Page images

ner, which may be styled an offence in this view. The remark on Mr. Gibbon's conduct is the more just, as it avoids the beaten path, and attacks him where he is most vulnerable, where the weapon must reach his heart. The language too is warm and indignant : our readers may be as much pleased with it as ourselves.

• An eloquent historian, besides his more direct, and therefore fairer attacks, upon the credibility of the evangelic ftory, has contrived to weave into his narration, one continued sneer upon the cause of Christianity, and the writings and characters of its ancient patrons. The knowledge which this author porfeffes of the frame and conduct of the human mind, must have led him to observe, that such attacks do their execution, witke out enquiry. Who can refute a sneer? who can compute the number, much less, one by one, scrutinize the justice, of those disparaging insinuations, which crowd the pages of this elaborate history? What reader suspends his curiosity, or calls of his attention, from the principal narrative, to examine references, to search into the foundation, or to weigh the reason, propriety, and force, of every transient farcasm, and fly allufion, by which the Christian teftimony is depreciated and traduced and by which nevertheless, he may find his faith after wards unsettled and perplexed.'

The work, we have already observed, contains the principles of ethics and polity: it is indeed ftyled the Elements of Moral and Political Philofophy. Mr. Paley next proceeds to the fecond part of his fubject; and, if he is not equally fuccessful in establishing his principles on unexceptionable foundations ; if he does not raise a building, whose exact propora tions in the several parts, and whose elegant fimplicity, as a whole, fix the attention, and excite admiration ; yet, as a politician, he deserves considerable praise.

His account of the origin of civil government will, by many, be thought exceptionable: it is, says he, ‘patriarchal or military.' This is undoubtedly the most obvious and fimple origin : it is rendered highly probable by the state in which we find nations in the infancy of their political exittence; it is supported by the gradual evolution of the mental faculties and powers, in this artificial situation ; it is established on the early and rapid inftitution of absolute monarchies. We are well aware of the ridicale with which this opinion has been attacked by innovating politicians, who, from refining on what government should be, have arbitrarily fixed what it originally

It is no imputation on the human mind, though we hould fuppofe it originally unshackled, and of equal capacity in every individual, that inexperienced youth should submit



to the judgment of riper years; that the fon should obey him who gave him birth; or that the soldier should submit to the general, who had been entrufted with the execution of a plan. But we must return.

After having traced the origin of civil government, our author proceeds to the means by which it is maintained ; and distinguishes, with his ufual accuracy, the different motives which contribute to ensure obedience.

In a work less respectable in its leading features, we might remark a little inaccuracy with regard to the Lama of Thibet. We apprehend that he is not considered as the immortal God, himself, but only as his representative. The immediate coro'laries, from the means by which civil government is maintained, deserve the particular attention of princes : they are suggested by reason and the experience of ages.

Mr. Paley next explains the Duty of Submission to Civil Government; a subject, he obseryes, sufficiently distinguished from that of the last chapter ; as the motives which actually produce civil obedience may be, and often are, very different from the reasons which make that obedience a duty. In this chapter, but it is too long for an extract, our author considers the origin of government as supposed to be founded on a compact, either tacit or implied. He detects the fallacy, the fpecious delusive form of this system, which is examined at greater length, as it seems to lead to conclusions unfavourable to the improvement


peace of human society. On the whole, the only ground of the subjects obligation is 'the will of God, collected from its expediency.' The foundation of this origin has been already laid, and was noticed in our former article ; and its scriptural ground is the subject of the following chapter.

Civil liberty has been so often the topic of the politician, that it is not easy to form a consistent idea of it. In general, the definitions do not so much describe liberty itself, as the safe-guards and preservatives of liberty; and they seem justly to meet in the definition before us, viz. ' civil liberty is the not being restrained by any law, but what conduces, in a greater degree, to the public welfare. The instances brought to illustrate this definition clear it from all the difficulties which seem, at first fight, to attend it. These confiderations lead the author to an account of the different forms of

governments, with the advantages and disadvantages of each: it is but just to add, that we have never seen it equalled either for clearness or accuracy. The chapter on the British Contitution,' deserves the same character : we regret that we must leave it without a remark; for, if we were to engage in this


[ocr errors]

fubject, we should consume all the space destined for the rest of this article, and many valuable parts of this work must be left unnoticed.

The next chapter is on the administration of justice, and several modes by which improper partialities may be best avoided. It does not detract from the diligence of the author, but it adds an additional luftre to the conduct of British jurisprudence, that all his precautions are suggested by the conftitution, or the practice of the several courts in this kingdom. The author then 'enquires into the cause of so many doubts in the application of natural justice, whose rules are la few and evident. He concludes with mentioning two peculiarities in the judicial constitution of this country, which do not appear equally unexceptionable with the other parts of it; one, the required unanimity of the jury, the other, the ul. timate appeal to the house of peers. The foundation of each is, however, obvious; the first to guard against every doubt of guilt, the second is derived from the civil jurisdiction of the barons in their own districts, from whence their collective judicial capacity may be easily deduced.

On the subject of crimes and punishments, Mr. Paley adverts to a circumstance which has lately attracted our attention. The fecond method mentioned of adminiftering penal justice, afligns capital punishment to many offences, but executes it on few. This, he observes, is founded on the confideration, that no offender may escape the punishment due to his crimes; but that allowance may, on the other hand, be made for those numerous alleviations of the offence, which no legislator could foresee or provide for ; yet he at last allows that

• The certainty of puniflement is of more consequence than the severity. Criminals do not so much flatter themselves with the lenity of the sentence, as with the hope of escaping. They are not so apt to compare what they gain by the crime, as what they may suffer from the punishment, as to encourage themselves with the chance of concealment or fight. For which reason, a vigilant magistracy, an accurate police, a proper distribution of force and intelligence, together with due rewards for the discovery and apprehension of malefactors, and an undeviating impartiality in carrying the laws into execution, contribute more to the restraint and suppresion of crimes, than any violent exacerbations of punishment.'

Indeed the whole chapter is an excellent commentary or our penal laws. It points out their imperfections with that penetrating spirit whose inquisitions no delusive covering can refil.

Our author next proceeds to religious establishments; and

• The argument, then, by which ecclefiaftical establishments are defended, proceeds by these fteps. The knowledge and


[ocr errors]

profefion of Christianity cannot be upheld without a clergy; a clergy cannot be supported without a legal provision ; a legal provision for the clergy cannot be constituted without the preference of one feet of Christians to the rest ; and the conclufion will be satisfactory in the degree in which the truth of these several propositions has been made out.'

In all Mr. Paley's arguments on this subject, we perceive fo strong a conviction of the utility of establishments, that we fear, in fome eyes, it will detract from the merit of his work. We have repeatedly perused his arguments with attention, but we can detect no error. We shall transcribe a passage, as a specimen of his reasoning on these subjects.

• After the state has once established a particular system of faith as a national religion, a question will foon occur, concerning the treatment and toleration of those who dissent from it.And this question is properly preceded by another, concerning the right which the civil magistrate poffefses to interfere in matters of religion at all; for although this right be acknowledged whil& he is employed solely in providing means of public instruction, it will probably be disputed, indeed it ever has been, when he proceeds to inflict penalties, to impose restraints or incapacities on the account of religious distinctions. They who acknow. ledge no other just original of civil government, than what is founded in some ftipulation with its subjects, may with probability contend that the concerns of religion were excepted out of the social compact ; that in an affair which is transacted between God and man's own conscience, no commission or authority was ever delegated to the civil magiftrate, or could indeed be transferred from the person himself to any other. Wé, however, who have rejected this theory, because we cannot discover any actual contract between the state and the people, and be cause we cannot allow an arbitrary fiction to be made the foun. dation of real rights and of real obligations, find ourselves pre. duded from this distinction. The reasoning which deduces the authority of civil government from the will of God, and which collects that will from public expediency alone, binds us to the unreserved conclusion, that the jurisdiction of the magistrate is limited by no confideration but that of general, utility : in plainer terms, that whatever be the subject to be gulated, it is lawful for him to interfere, whenever his interference, in its general tendency, appears to be conducive to the common intereft. There is nothing in the nature of religion, as such, which exempts it from the authority of the legislator, when the safety or welfare of the community requires his interposition. It has been said indeed, that religion, pertaining to the interests of a life to come, lies out of the province of civil government, the office of which is confined to the affairs of this life. But in reply to this objection, it may be observed, that when the laws interfere even in religion, they interfere only with


temporals : their effects terminate, their power acts only upon those rights and interests, which confesledly belong to their disposal. The resolutions of the legislature, the edicts of the prince, the sentence of the judge, cannot affect

my salvation

; nor do they, without the most absurd arrogance, pretend to any such power : but they may deprive me of liberty, of property, and even of life itself, on account of my religion ; and however I may complain of the injustice of the sentence, by which I am condemned, I cannot alledge, that the magiftrate has tranfgressed the boundaries of his jurisdiction, because the property, the liberty, and the life of the subject, may be taken away by the authority of the laws, for any reason, which, in the judgment of the legislature, renders such a megfure necessary to the common welfare. Moreover, as the


of religion may regulate all the offices of life, or may be so construed as to extend to all, the exemption of religion from the control of human laws might afford a plea, which would exclude civil

go. vernment from all authority over the conduct of its subjects. Religious liberty is like civil liberty, not an immunity from restraini, but the being restrained by no law, but what in a greater degree conduces to the public welfare.'

The next subjects of attention are • Population and Pro. vision; and of Agriculture and Commerce as subservient thereto.' The remarks on population are not new, but they are so plainly and connectedly delivered, that their force will probably be felt more sensibly than when they have ap. peared in other forms. The mott striking and useful part of this chapter is, on the connection between population and employment; and again, on that between population and trade, even where no one article of human subsistence is imported. There are few speculations more pleasing, than to trace these remote connections in subjects so greatly subservient to human happie ness, and almost to our existence. We would, on account of its intrinsic merit, strongly recommend this part of Mr. Paley's work. The chapter concludes with mentioning some impediments to agriculture; among which are the rights of common, the should rather have said manerial rights, for those of common are not so generally injurious) and tythes. The last opetate, in Mr. Paley's opinion, as a bounty on paftorage, and

· The burthen of the tax falls with its chief, if not with its whole weight, upon tillage; that is to say, upon that precife mode of cultivation, which, as it hath been shown above, it is the business of the state to relieve and remunerate, in preference to every other. No measure of such extensive concern, appears to me so practicable, nor any single alteration to bene ficial, as the conversion of tithes into corn-rents. This commutation, I am convinced, might be so adjuíted, as to secure to the tithe-holder a complete and perpetual equivalent for his Vol. LX, Sept: 17850



« PreviousContinue »