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of our country with insolence or scurrility, or even as subjects of mere disputation, is manifestly an offence to public decency; although such grave discussion as may serve to their correction or improvement, is not only consistent with the regard we owe them, but may proceed from it. How to suppress the former without discouraging the latter, is a difficulty to which no policy is equal. There have been periods when prescription was reason, and when time gave a sanction to the grossest usurpations upon the persons and property, the understandings and consciences of men; there have been periods too in which a wild and lawless spirit has gone forth, and boldly called in question every opinion consecrated by the veneration, and every institution confirmed by the practice, of former ages. If men could have been taught wisdom by past example, by this time they would have learned, first, in respect to truth, to have sought it, though without a superstitious attachment, yet not without a becoming deference to ancient opinions; rulers would have learned to act for the people, and the people to submit cheerfully to lawful and moderate government. The fact is, that, till some great revolution take place in human nature, the world will go on at its old rate, will continue to be swayed by its interests and passions, and perpetually be vibrating between truth and error, tyranny and licence, in spite of all the efforts of patriots and philosophers.
Fifthly, by incivility. It has been often justly observed, that the miseries of the present life arise not so much from great calamities, which but seldom happen, as from a succession of small vexations, which fret a man's spirit, exhaust his patience, and so bring him into a state of perpetual irritation. Whatever therefore tends to obviate these petty evils, highly deserves the attention of every one who either values his own quiet or that of others. On this account civility is an object of important consideration, as it serves to prevent those minute offences which are so apt to disturb our friendly intercourse, and frequently to of open hostility. Man is a being who naturally demands respect, and often suffers more patiently a substantial injury than a slight contempt, which, if unnoticed, would neither affect his reputation nor his fortune. How deeply the resentment of such shadowy offences may penetrate the human heart, we have a striking example in the story of Haman, who, because Mordecai the Jew refused him those tokens of honour paid him by others, lost all enjoyment of himself and of his elevated condition, and conceived the dreadful purpose of revenging upon a whole nation his quarrel with an obscure stranger. This instance is only singular by its magnitude. There are few persons, I fear, who may not look back upon certain conjunctures, when their revenge has been excited, their nights disturbed, and all their comforts embittered, because some unlucky Mordecai had denied them that respect they thought their due; nor is it very uncommon for men of false honour to put to hazard the lives of others, as well as their own, for the sake of chastising some petty insult pears the importance of attending txr^ifi usual forms of civility among beings so ready to give and to take offence. Of this the Chinese are so sensible* that at Pekin there is a court established for regulating the ceremonial of the empire, both among natives and strangers. This punctilious regard to manners is strongly marked in one of their volumes, which contains, as we are told, no less than three thousand rules for the behaviour of persons of every rank, and upon every occasion.
Now, though all these regulations could in every instance be reduced exactly to practice, which is evidently impossible, there would yet remain, as will easily be conceived, numberless ways of conveying insult, which the formality of respect would only render still more provoking. Human nature is a Proteus that cannot be held by any merely outward constraint: nothing short of a moral revolution, in which pride gives place to humility, and selfishness to benevolence, can produce a genuine and uniform civility of manners.
turbed, by notorious profligacy, by tumult or riot, or by similar disorders, although not attended with any actual infringement of liberty or property. Such licence ought not to be suffered to infest even a village; much less should it be tolerated in a nation at large. Mr. Locke himself, who is known to be a strenuous advocate for freedom, makes.it a part of the office of the magistrate to punish debauchery and immorality, and compel men to lead sober and honest lives*. And notwithstanding the increase of liberality since his time, both flagrant breaches of the peace, and open and scandalous vice, still continue in this country to be objects of political animadversion, and will ever so remain, unless reason and virtue should entirely withdraw themselves from amongst us, and leave us a prey to barbarism and false philosophy.
Let us then proceed to inquire for a moment, how far the coercive power of government is adequate to the maintenance of public decorum, which is chiefly violated in the following respects: