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CHAP. V.

Of the duties of subjects in general.

I. ACCORDING to the plan we have laid down, we must here treat of the duties of subjects. Puffendorf has given us a clear and distinct idea of them, in the last chapter of his Duties of a Man and a Citizen. We shall follow him step by step.

II. The duties of subjects are either general or particular; and both flow from their state and condition.

III. All subjects have this in common, that they live under the same sovereign and the same government, and that they are members of the same state. From these relations the general duties arise.

IV. But as they have different employments, enjoy different posts in the state, and follow different professions; hence also arise their particular duties.

V. It is also to be observed, that the duties of subjects suppose and include those of man, considered simply as such, and as a member of human society in general.

VI. The general duties of subjects have, for their object, either the governors of the state, or the whole body of the people, viz. their country, or the individuals among their fellow subjects.

VII. As to sovereigns and governors of the state, every subject owes them that respect, fidelity, and obedience, which their character demands. Hence it follows, that we ought to be contented with the present government, and to form no cabals nor seditions, but to be attached to the interest of the reigning prince more, than to that of any other person; to pay him honor, to think favorably of him, and to speak with respect of him and his actions. We ought even to have a veneration for the memory of good princes, &c.

VIII. With respect to the whole body of the state, a good subject makes it his rule to prefer the public welfare to every thing else, bravely to sacrifice his fortune, and his private interests, and even his life, for the preservation of the state; and to employ all his abilities and his industry to advance the honor, and to procure the advantage of his native country.

IX. Lastly the duty of a subject to his fellow subjects consists in living with them, as much as he possibly can, in peace and strict union, in being mild, complaisant, affable, and obliging to each of them, in creating no trouble by a rude or litigious behaviour, and bearing no envy or prejudice against the happiness of others, &c.

X. As to the particular duties of subjects, they are connected with the particular employments, which they follow in society. We shall here lay down some general rules in regard to this matter.

1. A subject ought not to aspire after any public employment, nor even to accept of it, when he is sensible, that he is not duly qualified for it. 2. He ought not to accept of more employments, than he can discharge. 3. He should not use unlawful means to obtain public offices. 4. It is even sometimes a kind of justice not to seek after certain employments, which are not necessary to us, and which may be as well filled by others, for whom they are perhaps more adapted. 5. He ought to discharge the several functions of the employments he has obtained, with the utmost application, exactness, and fidelity.

XI. Nothing is more easy, than to apply these general maxims to the particular employments of society, and to draw inferences proper to each of them; as for instance, with respect to ministers and counsellors of state, ministers of religion, public professors, magistrates and judges, officers in the army and soldiers, receivers of taxes, ambassadors, &c.

XII. The particular duties of subjects cease with the public charges, whence they arise. But as to the general duties, they subsist so long, as a person remains subject to the state. Now a man ceases to be a subject principally three ways. 1. When he goes to settle elsewhere. 2. When he is banished from a country for some crime and deprived of the rights of a subject. 3. And lastly when he is reduced to a necessity of submitting to the dominion of a conqueror.

XIII. It is a right inherent in all free people, that every man should have the liberty of removing out of the commonwealth, if he thinks proper. In a word, when a person becomes member of a state, he does not thereby renounce the care of himself and his own private affairs. On the contrary, he seeks a powerful protection, under the shelter of which he may procure to himself both the necessaries and the conveniences of life. Thus the subjects of a state cannot be denied the liberty of settling elsewhere, in order to procure those advantages, which they do not enjoy in their native country.

XIV. On this occasion there are however certain maxims of duty and decency, which cannot be dispensed with.

1. In general a man ought not to quit his native country without the permission of his sovereign. But his sovereign ought not to refuse it him, without very important reasons.

2. It would be contrary to the duty of a good subject to abandon his native country at an unseasonable juncture, and when the state has a particular interest, that he should stay at home.[1]

3. If the laws of the country have determined any thing in this point, we must be determined by them; for we have consented to those laws in becoming members of the state.

XV. The Romans forced no person to continue under their government, and Cicero[2] highly commends this maxim, calling it the surest foundation of liberty, "which consists in being able to preserve or renounce our right, as we think proper."

XVI. Some propose this question, whether subjects can go out of the state in great companies? In this point Grotius and Puffendorf are of opposite sentiments.[3] As for my own part, I am of opinion, that it can hardly happen, that subjects should go out of the state in large companies, except in one or other of these two cases; either when the government is tyrannical, or when a multitude of people cannot subsist in the country; as when manufacturers, for example, or other tradesmen, cannot find the means of making or distributing their commodities. Under these circumstances, the subjects may retire if they will, and they are authorized so to do by virtue of a tacit exception. If the government be tyrannical, it is the duty of the sovereign to change his conduct; for no subject is obliged to live under tyranny. If misery forces them to remove, this is also a reasonable exception against the most express engagements, unless the sovereign furnishes them with the means of subsistence. But, except in those cases, were the subjects to remove in great companies, without a cause, and by a kind of general desertion, the sovereign may certainly oppose their removal, if he finds that the state suffers great prejudice by it.

XVII. A man ceases to be a subject of the state, when he is forever banished, in punishment for some crime. For the moment, that the state will not acknowledge a man to be one of its members, but drives him from its territories, he is released from his engagements as a subject. The civilians call this punishment a civil death. But it is evident that the state, or sovereign, cannot expel a subject from their territories whenever they please, unless he has deserved it by the commission of some crime.

XVIII. Lastly a man may cease to be a subject by the superior force of an enemy, by which he is reduced to a necessity of submitting to his dominion; and this necessity is founded on the right, which every man has to take care of his own preservation.


1. See Grotius on the Right of War and Peace, book ii. chap. 17. § 24.

2. O excellent and divine laws, enacted by our ancestors in the beginning of the Roman empire — Let no man change his city against his will, nor let him be compelled to stay in it. These are the surest foundations of our liberty, that every one should have it in his power either to preserve or relinquish his right. Orat. pro L. Corn. Balb. cap. 13. adde Leg. 12. sect. 9. Digest. de cap. diminat. et postlim. lib. 49. tit. 15.

3. See Grotius, ubi supra, and Puffendorf of the Law of Nature and Nations, book viii. chap. xi. § 4.


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