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&c.: there must be somebody therefore to compare them. The existence, degree, and respective importance of these qualifications are all indeterminate: there must be somebody therefore to determine them. To allow the candidate to demand success by force is to make him the judge of his own qualifications. You cannot do this but you must make all other candidates the same; which would open a door to demands without number, reason, or right. In like manner, a poor man has a right to relief from the rich; but the mode, season, and quantum of that relief, who shall contribute to it, or how much, are not ascertained. Yet these points must be ascertained, before a claim to relief can be prosecuted by force. For, to allow the poor to ascertain them for themselves would be to expose property to so many of these claims, that it would lose its value, or rather its nature; that is, cease indeed to be property. The same observation holds of all other cases of imperfect rights; not to mention that, in the instances of gratitude, affection, reverence, and the like, force is excluded by the very idea of the duty, which must be voluntary, or cannot exist at all.

Wherever the right is imperfect, the corresponding obligation is so too. I am obliged to prefer the best candidate, to relieve the poor, be grateful to my benefactors, take care of my children, and reverence my parents; but in all these cases my obligation, like their right, is imperfect.

I call these obligations "imperfect," in conformity to the established language of writers upon the subject. The term, however, seems ill chosen, on this account, that it leads many to imagine that there is less guilt in the violation of an imperfect obligation than of a perfect one; which is a groundless notion. For an obligation being perfect or imperfect, determines only whether violence may or may not be employed to enforce it; and determines nothing else. The degree of guilt incurred by violating the obligation is a different thing, and is determined by circumstances altogether independent of this distinction. A man who by a partial, prejudiced, or corrupt vote, disappoints a worthy candidate of a station in life, upon



which his hopes, possibly, or livelihood, depended, and who thereby grievously discourages merit and emulation in others, commits, I am persuaded, a much greater crime than if he filched a book out of a library, or picked a pocket of a handkerchief; though in the one case he violates only an imperfect right, in the other a perfect one.

As positive precepts are often indeterminate in their extent, and as the indeterminateness of an obligation is that which makes it imperfect; it comes to pass, that positive precepts commonly produce an imperfect obligation.

Negative precepts or prohibitions, being generally precise, constitute accordingly perfect obligations.

The fifth commandment is positive, and the duty which results from it is imperfect.

The sixth commandment is negative, and imposes a perfect obligation.

Religion and virtue find their principal exercise among the imperfect obligations; the laws of civil society taking pretty good care of the rest.



By the General Rights of Mankind, I mean the rights which belong to the species collectively; the original stock, as I may say, which they have since distributed among themselves.

These are,

1. A right to the fruits or vegetable produce of the earth.

The insensible parts of the creation are incapable of injury; and it is nugatory to inquire into the right, where the use can be attended with no injury. But it may be worth observing, for the sake of an inference which will appear below, that as God had created us with a want and desire of food, and provided things suited by their nature to sustain and satisfy us, we

may fairly presume, that he intended we should apply these things to that purpose.

2. A right to the flesh of animals.

This is a very different claim from the former. Some excuse seems necessary for the pain and loss which we occasion to brutes, by restraining them of their liberty, mutilating their bodies, and, at last, putting an end to their lives (which we suppose to be the whole of their existence,) for our pleasure or conveniency.

The reasons alleged in vindication of this practice are the following: that the several species of brutes being created to prey upon one another, affords a kind of analogy to prove that the human species were intended to feed upon them; that, if let alone, they would overrun the earth, and exclude mankind from the occupation of it; that they are requited for what they suffer at our hands, by our care and protection.

Upon which reasons I would observe, that the analogy contended for is extremely lame; since brutes have no power to support life by any other means, and since we have; for the whole human species might subsist entirely upon fruit, pulse, herbs, and roots, as many tribes of Hindoos actually do. The two other reasons may be valid reasons, as far as they go; for, no doubt, if man had been supported entirely by vegetable food, a great part of those animals which die to furnish his table would never have lived: but they by no means justify our right over the lives of brutes to the extent in which we exercise it. What danger is there, for instance, of fish interfering with us, in the occupation of their element? or what do we contribute to their support or preservation?

It seem to me, that it would be difficult to defend this right by any arguments which the light and order of nature afford; and that we are beholden for it to the permission recorded in Scripture, Gen. ix. 1, 2, 3. "And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth: and the fear of you, and the dread of you, shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, and upon all that moveth upon the earth,


and upon all the fishes of the sea; into your hand are they delivered; every moving thing shall be meat for you; even as the green herb, have I given you all things." To Adam and his posterity had been granted, at the creation, "every green herb for meat," and nothing more. In the last clause of the passage now produced, the old grant is recited, and extended to the flesh of animals; "even as the green herb, have I given you all things.' But this was not till after the flood; the inhabitants of the antediluvian world had therefore no such permission, that we know of. Whether they actually refrained from the flesh of animals, is another question. Abel, we read, was a keeper of sheep; and for what purpose he kept them, except for food, is difficult to say (unless it were sacrifices:) might not, however, some of the stricter sects among the antediluvians be scrupulous as to this point? and might not Noah and his family be of this description? for it is not probable that God would publish a permission to authorize a practice which had never been disputed.

Wanton, and, what is worse, studied cruelty to brutes is certainly wrong, as coming within none of these reasons.

From reason then, or revelation, or from both together, it appears to be God Almighty's intention, that the productions of the earth should be applied to the sustentation of human life. Consequently all waste and misapplication of these productions is contrary to the Divine intention and will; and therefore wrong, for the same reason that any other crime is so: Such as, what is related of William the Conqueror, the converting of twenty manors into a forest for hunting; or, which is not much better, suffering them to continue in that state; or, the letting of large tracts of land lie barren, because the owner cannot cultivate them, nor will part with them to those who can; or destroying, or suffering to perish, great part of an article of human provision, in order to enhance the price of the remainder (which is said to have been,

till lately, the case with fish caught upon the English coast;) or diminishing the breed of animals, by a wanton or improvident consumption of the young, as of the spawn of shell fish, or the fry of salmon, by the use of unlawful nets, or at improper seasons. To this head may also be referred what is the same evil in a smaller way, the expending of human food on superfluous dogs or horses; and lastly, the reducing of the quantity, in order to alter the quality, and to alter it generally for the worse; as the distillation of spirits from bread corn, the boiling down of solid meat for sauces, essences, &c.

This seems to be the lesson which our Saviour, after his manner, inculcates, when he bids his disciples" gather up the fragments, that nothing be lost." And it opens indeed a new field of duty. Schemes of wealth or profit prompt the active part of mankind to cast about, how they may convert their property to the most advantage; and their own advantage, and that of the public, commonly concur. But it has not as yet entered into the minds of mankind to reflect, that it is a duty to add what we can to the common stock of provision, by extracting out of our estates the most they will yield; or that it is any sin to neglect


From the same intention of God Almighty, we also deduce another conclusion, namely, "that nothing ought to be made exclusive property, which can be conveniently enjoyed in common."

It is the general intention of God Almighty, that the produce of the earth be applied to the use of man. This appears from the constitution of nature, or, if you will, from his express declaration; and this is all that appears at first. Under this general donation, one man has the same right as another. You pluck an apple from a tree, or take a lamb from a flock, for your immediate use and nourishment, and I do the same; and we both plead for what we do, the general intention of the Supreme Proprietor. So far all is right: but you cannot claim the whole tree or the whole flock, and exclude me from any share of them, and plead this general intention for what you do. 7*.


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