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when depravity disposes to evil, the strongest incentive to the actual commission of it is a plausible appearance of its rectitude. Much as I reprobate the modern doctrine of civil equalization, with all its tremendous train of destructive concomitants, so do I hold, that the denial of the truth of uncontrovertible principles must rather necesitate, than provoke men into the adoption of any doctrine, which leaves them the liberty of a free aflent to such self-evident propositions.
I am happy in being sanctioned in my principle of reasoning, by the great apostle of modern liberty. *• The jesuits,” says he, “ about two centuries ago, in order to vindicate their king-killing † principles, hap
pened, • Priestley's Essays upon the First Principles of Government, p. 27, 28.
+ The works of Busenbaum, a German jesuit, were burnt by the late parliament of Paris, for teaching these principles. It will be candid, and, perhaps, fatiffactory to the curious, co itate the words; in which this king-killing doctrine is expressed by this author; as the judgment upon it will vary according to the admisli, bility of the doctrines of passive obedience and nonresistance. “ Ad defenfionem vitats integritatis membrorum, licet etiam filie, religiosa & fubdito le tueri, si opus fit, cum occisione, contra ipfum perentoix, abbatem, principem; nifi forte propter mortem hujus fecurura effent nimis magna incommoda, ut bella, .” lib. 3. pars 1.de Homicidio, art. vii. « To dcfead one's life, or limbs, it is lawful for a
pened, among other arguments, to make use of this great and just principle, that all civil power is ultimately derived froin the people; and their adversaries, in England and elsewhere, instead of fhewing how they abused and perverted that fundamental principle of all government, in the case in question, did what disputants, warmed with controversy, are very apt to do; they denied the principle itself, and maintained that all civil power is derived from God; as if the Jewish theocracy had been established throughout the whole world.”-And, *« The history of this controverfy, about the doctrine of passive obedience and non-resistance, affords a striking example of the danger of having recourse to false prin
child, a religious man or a subject to defend himself against his parent, superior, or sovereign, if it be necersary, even by killing the aggressor ; unless by killing him very great mischiefs indeed should happen, as wars, &c.” To Englishmen, who sometimes soften their verdiet by finding a se defendendo, these principles may noe seem more outrageous, than Dr. Priestley's own doctrines. “ If it be asked, how far a people may lawfully go, in punifling their chief magistrates, I answer, that if the enormity of the offence (which is of the same extent as the injury done to the public) be considered, any punishment is justifiable, that a man can incur in human society.” Ejazy's on the Fir? Principle of Governmeni, p. 36. • Prieltley, ibid. p. 29.
ciples in controversy. They may serve a particular turn, but, in other cases, may be capable of the most dangerous application; whereas universal truth will, in all possible cases, have the best consequences, and be ever favourable to the true interests of mankind.”
CH A P. VII.
OF THE LEGISLATIVE POWER.
TT is singular, that in the variety of anciI ent and modern authors, who speak familiarly of the constitution, I scarcely find one, that attempts to define it; and yet I think it the first duty of every writer to define, at least according to his own conceptions, that, which he undertakes to discuss *.
By the constitution of England, I mean Definition of those immediate emanations from the first tion principles of civil government, which the community have adopted as general rules for carrying into action that right or power of sovereignty, which unalienably resides with them, and which consequently form the immediate basis or ground, upon which all the laws of the community are founded. The transcendent force of the reasons for these
*“ By constitution we mean, whenever we speak with propriety and exactness, that assemblage of laws, institutions, and customs, derived from certain fixed principles of reason, directed to certain fixed objects of public good, that compose the general system, according to which the community hath agreed to be governed.”. Difertation upon Perries, Letter X. p. 108, printed 1739.
rules has acquired from the community an universal and unexceptionable admission of them, which has superseded the necessity of expressing them in a given form of words, like particular laws. They are not like those metaphysical or mathematical rules, which serve to direct and regulate the practice; but they are themselves active and practical rules, which can never cease to operate their effect upon the government, whilst the government sublists; they have a political buoyancy in the state, and like a cork in the waves, which may by commotion of the element, be lost for a time from the sight, but in the calm must necessarily
resume its' visible station on the surface. Instances of the *“ And, indeed, we may observe the remarkways returning able manner, in which it has been maintained to its level.
in the midst of such general commotions, as seemed unavoidably to prepare its destruction. It rofe again, we see, after the wars between Henry the Third and his barons; after the usurpation of Henry the Fourth ; and after the long and bloody contentions between the houses of York and Lancaster; nay, though totally destroyed in appearance,
* De Lolme on the Constitution of England, b. ii. c. xviii.