« AnteriorContinuar »
ent with morality that a man should be subjected to reparation for doing his duty. The laws of reparation that concern actions of the second kind, are more complex. The focial state, highly beneficial by affording opportunity for mutual good offices, is attended with some inconveniencies; as where a person happens to be in a situation of necessarily harming others by exercising a right or privilege. If the foresight of harming another restrain me not from exercising my right, the interest of that other is made fubfervient to mine: on the other hand, if such foresight restrain me from exercising my right, my interest is made fubfervient to his. What doth the moral sense provide in that case ? To preserve as far as possible an equality among persons born free and by nature equal in rank, the moral sense dictates a rule, no less beautiful than falutary ; which is, That the exercising a right will not justify me for doing direct mischief ; but will justify me, tho' I foresee that mischief may possibly happen. The first branch of the rule resolves into a proposition established above, That no interest of mine, not even life itself, will authorise VOL.IV.
me to hurt an innocent person. The other branch is supported by expediency: for if the bare possibility of hurting others were fufficient to restrain a man from prosecuting his rights and privileges; men would be too much cramped in action, or rather would be reduced to a state of absolute inactivity. With respect to the first branch, I am criminal, and liable even to punishment: with respect to the other, I am not even culpable, nor bound to repair the mischief that happens to ensue. But this proposition admits a temperament, which is, that if any danger be foreseen, I am in some degree culpable, if I be not at due pains to prevent it. For example, where in pulling down an old house I happen to wound one passing accidentally, without calling aloud to beware.
With respect to indifferent actions, the moral sense dictates, that we ought carefully to avoid doing mischief, either direct or consequential. As we suffer no loss by forbearing actions that are done for pastime merely, such an action is culpable or faulty, if the consequent mischief was foreseen or might have been foreseen; and the actor of course is subjected to re
paration. As this is a cardinal point in the doctrine of reparation, I shall endeavour to explain it more fully. Without intending any harm, a man may foresee, that what he is about to do will probably or possibly produce mischief; and fometimes mischief follows that was neither intended nor forefeen. The action in the former case is not criminal; because ill intention is essential to a crime: but it is culpable or faulty ; and if mischief ensue, the actor blames himself, and is blamed by others, for having done what he ought not to have done. Thus, a man who throws a large stone among a crowd of people, is highly culpable; because he must foresee that mischief will probably ensue, tho' he has no intention to hurt any person. As to the latter case, tho mischief was neither intended nor foreseen, yet if it might have been foreseen, the action is rash or uncautious, and confequently culpable or faulty in some degree. Thus, if a man, shooting at a mark for recreation near a high road, happen to wound one passing accidentally, without calling aloud to keep out of the way, the action is in some degree culpable,,
because the mischief might have been foreseen. But tho' mischief ensue, an action is not culpable or faulty if all reasonable precaution have been adhibited ; the moral sense declares the author to be innocent * and blameless: the mischief is accidental; and the action may be termed unlucky, but comes not under the denomination of either right or wrong. neral, when we act merely for amusement, our nature makes us answerable for the harm that ensues, if it was either foreseen or might with due attention have been foreseen. But our rights and privileges would profit us little, if their exercise were put
under the same restraint: it is more wisely ordered, that the probability of mischief, even foreseen, should not restrain a man from prosecuting his con
often be of consequence to him ; provided that he act with due precaution. He proceeds accordingly with a safe conscience, and is not afraid of being blamed either by God or man.
* Innocent here is opposed to culpable : broader sense it is opposed to criminal. With respect to punishment, an action tho'culpable is in. pocent, if it be not criminal : with respect to reparation, it is not innocent if it be culpable.
With respect to rash or uncautious actions, where the mischief might have been foreseen tho' not actually foreseen ; it is not sufficient to escape blame, that a man, naturally rash or inattentive, acts according to his character: a degree of precaution is required, both by himself and by others, such as is natural to the generality of men : he perceives that he might and ought to have acted more cautiously ; and his conscience reproaches him for his inattention, no less than if he were naturally more fedate and attentive. Thus the circumspection natural to mankind in general, is applied as a standard to every individual; and if a man fall short of that standard. he is culpable and blameable, however unforeseen by him the mischief inay have been.
What is said upon culpable actions, is equally applicable to culpable omissions
; for by these also mischief may be occafioned, entitling the fufferer to reparation. If we forbear to do our duty with an intention to occasion mischief, the forbearance is criminal. The only question is, how far forbearance without - fuch intention is culpable; supposing the probabi