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“ Christian country, is a being possessed of “ much greater power, to be, and to make, “ happy, than a person of the same age in “ the same or any other country some cen“ turies ago.”
Hence, assured that this learned philosopher will not refuse me, on account of my differing from some of his opinions, the common superiority of reasoning, which my existence in the present age gives me over all my ancestors and predecessors, (though unconscious of the advantage) I lay in my full elaim to it, and shall endeavour to support it more by the perspicuity and strength of arguments gleaned from others, than by my own.
In the prosecution of my design, I shall follow the order, which the subject seems plainly to prescribe: I shall consider man, first, in the pure state of nature; then, in the general state of society; and lastly, in the state of the English government and consticution ; and as every Englishman, or person living under the protection of the English government, allumes or contracts a relative duty and obligation to the community, of which he is a member, I shall endeavour to enforce the indispensible coercion of these duties and obligations, by the examination and exposition of the instances, in which they may be infringed
"The delign of the work
and violated by crimes against the state; and I shall conclude by a faithful narrative of the effects already produced in this island, by the dissemination of the very doctrines, which are now attempted to be revived with such infatuated zeal.
If Britons shall chufe again to get up the old tragedy, I shall but have given in the list of the dramatis persone, who are most qualified to keep up the genuine spirit of the
A cool and collected revisal of the argument may determine my countrymen, either to the repetition, or irrevocable damnation, of the piece.
CH A P. I.
OF THE STATE OF NATURE.
Reasons for considering the fubjeci.
THE contemplation of the British con
stitution in its origin, in its structure and in its effects, is the important and the
** The trite adage of nil fub fole novum is more emphatically applicable to the subject under our present confideration, than to any other. This subject has in all ages been the primary objeet of the politician, the historian, and the philosopher; and in many ages, such have been the exalted ideas entertained of its dignity, that it has constituted a very considerable part of theology. As in religion, the written word of God, which, from its divine inspiration, must essentially bear a determined and unequivocal meaning, is in disputes and differences often resorted to, and modified by the appellants to its authority, so as to colour, countenance, and support the most extravagant and contradictory opinions; so few or no political errors, treasons, rebellions, or usurpations have at any time been attempted to be justified, but by appealing and resorting to the authority of the Rights of Man. Since the subject has been so often and so fully considered by others, I Mall think I give more satisfaction to the public by collecting and arranging their opinions upon it, than by endeavouring to dress and serve up the old subKance in the disguise of some new fashion. I shall
arduous task, which I have undertaken. *« The duty incumbent upon all, who have leisure and abilities, to endeavour to understand, in order to maintain it in perfection, are those high motives, by which Englishmen are called upon to examine the principles, to study the contrivance, and to contemplate the operations of that vast political machine, which is so much the envy of others, and which should be the supreme admiration of ourselves, particularly at a time, when a party of discontented spirits, under the assumed character of philosophers, are labouring to abuse what they do not understand, to point out imperfections, which have no existence, to find defects instead of excellencies, to tra. duce its general worth, and to make our countrymen diffatisfied with what they oughc to love." But as the nature, properties, and effectsof the most ingenious piece of mechanism can only be explained upon those mathematical principles, upon which it was constructed, and which had their existence, independent of this particular application of them: fo * " before intelligent beings existed, they were possible; they had therefore possible relations, and consequently possible laws. Before laws were made, there were relations of posible justice. To say, that there is nothing just or unjust, but what is commanded or forbidden by positive laws, is the same as saying, that before the describing of a circle, all the radii were not equal.”
therefore offer no other apology for preferring what others, and even I myself, have on other occasions publilled upon the subject. My primary object in making this publication is to form and fix the minds of my countrymen upon the most important of all civil and political subjects, and to do away the effects of uncertainty, confufion, and error, under which fome of them now labour. I most cordially adopt the fentiments of Dr. Price, when he says, in the discourse already alluded to, (p. 13) “ Happier far muft he be, if at the same time he has reason to believe, he has been fuccessful, and actually contributed by his instructions, to disseminate among his fellow creatures just notions of themselves, of their rights, of religion, and the natore and end of civil government.”
• Dr. Tatham's Letters to Mr. Burke, p. 7.
This state of nature, in which all philosophers consider man, and the rights and properties inherent in this nature, is a mere theoretical and metaphysical state, pre-existing only in the mind, before the physical existence of any human entity whatever. As this state' of nature then never had any real existence, fo also the various qualities, properties, rights, powers, and adjuncts annexed unto it, are
The State of nature merely theoretical and metaphysical.
phicis coniaci man, a
Montefg. Spirit of Laws, b. i. p. 2.