A theory has been adopted by some European philosophers, and strenuously advocated by their followers, that the first rude state of society, which, among civilized nations, is usually denominated the savage state, is the only natural state of man; that in this state alone he is capable of attaining the acme of perfection in virtue and happiness. They have supposed, that, what are generally called social improvements, serve only to deprave, and either inevitably generate a wicked disposition in man, or at least, invigorate an original propensity to vice, which might otherwise forever lie dormant, in what they so emphatically style the state of nature. They have even gone farther, and maintained, that civil government, so far from proving a remedy for these evils, necessarily becomes the corrupt cause and fruitful source of all the miseries to be found in society.

Others have maintained, that true virtue and pure benevolence in man, would, in every stage of society, supersede the necessity of municipal laws and civil subordination. With a shade of difference from the former, they hold, that wickedness alone has imposed the necessity of civil government. They appear to imagine, that civil polity is not to be derived from principles founded in the social nature of man; but that it is a

*Rousseau and others.---The Abbé Raynal inclines to the same opinion.This chapter was written in the year 1792.

system of rules contrived to meet his wicked disposition, and to restrain the violence of individuals by the violence of laws. According to them, civil government was not so much designed, by the Author of our nature, to lead men to happiness in society, as to prevent the miseries, which they are ever ready to inflict on each other.--In short, that there is to man, a necessity for civil government, but not an adaptation of bis nature to that state.

Some political writers of great eminence* have admitted, that man was originally designed for civil government, and is under a certain necessity of nature to adopt it.

At the same time, they have maintained that, on entering into civil society, he, of necessity, gives up a portion of his natural liberty, of his natural rights. By these expressions “natural liberty" and“ natural rights" is to be understood, that liberty, and those rights, to which man is entitled as constituted by the Author of his being. This clearly implies that man is but partially fitted for civil society. Compelled, however, to adopt that state, from a necessity which is admitted to arise from a law of his nature, he is supposed to sacrifice a part of his natural rights to secure the remainder, and even to acquire others, to which he was not by the laws of his nature originally entitled.

It is proposed in the following work to inquire, whether man is, by the constitution and laws of his nature, fitted for society; whether his happiness does not require social improvements, and laws, which resulting from his whole nature, lead to the adoption of civil institutions; or whether he is compelled to adopt that state by a single, and that a vicious principle in his nature, in opposition to others. Whether, considered as a moral being, the laws of his nature have indulged to him any liberty which he may not enjoy under civil institutions; and whether government and laws be not, to any secure enjoyment, both of natural and civil rights, in fact, necessary to all subordinate social beings, with whatever virtues they may be endued.

The great end in these inquiries will be, to find the leading principles of government in the laws of social nature, and to trace them into exercise in the establishment of civil

*Locke, Beccaria, Blackstone, and inany others.

institutions. In the United States of America, political opinions, though considered as merely theoretical, cannot be wholly inconsequential. In these states, government is professedly founded in the rights of man.-It derives all its efficacy in the prevention of evil, all its energy in the production of happiness, from the sentiments of the people. The opinions, generally entertained, of government, of the necessity of laws, of the end to be attained by them, and the proper mode of attaining that end, will have an influence on the sentiments of the people and the reasonings of the legislator. They will, in a good measure, form the features of the government, and give a tone to all its acts in every department of the administration.


Of the sense in which the term,“ principles of government,” is used in the

following work.


From Montesquieu the term “principle” or “principles," when applied to government, has been used in a appropriate sense, than in other sciences. In other sciences it is always used to signify something fundamental, some leading rule, law, or maxim. Thus we speak of the principles, on which any thing is constructed, as, a watch. The term principles, here, comprehends not only, the laws of mechanics, but those rules by which the relative proportions of the several parts are determined, to direct the motions to a certain end. These are properly called the principles of construction. There are also rules by which the moving force is applied and made to operate on the machine, with a view to the end proposed. These are called the principles of operation. The term is frequently used to signify some passive quality, capacity or susceptibility ; that condition of a subject, by which it is fitted to exhibit, in consequence of the operations of certain agents upon it, certain effects agreeable to certain laws. Thus we speak of the principle of fluidity, the inflammable principle, the principle of malleability ; and thus we say of man, that the principles of society and government are implanted in his nature, by which we mean that he is fitted for such state, or at least that his nature requires it.

In the science of government, there are the principles of construction, by which the government is constituted and organized; the principles of operation, by which its activity and efficiency are produced. There are also the passive principles arising out of the susceptibilities of man, through which he becomes subject to all the variety of passions and emotions, that are excited by means of impressions made on his mind, by a multiplicity of agents and objects both corporeal and mental. To these the operative principles are adapted to produce the end intended-obedience to the laws.

These principles, however, are, or ought to be, directed by ulterior principles, to be sought in the social nature of man, and by those laws established by the Author of nature, in his formation, designed to promote the general happiness. The operative and passive principles in any government are determined by the constructive principles employed, or the nature of the constitution. They will therefore be different according to the different constitution, or nature of the government. Those which are here denominated the operative and passive principles, Montesquieu, has, by way of eminence called the principles of government; and this is altogether proper to his design, which was to treat of the spirit of the laws peculiar to the different constitutions of governments in being; not of the principles on which governments ought to be formed. But in the view we have proposed to take of the subject, the principles of government are not capable of being thus simplified, or reduced to any single principle. Far from it, they are often very complex and subject to a great variety

of modifications, from the admission of different principles in the construction. Each government, however, has its predominant and characteristic principles. The same may be said of other principles beside those of Montesquieu. He has in one place defined the principle of a government to be the human passions, which set it in motion. This, taken in the author's sense, does not militate against what has just been observed of the passive principles arising out of a susceptibility of passions and emotions. The passions, it may be said, when excited, alone, give activity and vigor to the operative principles.

He has introduced three different principles, which he tells us, are peculiar to the three principal forms of government, the despotic, monarchical, and republican. Fear, he tells us, is the principle of a despotic government. This, in his sense of the term principle, is undoubtedly just. The instruments of despotism are a military force at the beck of the sovereign, which, by the terror of punishment, or rather of vengeance, secures obedience to his mandates. Inveterate habits of superstition often come in aid of the military force, and clothe the messenger of the prince, with the power of armies. Fear is that passion of human nature, to which the measures of this government are principally addressed, and without which the despot could procure obedience only by the constant and present application of force in each particular case.

Honor he assigns as the principle of a monarchy. This I will venture to say, is, taken in his sense, very deficient. That passion of emulation, that desire of excellence, which is natural to man, and which, by cultivation, is capable of an infinity of directions, good and evil, is with the higher orders in a monarchy, modified into what is called the principle of honor; but its direct effect in securing obedience to the sovereign, is confined principally to those orders. The multitude, the great majority of the nation are under a complicated despotism. The nobles, , in conjunction with the military order, are the instruments employed to awe the people to obedience. Religion, transformed into a gloomy superstition, has been often employed to the same end.

* Book III, Chapter 1.

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