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obligations, and unless the public strength were combined with the public will to punish every wanton, and every deliberate overt act of violation. This is the language of nature herself, engraven in characters so large and so bright, that he who runneth may read them-it is the language of philosophy, investigating the powers, the faculties, and the force of every social and every dissocial affection, which our Creator hath given to man—it is the language also of law, providing for the happiness of man, by adding fresh sanctions to his duty. “Thou shalt do no murder," “ Thou shalt not steal,” “ Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour," are prohibitions which human and divine laws have alike proclaimed for our well being. They admit of no partial or crooked exceptions. They provide for general security by a general, undistinguishing, irresistible claim to compliance. If we obey, the physical result is good to ourselves and others—if we disobey, the moral result is to ourselves punishment.

I am no stranger to the distinctions which have been made between the nature of governments and their principles *— between that which constitutes them, and that which brings them into action-between their particular structures, which may vary indefinitely, and those human passions which set them in motion, and which, being specifically the same through the whole of the human race, require directions and restraints nearly the same.

Such directions, be it remembered, and such restraints, so far as they can be supplied by human means, are chiefly to be found in laws. To them must we apply, if not for the acquisition, at least for the preservation of all that is intelligible or wholesome in liberty itself. They secure for us the fruits of our personal labour and personal ingenuity--they chain up our wild and irregular caprices—they shelter us from many pernicious consequences of our prepossessions and our mistakes—they elevate us from the meanness, or check us in the excess of our selfish affections. In a tone of command, which it is perilous for us to disregard, they cry aloud to our vindictive and ferocious passions, “ thus far shall ye come.” Now it is in the very essence of law to exclude dark and dangerous uncertainty both in our political and civil concerns. Here it is that we are protected from the effects of arbitrary will, not only of governors over subjects, but of subjects themselves one towards another. Whatever

* See Montesquieu.

may have been the practice of particular men in particular situations, one clear principle, either expressly, or by implication, must pervade every legitimate government, by whatever name it may be called—I mean, that the authority of law is placed as a barrier against the humours and passions of all the rational but imperfect beings over whom it is exercised-over those who ordain it-over those who execrate it-over those who are called upon to observe it without any limitation or any exception but what may be warranted explicitly by the same supreme legislature, and appointed solely for the same public good. No distinctions of rank or fortune, no difference in bodily strength or intellectual capacity, no exterior or fortuitous advantage which one man possesses over another, can be permitted to set itself up in opposition to the sovereignty of the law. It does not directly recognize the infinite diversities that are to be found in the faculties, in the conditions, and characters of individuals ; but it provides such restraints as may prevent these diversities froin operating to the interruption or diminution of the common weal. If it guards the rich man from depredation, with equal wisdom and equal efficacy does it shelter the poor man from oppression. Though it cannot without the concurrence of many other causes, produce the greatest sum of happiness of which our nature is capable, it certainly tends to alleviate some of the greatest miseries to which we are exposed. Nay, it protects the very blessings which it does not create. Having no alloy of prejudice or passion in itself, it averts many of the dreadful evils, which in the absence of it might be apprehended from the wayward prejudices or the boisterous passions of individuals left to contend against individuals, by their own strength or their own wisdom-by strength which brutal violence might every moment overcome-or by wisdom, which in a thousand instances the lowest cunning might over-reach.

Abstractedly considered, property may not be the offspring of law, but law, practically considered, is substantially and eminently not the regulator only, but the protector of property. From nature we derive existence and the right to preserve it; but from law, which acknowledges and confines that right, we acquire additional means of preservation against the arrow that flieth by night, and the ruffian that stalketh in noon-day. Antecedently to society we may be free, if exemption from outward restraint deserves the name—but, amidst the regulations of society, our freedom puts on a comelier form, it is armed against encroachment with superior might, it acts with bolder energies and a steadier aim in fulfilling the noblest ends of our being, as moral creatures related to moral creatures, and co-operating with them for mutual safety and mutual improvement.

But, while I insist upon the trancendental authority, and the extensive utility of laws, I would not be understood to lay no stress upon the force of opinion, of custom, and religion ; yet we know that the effects of custom, of opinion, and of religion, are sometimes feeble, sometimes precarious, and sometimes even mischievous in their influence upon the conduct of a being frail and short-sighted like man. We know that opinion often errs, that custom degenerates, and that religion, if mingled with gloomy superstition, with impetuous enthusiasm, with the lust of spiritual domination, or with the fury of sanguinary persecution, breaks in upon the tranquillity, upon the employment, upon the sweetest comforts, and upon the most precious rights of a civilized people. We know that against such errors in opinion, when they reach to practice, such degeneracy of custom, when it runs into excess, such abuses of religion, when they impel to direct injury, the surest protection is to be found in laws. Yet further do we know, that when laws are judicious

and equitable, they open a wider field for the exercise of our better affections in the production of positive good, and that they give additional efficacy to all that is sound in opinion, all that is useful in custom, and to all that may be true as an object of faith, or right as a rule of conduct in the hallowed doctrines of religion itself. Laws, it is true, take a tincture from the opinions, the customs, and the prevailing modes of religion that distinguish the times in which they are enacted ; nor is it improbable that many institutions at which we smile as fantastic, or shudder as ferocious, had a temporary fitness which rendered their observance less irksome, and their consequences less injurious than we are apt to suppose in a better form of society. On the other hand, where opinion results from mental improvement, or leads to it, where custom facilitates the progress of civilization, where religion invigorates the sanctions of pure and sound morality, they respectively tend to soften the harshness, correct the irregularities, and to refine and elevate the spirit of law. According to those analogies which pervade the whole system of moral causes and effects, each of them seems to hold a separate province, and yet all of them fall under some common principles of natural action and re-action, which make them conjointly the instruments of social happiness. One caution, however, is always to be observed. Wheresoever laws, through the silent and gradual influence of opinion, or custom, or religion, have begun to lose their hold upon public approbation, it becomes every wise legislator to mark the


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