Page images
PDF
EPUB

which is neither absolute nor servile ; for the obligation is limited, and the end is the common good.

The doctor ascertains the precise sense of the words, civil subjection and civil liberty ; terms which are often used without any determinate meaning. The individuals, in a free state, are in civil subjection ; though the collective body of the whole society, is totally free from such subjection : but in absolute monarchies or aristocracies, the collective body is in a state of subjection to its constitutional governors ; because as far as the power of these governors extends, their act is binding upon the collective body, as well as upon the several members. If the legislative body consists of a single person and of a select number of hereditary nobility, the constitution will be mixed; but, the collective body of the civil society will be in subjection ; becaufe, in establishing the constitution, this collective body obliged itself, as far as the purposes of social union extend, to follow a judgment and will, which is not in its own keeping, but in the keeping of that particular part which compofes the legislative body. By adding to these two parts of such a mixed legislative body, a third, consisting of representatives chosen from time to time by the general body of the society, this general body, which is usually called the people, does not, indeed, reserve to itself a full power of legislation, but retains such an independant power as prevents its subjection. Though it has not a power of making laws by its own judgment and will, yet without its own judgment and will, fignified by its representatives, no laws will be binding upon it. The fame independence is vested in the person of a king who is a conftitutional part of the legislative body.

He distinguishes civil liberty into the liberty of the parts, and the liberty of the whole ; that is, into the liberty of the several individuals who have united together, and compose the collective body of the society, and the liberty of this collective body itself. The first implies a freedom from all, except civil subjection ; the other, a freedom from all subjection whatsoever. An absolute monarchy puts an end to civil liberty, because the collective body is bound to act by a judgment and will which are not in its own keeping. An absolute ariftocracy is also inconfiftent with the civil liberty of the whole,

because

[ocr errors]

because it places the whole body in a subjection to a small number of men, who are only a part of that whole. A mixture of these two forms of government will be as inconsistent with the liberty of the whole ; for, still the collective body will be in a state of subjection, by being ruled according to a judgment and will, which are not in its own keeping, but in the keeping of a part. But, no constitutional civil governors have any other right or moral power of restraining the several members, than the collective body of the whole fociety has in a perfect democracy; and this is no other than what is derived from social union.

He says, page 396,- The precise notion of civil liberty, when ! we speak of the whole people considered as one collective body, consists in the freedom of this body from all subjection whatsoever, or in its right of not being obliged by any

judgment and will with which its own judgment and I will do not concur. But this freedom of the collective • body from all subjection implies, that it has a right of 4 acting as a distinct and constitutional part of the legislative, or that nothing can be done by the legislative without its concurrence. For since the act of the legislative is binding upon the whole fociety; if the legislative could do any act " without the concurrence of the general body of the people,

this body would be in a state of subjection. From hence it « appears, that, when we speak of the people as one general

or collective body, we may very properly say, that the civil « liberty of the people consists in the right of acting as a distinct 4 part of the legislative : because the collective body, if it had (not this right, would be in a state of civil subjection; and a

state even of civil subjection is inconsistent with the civil liberty of such body. . : Doctor Rutherforth having considered the nature of slaves, and whether the society has authority to protect them against their master, proceeds to enquire into the right of resistance, which begins where civil subjection ceases. ;

As this is a very interesting subject to a British reader, we heartily recommend the differtation to the perusal of all those who wish well to the natural rights of mankind ; and even to fuch as through folly, ignorance, or prejudice, contend for their

own

own slavery, in espousing the servile doctrines of passive obedience, and non-resistance. Doctrines profefied by the worst of all factions, a faction which, contrary to all others, acts and argues against its own emolument and preservation. , *

He exhibits a short view of the several ways in which the authority of the civil governors of a society fails, and the fubjection of the people ceases, namely when the governors abdicate ; when they impose such commands as are inconsistent with the laws of nature and of God; and when they extend their power beyond the laws of the constitution, by which their power is naturally limited.

lly limited.

. He observes that the right or liberty of resistance, which belongs to the people, is not properly a civil power, but a natural right: it is not an authority, which civil union gives

them : it is only what remains of natural liberty exempted < from the obligations of civil union. The constitutional civil

governors are, by the suppofition, invested with the supreme power. But this power, since it is only civil power, is limited in its own nature : it is limited by the ends and purposes of civil union. Beyond these limits therefore the natural rights or natural liberties of the people still subsist, the civil governors have no power, and the people owe them no subjection. This right of the people may perhaps at first « fight appear to be a civil power ; because it seems to arise

out of the social compact, or at least to depend upon this compact. But it no otherwise depends upon the social compact, than as this compact does not extend to it. The focial compact limits the civil power of the constitutional governors to the purposes of civil union : and this limitation is the foundation of the peoples right to resist tyrannical power : not because it gives them any power, which nature . had not given them ; but because it leaves them in poliession

of their natural liberty.' They had naturally 'a: right of res fisting injuries by force. As far as the ends of civil union

require this natural right to be given up or restrained, so far it is given up or restrained, either mediately or immediately, by civil'union. But as far as thefe ends do not require this s right to be given up; fo far it still fubfifts in a state of civil

fociety .. : : : :

HC He proves, in opposition to Grotius, that the people have a right to resist civil governors who are in actual possession of fupreme power. Supremacy of civil power does not imply, that they who are poffessed of it, have a right to do whatever they please : for, though it is under no constitutional restraints from without ; it is only civil power, and is therefore under a natural limitation from within. It is limited in its own nature to the ends and purposes of civil union. He takes great pains in explaining some passages in the epistles of St. Peter, and St. Paul, which have been produced as arguments for passive obedience and non-resistance. He shews that Paul meant no more than that the people should be obedient to the higher powers, which exercised such supremacy as was consistent with the nature of civil union : and that Peter addressed himself to flaves, when he said ; • servants, be subject to your masters with all fear, whether they are gentle or froward.' . .'

He demonstrates that no civil judge can have power to fix the point where the right of resistance begins : that though. the people may judge whether the supreme governors act contrary to their trust, they have no civil jurisdiction to judge in this case; it is such a right of judging as all mankind were possessed of in a state of natural liberty. In short, when

the question is, whether the supreme governors of a civil • society have abused their trust by counteracting the ends of • social union ; the case is of such a sort, that no civil judge • is or can be provided for it. But it does not follow from hence

that there is no judge at all : each of the parties are left to

judge for themselves, as if they were still in a state of nature. · • Both parties are accountable to God, if they judge wrong• ly and act upon this judgment: but neither of them is bound 'to submit to the judgment of the other.

• It is a groundless suggestion, that a right of resistance in the people will occasion treason and rebellion ; or that it will “weaken the authority of civil government, and will render

the office of those, who are invested with it, precarious and “unsafe, even though they administer it with the nicest pru«dence and with all due regard to the common benefit. The

right of resistance will indeed render the general notion of rebellion less extensive in its application to particular facts.

All

All use of force against such persons, as are invested with * fupreme power, would come under the notion of rebellion, • if the people had no right of this fort : whereas, if they have • such a right, the use of force to repel tyrannical and unfo

cial oppression, when it cannot be removed by any other means, must have some other name given to it. So that • however true it may be, that in consequence of this right

of resistance; supreme governors will be liable of right to

fome external checks, arising out of the law of nature, to • which they would otherwise not be liable ; yet it cannot properly be said to expose them to rebellion.

But the great stress of the present question is, not what name the use of force to repel unsocial and tyrannical op

preffion is to be called by, but what effect it will have upon *the general security of those, who are appointed to govern a o coñmonwealth, and upon the authority, which is necef

fary to be kept up, in order to enable them to discharge their • trust with benefit to the public. Now the security of civil « governors depends partly upon the consciences of their subjects, • and partly upon the natural strength and influence, which

they have in their hands. The ties of conscience procure them obedience and submission upon. à principle of duty :: and the strength and influence, which go along with their i office, procure the like obedience and submission from such,

as would disregard their duty, if it was not enforced by com. pulfion. They will have this laiter security to guard their

persons, and to support their authority, whether the people • have a right of resistance or not. And in fact there is more • danger of their making an undue use of their strength and • influence, to support themselves, when they do wrong, thani

of their wanting a sufficient security against any attempts of faction, when they do right: it is more likely, that they

should have it in their power to compel the people to submit * to unsocial oppression ; than that they Thould be in danger, + of being hurt by rebellion, under the pretence of a right of & resistance. But this strength and influence is not their only • security : for as long as they pay a due regard to the com

mon good, the principle of conscience will procure them & social obedience and fubmifion, and will support their autho· Vol. II. Novem, 1735.'

tity?

« PreviousContinue »