Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

the weakness and imperfection of human virtue can ever seem to be of reward. Man when about to appear before a being of infinite perfection can feel but little confidence in his own merit or in the imperfect propriety of his own conduct. In the presence of his fellow creatures, he may often justly elevate himself, and may often have reason to think highly of his own character and conduct, compared to the still greater imperfection of theirs. But the case is quite different when about to appear before his infinite Creator. To such a being he can scarce imagine that his littleness and weakness should ever seem to be the proper object either of esteem or of reward. But he can easily conceive how the numberless violations of duty, of which he has been guilty, should render him the proper object of aversion and punishment; neither can he see any reason why the Divine indignation should not be let loose without any restraint upon so vile an insect as he is sensible that he himself must appear to be. If he would still hope for happiness, he is conscious that he cannot demand it from the justice, but that he must entreat it from the mercy of God. Repentance, sor row, humiliation, contrition at the thought of his past conduct, are, upon this account, the sentiments which become him, and seem to be the only means which he has left for appeasing that wrath which, he knows, he has justly provoked. He even distrusts the efficacy of all these, and naturally fears lest the wisdom of God should not, like the weakness of men, be prevailed upon to spare the crime, by the most importunate lamentations of the criminal. Some other intercession, some other sacrifice, some other atonement, he imagines, must be made for him beyond what he himself is capable of making, before the purity of the Divine justice can be reconciled to his manifold offences. The doctrines of revelation coincide in every respect with those original anticipations of nature; and, as they teach us how little we can depend upon the imperfection of our own virtue, so they show us at the same time that the most powerful intercession has been made, and that the most dreadful atonement has been paid for our manifold transgressions and iniquities."

NOTE (III.) MACHINES. With the references on page 151, etc., compare Moral Sentiments, 6th ed., I. 455 (on the accuracy of watches), and the essay on the Formation of Languages (ibid., II. 455), where the gradual simplification of languages is likened to the simplification of a mechanical invention. It should be remembered that Adam Smith took an active part in befriending James Watt, when, in 1757, “he was molested by some of the corporations who considered him as an intruder on their privileges," and was allowed to open his shop within the precincts of the University (see Irago, Life of Watt).

But see Hasbach, Allgemeine philosophische Grundlage, pp. 140-147.

CHAPTER IX.

NATURAL RIGHTS AND LAW OF NATURE.

THE expression natural rights played so conspicuous a part in the politics and political philosophy of last century, especially at the time of the Encyclopedists and Physiocrats and Adam Smith, that a few words must be added here on the connection between natural rights, law of nature, and state of nature. It is important not only to know the ambiguities and errors' associated with these terms, but the sense (if there be such) in which they may still safely be used. The commonest use of "natural" is probably in the sense of “instinctive.” Macduff “wants the natural touch,” the instinct of an animal to fight for its young. Hamlet's father considered his own murder to be “most foul, strange, and unnatural,because against the instincts of kindred. This sense throws no light on “natural rights," for instinct might be pleaded to justify a frank selfishness that defied all claims but its own. But it frequently passes into a sense which has a decided bearing on “rights.” In such passages as “unnatural deeds do breed unnatural troubles,” 3 the second “unnatural” implies that there is a certain order or harmony, the preservation of which would be “natural.” It leans on the idea of a law of nature, analogous to the order that makes the sun rise. It is implied in such sayings as “nature abhors a vacuum," “ leave nature to work her own cure," " leave him to time and the medicating effects of nature.” This is an intelligible conception. It is that of deliberate human action on the one side, and all the materials and forces with and on which it works on the other side ; and it implies that sometimes it is best to abstain from all deliberate action, and simply drift with wind and tide, acting spontaneously or not at all.

1 Detailed, e.g., in Bentham's Anarchical Fallacies (W ks., vol. ii.), Lewis' Use and Abuse of some Political Terms (1832).

“Thou, nature, art my goddess; to thy law

My services are bound.”Lear, I. II. 3 Macbeth, V. 1. 79.

It might, however, be shown that not all but only some classes of spontaneoụs action result in any order at all as far as human life is concerned. "Nature" sometimes kills as well as cures. There is no consistency possible here; the same people who contrast “nature

nature" with human deliberate action would not deny that human deliberation is itself perfectly “natural.” This popular contrast of nature with deliberate human action was at one time a theory of the philosophers (idolon theatri), as well as a vague theory of common folk (idolon fori). Theories founding human society on a law of nature have often defined nature negatively by contrast with deliberate human contrivance. Institutions like the Post Office or the Board of Trade which result from the deliberations of a legislative assembly are contrasted with those which, like the family and the commercial relations of men, seem to have grown up spontaneously, and to have been the collective result of separate human actions in which nothing more than a separate result had been intended by the several agents. This is to a large extent the notion of nature to be found in the Physiocrats. It is the foundation of their demand for laissez-faire," and it lurks in Adam Smith's notion of the “simple system of natural liberty." To do the doctrine justice, we must however look to its philosophical origin and growth in the pages of Grotius, Hobbes, and Locke. In the last of these we find the conception of the law of nature not as a moral law written on the heart, but as the pursuit of happiness in obedience to a “natural” impulse ; and civil laws secure this happiness by securing to every man the fruits of his labour.

1 See above, p. 162. As Cowper wrote: “God made the country and man made the town,” so Adam Smith says, nature made early education domestic, and the education of a public school is man's invention (Moral Sent., 6th ed., II. 79). “Those parts of education, it is to be observed, for the teaching of which there are no public institutions, are generally the best taught.” W. of N., V., ch. i., art. ii., p. 344, 1.

Locke was the source of the doctrine of natural rights as it afterwards appeared (1) in America, and (2) in France. By nature (he says, as we saw above) men are free and equal ; children are born for this and mature manhood has it ; the law of nature wills a liberty that is consistent with the liberty of others. But the doctrine came to the American Colonies and to the French people, not directly from Locke, but filtered through the medium of French writers. Hume's criticism (that the Golden Age is the fiction of the poets, and the State of Nature the fiction of the philosophers) made no impression ; Hume's criticisms were only accepted, like Voltaire's, where they were palateable, which meant chiefly where they touched theology. The law of nature was still preached by French philosophers and economists; and by the people it was welcomed, as vaguely felt to be the opposite of things as they then were, in a highly artificial society full of political and other inequalities. In the popular mind, however, the idea of a State of Nature bulked more largely than any Law of Nature; and it was Rousseau' who brought the former notion into favour. In the state of nature men were uncorrupted ; their manners were rude, and their life had its discomforts; but they were nearer what the law of nature made them than in society and under civil government.

“Men are born free, and they are everywhere in chains.” Men are good by nature and made bad by society. Civil society begins with the first claim to private property. “ He, who first enclosed a strip of land, and said, “it is mine,' and found folk simple enough to believe him, was the real founder of civil society” (Inégalité, part ii.). The social contract which creates the State is perhaps necessary, for men are stronger when so combined, but the ideal political government (as well as the ideal private Education is that in which there is the minimum of interference, and “Nature" is allowed to do her own work.

But, as men are stronger to carry out the law of nature in society and the State, these latter come into being; only (be it noted) the “ sovereignty of the people" re

1 Inégalité, 1753 ; Contrat Social, 1762 ; Émile, 1762.

mains as absolute after the foundation as before it. The government is only justified in existing when it represents the “general will.” And there is emphasis on will; it is not a mere superior force—not might asserting itself as right. The difficulty is that this sovereignty of the people is represented as one and indivisible, qualities hard to reconcile with the domination of majorities, where there is simply a “general will," not the “will of all.” This will of all may be expressed best by assemblies of the whole people, though often they may err and not seek really the good of all, through defective information and bias of private interests in their advisers (see Contr. Soc., II., chap. iii., etc.). But, however the difficulties are surmounted, Rousseau's contention at least is quite plain. The same natural rights that belonged to men before government must belong to them after its foundation. No State is legitimate in which this is not so, and, as this is so (according to him) only by the constant reference to the whole people, we may infer that the Swiss federation of small States-small enough to admit such a reference—was in his thoughts. The dominance of the idea of a Federation of Communes in the minds of many Frenchmen if not due only to Rousseau's influence, has been evidently assisted by it.

There are two public documents in particular in which the Rights of Man are described and asserted with special emphasis. The first is the American Declaration of Independence, 4th July, 1776, a document prepared by Thomas Jefferson, who was well read in English philosophy. The influence of Locke is unmistakeable. * Men are created equal, they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights--among these, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. To secure these rights, governments are instituted, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, and whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it and to institute a new government."

1 With Prof. Caird, Essays on Literature and Philosophy (1892), vol. i. p. 110. 2 See Prof. T. H. Green, Works, vol. ii. (Political Obligation), p. 398. 3 The text is given, e.g., in the Annual Register [261], 1776.

« НазадПродовжити »