Knud Haakonssen and Paul Wood (eds), The Edinburgh Edition of Thomas Reid, Vol. 8: Thomas Reid on Society and Politics: Papers and Lectures
4/III/3: Principles of Politics 1766
Critical Apparatus124/III/3,5r Politicks like most other Branches of Knowledge that relate to Pract 13ice may be considered either as an Art or as a Science. If we consider 14it as an Art it may be defined to be The Art of Modeling & governing 15a State so as to answer the End intended by it. The business of the 16politician is either to frame a Model of Government for a larger or lesser 17political Society. Or to preserve repair alter or amend a Government 18already formed. To discover the latent seeds of those diseases, which if 19not cured in time are destructive of the political Union, & bring it to dis 20solution at last, & to be able to find out and apply the proper Remedies | 214/III/3,1r It is very obvious that the end of Government ought to be the good and 22happiness of the Governed: And therefore every Model or Form of 23Government, if we judge of it by the moral Standard is to be more or Critical Apparatus24less approved according as it tends more or less to promote this end. In 25this view the Destruction of a bad form of Government may be a mean 26to the Production of a better But there may be other ends of Government 27proposed, and as an expert Physician ought to understand the nature and 28Effects of Poisons as well as Medicines; so an able Politician ought to 29understand the nature & Effects of all kinds of Government the bad as Critical Apparatus304/III/3,5r well as the good.| Many Ancient and Modern Authors have confounded Critical Apparatus31Politicks with Morals, which ought carefully to be avoided. Machiavel 32& Harrington free from this Fault. There is a Branch of Jurisprudence 33which is very properly called political Jurisprudence. The Object of this 34Branch. The Rights & moral Obligations that arise from the political 35Union.*
pg 261The same Question may be considered either in a political or in a 2Moral Light〈.〉 Instance Tolleration of those who are not of the estab 3lished Religion.*|
44/III/3,1r Politicks considered as a Science is the Knowledge of those prin 5ciples by which we may Judge of the Constitution and Effects of 6Government〈.〉 Knowledge in Politicks enables us to Judge whether 7such a particular form of Government is properly fitted and adapted to 8promote the happiness & preserve the Rights of the Subjects: Or whether 9on the contrary from the nature and constitution of the Government the Critical Apparatus10subjects will frequently be oppressed, injured, and tyrannically used? 11Whether the Political Body will be quiet & peacable or on the contrary 12tumultuous and Seditious. Whether it will be strong to defend itself 13against forreign Ennemies, or feeble & easily subdued in War.
14Political Bodies as well as Natural Bodies of Man and Animals are 15liable both to internal Disorders and Diseases and to external hurts & 16injuries.* It is by political Knowledge that the Governours of States are 17enabled often to foresee those disorders that are incident to the political 18Body and to prevent them, or to discover their causes when they happen; 19& to apply proper remedies〈.〉 Politicks has a like Relation to States & 20to Government as the Science of Medicine has to the human Body, and 21the Politician is the State Physician. He knows wherein the Sound & 22healthfull Constitution of the State consists. When any disorder appears 23in it he can judge by the Symptoms what is the cause of that disorder 24and he knows what are the Remedies and can pre〈s〉cribe for them with Critical Apparatus254/III/3,5r great probability of Success. | The Nature of a Political Body compared Critical Apparatus264/III/3,1r with the Natural | The Analogy between Prudence in an individual 27and Political Knowledge in the Government of a State〈.〉* Prudence 28consists chiefly in chusing proper Means to accomplish the Ends we 29have in View. So does Political Knowledge〈.〉 The ends of a Private Man 30concern him self chiefly & his family & Friends. The ends of a Politician 31concern the State. Prudence distinguished from Craft in the Politician as 32in the Private Man. Prudence in the one as in the other grounded chiefly Critical Apparatus33upon the Knowledge of Mankind〈.〉 Objection. No Government framed 34or changed by Art
Critical Apparatus35Every Science must be grounded on certain principles & if Politicks 36can be at all reduced to a Science, as I doubt not but it may, there must 37be certain first Principles from which all our Reasonings in Politicks are 384/III/3,1v deduced | as there are certain first Principles or Axioms in Mathematicks 39upon which all our Reasonings in Mathematicks are built, and as there pg 271are in Morals certain first Principles, as we have had occasion to shew, 2upon which our Reasoning in the Science of Morals are built.*
3It is easy to shew that the first Principles of Politicks, upon which all 4Political Reasoning is grounded, must be taken from the Knowledge of 5Mankind. By the Knowledge of Mankind I mean not the Knowledge of 6the peculiar temper and talents of individuals but the Knowledge of the 7temper and Disposition, the Principles of Action and general tenor of 8Conduct that is common to the whole Species.
9Every Political Body may be conceived as a vast Machine made up of 10a great Number of Parts.* The Motions of the Whole are made up of the 11Motions of the several Parts, and the motion of each Part must depend Critical Apparatus12upon the powers that operate upon that part and put it in motion. So that Critical Apparatus13it is impossible to know scientifically the Effects that will be produced by 14the whole Machine without knowing the parts of which it is compounded 15and the powers that actuate those parts, for the Effect of the whole is an 16aggregate or composition of the Effects of the several Parts. The parts 17of which a Commonwealth or State is made up are Men. Each of whom 18has his particular Principles of Activity in himself, his fears, his hopes 19his desires, his passions, his Reason, his Conscience. These principles in 20every individual influence him to a certain course of Action or operation. 21And the Operation of the Several Individuals makes up the Operation of 22the Whole Political Body. We cannot therefore know how Political Bodies 23will act, what Effects they will produce in given Circumstances, but by 24knowing how individuals of Mankind act in the various Circumstances 25in which they may be placed. But if on the other hand we know how 26human Creatures will Act when placed in the Circumstances in which the 27members of such a Political Society are placed; then we may know; the 28Effects with regard to the whole Body which will result from the United 29Operation of the Several Parts. Hence it is evident that the first Principles 30of Political Reasoning must in general be of this Kind, to wit, That such 31is the Nature of Mankind that Men placed in such Circumstances will 32generally act in such a Manner. If any Principles of this kind can be 33ascertained from our Knowledge of human Nature, or from Experience; 34Such Principles must be the foundation of all Political Reasoning. And 35the Conclusions that may justly be drawn from such Principles will make 36up the Science of Politicks. If on the other hand no Such principles can 37be discovered then there is no Such Science as Politicks.
38Here a general Objection against all Political Knowledge may occur 39which we shall consider before we proceed farther.
pg 281It may be said that human Actions are free and do not necessarly 2follow upon motives.* We cannot therefore fortell how a man will act 3in any particular Situation even although we know all the principles and 4motives which influence him because he may yield to the force of those 5motives or he may resist them and act contrary to them. And if we cannot 6know how any one man will act in a particular case how shall we know 74/III/3,2r how a great many will act since the many are made up | of individuals. 8If men always acted according to the Strongest motive there is some 9foundation for human foresight of their Actions from the knowledge 10of their Situation and the Principles of their Nature. But if there is no 11Necessary connexion between Actions and the Motives of the Agent 12there is no foundation left for any human knowledge of the Actions of 13free Agents, how they will behave in given Situations〈,〉 consequently 14no foundation for any political Knowledge.
15In answer to this objection I shall endeavour to prove these two 16things 1 That although the Objection seems onely to affect those who 17hold the Liberty of human Actions yet it will be found equally strong Critical Apparatus18against those who hold them to be necessary 2 That against the reality of 19Political Knowledge even on the supposition of Liberty, this objection 20has no force.
211 This Objection if it had any force would leave no foundation for 22Political Knowledge to those who hold human Actions to be necess-23ary any more than to those who hold them free. Because it must be 24acknowledged by those who hold the necessity of human Actions that Critical Apparatus25the motives or Causes from which those Actions necessarly follow 26cannot be known to a Spectator, nay that they cannot be known to the 27Agent himself. It is evident from experience that the same Motives have 28not always the same Operation upon the same Man, and that different 29Men in like Circumstances as far as can be perceived act differently. A 30Fatalist will say that in these cases there were some causes unknown 31to us which produced this variety. Now the uncertainty of the Event to Critical Apparatus32us will be the same when it proceeds from causes or motives that are 33unknown as when the motives do not necessarly produce the Action. 34Upon the Supposition of Necessity the Action necessarly depends upon 35the Strongest motive, but there are motives so hidden & obscure that we 36cannot perceive them nor have we any Standard by which we may judge 37of their Strength. For it must be acknowledged by those who hold the 38necessity of human Actions. That in human Actions sometimes passion 39prevails over our Reason sometimes Reason prevails over passion. pg 291Sometimes the desire of fame prevails over the desire of riches or of 2pleasure and sometimes yields to them. A present good is sometimes 3preferred to a future and sometimes a future to a present nor can there 4be any certain rule asscertained by which we can judge when the one or 5when the other will be most prevalent. Now our Ignorance of the event 6will be the very same whether it proceed from ignorance of the causes 7of that Event or from, the want of a necessary connexion between those Critical Apparatus8causes and the event which is supposed to be their Effect. From hence I 9think it appears evident that a Fatalist supposing his System to be true, 10has no better means of establishing any Principles of Politiks than the 11Assertor of the Liberty of human Actions. If the fatalist affirms that Critical Apparatus12certain Rules may be pointed out according to which men generally Act, 13although sometimes from unknown Causes they may deviate from those 14Rules. This may be affirmed no less on the Supposition of our being free. 15And whether those deviations from the common Rules of Conduct be the 16Effect of Necessary but unknown Causes or whether they be the Effect 17of Caprice in men who act freely, they are equally unaccountable. And 18all that can be inferred from them is That Politicks is founded chiefly on 19Probability and not on Demonstration. This is undoubtedly true. |
204/III/3,2v 2 There is indeed no force in the objection that has been moved to 21prove that we may not know how men will commonly act in certain 22given circumstances notwithstanding the liberty of human Action. A 23wise man will act wisely though it be ever so much in his power to act 24otherwise. And a good man will act a good part although it be in his 25power to act a bad one. The Supreme being being perfectly wise and 26good always invariably acts according to perfect wisdom and goodness 27although he acts with perfect freedom. And in proportion as men are 28wise and good they will act wisely and well Human wisdom and good-29ness are both imperfect and therefore we cannot reckon upon it that they 30will always act the wisest and the best part. But there is some degree of 31Wisdom some degree of virtue even in Men. One that has no degree of 32wisdom or prudence is an Idiot or Changeling. Some Such there are of 33the human Species but a political Society could not be formed of Such. 34Men must be supposed to have common understanding in order to form Critical Apparatus35a Commonwealth. Now there are many things with regard to the conduct 36of men of common Understanding which we may rely upon with great 37Security notwithstanding their being free Agents. Thus we may rely 38upon it that a man of common Understanding will take some Care of 39himself, both to avoid what is hurtfull and to procure what is agreable pg 301and usefull, that he will take some Care of his Children and have some 2Natural Affection to his Family Friends and Acquaintance We may 3reckon upon it, that he will have some sense of good offices done him. 4and some resentment of Injuries. That in proportion to his Strength and 5Courage he will defend himself & his Rights, and repell Injuries. The 6common principles of human Nature lead every Man good and bad 7to act such a part, in the common occurrences of Life. And a Man in 8whom these principles of Conduct did not exert their Force must be as 9great a prodigy as a Man born without hands or feet, which indeed has 10sometimes happned but is an Event so rare that in the course of human 11affairs we never think it deserves attention.
12But farther it ought to be observed that we may form much more 13certain conclusions with regard to the conduct of a body of Men united 14in political Society than with respect to the conduct of an individual. 15For although the Many are made up of individuals, yet it is easier, in 16many cases to guess at the behaviour of the Many than at that of the in-17dividuals which compose it‹.› The jarring Passions Interests and Views 18of individuals when mingled together make a Compound whose Nature 19is more fixed and determined than that of the Ingredients of which it 20is made up. Wisdom and Folly, Reason and Passion Virtue and Vice 21blended together make a pretty Uniform Character in great Bodies of 22Men in all Ages and Nations; where there is not an uncommon Degree of 23general Corruption on the one hand or of Virtue on the Other‹.› It is from 24this Uniformity of Character in a Multitude of Men notwithstanding of 25the Diversity of the Individuals of which it is composed, that all General 26Principles in Politicks are derived
272 Objection.* The good or Bad Effects of Government depend entirely 28upon the Administration & not upon the form of the Government. See 29D. Humes Essay 3 Whether Politicks may be reduced to a Science‹.› 30The best Monarchy Hereditary. The best Aristocracy a Nobility without 31Vassals The best Democracy a people voting by their Representatives. 32Despotick Governments easily held when conquered.* |
Critical Apparatus334/III/3,5r Axiom 1.* To denominate a Man truly Virtuous it is necessary not 34onely that he should have the Principles of Virtue in his Constitution, 35which all men have in some degree, but that these, in the general Course 36of his Life, should be superior to the temptations to which he is exposed, 37so that his conduct be in the main agreable to his Duty. This degree of 38Virtue is not supposed in the Axiom laid down. But it may w‹e›ll be 39supposed that the generality of men will not do bad things without any pg 311temptation. This must be true of every man at least that is not corrupted Critical Apparatus2in his principles and morals to the highest degree so as to have totally 3lost all sense of duty and even all regard to character. which it is to be 4hoped is the case of very few if any at all of mankind. And indeed if 5we should suppose that the generality of Men of any Nation were so 6abandoned as to have no degree of regard to Justice Honesty and truth, I 7think it is not possible that they could be kept together under any kind of 8Government but that of absolute Slavery. They behoved to be chained as 9wild beasts and have the dread of punishment constantly hanging over 10their heads to keep them from doing mischief.
11If men were to be perfectly virtuous & proof against all temptations 12there would be no Need of Civil Government. Men would do their duty 13without being compelled by Laws and punishments. It is therefore very 14true which a sacred writer observes that the Law is not made for the just 15but for the unjust.* What is here said of Law which is a part of political 16Government may be applyed to the whole of it. |
174/III/3,5v The bulk of Men are neither so good as they ought to be nor so bad 18as they might be. Natural Affection, Gratitude, Compassion & other 19good Affections have commonly a considerable degree of force even 20in the vicious. A Regard to Character & dread of the Contempt and Critical Apparatus21Indignation of Mankind are powerfull restraints even upon bad Men, 22Common Prudence & the desire of self preservation oblige them to Critical Apparatus23abstain from open Violations of the rights of others. When individuals 24are found, who break through all these Restraints; the terror of legal 25Punishment and publick Disgrace, are a very proper Adminicle, to 26those Restraints that Nature hath provided against criminal Conduct. 27And when all these restraints lose their force a man is no longer fit for Critical Apparatus28Society, he is justly cut off as a rotten member by capital Punishment for 29the terror of others. There is therefore a certain degree of profligacy that Critical Apparatus30makes a Man fit onely for a prison, for the stocks or the Gibet. And if we 31should suppose all Men of this Character they would not be materials 32fit for Political Society.
33In some States of Society the generality of men may live very inno-34cently with a small degree of Virtue. This is the case of rude Nations. 35Small Property* In othe‹r› states there will be both greater exertions of Critical Apparatus36Virtue in some individuals and greater corruption in other‹s›. Difference 37of Ranks‹,› great Trust‹,› Refinements of high living.
38Axiom 2 Personal Injuries have often occasioned Revolutions in 39States One of the chief Advantages of civil Government is that it puts pg 321the determination of differences among men in the laws and Judicatures 2and thereby greatly weakens the fury of Resentment and Revenge
3Axiom 3. It is good that Men be instructed in their Duty & Interest 4but this is not enough.
5Axiom 4 The more a people are corrupted in their Morals the less 6they are capable of freedom. That degree of Liberty which men will 7abuse to their own hurt and that of others ought to be taken from them. 8Good Men ought to have liberty‹,› they are entitled to it and will make 9a good Use of it. But in proportion as Men are disposed to make a bad 10use of their Liberty it is for their own good & necessary for the safety 11of others that it should be taken from them. |
124/III/3,6v Axiom 9. When we consider the Nature of Political Government, Critical Apparatus13there is something in it that may seem at first view strange and difficult 14to be accounted for. In all Governments a few govern the Many the 15greater part are led & there is perhaps not above one hundred part of 16the whole that can be said to direct and govern in matters that concern 17the whole Body, the Multitude are swayed by the Judgement of a few,