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change attentively, to investigate its sources, whether remote or immediate, and to adopt such regulations as may either secure a willing obedience, or give effect to new coercions, by impressing a general conviction that for the community they are become necessary, and therefore towards individuals are not unjust.

But, in proportion as laws are entitled to our veneration and obedience, in consequence of being adapted to our real condition, to our wants, and our dangers, to our infirmities as they are to be spared, and to our vices as they need to be restrained, doubtless in the same proportion it must ever be necessary that they be administered in a spirit of uprightness, and with a view to the same ends of publis utility for which they were primarily designed. despotic governments, where the tyrant lingers mmured in his palace, or, dissolved in voluptuous e feminacy delegates his power to flatterers, and to ' slaves, laws, in appearance the most equitable and humane, are observed to afford a slender protection to the indigent, to the industrious, and yet more strikingly to those persons whose affluence holds out a dazzling lure to the rapacity of confiscation, disguised under the mantle of authority.* But in kingdoms that have made a greater progress in civilization and knowledge, these tremendous mischiefe are not much to be apprehended; for, of such civilization and such knowledge the

* On despots, &c. see the notes to Helvetius on Education, pp. 371, 372, &c, vol. 1.

ministers of justice themselves are personally partakers ; they have access to the advantages of liberal and learned education; they have opportunities for observing the force of all the moral causes which influence the behaviour of the community; they are not permitted to engage in any military, or in any civil employments, which might not only occupy too large a portion of their time, but warp their minds by those peculiarities which are not always to be avoided, even in useful and honourable professions. They know that the public eye is steadily, though respectfully bent, as well upon those by whom the laws are administered, as upon those by whom they are enacted. They know that the manly and generous spirit of those laws must find its way to the understandings and the feelings of their observers, and that, screened as they may themselves sometimes be from punishment, they lie open to ignominy if they pervert what is just—if they darken what is plain-or, if, preferring terror to mercy, they sharpen the edge of that which is severe.

In this country too, they in our own times have been sheltered from some temptations to which the frailty of their predecessors may have been exposed, and they stand in the view of all the world, not only invested with power, but exalted to that independence which may enable and animate them to use it well—to be loyal without the compliances of vassals—to be patriotic without the artifices of demagogues—to be exact without refinement, lenient without weakness, and firm without obduracy.

Unquestionably in all ages, and in all countries, the decisions of magistrates have been watched with no less jealousy than the measures of statesmen. They act in public, and have no plea for intrigue. They act before the parties, and can have no excuse for looking to oblique or remote objects. In truth, as their conduct is to be regulated upon settled and acknowledged principles, more within the reach of general apprehension than schemes of policy, or the aims of politicians, it is more easy for us to determine how far they fulfil or violate the sacred trust committed to their charge. Hence it is, that scom and detestation have ever followed them, for indolence, for precipitation, for partiality, and, above all for that rigour which turns a deaf ear to the supplications of the wretched, and which, with the fierceness of a savage, or the malignity of a fiend, delights to wield the sword over the neck even of the guilty. On the contrary, splendid is the reward treasured up for those whom the auspicious light of knowledge, and a conscientious sense of duty have endowed with the opposite virtues—with unwearied diligence, with patient calmness, with inflexible integrity, with a fondness for the spirit of the law which maketh alive, in preference to the letter which killeth ; and more especially for that disposition without which, amidst the inevitable imperfections of human affairs, and the numberless infirmities of human creatures, wisdom itself would be debased into craft, and public justice would do the office of oppression-I mean, that disposition which ever bears towards the side of clemency. To these

qualities, wheresoever they exist, the very instinct of self-preservation will not permit us to be inattentive. The approbation of our moral sense is instantaneously and unfeignedly bestowed upon the possessor; and together with our applause we give the tribute of our gratitude to him as the guardian of our peace, our freedom, our property, and our lives.

But further, the moralist who explores the general nature of man, will thus far agree with the legislator who is to provide for the well-being of man in society, that laws derive much of their utility from being known and fixed rules. Gradually they produce a conformity to what they require from us in our expectations, our judgments, and our habits. They gain authority over our minds, not merely by the lapse of time, or the mechanism of custom, but by the testimony of experience to their fitness. Doubtless from those changes which are silently going forward in the natural or the moral world, unforeseen inconveniences will arise ; and when they grow up into a visible and formidable magnitude, the same purposes of general good which once gave rise and perpetuity to a law, may require sometimes modification, and sometimes repeal. But in the rules of public justice, as well as in the forms of government, sudden or frequent alterations are big with danger, and, I am sure, with such danger as often eludes the penetration of the best and wisest men, and such as far surpasses the supposed or actual advantages of change.

In the sound and undebauched wisdom of ancient times, we may find examples where men most sincerely attached to the interests of their countrymen, and most accurately informed of their real wants, have borne witness to the importance of stability in laws. Thus we read of an ancient legislator * who in a code destined for the use of the Locrians ordained that every man who proposed that an old law should be revoked or a new one enacted, should put his neck into a halter, that if his proposal was ratified by the consent of the people he should be set free, and that if it was rejected he should instantly be put to death. The principle, I grant, was carried to an excess that would be unwarrantable and intolerable in our own age, yet among a people less refined, and less enlightened, such a regulation might be of use in facilitating, not only the introduction, but the establishment, of a general system which could be efficacious only by being permanent, and which, having wrought its proper effect, might gradually prepare the minds of men for some relaxation of its original severity. Perhaps, however, the Athenian lawgiver acted npon the same principle with more judgment as well as more moderation. Having bound the senate by an oath not to innovate upon the system of jurisprudence which he had recently prepared for them, he obtained for himself permission to be absent for ten years, wishing no doubt to avoid the tumultuous intrusions of those who importuned

* Demosthenes, in the speech against Timocrates and Stobæus, p. 280, assigned this law to Zaleucus. But Diodorus Siculus, book xii, speaks of Charondas as the author.

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