The Key of Liberty (by William Manning, 1798): Excerpt 1

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1. A Description of Mankind & Necessity of government

To search into & know our selves is of the greatest importance, & the want of it is the cause of the greatest evils suffered in Society. If we knew what alterations might be made in our Minds & Conduct by alterations in our Education, age, Circumstances, & Conditions in this Life, we should be vastly less censorious on others for their conduct, & more cautious of trusting them when there was no need of it.

Men are born & grow up in this world with a vast variety of capacities, strength & abilities  both of Body & Mind, & have strongly implanted within them numerous passions & lusts continually urging them to fraud, violence & acts of injustice towards one another. He has implanted in him a sense of Right & Wrong, so that if he would always follow the dictates of Conscience & consider the advantages of Society & mutual assistance he would need no other Law or Government. Yet as he is sentenced by the just decrees of heaven to hard Labor for a Living in this world, & has so strongly implanted in him a desire of Self Support, Self Defense, Self Love, Self Conceit, Self Importance, & Self aggrandizement, that it Engrosses all his care and attention so that he can see nothing beyond Self — for Self (as once described by a Divine) is like an object placed before the eye that hinders the sight of every thing beyond.

This Selfishness may be discerned in all persons, let their conditions in life be what they will, & it operates so powerfully as to disqualify them from judging impartially in their own cause, & a person being raised to stations of high Honor & trust does not clear him from this selfishness. But on the contrary it is a solemn truth that the higher a Man is raised in station of honor, power and trust, the greater are his temptations to do wrong & gratify those selfish principles. Give a man honor & he wants more. Give him power & he wants more. Give him money & he wants more. In short he is never easy but the more he has the more he wants.

The most comprehensive description of Man I ever saw was by a writer as follows: —Viz. — Man is a being made up of Self Love seeking his own happiness to the misery of all around him, who would Damn a world to save himself from temporal or other punishment, & he who denies this to be his real character is ignorant of himself, or else is more than a man.

Many persons were they to hear such a description of themselves would cry out as Hazael did “what, is thy Servant a Dog”, & etc. But if they should once get into the circumstances as he was in, & have the power & temptations he had, they would prove themselves to be just such a Dog as he did. Haman is another striking evidence of the depravity & pride of the human heart, for though he could boast of the highest preferments in the greatest kingdom on Earth, the poor Devil exclaimed “all this avails me nothing so long as Mordecai refuses to bow the knee.”

From this disposition of Man or the depravity of the human heart, arises not only the advantage but the absolute necessity of civil government — without it Mankind would be continually at war on their own species, stealing, roving, fighting with & killing one another. This all Nations on Earth have been convinced of, and have established it in some form or other, & their sole aim in doing it is their safety & happiness. But for want of wisdom or some plan to curb the ambition & govern those to whom they gave power, they have often been brought to suffer as Much under their governments as they would without any — and it still remains uncertain whether any such plan can be found out or not.

8:46 am on December 27, 2012