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if it has been proved that the means ordained for replenishing the world with people are not generally attended with an increase of vice and misery, but that a moderate attention to the laws of religion and morality will prevent such an effect, it will go far towards rescuing the Divine Justice from imputations to which a contrary conclusion could scarcely fail to give rise. Before we quit the third fundamental proposition, which has hitherto been the subject of discussion in this book, it may perhaps be necessary to make a short reference to the topics of liberty and security of property, which are included as conditions of that proposition. It is not my intention in any part of this treatise to enter into a minute investigation of those political blessings: they have frequently been discussed in separate treatises, and are sufficiently understood and appreciated wherever a capacity for enjoying them is found to exist; and as that capacity is of a moral nature, the enjoyment of the blessings depends more upon moral than political causes. It is evident however that, as the force of my whole argument depends upon the spontaneous operations of the people, arranging themselves, selecting their occupations, and forming their habits with a view to their real interests, a reasonable degree of freedom from those restraints which are not commanded by the moral law, is absolutely necessary to the successful pursuit of their objects. Their exertions would be cramped, and their spirit broken, by any interference with individual liberty and property which is not compensated by some superior advantage to the whole community. If I were asked what is the lowest degree of these political blessings which would prevent a community from actually receding in the career of public prosperity, I should perhaps cite the condition of the protestant monarchies on the Continent; and I should certainly place the point far below that at which we are arrived in Öur own country,
Application of the Fourth Principle, viz. that the salutary Tendency of Population will have its complete Operation, in proportion as Religion, Morality, rational Liberty, and Security of Property approach to the Attainment of a perfect Influence.
AN ingenious and popular French writer, who had many and peculiarly favourable opportunities of observing human nature in various ranks among the nations of Europe, has a passage to the following effect. “In argument upon political if not upon moral questions, the difficulty with men is not to combat their sincere and unbiassed opinions, which would soon be settled by reason on one side or the other. But the real difficulty is to combat with success the opinions which men pretend to hold, which they have adopted from vanity, or self-interest, or ambition; and which they have so amalgamated with their minds, as at length to be led by self-deceit into the belief that they are the sincere and honest results of their judgment. “There is, therefore, no greater enemy to sincere and honest reasoning than self-love, and its several modifications; no greater friend to it than a generous enthusiasm of sentiment which is prepared to sacrifice time, talent, personal gratification, or even life itself for the good of others. But self-love is
greatly interested to laugh all such self-devotion, and therefore all true and honest reasoning, out of doors. When a gentleman says he is of such an opinion, one takes it for a delicate way of expressing that such is his interest.” Now it is much to be feared that this is but too faithful a picture of the minds of the largest portion of practical debaters on questions of politics; and the reason appears very obvious. Political questions have from the beginning of civilized society been argued exclusively upon the principle of self-interest, somewhat enlarged perhaps from its bearing upon the mere individual, but still very much disjoined from moral considerations, and from those sanctions which refer the tendency of our thoughts and actions to their effects on the whole scheme of our social and individual existence. In education especially the science of politics is carefully insulated and kept apart from that of morals. We are taught to weigh all its propositions in the mere scale of worldly interest, and a powerful association is thus formed in our minds, which it is to be feared so far from realizing the beautiful hypothesis of the poet concerning the expansive power of self-love, is but too apt to reverse it. Self-love, instead of rising from individual to the whole, is too apt to sink from the whole to the individual. Political economy is in an especial manner liable to this observation; for as it consists of a set of general principles, in conformity to which it is presumed to be the temporal interest of all parties to conduct themselves; it applies itself of course principally to the selfish feelings of mankind. But as no two philosophers ever agreed as to what really constitutes the temporal interest of men in the ge
neral and enlarged sense contemplated by political economists; and as every general principle of a merely political nature is contingent in its application, and is obviously inapplicable where any of the parties to a transaction refuse to be regulated by the general rule; the science of political economy, as now conducted, is of very confined use in practice. The prospect of immediate and personal advantage must ever be too powerful to be counteracted by prospective views, resting upon data so uncertain and precarious; and men do not fail to perceive that they may justifiably decline a present sacrifice, when the utmost penalty held out, is a contingency which one half of the reasoners upon the subject assert to be rather likely to produce good than evil. It is not, therefore, surprising that the practical result of all argumentation upon political economy comes to this; that men investigate the conflicting opinions, till they meet with one consonant with their immediate feelings of interest; and in that they abide till circumstances appear to offer individual advantage from a change of sentiment. Now if there be any truth in these observations, and if I have also been successful in the preceding chapters of this treatise in proving that moral principle affords a certain standard of reference for the political questions now under discussion, and that nothing determined in conformity with it was ever found otherwise than advantageous to the commonwealth; I think it follows as a natural conclusion that the more complete is the sway which religion and morals are permitted to have in determining those questions, the more advantageous will the determination be in itself, and the more probable will