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FrRevol_501-550.indd 42 3/16/12 1:13 PM CHAPTER II Ofthe Political Doctrine ofSome French Emigrants and Their Adherents. The opponents ofthe French Revolution of1789, whether nobility, clergy, or lawyers, repeated incessantly that no change was necessary in regard to government, because the intermediary bodies which then existed were sufficient to prevent despotic measures; and they now proclaim despotic forms as a re-establishment ofthe old regime. This inconsistency in point of principle is consistency in point of interest. So long as the privileged classes served as a limit to the royal authority, they were averse to arbitrary power in the Crown; but since the time that the people has found means to take the place of the privileged classes, the latter have rallied under the royal prerogative and would give the character of rebellion to all constitutional opposition and to all political liberty. These persons found the power ofkings on divine right to be an absurd doctrine, which caused the overthrow of the Stuarts, and which, even at that time, was denied by their most enlightened adherents, from a dread that it would forever bar their return to England. Lord Erskine,1 in his admirable pleading in favor of the Dean ofSt. Asaph, on a question relative to the liberty of the press, begins by quoting Locke's treatise on the points ofdivine right and passive obedience, in which that celebrated philosopher positively declares that every agent of royal authority who goes beyond the latitude allowed by law should be considered an instrument of tyranny, and that on this account it is lawful to shut one's door and repel him by force, as if we were attacked by a robber or a pirate. Locke I. Lord Thomas Erskine (17)0- 1823) defended Thomas Paine in 1792. He served as chancellor in 1806-7. FrRevol_501-550.indd 43 3/16/12 1:13 PM cHAPTER I I. Political Doctrine ofEmigrants admits the objection so often repeated, that a doctrine of this kind disseminated among the people might encourage insurrections. "There exists no truth," he says, "which may not lead to error, no remedy which may not become a poison. There is not one of the gifts which we hold from the bounty of God of which we could make use, if the possible abuse of them were a reason for depriving us oftheir use. On this view, the Gospels ought not to have been published; for although they are the foundation of all the moral obligations which unite men in society, yet an imperfect knowledge and an injudicious study of the Holy Word has led many men to madness. Weapons necessary for defense may serve for vengeance and murder. The fire that warms us exposes us to conflagration; the medicines which cure us may cause our death. Finally, one could not instruct men on any point of government, one could not profit by any of the lessons of history, if the excesses to which false reasoning may be carried were always to be brought forward as an argument to prevent freedom of thought."2 The sentiments of Mr. Locke, said Lord Erskine, were published three years after the accession of King William to the throne of England, and at a time when that monarch had raised the author to a high rank in the state. But Bolingbroke, no less famous than Locke in the republic ofletters and in the theater of the world, expresses himself on this question in the same manner. He who had armed himselfto restore James II to the throne laid the greatest stress on exculpating the Jacobites from what he considered a dangerous calumny-the charge ofattempting to found the claims of James II on divine right, and not on the English constitution. And it was from the Continent, to which he had been banished by the House of Hanover, that he wrote what follows: "The duty of a people," says Bolingbroke , "is now so clearly established that no man can be unacquainted with the circumstances in which he ought to obey, or those in which he ought to resist. Conscience has no longer to contend with reason. We know that we ought to defend the crown at the cost of our fortune and 2. Stael does not indicate the exact source of this quote. In Two Treatises ofGovernment (1689) Locke criticized the doctrine of the divine right ofkings and advocated the principle of constitutionalism (separation of powers, rule of law). FrRevol_501-550...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781614878636
Related ISBN
9780865977327
MARC Record
OCLC
836874520
Pages
834
Launched on MUSE
2014-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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