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Chapter I

Mankind is fitted for Society, and for Civil Government and Laws.

§1. Mankind are social beings. They are by nature fitted for society. By this, we mean that they are naturally disposed to associate with each other. Indeed, such is their nature, that they could not be happy without such association. Hence we conclude that the Creator has designed men for society. It can not, therefore, be true, as some say, that the savage state is the natural state of man.

§2. Man is so formed that he is dependent upon his fellow men. He has not the natural strength of other animals. He needs the assistance of creatures like himself to protect and preserve his own being. We can hardly imagine how a person could procure the necessaries of life without such assistance. But men have the gifts of reason and speech. Through conversation, they are enabled to improve their reason and increase their knowledge and find methods of supplying their wants, and of improving their social condition.

§3. But, although men need the assistance of each other, they are so formed that each must have the care of himself. If every man were fed and clothed from a common store, provided by the labor of all, many, depending upon the labor of others, would be less industrious than they now are. By the present arrangement in society, which obliges every man to provide for his own wants, more is earned, a greater number are cared for, and the general welfare is better promoted than would be done if each labored for the benefit of all.

§4. From this arrangement comes the right of property. If each man's earnings should go into a common stock for the use of all, there would be nothing that anyone could call his own. But if each is to provide for himself, he must have a right to use and enjoy the fruits of his own labor.

§5. But all men in society have the same rights. Therefore, in laboring to supply our wants, and to gratify our desires, we can not rightfully do so any further than is consistent with the rights of others. Hence we see the necessity of some established rules for securing to every member of society the free enjoyment of what justly belongs to him, and for regulating his conduct toward his fellow members.

§6. These rules for regulating the social actions of men are called laws. _Law_, in a general sense, is a rule of action and is applied to all kinds of action. But in its limited and proper sense, it denotes the rules of human action prescribing what men are to do, and forbidding what they are not to do.

§7. We have seen that man is fitted for society, and that laws are necessary to govern the conduct of men in the social state. We see also that mankind is fitted by nature for government and laws. Man is also a moral being. The word _moral_ has various significations. Sometimes it means only virtuous, or just; as, a moral man; that is, a man of moral character, or who lives a moral life; by which is meant that the conduct of the man is just and right.

§8. But in a wider sense, the word moral relates to the social actions of men, both right and wrong. Thus, in speaking of the character of a man, we say, his morals are good, or his morals are bad. And of an action, we say, it is morally right, or it is morally wrong. Man's having a moral nature implies that he has a sense of right and wrong, or at least the power or faculty of acquiring it; and, being a moral agent, he is accountable for his actions.

§9. Thus we have seen that men are social, reasonable, and moral beings. They have the power to discern their own wants and the wants of their fellow men; to perceive what is right and what is wrong, and to know that they ought to do what is right and to forbear to do what is wrong. Their reason enables them to understand the meaning of laws, and to discover what laws are necessary to regulate the social actions of men. Hence we conclude that they are fitted and designed for society, and for government and law.

§10. The youngest reader probably knows, that in speaking of society, we do not refer to any of those associations usually called societies, but to _civil_ society, composed of the people of a state or nation. A _nation_, or _state_, is a large number of persons united under some form of government; such as the French nation; the British nation; the state of New York; or the state of Virginia. Sometimes it signifies the ruling or governing power of a state or nation, as, the state has provided for educating its citizens, and for supporting the poor.

§11. The object of the people in forming a state association, or, as is sometimes said, of entering into civil society, is to promote their mutual safety and happiness. In uniting for this purpose, they agree to be governed by certain established rules and principles; and the governing of the people of a state or nation according to these rules, is called _civil government_. The word _government_ also signifies the rules and principles themselves by which the people are governed; and sometimes the persons who administer the government--that is those who make the laws of a state and carry them into effect--are called _the government_.

 

Chapter II.

Rights and Liberty, defined.

§1. We have spoken of the rights of men, and of laws as designed to secure to men the free enjoyment of their rights. But a more particular definition of rights and laws will be useful to young persons just commencing the study of civil government.

§2. A _right_ means ownership, or the just claim or lawful title which a person has to anything. What we have acquired by honest labor or other lawful means, is rightfully our own; and we are justly entitled to the free use and enjoyment of it. We have a right also to be free in our actions. We may go where we please, and do whatever we think necessary for our own safety and happiness; provided we do not trespass upon the rights of others; for it must be remembered that others have the same rights as ourselves.

§3. The rights here mentioned are _natural_ rights. They are so called because they are ours by nature or by birth, and they can not be justly taken from us or alienated. Hence they are also called _inalienable_. We may, however, forfeit them by some offense or crime. If, for example, a man is fined for breaking a law, he loses his right to the money he is obliged to pay. By stealing, he forfeits his liberty and may be justly imprisoned. By committing murder, he forfeits his right to life and maybe hanged.

§4. Rights are also called personal, political, civil, and religious. _Personal rights_, or the _rights of person_, are rights belonging to persons as individuals, and consist of the right of _personal security_, or the right to be secure from injury to our bodies, or persons, or our good names; the right of _personal liberty_, or the liberty of moving, acting, or speaking without unjust restraint; and the _right of property_, or the right to acquire and enjoy property. The terms _rights of person_ and _rights of persons_, or _personal rights_, have not the same meaning. The rights of a person, as the term is generally used, does not include the right of property; personal rights include both the right of property and the rights of a person.

§5. _Political rights_ are those which belong to the people in their political capacity. The word _political_, in a general sense, relates to government. The whole body of the people united under one government is called the political body, or body politic. The right of the people to choose and establish for themselves a form of government, or constitution, and the right to elect persons to make and execute the laws, are political rights. The right of voting in elections is therefore a political right.

§6. _Civil rights_ are those which are secured to the citizens by the laws of the state. Some make no distinction between civil rights and political rights. In a proper sense--that in which the terms are here used--there is this difference: political rights are those secured by the political or fundamental law, called the constitution; civil rights are more properly those which are secured by the civil or municipal laws. The difference will more clearly appear from the definition elsewhere given of the political and civil laws. (Chap. III. §5, 6.)

§7. _Religious rights_ consist of the right of a man to make known and maintain his religious opinions, and to worship God in that way and manner which he believes in his conscience to be most acceptable to his Maker. This right is called also the _right of conscience_. But in exercising this right, a man may not abuse it by violating the rights of others or disturbing the peace and order of society.

§8. Now, although human rights are thus divided into classes and differently defined, they are all natural rights. It is generally held in this country as a truth, that "all men are created equal;" that is, born with the same rights. And if men, as social and moral beings, are fitted by _nature_ and designed for government and laws, we conclude that their political, civil, and religious rights, and all other rights to which they are entitled by the law of nature, are natural rights.

§9. _Liberty_ is being free to exercise and enjoy our rights, and is called natural, political, civil, or religious, according to the particular class of rights referred to. Thus the exercise of rights guaranteed by the constitution or political law is called political liberty. The free enjoyment of rights secured by civil or municipal laws is called civil liberty. And freedom of religious opinion and worship is called religious liberty.

§10. Hence liberty itself is a natural right. The words _right_ and _liberty_, however, do have not the same meaning. We may have a right to a thing when we do have not the liberty of using it. John has a pencil which is justly his own, but James takes it from him by force. John's liberty to enjoy the use of his pencil is lost, but his right to it remains. James has no right to the use of the pencil, though he enjoys the use of it.

§11. This example serves also to explain further the use of the different terms applied to rights and liberty. John's right to his pencil, being guaranteed to him by the laws of civil society, is a _civil_ right. It is with equal propriety called a _natural_ right, because, by the law of nature, he has a right to the use of his pencil.

 

Chapter III.

Laws, defined.

§1. Law has been briefly defined. (Chap. 1. §6.) As in the case of rights and liberty, laws are distinguished by different names; the law of nature, or natural law; the moral law; the law of revelation, or revealed law; the political law; the civil or municipal law.

§2. The _law of nature_, is of the highest possible authority, being established by the supreme Lawgiver himself. It is called the law of nature, because it is right in itself--right in the nature of things, and ought to be obeyed, though no positive command had ever been given to men. It is a perfect rule of rights for all moral and social beings. It is that eternal rule of right to which God himself conforms.

§3. The law of nature, as a rule of human action, arises out of man's relation to his Maker and to his fellow men. As a creature, he must be subject to the laws of his Creator, on whom he depends. He is also in a measure dependent upon his fellow beings. All being created equal, each is bound by the principles of natural justice to render to others that assistance which is necessary to make them as happy as himself, or which they justly owe to him in return.

§4. The _moral law_ is that which prescribes to men their duties to God and to each other. As a rule of human conduct, therefore, it corresponds exactly to the law of nature. The moral law is briefly expressed in the decalogue or ten commandments and is still more briefly summed up in the two great commandments, to love God with all our heart and to love our neighbor as ourselves. God being its author, it is called the _divine law_; and, being found in the Holy Scriptures, in which his will is revealed to mankind, it is called the _revealed law_, or _law of revelation_.

§5. _Political law_, as has been observed, is that system or form of fundamental rules, called the constitution, by which the people in their political capacity, or as a body politic, agree to be governed. The nature of this law will more clearly appear from a more particular definition of a constitution, and from a description of the manner in which a constitution is made. (Chap. V.)

§6. The word _municipal_ was used by the Romans to designate that which related to a _municipium_, which was a free town, or city. The rights of a citizen of such a free city or town were called _municipal rights_, and its officers were called _municipal officers_. In this country, the word is not only used in this limited sense but is extended to what pertains to a state. Hence the body of laws that prescribe the duties of the citizens of a state, is called the _municipal_ or _civil law_. And the term is used to distinguish the laws made by the legislature, or law-making power of the state, from the constitution, or political law, adopted by the people in their political capacity.

§7. If, as has been said, the laws of the Creator form a perfect rule of conduct for all mankind, and ought in all cases to be obeyed, then all human law ought to agree with the divine law. If a human law is contrary to the divine law, or if it requires us to disobey the commands of God, it is not binding, and should not be obeyed. So the Scriptures teach. They speak approvingly of men who disobeyed human authority, and who gave as the reason, that it was their duty to obey God rather than men; and they furnish many examples of good men who submitted to severe punishment, even to death, rather than do what they knew to be contrary to the divine will.

§8. But although the divine will as revealed in the Scriptures, is a perfect rule or law for all mankind, and although human laws ought to conform to the divine law, yet it would be impossible to govern the people of a state by that law alone. The divine law is broad and comprehends rules to teach men their whole duty, but it does not specify every particular act of duty. Much of it consists of general principles to which particular acts must be made to conform. It requires men to deal justly with each other, but men do not always agree as to what is right. Human laws, therefore, become necessary to declare what shall be considered just and right between man and man.

§9. It may be observed, further, that all the divine precepts could not be carried into effect in civil government. They are spiritual and reach to the thoughts and intents of the heart. They require us to love our Creator supremely, and our neighbor as ourselves; in other words, to do to others as we would that they should do to us. But as the omniscient God only knows when men fail in these duties, no human authority could enforce such a law. Human laws, therefore, have respect chiefly for the outward acts of men and are designed to regulate their intercourse with each other.

§10. Although the laws of the state can not compel men to fulfill the great law of love, it is nevertheless morally binding upon all. A perfectly holy Creator could consistently require of his moral and accountable creatures nothing less than supreme love for himself, and equal love for one another. This, as has been remarked, is in accordance with the law of nature, which is right in the nature of things. (Chap. III. §2, 3.)

§11. While the divine law accords perfectly with the principles of natural justice, the giving of it to mankind manifests the wisdom and benevolence of the supreme Lawgiver. Man is so formed, that it is for his highest happiness strictly to obey this law. The generous man, in relieving the wants of others, contributes to his own happiness. The boy who divides an apple with his fellow is happier than he would be if he retained the whole to himself. It is generally true, that, in performing acts of kindness and charity to others, we most effectually promote our own happiness, and feel the saying to be true, "It is more blessed to give than to receive."

 

Chapter IV.

Different Forms of Government. Monarchy; Aristocracy; Democracy; Republic.

§1. Governments have existed in a great variety of forms. The earliest governments of which we have any knowledge, are patriarchal. _Patriarch_, from the Greek, _pater_, father, and _arkos_, chief, or head, means the father and ruler of a family. This kind of government prevailed in the early ages of the world, and in a state of society in which the people dwelt together in families or tribes, and were not yet formed into states or nations. The patriarchal government existed before the flood, and for a long period afterward. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the fathers of the Hebrew race, as also the sons of Jacob, the heads of the twelve tribes, were called patriarchs.

§2. After their departure from Egypt, the government of the Hebrews was a _theocracy_. This word is from _theos_, God, and _kratos_, power, and signifies a government by the immediate direction of God. The laws by which they were governed were given to them on Mount Sinai by God himself, their leader and king. This theocratic form of government, with some changes, existed until the coming of the Messiah.

§3. But the forms of government which have most prevailed, are designated by the terms, monarchy, aristocracy, democracy, or republic. These words severally indicate by what persons, and in what manner, the governing power of a state is exercised. This power is usually called the _sovereign_, or _supreme_ power. Where kings rule, they are called sovereign; where the power is in the hands of the people, the people are sovereign. In the strict sense of the term, however, entire sovereignty, or supreme power, exists only where power is exercised by one man, or a single body of men, uncontrolled or unrestrained by laws or by any other power. But in a more general sense, it is that power in a state which is superior to all other powers within the same.

§4. A form of government in which the supreme power is in the hands of one person is called a monarchy. The word _monarch_ is from two Greek words, _monos_ sole or only, and _arkos_, a chief; and is a general name for a single ruler, whether he is called king, emperor, or prince. A government in which all power resides in or proceeds from one person is an _absolute_ monarchy. If the power of the monarch is restrained by laws or by some other power, it is called a _limited_ monarchy.

§5. A monarchy is called _hereditary_ in which the throne passes from father to son, or from the monarch to his successor, by inheritance. On the death of a sovereign, the eldest son is usually the heir to the crown; or if there is no son, it falls to the daughter or some other relative. A monarchy is _an elective_, where, on the death of the ruler, his successor is appointed by an election. A few such monarchies have existed.

§6. An absolute monarchy is sometimes called _despotism_. The word _despot_ is from Greek and means _master_, or _lord_. It has nearly the same meaning as _tyrant_, which also is from Greek, and signifies _king_. These words at first meant simply a single ruler. They are now applied, for the most part, to rulers who exercise authority over their subjects with severity. In absolute despotism, the monarch has entire control over his subjects. They have no law but the will of the ruler, who has at command a large force of armed men to keep his people in subjection. The governments of Russia and Turkey are highly despotic.

§7. An _aristocracy_ is a form of government in which the power is exercised by a privileged order of men, distinguished for their rank and wealth. The word _aristocracy_ is from the Greek word _aristos_, best, and _kratos_, power, or _krateo_, to govern and means a government of the best. It is also used for the nobility of a country under a monarchical government. _Nobles_ are persons of rank above the common people and bear some title of honor. The titles of the English nobility are those of duke, marquis, earl, viscount, and baron. These titles are hereditary, being derived from birth. In some cases, they are conferred upon persons by the king.

§8. A _democracy_ is a government of the people; the word democracy is from the Greek _demos_, the people, and _krateo_, to govern. In a government purely democratic, the great body of freemen meets in one assembly to make and execute the laws. There were some such governments in ancient Greece; but they necessarily comprised small territories, scarcely more than a single town. The freemen of a state could not all meet in a single assembly.

§9. The government of this country, though a government of the people, is not one of the kind just described; it is a republic. A _republic_ is a government in which the power to enact and execute the laws is exercised by representatives, who are persons elected by the people to act for them. Yet, as not only the election of representatives, but the adoption of the constitution or form of government itself is the act of the people; and as, therefore, all power comes from the people, the government is also democratic; and is properly called a _democratic republic_, or a _representative democracy_.

§10. A republic is sometimes also called a _commonwealth_. _Common_ signifies general, and is applied to what belongs to or is used by the people generally. _Weal_ means welfare or happiness. _Wealth_ also was formerly sometimes used for weal. Hence _commonwealth_ means strictly the _common good_, or the _common happiness_. In a general sense, it signifies a state; but it is properly applied to a free state, one in which the people enjoy common rights and privileges. Hence every state in the union is a commonwealth or republic.