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The phrases in their context!


Has a government, then, no authority over such as these, because they never consented to it, and would esteem the very attempt of such a free choice a piece of arrogance and impiety? We find by experience, that it punishes them very freely for what it calls treason and rebellion, which, it seems, according to this system, reduces itself to common injustice.
If you say, that by dwelling in its dominions, they in effect consented to the established government; I answer, that this can only be, where they think the affair depends on their choice, which few or none, beside those philosophers, have ever yet imagined.
It never was pleaded as an excuse for a rebel, that the first act he perform d, after he came to years of discretion, was to levy war against the sovereign of the state; and that while he was a child he coued not bind himself by his own consent, and having become a man, showed plainly, by the first act he performed, that he had no design to impose on himself any obligation to obedience.
We find, on the contrary, that civil laws punish this crime at the same age as any other, which is criminal, of itself, without our consent; that is, when the person is come to the full use of reason: Whereas to this crime they ought in justice to allow some intermediate time, in which a tacit consent at least might be supposed.
To which we may add, that a man living under an absolute government, would owe it no allegiance; since, by its very nature, it depends not on consent.
But as that is as natural and common a government as any, it must certainly occasion some obligation; and it is plain from experience, that men, who are subjected to it, do always think so.
This is a clear proof, that we do not commonly esteem our allegiance to be derived from our consent or promise; and a farther proof is, that when our promise is upon any account expressly engaged, we always distinguish exactly betwixt the two obligations, and believe the one to add more force to the other, than in a repetition of the same promise.
Where no promise is given, a man looks not on his faith as broken in private matters, upon account of rebellion; but keeps those two duties of honour and allegiance perfectly distinct and separate.
As the uniting of them was thought by these philosophers a very subtile invention, this is a convincing proof, that it is not a true one; since no man can either give a promise, or be restrained by its sanction and obligation unknown to himself,
Those political writers, who have had recourse to a promise, or original contract, as the source of our allegiance to government, intended to establish a principle, which is perfectly just and reasonable; though the reasoning, upon which they endeavoured to establish it, was fallacious and sophistical.
They would prove, that our submission to government admits of exceptions, and that an egregious tyranny in the rulers is sufficient to free the subjects from all ties of allegiance.
Since men enter into society, say they, and submit themselves to government, by their free and voluntary consent, they must have in view certain advantages, which they propose to reap from it, and for which they are contented to resign their native liberty.
There is, therefore, something mutual engaged on the part of the magistrate, viz, protection and security; and it is only by the hopes he affords of these advantages, that he can ever persuade men to submit to him.
But when instead of protection and security, they meet with tyranny and oppression, they are freeed from their promises, (as happens in all conditional contracts) and return to that state of liberty, which preceded the institution of government.
Men would never be so foolish as to enter into such engagements as should turn entirely to the advantage of others, without any view of bettering their own condition.
Whoever proposes to draw any profit from our submission, must engage himself, either expressly or tacitly, to make us reap some advantage from his authority; nor ought he to expect, that without the performance of his part we will ever continue in obedience.
I repeat it: This conclusion is just, though the principles be erroneous; and I flatter myself, that I can establish the same conclusion on more reasonable principles.
I shall not take such a compass, in establishing our political duties, as to assert, that men perceive the advantages of government; that they institute government with a view to those advantages; that this institution requires a promise of obedience; which imposes a moral obligation to a certain degree, but being conditional, ceases to be binding, whenever the other contracting party performs not his part of the engagement.
I perceive, that a promise itself arises entirely from human conventions, and is invented with a view to a certain interest.
I seek, therefore, some such interest more immediately connected with government, and which may be at once the original motive to its institution, and the source of our obedience to it.