Front Page Titles (by Subject) : The Preceptor: Vol. II. Social Duties of the Political Kind - American Political Writing During the Founding Era: 1760-1805, vol. 1
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: The Preceptor: Vol. II. Social Duties of the Political Kind - Charles S. Hyneman, American Political Writing During the Founding Era: 1760-1805, vol. 1 
American Political Writing During the Founding Era: 1760-1805, ed. Charles S. Hyneman and Donald Lutz (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1983). 2 vols. Volume 1.
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Vol. II. Social Duties of the Political Kind
Originally published in the May 21, 1772 issue of the Massachusetts Spy (Boston), this essay proceeds efficiently in laying out the basic principles of the American Whig perspective. Of special interest is the emphasis on communitarian rather than individualistic principles, and the articulation of the “politics of deference” commonly held during the colonial era, according to which the “better sort” should be deferred to in political matters, although all freemen are considered politically equal. Only quietly implied here, the grounds for breaking with England are rehearsed as a natural extension of Whig political thought.
The social principle in man is of such an expansive nature, that it cannot be confined within the circuit of a family, of friends, or a neighbourhood; it spreads into wider systems, and draws man into larger confederacies, communities and commonwealths. It is in these only, that the higher powers of our nature attain the highest improvement of which they are capable. These principles hardly find objects in the solitary state of nature. There the principle of action rises no higher at farthest than natural affection towards ones offspring. There personal or family wants entirely engross the creature’s attention and labour and allow no leisure, or, if they did, no exercise for views of a more enlarged kind. In solitude all are employed in the same way, in providing for the animal life. And even after their utmost labour and care, single and unaided by the industry of others, they find but a sorry supply of their wants, and a feeble precarious security against wild beasts; from inclement skies and seasons; from the mistakes or petulant passions of their fellow creatures; from the preference of themselves to their neighbours; and from all the little exorbitances of self love. But in society, the mutual aids which men give and receive, shortens the labours of each, and the combined strength and reason of individuals, give security and protection to the whole body. There is both a variety and subordination of genius among mankind. Some are formed to lead and direct, others to contrive plans of happiness for individuals, and of government for communities, to take in a public interest, invent laws and arts, and superintend their execution, and in short to refine and civilize Human life. Others who have not such good heads, may have as honest hearts, a truly public spirit, love of liberty, hatred of corruption and tyranny, a generous submission to laws, order and public institutions, and an extensive Philanthropy. And others who have none of these capacities either of heart, or head, may be well formed for manual exercises and bodily labour. The former of these principles have no scope in solitude, where a man’s thoughts and concerns do all either center on himself, or extend no farther than a family; into which circle all the duty and virtue of the solitary mortal is crouded. But society finds proper objects and exercises for every genius, and the noblest objects and exercises for the noblest geniuses, and for the highest principles in the human constitution; particularly for that warmest and most divine passion which God hath kindled in our bosoms, the inclination of doing good and reverencing our nature; which may find here both employment, and the most exquisite satisfaction. In society a man has not only more leisure, but better opportunities of applying his talents with much greater perfection and success, especially as he is supported with the joint advice and affections of his fellow creatures, who are more closely united one with the other, and sustain a common relation to the same moral system, or community. This then is an object proportioned to his most enlarged social affections, and in serving it he finds scope for the exercise and refinement of his highest intellectual and moral powers. Thereforesociety or a state of civil government rests on these two principal pillars, “that in it we find security against those evils which are unavoidable in solitude—and obtain those goods, some of which cannot be obtained at all, and others not so well in that state where men depend solely on their individual sagacity and industry.”
From this short detail it appears that man is a Social creature, and formed for a Social state; and that society, being adapted to the higher principles and destinations of his nature, must, of necessity, be his Natural state.
The duties suited to that state, and resulting from those principles and destinations, or in other words, from our social passions and social connections, or relation to a public system, are love of our country, resignation and obedience to the laws, public spirit, love of liberty, sacrifice of life and all to the public, and the like.
Love of One’s Country
Love of our country is one of the noblest passions that can warm and animate the human breast. It includes all the limited and particular affections to our parents, children, friends, neighbours, fellow citizens and countrymen.
It ought to direct and limit their more confined and partial actions within their proper and natural bounds, and never let them encroach on those sacred and first regards we owe to the great public to which we belong. Were we solitary creatures, detached from the rest of mankind, and without any capacity of comprehending a public interest, or without affections, leading us to desire and pursue it, it would not be our duty to mind it, nor criminal to neglect it. But as we are Parts of the Public system, and are capable of not only taking in large views of its interests, but with the strongest affections connected with it, and prompted to take a share of its concerns, we are under the most sacred ties to prosecute in security and welfare with the utmost ardour, especially in times of public trial. This love of our country does not import an attachment to any particular soil, climate, or spot of earth, where perhaps we first drew our breath, though those natural [attachments] are often associated with the moral ones; and like external signs or symbols, help to ascertain and bind them; but it imports an affection to that moral system, or community which is governed by the same laws and magistrates, and whose several parts are variously connected one with the other, and all united upon the bottom of a common interest. Perhaps indeed every member of the community cannot comprehend so large an object, especially if it extends through large provinces, and over vast tracts of land; and still less can he form such an idea if there is no public, i.e. if all are subjects to the caprice and unlimited will of one man; but the preference they generally shew to their native country, and concern and longing after it which they express, when they have been long absent from it; the labours they undertake and the sufferings they endure to save or serve it; and the peculiar attachment they have to their countrymen, evidently demonstrate that the passion is natural, and never fails to exert itself, when it is fairly disengaged from foreign clogs, and is directed to its proper object. Whenever it prevails in its genuine vigour and extent, it swallows up all sordid and selfish regard, it conquors the love of ease, power, pleasure, and wealth; nay when the amiable partialities of friendship, gratitude, private affection, or regards to a family come in competition with it, it will teach us bravely to sacrifice all, in order to maintain the rights and promote or defend the honour and happiness of our country.
Resignation and Obedience to the Laws, etc.
Resignation and obedience to the laws, and orders of the society to which we belong, are political duties necessary to its very being and security, without which it must soon degenerate into a state of licence and anarchy. The welfare, nay, the nature of civil society requires, that there should be a subordination of order, or diversity of ranks and conditions in it; that certain men or orders of men be appointed to superintend and manage such affairs as concern the public safety and happiness; that all have their particular provinces assigned them; that such a subordination be settled among them as none of them may interfere with another; and finally that certain rules, or common measures of actions be agreed on, by which each is to discharge his respective duty to govern or be governed, and all may concur in securing the order, and promoting the felicity of the whole political body. Those rules of action are the laws of the community, and those different orders are the several officers, or magistrates, appointed by the public to explain them, and superintend or assist in their execution. In consequence of this settlement of things it is the duty of each individual to obey the laws enacted, to submit to the executors of them with all due deference and homage, according to their respective ranks and dignity, as to the keepers of the public peace, and the guardians of the public liberty; to maintain his own rank, and perform the functions of his own station with diligence, fidelity and incorruption. The superiority of the higher orders, or the authority with which the state has invested them, entitle them, especially if they employ their authority well, to the obedience and submission of the lower, and to a proportionable honour and respect from all. The subordination of the lower ranks claim protection, defence, and security from the higher. And the laws, being superior to all, require the obedience and submission of all, being the last resort, beyond which there is no decision or appeal. Besides these natural and stated subordinations in society, there are other accidental & artificial, the opulent and indigenous, the great and the vulgar, the ingenious and prudent & those who are less so. The opulent are to administer to the necessities of the indigent and the indigent to return the fruits of their labour to the opulent. The great ought to defend and patronize their dependents and inferiors, and they in their turn, return their combined strength and assistance to the great. The prudent should improve the ingenuities of the mind for the benefit of the industrious and the industrious lend the dexterities of their strength for the advantage of the prudent.
Foundation of Public Spirit, Love of Liberty, etc.
Publicspirit, heroic zeal, love of liberty, and other political duties do, above all others, recommend those who practice them to the admiration and homage of mankind; because as they are the offspring of the noblest minds, so are they the parents of the greatest blessing to society. Yet exalted as they are, it is only in equal and free governments, where they can be exercised and have there due effect. For there only does a true public prevail, and there only is the public good made the standard of the civil constitution. As the end of society is the common interest and welfare of the public associated, this end must of necessity be the supreme law or common standard by which the particular rules of action of the several members of the society toward each other are to be regulated. But a common interest can be no other than that which is the result of the common reason, or common feelings of all. Private men, or a particular order of men, have interests and feelings peculiar to themselves, and of which they may be good judges; but these may be separate from, and often contrary to the interests and feelings of the rest of society; and therefore they can have no right to make, and much less to impose, laws on their fellow-citizens inconsistent with, and opposite to those interests and those feelings. Therefore, a society, a government, or real public, truly worthy of the name, and not a confederacy of banditti, a clan of lawless savages, or a band of slaves, under the whip of a master, must be such an one as consists of freemen, chusing and consenting to laws themselves; or, since it often happens that they cannot assemble and sit in a collective body, delegating a sufficient number of representatives, i.e. such a number as shall most fully comprehend, and most equally represent, their common feelings and common interests, to digest and vote laws for the conduct and controul of the whole body, the most agreeable to those common feelings and common interests.
Political Duties of Every Citizen
A society thus constituted by common reason, and formed on the plan of a common interest, becomes immediately an object of public attention, public veneration, public obedience, a public and inviolable attachment, which ought neither to be seduced by bribes, nor awed by terrors; an object, in fine, of all those extensive and important duties which arise from so glorious a confederacy. To watch over such a system; to contribute all he can to promote its good by his reason, his ingenuity, his strength, and every other ability, whether natural or acquired; to resist, and, to the utmost of his power, defeat every encroachment upon it, whether carried on by a secret corruption, or open violence; and to sacrifice his ease, his wealth, his power, nay life itself, and what is dearer still his family and friends, to defend or save it, it is the duty, the honour, the interest, and the happiness of every citizen; it will make him venerable and beloved while he lives, be lamented and honoured if he falls in so glorious a cause, and transmit his name and immortal renown to his latest posterity.
Political Duties of the People
As the People are the fountain of power and authority, the original seat of Majesty, the authors of laws, and the creators of officers to execute them; if they shall find the power they have conferred abused by their trustees, their majesty violated by tyranny, or by usurpation, their authority prostituted to support violence, or screen corruption, the laws grown pernicious through accidents unforeseen, or unavoidable, or rendered ineffectual through the infidelity and corruption of the executors of them; then it is their right and what is their right is their duty, to resume that delegated power, and call their trustees to an account; to resist the usurpation and extirpate the tyranny; to restore their sullied majesty, and prostituted authority; to suspend, alter, or abrogate those laws, and punish their unfaithful and corrupt officers. Nor is it the duty only of the united body, but every member of it ought, according to his respective rank, power, and weight in the community, to concur in advancing and supporting those glorious designs.
Political Duties of Britons
The obligation of Briton’s to fulfil the political duties, receive a vast accession of strength, when he calls to mind of what a noble and well-balanced constitution of government he has the honour to partake; a constitution founded on common reason, common consent, and common good; a constitution of free and equal laws, secured against arbitrary will and popular licence, by an admirable temperament of the governing powers, controuling and controuled by one another. How must every one who has tolerable understanding to observe, or tolerable honesty to acknowledge its happy effects, venerate and love a constitution, in which the majesty of the people is, and has frequently been recognized; in which Kings are made and unmade by the choice of the people; laws enacted or annulled only by their own consent, and for their own good, in which none can be deprived of their property, abridged of their freedom, or forfeit their lives without an appeal to the laws, and the verdict of their Peers or equals; a constitution, in fine, the nurse of heroes, the parent of liberty, the patron of learning and arts, the dominion of laws, “the pride of Britain, the envy of her neighbours” and their Sanctuary too! How dissolute and execrable must their character and conduct be, who, instead of sacrificing their interest and ambition, will not part with the least degree of either, to preserve inviolate, and intail in full vigour to their posterity such a glorious constitution, the labour of so much blood and treasure; but would choose rather to sacrifice it, and all their independency, freedom, and dignity, to personal power, and hollow grandeur, to any little pageant of a King, who should prefer being the master of slaves to being the guardian of freemen, and consider himself as the proprietor, not the father of his people! But words cannot express the selfishness and servility of those men; and as little the public and heroic spirit of such, if any such there are as have virtue enough still left to stem the torrent of corruption, and guard our sacred constitution against the profligacy and prostitution of the corruptors and the corrupted.