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son, paramount to all forms of legislation and administration, should dictate. Government is made for the very purpose of opposing that reason to will and to caprice, in the reformers or in the reformed, in the governors or in the governed, in kings, in senates, or in people.
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If there is any one eminent criterion, which, above all the rest, distinguishes a wise government from an administration weak and improvident, it is this;“ well to know the best time and manner of yield“ ing what it is impossible to keep.”
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Government is deeply interested in every thing which, even through the mediumn of some temporary uneasiness, may tend finally to compose the minds of the subject, and to conciliate their affections. I have nothing to do here with the abstract value of the voice of the people. But as long as reputation, the most precious possession of every individual, and as long as opinion, the great support of the state, depend entirely upon that voice, it can never be considered as a thing of little consequence either to individuals orto goverument. Nations are not primarily ruled by laws; less by violence. Whatever original energy may be supposed either in force or regulation, the operation of both is, in truth, merely instrumental. Nations are governed by the same methods, and on the same principles, by which an individual without authority is often able to govern those who are his equals or his superiors; by a knowledge of their temper, and by a judicious management of it; I mean, when public affairs are steadily and quietly conducted ; not when government is nothing but a continued scuffle between
the magistrate and the multitude; in which sometimes the one and sometimes the other is uppermost ; in which they alternately yield and prevail, in a series of contemptible victories, and scandalous submissions. The temper of the people amongst whom he presides ought therefore to be the first study of a statesman. And the knowledge of this temper it is by no means impossible for him to attain, if he has not an interest in being ignorant of what it is his duty to learn.
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Perhaps I am mistaken in my idea of an empire, as distinguished from a single state or kingdom. But my idea of it is this; that an empire is the aggregate of many states, under one common head; whether this head be a monarch or a presiding republic. It does, in such constitutions, frequently happen (and nothing but the dismal, cold, dead uniformity of servitude can prevent its happening) that the subordinate parts have many local privileges and immunities. Between these privileges, and the supreme common authority, the line may be extremely nice. Of course disputes, often too, very bitter disputes, and much ill blood, will arise. But though every privilege is an exemption (in the case) from the ordinary exercise of the supreme authority, it is no denial of it. The claim of a privilege seems rather ex vi termini, to imply a superior power. For to talk of the privileges of a state or of a person, who has no superior, is hardly any better than speaking nonsense. Now, in such unfortunate quarrels, among the component parts of a great political union of communities, I can scarcely conceive any thing more completely imprudent, than for the head of the empire to insist, that, if any privilege is pleaded against his will, or his acts, that his whole authority is denied ; instantly to proclaim rebellion, to beat to arms, and to put the offending provinces under the ban. Will not this, sir, very soon teach the provinces to make no distinctions on their part ? Will it not teach them that the government, against which a claim of liberty is tantamount to hightreason, is a government to which submission is equivalent to slavery? It may not always be quite convenient to impress dependent communities with such an idea.
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It is nothing to an oppressed people, to say that in part they are protected at our charge. The military force which shall be kept up in order to cramp the natural faculties of a people, and to prevent their arrival to their utmost prosperity, is the instrument of their servitude not the means of their protection. To protect men, is to forward, and not to restrain their improvement. Else, what is it more, than to avow to them, and to the world, that you guard them from others, only to make them a prey to yourself. This fundamental nature of protection does not belong to free, but to all governments; and is as valid in Turkey as in Great Britain. No government ought to own that it exists for the purpose of checking the prosperity of its people, or that there is such a principle involved in its policy.
What I have always thought of the matter is this thatthe most poor, illiterate, and uninformed creatures upon earth, are judges of a practical oppression. It is a matter of feeling; and as such persons generally have felt most of it, and are not of an over-lively sensibility, they are the best judges of it. But for the real cause, or the appropriate remedy, they ought never to be called into council about the one or the other.
They ought to be totally shut out; because their reason is weak; because when once roused, their passions are ungoverned ; because they want information ; because the smallness of the property which individually they possess, renders them less attentive to the consequence of the measures they adopt in affairs of moment. When I find a great cry amongst the people who speculate little, I think myself called seriously to examine into it, and to separate the real cause from the ill effects of the passion it may excite ; and the bad use which artful men may make of an irritation of the popular mind. Here we must be aided by persons of a contrary character ; we must not listen to the desperate or the furious ; but it is therefore necessary for us to distinguish who are the really indigent, and the really intemperate.
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Ruin must fall on all institutions of dignity or of authority that are perverted from their purport to the oppression of human nature in others, and to its disgrace in themselves. As the wisdom of men makes such institutions, the folly of men destroys them. Whatever we may pretend, there is always more in the soundness of the materials, than in the fashion of the work. The order of a good building is something. But if it be wholly declined from its perpendicular; if the cement is loose and incoherent; if the stones are scaling with every change of the weather, and the whole toppling on our heads, what matter is it whether we are crushed by a corinthian or a doric ruin? The fine form of a vessel is a matter of use and of delight. It is pleasant to see her decorated with cost and art. But what signifies even the mathematical truth of her form? What signify all the art and cost with which she can be carved, and painted, and gilded, and covered with decorations from stem to stern; what signify all her rigging and sails, her flags, her pendants and her streamers? What signify even her cannon, her stores and her provisions, if all her planks and timbers be unsound and rotten?
Quamvis Pontica pinus
Men will not look to acts of parliament, to regulations, to declarations, to votes, and resolutions. No, they are not such fools. They will ask, what is the road to power, credit, wealth, and honours? They will ask, what conduct ends in neglect, disgrace, poverty, exile, prison and gibbet? These will teach them the course which they are to follow. It is your distribution of these that will give the character and tone to your government. All the rest is miserable grimace.
Particular punishments are the cure for accidental distempers in the state; they inflame rather than allay those heats which arise from the settled mismanagement of the government, or from a natural ill disposition in the people. It is of the utmost moment not to make mistakes in the use of strong measures ; and firmness is then only a virtue when it accompanies the most perfect wisdom. In truth, inconstancy is a sort of natural corrective of folly and ignorance.
The scene of the Indian abuse is distant indeed ;