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The natural right of Self-Defence. Appeal to Society for redress of Wrongs.
-Neither Society nor an individual may take vengeance for a Wrong-But
HUMAN RIGHTS AND THEIR POLITICAL GUARANTIES.
THE ORIGIN OF HUMAN RIGHTS.
SINCE the period of the Revolution, scarcely an attempt has been made by any of our citizens to show the origin, and to define the extent, of human rights. The Declaration of 1776 contained several broad assertions upon this subject, favoring human equality, and the sanctity of natural rights ; but did not attempt much more than to assert the sacred inviolability of human life, liberty, and happiness.
A celebrated political writer of that period discussed at some length the rights of man in opposition to the principles of the British Constitution ; but he rather combated error than asserted truth; and while he demolished, by his arguments, the structure of European governments, his Essay fell short of establishing the rights which he defended upon the sure foundation of natural truth. He was not armed with the true philosophy of mind.
While the Constitution of the United States was undergoing discussion prior to its adoption, the Essays of “The Federalist” were presented to the American people by three of the most eminent men of the day ;--and this masterly work contains the only true and complete defence and exposition of the principles of Republicanism, which has ever fallen from an American pen.
But these Essays, excellent as they are universally considered to be, fall short of affording a complete political philos. phy; since, supposing them to be well grounded upon natural truth, they discuss only the powers of the General Government, which are limited ; and omit altogether the subject of State legislation, which immediately affects and controls the most important rights of the citizen.
During the half century now past, what discoveries have we made in the principles of legislation? What have we done toward the establishment of wise and just laws, and in the maintenance of their stability ? Do we not pass laws and repeal them ?—and condemn to-day what we sanctioned yesterday? Is the American legislator grounded upon any philosophy of mind ? Does he know the certain nature of the beings whom he binds by the laws? And are those laws in harmony with the law of their nature ?
These are questions of grave importance to the American people, and concern both individual happiness and our national existence. For it is the destiny of every government which outrages humanity, to fall; and the truly great and noble are the first to transgress unjust laws-faithful as they ever are to their higher allegiance and better destiny.
The duty of the legislator is simply to conform to natural truth. He is the mere “minister and expositor of nature.” If Infinite Goodness has ordained the employment of the human faculties for the attainment of happiness, and invited their activity by surrounding them with the means of employment and gratification, human wisdom has but one work to perform, and that is, to reduce the means of happiness to possession according to the natural design. Man, then, must know himself, and his true relation to his fellow-men and to external nature. All truth becomes natural truth-all rights, natural rightsmand all wrongs, natural wrongs. Our business is to perceive, not to create. Man makes not good nor evil. He cannot confer rights, nor create wrongs. He can only sanction and forbid in consonance with the natural laws.
“Those rights,” says Sir William Blackstone, “which God and Nature have established, and are therefore called natural rights, such as are life and liberty, need not the aid of human laws to be more effectually invest