Page images
PDF
EPUB

no discretion is likely to be so well informed, so vigilant, and so active, as that of the creditor.

• It must be remembered, however, that the confinement of a debtor in jail is a punishment; and that every punishment fupposes a crime. To pursue, therefore, with the extremity of legal rigour, a sufferer, whom the fraud or failure of others, his own want of capacity, or the disappointments and miscar: riages to which all human affairs are subject, have reduced to ruin, merely because we are provoked by our loss, and seek to relieve the pain we feel, by that which we inflict, is repugnant not only to humanity, but to justice; for it is to pervert a provifion of law, defigned for a different and a salutary purposeg to the gratification of private spleen and resentment. Any alteration in these laws, which could diftinguish the degrees of guilt, or convert the service of the infolvent debtor to some public profit, might be an improvement; but any confiderable mitigation of their rigour, under colour of relieving the poor, would increase their hardships. For whatever deprives the creditor of his power of coercion, deprives him of his security : and as this must add greatly to the difficulty of obtaining credit, the poor, especially the lower fort of tradesmen, are the first who would suffer by such a regulation. As tradesmen must buy before they fell, you would exclude from trade two-thirds of those who now carry it on, if none were enabled to enter into it, without a capital fufficient for prompt payments. An advocate, therefore, for the interests of this important class of the community will deem it more eligible, that one out of a thou s fand should be sent to jail by his creditor, than that the nine hundred and ninety-nine should be straitened, and embarrassed, and

many of them lie idle, by the want of credit.' The other subjects of this book are on Lies and Oaths, Subscriptions and Wills. We shall extract one paragraph from the chapter on Lies, to point out the opinion of the author, on a disputed point, without attempting ourselves to decide on it. Many preliminary steps are requisite to clear it from every difficulty.

Falfhoods, our author observes, are not lies, where the person you speak to has no right to know the truth, or more properly, where little or no inconvenience results from the want of confidence ; in such cases, as where you tell a falfhood to a child, or a madman, for their own advantage ; to a robber, to conceal your property ; to an affaflin, to defeat, or to divert him from his purpose. The particular consequence is by the fuppofition beneficial; and, as to the general consequence, the worst that can happen is, that the child, the madman, the robber, the affallin, will trust you no more: which, (besides, that the two first are incapable of deducing regular conclufions, from having been once deceived, and the two lalt 'not likely to come

[ocr errors]

or

[ocr errors]

a fe.

a fecond time in your way) is fufficiently compensated, by the immediate benefit which you propose by the fallhood.'

The next part of this book is on · Relative Duties that are indeterminate. These are charity, including the treatment of our domestics, dependents, and slaves. The subject of slavery is diftinctly considered; but it is no imputation to the ingenious author, that he has advanced little that is new on it: we have had so many treatises, full of reason and argument, as well as of declamation, that almost every topic seems o have been exhausted, and every person must have been long since convinced, except those for whom the arguments were intended, who are unfortunately too much blinded by interest and necessity But what is that necessity of which so much has been said ? Merely, says our author, that of buying for fix pence, which, if the work were done by voluntary hired servants, would cost one halfpenny more. Trifling as this difference is, and distant from the forcible plea of real necesfity, we are not certain that'even this would be the result ; perhaps many circumstances would compensate for the different prices. The other subjects are, resentment, anger, revenge, duelling, litigation, gratitude, and flander. They are examined in the most clear and candid manner.

There is another class of relative duties which deserves a feparate confideration, viz. those which result from the constitution of the fexes. There is no subject, in which the moralist can

more properly interfere, and none in which the voice of the charmer' will be less heard, charm he never so wisely.' Passions of this kind are-firmly rooted, and usually violent, fo that perhaps the best arguments against the irregular indulgence of them, would be the misery which usually attends it. We praised our author's chapter on Human Happiness with more freedom, because we perceived its application to this before us; and, in some parts, Mr. Paley has followed the train of argument which we have mentioned. The several duties which belong to this head are particularly considered, and deserve attention. But on that of polygamy, though we wish to oppose it with zeal, we must be so far the friend of truth, as to diminish the force of one argument against it. We have been told, that Providence has designed the present institution, by the proportioning the number of females to the males so nearly that, making allowance for the chances of war and other hazardous professions, the numbers may be confidered as equal. But this is the effect of, rather than an argument for monogamy. Where polygamy prevails, the number of females is greater than that of the males ; and if such arguments were allowed, they may be retorted

with fons

D 2

If wos

with at least equal force. It has been supposed a fact, that the sex of the child is determined by the superior strength of either of the parents; and, perhaps with particular limitations, it may be true, and account for this variety under different institutions. But, independent of the cause, polygamy, certainly increases the number of females, and this fact deserves consideration. There is one view of the subject which we. think has not been fo fully insisted on as it deserves. man was designed as the friend and the aflīstant of

man, polygamy is unnatural and absurd ; for two such friends are in. compatible; and that the human mind revolts at the idea, appears from the jealousies excited by the most diftant competition. This is an argument interwoven with the nature of mankind, and connected with our existence; it cannot be contro. verted, it cannot be eluded, but by degrading woman to a rank, which every man of delicacy and feeling would at once oppose. It is with these that we can only contend ; for the libertine who is funk below humanity, and the philosopher who has reafoned himself out of, though not above it, may fafely continue in their opinions. To convince them would not be a victory ; to reason with them would be labour misapplied.

This book is concluded with reflections on the duty and rights of parents, and the duty of children. We have been led fo far, that we can only extract a small portion of our author's remarks; but these we cannot omit.

• The most serious contentions between parents and their children, are thofe commonly, which relate to marriage, or the choice of professions.

A parent has, in no case, a right to destroy his child's happinefs. If it be true, therefore, that there exist fuch personal and exclufive attachments between individuals of different sexes, that the poffefsion of a particular man or woman in marriage be really necefsary to the child's happiness; or if it be true, that an aversion to a particular profeffion may be involuntary and unconquerable; then it will follow, that parents, when this is the case, ought not to urge their authority, and that the child is not bound to obey it.

• The point is, to discover how far, in any particular in. stance, this is the case. Whether the fondness of lovers, ever continues with such intensity, and so long, that the fuccess of their defires constitutes, or the disappointinent affects, any con-fiderable portion of their happiness, compared with that of their whole life, it is difficult to say ; but there çan

be no dif. ficulty in saying, that not one half of those attachments, which young people conceive with so much hafte and passion, are of this lort. I believe it also to be true, that there re few avere

fions to a profeflion, which resolution, perseverance, activity in going about the duty of it, and above all, despair of changing, will not subdue: yet there are some such. Wherefore, a child who respects his parent's judgment, and is tender, as he ought' to be, of his happiness, owes, at least, so much deference to his will, as to try fairly and faithfully, in one case, whether time and absence will not quench his affection ? and in the other, whether a longer continuance in his profession may not reconcile him to it? The whole depends upon the experiment being made on the child's part with fincerity; and not merely with a design of compafling his purpose at laft, by means of a fimulated and temporary compliance. It is the nature of love and hatred, and of all violent affections, to delude the mind with a persuasion that we shall always continue to feel them, as we feel them at present. We cannot conceive that they will either change or cease. Experience of similar or greater changes in ourselves, or a habit of giving credit to what our parents, or tutors, or books teach us, may controul this perfuafion; otherwise it renders youth very untractable: for they fee clearly and truly, that it is impoflible they thould be happy under the circumstances proposed to them in their present state of mind.After a fincere, but ineffectual endeavour, by the child, to accommodate his inclination to his parent's pleasure, he ought not to suffer in his parent's affection, or in his fortunes. The parent, when he has reasonable proof of this, should acquiesce : at all events, the child is then at liberty to provide for his own happiness.

* Parents have, on no account, a right to urge their children upon marriages, to which they are averse ; nor ought, in any shape, to resent the children's disobedience of such commands. This is a different case from opposing a match of inclination, because the child's misery is a much more probable consequence ; it being easier to live without a person that we love, than with one whom we hate. Add to this, that compulsion in marriage leads to prevarication ; as the reluctant party promises an affection, which neither exists, nor is expected to take place : and parental, like all human, authority ceases at the point, where obedience becomes criminal.'

Though we wished to have concluded our account of this valuable work in one article , yet we find that much still remains; so that we shall resume it at another opportunity.

Esays Hiftorical and Moral. By G. Gregory. 8υο. .

55. Johnson. We have received much pleasure from the perufal of these

Essays. The author, if not always exact or original, is generally entertaining and instructive: if he does not penetrate the depth of his subject, and ftrike us with attonithment

D3

at

at the novelty and comprehension of his ideas, we ought to remember that he writes only lighter eslays; and we soon perceive, that he aims rather at an elegant conciseness, than at the more diffuse mode of composition, which would leave nothing farther to add. He attempts to investigate the principles of moral action, through the medium of historical evidence,' and to discriminate causes' instead of accumulating facts, Yet he sometimes speculates, and sometimes errs: his knowlege and learning are considerable ; the chief errors, and they are far from numerous, are in the deductions from facts. We mean not to blame the author even for his mistakes; to think with able men of different ages, may be no fault; though authority, on the other hand, cannot fanction errors.

A deep penetration will detect them, and a happy boldness expose them in their native colours; but many, who perceive the fault, are afraid of contradicting the concurrent opinion of ages, and it will require somewhat more than discernment to oppose, with success, the most rooted prejudices. Our author too often creeps with the croud, and, too cautious of a storm, seems afraid to foar above them.

The first Effay is on the Progress of Manners and Society. We are taught, he says, that the human race is derived from one original stock; this opinion, our author thinks, is moit agreeable to the great fimplicity observable in the works of Providence, and supported by the most ancient tradition of all nations. A more intimate acquaintance, however, with nature, seems to have raised doubts on this subject; and Mr. Gregory's reasoning, though designed to remove, has rather strengthened them. He thinks, there is no evidence that the power

of climate is incapable of producing a difference in the external appearance, answerable to that which characterises the inha. bitants of the different regions of the earth. We do not sufpect our author of having artfully increafed the difficulty, by veiling it in a negative proportion. His usual candour forbids it; but we all add, that we have no reason to suppose a climate capable of producing this change: no instance has yet been adduced, and different races of men, of different colours, Shapes, and manners, have been found in situations very similar. The author again recurs to the subject, in a future esfay; and then alleges a strong argument in its favour, viz. the fertility of children, born from a mixed race; the contrary is, we know, observed in animals of different species. This fact of natural hiftory is not, however, fo general as has been apprehended; but fince we are not now contending on the subject, and only exprefling fome difficulties to direct future enquirers, we shall pursue our author's reasoning. Mr, Gre

gory

« PreviousContinue »