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ing the influence of civil government upon liberty, security, property, and public decorum, which we have stated to be its first and immediate objects; and, from its bearing upon these objects, shall next proceed to estimate its influence on virtue and happiness: only premising that, in order to simplify our discourse, we shall reduce the four heads now stated, under those of liberty and property, which, when taken extensively, will be found to comprize the other two.
An Estimate of the Influence of Civil Govern* merit on Virtue and Happiness, from the Relation it bears to Liberty.
It is intended, in the present section, to take a view of civil government in the following respects: first, As it restrains liberty; secondly, As it improves and enlarges it; lastly, As it is a species of moral discipline: and in each of these cases to estimate the effect on Virtue and Happiness.
I. What I have to offer on the first point proposed, I shall introduce with the following brief remarks on natural liberty, and the limitations under which it is found in man.
The liberty of every agent must be limited by his power, the liberty of doing any thing necessarily presupposing the power of doing it; hence that being only whose power is infinite possesses absolute liberty.
Whatsoever God determinated wills to do, is done. He spake, and the earth was; he commanded, and it stood fast; he said, Let there be light, and there was light*. In respect to all other beings, their volitions are only efficient within a certain sphere marked out by their Creator.
As man apparently holds the lowest place in the scale of rational existence, it is probable his liberty corresponds to his situation, and is consequently of less extent than what naturally belongs to the other orders of intelligences; of whom the least, for any thing we know to the contrary, may be able to wield these elements at his pleasure, over which the most powerful combination of human strength and skill has so little command.
Whatever then is naturally beyond the sphere of human power, is no object of human liberty; no one, for instance, is free to walk across the ocean, or fly to the moon; to control the course of the winds, or the tides of the oceanf; and in innu
* Ps. xxxiii. 9. Gen. i. 3.
t "Canute was the greatest and most powerful prince of his time. Some of his flatterers breaking out one day in admiration of his grandeur, exclaimed that every merable cases, within the natural limits, liberty may be wanting: how often is a man unable, and therefore not at liberty to gratify his ambition, his appetites, or his interest, however willing he may be to do it, merely for want of occasions and opportunities!
Thus we see the narrow boundaries of the liberty of man. The cases are comparatively few in which he is able to act as he will, and this inability is one of the happiest circumstances of his condition; since, in his present state of depravity, power generalty serves him to no other end than to do mischief to himself, to disturb the regular course of nature, or the order of political and social life.
Indeed an unrestrained liberty would be
it is said, ordered his chair to be set on the sea-shore; and as the waters approached, he commanded them to retire. But when the sea still advanced, and began to wash him with its billows, he turned to his courtiers, and remarked to them, that every creature in the universe was feeble and impotent, and that power resided only with that Being who could say to the ocean, Thus far shalt thou go and no further!' See Hume's Hist, of England. , . incompatible with the very being of society r which cannot subsist without submission to some common authority, by which the relative conduct of its members may . be regulated, and their several claims adjudged and settled.
But though all political society in its very nature implies restraint, yet, under a Avise government, none will be imposed wantonly or without sufficient reason: either it will be necessary for the protection of each member of the community in his particular rights; for the maintenance of public order; or it will in some other wajr contribute to the common good. Hence, as under such a government the subject is only prevented from doing wrong, whether in respect to individuals or to the public at large, it is obvious that the restraints under which he lies, must be no less favourable to his own virtue, and consequently to his real happiness, than they are needful to the security and welfare of his fellow-citizens.
To be deterred from violence, injustice, and brutality, must always be for our bene