« AnteriorContinuar »
vitation to take a share in the indulgences which those about us are enjoying with so much apparent relish and delight; or from want of regular employment, which is sure to let in many superfluous cravings and customs, and often this amongst the rest; or, lastly, from grief, or fatigue, both which strongly solicit that relief which inebriating liquors administer, and also furnish a specious excuse for complying with the inclination. But the habit, when once set in, is continued by different motives from those to which it owes its origin. Persons addicted to excessive drinking suffer, in the intervals of sobriety, and near the return of their accustomed indulgence, a faintness and oppression circa præcordia, which it exceeds the ordinary patience of human nature to endure. This is usually relieved for a short time by a repetition of the same excess; and to this "relief, as to the removal of
every long-continued pain, they who have once experienced it, are urged almost beyond the power of resistance. This is not all : as the liquor loses its stimulus, the dose must be increased, to reach the same pitch of eleva tion, or ease; which increase proportionably accelerates the progress of all the maladies that drunkenness brings on.
Whoever reflects upon the violence of the craving in the advanced stages of the habit, and the fatal termination to which the gratification of it leads, will, the moment he perceives in himself the first symptoms of a growing inclination to intemperance, collect his resolution to this point; or (what perhaps he will find his best security) arm himself with some peremptory rule, as to the times and quantity of his indulgences. I own myself a friend to the laying down of rules to ourselves of this sort, and rigidly abiding by them. They may be exclaimed against as stiff, but, they are often salutary. Indefinite resolutions of abstemiousness are apt to yield to extraordinary occasions ; and extraordinary occasions to occur perpetually. Whereas, the stricter the rule is, the more tenacious we grow of it; and many a man will abstain rather than break his rule, who would not easily be brought to exercise the same mortification from higher motives. Not to mention, that when our rule is once known, we are provided with an answer to every importunity.
There is a difference, no doubt, between convivial intemperance, and that solitary
sottishness which waits neither for company nor invitation.
But the one, I am afraid, commonly ends in the other: and this last in the basest degradation to which the faculties and dignity of human nature can be reduced.
THERE is no subject in morality in which the consideration of general consequences is more necessary than in this of Suicide. Particular and extreme cases of suicide
may be imagined, and may arise, of which it would be difficult to assign the particular mischief, or from that consideration alone to demonstrate the guilt; and these cases have been the chief occasion of confusion and doubtfulness in 'the question: albeit this is no more than what is sometimes true of the most acknowledged vices. I could
propose many possible cases even of murder, which, if they were detached from the general rule, and governed by their own particular consequences alone, it would be no easy undertaking to prove criminal.
The true question in this argument is no other than this: May every man who chooses to destroy his life, innocently do so ? Limit and distinguish the subject as you can, it will come at last to this question.
For, shall we say, that we are then at liberty to commit suicide, when we find our continuance in life become useless to mankind? Any one who pleases, may make himself useless; and melancholy minds are prone to think themselves useless, when they really are not so. Suppose a law were promulgated, allowing each private person to destroy every man he met, whose longer continuance in the world he judged to be useless; who would not condemn the latitude of such a rule? who does not perceive that it amounts to a permission to commit murder at pleasure? A similar rule, regulating the rights over our own lives, would be capable of the same extension. Beside which, no one is useless for the purpose of this plea, but he who has lost every capacity and opportunity of being useful, together with the possibility of recovering any degree of either; which is a state of such complete destitution and despair, as cannot, I believe, be predicated of any man living.
Or rather, shall we say that to depart voluntarily oứt of life, is lawful for those alone who leave none to lament their death? If this consideration is to be taken into the account at all, the subject of debate will be, not whether there are any to sorrow for us, but whether their sorrow for our death will exceed that which we should suffer by continuing to live. Now this is a comparison of things so indeterminate in their nature, capable of so different a judgement, and concerning which the judgement will differ so much according to the state of the spirits, or the pressure of any present anxiety, that it would vary little, in hypochondriacal constitutions, from an unqualified license to commit suicide, whenever the distresses which men felt, or fancied, rose high enough to overcome the pain and dread of death. Men are never tempted to destroy themselves but when under the oppression of some , grieyous uneasiness: the restrictions of the rule therefore ought to apply to these cases. But what effect can we look for from a rule which proposes to weigh our pain against that of another; the misery that is felt, against that which is only conceived ; and in