Jerusalem Volume 2
Category: Judaism
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Jerusalem, or on Religious Power and Judaism is a book written by Moses Mendelssohn, which was first published in 1783. Moses Mendelssohn was one of the key figures of Jewish Enlightenment (Haskalah) and his philosophical treatise, dealing with social contract and political theory (especially concerning the question of the separation between religion and state), can be regarded as his most important contribution to Haskalah.


A Treatise on
Ecclesiastical Authority and Judaism

Moses Mendelssohn

Translated from the German by M. Samuels

Section I

To oppose those props of social life, state and church, civil and ecclesiastical government, secular and spiritual power to each other, so that they shall counterpoise, and not, on the contrary, prove burdens on social life; nor press on its foundation, in a greater degree than they help to support its structure, is in politics one of the most difficult problems, with the solution of which they are occupied already since many ages, and have here and there, perhaps with greater success, practically compromised, than theoretically solved it. These different relations of man in a state of society, it was thought proper to separate as moral entities, and to assign to each a separate jurisdiction, separate rights, dues, power and domain; although neither the precincts of those jurisdictions, nor the lines which divide them have yet been accurately fixed. Now the church is seen to move the landmark far up the territory of the state; and then the state to presume encroachments, which according to accepted notions, seem no less usurping. The evils which have hitherto arisen from a disagreement between those moral entities, and still threaten to arise, are immense. When in the field against each other, mankind is the victim of their discord; and when they agree together, the brightest jewel of human happiness is gone; for they seldom agree but for the purpose of banishing from their realms, a third moral entity, liberty of conscience, which knows how to derive some advantage from their squabbles.

Despotism has one advantage, it is cogent. However troublesome its demands may be found by common sense, they are themselves systematical and well-connected. It has a definite answer to every question. Never mind limits; for with him who has got all, “more or less” is of no farther consideration. So is, according to Roman Catholic principles, also ecclesiastical government; it is complete in every particular, and as it were all of one piece. Grant it all its demands; and you will at least know what you have to expect. Your system is built for you, and perfect repose reigns in every part of it; it is true, that kind of dismal repose which, as Montesquieu says, “reigns in a fortress on the eve of its being stormed.” Yet he by whom a quiet doctrine and a quiet life are considered happiness, will find that happiness no where better secured to him, than under a Roman Catholic despot; and as even under him power is too much divided, no where better than under the absolute sway of the church herself.

But when liberty ventures to displace anything in that systematical building, dilapidation instantly threatens on all sides; and at length, it is difficult to say how much of it will keep upright. Hence the extraordinary distraction, the civil as well as ecclesiastical disturbances, at the time of the Reformation, and the obvious perplexity of the preachers and reformers themselves, whenever they had to fix the extent of rights and privileges. It was not only practically difficult, to keep within bounds the multitude let loose from their trammels, but even as to theory, we find the writings of those times full of vague and wavering ideas; whenever the ascertaining the limits of ecclesiastical power is of the question. The despotism of the Roman church was abolished; but what other form was to be substituted for it? Even now, in our enlightened times, the text books of canon-law, could not be freed of that undeterminatedness. The clergy will not or cannot give up their claim to a regular constitution, and yet no one rightly knows in what it is to consist. Doctrinal differences are to be adjusted, yet no supreme judge is recognised; an independent church is still referred to, yet no one knows where it is to be found; claims to authority and rights are proffered, yet no one can shew who is to exercise and uphold them!

Thomas Hobbes lived at a period, when fanaticism blended with inordinate love of liberty, no longer knew any bounds, and was about (as at last it did,) to bring royal authority under its foot, and entirely subvert the constitution of the realm. Disgusted with civil broils, and by nature fond of a tranquil and contemplative life, he looked on peace and safety as the greatest of blessings, no matter how procured; and those desiderata he thought were to be found only in the unity and indivisibility of the highest authority in the state. Accordingly he judges most advisable for the public good, that every thing, even men’s opinions of right and wrong, should be under the superintendence of the civil authorities. And in order to do so with the greater convenience, he assumed that man has, naturally, a right to all nature endowed him with the faculty of; that a state of nature is a state of general confusion and uproar, a war of all against all, in which every one may do whatever he can do, and in which might constitutes right. That deplorable state lasted until mankind agreed upon putting a term to their misery, by foregoing as far as public safety was concerned, right and might, and place both in the hands of a chief magistrate elected by themselves; and henceforward whatever that magistrate ordered, was right.

Hobbes either had no taste for civil freedom, or wished it to be quashed altogether, rather than have it thus abused. But that he might reserve to himself freedom of thinking, of which he made more practice than any one else, he had recourse to a sly turn. According to his system, all right is grounded on power, and all engagement on fear. Now God being infinitely superior in power to the civil magistrate, God’s rights, too, must be infinitively above the magistrate’s, and the fear of God engage us to duties which are not to yield to fear of the magistrate. This, however, must be understood of internal religion, in which alone the philosopher was interested: external religion he entirely subjected to the dictates of the civil magistrate; and every innovation in religious matters without his authority, is not only high treason, but even sacrilege. The collisions which must arise between internal and external religion, he seeks to remove by the most subtle distinctions; and although there yet remain behind so many openings which betray the weakness of the union, one cannot help admiring the ingenuity with which he strives to give cogency to his system.

There is, in the main, much truth in all Hobbes’s positions; and the absurd conclusions to which they lead, flow merely from the extravagant mode in which he expounds them, either from a love of the paradox, or in compliance with the taste of his times. Nor were the ideas of the law of nature, in part, sufficiently clear in those days; and Hobbes deserves as highly of moral philosophy, as Spinoza does of metaphysics; his ingenious deviation occasioned inquiry. The ideas of right and duty, power and engagement, were further developed; men learned to distinguish more correctly between physical and moral power, between violence and qualification; and these distinctions they so intimately united with the language, that, at present, the refutation of Hobbes’s system seems to be in the nature of common sense, and, as it were, in that of the language. This is a property of all moral truths; when they are elucidated, they instantly are so imbibed by the language of conversation, and become so united with men’s daily notions, that they will be intelligible to the meanest understanding; and we wonder how we could have stumbled before on such a level ground. But we do not consider the expenditure at which that path was cut through the wilderness.

Hobbes himself must have been sensible, in more than one respect, of the inadmissible results to which his extravagant positions immediately led. If, by nature, men be bound to no duty whatsoever, then they are not even under the obligation of keeping their compacts. If, in a state of nature, there be no engagements but what are founded on fear and powerlessness, then compacts will stand good only as long as they are supported by fear and powerlessness; then have mankind, by compacts, not advanced a step nearer to security, and still find themselves in the primitive state of universal warfare. But if compacts are to stand good, man must, by nature, and without compacts or agreements, not be qualified to act against a compact entered into by him of his own free will; that is, he must no be allowed to do so, even if he could; he must not have the moral power, even if he have the physical. Right and Might are, therefore, two different things; and in a state of nature too, they were hetreogeneous ideas. Hobbes, furthermore, prescribes to the highest authorities in the state, strict rules not to insist on any thing which may be contrary to the subject’s welfare. For although that authority have not to account for its acts and deeds to mortal man, it has to the supreme Judge of the world, who sufficiently revealed to us his will about this. Hobbes is very ample on this; and, every thing considered, less indulgent to the gods of the earth, than his system would lead one to expect. But may not that fear of the Almighty, which is to bind sovereigns and potentates to certain duties to their subjects, become, in the state of nature, a source of engagement to every individual man as well? And so there would still be a solemn law of nature, which Hobbes, however, will not admit of. Thus may, in our days, any tyro in the law of nature, gain a triumph over Thomas Hobbes, which he would have to thank that philosopher for, after all.

Locke, who also lived at that period of main confusion, sought to protect liberty of conscience in another manner. In his letters on education, he puts down as a basis, the definition, that the state is a society of men united for the purpose of conjointly promoting their temporal welfare. Hence it follows, that the state has no business at all to concern itself about the citizens’ persuasions regarding their eternal happiness; and that it is to tolerate every one who conducts himself civilly well, that is, who offers no obstruction to the temporal happiness of his fellow-citizens. The state, in its quality of state, is not to take notice of difference of religion. For religion, of itself, has not, of necessity, an influence in temporal affairs; and its being connected with them, depends entirely on the will of man.

Very good! If the dispute admit of being decided by a mere definition of words, I do not know a more convenient one; and if, by it, his turbulent contemporaries had let themselves be talked out of their intolerance, honest Locke himself would not have had to wander so many times into exile. “But,” said they, “what should prevent us from promoting our spiritual welfare as well? Indeed, what reason have we to confine the object of social life to temporal affairs only? If mankind can at all promote their future felicity by public institutions, is it not naturally their duty to do so? Are they not in reason bound to congregate and form a social union also for that purpose? Since, then, it is so; and the state, in its quality of state, will act in secular affairs only, the question arises: to whom are we to commit the care of spiritual affairs? To the church? There we are, all of a sudden, again on the very spot from which we started! State and Church; care of temporal affairs, care of spiritual affairs, civil and ecclesiastical power. The former stands in the same relation to the latter, as the importance of temporal affairs to the importance of spiritual. The state, therefore, is subordinate to the church, and must give way in cases of collision. And now resist, who can, Cardinal Bellarmin, and his redoubtable train of arguments, to prove that the head of the church, in his quality of God’s vice-gerent on earth, has, on behalf of the Lord, the stewardship of every thing temporal; and, therefore, at least, indirectly, a Regale of all goods and minds in this world; that all secular realms are under the dominion of that spiritual Potentate, and bound to follow his directions, as to changing their form of government, deposing their kings, and putting others in their stead; because very often, the eternal salvation of the state cannot be consummated in any other manner; besides many other maxims of his order, which Bellarmin lays down with so much subtilty, in his book, De Romane Pontifice. Of all that has been opposed to the Cardinal’s sophism, in very bulky tomes, nothing appears to hit the mark, as long as the state gives the care of eternity entirely out of its hands.

Considered in another light, it is, in the strictest sense neither consonant with truth, nor does it tend to the good of man, when we cut time so clean off eternity. In the main, eternity will never fall to the share of man, his eternity is merely perpetual time; his time never ends, and is, therefore, an actual and integral part of his perduration. It is confounding ideas to oppose his temporal welfare to his eternal felicity. And this confounding of ideas is not without practical consequences. It puts the sphere of human abilities out of its proper place, and strains man’s powers beyond the limits set to them by Providence with such infinite wisdom. ‘On the dark path on which man is to walk here on earth,” (if I may be allowed to quote from my own writings) ‘just as much light is provided, as he wants for to make the next step. More would only dazzle, and every side-light bewilder him.” It is essential that man should be constantly reminded, that with death there is not a complete end of him; on the contrary, an interminable futurity awaits him, to which his earthly life is only a preparation; the same as all through Nature every present is a preparation for a future. The rabbins liken this life to a lobby, in which we are to fit ourselves in the manner we wish to appear in the inner-room. Then take heed you no longer put this life as the opposite of futurity, and lead men to think that their true welfare in this world is not all one with their eternal welfare in the next; that it is one thing to be mindful of our happiness here, another of our happiness there, and that we may continue to enjoy the former while neglecting the latter. The short-sighted man who has to walk along a narrow path, finds his station and horizon displaced by those sort of insinuations, is in danger of getting dizzy, and of stumbling on level ground. How many a one dares not venture to partake of the present bounties of Providence, for fear he should be mulcted of an equal portion in the life to come? How many a one has turned out a bad citizen on earth, in hopes of thereby becoming so much the better a one of heaven?

I sought to obtain a clear and distinct view of the ideas of church and state, of their reciprocal influence, and on the happiness of civil life, by the following contemplations. When man becomes aware that out of society, he is as unable to discharge his duty to himself, and to the author of his existence as those to his neighbour, and thus can no longer continue in that lone condition without feeling his wretchedness, he is bound to instantly leave it, and join his species in a state of society, in order to supply their common wants by mutual aid, and promote the public good by joint measures. But the public good embraces the future as well as the present, the spiritual as well as the temporal. Unless we discharge our duties, we must not look for happiness either now or hereafter, either on earth or in heaven. Now, to truly discharge our duties, two things are required; namely, action and persuasion. By action is performed what duty bids, while persuasion causes it to flow from the true source, that is, to be performed from pure motives.

Action and persuasion are therefore required for the perfection of man, and it behoves society to take every possible care of both by their joint endeavours, that is, by giving the actions of its members a tendency to the public good, and by occasioning persuasions which engender such actions. The one is the governing, the other the training of civilized man. It is on grounds that man is led to either; to actions, by motivating; to persuasions, by evidential grounds. Hence society is bound to regulate both so as to make them coincide for the public good.

The grounds which lead man to rational actions and persuasions, rest partly on the relations of men to each other, partly on their relations to their creator and preserver. Those pertain to the state, these to religion. So far as men’s actions and persuasions may be made subservient to public utility, on grounds arising from their relations to each other, they are an object fit for the civil government; but so far as they are assumed to spring from the relations of man to God, they come under the cognizance of the church, the synagogue, or the mosque. We meet in so many text-books of canon-law as it is called, with grave enquiries: whether Jews, heretics, and misbelievers, may not respectively constitute churches? Considering the immense prerogatives, which the thing called Church is wont to usurp, the question is not so absurd, as it must appear to an unbiassed reader. With me, however, the difference of names, as may be supposed, is of no great consequence. All such public institutions for the cultivation of man, as refer to his relations to God, I call Church; and those which refer to his relations to man, I call State. By the cultivation of man, I mean the endeavouring to manage both action and persuasion, so as to make them jointly conduce to happiness; say, training and governing man.

Happy the state which succeeds in governing the people by education itself; I mean by instilling. in their minds such morals and principles, as of themselves lead to actions of public utility, and need not be constantly impelled by the spur of the laws. Man, in a state of society, is obliged to forego many of his rights for the public good, or as it may be called, to sacrifice frequently his own interest to beneficence. Now he feels happy whenever that sacrifice is made from his own impulse, whenever he sees that it was made by him solely on behalf of beneficence. In the main, beneficence renders happier than self-interest; but we must feel ourselves by it, and the manifesting of our powers. Not, as some sophists explain it, because self-love is all with man; but because beneficence is no longer such, nor carries any value or merit with it, when it does not arise from the spontaneous impulse of the beneficent.

This will perhaps enable us to give a satisfactory answer to the famous question: “Which form of government is the best?” a question which has hitherto been replied to in so many different ways seemingly all correct alike. The fact, however, is: it is too indefinite a question, nearly as much so as another of the same sort in medicine, viz. “Which kind of food is wholesomest?” Every constitution, every climate, every age, sex, profession, &c. requires a different answer. And so does our politico-philosophical problem. For every people, for every stage of civilization at which that people has arrived, another form of government may be the best. Many despotically-ruled nations would feel very miserable were they left to govern themselves; and so would high-spirited republicans if subjected to a monarch. Nay, many a nation, as improvements, general habits and principles undergo changes in it, will change also its form of government, and in a course of ages, run the whole round from anarchy to absolutism in all their shades and modifications, and yet be found to have all along chosen the form of government, which was best for them under existing circumstances.

But under every circumstance, and with every proviso, I think it an unerring standard of a good government, the more there is under it, wrought by morality and persuasions, and accordingly, the more the people are governed by education itself. In other words, the more opportunity there is given the citizen to see evidently, that he foregoes some of his rights for the public good only; that he sacrifices part of his own interest to beneficence only; and that therefore he gains on the one side, as much by acts of beneficence, as, on the other, he loses by sacrifices. Nay, that by sacrificing, he even profits in inward happiness, because it enhances the merit and dignity of the action, and, therefore also encreases the true perfection of the beneficent himself. So it is, for instance, not advisable for the state to charge itself with all offices of philanthropy, not even the distributing of charity excepted, and convert them into public establishments. Man feels his own worth when he is acting liberally; when it is obvious to him that by his gift he alleviates the distress of a fellow-creature; that is, when he gives, because he pleases; but when he gives because he must, he feels only his fetters.

It ought therefore to be the chief endeavour of the state, to govern mankind by morals and persuasions. Now there is no other way of improving men’s principles, and by means of them also their morals, but conviction. Laws will not alter persuasions; Arbitrary punishments or rewards generate no maxims, nor do they improve morals. Fear and hope are no criterions of truth. Knowledge, reasoning, convictions, they alone bring forth principles which, through credit and example, may pass into manners. And there it is where religion must step in to assist the state, and the church become the supporter of civil happiness. It behoves her to convince the people, in the most emphatic manner of the truth of noble sentiments and persuasions; to shew them that the duties to man are also duties to God, the transgressing of which is itself the greatest misery; that serving one’s country is true religion; probity and justice the commandment of God; charity his most holy will; and that a right knowledge of the Creator, will not let misanthropy harbour long in the creature’s heart. To teach this, is the office, duty, and vocation of the church; to preach it, the office, duty and vocation of her ministers. How could it ever have entered men’s thoughts to let the Church teach, and her ministers preach quite the reverse?

But when the character of a people, the stage of civilization at which it has arrived, a population swelled along with its national prosperity, multiplied relations and alliances, overgrown luxury, and other causes render it impossible to govern it by persuasions only, the state has recourse to public institutions, compulsory laws, punishment of crime, and reward of virtue. If a citizen will not come forward in the defence of the country from an inward feeling of his duty, let him be either allured by rewards or compelled by force. If people have no longer a sense of the intrinsic value of justice; if they no longer acknowledge that uprightness of life and dealing is true happiness, let injustice be corrected; let fraud be punished. In this manner, it is true, the state gains the object of society only by half. External motives do not render him happy on whom they do nevertheless act. He who escheweth fraud from love of honesty, is far happier than he who only dreads the arbitrary penalty which the state attaches to fraud; but to his fellow-man, it is of little consequence from what motives evil-doing is refrained from, or by what means his rights and property are secured to him. The country is defended all the same, whether the citizen fight for it from patriotism, or from fear of positive punishment; although the citizen himself is happy in the former case, and unhappy in the latter. If the internal happiness of society cannot be entirely preserved, at least, external peace and security must, at any rate, be enforced.

Accordingly, the state is, if need be, contented with dead works, with services without spirit, with consonance of action without consonance of thought. Even he, who thinks nothing of laws, must do as the law bids, when once it has been sanctioned. The individual citizen may be allowed the privilege of judging of the laws, but not that of acting up to his judgment; for, as a member of society, he was obliged to surrender that right, because without such surrender, a social compact would be a chimera. Not so religion! Religion knows of no actions without persuasion, of no works without spirit, of no consonance of acting without consonance of thought. Religious observances without religious thoughts, are idle boys’ play, and no worship; this, as such, must, therefore, proceed from the spirit, and can neither be purchased by rewards, nor enforced by punishments. But from civil actions also religion withdraws its auspices, so far as they are not produced by principle, but by authority. Nor has the state to expect any further co-operation of religion, when it cannot act otherwise than by rewards and punishments; for when that is the case, the duties towards God cease to be of any consideration; and the relations between man and his creator have no effect. All the help religion can then lend the state, consists in teaching and comforting. It instils, by its divine lessons, into the citizen, principles tending to public utility; and, with its superhuman consolations, supports the malefactor doomed to die for the public good.

Here there already appears an essential difference between the state and religion. The state dictates and coerces; religion teaches and persuades. The state enacts laws; religion gives commandments. The state is armed with physical force, and makes use of it, if need be; the force of religion is love and benevolence. The former renounces the undutiful, and thrusts him out; the latter receives him in its bosom, and yet in the last moments of his present life, tries, not quite unavailingly, to instruct, or, at least, to console him. In one word; civil society, as a moral entity, may have compulsory power; nay, was actually invested with it by the social compact; religious society lays no claim to it; nor can all the compacts in the world confer it on it. The state possesses perfect rights; the church, only imperfect rights. In order to place this in a proper light, I must beg leave to remount to primary ideas, and to enquire more narrowly into

The Origin of Compulsory Rights, and the Validity of Covenants amongst Mankind.

I know I risk becoming too speculative for many a reader. But is not every one at liberty to pass over what does not suit his taste? To the curious in the law of nature, it may not be uninteresting to see in what manner I sought to define the first principles thereof.

The quality (moral power) of making use of any thing whatsoever as a means of one’s happiness, is called a right. But the power itself is called moral, when it consists with the laws of wisdom and goodness; and the things which may serve as the means of happiness, are called goods. Man has, therefore, a right to certain goods or means of happiness, so far as that right is not inconsistent with the laws of wisdom and goodness.

That, which according to the laws of wisdom and goodness, must be done, or that of which the reverse would be contrary to the laws of wisdom and goodness, is called morally necessary. The moral necessity (obligation) of doing or forbearing, is called a duty.

The laws of wisdom and goodness cannot oppose one another. If I have a right to do something, my neighbour can have no right to hinder me; else one and the same action would be both morally possible and morally impossible. To every right, therefore, there answers a duty. The duty of forbearing to hinder, answers the right of acting; the duty of performing, the right of demanding, and so on.

Wisdom combined with goodness, is called justice. The law of justice on which a right is founded, is either of a nature, that all the conditions on which the predicate belongs to the subject are given to the holder of the right, or it is not. In the former case, it is a perfect, in the latter, an imperfect right; namely, with an imperfect right, part of the conditions on which it is objected that, in time of war, a soldier is qualified to is due, depend on the knowledge and conscience of the duty-bounden; he too, therefore, is, in the former case, perfectly bound to discharge the duty which answers that right, but in the latter, only imperfectly. There are perfect and imperfect duties as well as perfect and imperfect rights; those are called compulsory rights and compulsory duties; these, on the contrary, are termed pretensions, petitions, conscientious duties. Those are external, these internal. Compulsory rights may be enforced; but petitions may be dismissed. To forbear discharging compulsory duties, is wrong and unjust; whereas the omission of conscientious duties is only unconscionableness.

The goods to which man has an exclusive right are, 1, his personal abilities; 2, whatsoever he brings forth by them, and the welldoing of which he promotes; whatsoever he cultivates, breeds, protects, &c., (the fruits of his industry); 3, goods of nature, which he has so united with the fruits of his industry, that they can no longer be sundered from them without damage, which, therefore, he has made his own. Accordingly, in this consists his natural property. Even in the state of nature, and yet before any compact whatsoever was entered into by mankind, those objects were exempted from the general communion of goods; namely, men originally held only such goods in common, as were produced by nature, without any one’s industry or co-operation. Not all property is merely conventional.

Without beneficence man cannot enjoy happiness, not only without passive, but equally as little without active beneficence. He can become perfect no otherwise than by mutual assistance; by an interchange of kind offices, and by both an active and passive union with his fellow-men.

Therefore, when man possesses goods, or has at his command means which he can spare, that is, which are not necessary for his own existence, or of use for his Meliority, he is in duty bound to employ part thereof for the good of his fellow men, i. e., in beneficence; for meliority is inseparable from beneficence.

But for the same reasons, he, too, has a right to the beneficence of his fellow-men. He may expect, and pretend that others shall relieve him with their spare goods, and co-operate in his perfection. Only let it be always remembered what we mean by the word “Goods;” viz. all internal and external powers of man, so far as they may become the means of happiness to himself and others. Accordingly, every thing man, in the state of nature, possesses of industry, substance and ability, every thing he can call his, is dedicated partly to his own use (private interest), partly to beneficence.

However, as man’s means are limited, and therefore, exhaustible, the same means or goods may, at times, not serve for myself and my fellowmen at once. Neither can I employ those goods or means on behalf of all my fellow-creatures, nor at all times, nor under all circumstances. And as I am bound to make the best possible use of my powers; the quantum, object, time and circumstance of my beneficence will depend on an election, and more precise determination.

By whom is this to be decided? By whom are cases of collision to be adjusted? Not by my neighbour; for to him not all the grounds are given on which the conflict of duties must be decided. Besides, every one else would have the same right; and if every one of my fellow-creatures should decide in his own favour, as most probably he would, the difficulty would not be removed.

To me, and to me alone, therefore, belongs, in a state of nature, the right of determining whether, to what extent, when, to whom, and under what circumstances I am bound to exercise beneficence. Nor can I, in a state of nature, at any time, be forced to beneficence by coercive means. My duty to be beneficent is only a conscientious duty, of which, externally, I have to render no account to any body; so is my right to my neighbour’s beneficence, only a right of petitioning, which may be met with a refusal. In a state of nature, all positive duties of men to one another, are only imperfect duties, the same as their positive rights over one another, are imperfect rights, no duties which may be insisted upon, no rights which warrant coercion. In a state of nature, the duties and rights of forbearing only are perfect. I am perfectly in duty bound, no to wrong any one, and perfectly justified in preventing any one from wronging me. Now wronging, every one knows, means acting against the perfect right of another.

It may, indeed, be supposed that the duty of making reparation, is a positive duty to which man is bound even in a state of nature. When I have caused damage to my neighbour, I am, without any compact, and solely by the laws of natural justice, bound to make it good to him, and he may compel me to do so.

But although making reparation, certainly, is a positive act; the obligation to it, in the main, arises from the forbearing duty, not to wrong. For the damage which I cause my neighbour, as long as the effects of it are not removed, must be considered a protracted injury. Therefore, all the while that I omit making it good, I am violating a negative duty, for I continue to wrong. Accordingly, the duty of making reparation forms no exception of the rule, that in a state of nature, man is independent, or that he is not positively under obligation to any one. No one has a compulsory right to dictate to me, how much of my own I am to employ on behalf of others, or to whom I am to give the benefit of it. It must depend entirely on my discretion, by what rule cases of collision are to be decided.

Nor is the natural relation of parents to their children, any ways contrary to this general law of nature. It will easily be conceived, that in a state of nature, those only are independent, who are thought able of rationally deciding cases of collision. Therefore, before children have arrived at the age, when they may be supposed to have the full use of reason, they have no claim to independence; but must let others decide for them, in what manner, and for what purpose, they are to employ their powers and abilities. But parents, on their part, are bound to inure their children to the art of deciding cases of collision; and also, as they increase in judgment, to allow them, step by step, the free and independent use of their powers and abilities.

Now, in a state of nature, it is true, even parents are, in certain respects, externally under obligation to their children; and those might be thought positive duties, which can be enforced even without any compact, by the mere laws of wisdom and goodness. Yet, methinks, that in a state of nature, the right of enforcing the training of the children belongs to the parents reciprocally, and to no third person, who, befriending the former, should want to compel the latter to train them. But that parents have that compulsory right over one another, arises from the agreement they are supposed to have entered into, although not by word of mouth, still by the act itself.

Whoever co-operates in producing a being fit for enjoying happiness, is, by the law of nature, bound to promote its happiness as long as it is not itself able to attend to its own well-doing. This is the natural duty of training: abstractedly, it is true, a conscientious duty; but by the act itself, the parents have agreed to assist one another in it, or to conjointly discharge that duty. In a word, by cohabitation itself, they entered the matrimonial state; and, at the same time, into a tacit agreement to conjointly qualify for happiness, the being destined to happiness, which they produce; that is, to train it.

From this principle, all the duties and rights of matrimony very naturally flow; and there is no need to adopt, as professors of law are wont, a double principle, whence to deduce them. The duty to train children follows from the argeement to beget them; and the obligation of domesticating together, from the duty of training. Marriage, therefore, is, in the main, nothing but an agreement between persons of different sexes, to jointly bring children into the world; and on this rests the whole system of their duties and rights. But that mankind by agreement, leave the state of nature, and enter that of society, will be shown further on. Accordingly, neither the parent’s duty to train their children, although, in certain respects, it may be called compulsory, forms an exception from the mentioned law of nature: that in a state of nature, man is independent; and that to him alone belongs the right of deciding cases of collision between private use and beneficence.

In this light consists the natural liberty of man, which constitutes a great portion of his happiness. Independence, therefore is included in the goods exclusively his, and which he is qualified to employ as a means of his happiness; and whoever hinders him in it, injures him, and commits injustice. Man, in a state of nature, has the control over all that is his; over the free use of his powers and abilities, the free use of whatever he thereby produced (the fruits of his industry), or of what he united in an inseparable manner with the fruits of his industry; and it depends on him, how much of what he can spare of those goods, he shall give up for the benefit of his fellow-men, when, and to whom he shall give it up. All his fellow-men have only an imperfect right to his superfluity, the right of petitioning; and his, the absolute owner’s conscientious duty it is, to dedicate part of his goods to beneficence; nay, at times, he is bound to sacrifice to it even his private interest, in so far as beneficence renders happier than selfishness, provided the sacrifice be made from a free will, and from a spontaneous impulse. All this appears plain enough; but I will go yet a step farther.

When that independent man has once passed judgment, that judgment must stand good. In a state of nature, when I have made up my mind, to whom I shall give up part of my own, how much of it, and when shall I give it up: when I have sufficiently declared this, my voluntary determination, and my neighbour, in whose favour it was taken, accepts the good; if my right of deciding have any meaning at all, the transaction must be of force and effect. If my decisions be powerless, and leave things in statu quo; if, in respect to the right, it produce not the change I determined upon, my supposed quality of passing judgment involves a palpable contradiction. My decision must, therefore, operate; it must alter the condition of the right. The good in question must cease to be mine, and have actually become my neighbour’s. By that transaction, my neighbour’s right, till now imperfect, must have become a perfect right, the same as my own once perfect right must have been transformed into an imperfect right; else my decision would be a mere cypher. Therefore, after the transaction is over, I can no longer claim the surrendered good without injustice. If I do, I injure; I act against the perfect right of my neighbour.

This holds good as well of material, moveable goods, which admit of being transmitted and taken possession of by hands, as of immoveable, or even spiritual goods, the right to which can be resigned and accepted by a sufficient declaration of the will only. In the main, every thing depends upon that declaration of the will; and even the actual transmission of moveable goods, can only be valid as far as it is considered a token of a sufficient declaration of the will. The mere transmission, considered by itself, neither gives nor takes away a right, whenever that intention is not coupled with it. What I put in my neighbour’s hand, I have not, therefore, transmitted to him; and what I take out of his hand, I have not thereby yet legally accepted, if I have not signified that the transaction has taken place with that intention. But if transmission, merely as a token, be valid, other significant tokens may be substituted for it, with such goods as do not admit of a real transmission. We may, therefore, resign and surrender to others, our right to immoveable or even spiritual goods, by sufficiently intelligible tokens.

In this manner, property may pass from one to another. What I have made my own by my industry becomes, through cession, the goods of another, which I cannot again take away from him without committing an act of injustice.

One step more, and the validity of covenants is placed on a solid foundation. The right of deciding cases of collision, is itself, as shown above, an incorporeal good of independent man, so far as it may become to him a means of happiness. In a state of nature, every man has a perfect, and his neighbour an imperfect, right to the use of this means. But as, at least, in many cases, the use of that right is not absolutely necessary for support, it is a superfluous good, which, as already demonstrated, may be resigned and surrendered to others, by a sufficient declaration of the will. The act by which this is done, is called a promise, and when joined on the other side by acceptance, that is, when an assent to such transfer of rights is sufficiently signified, a covenant arises. Consequently, a covenant is nothing but, on the one side, the surrender, and on the other, the acceptance of the right of deciding cases of collision about certain goods superfluous to the promiser.

According to what has been proved above, such a covenant must be kept. The right of deciding, which previously formed part of my goods, that is, which was mine, has, by that cession, become the good of my neighbour, that is his; and I cannot again take it away from him without offending. The pretension which he, as well as every one else, had to the use of this my independence, so far as it is not absolutely necessary for my support, has, by that act, passed into a perfect right, which he is qualified to assert by forcible means. This result is incontestible, if my right of deciding is at all to have force and effect.

I leave off my speculative contemplations, and turn again into my former track. But first I shall establish the conditions on which, according to the above principles, a covenant is valid, and must be kept.

1. Caius possesses a good (some means or other of happiness; the use of his personal abilities themselves, or the right to the fruits of his industry, and the goods of nature united therewith, or whatsoever else became his own in a rightful manner, be it corporeal, or incorporeal: privileges immunities, and the like).

2. But that good is not indispensably required for his support, and may therefore be employed on behalf of beneficence, that is, for the benefit of others.

3. Sempronius has an imperfect right to that good; he, as well as every one else, may petition, but not compel its present application to his own use. The right to decide belongs to Caius; it is his, and he cannot be deprived of it by force.

4. Caius makes use of his perfect right, decides in favour of Sempronius, and declares his will by intelligible tokens, that is, Caius promises.

5. Sempronius accepts, and likewise expresses his assent, in a sufficiently significant manner.

Thus Caius’s decision is effective, and of force; that is, the good which was the property of Caius has, in virtue of that transaction, become the property of Sempronius. Caius’s perfect right has passed into an imperfect one; the same as Sempronius’s imperfect right has been transformed into a perfect and compulsory one.

Caius must keep his legal promise; and in case of resistance, Sempronius can compel him to it by force.

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