Essay Forms Government

The Author of the Pamphlet, I have been mentioning, hath not, it is true, afforded any thing to lay hold of, nor by laying down any direct Principles, enabled his Adversaries to enter into a fair Dispute with him; but only in seeming Arguments, traduces the constant Friends of Liberty, and is shocked at the too great Freedom his fellow Subjects enjoy; whom he seems desirous to see reduced to the more salutary State of he now assumes to be, and leave to the Judgment of the World, the Preferableness of their Tenets.If this Part, should fortune to meet with your Approbation, the Sequel which contains some Considerations on the different Branches of the civil Power, shall soon appear.

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Gordon takes issue with some of the main natural law theorists, Pufendorf, Barbeyrac and Grotius, over the right of subjects to obey a tyrannical king or of slaves to obey their master.

Gordon goes to the root of the problem by discussing the origin of the state in one of more supposed “contracts” between the people and a sovereign king.

If such be the Nature of our Dispositions, no Wonder if soon in the State of Nature, when one Man attack’d another, either in his Property, or Family, (both which Rights were prior and antecedent to the Constitution of States,) the Attacked defended himself by Violence, retorted the Injury, and carried this Violence farther than he ought by the Laws of Nature, and by that Means introduced perpetual Warfare and Disputes; nay, this Opinion we have confirmed in some Measure by Holy Writ, so early as under our Fore-father out of the Way, who stood between him and the Favour of the Almighty, and by that Means, as heimagined, decreased the Prosperity of his temporal Affairs.

If two or three could not live in the World, without having Variances, and entertaining hostile Dispositions, we may easily imagine that these decreased not, as the World became more populous, but augmented gradually as the Number of the Sons of Earth increased, till they came to that Height, as not to permit a Man to rest assured of any Thing he possessed, and compell’d every one to have perpetually Recourse to Violence, to protect and preserve his Possessions and Family: As every one felt the Grievance of this State, no Wonder if they all soon turned their Thoughts to remedy it, and consented to those Measures which were most probable to have such an Effect, and agreed to refer their Disputes and Variances, to the amicable Decision of an Arbitrator: As the World was not then encreased beyond the Connexions of one Family, tho’ that was pretty numerous, who then could be found more proper than the common Parent of all the Disputants, whose Attachment to all Parties being equal, his Judgments might the more justly be presumed to be impartial, and to whom, by Reason of the natural Affection they must naturally have for him, they would more willingly confer this Mark of Superiority—when he came to die, then his Authority was again divided among the different Fathers of Families, each deciding the Differences of his several Children.

Undoubtedly if we could imagine a Society, wherein Men had no other Law to guide their Actions, than those of natural Reason, nor no other Check on their Passions, than the Fear of receiving Punishments, from the divine Promulgator of those Laws, we should easily confess it the happiest that could possibly exist, and prefer it far beyond those wherein Men are kept to their Duty, (with more Difficulty than Hounds or Horses are broke) by the Fear of Scourges, Axes and Halters.

But it is impossible for us, even to have the Idea of such a State, as we know too well the Nature of Man, how apt to be misled by his Appetites and Passions, how easy to be deceived in his Notions of Good and Evil, how prone to Vengeance, how slow to forgive, how little affected with the remote and uncertain Punishments, which attend the Transgressors of the natural Law in a future State, and how ready (if even sometimes the Reward of Crimes happens to be bestowed in this World,) to attribute them to some other Cause.

You will easily see this Address, is not to the Senator, the Man of Quality, or the Man IF we would be thoroughly informed of the Nature and Properties of any Object, we must necessarily first consider its Causes and Origin, for on them depend all the others; this close Connexion, which alway subsists between the defficient Cause, and the Object existing, ought totally to guide all the Actions of the latter, and shew us when, how, and where it should be employed.

This therefore being the Case, we ought no longer to wonder at the different Causes, which different Authors assign, as the Inducements to Men, to form civil Societies, and constitute Governments, to the Authority of which they submitted the Cognizance of all their Actions: Nor need we wonder at their disputing so warmly about which of the different Forms of Government is to claim the first Rank of Antiquity.

to shew that he was the first Governor of the Sons of Men; nor secondly are we informed of the Extent of the Power of this imaginary Monarch---so that he cannot by any Means be admitted to be the first Founder of States, especially when we consider the strong presumptive Proof there is of a prior State, nay, long prior to this pretended appeareth not to me, for the former in all Probability were the Leaders of Cities and Armies as well as the latter.

Two very great Inconveniencies will arise in assenting to these Authors in this Point, and which possibly they considered not in all their Extent. They make that the Cause, which can only be a Consequence, of the first Introduction of States, namely Ambition, which is only the Thirst of Power or Pre-eminence, and which attributes these Constitutions first introduced in the World, but being before unknown, were consequently undesired.

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