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Common Sense

Of The Origin And Design Of Government
OF THE ORIGIN AND DESIGN OF GOVERNMENT IN GENERAL. WITH
CONCISE REMARKS ON THE ENGLISH CONSTITUTION
Some writers have so confounded society with government, as to leave little or no
distinction between them; whereas they are not only different, but have different origins.
Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness; the former
promotes our POSITIVELY by uniting our affections, the latter NEGATIVELY by
restraining our vices. The one encourages intercourse, the other creates distinctions. The
first a patron, the last a punisher.
Society in every state is a blessing, but government even in its best state is but a
necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one; for when we suffer, or are exposed to
the same miseries BY A GOVERNMENT, which we might expect in a country
WITHOUT GOVERNMENT, our calamity is heightened by reflecting that we furnish
the means by which we suffer. Government, like dress, is the badge of lost innocence; the
palaces of kings are built on the ruins of the bowers of paradise. For were the impulses of
conscience clear, uniform, and irresistibly obeyed, man would need no other lawgiver;
but that not being the case, he finds it necessary to surrender up a part of his property to
furnish means for the protection of the rest; and this he is induced to do by the same
prudence which in every other case advises him out of two evils to choose the least.
WHEREFORE, security being the true design and end of government, it unanswerably
follows, that whatever FORM thereof appears most likely to ensure it to us, with the least
expense and greatest benefit, is preferable to all others.
In order to gain a clear and just idea of the design and end of government, let us suppose
a small number of persons settled in some sequestered part of the earth, unconnected with
the rest, they will then represent the first peopling of any country, or of the world. In this
state of natural liberty, society will be their first thought. A thousand motives will excite
them thereto, the strength of one man is so unequal to his wants, and his mind so unfitted
for perpetual solitude, that he is soon obliged to seek assistance and relief of another, who
in his turn requires the same. Four or five united would be able to raise a tolerable
dwelling in the midst of a wilderness, but one man might labour out of the common
period of life without accomplishing any thing; when he had felled his timber he could
not remove it, nor erect it after it was removed; hunger in the mean time would urge him
from his work, and every different want call him a different way. Disease, nay even
misfortune would be death, for though neither might be mortal, yet either would disable
him from living, and reduce him to a state in which he might rather be said to perish than
to die.
Thus necessity, like a gravitating power, would soon form our newly arrived emigrants
into society, the reciprocal blessings of which, would supersede, and render the
obligations of law and government unnecessary while they remained perfectly just to
each other; but as nothing but heaven is impregnable to vice, it will unavoidably happen,
 
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