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Cut off that charter they from nature drew,
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· ball; O’erthrow this title, they have none at all.
CHURCHIL. Gotham, 1:0i, ü. p.97.
IN order to prove civil obedience to be a moral duty, and an obligation upon the conscience of the subject, it hath been usual with many political writers, at the head of whom we find the venerable name of Locke, to state a compact between the citizen and the state, as the ground and cause of the relation between them. This compact is two-fold.
First, an express compact by the primitive founders of the state, who are supposed to have convened for the declared purpose of settling the terms of their political union, and a future constitution of government. The whole body is supe possu, in the first place, to have unanimously consented to be bound by the resolutions of the mujority; that majority, in the next place, to have fixed certain fundamental regulations; and then to have constituted, either in one person, or in any assembly (the rule of succession or appointment being at the same time determined) a standing legislature, to whom, under these pre-established restrictions, the government of the state was thenceforward committed, and whose laws
the several members of the convention were, by their first undertaking, thus personally engaged to obey.
Secondly, a tacit or implied contract by all succeeding rnembers of the state, who by accepting its protection consent to be bound by its laws.
This account of the subject, although specious, and patronized by names the most respectable, is founded upon a supposition false in fact, and leading to dangerous conclusions.
, No social compact, similar to what is here described, was ever made or entered into in reality ; no such original convention of the people was ever actually held, or in any country could be held, antecedent to the existence of civil govern, ment in that country. It is to suppose it possible to call savages out of caves and deserts, to deliberate and vote upon topics, which the experience, and studies, and refinements of civil life alone suggest. Therefore no government in the universe began from this original. Some imitation of a social compact may have taken place at a revolution. The present age has been witness to a transaction which bears the nearest resemblance to this politicai idea of any of which history has preserved the account or memory. I refer to the establishment of the United States of North Ame. rica.--Yet even here much was pre-supposed. In settling the constitution many important parts were presumed to be already settled.---That was wanting from which every social union should set off, and which alone makes the resolution of the so
ciety the act of the individual, the unrestrained consent of all to be bound by the decision of the majority.---In all stipulations, whether they be expressed or implied, private or public, formal or constructive, the parties stipulating must both possess the liberty of assent and refusal, and also be conscious of this liberty ; which cannot with truth be affirmed of the subjeóts of civil government, as government is now or ever was actually adıninistered. . · No usage, law, or authority whatever, is so binding, that it need or ought to be continued, when it may be changed with advantage to the community. The family of the prince, the order of succession, the prerogative of the crown, the form and parts of the legislature, together with the respective powers, office, duration, and mutual dependency of the several parts, are only so many laws, mutable like other laws, whenever. expediency requires, either by the ordinary act of the legislature, or, if the occasion deserves it, by the interposition of the people.
Paler, Principles of Philosophy. b. vi. ch. 3. WERE you to preach, in most parts of the world, that political connections are founded all together on voluntary consent or a mutual promise, the magistrate would soon imprison you, as seditious, for loosening the ties of obedience ; if your friends did not before shut you up as delirious for advancing such absurdities. It is strange, that an act of the mind, which every individual
is supposed to have formed, and after he came to the use of reason 100, otherwise it could have no authority; that this act, I say, should be so much unknown to all of them, that, over the face of the whole earth, there scarcely remain any traces or memory of it.
But the contract, on which government is founded, is said to be the original contra£t; and consequently may be supposed too old to fall under the knowledge of the present generation. If the agreement, by which savage men first associated and conjoined their force, be here meant, this is acknowledged to be real; but being so. ancient, and being obliterated by a thousand changes of government and princes, it cannot now be supposed to retain any authority. If we would say any thing to the purpose, we must assert that every particular government, which is lawful, aná which imposes any duty of allegiance on the subject, was, at first, founded on consent and a volunfary compact. But besides that this supposes the consent of the fathers to bind the children, even to the most remote generations; besides this, I say, it is not justified by history or experience, in any age or country of the world.
Should it be said, that hy living under the dominion of a prince, which one might leave, every individual has given a tacit consent to his aus, thority, and promised him obedience; it may be answered, that such an implied consent can only have place, where a man imagines that the mat. ter depends on his choice. But where he thinks