives to be, in any way conusant of his actions, and its force is increased or diminished according to the relation in which he considers himself placed, in respect to those beings.) When he perceives that his actions are morally right, he is conscious that he deserves their approbation ; on the contrary, if he has done wrong, he is conscious that he is deserving of their

He is conscious to himself of a feeling of approbation and disapprobation of the conduct of others, as he views it to be right or wrong. Judging from his own feelings, and the expressions he observes in others, he justly expects to find the same sentiments in all; and thus, as before expressed, he finds himself bound to his duty by a three-fold cord of accountability—to God, to his own conscience,* and to his fellow men.

The sense of accountability constantly operating with the moral sense, though not exempt from the imperfections incident to the nature of man, constitutes the balance of his moral powers, and a steady principle for the regulation of his actions. Reason, by comparing circumstances, marking the result, and detecting the impositions, to which, not only the external sense, but the internal faculties, are more or less liable, is qualified to adjust the balance. Here we may again observe, that neither the moral sense, nor the sense of accountability is given in perfection to man; they are but plants in the germ, the growth and improvement of which can be expected, only from a proper cultivation. I cannot but flatter myself, that the distinctions I have endeavored to make, are intelligible, and the principles clearly established. By the assistance of these principles, we shall be able to throw some light on the question, respecting so universal an abuse of power.

The correctness of a man's conduct will depend, principally, on a just discernment of moral relations, a clear perception of what, in his situation, is right or wrong, in moral action ; on the means of information, the strength and impartiality of his reason, and a just sense of accountability, to God, to his conscience, and to his fellow men. In proportion as there is a

* Note.

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