Aspiration for Reformation with Deliberation: David Hume on British Parties
David Hume (1711-1776) deeply concerned struggles of parties in Britain, participating in the debate with his empiricism and skepticism, and trying to comment principles of parties, forming moderate and eclectic consensus, reconciling intensive antagonism and bigotry between parties. His primary motive to write The History of England was to retrospect the phenomena of parties. In the mechanism of mind of Hume’s science of human nature, reason is nothing but the association of ideas, only passions would stimulate volition and bring about action, and belief which comes from custom is the reason why people act. The importance of the analysis of mechanism of mind is to point out how to let it work regularly in order to serve the interest of human beings. Hume applied this theory into the analysis of parties. In his classification, the most crucial ones are the parties hostile in political principles and affection to royal families. The controversy of parties originates in the institution of Britain which merged monarchial and republican ingredients which necessarily derives royalist court party and anti-monarchy country party; the Tory and Whig party which originated in the Exclusion Crisis had above-mentioned ingredients and appended affection to particular royal families; the clash of Glorious Revolution shows that the ruling ingredient of Tory party is affection to House of Stuart and that of Whig party is the aspiration for liberty. In the debate of political principles, Hume concerned the essential of government, the distribution of power within constitution and the succession mostly. About the essential of government, Hume maintains that the office of government is to serve to protect the rules of justice necessary to society; most governments originate not in the consent of people but wars between societies, which were built through conquest and usurpation, and attain subjects’ attachment through custom, hence people can’t presume sovereignty in people to overthrow them. About the distribution of power within constitution he maintain that the ancient constitution is nothing but a excuse to deprive the king of his power without historical foundation; the mixed government after the Glorious Revolution is the best constitution, the corruption attacked by the country party is necessary means to hold the authority of kings. About succession he considers Catholicism of House of Stuart and de facto settlement of Hannover family hence declares to support the latter; affection to particular royal family is only meaningless bigotry in his view, if only a government protects the rules of justice, it has legitimacy. This shows that Hume’s stance in politics is an apologist of Hanoverian establishment. Hume thought the opposition between parties comes from the persecution milieu of Christianity, hence his criticism extend to cultural crisis, namely the phenomena of religion which distort regular function of mechanism of mind. Hume’ prescription is his mitigated and practical skepticism which questions a prior ability to construct institutions, and he holds that the efficacy can only be affirmed and tested through time and experience, hence reformation could only be based on experience and tests, slowly adjustment alongside custom in order to change political belief. His conservatism just comes from his insight that human beings are the product of experience and custom.
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