46. Salem Mercury, 6 November 1787

LAWS

have a near connexion with manners, and thereby a great influence on government, independently of their direct support of it. Want, or bad execution, of important laws renders people licentious, and by a longer continuance impatient of all rule and order. Needless severity is inconsistent with a free, generous government; but injudicious mildness is far more dangerous, where the people have an overdriven sense of liberty. Instability of laws creates a diffidence in the wisdom or integrity of government; and prevents or destroys habits, which on the generality of men have a greater effect than clear sense, and sometimes pressing interest. Multiplicity of laws is also the work of a weak legislature, as a bungling architect encumbers a building with materials which weaken and disfigure it. It is a great art to make preventing laws—that is, such as cut off at the root those evils, which, if suffered to grow, produce an hundred laws, numberless lawsuits, many punishments, and endless trouble. Laws ought by all means to inforce those political virtues, which are the pillars of the constitution—These are in America, integrity, benevolence, sincerity, and a degree of generosity: If the United States will not do reciprocal justice; and warmly promote the common weal; all is lost—If they cannot generously despise occasional temptations of a separate interest; if they cannot confide in each other; and to a certain degree have an implicit faith in a federal government—the union will at least be jarring, difficult, liable to danger, and far less happy. The laws should therefore be pointed with peculiar care against every kind of dishonesty & fraud; against licentiousness in general, but especially that kind which breaks out into acts of cowardly deception, and mean selfishness.