Images de page

emanates, with the same titles, from another individual conscience.

If every idea is just and true, because it is, it follows that an idea which excludes another is an evil and an error, inasmuch as it is a denial of another idea equally just.

It also follows, that every exclusion and negation in relative ideas is more or less a denial of the Absolute Truth, the universal Conciliator, and is more or less autotheism.

And also, that evil, error and injustice are that by which sentiments, thoughts, wills and acts contradict one another, exclude and deny one another, either in each man, or in the many; and that goodness, truth, and justice are that by which sentiments, thoughts, wills and acts unite and harmonize.

And lastly, to arrive at the complete, universal, absolute verity, we must admit, without any exclusion, every determination of private judgment; not to eliminate one by the other, but, on the contrary, to conciliate all; and that conciliation is impossible, without the admission of an Ideal.



"Omnia quæ sunt de jure naturæ sunt a Deo ut auctore naturæ."-SUAREZ.

Right and its relation to Liberty—difficulty in defining Right—Is right a

rational or a sentimental verity ?-Difficulty of establishing it on a rational basis--attempt of Hobbes—of Spinoza—of Grotius—of Kantof Krause-confusion between right and will or force-Right based on duty-a sentimental verity-Liberty alienable and inalienable—Right the faculty of realizing our nature-Possibility of alienating our rightConsequences which flow from the admission of the dogmatic basis of right-1. All rights are equal—2. All infringement of rights is immoral—3. All primitive rights are inalienable—4. Primary rights are not mutually antagonistic—The primary rights of Man-1. The right of personal freedom-2. of good reputation—3. of liberty of conscience4. of expressing his convictions—5. of appropriation-All these rights dogmatic.


NHE idea of Right requires that of Liberty to complete

it. Liberty, if not the synonym of right, is, at least, the faculty of exercising it.

If I am able to lift my arm, I have an inherent right to lift it; if I have a right to live, I demand liberty to enable me to acquire the food necessary to sustain life.

If there be an axiom evident to all, it is this, that liberty is a first necessity of existence. It is the privilege of all organized beings. It extends even to the plants, whose locomotion is purely vegetative. Because I feel that I can move, I act; because I feel that I can transport myself from place to place, I walk. As organisms become more perfect, a larger field of liberty opens to them. In that part of the world of nature not endowed with animal life, there is no margin for oscillation, the eclipses of sun and moon may be calculated to a minute for ten thousand years, the return of a comet is fatal. In the animal world there is a small margin for oscillation; the ostrich buries her eggs in the sand, where “the foot may crush them, or the wild beast may break them,” as foolishly now as in the days of Job; the hee will make her six-sided cell with the same precision and geometrical economy of space and material as did her ancestors in remote ages; and as Philomel sang under the poplar-shades in Virgil's time she sings now, without an additional trill or jug.

But man has a larger orbit and a farther swing; he does now what he was unable to do in ages past; he can speak his mind without having his ears cropped, and can worship God as he chooses without incurring deportation.

Liberty, I know, has been denied, and man has been subjected by certain philosophers to a necessity which divests him of a particle of freedom, and with freedom he loses his rights. He becomes an automaton, the slave of a fatal despotism, a beast, nay worse—a stone.

I have no intention of arguing for liberty, because I believe it to be an irrational verity, one which must be assumed, and which can never be demonstrated. Every one, the veriest sceptic included, believes in liberty, and believes in it naturally and invincibly. He cannot emancipate himself from the belief that he has a power of option between two courses of action, though he may have created a system in which he has demonstrated that liberty is impossible.

In its origin the idea of right is so simple, so humble, one may say, that philosophers have gone elsewhere for its explanation.

Right is difficult of definition, and this points it out to be a primary verity, or, at least, almost a primary truth. Every one believes he has a right to personal freedom, to nourish his body, and to educate his mind; but he cannot explain to you what he means, when he uses the term. He may tell you that he demands liberty to exercise his right, that is, the faculty of doing what he is convinced is necessary, without let or hindrance. But liberty is not right. He may be deprived of his liberty, but not of his right; that is inherent. He has a right to worship his God with cobwebs and dirt, if he believes Him to be an ideal of ugliness; and he has a right to worship Him with incense and lights, if he believes Him to be an ideal of beauty; despotism may interfere to sweep away his cobwebs and dirt, or to extinguish his incense and light, but the right to worship God as he thinks proper remains untouched.

Is Right a rational or a sentimental verity? That is, can right be demonstrated by pure reason, or does it repose on a dogma, and fall, therefore, under the head of an irrational truth?

I believe it to be the latter.

If we want to establish right upon an enduring basis, and this is a first necessity, for from it flow all moral obligations and political duties, we must find an immutable principle of universal application.

This is what every philosopher has failed to effect. A very brief survey of the various theories of right that have been propounded will make this apparent.

Hobbes laid down that man, naturally, has a right to everything; that his will is the criterium of right, and that its law is utility; but inasmuch as the exercise of his will may react to his own disadvantage, inan is obliged to restrain his will and modify his liberty, to obtain permanent happiness. For instance, a man covets his neighbour's house, he has a perfect right to turn his neighbour out and to take it to himself; but, if he act thus, there is no security for his own property; therefore he refrains from the exercise of his right in consideration of ultimate advantage.

It is obvious that, according to this utilitarian doctrine, self-interest is the basis of social and political morality, if that can be called morality which is a negation of duty. There is no obligation. Every man is a supreme law to himself.

Hobbes erred in this; he mistook will for right. Selfinterest is not a right, it is the negation of right. Because David lusts after Uriah's wife, he has no right to lie with Bathsheba, and to slay Uriah with the sword of the children of Ammon.

As self-interest is the negation of right, it is also the negation of morality. If utility constitute my criterium of right, I may keep or violate my oath as my judgment deems expedient. If I am certain to escape detection, I may escape to America with the banker's strong-box. I have a right to do whatsoever I like within the limits of possibility, and everything is possible which is not contradictory; consequently the field of liberty is infinite.

But if right be the same thing as will, the strongest will is the strongest right, and power is the measure of right. Nebuchadnezzar has a right to throw the three children into a fiery furnace if they will not bow down to his golden image, and Madame de Pompadour has a right to rob Latude of the best years of his life, and condemn him to be devoured by hunger and vermin, because he has called

« PrécédentContinuer »