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for the claims of his fellows. The instinct of rights being of itself entirely selfish, merely impels its possessor to maintain his own rights. Only by the sympathetic excitement of it, is a desire to behave equitably to others awakened ; and when sympathy is absent such a desire is impossible.

Further proof may be found in the fact, that some of the peculiar moral notions traceable to these sentiments are perfectly in harmony with certain of the abstract conclusions arrived at in the preceding chapter. We find in ourselves a conviction, for which we can give no satisfactory reason, that we are free, if we please, to do particular things which it is yet blamable to do. Though it may greatly diminish his happiness, a man feels that he has a right, if he likes, to cut off a finger, or to destroy his property. While we condemn the want of consideration he shows towards some miserable debtor, yet we admit that the hard creditor is, in strict justice, entitled to the uttermost farthing. Notwithstanding our disgust at the selfishness of one who refuses to afford some friendly accommodation, we cannot deny that he is quite at liberty to refuse. Now these perceptions which, if the hypothesis be true, are referable to the instinct of personal rights, acting in the one case directly and in the other cases sympathetically, quite accord with foregoing inferences. We found that the law of equal freedom is the fundamental law. We found (p. 40) that no other limitations of activity could be as authoritative as that which it sets up. And we found further (p. 41) that in this, our state of adaptation, it would be wrong to establish any fixed boundary to the liberty of each, save the similar liberties of others. Such a correspondence between our instinctive beliefs and the conclusions previously arrived at, lends additional probability to the hypothesis here advanced.

There exists, however, a dominant sect of politicians who treat with contempt this belief that men have any claims antecedent to those created by governments. As disciples of Bentham, consistency requires them to do this. Accordingly, although it does violence to their secret perceptions, they boldly deny the existence of “rights” entirely. Practically, if not professedly, they hold, with Thrasymachus, that nothing is intrinsically right or wrong, but that it becomes either by the dictum of the State. If we are to credit them government determines what shall be morality, and not morality what shall be government. They believe in no oracular principle by whose yea or nay we may be guided : their Delphi is the House of Commons. By their account man lives and moves and has his being by legislative permit. His freedom to do this or that is not natural, but conferred. The question-Has the citizen any claim to the work of his hands? can be decided only by a parliamentary division. If "the ayes have it,” he has; if “the noes,” he has not. Nevertheless they perpetually betray a belief in the doctrines which they professedly reject. They inadvertently talk about justice, especially when it concerns themselves, in much the same style as their opponents. They draw the same distinction between law and equity that other people do. And when robbed, or assaulted, or wrongly imprisoned, they exhibit the same indignation, the same determination to oppose the aggressor, utter the same denunciations of tyranny, and the same loud demands for redress, as the sternest assertors of the rights of man.

But it is amusing when, after all, it turns out that the ground on which these philosophers have taken their stand, and from which with such self-complacency they shower their sarcasms, is nothing but an adversary's mine, destined to blow the vast fabric of conclusions they have based on it into nonentity. This so solid-looking principle of “the greatest happiness of the greatest number,” needs but to have a light brought near it, and lo! it explodes into the astounding assertion, that all men have equal rights to happiness (p. 18)—an assertion far more sweeping and revolutionary than any of those which are assailed with so much scorn.


Thus are we brought by several routes to the same conclusion. Whether we reason our way from those fixed conditions under which alone greatest happiness can be realized —whether we draw our inferences from man's constitution, considering him as a congeries of faculties-or whether we listen to the monitions of a certain mental agency, which seems to have the function of guiding us in this matter; we are alike taught, as the law of right social relationships, that -Every man has freedom to do all that he wills, provided he infringes not the equal freedom of any other man. Though further qualifications of the liberty of action thus asserted are necessary, yet we have seen that in the just regulation of a community no further qualifications of it can be recognized. Such further qualifications must remain for private and individual application. We must therefore adopt this law of equal freedom in its entirety, as the law on which a correct system of equity is to be based.

Some will, perhaps, object to this first principle, that being in the nature of an axiomatic truth-standing towards the inferences to be drawn from it in the position of one, it ought to be recognized by all; which it is not.

Respecting the fact thus alleged, that there have been, and are, men impervious to this first principle, there can be no question. Probably it would have been dissented from by

Aristotle, who considered it a "self-evident maxim that nature intended barbarians to be slaves." Cardinal Julian, who " abhorred the impiety of keeping faith with infidels,” might possibly have disputed it. It is a doctrine which would scarcely have suited the abbot Guibert, who, in his sermons, called the free cities of France" those execrable communities, where serfs, against law and justice, withdraw themselves from the power of their lords.” And perhaps the Highlanders, who in 1748 were reluctant to receive their freedom on the abolition of the heritable jurisdictions, would not have admitted it. But the confession that the truth of this first principle is not self-evident to all, by no means invalidates it. The Bushman can count only as high as three; yet arithmetic is a fact, and we have a Calculus of Functions by the aid of which we find new planets. As, then, the disability of the savage to perceive the elementary truths of number is no argument against their existence, and no obstacle to their discovery and development; so, the circumstance that some do not see the law of equal freedom to be an elementary truth of ethics, does not disprove the statement that it

is one.

So far indeed is this difference in men's moral perceptions from being a difficulty in our way, that it serves to illustrate a doctrine already set forth. As already explained, man's original circumstances required that he should sacrifice the welfare of other beings to his own;" whereas his present circumstances require that "each individual shall have such desires only as may be fully satisfied without trenching upon the ability of other individuals to obtain like satisfactions." And it was pointed out that, in virtue of the law of adaptation, the human constitution is changing from the form which fitted it to the first set of conditions to a form fitting it for the last. Now it is by the growth of those two faculties which together originate what we term a Moral Sense, that fitness for these last conditions is secured. In proportion to the strength of sympathy and the instinct of personal rights,

will be the impulse to conform to the law of equal freedom. And in the mode elsewhere shown (p. 20), the impulse to conform to this law will generate a correlative belief in it. Only, therefore, after the process of adaptation has made considerable advance, can there arise either subordination to this law or a perception of its truth. And hence any general recognition of it during the earlier stages of social development must not be looked for.

To the direct evidence which has been accumulated in proof of our first principle, may now be added indirect evidence furnished by the absurdities into which denial of it betrays us. He who asserts that the law of equal freedom is not true, that is, he who asserts that men have not equal rights, has two alternatives. He may either say that men have no rights at all, or that they have unequal rights. Let us examine these positions.

Foremost of those who deny rights altogether, stands that same Sir Robert Filmer already named, with his dogma that ó men are not naturally free.” Starting thus, he readily finds his way to the conclusion that the only proper form of government is an absolute monarchy. For, if men are not naturally free, that is, if men have naturally no rights, then, he only has rights to whom they are specially given by God. From which inference to “ the divine right of kings” is an easy step. It has become manifest in later times, however, that this divine right of kings, means the divine right of any one who can get uppermost. For since, according to its assertors, no man can be supposed to occupy the position of supreme ruler in opposition to the will of the deity, it follows that whoever attains to that position, whether by fair means or by foul, be he legitimate or be he usurper, has divine authority on his side. So that to say “men are not naturally free,” is to say that though men have no rights, yet whoever can get power to coerce the rest has a right to do so!

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