David Hume Essays And Treatises On Contract

David Hume

Essays Moral, Political and Literary
(1741-1777)

 

 

Contents

(1) Editions of the Essay
(2) Edition codes
(3) David Hume's Essays Moral, Political and Literary

Around 1740, after the publication of his Treatise,David Hume began writing a series of shorter essays on specific economic, political, literary and philosophical topics.  These were not published in literary journals or reviews, but rather in a series of essay collections.   Over the course of his lifetime, Hume revised and corrected the essays and assembled new collections, combining prior collections, sometimes changing titles, adding more essays and sometimes withdrawing others. 

To assist researchers to track the origins of particular essays, we have compiled a list of Hume's Essays below with links to the original different versions of the essays. 

Editions of the Essays

List of editions (1741-1777) (all written and revised by Hume)

  • 1741 Essays, Moral and Political,the firstcollection, containing 15 essays. [bk]
  • 1742 Essays, Moral and Political second edition, corrected of first collection.
  • 1742 Essays, Moral and Political, Volume II, secondcollection of 12 new essays.
  • 1748  Three Essays, Moral and Political, never before published, which compleats the former edition in two volumes, thirdcollection of 3 new essays.
  • 1748 Essays, Moral and Political reprint of 26 essays.  Essays 1-15 are all fifteen essays from first collection, Essays 16-23 are nine essays (2 and 5-11) from second collection (so four suppressed: 1, 3, 4, withdrawn 12 reduced to footnote), Essays 24-26 are three essays of third collection.
  • 1748 Philosophical Essays Concerning Human Understanding, new treatise.[bk]
  • 1751 Philosophical Essays Concerning Human Understanding, second edition,  [bk]
  • 1751 An Enquiry Concerning Principles and Morals. new treatise..[bk]
  • 1752 Political Discourses, fourthcollection of 12 new essays, plus one appendix ("Scotticisms")
  • 1752 Political Discourses, second edition of fourth collection, 12 essays (appendix suppressed) [bk]
  • 1753-56 Essays and Treatises on Several Subjects, elaborate prior essay collection an treatises in four volumes
    • v.1-(1753)  26 essays.  Essays 1-15 are all fifteen from first collection, Essays 16-23 are nine essays (2, 5-11) from second collection, Essays 24-26 are three essays of third collection.
    • v.2 (1756) - reprint of 1748 treatise
    • v.3 (1753) -reprint 1751 treatise, with two new appendices
  • v.4 (1754) -12 essays, all twelve from fourth collection
  • 1757 Four Dissertations, a fifth collection of 4 new essays. [bk, av]
  • 1758 Essays and Treatises on Several Subjects, a new edition, reorganized everything in one volume.
  • [bk, dho]
    • "Essays Part I" contains 26 essays. Essays 1-15 are  from first (1741) collection, essays 16-23 are nine essays (= essays 2, 5-11) from second (1742) collection, essay 24 is one essay (1) from third (1748) collection, and essays 25-26 are two essays (3, 4) from fifth (1757) collection.
    • "Essays Part II" contains 14 essays: Essays 1-12 are from fourth (1752) collection intact, essays 13-14 are two essays (2, 3) from third (1748) collection
    • Remaining two dissertations (1, 2)  from fifth (1757) collection are reproduced as their own parts. ("Dissertation on the Passions", "Natural History of Religion")
    • Older two treatises (1748 Enquiry concerning human understanding, 1751 Enquiry on principles of morals) are reproduced as their own separate parts.
    • Post-printing, included additional insertion of two new essays (6*, 14*).
  • 1760 Essays and Treatises on Several Subjects, split everything into four volumes  [v.1, v.2, v.3, v.4]
    • v.1 = 26 essays (all 26 as arranged in 1758, Part I)
    • v.2, = 16 essays (14 essays as arranged in 1758 Part II plus the two 1758 inserted essays)
    • v.3 =  new eds of 1748 Enq conc. Human Understanding + 1757 Diss on Passions
    • v.4 = new eds. of 1751 Enq on Morals + 1757 Nat Hist Religion
  • 1764 Essays and Treatises on Several Subjects, in two volumes  [v.1, v.2]. 
    • v.1 = "Part I" contains 23 essays (three essays - 3,6 and 7 - from first collection suppressed),  "Part II" contains 16 essays (same as 1760 v.2)
    • v.2 = reproduces the two inquiries (1748, 1751) and the two dissertations of  the fifth (1757) collection.
  • 1767 Essays and Treatises on Several Subjects, (two volumes) [v.1, v.2].  straight reprint of 1764, with no revisions.
  • 1768 Essays and Treatises on Several Subjects, (two volumes) [v.1, v.2] - revised edition (but no structural changes)
  • 1770 Essays and Treatises on Several Subjects (four volumes) [v.1, v.2, v.3, .v.4]
    • v.1  = 22 essays (one essay (13) of first first collection suppressed)
    • v.2  = 16 essays (unchanged)
    • v.3, = unchanged  (enq + diss)
    • v.4 = unchanged (enq + diss)
  • 1772 Essays and Treatises on Several Subjects  (two volumes): [v.1, v.2]
    • v.1,  = Part I  contains 22 essays , Part II contains 16 essays (structure unchanged from 1770)
    • v.2  = unchanged (enq + diss, enq + diss)..
  • 1777 Essays and Treatises on Several Subjects (two volumes) - last version revised by Hume.  [dho1, dho2]
    • v.1  = Part I  contains 23 essays (adds 1 new essay) , Part II contains 16 essays (same as in 1772)
    • v. 2  = unchanged (enq + diss, enq + diss)..
  • David  Hume died in 1776.  The Essays published in 1777 is the last version containing Hume's revisions.  Later posthumous editions usually just straight reprints of the 1777 edition. 

    Posthumous editionsafter 1777

    • 1779 Dublin [v.1, v.2]
    • 1784 London [v.1, v.2]
    • 1788 London [v.1, v.2]
    • 1793 Edinburgh  [v.1, v.2]
    • 1793 Basel [v.1, v.2, v.3, v.4]
    • 1800
    • 1804 Edinburgh [v.1, v.2]
    • 1809 Edinburgh [v.1, v.2]
    • 1817 Edinburgh [v.1, v.2]
    • 1822 London [v.1, v.2]
    • 1825 Edinburgh [v.1, v.2]
    • 1826 The Philosophical Works of David Hume, Edinburgh  (four volumes, complete works).
      • v.1 (Treatise, Bk.1)
      • v.2 (Treatise Bks 2 & 3, Dialogues on Natural Religion)
      • v.3 (Essays)
      • v.4 (Both Enquiries, plus appendix, plus Natural History of Religion, plus previous (withdrawn) essays)  
    • 1875 Green/Grose ed..Essays, Moral, Political and Literary  (two volumes): [1875 v.1, v.2][1882, v.1, v.2], [1889 v.1, v.2; av1, av2] [1898 v.1, v.2; av1, av2] [1907 v.1, v.2]
    • 1987 LibertyClassics edition of Essays Moral, Political and Literary (includes earlier withdrawn essays as Part III)

    Edition Codes

    There are various lists of editions of Hume's Essays depending on authors.

    • The 1826 Edinburgh list (1826: p.4) - codes different than Green-Grose
    • The 1874 list by T.H. Green and T.H. Grose (1874 p.85) - codes different than in 1826
    • The 2003 Thoemmes list by Fieser (2003 p.10, p.24)

    Although the Green-Grose 1874 list is adopted by many, it does not code all the versions.  We added codes "DD", "OO", "QQ", "S" and "T" that were not originally in Green-Grose..

    • A - Essays, Moral and Political. Edinburgh, 1741  [bk]
    • B - Essays, Moral and Political. Second edition, corrected, Edinburgh, 1742
    • C - Essays, Moral and Political, volume II, Edinburgh, 1742
    • D - Essays, Moral and Political, Third edition, London and Edinburgh, 1748
    • DD -  Three Essays, Moral and Political, never before published, which compleats the former edition in two volumes, 1748 (no label in Green-Grose as exact reprint of three new essays of D)
    • E - Philosophical Essays Concerning Human Understanding, London, 1748.[bk]
    • F - Philosophical Essays Concerning Human Understanding, Second edition, with additions and corrections,  London, 1751 [bk]
    • G - An Enquiry Concerning Principles and Morals, 1751..[bk]
    • H - Political Discourses, Edinburgh, 1752
    • I -  Political Discourses, Second edition, 1752 [bk]
    • K - Essays and Treatises on Several Subjects, London & Edinburgh, 1753-56 (four volumes), v.1 (Essays, 1753), v.2 (Understanding, 1756), v.3 (Morals,1753) v.4 (Political, 1754)
    • L - Four Dissertations, London, 1757 [bk]
    • M - Essays and Treatises on Several Subjects, a new edition, London & Edinburgh, 1758 (one volume) [bk]
    • N - Essays and Treatises on Several Subjects, London & Edinburgh, 1760 (four volumes)  [v.1, v.2, v.3, v.4]
    • O - Essays and Treatises on Several Subjects, London & Edinburgh, 1764 (two volumes) [v.1, v.2]
    • OO - Essays and Treatises on Several Subjects, London & Edinburgh, 1767 (two volumes) [v.1, v.2]  (no code label in Green-Grose as exact reprint of 1764 with no revisions)
    • P - Essays and Treatises on Several Subjects, London & Edinburgh, 1768 (two volumes) [v.1, v.2]
    • Q - Essays and Treatises on Several Subjects, London & Edinburgh, 1770 (four volumes) [v.1, v.2, v.3, .v.4]
    • QQ - Essays and Treatises on Several Subjects, London & Edinburgh, 1772 (two volumes): [v.1, v.2] (no code label in Green-Grose as exact reprint of 1770 with no revisions)
    • R - Essays and Treatises on Several Subjects, London & Edinburgh, 1777 (two volumes)  [dho1, dho2]
    • S  - Two Essays, London, 1777.[bk]  (no code label in Green-Grose)
    • T - Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, 1779.(no code label in Green-Grose)

    David Hume's Essays: Moral, Political and Literary

    The breakdown chart belowis based on the 1985 edition of Hume's Essays: Moral, Political and Literary, edited by E.F. Miller and published by Liberty Classics, Indianapolis.

    Its arrangement is based on the 1777 edition of the Essays and Treatises on Several Subjects, vol. 1 (Edinburgh & London).Divided into two parts, the 1777 edition contains in Part I & Part II most of the essays of the original Essays: Moral and Political (1741), Essays vol II (1742), the Three Essays (1748), the Political Discourses (1752), two of the Four Dissertations (1757) plus three new essays ("Of the Jealousy of Trade" and "Of the Coalition of Parties", new in the 1758 ed., and the "On the Origin of Government", new in the 1777 ed).

    The 1985 Liberty Classics edition includes additional section called "Withdrawn and Unpublished Essays" (included at the bottom as Part III). These were essays from earlier editions which were withdrawn in the intermediary editions (1748-1772) of the Essays.  The essays "Of Suicide" and "Immortality of the Soul" were written c.1755-57, and intended to be included as part of the Dissertations, but given their controversial nature, Hume had them withdrawn at the last minute, before they were published.  They remained suppressed until after Hume's death, when they were finally they were published separately (and anonymously) as Two Essays in 1777.  They were included by the Edinburgh publisher as part of the 1825 edition of the Essays.

    Finally, it should be noted that Hume's great treatises, Enquiry concerning Human Understanding (1748), Enquiry on the Principles of Morals (1751) and two additional dissertations, "Dissertation on the Passions" and "Natural History of Religion", although never incorporated as part of the "Essays, Moral, Political, Literary", where nonetheless from 1753 onwards always published together with the Essays as part of the overarching collection known as  Essays and Treatises on Several Subjects.  So for the sake of completeness, we include their editions in the bottom as "Extra".  These are not included in the 1985 Liberty Classics edition. 

    Finally, there were some unpublished manuscripts and scattered pieces that never published as part of Essays, but many editors considered they were intended to be essays or parts of essays, and some editors included them in later posthumous editions as "Unpublished Essays". We include them here as "Unpublished Extra #2".  These are also not included in the 1985 edition.

    The order and numbering of the Essays below are as given in the 1985 edition.  The edition codes (A-R) are as given by Green-Grose (1875), with a few adjustments.

    EssayTitle (1985)Originally Pub.
    (Ed, date, essay no. page)
    NotesRevised EditionsOther links
    Part I     
    (1)"Of the Delicacy of Taste and Passion"(A) 1741, (1), p.1   (K) 1753 (1), p.1
    (M) 1758 (1), p.3
    (N) 1760 (1), p.3
    (O) 1764 (1), p.3
     
    (2)"Of the Liberty of the Press"(A) 1741, (2), p.9 (K) 1753 (2), p.7
    (M) 1758 (2), p.6
    (N) 1760 (2), p.11
    (O) 1764 (2), p.9
     
    (3)"That Politics may be reduced to a Science"(A) 1741, (4)  p.27 (K) 1753 (4), p.20
    (M) 1758 (4), p.11
    (N) 1760 (4), p.25
    (O) 1764 (3), p.15
     
    (4)"Of the First Principles of Government"(A) 1741 (5) p.49 (K) 1753 (5), p.40
    (M) 1758 (5), p.20
    (N) 1760 (5), p.47
    (O) 1764 (4), p.31
    [McM]
    (5)"Of the Origin of Government"(R) 1777 (5)  1826 v.3 (p.37)
    (6)"Of the Independence of Parliament"(A) 1741 (8) p.79 (K) 1753 (8), p.61
    (M) 1758 (8), p.29
    (N) 1760 (8), p.71
    (O) 1764 (5), p.37
     
    (7)"Whether the British Government inclines more to Absolute Monarchy or to a Republic"(A) 1741 (9)  p.93 (K) 1753 (8), p.71
    (M) 1758 (9), p.33
    (N) 1760 (9), p.83
    (O) 1764 (6), p.43
     
    (8)"Of Parties in General"(A) 1741 (10) p.105 (K) 1753 (10), p.79
    (M) 1758 (10), p.36
    (N) 1760 (10), p.93
    (O) 1764 (7), p.51
     
    (9)"Of Parties of Great Britain"(A) 1741 (11)  p.119 (K) 1753 (11), p.90
    (M) 1758 (11), p.41
    (N) 1760 (11), p.107
    (O) 1764 (8), p.61
     
    (10)"Of Superstition and Enthusiasm"(A) 1741 (12) p.141 (K) 1753 (12), p.106
    (M) 1758 (12), p.48|
    (N) 1760 (12), p.125
    (O) 1764 (9), p.75
     
    (11)"Of the Dignity or Meanness of Human Nature"(A) 1741 (14) p.161Original 1741 (A)  title: "Of the Dignity of Human Nature"
    Re-titled 1770 (Q) "Of the Dignity or Meanness of Human Nature"
    (K) 1753 (14), p.120
    (M) 1758 (14), p.53
    (N) 1760 (14), p.141
    (O) 1764 (11), v.88
     
    (12)"Of Civil Liberty"(A) 1741 (15)  p.173Original 1741 (A) title: "Of Liberty and Despotism"
    Re-titled 1758 (M) "Of Civil Liberty"
    (K) 1753 (15), p.129
    (M) 1758 (15), p.57
    (N) 1760 (15), p.151
    (O) 1764 (12), p.97
     
    (13)"Of Eloquence"(C) 1742 (2) (K) 1753 (16), p.140
    (M) 1758  (16) p.62
    (N) 1760 (16), p.165
    (O) 1764 (13), p.107
     
    (14)"Of the Rise and Progress of Arts and Sciences"(C) 1742 (5) (K) 1753 (17), p.159
    (M) 1758 (17) p.70
    (N) 1760 (17), p.187
    (O) 1764 (14), p.123
     
    (15)"The Epicurean" * "-or the man of elegance and pleasure"(C) 1742 (6) (K) 1753 (18), p.198
    (M) 1758 (18) p.86
    (N) 1760 (18), p.231
    (O) 1764 (15), p.155
     
    (16)"The Stoic"  *  "- or the man of action and virtue"(C) 1742 (7) (K) 1753 (19), p.209
    (M) 1758 (19) p.90
    (N) 1760 (19), p.243
    (O) 1764 (16), p.165
     
    (17)"The Platonist" * "- or the man of contemplation and philosophical devotion"(C) 1742 (8) (K) 1753 (20), p.221
    (M) 1758 (20) p.95
    (N) 1760 (20), p.257
    (O) 1764 (17), p.175
     
    (18)"The Skeptic"(C) 1742 (9) (K) 1753 (21), p.226
    (M) 1758 (21) p.97
    (N) 1760 (21), p.263
    (O) 1764 (18), p.181
     
    (19)"Of Polygamy and Divorces"(C) 1742 (10) (K) 1753 (22), p.256
    (M) 1758 (22) p.110
    (N) 1760 (22), p.297
    (O) 1764 (19), p.205
     
    (20)"Of Simplicity and Refinement in Writing"(C) 1742 (11) (K) 1753 (23), p.270
    (M) 1758 (23) p.116
    (N) 1760 (23), p.313
    (O) 1764 (23), p.217
     
    (21)"Of National Characters"(DD) 1748 (1)orig (DD) 1748 Three Essays(D) 1748
    (K) 1753 (24), p.277
    (M) 1758 (24), p.119
    (N) 1760 (24), p.321
    (O) 1764 (21), p.223
     
    (22)"Of Tragedy"(L) 1757 (3) p.185orig. (L) 1757 Four Dissertations(M) 1758 (25), p.129
    (N) 1760 (25), p.349
    (O) 1764 (22), p.243
     
    (23)"Of the Standard of Taste"(L) 1757 (4)  p.203orig. (L) 1757 Four Dissertations(M) 1758 (26), p.134
    (N) 1760 (26), p.363
    (O) 1764 (23), p.253
     
          
    Part II     
    (1)"Of Commerce"(H) 1752 (1) (I) 1752 (1), p.1
    (K) 1754 (1), p.1
    (M) 1758 (1), p.149
    (N) 1760 (1), p.3
    (O) 1764 (1), p.281
     [McM,lib]
    (2)"Of Refinement in the Arts"(H) 1752 (2)original 1752 title "Of Luxury"
    re-titled 1760 (N) "Of Refinement in the Arts"
    (I) 1752 (2), p.23
    (K) 1754 (2), p.20
    (M) 1758 (2), p.157
    (N) 1760 (2), p.25
    (O) 1764 (2), p.297
     
    (3)"Of Money"(H) 1752 (3) (I) 1752 (3) p.41
    (K) 1754 (3), p.36
    (M) 1758 (3) p.164
    (N) 1760 (3), p.43
    (O) 1764 (3), p.311
     [McM,lib]
    (4)"Of the Balance of Trade"(H) 1752 (5) (I) 1752 (5)  p.79
    (K) 1754 (5), p.69
    (M) 1758 (5), p.179
    (N) 1760 (5), p.81 
    (O) 1764 (5), p.341
    [McM,  lib]
    (5)"Of the Jealousy of Trade"(M) 1758  (6*), p.187as additional essay to be inserted to (M) 1758. after printing(M) 1758 (6*), p.187
    (N) 1760 (6), p.105
    (O) 1764 (6), p.361
    [McM , lib]
    (6)"Of Interest"(H) 1752 (4) (I) 1752 (4) p.61
    (K) 1754 (4), p.53
    (M) 1758 (4), p.172
    (N) 1760 (4), p.63 
    (O) 1764 (4), p.327
    [McM, lib]
    (7)"Of the Balance of Power"(H) 1752 (6) (I) 1752 (6) p.101
    (K) 1754 (6), p.89
    (M) 1758 (6), p.187
    (N) 1760 (7), p.111
    (O) 1764 (7), p.367
     
    (8)"Of Taxes"(H) 1752 (7) (I) 1752 (7)  p.115
    (K) 1754 (7), p.100
    (M) 1758 (7), p.192
    (N) 1760 (8), p.125
    (O) 1764 (8), p.377
    [McM, lib] 
    (9)"Of Public Credit"(H) 1752 (8) (I) 1752 (8) p.123
    (K) 1754 (8), p.107
    (M) 1758 (8) p.196
    (N) 1760 (9), p.133
    (O) 1764 (9), p.383
    [McM, moa]
    (10)"Of Some Remarkable Customs"(H) 1752 (9) (I) 1752 (9) p.143
    (K) 1754 (9), p.124
    (M) 1758 (9), p.203
    (N) 1760 (10), p.153
    (O) 1764 (10), p.401
     
    (11)"Of the Populousness of Ancient Nations"(H) 1752 (10) (I) 1752 (10) p.155
    (K) 1754 (10), p.135
    (M) 1758 (10), p.208
    (N) 1760 (11), p.167
    (O) 1764 (11), p.411
     
    (12)"Of the Original Contract"(DD) 1748 (2)orig (DD) 1748 Three Essays(D) 1748
    (K) 1753 (25 of Pt I), p.301
    (M) 1758 (11 of Pt II), p.252
    (N) 1760 (12), p.287
    (O) 1764 (12) p.491
     
    (13)"Of Passive Obedience"(DD) 1748 (3)orig (DD) 1748 Three Essays(D) 1748
    (K) 1753 (26 of Pt. I), p 327
    (M) 1758  (12 of Pt. II) p.263
    (N) 1760 (13), p.317
    (O) 1764 (13), p.513
     
    (14)"Of the Coalition of Parties"(M) 1758 (14*), p.265as additional essay to be inserted to (M) 1758. after printing(M) 1758 (14*), p.265
    (N) 1760 (14) p.323
    (O) 1764 (14), p.517
     
    (15)"Of the Protestant Succession"(H) 1752 (11) (I) 1752 (11) p.263
    (K) 1754 (11), p.235
    (M) 1758 (13), p.265
    (N) 1760 (15), p.337
    (O) 1764 (15), p.527
     
    (16)"Idea of a Perfect Commonwealth"(H) 1752 (12) (I) 1752 (12)  p.281
    (K) 1754 (12), p.250
    (M) 1758 (14), p.271
    (N) 1760 (16), p.355
    (O) 1764 (16), p.539
     
          
     III Withdrawn and Unpublished Essays    
    (1)"Of Essay-Writing"(C) 1742 (1)suppressed 1748 (D) 1826, v.4 (p.538)
    1875, v.2 (p.367)
    (2)"Of Moral Prejudices"(C) 1742 (3)suppressed 1748 (D) 1826 v.4 (p.543)
    1875 v.2, (p.371)
    (3)"Of the Middle Station of Life"(C) 1742 (4)suppressed 1748 (D) 1826 v.4 (p.550)
    1875, v.2  (p.375)
    (4)"Of Impudence and Modesty"(A) 1741 (3) p.19suppressed 1764 (O)(K) 1754 (3), p.14
    (M) 1758 (3), p.9
    (N) 1760 (3), p.19
    1826 v.4 (p.517)
    1875, v.2 (p.380)
    (5)"Of Love and Marriage"(A) 1741 (6) p.59suppressed 1764 (O)(K) 1754 (6), p.47
    (M) 1758 (6), p.23
    (N) 1760 (6), p.55
    1826 v.4 (p.526)
    1875 v.2 (p.383)
    (6)"Of the Study of History"(A) 1741 (7) p.69suppressed 1764 (O)(K) 1754 (7), p.54
    (M) 1758 (7) p.26
    (N) 1760 (7), p.63
    1826 v.4 (p.528)
    1875 v.2 (p.388)
    (7)"Of Avarice"(A) 1741 (13) p.153suppressed 1770 (Q)(K) 1754 (13), p.114
    (M) 1758 (13), p.51
    (N) 1760 (13), p.135
    (O) 1764 (10), p.83
    1826 v.4 (p.533)
    1875 v.2 (p.392)
    (8)"A Character of Sir Robert Walpole"(C) 1742 (12)reduced to footnote 1748 (D)
    suppressed 1770 (Q)
    (M) 1758 fn p.191826 v.3 (p.29)
    1875 v.2 (p.395)
    (9)"Of Suicide"(S) 1777 (1), p.1orig  Five Dissertations (c. 1757, unpub)
    pub. 1777 (S) Two Essays
     1826 v.4 (p.556)
    1875 v.2 (p.406)
    [moa]
    (10)"Of the Immortality of the Soul"(S) 1777 (2), p.25orig Five Dissertations (c.1757, unpub)
    pub. 1777 (S) Two Essays
     1826 v.4 (p.568)
    1875 v.2 (p.399)
    [moa]
          
          
    ExtraTreatises and Dissertations
    (Not considered part of Essays, Moral, Political and Literary,
    but nonetheless almost always published along with them
    as part of Essays and Treatises on Several Subjects)
        
     "Enquiry concerning Human Understanding"(E) 1748 [bk]orig. titled Philosophical Essays concerning Human Understanding
    orig. separate treatise (E) 1748 [bk], (F) 1751  [bk]
    but included with (K) 1756 ETSS onwards.
     
    as ETSS:
    (K) 1756, v.2,
    (M) 1758, p.281
    (N) 1760 v.3
    (O) 1764, v.2, p.1
    1826 v.4 (p.1)
     "Enquiry concerning Principals of Morals"(G) 1751 [bk] Orig. separate treatise (G) 1751.[bk]
    but included with (K) 1753 ETSS, with appendices
    as ETSS:
    (K) 1753, v.3
    (M) 1758  p.395
    (N) 1760 v.4
    (O) 1764 v.2, p.223
    1826 v.4 (p.235)
     "App - Of Self Love"(G) 1751, p.11-22Introduction to Section 2 "On Benevolence" in (G) 1751.
    Moved in (R) 1777 to separate "Appendix II"..
     1826 v.4 (p.378)
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     "App. II - Some farther considerations with regard to Justice"(K) 1753, v.3, p.215Appendix 1I to Enq on Morals in (K) 1753, vol. 3
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     "Descent on the Coast of Brittany in 1746, and the causes of its failure"unpublished ms  1875 v.2 (p.443)
     "Scotticisms"(H) 1752   1826 v.1 (p.cxxiii)
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  • Part II, Essay XIII

    OF PASSIVE OBEDIENCE

    II.XIII.1

    In the former essay, we endeavoured to refute the speculative systems of politics advanced in this nation; as well the religious system of the one party, as the philosophical of the other. We come now to examine the practical consequences, deduced by each party, with regard to the measures of submission due to sovereigns.

    II.XIII.2

    As the obligation to justice is founded entirely on the interests of society, which require mutual abstinence from property, in order to preserve peace among mankind; it is evident, that, when the execution of justice would be attended with very pernicious consequences, that virtue must be suspended, and give place to public utility, in such extraordinary and such pressing emergencies. The maxim, fiat Justitia & ruat CŒlum, let justice be performed, though the universe be destroyed, is apparently false, and by sacrificing the end to the means, shews a preposterous idea of the subordination of duties. What governor of a town makes any scruple of burning the suburbs, when they facilitate the approaches of the enemy? Or what general abstains from plundering a neutral country, when the necessities of war require it, and he cannot otherwise subsist his army? The case is the same with the duty of allegiance; and common sense teaches us, that, as government binds us to obedience only on account of its tendency to public utility, that duty must always, in extraordinary cases, when public ruin would evidently attend obedience, yield to the primary and original obligation. Salus populi suprema Lex, the safety of the people is the supreme law. This maxim is agreeable to the sentiments of mankind in all ages: Nor is any one, when he reads of the insurrections against NEROa or PHILIP the Second, so infatuated with party-systems, as not to wish success to the enterprize, and praise the undertakers. Even our high monarchical party, in spite of their sublime theory, are forced, in such cases, to judge, and feel, and approve, in conformity to the rest of mankind.

    II.XIII.3

    Resistance, therefore, being admitted in extraordinary emergencies, the question can only be among good reasoners, with regard to the degree of necessity, which can justify resistance, and render it lawful or commendable. And here I must confess, that I shall always incline to their side, who draw the bond of allegiance very close, and consider an infringement of it, as the last refuge in desperate cases, when the public is in the highest danger, from violence and tyranny. For besides the mischiefs of a civil war, which commonly attends insurrection; it is certain, that, where a disposition to rebellion appears among any people, it is one chief cause of tyranny in the rulers, and forces them into many violent measures which they never would have embraced, had every one been inclined to submission and obedience. Thus the tyrannicide or assassination, approved of by ancient maxims, instead of keeping tyrants and usurpers in awe, made them ten times more fierce and unrelenting; and is now justly, upon that account, abolished by the laws of nations, and universally condemned as a base and treacherous method of bringing to justice these disturbers of society.

    II.XIII.4

    Besides we must consider, that, as obedience is our duty in the common course of things, it ought chiefly to be inculcated; nor can any thing be more preposterous than an anxious care and solicitude in stating all the cases, in which resistance may be allowed. In like manner, though a philosopher reasonably acknowledges, in the course of an argument, that the rules of justice may be dispensed with in cases of urgent necessity; what should we think of a preacher or casuist, who should make it his chief study to find out such cases, and enforce them with all the vehemence of argument and eloquence? Would he not be better employed in inculcating the general doctrine, than in displaying the particular exceptions, which we are, perhaps, but too much inclined, of ourselves, to embrace and to extend?

    II.XIII.5

    There are, however, two reasons, which may be pleaded in defence of that party among us, who have, with so much industry, propagated the maxims of resistance; maxims, which, it must be confessed, are, in general, so pernicious, and so destructive of civil society. The first is, that their antagonists carrying the doctrine of obedience to such an extravagant height, as not only never to mention the exceptions in extraordinary cases (which might, perhaps, be excusable) but even positively to exclude them; it became necessary to insist on these exceptions, and defend the rights of injured truth and liberty. The second, and, perhaps, better reason, is founded on the nature of the BRITISH constitution and form of government.

    II.XIII.6

    It is almost peculiar to our constitution to establish a first magistrate with such high pre-eminence and dignity, that, though limited by the laws, he is, in a manner, so far as regards his own person, above the laws, and can neither be questioned nor punished for any injury or wrong, which may be committed by him. His ministers alone, or those who act by his commission, are obnoxious to justice; and while the prince is thus allured, by the prospect of personal safety, to give the laws their free course, an equal security is, in effect, obtained by the punishment of lesser offenders, and at the same time a civil war is avoided, which would be the infallible consequence, were an attack, at every turn, made directly upon the sovereign. But though the constitution pays this salutary compliment to the prince, it can never reasonably be understood, by that maxim, to have determined its own destruction, or to have established a tame submission, where he protects his ministers, perseveres in injustice, and usurps the whole power of the commonwealth. This case, indeed, is never expressly put by the laws; because it is impossible for them, in their ordinary course, to provide a remedy for it, or establish any magistrate, with superior authority, to chastise the exorbitancies of the prince. But as a right without a remedy would be an absurdity; the remedy in this case, is the extraordinary one of resistance, when affairs come to that extremity, that the constitution can be defended by it alone. Resistance therefore must, of course, become more frequent in the BRITISH government, than in others, which are simpler, and consist of fewer parts and movements. Where the king is an absolute sovereign, he has little temptation to commit such enormous tyranny as may justly provoke rebellion: But where he is limited, his imprudent ambition, without any great vices, may run him into that perilous situation. This is frequently supposed to have been the case with CHARLES the First; and if we may now speak truth, after animosities are ceased, this was also the case with JAMES the Second. These were harmless, if not, in their private character, good men; but mistaking the nature of our constitution, and engrossing the whole legislative power, it became necessary to oppose them with some vehemence; and even to deprive the latter formally of that authority, which he had used with such imprudence and indiscretion.


    Notes for this chapter


    23.

    [Passive obedience is the doctrine that it is not lawful, under any pretense whatsoever, to take arms against the king or those who act under the king's authority. This doctrine was held, in the seventeenth century, by the court party, and in the eighteenth by a segment of the Tory party. Hume grants that this doctrine should not be followed when doing so would threaten the public safety, but he defends it as a better practical rule, under most circumstances, than the Whig doctrine of resistance. This essay should be compared with Hume's discussion of the same topic in the Treatise, 3.2.9 ("Of the Measures of Allegiance"). In the Treatise, the doctrine of passive obedience is called an "absurdity"; but in this later and more popular treatment of the matter, which was written during or shortly after the Jacobite rising of 1745, Hume takes pains to say nothing that would discredit the salutary principle of obedience to law.]

    24.

    [Locke uses this motto as the epigraph to his Two Treatises of Government. Compare also the beginning of chapter 30 of Hobbes's Leviathan: "The office of the sovereign, be it a monarch or an assembly, consisteth in the end, for which he was trusted with the sovereign power, namely the procuration of the safety of the people. ... But by safety here, is not meant a bare preservation, but also all other contentments of life, which every man by lawful industry, without danger, or hurt to the commonwealth, shall acquire to himself."]

    25.

    [This sentence and the one preceding resemble closely what Hobbes says in the Leviathan about the cause of oppressive rule (see chapter 18, end) and about the ancient Greeks and Romans as the source of the doctrine of tyrannicide (see chapter 29).]

    Part II, Essay XIV

    End of Notes


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