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PART II. nected, fellow citizens, Separate nations, or the members of which separate nations are compofed.
Of the law, as it applies to the cafe of perfons fo diversified, it is propofed to offer a few of the most neceffary obfervations, in the following fections.
Of the Law of Defence, in the Cafe of fingle Perfons, Strangers and
THE parties to whom the law of defence is to be applied in this PART II.
In supposing such parties, we abstract from all the peculiarities which occur in the cafe of fellow citizens, under the effect of their municipal laws, civil or political inftitutions. We abstract from the peculiarities which diverfify the case of separate nations, modified as it is by previous treaties, claims, or conventions, or by the mode in which collective bodies are made up of the members which feverally compofe them.
The case, then, which we are now to confider, is fuppofititious, and a mere abstraction. So that, in this point of view, the circumstances of a case, which in nature are joined with many other particulars, are to be stated apart, and separately confidered. Such abstractions are useful in argument; but muft not, or ought not to be mistaken for matters of fact.
This caution has not always been observed, in treating of the abstraction which we have now made. The cafe of parties, strangers and unconnected, has been termed the state of nature, and even mistaken for historical fact: But, in applying the law of nature to this fuppofition, it is not by any means necessary to admit, that the whole of the human species ever consisted of parties unconnected, or that men ever existed in a state of individuality, or in a state of estrangement of one from all mankind. The purpofe of fcience is effectually ferved, by fuppofing two or more parties fo unconnected, although neither be fuppofed unconnected with the whole fpecies.
The term, fate of nature, as equivalent to the abstraction which we now make, has been employed by writers, who do not by any means feem difpofed to favour the affumption of estrangement from his kind, as the natural state of man. Dr Blackstone, among others, has made ufe of that term in the following paffage: "If
a man," he says, were to be in a state of nature, unconnected with other individuals, there would be no occafion for any "other laws than the law of nature and the law of God; neither "could any other law poffibly exist." But he afterwards fubjoins: "Man was formed for fociety; and, as is demonstrated
"by the writers on this fubject, is neither capable of living alone, PART II.
nor indeed has he courage to do it *."
The state of nature, then, according to this learned and judicious writer, is not the natural state of man, but a mere abstraction made for the fame purpose for which abstractions are commonly made in the pursuit of fcience; that we may have a distinct view of certain confiderations separately taken, before we proceed to view them as combined in the aggregate forms under which they are actually prefented in nature.
Man, even in his physical state, exhibits a fum of many fimultaneous circumstances, whether original and coeval with his being, or, what is nearly the fame thing, immediately confequent upon it. He has occupied fomething that is useful to him, and has a right of poffeffion; he has laboured to fome purpose, and has a right of property; he is a father or a child, the member of a family or fome larger fociety; and the fimpleft movement he can have made with his fellow creatures, may amount to conventi-on, or fome adventitious modification of his original obligations and rights. So that we fhall find no actual period of history in which we can apply the reasonings of this fection to the fpecies> at large, or to any confiderable numbers of men.
We may fuppofe two perfons, at the fame time, caft afhore on fome defert island, and fuch is perhaps the only poffible cafe in which our fuppofition can be realized; and our question at prefent with respect to it is not, what would be mutual inclinaVOL. II. LI
Comm. on the Laws of England. Introd. Sect. 2.
PART II. tion of fuch perfons at their firft meeting, whether to co-ope-
It cannot be doubted, that in fo forlorn and disastrous a state, each would rather meet with a friend than an enemy, and each would rather make a friend of the perfon he cafually met than an enemy. There is, however, reafon to believe, from the principle of caution with which human nature is endowed, even in childhood, and which experience may direct, but does not remove, that such persons would approach one another with mutual circumfpection and caution, each rather with fear of what he himfelf might fuffer, than with any difpofition to annoy his fellow creature; and univerfally it may be affumed perhaps, that the earlieft fenfation of human nature, as Montefquieu has obferved, is rather a feeling of weakness and a need of fupport, than a feeling of strength or a disposition to provoke animosity.
But whatever may be the folution of this or any fuch phyfical question, our object at prefent is not to determine, what the parties in fuch a cafe might be inclined to do, but what each would have a right to do for his own prefervation and defence. We would state the decifions of the law of nature on a fuppofition of the fimpleft cafe, in which parties are vested merely with their original rights and the means of defence with which they are ac