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It is but few general laws that civilised life
requires, and those of such common usefulness, that whether they are
enforced by the forms of government or not, the effect will be nearly
the same. If we consider what the principles are that first condense
men into society, and what are the motives that regulate their mutual
intercourse afterwards, we shall find, by the time we arrive at what is
called government, that nearly the whole of the business is performed by
the natural operation of the parts upon each other.

Man, with respect to all those matters, is more a creature of
consistency than he is aware, or than governments would wish him to
believe. All the great laws of society are laws of nature. Those
of trade and commerce, whether with respect to the intercourse of
individuals or of nations, are laws of mutual and reciprocal interest.
They are followed and obeyed, because it is the interest of the parties
so to do, and not on account of any formal laws their governments may
impose or interpose.

But how often is the natural propensity to society disturbed or
destroyed by the operations of government! When the latter, instead of
being ingrafted on the principles of the former, assumes to exist for
itself, and acts by partialities of favour and oppression, it becomes
the cause of the mischiefs it ought to prevent.

If we look back to the riots and tumults which at various times have
happened in England, we shall find that they did not proceed from the
want of a government, but that government was itself the generating
cause; instead of consolidating society it divided it; it deprived it
of its natural cohesion, and engendered discontents and disorders
which otherwise would not have existed. In those associations which men
promiscuously form for the purpose of trade, or of any concern in which
government is totally out of the question, and in which they act merely
on the principles of society, we see how naturally the various parties
unite; and this shows, by comparison, that governments, so far from
being always the cause or means of order, are often the destruction
of it. The riots of 1780 had no other source than the remains of those
prejudices which the government itself had encouraged. But with respect
to England there are also other causes.

Excess and inequality of taxation, however disguised in the means, never
fail to appear in their effects. As a great mass of the community are
thrown thereby into poverty and discontent, they are constantly on the
brink of commotion; and deprived, as they unfortunately are, of the
means of information, are easily heated to outrage. Whatever the
apparent cause of any riots may be, the real one is always want of
happiness. It shows that something is wrong in the system of government
that injures the felicity by which society is to be preserved.

But as a fact is superior to reasoning, the instance of America presents
itself to confirm these observations. If there is a country in the world
where concord, according to common calculation, would be least expected,
it is America. Made up as it is of people from different nations,*[16]
accustomed to different forms and habits of government, speaking
different languages, and more different in their modes of worship, it
would appear that the union of such a people was impracticable; but by
the simple operation of constructing government on the principles of
society and the rights of man, every difficulty retires, and all the
parts are brought into cordial unison. There the poor are not oppressed,
the rich are not privileged. Industry is not mortified by the splendid
extravagance of a court rioting at its expense. Their taxes are few,
because their government is just: and as there is nothing to render them
wretched, there is nothing to engender riots and tumults.

A metaphysical man, like Mr. Burke, would have tortured his invention
to discover how such a people could be governed. He would have supposed
that some must be managed by fraud, others by force, and all by some
contrivance; that genius must be hired to impose upon ignorance, and
show and parade to fascinate the vulgar. Lost in the abundance of
his researches, he would have resolved and re-resolved, and finally
overlooked the plain and easy road that lay directly before him.

One of the great advantages of the American Revolution has been, that it
led to a discovery of the principles, and laid open the imposition, of
governments. All the revolutions till then had been worked within the
atmosphere of a court, and never on the grand floor of a nation. The
parties were always of the class of courtiers; and whatever was
their rage for reformation, they carefully preserved the fraud of the
profession.

In all cases they took care to represent government as a thing made up
of mysteries, which only themselves understood; and they hid from the
understanding of the nation the only thing that was beneficial to know,
namely, That government is nothing more than a national association
adding on the principles of society.

Having thus endeavoured to show that the social and civilised state of
man is capable of performing within itself almost everything necessary
to its protection and government, it will be proper, on the other hand,
to take a review of the present old governments, and examine whether
their principles and practice are correspondent thereto.




CHAPTER II. OF THE ORIGIN OF THE PRESENT OLD GOVERNMENTS

It is impossible that such governments as have hitherto existed in the
world, could have commenced by any other means than a total violation of
every principle sacred and moral. The obscurity in which the origin
of all the present old governments is buried, implies the iniquity and
disgrace with which they began. The origin of the present government of
America and France will ever be remembered, because it is honourable
to record it; but with respect to the rest, even Flattery has consigned
them to the tomb of time, without an inscription.

It could have been no difficult thing in the early and solitary ages
of the world, while the chief employment of men was that of attending
flocks and herds, for a banditti of ruffians to overrun a country, and
lay it under contributions. Their power being thus established, the
chief of the band contrived to lose the name of Robber in that of
Monarch; and hence the origin of Monarchy and Kings.

The origin of the Government of England, so far as relates to what is
called its line of monarchy, being one of the latest, is perhaps the
best recorded. The hatred which the Norman invasion and tyranny begat,
must have been deeply rooted in the nation, to have outlived the
contrivance to obliterate it. Though not a courtier will talk of the
curfew-bell, not a village in England has forgotten it.

Those bands of robbers having parcelled out the world, and divided it
into dominions, began, as is naturally the case, to quarrel with each
other. What at first was obtained by violence was considered by others
as lawful to be taken, and a second plunderer succeeded the first. They
alternately invaded the dominions which each had assigned to himself,
and the brutality with which they treated each other explains the
original character of monarchy. It was ruffian torturing ruffian.
The conqueror considered the conquered, not as his prisoner, but his
property. He led him in triumph rattling in chains, and doomed him, at
pleasure, to slavery or death. As time obliterated the history of their
beginning, their successors assumed new appearances, to cut off the
entail of their disgrace, but their principles and objects remained the
same. What at first was plunder, assumed the softer name of revenue; and
the power originally usurped, they affected to inherit.

From such beginning of governments, what could be expected but a
continued system of war and extortion? It has established itself into a
trade. The vice is not peculiar to one more than to another, but is the
common principle of all. There does not exist within such governments
sufficient stamina whereon to engraft reformation; and the shortest and
most effectual remedy is to begin anew on the ground of the nation.

What scenes of horror, what perfection of iniquity, present themselves
in contemplating the character and reviewing the history of such
governments! If we would delineate human nature with a baseness of
heart and hypocrisy of countenance that reflection would shudder at and
humanity disown, it is kings, courts and cabinets that must sit for the
portrait. Man, naturally as he is, with all his faults about him, is not
up to the character.

Can we possibly suppose that if governments had originated in a right
principle, and had not an interest in pursuing a wrong one, the world
could have been in the wretched and quarrelsome condition we have seen
it? What inducement has the farmer, while following the plough, to lay
aside his peaceful pursuit, and go to war with the farmer of another
country? or what inducement has the manufacturer? What is dominion to
them, or to any class of men in a nation? Does it add an acre to any
man's estate, or raise its value? Are not conquest and defeat each of
the same price, and taxes the never-failing consequence?--Though this
reasoning may be good to a nation, it is not so to a government. War is
the Pharo-table of governments, and nations the dupes of the game.

If there is anything to wonder at in this miserable scene of governments
more than might be expected, it is the progress which the peaceful arts
of agriculture, manufacture and commerce have made beneath such a long
accumulating load of discouragement and oppression. It serves to show
that instinct in animals does not act with stronger impulse than
the principles of society and civilisation operate in man. Under all
discouragements, he pursues his object, and yields to nothing but
impossibilities.




CHAPTER III. OF THE OLD AND NEW SYSTEMS OF GOVERNMENT

Nothing can appear more contradictory than the principles on which the
old governments began, and the condition to which society, civilisation
and commerce are capable of carrying mankind.



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