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Therefore great public crimes, as robberies, forgeries, and the like, ought not to be spared from an apprehension of trouble or expense in carrying on the prosecution, from false shame or misplaced compassion.
There are many offences, such as nuisances, neglect of public roads, forestalling, engrossing, smuggling, Sabbath-breaking, profaneness, drunkenness, prostitution, the keeping of lewd or disorderly houses, the writing, publishing, or exposing to sale lascivious books or pictures, with some others, the prosecution of which being of equal concern to the whole neighbourhood, cannot be charged as a peculiar obligation upon any.
Nevertheless, there is great merit in the person who undertakes such prosecutions upon proper motives; which amounts to the same thing.
The character of an informer is in this country undeservedly odious. But where any public advantage is likely to be attained by information, or other activity in promoting the execution of the laws, a good man will despise a prejudice founded in no just reason, or will acquit himself of the imputation of interested designs by giving away his share of the penalty.
On the other hand, prosecutions for the sake of the reward, or for the gratification of private enmity, where the offence produces no public mischief, or where it arises from ignorance or inadvertency, are reprobated under the general description of applying a rule of law to a purpose for which it was not intended. Under which description may be ranked an officious revival of the laws against Popish priests and dissenting teachers.
Examples of ingratitude check and discourage voluntary beneficence; and in this the mischief of ingratitude consists. Nor is the mischief small; for after all is done that can be done towards providing for the public happiness, by prescribing rules of justice and enforcing the observation of them by penalties or compulsion, much must be left to those offices of kindness which men remain at liberty to exert or withhold. Now not only the choice of the objects, but the quantity and even the existence of this sort of kindness in the world depends, in a great measure, upon the return which it receives; and this is a consideration of general importance.
A second reason for cultivating a grateful temper in ourselves,
is the following:-The same principle, which is touched with the kindness of a human benefactor, is capable of being affected by the Divine goodness, and of becoming, under the influence of that affection, a source of the purest and most exalted virtue. The love of God is the sublimest gratitude. It is a mistake, therefore, to imagine, that this virtue is omitted in the Christian Scriptures; for, every precept which commands us to love God, because he first loved us,' presupposes the principle of gratitude, and directs it to its proper object.
It is impossible to particularise the several expressions of gratitude, inasmuch as they vary with the character and situation of the benefactor, and with the opportunities of the person obliged; which variety admits of no bounds.
It may be observed, however, that gratitude can never oblige a man to do what is wrong, and what by consequence he is previously obliged not to do. It is no ingratitude to refuse to do what we cannot reconcile to any apprehensions of our duty; but it is ingratitude and hypocrisy together to pretend this reason when it is not the real one; and the frequency of such pretences has brought this apology for non-compliance with the will of a benefactor into unmerited disgrace.
It has long been accounted a violation of delicacy and generosity to upbraid men with the favours they have received; but it argues a total destitution of both these qualities, as well as of moral probity, to take advantage of that ascendancy, which the conferring of benefits justly creates, to draw or drive those whom we have obliged into mean or dishonest compliances.
Speaking is acting, both in philosophical strictness, and as to all moral purposes; for if the mischief and motive of our conduct be the same, the means which we use make no difference.
And this is in effect what our Saviour declares, Matt. xii. 37: By thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned:' by thy words, as well, that is, as by thy actions; the one shall be taken into the account as well as the other, for they both possess the same property of voluntarily producing good or evil."
Slander may be distinguished into two kinds-malicious slander, and inconsiderate slander.
Malicious slander is the relating of either truth or falsehood for the purpose of creating misery.
I acknowledge that the truth or falsehood of what is related varies the degree of guilt considerably, and that slander, in the ordinary acceptation of the term, signifies the circulation of mischievous falsehoods; but truth may be made instrumental to the success of malicious designs as well as falsehood, and if the end be bad, the means cannot be innocent.
I think the idea of slander ought to be confined to the production of gratuitous mischief. When we have an end or interest of our own to serve, if we attempt to compass it by falsehood, it is fraud; if by a publication of the truth, it is not without some additional circumstance of breach of promise, betraying of confidence, or the like, to be deemed criminal.
Sometimes the pain is intended for the person to whom we are speaking; at other times, an enmity is to be gratified by the prejudice or disquiet of a third person. To infuse suspicions, to kindle or continue disputes, to avert the favour and esteem of benefactors from their dependents, to render some one whom we dislike contemptible or obnoxious in the public opinion, are all offices of slander, of which the guilt must be measured by the intensity and extent of the misery produced.
The disguises under which slander is conveyed-whether in a whisper, with injunctions of secrecy, by way of caution, or with affected reluctance, are all so many aggravations of the offence, as they indicate more deliberation and design.
Inconsiderate slander is a different offence, although the same mischief actually follow, and although the mischief might have been foreseen. The not being conscious of that design, which we have hitherto attributed to the slanderer, makes the difference.
The guilt here consists in the want of that regard to the consequences of our conduct, which a just affection for human happiness and concern for our duty would not have failed to have produced in us. And it is no answer to this crimination to say, that we entertained no evil design. A servant may be a very bad servant, and yet seldom or never design to act in opposition to his master's interest or will; and his master may justly punish such servant for a thoughtlessness and neglect nearly as prejudicial as deliberate disobedience. I accuse you not, he may say, of any express intention to hurt me; but had not the fear of my displeasure, the care of my interest, and, indeed, all the qualities which constitute the merit of a good servant, been wanting in you, they would not only have excluded every direct purpose of giving me uneasiness, but have been so far present to your thoughts as to have checked that unguarded licentiousness by which I have suffered so much, and inspired you in its place with an habitual solicitude about the effects and tendency of what you did or said. This very much
resembles the case of all sins of inconsideration, and amongst the foremost of these, that of inconsiderate slander.
Information communicated for the real purpose of warning or cautioning, is not slander.
Indiscriminate praise is the opposite of slander, but it is the opposite extreme; and however it may affect to be thought excess of candour, is commonly the effusion of a frivolous understanding, or proceeds from a settled contempt of all moral distinctions.
PART III-OF RELATIVE DUTIES WHICH RESULT FROM THE CONSTITUTION OF THE SEXES.
THE Constitution of the sexes is the foundation of marriage. Collateral to the subject of marriage are fornication, seduction, adultery, incest, polygamy, divorce.
Consequential to marriage is the relation and reciprocal duty of parent and child.
We will treat of these subjects in the following order:—First, of the public use of marriage institutions; secondly, of the subjects collateral to marriage, in the order in which we have here proposed them; thirdly, of marriage itself; and lastly, of the relation and reciprocal duties of parents and children.
OF THE PUBLIC USE OF MARRIAGE INSTITUTIONS.
The public use of marriage institutions consists in their promoting the following beneficial effects:
1. The private comfort of individuals, especially of the female sex. It may be true, that all are not interested in this reason; nevertheless, it is a reason to all for abstaining from any conduct which tends in its general consequence to obstruct marriage; for whatever promotes the happiness of the majority, is binding upon the whole.
2. The production of the greatest number of healthy children, their better education, and the making of due provision for their settlement in life.
3. The peace of human society, in cutting off a principal source
of contention, by assigning one or more women to one man, and protecting his exclusive right by sanctions of morality and law.
4. The better government of society, by distributing the community into separate families, and appointing.over each the authority of a master of a family, which has more actual influence than all civil authority put together.
5. The same end, in the additional security which the state receives for the good behaviour of its citizens, from the solicitude they feel for the welfare of their children, and from their being confined to permanent habitations.
6. The encouragement of industry.
Some ancient nations appear to have been more sensible of the importance of marriage institutions than we are. The Spartans obliged their citizens to marry by penalties, and the Romans encouraged theirs by the jus trium liberorum. A man who had no child was entitled by the Roman law only to one-half of any legacy that should be left him—that is, at the most, could only receive one-half of the testator's fortune.
The first and great mischief, and by consequence the guilt of promiscuous concubinage, consists in its tendency to diminish marriages, and thereby to defeat the several beneficial purposes enumerated in the preceding section.
Promiscuous concubinage discourages marriage, by abating the chief temptation to it. The male part of the species will not undertake the incumbrance, expense, and restraint of married life, if they can gratify their passions at a cheaper price; and they will undertake anything rather than not gratify them.
The reader will learn to comprehend the magnitude of this mischief, by attending to the importance and variety of the uses to which marriage is subservient; and by recollecting withal, that the malignity and moral quality of each crime is not to be estimated by the particular effect of one offence, or of one person's offending, but by the general tendency and consequence of crimes of the same nature. The libertine may not be conscious that these irregularities hinder his own marriage, from which he is deterred, he may allege, by different considerations; much less does he perceive how his indulgences can hinder other men from marrying: but what will he say would be the consequence, if the same licentiousness were universal? or what should hinder its becoming universal, if it be innocent or allowable in him?