« PreviousContinue »
this other question, Humana qua parte locatus est in re* ?
I admit, indeed, that in morals, as in all things else, difficulties will sometimes occur. Duties will sometimes cross one another. Then questions will arise, which of them is to be placed in subordination; which of them may be entirely superseded ? These doubts give rise to that part of moral science called casuistry; which though necessary to be well studied by those who would become expert in that learning, who aim at becoming what I think Cicero somewhere calls, artifices officiorum ; it requires a very solid and discriminating judgment, great modesty and caution, and much sobriety of mind in the handling ; else there is a danger that it may totally subvert those offices which it is its object only to methodize and reconcile. Duties, at their extreme bounds, are drawn very fine, so as to become almost evanescent. In that state, some shade of doubt will always rest on these questions, when they are pursued with great subtilty. But the very habit of stating these extreme cases is not very laudable or safe: because, in general, it is not right to turn our duties into doubts. They are imposed to govern our conduct, not to exercise our ingenuity; and therefore, our opinions about them ought not to be in a state of fluctuation, but steady, sure, and resolved.
* A few lines in Persius contain a good summary of all the objects of moral investigation, and hint the result of our enquiry: There human will has no place.
Quid sumus? et quidnam victuri gignimur? ordo
Utile nummus habet? Patriæ charisque propinquis
Amongst these nice, and therefore dangerous, points of casuistry may be reckoned the question so much agitated in the present hour. Whether, after the people have discharged themselves of their original power by an habitual delegation, no occasion can possibly occur which may justify the resumption of it? This question, in this latitude, is very hard to affirm or deny: but I am satisfied that no occasion can justify such a resumption, which would not equally authorize a dispensation with any other moral duty, perhaps with all of them together. However, if in general it be not easy to determine concerning the lawfulness of such devious proceedings, which must be ever on the edge of crimes, it is far from difficult to foresee the perilous consequences of the resuscitation of such a power in the people.
* * * *
The situation of man is the preceptor of his duty.
DUTIES OF A MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT.
To be a good member of parliament, is, let me tell you, no easy task ; especially at this time, when there is so strong a disposition to run into the perilous extremes of servile compliance or wild popularity. To unite circumspection with vigour, is absolutely necessary, but it is extremely difficult. We are now members for a rich commercial city; this city, however, is but a part of a rich commercial nation, the interests of which are various, multiform, and intricate. We are members for that great nation, which however is itself but part of a great empire, extended by our virtue and our fortune to the farthest limits of the east and of the west. All these wide-spread interests must be considered ; must be compared ; must be reconciled if possible. We are members for a free
country; and surely we all know, that the machine of a free constitution is no simple thing; but as intricate and as delicate, as it is valuable. We are members in a great and antient monarchy ; and we must preserve religiously the true legal rights of the sovereign, which form the key-stone that binds together the noble and well-constructed arch of our empire and our constitution. A constitution made up of balanced powers must ever be a critical thing. As such I mean to touch that part of it which comes within my reach.
EAST INDIAN POSSESSIONS. The territorial possessions in the East Indies, never have been declared, by any public judgment, act, or instrument, or any resolution of parliament whatsoever, to be the subject matter of his majesty's prerogative; nor have they ever been understood as belonging to his ordinary administration, or to be annexed or united to his crown; but that they are acquisitions of a new and peculiar description, unknown to the ancient executive constitution of this country.
I am certain that every means, effectual to preserve India from oppression, is a guard to preserve the British constitution from its worst corruption.
MERE parsimony is not economy. It is separable in theory from it ; and in fact it may, or it may not, be a part of economy, according to circumstances. Expence, and great expence, may be an essential part in true economy. If parsimony were to be considered as one of the kinds of that virtue, there is however another and an higher economy. Economy,
is a distributive virtue, and consists not in saving, but in selection. Parsimony requires no providence, no sagacity, no powers of combination, no comparison, no judgment. Mere instinct, and that not an instinct of the noblest kind, may produce this false economy in perfection. The other economy has larger views. It demands a discriminating judgment, and a firm sagacious mind. It shuts one door to impudent importunity, only to open another, and a wider, to unpresuming merit. If none but meritorious service or real talent were to be rewarded, this nation has not wanted, and this nation will not want, the means of rewarding all the service it ever will receive, and encouraging all the merit it ever will produce. No state, since the foundation of society, has been impoverished by that species of profusion.
Those who are bountiful to crimes, will be rigid to merit, and penurious to service. Their penury is even held out as a blind and cover to their prodigality. The economy of injustice is, to furnish resources for the fund of corruption. Then they pay off their protection to great crimes and great criminals, by being inexorable to the paltry frailties of little men; and these modern flagellants are sure, with a rigid fidelity, to whip their own enormities on the vicarious back of every small offender.
* * * *
War and economy are things not easily reconciled; and the attempt of leaning towards parsimony in such a state may be the worst management, and in the end the worst economy in the world, hazarding the total loss of all the charge incurred, and of every thing along with it,
* * * *
Of all the public services, that of the navy is the one in which tampering may be of the greatest danger, which can worst be supplied upon an emergency, and of which any failure draws after it the longest and heaviest train of consequences. I am far from saying, that this or any service ought not to be conducted with economy. But I will never suffer the sacred name of economy to be bestowed upon arbitrary defalcation of charge.
EDUCATION. I HAVE ever thought the prohibition of the means of improving our rational nature, to be the worst species of tyranny that the insolence and perverseness of mankind ever dared to exercise. This goes to all men, in all situations, to whom education can be denied.
EMBASSIES FROM INDIVIDUALS TO FOREIGN
The legitimate and sure mode of communication be tween this nation and foreign powers, is rendered uncertain, precarious, and treacherous, by being divided into two channels, one with the government, one with the head of a party in opposition to that government; by which means the foreign powers can never be assured of the real authority or validity of any public transaction whatsoever.
On the other hand, the advantage taken of the discontent which at that time prevailed in parliament and in the nation, to give to an individual an influence directly against the government of his country, in a foreign court, has made a highway into England for the intrigues of foreign courts in our affairs. This is