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all the inheritances of antiquity and all the material, intellectual, and moral conquests of modern times, by the tenure of making them all subservient (as far as human wisdom permits) to the highest interests and the individual happiness of the whole body of the community.
I have said in the text (pp. 23, 86) that there is no need to repeat the well-known refutations of those theories which rest the claim to a participation in political power on “the rights of man.” The full discussion which these abstract questions of government underwent at the end of the last century has finally disposed of them as matters of practical value, in the convictions of all educated men in this country. But no one can be conversant with the sort of literature which for the last twenty years has been addressed to the passions, and which takes advantage of the comparative want of knowledge of large masses of our population, without seeing in it another example of the facility with which exploded errors can be revived among a new generation unacquainted with their previous existence. I therefore offer this circumstance as the excuse for the length of the following extracts. It is not every one who may chance to read this volume who has at hand the writings of those who dealt with these questions when, in the last century, they agitated the whole of Europe. And I venture to hope that no one will object to see, in connection with the subject of this book, a few of those passages which were bequeathed to the admiration of posterity by orators and statesmen who have placed the foundations of our own political system on the basis of true philosophy and irrefragable reasoning.
The following is the eloquent exposition of Burke, of the real rights of man, in contradistinction to his pretended rights, as a member of civil society :
“ The pretended rights of these theorists are all extremes; and in proportion as they are metaphysically true they are morally and politically false. The rights of men are a sort of middle, incapable of definition, but not impossible to be discerned. The rights of men in governments are their advantages; and these are often in balances between differences of good ; in compromises sometimes between good and evil, and sometimes between evil and evil. Political reason is a computing principle; adding subtracting, multiplying, dividing, morally, and not metaphysically or mathematically, true moral denominations.
“ By these theorists the right of the people is almost always sophistically confounded with their power. The body of the community, whenever it can come to act, can meet with no effectual resistance; but until power and right are the same, the whole body of them has no right inconsistent with virtue, and the first of all virtues, prudence. Men have no right to what is not reasonable, and to what is not for their benefit.
“Whilst they are possessed by these notions it is vain to talk to them of the practice of their ancestors, the fundamental laws of their country, the fixed form of a Constitution whose merits are confirmed by the solid test of long experience and an increasing public strength and national prosperity. They despise experience.. They have the rights of man.' Against these, they say, there can be no prescription; against these no argument is binding; these admit no temperament and no compromise; anything withheld from their full demands is so much fraud and injustice. Against these, their rights of men, let no Government look for security in the length of its continuance, or in the justice and lenity of its administration. The objections of these speculatists, if its forms do not quadrate with their theories, are as valid against an old and beneficent Government as against the most violent tyranny or the greatest usurpation. They are always at issue with Governments, not on a question of abuse, but a question of competency and a question of title. . . . .
“Far am I from denying in theory—full as far is my heart from withholding in practice (if I were of power to give or to withhold)—the real rights of men. In denying their false claims of right, I do not mean to injure those that are real, and are such as their pretended rights would totally destroy. If civil society be made for the advantage of man, all the advantages for which it is made become his right. It is an institution of beneficence, and law itself is only beneficence acting by rule. Men have a right to live by that rule; they have a right to do justice, as between their fellows, whether their fellows are in politic function or ordinary occupation. They have a right to the fruits of their industry, and to the means of making their industry fruitful. They have a right to the acquisitions of their parents; to the nourishment and improvement of their offspring; to instruction in life, and consolation in death. Whatever each man can separately do, without trespassing on others, he has a right to do for himself; and he has a right to a fair portion of all which society, with all its combinations of skill and force, can do in his favour. In this partnership all men have equal rights, but not to equal things. He that has but five shillings in the partnership, has as good a right to it as he that has five hundred pounds has to his larger proportion. But he has not a right to an equal dividend in the produce of the joint stock; and as to the share of power, authority, and direction which each individual ought to have in the management of the State, that I must deny to be amongst the direct original rights of man in civil society; for I have in contemplation the civil man, and no other. It is a thing to be settled by convention.
“ If civil society be the offspring of convention, that convention must be its law. That convention must limit and modify all the descriptions of constitution that are formed under it. Every sort of legislative, judicial, or executory power are its creatures. They can have no being in any other state of things; and how can any man claim, under the conventions of civil society, rights which do not as much as suppose its existence — rights which are absolutely repugnant to it? One of the first motives to civil society, and which becomes one of its fundamental rules, is, that no man should be judge in his own cause. By this each person has at once divested himself of the first fundamental right of uncovenanted man, that is, to judge for himself and to assert his own cause. He abdicates all right to be his own governor. He inclusively, in a great measure, abandons the right of self-defence, the first law of nature. Men cannot enjoy the rights of an uncivil and of a civil state together. That he may obtain justice, he gives up his right of determining what it is in points the most essential to him. That he may secure some liberty, he makes a surrender in trust of the whole of it.
“ Government is not made in virtue of natural rights, which may and do exist in independence of it, and exist in much greater clearness, and in a much greater degree of abstract perfection ; but this abstract perfection is their practical defect. By having a right to everything, they want everything. Government is a contrivance of human wisdom to provide for human wants. Men have a right that these wants should be provided for by this wisdom. Among these wants is to be reckoned the want, out of civil society, of a sufficient restraint upon their passions. Society requires not only that the passions of individuals should be subjected, but that even in the mass and body, as well as in the individuals, the inclinations of men should frequently be thwarted, their will controlled, and their passions brought into subjection. This can only be done by a power out of themselves, and not, in the exercise of its function, subject to that will and to those passions which it is its office to bridle and subdue. In this sense the restraints on men, as well as their liberties, are to be reckoned among their rights. But as the liberties and the restrictions vary with times and circumstances, and admit of infinite modifications, they cannot be settled upon any abstract rule; and nothing is so foolish as to discuss them upon that principle.
“The moment you abate anything from the full rights of men, each to govern himself, and suffer any artificial positive limitation upon those rights, from that moment the whole organisation of government becomes a matter of convenience. This it is which makes the Constitution of a State, and the due distribution of its powers, a matter of the most delicate and complicated skill. It requires a deep knowledge of human nature and human necessities, and of the things which facilitate or obstruct the various ends which are to be pursued by the mechanism of civil institutions. . . .