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for some of the most important discoveries connected with the social system ; and a cursory review of their history will enable us to give a clearer notion of the character and pretensions of the work before us.
• The philosophy of human society had naturally its beginning among the sages of Greece. The general freedom of the governments of that country allowed the social qualities of men to be fully developed and displayed ; and the number, the diversity, and the intimate connexion of its petty states, exhibited a various illustration of the combinations of political interests. In such circumstances, the philosophy of policy was as naturally, the object of observing minds, as that of the motions of the heavenly bodies under the cloudles sky and in the open plains of Assyria ; the great movements in both cases were continually presenting themselves to the mind, and soliciting the attention of every man disposed to reflection.'
Too little is known of the works of Pythagoras, to afford us the means of stating, with precision, his notions on the general question; but to the philosophers of his School is ascribed, on the questionable authority of Stobæus, the disclosure of important, if not accurate notions on the subjects of government and policy. Archytas is said to have first asserted the expediency of a balance of powers in every well regulated state ; and Hippodamus to have broached the notion, afterwards adopted and illustrated by Polybius, that there is a regular gradation of increase, vigour, and decay, in the affairs of every political society; or, in other words, that every
government is limited by three periods, the first being that
of acquisition, the second that of enjoyment, and the last " that of destruction.' But, whatever may have been the dogmas of the Italian School, however well or ill adapted they might be to establish just principles in the philosophy of social life,-they were probably far inferior in value to the enlightened, though often fanciful views of the Grecian sages, Plato, adopting
the synthetic plan, inferred the laws of legislation from abstract notions of the beautiful and the true; and, notwithstanding his entire failure in his primary intentions, he has thrown strong light on some of the most important objects of political investigation. His excluding the poetry of Ho. mer from the limits of literary toleration, as expressing the
agitation of human passion, and not the archetypal idea of ' moral perfection,'—may pass as a harmless specimen of philosophical foppery. We cannot say as much in excuse of his recommending the promiscuous intercourse of the sexes, as tending to remove one great source of social disturbance; but one is disposed to consider it as a whimsical sacrifice to theo
retical consistency, rather than as a grave proposition. But it is not to be forgotten that, in the midst of strange conceits and unsubstantial hypotheses, he has traced the natural degeneration of government, and in the elevated abstractions
of his philosophy, conceived the first notion of a providential arrangement of human society.'
« The world he has described as originally constructed by a beneficent Creator, who reduced matter to order in correspondence to the arrangement of an eternal model of ideal perfection; he has indeed represented its inhabitants as abandoned for a time to their own agencies, and therefore falling into irregularity; but he has also re. presented the Divinity as interposing his power for remedying the evil ; and again, when confusion had returned after a second period, suggesting to mankind the combinations of civil government, as the best permanent expedient for their regulation.'
The practical sagacity of Aristotle discovered the real track of political investigation. He examined and analysed all the instances of civil association which came within his cognizance, and inferred from the varieties and the agreements of their constitutions, the great laws of human society. •• The grand results of his examination are, that political society is a state essentially belonging to our nature, and having for its end the general advantage of the individuals which it comprehends; that slavery is justifiable only as it may be conducive to the interest of the persons enslaved ; from which it must follow, that it should terminate as soon as they become capable of enjoying freedom; and that the best constituted republic is that in which the opposite interests of the rich and poor are most intimately combined, and in which the middle order of society is most prevalent.'
The circumstances of the Roman government were little favourable to the progress and development of political science. The steady march of that formidable power towards universal domination, obliterated in its course, all the existing varieties of social institution ; and the writings on this subject of Po. lybius and Cicero were little more than illustrations of the laws and policy of imperial Rome.
The first great writer on political philosophy in modern times, was the celebrated Machiavel, whose treatise entitled “ The “ Prince,” is among the enigmas which the learned have vainly endeavoured to solve. That the Florentine Secretary was a republican in feeling, it seems impossible to doubt; and if this be admitted, it is more than probable, that the atrocious dereliction of all principle which he recommends as the authorized policy of an accomplished ruler, is the satirical
description of actual and official character, rather than the er. pression of his deliberate opinion. Rousseau, in his Contrat Social, has styled the work in question, the manual of republicans, from a conviction that, under the pretence of instructing princes, Machiavel was addressing an emphatic warning to the people.
With this subtle politician, our Sir Thomas More was contemporary, and while the Italian pursued the practical processes of Aristotle, the English Chancellor emulated the inventive faculty of Plato. The Utopia is, however, a strange production, and abounds far more in paradox and absurdity than in sagacious views or enlarged conceptions. These discussions, whatever may be the literary merit of the books in which they are contained, can, in fact, only be considered as preliminary and tentative: it is to the wakening of mind, the stir of spirit and feeling, produced by the Reformation, that we are to refer the great improvements of political philosophy. It is justly remarked, that this great and glorious event acted on the European governments in two distinct ways. Among the continental states, it introduced the balancing scheme of policy, whence has been derived the system of international law; while, in England, its effect was chiefly felt in the domestic institutions, and gave rise to a succession of able and original writers on the philosophy of internal rule.
Grotius was the originator of the Law of Nations in its systematic form. His work, imperfect as it is, has received from the highest authority--that of Sir James Mackintosh- the emphatic testimony, that it is more complete than any other, < for which the world has been indebted, in the commence* ment of any science, to the genius and learning of a single • man.' The meritof the first decided step in the systematic assertion of popular right and representation as the grand elements of government, is due to the powerful mind and uncomprising temper ot Buchanan; but he pushed his theory to a disorganizing extreme, when he affirmed, that death, by the hand of any india vidual whatsoever, was the just punishment of regal misconduct. The treatise De jure regni apud Scotus, . was soon followed by the publication of four books of the great work of Hooker on ecclesiastical polity, which appeared in England in the year 1594, and was occasioned by the first agitations of those disorders, in which the interposition of Scottish fanaticism afterwards produced such considerable effects. And it is remarkable, that though Hooker was the advocate of the existing authority in the ecclesiastical government, yet, the course of his argument' led him to maintain principles of the most enlarged political freedom. Anxious to defend the cause of the hierarchy against the fanatics, who refused
1 to acknowledge any ecclesiastical authority which had not been ex. pressly designated in the records of the infant Church, he found it necessary to recur to the mutual right, by which every society of men is empowered to frame regulations for its own convenience'; and, in ilustrating this right, he propounded maxims of liberty, on which Locke afterwards relied in his theory of political government. Indeed, we discover in the Ecclesiastical Polity, the original statement of that social compact on which Locke has earnestly insisted, and Rousseau, has since eloquently declaimed; so strangely did his opposition to the wild pretensions of the Independents, conduct the advocate of order and tranquillity to a political theory scarcely less visionary.'
It is singular, that, in the instance of two writers so opposite in character and sentiment as Hooker and Hobbes, we should find, not merely a general agreement in the disposition to support authority, but a specific accordance in the adoption of a principle entirely annihilative of their views. The natural equality of men was affirmed by the latter, in order that he might establish the existence of a state of anarchy, from which men have been rescued by the introduction of civil govern ment; but it fared with him as with many other resolute maintainers of hypothesis—he established as a primary truth, that which proved indeed the point in question, but led to consequences subversive of his system in more essential particulars. Harrington adopted as his fundamental position, the inseparable connexion of power with property; but, though ostensibly a republican, his aristocratical prejudices induced him to give a preference over every other kind of government, to that most unrelenting of despotisms, the Venetian oligarchy. Locke borrowed from Hooker the doctrine of the Social Compact, and contended for the principle of popular consent, as the real foundation of legitimate rule, in opposition to Filmer's assertion of divine, indefeasible, hereditary right, derived from the supreme patriarchal authority of the first man. Against Locke, it is contended by Paley, that the Social Compact is a mere supposition, and altogether inefficient as the basis of substantial rights; and he endeavoured to introduce a less objectionable element in the consideration of the will of God,
collected from an enlarged contemplation of human happi'ness,'— a periphrastic term for the intangible notion of general expediency.
. But why must we,' inquires Dr. Miller, with Locke, go back to a state of savage nature for the origin of the rights of civilized men? Aristotle has defined man to be a political animal ; and art is man's nature, as Burke has eloquently observed. It is in society that the powers of our nature are developed and exerted; and it is there that we should examine it, to judge of our obligations. And why, on the other hand, should we, with Paley, seek the knowledge of the will of God in the contemplation of general expediency, when he has expressly recorded it in his Revelation? It has been declared, that government is a contrivance for promoting the happiness of men, and that it is therefore their duty to give it their support.
Here are the principle and the obligation. Every government is in some degree an instrument of good, and therefore, every government is morally entitled to claim the obedience of its subjects. This is the dictate of reason, as well as of Revelation ; for where is the government which is not more beneficial than anarchy? Nor is it possible that a corrupt government should contiuue to exist, if the people were really qualified to constitute a better. When Cæsar fell by the hands of the conspirators, the Romans were not free, though the tyrant was no more; and the corruption of the general morals soon subjected them to another despot. But if they had been really prepared for the coustruction of a free government, the poniard would not have been necessary for annihilating the power of their ruler. Nor does the injunction of the Apostle, unqualified as it may at the first view appear, preclude any change which would be truly beneficial. It forbids us to conspire for the violent overthrow of a government, which possesses the efficiency of political power, and must therefore be adapted to the actual qualities of the people: but it does not forbid the peaceable influence of reason in improving those qualities, and fitting them to sustain a better government; it does not require us to adhere, with a romantic fidelity, to a government which has lost the power of ministering to the public good; it does not tell us, that we should submit quietly to a tyranny so unsuited to the circumstances of the people, that the mere expression of the public, will is sufficient to effect its overthrow,
We are unable to perceive the force of any part of this reasoning. In order to establish the doctrine of consent, it does not seem necessary either to go back to a state of
savage nature, or to admit the fiction of an actual compact. That there is implied, in the very supposition of a harmonious association, a state of consent, tacit or avowed, is, we apprehend, clear on the face of the statement. Men are not prone to acquiesce, excepting from fear or prudence, under à tyrannous yoke, and we know of no other legitimate motive for acquiescence. There is a party, and a stirring one too, in the nation, who are taking every occasion to put forward the old scheme of passive obedience and non-resistance. They, like one who shall be nameless, can quote Scripture to their
purpose, and torture the simple declaration, that civil government is a divine ordinance, into an express command of servile submission to dark and demoralizing tyranny. It were bootless to enter into controversy with such interpreters; their logic and their feelings are alike depraved ; and it is for our