« ZurückWeiter »
influence in the legislature by means of his representative freely chosen, who appears and acts for him in parliament. But this is not true. There are not, in this island, one million of persons who have a vote in electing parliament-men: and yet, in this island, there are eight millions of persons who must obey the law. And for their conduct, as lawgivers, our parliament-men are not answerable to their electors, or to any other persons whatever: and it not often happens, that in making laws they are unanimous; yet the minority in both houses must obey the laws that are made against their will.-Besides, we are all subject to the law of God, and are free in proportion as we obey it; for his service is perfect freedom. But who will say that man is the maker of God's law?-We see, then, that our liberty does not consist either in the power of doing what we please, or in being governed by laws made by ourselves.
They who are hindered from doing what the law allows, or who have reason to be afraid of one another, even while they are doing their duty, cannot be said to enjoy liberty. Where this is the case, there must be in the hands of certain indivi. duals some exorbitant power productive of oppression, and not subject to law; or there must prevail in the state a spirit of licentiousness which the law cannot controul.-Nor can men be said to be free, who are liable to have oppressive laws imposed on them, or to be tried by tyrannical or incompetent judges. In Great Britain, by a contrivance to be explained hereafter, our laws are made by men, whose interest it is to make them equitable; and who, with a very few exceptions of little moment, are themselves subject to the laws they make. In Britain, too, by the institution of juries, our judges, in all criminal, and in many civil causes, are our equals; men, who are acquainted with our circumstances, to whose prudence and probity we have no objection, and who are favourably inclined towards us, on account of our being their equals. In Great Britain, therefore, an honest man has nothing to fear, either from the law or from the judge. Neither can those people be accounted free, who dare not complain when they suffer injury, or who are denied the privilege of declaring their sentiments freely to one another. In both these respects our freedom is secured by the liberty of the press.
Political liberty, therefore, I would describe thus: “It is that state in which men are so governed by equitable laws, and so tried by equitable judges, that no person can be hindered from doing what the law allows, or have reason to be afraid of any person, so long as he does his duty. This is true liberty; for this is the only sort of liberty that promotes virtue and happiness; and surely no wise or good man would ever wish for any other.
ON SMUGGLING, AND ITS VARIOUS SPECIES. THERE are many people that would be thought, and even think themselves, honest men, who fait nevertheless in particular points of honesty ; deviating from that character sometimes by the prevalence of mode or custom, and sometimes through mere inattention; so that their honesty
is partial only, and not general or universal. Thus one, who would scorn to over-reach you in a bargain, shall make no scruple of tricking you a little now and then at cards ; another, that plays with the utmost fairness, shall with great freedom cheat you in the sale of a horse. But there is no kind of dishonesty, into which otherwise good people more easily and frequently fall, than that of defrauding government of its revenues by smuggling, when they have an opportunity, or encouraging . smugglers, by buying their goods.
I fell into these reflections the other day, on hearing two gentlemen of reputation discoursing about a small estate, which one of them was inclined to sell, and the other to buy; wlien the seller, in recommending the place, remarked, that its situation was very advantageous on this account, that, being on the sea-coast in a smuggling country, one had frequent opportunities of buying many of the expensive articles used in a family (such as tea, coffee, chocolate, brandy, wines, cambrics, Brussels' laces, French silks, and all kinds of India goods), twenty, thirty, and in some articles, fifty per cent cheaper than they conld be had in the more interior parts, of traders that paid duty. The other honest gentleman allowed this to be an advantage, but insisted, that the seller, in the advanced price he demanded on that account, rated the advantage much above its value. And neither of them seemed to think dealing with smugglers a practice, that an honest man (provided he got his goods cheap) had the least reason to be ashamed of.
At a time when the load of our public debt, and VOL. VI.
the heavy expense of maintaining our fleets and armies, to be ready for our defence on occasion, make it necessary, not only to continue old taxes, but often to look out for new ones, perhaps it may not be unuseful to state this matter in a light, that few seem to have considered it in.
The people of Great Britain, under the happy constitution of this country, have a privilege few other countries enjoy, that of choosing the third branch of the legislature, which branch has alone the power of regulating their taxes. Now whenever the government finds it necessary for the commion benefit, advantage, and safety of the nation, for the security of our liberties, property, religion, and every thing that is dear to nis, that certain sums shall be yearly raised by taxes, duties, &c. and paid into the public treasury, thence to be dispensed by government for those purposes, ought not every honest man freely and willingly to pay his just proportion of this neces. sary expense ? Can he possibly preserve a right to that character, if, by any fraud, stratagem, or contrivance, he avoids that payment, in whole or in part.
What should we think of a companion, who, having supped with his friends at a tavern, and partaken equally of the joys of the evening with the rest of us, would nevertheless contrive by some artifice to shift his share of the reckoning upon others, in order to go off scot-free? If a man who practised this would, when detected, be deemed and called a scoundrel, what ought he to be called who can enjoy all the inestimable benefits of public society, and yet by smuggling, or dealing with smugglers, contrive to evade paying his just share of the expense, as settled by his own representatives in parliament; and wrongfully throw it upon his honester and perhaps much poorer neighbours ? He will perhaps be ready to tell me, that he does not wrong his neighbours; he scorns the imputation; he only cheats the king a little, who is very able to bear it. This however is a mistake. The public treasure is the treasure of the nation, to be applied to national purposes. And when a duty is laid for a particular public and necessary purpose, if, through smuggling, that duty falls short of raising the sum required, and other duties must therefore be laid to make up the deficiency, all the additional sum laid by the new duties and paid by other people, though it should amount to no more than a halfpenny or a farthing per head, is so much actually picked out of the pockets of those other people by the smugglers, and their abettors and encouragers. Are they then any better, or other than pickpockets? and what mean, low, rascally pickpockets must those be, that can pick pockets for halfpence and for farthings?
I would not however be supposed to allow, in what I have just said, that cheating the king is a less offence against honesty, than cheating the public. The king and the public, in this case, are different names for the same thing; but if we consider the king distinctly it will not lessen the crime : it is no justification of a robbery, that the person robbed was rich and able to bear it. The king has as much right to justice as the meanest of his subjects; and as he is truly the common