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For espousing the other alternative, namely, that men's rights are unequal, the assigned motive is a desire to ensure
a supremacy of the best.
of the best. But even were it admitted that, to ensure supremacy of the best, liberty of action should be apportioned to men in the ratios of their merits, there remains the question-how are relative merits to be determined? We cannot appeal to public opinion, for it is not uniform. And were it uniform there is no reason to think that it would be correct. Can confidence be placed in the judgments of men who subscribe Hudson-testimonials, and yet leave the original projector of railways to die in poverty? Are those fit to decide on comparative greatness who have erected half-a-dozen public monuments to Wellington and none to Shakspeare or Newton-an authority which awards to the door-keeper of its House of Commons £74 a year more than to its astronomer royal ?
If, then, public opinion is so fallible a test of relative merits, where shall a trustworthy test be found ? Clearly, if the freedom to which each is entitled varies with his worth, some satisfactory mode of estimating worth must be discovered before any settlement of men's right relationships can become possible. Who will point out such a mode?
Even were a still further admission made-even were we to assume that men’s respective claims could be fairly rated --it would still be impossible to reduce the theory of unequal rights to practice. We should yet have to find a rule by which to allot these different shares of privilege. Where is the scale that would enable us to mark off the portion proper for each individual ? Supposing a shopkeeper's rights to be symbolized by ten and a fraction, what number will represent those of a doctor? What multiple are the liberties of a banker of those of a seamstress? Given two artists, one half as clever again as the other, it is required to find the limits within which each may exercise his faculties.
As the great
ness of a prime minister is to that of a ploughboy, so is full freedom of action to—the desired answer. Here are a few out of numberless like questions. When a method of solving them has been found, it will be time enough to reconsider the theory of unequal rights.
APPLICATION OF THIS FIRST PRINCIPLE.
THE process by which we may develop this first principle into a system of equity is sufficiently obvious. We shall have to consider of every deed, whether in committing it, a man does, or does not, trespass on the freedom of his neighbour-whether, when placed side by side, the shares of liberty the two respectively assume are equal. And by thus separating that which can be done by each without trenching on the liberties of others, from that which cannot be so done, we may classify actions into lawful and unlawful.
Difficulties may now and then occur in the performance of this process. We shall occasionally find ourselves unable to decide whether a given action does or does not trespass against the law of equal freedom. But such an admission by no means implies any defect in that law. It merely implies human incapacity-an incapacity which puts a limit to our discovery of physical truth as well as of moral truth. It is, for instance, beyond the power of any mathematician to state in degrees and minutes, the angle at which a man may lean without falling. Not being able to find accurately the centre of gravity of a man's body, he cannot say with certainty whether, at a given inclination, the line of direction will or will not fall outside the base. But we do not, therefore, take exception to the first principles of mechanics. In spite of our inability to follow out those first principles to all their consequences, we know that the stability or instability of a man's
attitude might be accurately determined by them, were our perceptions competent to take in all the data of such a problem. Similarly, it is argued that, although there may arise out of the more complex social relationships, questions which are apparently not soluble by comparing the respective amounts of freedom the concerned persons assume, it must nevertheless be granted that, whether we see it or not, the claims they make are either equal or unequal, and the dependent actions right or wrong accordingly.
[NOTE.— Up to the point now reached, the omissions and abridgments have not much disturbed the continuity of the general argument. But what here follows represents in only a fragmentary way the developed applications of the First Principle. These applications have since been replaced by those which, in a matured and completed form, constitute the greater part of division IV of The Principles of Ethics, treating of Justice. Sundry of the original chapters of Social Statics, which came next after the foregoing, are now omitted altogether; others are much shortened ; and of the remainder I I have reproduced only fragments. Throughout the last eight chapters of the work, however, the primitive continuity has been preserved : abridgments and revisions only having been made in them.]
THE RIGHT OF PROPERTY.
The moral law, being the law of the social state, is obliged to ignore the pre-social state. Constituting, as the principles of pure morality do, a code of conduct for the perfectly civilized man, they cannot be make to adapt themselves to the actions of the uncivilized man, even under the most ingenious hypothetical conditions—cannot be made even to recognize those actions so as to pass any definite sentence upon them. Overlooking this fact, thinkers, in their attempts to prove some of the first theorems of ethics, have commonly fallen into the error of referring back to an imaginary state of savage wildness, instead of referring forward to an ideal civilization, as they should have done; and have, in consequence, entangled themselves in difficulties arising out of the discordance between ethical principles and the assumed premises. To this circumstance is attributable that vagneness by which the arguments used to establish the right of property in a logical manner, are characterized.
“Though the earth and all inferior creatures,” says Locke, “ be common to all men, yet every man has a property in his own person: this nobody has a right to but himself. The labour of his body and the work of his hands, we may say are properly his. Whatever then he removes out of the state that nature hath provided and left it in, he hath mixed his labour with, and joined to it something that is his own, and thereby makes it his property. It being by him removed from the common state nature hath placed it in, it hath by