Front Page Titles (by Subject) SECT. IV. - An Essay on Government
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SECT. IV. - Thomas Gordon, An Essay on Government 
An Essay on Government (London: J. Roberts, 1747).
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BEfore we proceed any further, let us consider the Arguments of Titius and Barbeyrac, by which they endeavour to confute Puffendorf* , who attributes the forming of States, to the above-mentioned Apprehensions which Mankind had of the Dangers they were liable to, from each other.
They first say that “the Dangers Men had to fear, were not so immediate or great as to compell them to form themselves into Societies; or if they were, why could they not secure themselves by defensive Treaties and Confederacies, to protect themselves from all Aggressors.”
Barbeyrac dwells long on the first Objection, saying “those who make the Apprehensions of Men the Cause of forming Governments, consider not the Simplicity of the Times in which they first took Birth, but attend too much to the present Situation of Things. The World at that Time was not very populous, and Sensuality and Luxury not having yet increased the Necessities or rather Passions of Mankind, every one might easily obtain wherewithal to satisfy himself, and could have no other Motive than unbridled Malice to induce him to invade the Property of others.”
Tho’ the Demands of Men were not so very extensive, nor their Desires so numerous as they are since become, yet the Objects wherewith those Demands were to be satisfied were fewer, and the Matter to answer those Demands more confined, so that the Proportions were pretty much the same.
Besides, it is saying a great deal, to assert that Sensuality and Luxury existed not at the Time of forming Communities, especially if they be considered as of so late a Date as the Days of Nimrod, who lived three Generations after the Flood, which was a Work of the Almighty, merely to punish our antedeluvian Ancestors for their Luxury and Lust: But we find these Vices crept into the World with the Serpent.
But if Lust, Sensuality and Luxury were not known, it is highly probable that Idleness and Indolence might exist—for we find that almost immediately after the Creation, Man was obliged to use some Industry to procure himself Subsistance.—Those therefore, whose Indolence had been such as to neglect these necessary Pains, finding the ill Effects thereof, and seeing the comfortable Provisions of the industrious Man, soon began to covet them, and That Covetousness was naturally followed by Endeavours to possess himself of them.
But let us suppose the Sufficiency of the Produce of the Earth to answer the Desires of Man; let us admit that Luxury and Sensuality were Vices unknown, and that the Earth produc’d spontaneously, or at least that all Men were equally industrious, yet we shall find that there was that unbridled Malice in the Nature of Man, sufficient to induce him to attack his Fellow-creatures — If we impute the Murder of Abel only to a Jealousy of his Brother, what shall we call that Jealousy but Malice? — What Reason have we to imagine ourselves so much more wicked than our Fore-fathers? In Cases where the Motives and Objects are the same, why are we to presume they would pursue more righteous Measures to obtain their Ends? Are they to be supposed to have been assisted with the divine Conversations and Advice in every Particular? No, it would have been an Affront to the Almighty to imagine that Persons blest with an immediate Intercourse with the supreme Being, could be guilty of the Crimes, either of a Cain or of a Ham—besides we have the Advantage over them of having a Law revealed to us by the Son of God, which may serve as a Guide and Director to every Particular in the most minute Actions of his Life; tho’ ’tis true, if we do err, we are more inexcusable on this Account, as we ought to be less prone to Error. It is the most common Saying with Divines and Philosophers, that the World grows daily worse and worse; why they say so, is only that they may indulge their own Spleen and rail at the Vices of Mankind, which while they increase in minute Circumstances, decrease in the more material. If Luxury and Oftentation have greater Sway than heretofore, which if we give any Credit to the most ancient Writers they have not, yet Villainy is obliged at least to put on a Mask, Rapine is unknown, and Murders and Assassinations are less frequent; nay, we meet with the Names of Crimes in Authors which we now are puzzled to find out the Meaning of. Indeed Barbeyrac hath before proved the very Point we are here contending for, by attributing these Constitutions to the Designs of some ambitious Man, aided and assisted by Force: Now whether Ambition be deem’d a Species of Sensuality or Luxury, or of unbridled Malice, it plainly proves that our Ancestors had Occasion enough to guard themselves from the Vices and Malice of each other; for can there be a higher Pitch of Malice and Wickedness than to endeavour forcibly to reduce those under our Power, over whom we can have no Pretence to usurp an Authority, and who are by Nature and Right our Equals; so we may readily conclude that at the Time of forming Societies, there were Dangers both great enough and immediately to be apprehended, to make Men think of some Means to avoid them. But say the Objectors, “admitting the Dangers to be such, yet there were other Remedies whereby they might secure themselves, such as defensive Alliances and Confederacies.”—The Mischiefs that Men first felt from living in a natural State, arose probably from the very Thing which these Confederacies are entered into for, namely, the transgressing the Limits which the Law of Nature hath set to the Privilege it gives us of defending ourselves when attacked, and repelling Force by Force; Societies were entered into to preserve Mens Possessions by peaceable Means; these Confederacies seem only intended to enable Men to transgress further than they would without them—Besides, the first Violence and Wrongs which were felt, were from Particular to Particular; and indeed, these Treaties would be then superfluous, for the Force and Abilities of Men are pretty much upon a Par, and especially at a Time when they all lived under one Climate, breathed the same Air, eat the Productions of the same Soil, and their Education, if any, was similar in all; so that if Preservation of their Rights had been their only Aim, they had, as Barbeyrac observes, no Occasion to be apprehensive; but a peaceable and quiet Preservation, was the Object they had in View, and their End could only be answered, by submitting their Dispute to peaceful and amicable Decisions.
But admitting, for Argument’s Sake, that there were such Treaties and Conventions, the very entering into those Contracts, was forming a Species of Government; for we cannot imagine the Contractors to be so few as two or three, nay, let there be never so few, there must be a Meeting to contract such Treaty.—In Case of an Attack they must act jointly, and with some Correspondence, or their Treaty would be of no Force; and whether this Correspondence was carried on by special Meetings, or by general Rules agreed on at the first Establishment, it must resemble a Government in all its Parts; besides there must be some Being, either natural or political, to execute the Orders of the Contractors; and what are all these Essentials, but the Requisites of Government? what are the Characteristicks of the latter we shall see hereafter, and we shall find that a Convention, Members, an Assembly, and an executive Power are the chief Ingredients to compose it.—Thus far in Answer to the Objection; whether it be answered satisfactorily or no I pretend not to say.
[* ]Puff. droit. de Lat. l. vii. c. 1. § 7. & Barb. Tit. Obs.