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In aid of this principle, and subservient to it, nature has provided us with another which is innocent and useful when properly regulated. This is what we call anger or resentment. *When we are hurt nature disposes us to resist and retaliate. Besides the pain occasioned by the injury, the mind is ruffled, and a desire raised to retaliate upon its authour. This principle is both defensive and offensive. It prompts us not only to place ourselves in a posture of defence ; but, as offensive arms are often the surest means of defence, by deterring the enemy from the assault, so resentment leads us to go beyond ourselves and strike terrour into the assailant by threatening him with retaliation. Man, in his present stage, is surrounded with so many objects of a destructive nature, that he needs some armour which shall be always ready in the moment of danger. Reason would be of great use for this purpose where there is time to apply it. But in many cases the mischief would be done before reason could think of the means of prevention. To supply this defect the wisdom of nature has provided this principle of resentment, which prevents mis
• Reid's Essays. VOL. II.
chief by the fear of punishment, which is a kind of penal statute, promulgated by nature, the execution of which is committed to the one who is threatened.
It is evident, however, that as it is unjust to do an injury, so it is no less unjust to punish it beyond measure; for there the parties change sides, and the injured become the injurious. To prevent excessive resentment nature has provided us with no means but the candour and reflection of the injured party, and the fear of a renewed resentment from the person who originally did the injury. These, howéver, are very imperfect remedies. Nothing can be more evident than that a man is a very unfit judge in his own cause, especially when inflamed by resentment and smarting under injury. However clear might be our right in a state of nature to redress our own wrongs, yet in a state of social union, this right with many others is surrendered into the hands of the magistrate who is charged with the execution of the laws. Nor could the rights of individuals be more secure than when placed under the protection of the united force of the society, nor more impartially adjusted than by indifferent and unprejudiced men. Hence
the law considers him as guilty of a crime who, of his own private act, injures another even in retaliation for wrongs received. For if we are assisted in the maintenance and recovery of our rights by the general strength of the community, it is but reasonable that we should wait for publick arbitration,
And this rule is not only founded in equity, but in absolute necessity. For if individuals were permitted to indulge their resentment, and to seek redress of injuries with their own arm, the safety, nay the very existence of society would be at an end. Resentment is a passion which indulgence has a peculiar tendency to increase. Give it the reins and it becomes ungovernable. The beginning of strife is as when one letteth out water; as coals are to burning coals, or as wood to fire, so are contentious men to kindle strife. No one can say of resentment, hitherto shalt thou
go and no farther. The impetuosity of passion hurries us inevitably beyond the limits we prescribed to ourselves, and the flames of dissension being kindled, the spirit of retaliation yearns for mutual destruction. In this pro gress of variance and strife, the original injury is altogether lost sight of, the passions of
others, who may be connections or friends of either party, draw them also into the vortex of contention. Families, cities and nations are placed against each other in hostile array, and society is converted into a scene of blood. shed and disorder.
It is therefore a first principle of the social compact, as well as a maxim of religion, that no individualshould take it upon him to avenge himself. The law declares vengeance is mine, I will repay
it. He therefore transgresses the first principle of equity, who when he receives an injury of whatever kind seeks redress in his own person.
One man injures another in his property, by detaining from him a debt which is justly due.
Does the injured party go and seize the goods or property of the party who commits the injury, and repay himself. Such a proceeding every man of common sense knows to be incompatible with the existence of law and of society. How comes it then that a similar method of proceeding in the case of an infringement of any other right does not appear equally unjustifiable and absurd. How comes it that when our honour or reputation is injured, we not only omit to seek redress from the fountain of justice, but even deem it pu
sillanimous so to do, and, in violation of the first duty of a good member of society, take satisfaction ourselves by calling forth the person who did the wrong to single combat: Herein we act more unjustifiably than our barbarous ancestors, from whom the unhappy practice descends.' The duel constituted a part of their publick administration of justice. It was solemny and judicially appointed by the magistrate to assist him in deciding the merits of a
We cannot sufficiently pity the ignorance and superstition which gave rise to such a practice. Unacquainted however with the rules of evidence, in deciding causes, and imagining that the deity would interpose for the safety of the innocent, their conduct
in this point of view admit of some excuse. But we, in cases where the evidence is clear, where the law is ready to pronounce its sentence, grossly insult the majesty of the state, usurp the power of the magistrate, and defeat one of the principle ends of the social union, which was instituted to restrain the excess of resentment, by demanding private satisfaction for injuries offered to our honour.
Here indeed it may be said that there certainly are cases where the law of nature permits a person to redress his own wrongs without