I Am An American, And I Had A Dream About A Man In 1776
He was writing something
I dreamt of this gentleman who wrote about our society and government in February 1776. In my dream, I could not see all the words on the paper, but they were as vivid as if I had written them myself.
The following morning I jumped out of bed, grabbed a pen and paper, and tried to write down his words as best as I could remember. Here’s what I wrote.
Some people have so confounded society with the government that they fail to recognise the difference between the two. Our wants produce society; our wickedness produces government.
Society promotes our happiness positively by uniting our affections; the government does it negatively by restraining our vices. The one encourages interaction; the other creates divisions: the first a patron, the other a punisher.
Society in every state of its existence is a blessing, but government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state, an intolerable one; for when we suffer or are exposed to the same miseries by a government, which we might expect in a country without government, our calamity is heightened by reflecting that we furnish how we suffer.
Government is the badge of lost innocence; the palaces of kings are built on the ruins of the bowers of paradise. For were the impulses of conscience clear, uniform, and irresistibly obeyed, man would need no other lawgiver; but that not being the case, he finds it necessary to surrender up a part of his property to furnish means for the protection of the rest. This he is induced to do by the same prudence which in every other case advises him out of two evils to choose the least.
To gain a clear and just idea of the design and end of government, let us suppose a small number of persons settled in some sequestered part of the earth, unconnected with the rest; they will then represent the first people of any country or the world. In this state of natural liberty, society will be their first thought.
A thousand motives will excite them to it; the strength of one person is so unequal to their wants, and his mind so unfitted for perpetual solitude that he is soon obliged to seek assistance and relief of another, who in his turn…