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By David Hume
APPENDIX III. SOME FARTHER CONSIDERATIONS WITH REGARD TO JUSTICE. The intention of this Appendix is to give some more particular explication of the origin and nature of Justice, and to mark some differences between it and the other virtues. The social virtues of humanity and benevolence exert their influence immediately, by a direct tendency or instinct, which chiefly keeps in view the simple object, moving the affections, and comprehends not any scheme or system, nor the consequences resulting from the concurrence, imitation, or example of others. A parent flies to the relief of his child; transported by that natural sympathy, which actuates him, and which affords no leisure to reflect on the sentiments or conduct of the rest of mankind in like circumstances. A generous man chearfully embraces an opportunity of serving his friend; because he then feels himself under the dominion of the beneficent affections, nor is he concerned whether any other person in the universe were ever before actuated by such noble motives, or will ever afterwards prove their influence. In all these cases, the social passions have in view a single individual object, and pursue the safety or happiness alone of the person loved and esteemed. With this they are satisfied: In this, they acquiesce. And as the good, resulting from their benign influence, is in itself compleat and entire, it also excites the moral sentiment of approbation, without any reflection on farther consequences, and without any more enlarged views of the concurrence or imitation of the other members of society. On the contrary, were the generous friend or disinterested patriot to stand alone in the practice of beneficence; this would rather enhance his value in our eyes, and join the praise of rarity and novelty to his other more exalted merits. The case is not the same with the social virtues of justice and fidelity. They are highly useful, or indeed absolutely necessary to the well-being of mankind: But the benefit, resulting from them, is not the consequence of every individual single act; but arises from the whole scheme or system, concurred in by the whole, or the greater part of the society. General peace and order are the attendants of justice or a general abstinence from the possessions of others: But a particular regard to the particular right of one individual citizen may frequently, considered in itself, be productive of pernicious consequences. The result of the individual acts is here, in many instances, directly opposite to that of the whole system of actions; and the former may be extremely hurtful, while the latter is, to the highest degree, advantageous. Riches, inherited from a parent, are, in a bad man's hand, the instrument of mischief. The right of succession may, in one instance, be hurtful. Its benefit arises only from the observance of the general rule; and it is sufficient, if compensation be thereby made for all the ills and inconveniencies which flow from particular characters and situations. CYRUS, young and inexperienced, considered only the individual case before him, and reflected on a limited fitness and convenience, when he assigned the long coat to the tall boy, and the short coat to the other of smaller size. His governor instructed him better; while he pointed out
A 1912 Reprint Of The Edition Of 1777
Did all his views terminate in the consequences of each act of his own. who has already heaped up immense stores of superfluous riches. as well as all civil laws. consent. The observance of promises is itself one of the most considerable parts of justice. and informed his pupil of the general. is. may be compared to a wall. nor is the whole fabric supported but by the mutual assistance and combination of its corresponding parts. indeed. in the main. might often prescribe to him measures of conduct very different from those. do thereby preponderate much above that of evil. built by many hands. raised by the social virtue of justice and its subdivisions. cannot exclude all evil or inconvenience. which sense each man feels in his own breast. inflexible rules. ob quam a primaeva communione rerum primo mobilium. and must expect the concurrence of his fellows in the same conduct and behaviour. if only one perform.more enlarged views and consequences. fall to the ground. because we have given our word to keep it. in concurrence with others. it must be owned. in this sense. may be compared to the building of a vault. [footnote]This theory concerning the origin of property. which still rises by each stone. where each individual stone would. as well as his self-love. or combination of mankind. if acquired by mistake. which regulate property. without scruple. evident) that the particular consequences of a particular act of justice may be hurtful to the public as well as to individuals. justice arises from human conventions. quae fuerit causa. and though such rules are adopted as best serve the same end of public utility. it follows. can arise from no other principle. if the whole plan or scheme necessary to the support of civil society. the same with that hinted at and adopted by Grotius. Whatever is advantageous to two or more persons. or any particular consequences which may result from the determination of these laws. or make beneficial consequences result from every individual case. that every man. But if by convention be meant a sense of common interest. and we are not surely bound to keep our word. If by convention be here meant a promise (which is the most usual sense of the word) nothing can be more absurd than this position. deinde & immobilium 2 . which are agreeable to the strict rules of right and justice. The same happiness. that justice arises from HUMAN CONVENTIONS. arising from the social virtue of benevolence and its subdivisions. situations. in order to bestow them on a selfish miser. and proceeds from the voluntary choice. It has been asserted by some. and receives increase proportional to the diligence and care of each workman. It is sufficient. that is heaped upon it. that property should be regulated by general inflexible rules. a beneficent man of all his possessions. in any particular case which offers. The happiness and prosperity of mankind. which he remarks in his fellows. in embracing that virtue. Thus two men pull the oars of a boat by common convention. in every particular operation. Public utility requires. that. are general. without any promise or contract. thus gold and silver are made the measures of exchange: Thus speech and words and language are fixed by human convention and agreement. must have an eye to the whole plan or system. if all perform their part. and regard alone some essential circumstances of the case. in the main. They deprive. and if the balance of good. into a general plan or system of actions. without taking into consideration the characters. his benevolence and humanity. and consequently of justice. for common interest. it is impossible for them to prevent all particular hardships. and which carries him. All the laws of nature. of itself. 'Hinc discimus. though planned by infinite wisdom. which tends to public utility. without a good title. Even the general laws of the universe. For if it be allowed (what is. and connexions of the person concerned. necessary to support general peace and order in society. but what loses all advantage. There would otherwise be no motive for any one of them to enter into that scheme of conduct.
But as they suppose reason. where each governs himself by no rule. that epithet cannot strictly. Lib. if reason and forethought be also natural. ut eo abstinerent. it is certain. The word. where they imagine. whether justice be natural or not. Public utility is the general object of all courts of judicature. the opposite pleader is not at a loss to find an opposite analogy or comparison: And the preference given by the judge is often founded more on taste and imagination than on any solid argument. throughout all ages. aequalitas servaretur. and this utility too requires a stable rule in all controversies: But where several rules. by analogical reasonings and comparisons. fidelity. either to what is unusual. corpore aut nudo agere. ut per occupationem. nec in consumtione fructuum. that nothing could be more dangerous than to accustom the bench. imperfect and indirect ones are brought in aid. and direct the procedure of all courts of judicature. points out no fixed view of public utility. that this combination is impossible. that men. precedents are called for. But all these disputes are merely verbal. When natural reason. antra habitare. it may safely be affirmed. 4 & 5. aut corticibus arborum ferarumve pellibus vestito. quam singuli rebus singulis adhiberent: Quo minus autem fructus in commune conferrentur. design. If self-love. Had men lived without society. But society among human creatures. 3 . what necessarily arises from the exertion of his intellectual faculties. and forethought. ut nec in labore. are guided by instinct. if benevolence be natural to man. miraculous. to regard private friendship or enmity. property. 2. cap. therefore. has infallibly and certainly had place. that there was no other reason for the preference of their adversary but personal favour. in the last sense. justly becomes a sufficient reason for a new decision. to some degree or other. and that in many of its nicer questions. non animi actu solo. that it seems vain to dispute. different from all the sciences. positive laws are often framed to supply its place. distantia. In the two former senses. their understanding and experience tell them. and to fix the sentence of judges by such general views and considerations. as soon as we observe like passions and reflections in others. which are often more fanciful than real. neque enim scire alii poterant. art. though given itself without any sufficient reason. Where these too fail. are apt to entertain the strongest ill-will against the magistrates and judges. then may the same epithet be applied to justice.discessum est: nimirum quod cum non contenti homines vesci sponte natis. sed pacto quodam aut expresso. that jurisprudence is.' De Jure Belli & Pacis. If one pleader bring the case under any former law or precedent. property had never been known. vitae genus exquisitius delegissent. the sentiment of justice. In so sagacious an animal. and the controverted case is ranged under them. quomodo res in proprietatem iverint. deinde justitiae & amoris defectus. Men's inclination. If direct laws and precedents be wanting. may justly be esteemed natural. be applied to them. even in the smallest instance. quae debebat. as often happens. it has been the constant endeavour to remove every thing arbitrary and partial from the decision of property. which supplies the place of reason. and neither justice nor injustice had ever existed. aut tacito. ii. primum obstitit locorum. perhaps. and similitudes. and a former decision. industria opus fuit. by a refined analogy or comparison. Inferior animals. For besides. and a social union and confederacy among men. & idem velle plures poterant. their necessities lead them to combine. or artificial. per quem fiebat. society. and correspondencies. ut per divisionem. natural. as may be equal to every member of the society. justice and property are undoubtedly natural. in every individual of the human species. is commonly taken in so many senses. In general. without reason. and is of so loose a signification. that unite. 2. order. quid alii suum esse vellent. there cannot properly be said to be truth or falsehood on either side. in this respect. [footnote]Natural may be opposed. had been impossible. by which a controversy of property can be decided. Among all civilized nations. sec. forethought. in quae homines discesserunt. Simul discimus. and pays no regard to the possessions of others: And from these passions and reflections conjoined.
yet when the rule of separate and constant possession is once formed by the indispensible necessities of society. strong. excepting such vast rivers as the Rhine or the Danube. give rise to a particular rule of property. [footnote]That there be a separation or distinction of possessions. and that the relation to a former proprietor begetting a relation to the object. be the origin of justice. which takes place between the person and the object. bordering upon rivers.nearly equal and indifferent. occupation or first possession becomes the foundation of property. this is absolutely required by the interests of society. Where there is any considerable portion torn at once from one bank and added to another. and naturally engages us to annex it to him by the new relation of property. and the rules. till it unite with the land. The first necessity is obvious. whereas the right of succession is regarded even among the greatest Barbarians. that the right of succession or inheritance much depends on those connexions of the imagination. In short. For a like reason. which are made to land. we must ever distinguish between the necessity of a separation and constancy in men's possession. the alterations which he produces. it is a very slight turn of thought. What possessions are assigned to particular persons. We shall mention a few particulars. which are circumstances. in cultivating a field. which before belonged to no body. and an aversion to the doing a hardship to another may. private humanity. The accessions. Where a man bestows labour and industry upon any object. For though private humanity can by no means. is the cause why the property is transferred to a man after the death of his kinsman. since the latter virtue so often contradicts the former. the most obvious rule which could be agreed on. analogies. and leave every one a right to what he at present enjoys. Perhaps too. and that this separation be steady and constant. as in cutting down and shaping a tree. it becomes not his property. follow the land. Yet even these rivers are considered as the property of that nation through whose dominions they run. The relation of possession. is attributed to the proprietors of their banks. concurs. Before that. pretty indifferent. that is. that assist the imagination in the conjunction. present themselves. and engages us to leave with him what he has acquired by his sweat and labour. The property of rivers. &c. naturally draws on the relation of property. on precedents. and by the natural turn of our thought. in this instance. generally speaking. with the other motives. Were a society formed among several independent members. whose land it falls on. This cause here concurs with the public utility. this is. which fixes the decision in favour of either party. private humanity towards the possessor. in a particular instance. causes a relation between him and the object. the thought does not sufficiently join them. which assign particular objects to particular persons. and hence the origin of justice and property. say the civilians. and what he has flattered himself in the constant enjoyment of. and very fine connexions and turns of the imagination 4 . insensibly and imperceptibly. and is often determined by very frivolous views and considerations.. and bear them such a relation in the fancy. and till the trees and plants have spread their roots into both. and invincible: The latter may depend on a public utility more light and frivolous. the idea of a nation being of a suitable bulk to correspond with them. I am much inclined to think. provided it be made by what they call alluvion. which seem too large to follow as an accession to the property of the neighbouring fields. which consists in the encouragement given to industry and labour. on positive laws. industry is more encouraged by the transference of possession to children or near relations: But this consideration will only have place in a cultivated society. would be to annex property to present possession. on the sentiment of private humanity and aversion to private hardship. It is true. by the laws of most nations. Acquisition of property by accession can be explained no way but by having recourse to the relations and connexions of the imagination.
We may just observe. so far as the rules of equity are violated: It is a private harm. is mine. 5 . the harm which result to any individual from a violation of them. the hardship. no wonder the highest disapprobation attends so iniquitous a behaviour. but the regard to general good is much enforced by the respect to particular. this horse. before we conclude this subject. that. were not the former previously established: For otherwise the distinction of mine and thine would be unknown in society: Yet there is no question. and ought to remain perpetually in my possession: I reckon on the secure enjoyment of it: By depriving me of it. the injury. and doubly displease me. What injures the community. without hurting any individual. By the laws of society. But where the greatest public wrong is also conjoined with a considerable private one. enter very much into consideration. so far as an individual is injured. after the laws of justice are fixed by views of general utility. It is a public wrong. which attends every wrong or iniquity. and offend every bystander. this coat. is often more lightly thought of. you disappoint my expectations. And though the second consideration could have no place. and are a great source of that universal blame.
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