Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

opinions and resolutions, may we not venture to predict from this account, that the petitions to the parliament of England for abolishing the slave trade, to say nothing of other legislatures, and debates upon them, will have a similar conclusion ?-HISTORICUS."

OBSERVATIONS ON WAR. “ By the original law of nations, war and extirpation were the punishment of injury. Humanising by degrees, it admitted slavery instead of death: a farther step was, the exchange of prisoners instead of slavery: another, to respect more the property of private persons under conquest, and be content with acquired dominion. Why should not this law of nations go on improving? Ages have intervened between its several steps ; but as knowledge of late increases rapidly, why should not those steps be quickened? Why should it not be agreed to, as the future law of nations, that in any war hereafter, the following descriptions of men should be undisturbed, have the protection of both sides, and be permitted to follow their employments in security? namely :

“1. Cultivators of the earth, because they labour for the subsistence of mankind.

«« 2. Fishermen for the same reason.

“3. Merchants and traders in unarmed ships, who accommodate different nations by communicating and exchanging the necessaries and conveniences of life.

“4. Artists and mechanics, inhabiting and working in open towns.

" It is hardly necessary to add, that the hospitals of enemies should be unmolested--they ought to be assisted. It is for the interest of humanity in general, that the occasions of war, and the inducements to it, should be diminished. If rapine be abolished, one of the encouragements to war is taken away; and peace therefore to be more likely to continue and be lasting.

" The practice of robbing merchants on the high seas—remnant of the ancient piracy-though it might be accidentally beneficial to particular persons, is far from being profitable to all engaged in it, or to the nation that authorises it. In the beginning of a war some rich ships are surprised and taken. This encourages the first adventurer to fit out more armed vessels; and inany others to do the same. But the enemy

at the same time become more careful, arm their merchant ships better, and render them not so easy to be taken : they go also more under the protection of convoys. Thus, while the privateers to take them are multiplied, the vessels subjected to be taken, and the chances of profit, are diminished ; so that many cruises are made wherein the expenses overgo the gains; and, as in the case of other lotteries, though particulars have got prizes, the mass of adventurers are losers; the whole expense of fitting out privateers during a war being much greater than the whole amount of goods taken.

" Then there is the national loss of all the labour of so many men, during the time they have been employed in robbing--who, besides, spend what they get in riot, drunkenness, and debauchery--lose their habits of industry-are rarely fit for any sober business after peace-and serve only to increase the number of highwaymen and housebreakers. Even the adventurers who have been fortunate, are by sudden wealth, led into expensive living, the habit of which continues when the means of supporting it cease, and finally ruins them : a just punishment for their having wantonly and unfeelingly ruined many honest, innocent traders, and their families, whose substance was employed in serving the common interest of mankind.”

ON THE IMPRESS OF SEAMEN,

Notes copied from Dr. Franklin's writing in pencil in the margin of Judge Foster's celebrated argument in favour of the impressing of seamen (published in the folio editions of his works.)

Judge Foster, p. 158. • Every man.'-The conclusion here from the whole to a part, does not seem to be good logic. If the alphabet should say, Let us all fight for the defence of the whole, that is equal, and may therefore be just. But if it should say, Let A, B, C, and D, go out and fight for us, while we stay at home and sleep in whole skins, that is not equal, and therefore cannot be just.

Ib. Employ.'- If you please, the word signifies engaging a man to work for me, by offering him such wages as are sufficient to induce him to prefer my service. This is very different from compelling him to work on such terms as I think proper.

" Ib. "This service and employment,' &c.—These are false facts. His

employment and service are not the same. Under the merchant he goes in an unarmed vessel, not obliged to fight, but to transport merchandize. In the king's service he is obliged to fight, and to hazard all the dangers of battle. Sickness on board of king's ships is also more common and more mortal. The merchant's service, too, he can quit at the end of the voyage--not the king's. Also the merchant's wages are much higher.

Ib. “I am very sensible,' &c.--Here are two things put in comparison that are not comparable, viz.-injury to seamen, and inconvenience to trade. Inconvenience to the whole trade of a nation will not justify, injustice to a single seaman. If the trade would suffer without his service, it is able, and ought to be willing, to offer him such wages as may induce him to afford his service voluntarily.

“ Page 159. “Private mischief must be borne with patience, for preventing a national calamity.' Where is this maxim in law and good policy to be found? And how can that be a maxim which is not consistent with common sense? If the maxim had been, that private mischiefs, which prevent a national calamity, ought to be generously compensated by the nation, one might understand it—but that such private mischiefs are only to be borne with patience, is absurd.

Ib. “The expedient,' &c. 'And,' &c. (paragraphs 2 and 3.) Twenty ineffectual or inconvenient schemes will not justify one that is unjust.

* Ib. 'Upon the foot of,' &c.—Your reasoning, indeed, like a lie, stands but upon one foot, truth upon two.

“ Page 160. 'Full wages.'-- Probably the same they had in the merchant's service.

“Page 174. "I hardly admit,' &c. (paragraph 5.) -When this author speaks of impressing, page 158, he diminishes the horror of the practice as much as possible, by presenting to the mind one sailor only suffering a hardship' (as he tenderly calls it) in some 'particular cases' only; and he places against this private mischief the inconvenience to the trade of the kingdom. But if, as he supposes it is often the case, the sailor who is pressed and obliged to serve for the defence of trade, at the rate of twenty-five shillings a month, could get three pounds fifteen shillings in the merchant's service, you take from him fifty shillings a-month; and if you have a 100,000 in your service, you rob this honest industrious part of society and their poor families of £250,000 per month, or three millions a-year, and at the same time oblige them to hazard their lives

in defence of your trade; to the defence of which all ought indeed to contribnte (and sailors among the rest) in proportion to their profits by it ; but this three millions is more than their share, if they did not pay with their persons; and when you force that, methinks you should excuse the other.

“ But, it may be said, to give the king's seamen merchant's wages, would cost the nation too much, and call for more taxes. The question will amount to this Whether it be just in a community, that the richer part should compel the poorer to fight in defence of them and their properties, for such wages as they think fit to allow, and punish them if they refuse? Our author tells us that it is 'legal.' I have not law enough to dispute his authorities, but I cannot persuade myself that it is equitable. I will, however, own for the present, that it may be lawful when necessary; but then I contend that it may be used so as to produce the same good effects--the public security--without doing so much intolerable injustice as attends the impressing common seamen. In order to be better understood, I would premise two things :- First, That voluntary seamen may be had for the service, if they were sufficiently paid. The proof is, that to serve in the same ship, and incur the same danger, you have no occasion to impress captains, lieutenants, second lieutenants, midshipmea, pursers, nor many other officers. Why, but that the profits of their places, or the emoluments expected, are sufficient inducements? The business then is, to find money, by impressing, sufficient to make the sailors all volunteers, as well as their officers; and this without any fresh burden upon trade. The second of premises, is that twenty-five shillings a-month, with his share of the salt beef, pork, and peas-pudding, being sufficient for the subsistence of a hard-working seaman, it will certainly be so for a sedentary scholar or a gentleman. I would then propose to form a treasury, out of which encouragements to seamen should be paid. To fill this treasury, I would impress a number of civil officers, who at present have great salaries, oblige them to serve in their respective offices for twenty-five shillings a-month, with their share of mess provisions, and throw the rest of their salaries into the seamen's treasury. If such a press-warrant were given me to execute, the first I would press should be a recorder of Bristol, or a Mr. Justice Foster, because I might have need of his edifying example to show how much impressing ought to be borne with; for he would certainly find, that though to be reduced to twenty-five shillings a-month might be a 'private mischief,' yet that, agreeably to his maxim of law and good

policy, it ought to be borne with patience,' for preventing a national calamity. Then I would press the rest of the judges; and, opening the red book, I would press every civil officer of government, from £50 a-year salary up to £50,000, which would throw an immense sum into our treasury: and these gentlemen could not complain, since they would receive twenty-five shillings a-month and their rations; and this without being obliged to fight. Lastly, I think I would impress

ON THE CRIMINAL LAWS, AND THE PRACTICE

OF PRIVATEERING.
Letter to Benjamin Vaughan, Esq.

March 14th, 1785. “ MY DEAR FRIEND,--Among the pamphlets you lately sent me, was one entitled Thoughts on Executive Justice. In return for that, I send you a French one on the same subject Observations concernant l'Execution de l'Article II. de la Declaration sur le Vol. They are both addressed to the judges, but written, as you will see, in a very different spirit. The English author is for hanging all thieves--the Frenchman is for proportioning punishments to offences.

“ If we really believe, as we profess to believe, that the law of Moses was the law of God—the dictate of Divine wisdom, infinitely superior to human-on what principles do we ordain death as the punishment of an offence, which, according to that law, was only to be punished by a restitution of fourfold ? To put a man to death for an offence which does not deserve death is it not a murder !--and, as the French writer says

Doit-on punir un delit contre la société par un crime contre la nature?

Superfluous property is the creature of society. Simple and mild laws were sufficient to guard the property that was merely necessary. The savage's bow, his hatchet, and his coat of skins, were sufficiently secured without law, by the fear of personal resentment and retaliation. When, by virtue of the first laws, part of the society accumulated wealth, and grew powerful, they enacted others more severe, and would protect their property at the expense of humanity. This was abusing their power and cominencing a tyranny. If a savage, before he entered

[ocr errors]
« ZurückWeiter »