If we would say any thing to the purpose, we must assert that every particular government which is lawful, and which imposes any duty of allegiance on the subject, was, at first, founded on consent and a voluntary compact. We may as well assert that a man, by remaining in a vessel, freely consents to the dominion of the master; though he was carried on board while asleep, and must leap into the ocean and perish, the moment he leaves her. Did one generation of men go off the stage at once, and another succeed, as is the case with silkworms and butterflies, the new race, if they had sense enough to choose their government, which surely is never the case with men, might voluntarily, and by general consent, establish their own form of civil polity, without any regard to the laws or precedents which prevailed among their ancestors. They imagine not that their consent gives their prince a title: but they willingly consent, because they think, that, from long possession, he has acquired a title, independent of their choice or inclination. It is to be remarked, that Gordian was a boy of fourteen years of age. But we trace it plainly in the nature of man, and in the equality, or something approaching equality, which we find in all the individuals of that species. by David Hume. Share your thoughts Complete your review. 18 Of Parties in General; Of the Original Contract (David Hume). The magistrate embraced the religion of the people, and entering cordially into the care of sacred matters, naturally acquired an authority in them, and united the ecclesiastical with the civil power. Imperator est appellatus, quia non erat alius in præsenti. In a free government, the matter is often unavoidable, and is also much less dangerous. Passa al contenuto principale.it. We also acknowledge previous National Science Foundation support under grant numbers 1246120, 1525057, and 1413739. They naturally propagate themselves for many centuries, and seldom end but by the total dissolution of that government, in which they are sown. They are certainly more absurd than the Moorish civil wars. What can be imagined more trivial than the difference between one colour of livery and another in horse races? Nor can you give any answer but what would, immediately, without any circuit, have accounted for our obligation to allegiance. Part of Springer Nature. David Hume Rendered into HTML and text by Jon Roland Editing and additional notes based on that of Eugene F. Miller. Even the smoothest way by which a nation may receive a foreign master, by marriage or a will, is not extremely honourable for the people; but supposes them to be disposed of, like a dowry or a legacy, according to the pleasure or interest of their rulers. By parties from affection, I understand those which are founded on the different attachments of men towards particular families and persons, whom they desire to rule over them. It preceded the use of writing, and all the other civilized arts of life. Ought the right of the elder to be regarded in a nation, where he had no advantage in the succession of private families? But since he gave rise to it, not by any particular or miraculous interposition, but by his concealed and universal efficacy, a sovereign cannot, properly speaking, be called his vicegerent in any other sense than every power or force, being derived from him, may be said to act by his commission. David Hume (1711–1776) was a Scottish “man of letters” who wrote on a wide range of philosophical and political topics. Suppose that an usurper, after having banished his lawful prince and royal family, should establish his dominion for ten or a dozen years in any country, and should preserve so exact a discipline in his troops, and so regular a disposition in his garrisons that no insurrection had ever been raised, or even murmur heard against his administration: can it be asserted that the people, who in their hearts abhor his treason, have tacitly consented to his authority, and promised him allegiance, merely because, from necessity, they live under his dominion? This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves. Religions, that arise in ages totally ignorant and barbarous, consist mostly of traditional tales and fictions, which may be different in every sect, without being contrary to each other; and even when they are contrary, every one adheres to the tradition of his own sect, without much reasoning or disputation. I may now ask, upon what foundation the prince's title stands? The first are those to which men are impelled by a natural instinct or immediate propensity which operates on them, independent of all ideas of obligation, and of all views either to public or private utility. On the contrary, we find every where princes who claim their subjects as their property, and assert their independent right of sovereignty, from conquest or succession. Yet reason tells us that there is no property in durable objects, such as lands or houses, when carefully examined in passing from hand to hand, but must, in some period, have been founded on fraud and injustice. Each naturally wishes that right may take place, according to his own notions of it. The same causes, which gave rise to the sovereign power in every state, established likewise every petty jurisdiction in it, and every limited authority. Not to mention, that general virtue and good morals in a state, which are so requisite to happiness, can never arise from the most refined precepts of philosophy, or even the severest injunctions of religion; but must proceed entirely from the virtuous education of youth, the effect of wise laws and institutions. Of all factions, the first are the most reasonable, and the most excusable. The conditions upon which they were willing to submit, were either expressed, or were so clear and obvious, that it might well be esteemed superfluous to express them. But would we have a more regular, at least a more philosophical, refutation of this principle of an original contract, or popular consent, perhaps the following observations may suffice. The difference of complexion is a sensible and a real difference: But the controversy about an article of faith, which is utterly absurd and unintelligible, is not a difference in sentiment, but in a few phrases and expressions, which one party accepts of, without understanding them; and the other refuses in the same manner. Such, according to these philosophers, is the foundation of authority in every government, and such the right of resistance possessed by every subject. Unless otherwise noted, LibreTexts content is licensed by CC BY-NC-SA 3.0. So bad a use did they make of this power, even in those early times, that the primitive persecutions may, perhaps, in part, be ascribed to the violence instilled by them into their followers. Some innovations must necessarily have place in every human institution; and it is happy where the enlightened genius of the age give these a direction to the side of reason, liberty, and justice: but violent innovations no individual is entitled to make: they are even dangerous to be attempted by the legislature: more ill than good is ever to be expected from them: and if history affords examples to the contrary, they are not to be drawn into precedent, and are only to be regarded as proofs, that the science of politics affords few rules, which will not admit of some exception, and which may not sometimes be controlled by fortune and accident. 22.214.171.124. What if the prince forbid his subjects to quit his dominions; as in Tiberius's time, it was regarded as a crime in a Roman knight that he had attempted to fly to the Parthians, in order to escape the tyranny of that emperor? Of Parties in General. He allows no such open communication, that his enemies can know, with certainty, their number or force. The essay excerpted here comes from his second major work, a volume that received much favorable attention when it was published. And as no man, without some equivalent, would forego the advantages of his native liberty, and subject himself to the will of another, this promise is always understood to be conditional, and imposes on him no obligation, unless he meet with justice and protection from his sovereign.