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which are immediate and direct; as it is obvious, that, in computing consequences, it makes no difference in what way or at what distance they ensue.
To impress this doctrine on the minds of young readers, and to teach them to extend their views beyond the immediate mischief of a crime, I shall here subjoin a string of instances, in which the particular consequences is comparatively insignificant; and where the malignity of the crime, and the severity with which human laws pursue it, is almost entirely founded upon the general consequence.
The particular consequence of coining is the loss of a guinea or of half a guinea to the person who receives the counterfeit money: the general consequence (by which I mean the consequence that would ensue, if the same practice were generally permitted) is to abolish the use of money.
The particular consequence of forgery is a damage of twenty or thirty pounds to the man who accepts the forged bill: the general consequence is the stoppage of paper currency.
The particular consequence of sheep-stealing, or horse-stealing is a loss to the owner, to the amount of the value of the sheep or horse stolen: the general consequence is that the land could not be occupied, nor the market supplied with this kind of stock.
The particular consequence of breaking into a house empty of inhabitants is the loss of a pair of silver candlesticks or a few spoons: the general consequence is that nobody could leave their house empty.
The particular consequence of smuggling may be a deduction from the national fund too minute for computation: the general consequence is the destruction of one entire branch of public revenue; a proportionable increase of the burden upon other branches; and the ruin of all fair and open trade in the article smuggled.
The particular consequence of an officer's breaking his parole is the loss of a prisoner, who was possibly not worth keeping: the general consequence is that
this mitigation of captivity would be refused to all others.
And what proves incontestably the superior importance of general consequences is that crimes are the same, and treated in the same manner, though the particular consequence be very different. The crime and fate of the house-breaker is the same, whether his booty be five pounds or fifty. And the reason is that the general consequence is the same.
The want of this distinction between particular and general consequences, or rather, the not sufficiently attending to the latter, is the cause of that perplexity which we meet with in ancient moralists. On the one hand, they were sensible of the absurdity of pronouncing actions good or evil, without regard to the good or evil they produced. On the other hand, they were startled at the conclusion to which a steady adherence to consequences seemed sometimes to conduct them. To relieve this difficulty they contrived the rò gav or the honestum, by which terms they meant to constitute a measure of right, distinct from utility. Whilst the utile served them, that is, whilst it corresponded with their habitual notions of the rectitude of actions, they went by it. When they fell in with such cases as those mentioned in the sixth chapter, they took leave of their guide, and resorted to the honestum. The only account they could give of the matter was, that these actions might be useful; but, because they were not at the same time honesta, they were by no means to be deemed just or right.
From the principles delivered in this and the two preceding chapters, a maxim may be explained, which is in every man's mouth, and in most men's without meaning, viz. "not to do evil, that good may come;" that is, let us not violate a general rule for the sake of any particular good consequence we may expect: which is for the most part a salutary caution, the advantage seldom compensating for the violation of the rule. Strictly speaking, that cannot be "evil" from which " good comes;" but in this way, and with a
Alienable or unalienable:
1. Rights are natural or adventitious. Natural rights are such as would belong to man, although there subsisted in the world no civil government whatever.
Adventitious rights are such as would not.
Natural rights are a man's right to his life, limbs, and liberty; his right to the produce of his personal labour; to the use, in common with others, of air, light, water. If a thousand different persons, from a thousand different corners of the world, were cast together upon a desert island, they would from the first be every one entitled to these rights.
Adventitious rights are the right of a king over his subjects; of a general over his soldiers; of a judge over the life and liberty of a prisoner; a right to elect or appoint magistrates, to impose taxes, decide disputes, direct the descent or disposition of property; a right, in a word, in any one man, or particular body of men, to make laws and regulations for the rest. For none of these rights would exist in the newly inhabited island.
And here it will be asked, how adventitious rights are created; or, which is the same thing, how any new rights can accrue from the establishment of civil society? as rights of all kinds, we remember, depend upon the will of God, and civil society is but the ordinance and institution of man. For the solution of this difficulty, we must return to our first principles God wills the happiness of mankind; and the existence of civil society, as conducive to that happiness. Consequently, many things, which are useful for the support of civil society in general, or for the conduct and conservation of particular societies already established, are, for that reason," consistent with the will of God," or "right," which, without that reason, i. e. without the establishment of civil society, would not have been so.
From whence also it appears, that adventitious rights, though immediately derived from human appointment, are not, for that reason, less sacred than
natural rights, nor the obligation to respect them less cogent. They both ultimately rely upon the same authority-the will of God. Such a man claims a right to a particular estate. He can show, it is true, nothing for his right, but a rule of the civil community to which he belongs; and this rule may be arbitrary, capricious, and absurd. Notwithstanding all this, there would be the same sin in dispossessing the man of his estate by craft or violence, as if it had been assigned to him, like the partition of the country amongst the twelve tribes, by the immediate designation and appointment of Heaven.
2. Rights are alienable or unalienable. Which terms explain themselves.
The right we have to most of those things which we call property, as houses, lands, money, &c. is alienable.
The right of a prince over his people, of a husband over his wife, of a master over his servant, is generally and naturally unalienable.
The distinction depends upon the mode of acquir.ng the right. If the right originate from a contract, and be limited to the person by the express terms of the contract, or by the common interpretation of such contracts (which is equivalent to an express stipulation,) or by a personal condition annexed to the right; then it is unalienable. In all other cases it is aliena
The right to civil liberty is alienable; though in the vehemence of men's zeal for it, and the language of some political remonstrances, it has often been pronounced to be an unalienable right. The true reason why mankind hold in detestation the memory of those who have sold their liberty to a tyrant is, that, together with their own, they sold commonly, or endangered, the liberty of others; which certainly they had no right to dispose of.
3. Rights are perfect or imperfect.
Perfect rights may be asserted by force, or, what in civil society comes into the place of private force, by course of law.
Imperfect rights may not.
Examples of perfect rights.A man's right to his
life, person, house; for, if these be attacked, he may repel the attack by instant violence, or punish the aggressor by law? a man's right to his estate, furniture, clothes, money, and to all ordinary articles of property; for, if they be injuriously taken from him, he may compel the author of the injury to make resti tution or satisfaction.
Examples of imperfect rights.-In elections or appointments to offices, where the qualifications are prescribed, the best qualified candidate has a right to success; yet, if he be rejected, he has no remedy. He can neither seize the office by force, nor obtain redress at law: his right therefore is imperfect. A poor neighbour has a right to relief; yet if it be refused him, he must not extort it. A benefactor has a right to returns of gratitude from the person he has obliged; yet, if he meet with none, he must acquiesce Children have a right to affection and education from their parents; and parents, on their part, to duty and reverence from their children: yet if these rights be on either side withholden, there is no compulsion by which they can be enforced.
It may be at first view difficult to apprehend how a person should have a right to a thing, and yet have no right to use the means necessary to obtain it. This difficulty, like most others in morality, is resolvable into the necessity of general rules. The reader recollects, that a person is said to have a right" to a thing, when it is "consistent with the will of God" that he should possess it. So that the question is reduced to this: How it comes to pass that it should be consistent with the will of God that a person should possess a thing, and yet not be consistent with the same will that he should use force to obtain it? The answer is, that by reason of the indeterminateness, either of the object, or of the circumstances of the right, the permission of force in this case would, in its consequence, lead to the permission of force in other cases, where there existed no right at all. The candidate above described has, no doubt, a right to success; but his right depends upon his qualifications, for instance, upon his comparative virtue, learning,