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PART II. CHAP. III. SECT. X.
with the confent of one man not to disturb the poffeffion of another; and, in fhort, no man is obliged, even in the latest hour of fociety, to abstain from harm, except fo far as by fome fpecies of compact he has bound himself fo to do.
Such confequences, however, are fufficiently abfurd to justify our rejecting the principle on which they are founded; and are probably far from the thoughts of many, who affume the focial compact, as a fiction of law, upon which to reft their decisions in particular inftances. To this principle, at any rate, we cannot have recourfe in fixing the grounds of conventional obligation. That a compact may be binding, we must suppose some previous foundation upon which its obligation inay rest, whether the confiftency to which Mr Hobbes refers, or the original right of every perfon to defend himself, to which we have so often referred in these difquifitions..
If the rule that forbids the commiffion of harm, or the principle of nature, on which is founded a right of defence, can be applied to the case of parties, so far pledging or accepting a faith which is pledged to them, as that, by the breach of this faith they may injure or be injured; it will follow, that they ought to refrain from that injury; or may repel it, by obliging the party contracting to fulfil the terms of his contract.
By the law of nature, every party may defend his eftate from every invafion that is made to impair it. Of the state which may be thus defended, men derive part from the hand of their Maker, which is accordingly to them matter of original right; part from their own act and deed, as in the cafe of occupancy or labour, already recited; and we may now fubjoin, that they derive
derive part of their state alfo from the engagements in which others PART II.
The fervant is fecure in the engagement of a master to pay his wages; the mafter relies for his accommodation on the engagement of the fervant to do his work. The landlord is rich in the engagement of tenants to pay his rents; the tenant bestows his labour, and scatters his feed, trufting to the leafe he has received from the landlord. Even the mifer himself, who is disposed to hoard up his wealth, may not have a single penny or article of value in his poffeffion. He is rich in the capacity merely of a creditor, and in holding others obliged to pay the principal and intereft, in which they are indebted by bond to him.
Such credit, in one man towards another, is a part of their focial nature; and the person who is difpofed to abuse his credit may wound or deftroy, by means of that inftrument, no lefs than by the arm of violence, or the fword which he wields in his hand.
If it be admitted, that men are by nature difpofed mutually to give and to receive information; that where they have no special cause of distrust, they rely on the informations, affurances, or promises which they receive from others; and that great part in the conduct of every person is determined by informations or asfurances fo received. If the bewildered traveller, in the dark, turns confidently to the right, when he is told that there is a precipice on the left, it must evidently follow, that to mislead him, or to occafion his harm, by any misinformation, would be equally criminal, as to occafion that harm by any other means.
Hence we may conclude, that a perfon being made to rely on CHAP. III. the confent of another, to conftitute or to reduce a right, is not bound to fuffer by the other's breach of faith; but may proceed on the principle of felf-defence, to force the performance of a promife which makes a part of his ftate; and the principle upon which a perfon, who has come under any engagement, may be forced to fulfil that engagement, is the fame with that maxim, on which he may be forced to abstain from injury, or harm of any other kind; infomuch, that the first principle of compulsory law, which is in appearance merely prohibitory, may branch into a variety of duties or obligations to do, or to omit to do, whatever may be a fit matter of ftipulation betwixt any two or more parties concerned.
To fail in the discharge of fuch duties is, on many occafions at least, termed perfidy or breach of faith, and confidered with a higher degree of abhorrence, than even the injuries that are done by open force. This may, no doubt, proceed from circumstances peculiar to fraud and deceit. The traitor must have carried the mask of innocence to have obtained credit; he has stolen an advantage which he had not the courage openly to force. The contraft of fraud with the mafk of innocence, which it wears, the cowardice which is imputed to the perfon who affumes that mafk in order to wound, combine together in awakening the peculiar fentiment of indignation and hatred, with which perfidy or breach of faith is confidered; and which, though they do not make any addition to what is at present the object of our difcuffion, namely, the right of every perfon to defend himself against fuch wrongs; yet
they tend greatly to evince that the fource of conventional obli- PART II.
Of the Laws of Convention derived from the foregoing Principle.
FROM the account which has been given of conventional right and obligation, it appears that compact, in every inftance, implies a plurality of parties, one at least who comes under an engagement, and one or more to whom the engagement is made, and who accept of it. The first may be termed the party contracting, the other the party accepting.
In many bargains, the parties may be mutually contracting and accepting; as when one party binds himself to convey a property, accepting a price, and the other binds himself to pay the price, accepting the property. But it is not, at prefent, or in the profecution of this argument, neceffary to confider the parties to a compact in this double capacity.
From the principle stated, it is evident, that to give a fuppofed compact the effect which we have afcribed to it, in conftituting