« PreviousContinue »
AND KINDS, ALIENABLE. INALIENABLE.
SLAVERY.-RIGHTS OF PERSONS AND OF THINGS. GIVING AND RE
CEIVING. — RIGHTS OF GOVERNMENT. — LIBERTY AS RELATED TO RIGHTS. - DIFFERENT KINDS OF LIBERTY - NATURAL, CIVIL, POLITICAL.
OF any correct system of moral philosophy one characteristic must be that the active powers will, in their movements, harmonize with each other. That they do this in connection with the system of ends, we have seen. Through the law of limitation each higher power is harmonized with the lower, while the highest is left to act freely and to expand in its connection with those infinities to which it is naturally related. This gives us a philosophical system for the individual which we may comprehend.
But not only may we comprehend both means and ends, and so seek them intelligently; we may also seek ends from a native tendency involving in it, if it be not instinct, the instinctive principle; and we may seek ends by faith. These principles may be combined in very differ. ent proportions. They must be, as persons are younger or more advanced, as they are ignorant or instructed; but it was one object of the last lecture to show that whatever the proportions might be, these principles might be so accepted and permeated by the rational nature that we should be rational in acting from them, and that they would be in perfect harmony.
But God does not regard the individual only. He has instituted families, communities, nations. Of these he designed the well-being, and has provided for it in the organization of man. Would, then, this doctrine of ends, with its law of limitation, be an adequate basis for social order?
As an individual, man is to do right; as a member of a community he has rights. What it is on this system to do right, we have seen. Would there also grow from it a perfect system of rights ? If so, there would be in it an adequate basis of social order, because of that it is the one condition that every man shall have his rights. If so, we may well accept a doctrine thus providing for the right ordering not only of the individual, but of the community.
On this system, we have seen that that is right which a man must do that he may attain the end for which God made him. Rights must, therefore, be based on the relation of those things to which we have a right to the attainment of our own end or that of others. A man will have a right to everything that is essential to the attainment of the end for which he was made. So a parent will have a right to everything which is essential to the attainment of the end for which God made him a parent; and society and government will have a right to everything necessary for the accomplishment of the ends for which they were instituted — just that, and no more.
An exclusive capacity, inherent or given in the order of nature, together with a disposition to confer upon others what is essential to their end, is the ground of rights over them. Hence the rights of God, of parents, and of governments. A necessity for anything essential to his end is the ground of a claim by the individual upon any who, in the order of nature or of providence, may have the exclusive power to meet that necessity. Hence the claims of children, of citizens, of the poor, of humanity.
ORIGIN OF RIGHTS.
We have here the general principle; and if it be correct, then will the basis of right and of rights be the same, only it will be viewed in different relations. We shall have, moreover, what is not a little desirable, in the distinction drawn between the higher and lower powers, a measure of rights as more or less important and sacred. Thus we shall have rights from the instincts, that is, those which would respect the attainment by instinct of its end; and rights of the appetites, or those which would respect the attainment by them of their end; and so of the desires, and of the intellect, and of the natural affections, and of the moral and spiritual nature. Certainly we may say that he who should be in no way so encroached upon or obstructed that he should be unable to attain in the best
way all the ends indicated by these different active principles might be said to have all his rights; and if he were so encroached upon that he could not reach perfectly any one of these ends, he would not have all his rights. The truth seems to be that in the tendency of every active principle towards its end there is the voice of God; and that when, through the intervention of others, there is an obstruction to the attainment of its ends, that voice utters itself through the moral nature in the assertion of rights.
That this is the history of the idea and sentiment of rights - for it is not merely a sentiment - seems probable, because it is foreshadowed by what occurs among animals. That they have the perception of relations and the sentiment that we have, cannot be supposed, but practically they assert what seem to be rights, and what is analogous to them, on the same principle. Let an animal have an instinct, or an appetite, or a natural affection, as that of the parent for its offspring, and it will be found that it will be ready to resist and beat off all intrusion that would prevent it from accomplishing the end thus indicated, and the strength of endeavor will be proportioned to the importance of the end. So is it with man. He is prompted by some original impulse to the attainment of an end. This would imply struggle against obstacles, and the resistance of any interference that would prevent the attainment of the end. It is in connection with such promptings and resistance that the moral reason necessarily forms the notion of rights, and that the sentiment is felt; and thus that which with the brute is defended simply by force, comes with man to be guarded by the most sacred sentiments, and to be fortified by laws, and customs, and institutions.
From this view of the origin of rights it will appear that the idea of right is the primary, and that of rights the subordinate and secondary idea. A man has rights in order that he may do right. If there were no end, and so nothing right, there could be no such thing as rights. Hence rights, however real and important, may never be defended at the expense of right. A man may be deprived of all his rights, but he may not cease to adhere to that which is right.
At this point it is that we may see how it is that the destiny of a man, that is, his highest and ultimate destiny, can never be taken out of his hands. Men may deprive him of every right, but they can bring about no combination of circumstances under which it will be impossible for a man in those circumstances to do right. It may be a fearful alternative, and there may be unspeakable wickedness in presenting it, when a man must be deprived of his rights, even of that to life, or cease to do right, but it is the glory of man's nature that there is in it the capacity of adhering to what is right under all deprivation and
RIGHTS – ALIENABLE AND INALIENABLE.
all suffering. If it were not for this — the higher estimation of right than of rights – no man could be a martyr. Right belongs to man in his individual capacity, rights from his relation to others.
Of rights as thus originating and thus distinguished from right, some are alienable, and some inalienable; and we find in the distinctions already laid down the ground of this difference. An inalienable right is one which arises in connection with the pursuit of our highest end. With that nothing may interfere; and a right thus based is called inalienable because it cannot be parted with freely without crime, and cannot be rightly taken away unless forfeited by crime.
As has been seen, the moral, no less than the physical nature, has its end; in the use of means for the attainment by that nature of its end, the idea of rights the most sacred would arise; and to whatever is an essential condition for the attainment of that end man has an inalienable right. With that he may not consent to part, and no one may rightfully wrest it from him; but any right which is not thus necessary
alienate. After the moral nature, the natural affections and the intellect are next in dignity. That the rights which originate in connection with the exercise of the affections are alienable, appears, since a parent may transfer to another all the rights and responsibilities vested in him as a parent. A child may be wholly given away, its name changed, and the rights of the parents over it vacated according to law. Than this, perhaps a stronger case could not be put under the rights of the affections. Of the intellect it is to be said that its operations are so essential to the full attainment of the ends of the moral nature that it can hardly stand on its own ground; but that a man may employ his