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MANUAL OF LIBERTY,
OF EQUITY OR JUSTICE.
IT behoves us in this treatise so to expound the subject of universal law and justice, as to compress the jurisprudence of any particular nation in a very narrow and limited compass. Our principal concern is with that justice, the nature of which is to be deduced from the nature of man, and with those laws by which civil society ought in al? cases to be regulated.-Law, in its strict and genuine acceptation, is nothing else than the perfection of reason, that inherent sense of right which commands us what to do and what to avoid. Reason, when properly unfolded and matured in the human mind, is what I understand by law.
De Legibus, lib. I. cb. 17, 18. Law thus explained, is the fruit of no human invention, is the decree of no nation or country ; but is that eternal something to whose unerring dictates of command or prohibition the whole
world should bend. Thus among all laws, that which is first and last is the divine and omnipresent mind, according to whose reason every thing is, or is forbidden to be. The image and mirrour in which this law is reflected to us, is that innate sense of morality which the gods have bestowed upon mankind, that reason and judgment of the Wise Man which is all sufficient both to direct and to deter.
Ib., lib. 11. cb. 8. Reason is a principle derived to us from communication with the great All, urging us to virtue, and irresistibly recalling us from crime. It does not then begin to be law when it is first written by the hand of man, but was so from its earliest origin, that origin being of equal date with the universal mind. Wherefore the true and primordial law, fitted to direct us in all things, is the right reason of the Omnipotent Creator.
Ib. cb. 10 Of what avail is it that many things have by many nations been decreed pregnant with calamity and evil ? These are no more entitled to the name of laws, than the regulations upon which robbers should determine in their unhallowed consultations. In like manner, as every thing is not entitled to the appellation of medicine, that an unskilful and impudent quack may prescribe, so neither is that a law to which a mistaken people may annex their " sanction. Law, therefore, is that pure and original distinc!ion of just and unjust, which is drawn from the original and parent nature, and which is
the criterion, according to which human laws are to be modelled, if they really either punish the bad or protect the good.
Ib. cb. 13.
The phrase of the chartered rights of men is full of affectation. The rights of men, that is to say, the natural rights of mankind, are indeed sacred things; and if any public nfeasure is proved mischievously to affect them, the objection ought to be fatal to that measure, even if no charter at all could be set up against it. If these natural rights are farther affirmed and declared by express covenants, if they are clearly defined and secured against chicane, against power and authority, by written instruments and positive engagements, they are in a still better condition. They partake not only of the sanctity of the object so secured, but of chat solemn public faith itself, which secures an object of such importance. Indeed this formal recognition, by the sovereign power, of an original right in the subject, can never be subverted but by rooting up the radical principles of government, and even of society itself. The charters which we call by distinction great, are public instruments of this nature; I mean the charters of King John and King Henry the Third. The things secured by these instruments may, without any deceitful ambiguity, be very fitly called the Chartered Rights of Men.
These charters have made the very name of charter dear to the heart of every Englishman.But there may be, and there are charters, not
only different in nature, but formed on prin. ciples the very reverse of those of the great charter. Of this kind is the charter of the East India Com. pany. Magna Charta is a charter to restrain power, and to destroy monopoly. Political power and commercial monopoly are not the rights of men ; and the rights to them derived from charters, it is fallacious and sophistical to call the chartered rights of men. These chartered rights (to speak of such charters and of their effects in terms of the greatest possible moderation) do at least suspend the natural rights of mankind at large; and in their very
frame and constitution are liable to fall into a direct violation of thein.
BURKE. Speech on Mr. Fox's East India Bill, p. 6.7. By moral equality I understand the propriety of applying one unalterable rule of justice to every case that may arise. This cannot be questioned but upon arguments that would subvert the very nature of virtue. “ Equality," it has been af firmed, “ will always be an unintelligible fiction, so long as the capacities of men shall be unequal, and their pretended claims have neither guarantee nor sanction by which they can be enforced.” But surely justice is sufficiently intelligible in its own nature, abstracted from the consideration whether it be or be not reduced into practice. Justice has relation to beings endowed with perception, and ca. pable of pleasure and pain. Now it immediately results from the nature of such beings, independently of any arbitrary institution, that pleasure is
agreeable, agreeable, and pain odious; pleasure to be desired, and pain to be obviated. It is therefore just and reasonable that such beings should contribute, so far as it lies in their power, to the pleasure and benefit of each other. Among pleasures, some are. more exquisite, more unalloyed, and less precarious than others. It is just that these should be preferred.
Political Justice, b. 2. cb, iv. p. 106.
We are obliged to act, so far as our power reacheth, towards the good of the whole community. And he who doth not perform the part assigned him towards advancing the benefit of the whole, in proportion to his opportunities and abi. lities, is not only an useless, but a very mischie. vous member of the public; because he takes his share of the profit, and yet izaves his share of the burthen to be borne by others, which is the true principal cause of most miseries and misfortunes in life.
No man ought to look upon the advantages of life, such as riches, honour, power, and the like, as his property, but merely as a trust which God hach deposited with him, to be employed for the use of his brethren.
The poor beggar hath a just demand of an alms from the rich man; who is guilty of fraud, injustice and oppression, if he does not afford relief according to his abilities.
If we could all be brought to practise the duty of subjecting ourselves to each other, it would A 3