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Every man has a right to liberty of conscience, and with that the magistrate cannot interfere. People confound liberty of thinking with liberty of talking; nay, with liberty of preaching. Every man has a physical right to think as he pleases; for it cannot be discovered how he thinks. He has not a moral right, for he ought to inform himself, and think justly. But, Sir, no member of a society has a right to teach any doctrine contrary to what the society holds to be true. The magistrate, I say, may be wrong in what he thinks: but while he thinks himself right, he may and ought to enforce what he thinks." MAYO. "Then, Sir, we are to remain always in errour, and truth never can prevail; and the magistrate was right in persecuting the first Christians." JOHNSON. "Sir, the only method by which religious truth can be established is by martyrdom. The magistrate has a right to enforce what he thinks: and he who is conscious of the truth has a right to suffer. afraid there is no other way of ascertaining the truth, but by persecution on the one hand and enduring it on the other." (Vol. II. p. 249-50).
MAYO. "But, Sir, is it not very hard that I should not be allowed to teach my children what I really believe to be the truth?" JOHNSON. "Why, Sir, you might contrive to teach your children extra scandalum: but, Sir, the magistrate, if he knows it, has a right to restrain you. Suppose you teach your children to be thieves?" MAYO. "This is making a joke of the subject." JOHNSON. "Nay, Sir, take it thus:-that you teach them the community of goods; for which there are as many plausible arguments as for most erroneous doctrines. You teach them that all things at first were in common, and that no man had a right to any thing but as he laid his hand upon it; and that this still is, or ought to be, the rule amongst mankind. Here, Sir, you sap a great principle in society,-property. And don't you think the magistrate would have a right to prevent you? Or, sup
pose you should teach your children the notion of the Adamites, and they should run naked into the streets, would not the magistrate have a right to flog 'em into their doublets?" MAYO. "I think the magistrate has no right to interfere till there is some overt act." BOSWELL. "So, Sir, though he sees an enemy to the state charging a blunderbuss, he is not to interfere till it is fired off?" JOHNSON. "The magistrate is to judge. of that. He has no right to restrain your thinking, because the evil centers in yourself. If a man were sitting at this table, and chopping off his fingers, the magistrate, as guardian of the community, has no authority to restrain him, however he might do it from kindness as a parent. Though, indeed, upon more consideration, I think he may; as it is probable, that he who is chopping off his own fingers, may soon proceed to chop off those of other people. If I think it right to steal Mr. Dilly's plate, I am a bad man; but he can say nothing to me. If I make an open declaration that I think so, he will keep me out of his house. If I put forth my hand, I shall be sent to Newgate. This is the gradation of thinking, preaching, and acting: if a man thinks erroneously, he may keep his thoughts to himself, and nobody will trouble him; if he preaches erroneous doctrine, society may expell him; if he acts in consequence of it, the law takes place, and he is hanged." MAYO. "But, Sir, ought not Christians to have liberty of conscience?" JOHNSON. "I have already told you so, Sir. You are coming back to where you were." BOSWELL. "Dr. Mayo is always taking a return post-chaise, and going to the stage over again. He has it at half price." JOHNSON. "Dr. Mayo, like other champions for unlimited toleration, has got a set of words. Sir, it is no matter, politically, whether the magistrate be right or wrong. Suppose a club were to be formed, to drink confusion to King George the Third, and a happy restoration to Charles the Third, this would be very bad with respect to the State; but every member of that club must either conform to
its rules, or be turned out of it. Old Baxter, I remember, maintains, that the magistrate should 'tolerate all things that are tolerable.' This is no good definition of toleration upon any principle; but it shows that he thought some things were not tolerable." TOPLADY. "Sir, you have untwisted this difficult subject with great dexterity." (Vol. II. p. 251-3).
BARON DE MONTESQUIEU"
It is true, that in democracies the people seem to do what they please; but political liberty does not consist in unrestrained freedom. In governments, that is in societies directed by laws, liberty can consist only in the power of doing what we ought to will, and in not being constrained to do what we ought not to will.
We must have continually present to our minds the difference between independence and liberty. Liberty is a right of doing whatever the laws permit; and if a citizen could do what they forbid, he would no longer be possessed of liberty, because all his fellow-citizens would have the same power. (Chap. III. Book II. p. 161. "In What Liberty Consists.")
In countries where liberty is most esteemed, there are laws by which a single person is deprived of it in order to preserve it for the whole community. Such are in England what they call "bills of attainder." These are relative to those Athenian laws by which a private person was condemned, provided they were made by unanimous suffrage of 6,000 citizens. They are relative to those laws which were made at Rome against private citizens and were called privileges. These were never passed but in the great meetings of the people. But in what manner soever they are enacted, Cicero is for having them abolished because the force of law conflicts in its being made for the whole community. I must own,
Charles Louis de Secondat, Baron de la Brède et de Montesquieu. From his The Spirit of Laws: tr. by Thomas Nugent. new ed. rev. by J. V. Prichard. George Bell & Sons. London. 1878.
notwithstanding, that the practice of the freest nation that ever existed, induces me to think that there are cases in which a veil should be drawn for a while over liberty, as it was customary to veil statues of the gods. (Chap. XIX. Book 12. p. 214. "In What Manner the Use of Liberty Is Suspended in a Republic.")
To me the question whether liberty is a good or a bad thing appears as irrational as the question whether fire is a good or a bad thing? It is both good and bad according to time, place, and circumstance, and a complete answer to the question, In what cases is liberty good and in what cases is it bad? would involve not merely a universal history of mankind, but a complete solution of the problems which such a history would offer. I do not believe that the state of our knowledge is such as to enable us to enunciate any "very simple principle as entitled to govern absolutely the dealings of society with the individual in the way of compulsion and control." We must proceed in a far more cautious way, and confine ourselves to such remarks as experience suggests about the advantages and disadvantages of compulsion and liberty respectively in particular cases. (p. 48-9)
Let us turn to the consideration of the other side of the question, and enquire whether there are no cases in which a degree of coercion, affecting, though not directly applied to, thought and the expression of opinion, and not in itself involving an evil greater than the evil avoided, may attain desirable ends. I think that such cases exist and are highly important. In general terms I think that the legal establishment and disestablishment of various forms of opinion, religious, political, and moral, their encouragement and recognition by law and public opinion as being true and useful, or their dis
• From his Liberty, Equality, Fraternity. 350p. Smith, Elder & Co. London. 1873.
couragement by law and public opinion as being false and mischievous, fall within this principle. I think, that is, that they are cases of coercion of which the object is or may be good, and in which the coercion is likely to be effective, and is not an evil great enough to counterbalance the evil which is avoided or the good which is attained. I think, in short, that Governments ought to take the responsibility of acting upon such principles, religious, political, and moral, as they may from time to time regard as most likely to be true, and this they cannot do without exercising a very considerable degree of coercion. The difference between, I do not say keeping up an Established Church at the public expense, but between paying a single shilling of public money to a single school in which any opinion is taught of which any single taxpayer disapproves, and the maintenance of the Spanish Inquisition, is a matter of degree. As the first cannot be justified without infringing the principle of liberty as stated by Mr. Mill, so the last can be condemned on my principles only by showing that the doctrines favoured by the Inquisition were not true, that the means used to promote them were ineffective, or that their employment was too high a price to pay for the object gained; issues which I should be quite ready to accept. (p. 52-3)
The real question is as to social intolerance. Has a man who believes in God and a future state a moral right to disapprove of those who do not, and to try by the expression of that disapproval to deter them from publishing, and to deter others from adopting their views? I think that he has if and in so far as his opinions are true. Mr. Mill thinks otherwise. He draws a picture of social intolerance and its effects which nothing but considerations of space prevent me from extracting in full. It is one of the most eloquent and powerful passages he ever wrote. The following is its key-note:
Our merely social intolerance kills no one, roots out no opinions, but induces men to disguise them, or to abstain from