Concerning Justice
by Lucilius A. Emery
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First printed August, 1914, 1000 copies

















For centuries now much has been written and proclaimed concerning justice and today the word seems to be more than ever upon the lips of men, more than ever used, but not always appositely, in arguments for proposed political action. Hence it may not be inappropriate to the time and occasion to venture, not answers to, but some observations upon the questions, what is justice, and how can it be secured. It was declared by the Roman jurist Ulpian, centuries ago, that students of law should also be students of justice.

By way of prelude, however, and in the hope of accentuating the main question and presenting the subject more vividly by comparison and contrast, I would recall to your minds another and even more fundamental question asked twenty centuries ago in a judicial proceeding in distant Judea. It is related that when Jesus, upon his accusation before Pilate, claimed in defense that he had "come into the world to bear witness unto the truth," Pilate inquired of him "What is truth?"; but it is further related that when Pilate "had said this he went out again unto the Jews." Apparently he did not wait for an answer. Perhaps he repented of his question as soon as asked and went out to escape an answer. Men before and since Pilate have sought to avoid hearing the truth.

Indeed, however grave the question, however essential the answer to their well-being, there does not seem to be even now on the part of the multitude an earnest desire for the truth. Their wishes and emotions cloud their vision and they are reluctant to have those clouds brushed aside lest the truth thus revealed be harsh and condemnatory. The truth often causes pain. As said by the Preacher, "He that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow." People generally give much the greater welcome and heed to him who tells them that their desires and schemes are righteous and can be realized, than to him who tells them that their desires are selfish or that their schemes are impracticable. It has always been the few who have sought the truth, resolute to find it and declare it, whether pleasant or unpleasant, in accord with the wishes of mankind or otherwise. Such men have sometimes suffered martyrdom in the past, and often incur hostility in the present, even when seeking that truth on which alone justice can securely rest.

Nevertheless, so closely linked are truth and justice in the speech, if not the minds, of men, there should be some consideration of Pilate's question. Whether truth is absolute or only relative has been perhaps the most actively discussed topic in the field of philosophy for the last decade. Into this discussion, however, we need not enter, for such discussion is really over the problem of determining the proper criterion of truth. Wherever be this criterion, whether in some quality of inherent rationality or in some utilitarian test of practicability, the truth itself has some attributes so far unquestioned and of which we may feel certain as being inherent, necessary, and self-evident.

Truth is uncompromising. It is unadaptable; all else must be adapted to it. It is not a matter of convention among men, is not established even by their unanimous assent, and it does not change with changes of opinion. It is identical throughout time and space. If it be true now that since creation the earth has swung in an orbit round the sun, it was true before the birth of Copernicus and Galileo. If it be true now that the sum of the three angles of a triangle is equal to the sum of two right angles, it was always true and always will be true, true at the poles and at the equator, true among all peoples and in all countries, true alike in monarchies, oligarchies, and democracies.

Truth is also single. There are no different kinds of truth, though there may be innumerable kinds of propositions of which truth may or may not be predicated. Whichever criterion the philosophers may finally agree upon, it will hold in all propositions alike. The truth of a proposition in mathematics is the same as the truth of a proposition in any other science, physical, social, political, or theological. It can be no more nor less true in each and all. Again, in every science, social and political as well as others, and as to every proposition in any science, the truth is to be discovered, not assumed by mere convention; and men must discover it and discover it fully at their peril. Failure even after the utmost effort will not be forgiven. If the truth be found it will be a sure guide in life. If it be not found the lives of men will so far go awry. That it may be difficult to find, that we may never be sure we have found it, makes no difference.

Are there any attributes of justice of which we can speak so confidently as being necessary, inherent, and self-evident? That justice ranks next to truth, if not with it, seems to have been, and to be, the general judgment of mankind. It has engaged the thought and fired the imagination of the greatest minds. A few quotations from such, ranging from ancient to modern times, will illustrate this. The Hebrew Psalmist gloried that "justice and judgment" were the habitation of Jehovah's throne. Aristotle wrote, "political science is the most excellent of all the arts and sciences, and the end sought for in political science is the greatest good for man, which is justice, for justice is the interest of all." Early in the 12th century the jurist Irnerius, distinguished for his learning and for his zeal in promoting the revival of the study of law and jurisprudence, and also as the reputed founder of the famous Law School at Bologna, imaged justice as "clothed with dignity ineffable, shining with reason and equity, and supported by Religion, Loyalty, Charity, Retribution, Reverence, and Truth."

Six centuries later Addison, famed as a clear thinker and writer, thus wrote of justice: "There is no virtue so truly great and godlike as justice.... Omniscience and omnipotence are requisites for the full exercise of it." Almost in our own time Daniel Webster, called in his day the great expounder and even now reckoned among the greatest of men intellectually, in his eulogy upon Justice Story thus apostrophized justice: "Justice is the great interest of man on earth. It is the ligament which holds civilized beings and civilized nations together. Wherever her temple stands and so long as it is duly honored, there is a foundation for social security, general happiness, and the improvement and progress of our race." Perhaps, however, none of these laudations is so vividly impressive as is the pithy remark of an old English judge that "injustice cuts to the bone."

But what is this justice, declared to be so great a virtue, so ineffable, so supremely important? I have said we feel certain of some attributes of truth. Do we know or can we know anything certain about justice? Is it something above and apart from the will of men, or is it simply a matter of convention among men? Is it immutable, or does its nature change with changing times and conditions? If mutable, does it change of itself or do men change it? Is it universal or local, the same everywhere or is it different in different localities? Is it the same for all men and races of men or does it differ according to classes and races? Again, is it single or diverse in its nature? Is there more than one kind of justice? We hear of natural justice, social justice, industrial justice, political justice. What do they who use those terms mean by them? Do nature, society, industry, politics, each have a different criterion? Still again, and briefly, is justice an inexorable law like the law of gravitation or can its operation have exceptions? Is it simply a quality of action or conduct, or, as stated by Ulpian, is it a disposition or state of mind? Finally, is it a reality or, as Falstaff said of honor, is it after all "a word," "a mere scutcheon?"

I am not so presumptuous as to venture an answer to any of these questions except perhaps the last. As to that, I appeal to our consciousness, to our innate conviction that there does exist something, some virtue, some sentiment, however undefinable in terms, holding men together in society despite their natural selfishness, and without which they would fall apart. It is this virtue, this ligament of society, that we call justice. We feel that the word is not a mere word, but that it connotes a vital reality in human relationship. If this reality be ignored, men cannot be held together in any society.

If justice be the greatest good, as so generally asserted, then its negative, or injustice, must be the greatest evil. Hence error in men's opinions of what is justice will work that greatest evil. Society as a whole is liable to error in respect to justice; has often been mistaken in the past and may be mistaken today. The individuals composing society are seldom, if ever, wholly disinterested and dispassionate in their judgments. Each individual is prone to believe that what is apparently good for himself or his group or class, is in accord with justice. Himself persuaded that he is battling for justice, he does not see that he may be battling only for some advantage over others, for some individual relief from common burdens, for some privilege not to be accorded to others; does not see that what he is battling for may cause injustice to others. Through ignorance of the real nature of justice, the grant to one of his plea for what he calls justice may work grievous injustice to others. So when altruists, warm with sympathy, obtain the enactment of laws intended for the betterment of the less fortunate, they may at times do injustice to others and even to those they hoped to benefit. History records many instances where laws intended to insure justice had the contrary effect. Many a statute designed to prevent oppression has itself proved oppressive in operation. Many a theory of justice has been found to work injustice. A conspicuous and familiar instance is found in the history of the French Revolution. The Jacobins believed that their theories if given effect would usher in the reign of justice in France. They obtained power and exploited their theories only to bring in the Reign of Terror, that reign of terrible injustice.

As mistakes and grievous mistakes have been made in the past as to what is justice, so they will be made now and in the future, and can be lessened only by greater wisdom and forethought, by greater effort to consider justice apart by itself, with philosophical detachment, with minds unclouded by pity, sympathy, charity, and other like virtues, on the one hand, or by envy, hate, prejudice, and like evil sentiments, on the other. True, men are more enlightened now and education is more general, but society is more complex, with more diverse and conflicting interests, than formerly. The social mechanism is now so intricate that even a slight disturbance in one part may disarrange the whole. Injustice to one may injure the many. Hence the duty of ascertaining as completely as possible the real nature of justice is as imperative today as ever. As declared by Ulpian, this duty is especially incumbent upon those who have to do with the framing or administration of the laws, since justice can be enforced only by law.

In any inquiry into the nature of justice we get little help from the wisdom of the ancients. They wrestled with the question but seem to have been as puzzled as we of today. Indeed, Plato represents the sage Socrates as frankly confessing his inability to answer satisfactorily the persistent question "What is justice?" The question comes up for discussion by Socrates and some friends at the home of Cephalus at the Piraeus. Socrates criticizes and punctures the definitions advanced by the others until Thrasymachus, apparently with some heat, challenges Socrates to give an answer of his own to the question "what is justice?" and not to content himself, nor to consume time, with merely refuting others. After some further discussion of various aspects of the question, Socrates finally says, "I have gone from one subject to another without having discovered what I sought at first, the nature of justice. I left the inquiry and turned away to consider whether justice is virtue and wisdom, or evil and folly, and when there arose a further question about the comparative advantages of justice and injustice I could not refrain from passing on to that. The result of the whole discussion has been that I know nothing at all. I know not what justice is and therefore am not likely to know whether or not it is a virtue, nor can I say whether the just man is happy or unhappy." Granting that the confession may have been intended ironically, the further discussion did not result in any practical solution, even if in one possible in Plato's ideal, but impossible, state. Indeed, the inquiry is not yet closed and will not be until the millennium.

Still, upon a question so old, so important, so persistent, so ingrained in human society, and even now receiving such diverse and conflicting answers, a brief consideration of the earlier beliefs and theories may not be useless. As said by Bishop Stubbs, the historian, "The roots of the present lie deep in the past and nothing in the past is dead to him who would learn how the present came to be what it is." The roots should be examined by him who would understand the tree.

In Homer we get a glimpse of a theory of his time, to wit, that each separate decision given by the magistrate in any litigated controversy was furnished to him by Zeus specially for that case. The Greek word for such a decision was themis, and it was supposed that somewhere in the Pantheon was a corresponding deity whose special function was to furnish the appropriate themis for each case. This deity was shadowily personified as the goddess Themis, the daughter of heaven and earth, the companion and counselor of Zeus. It was she who summoned gods and men to council and presided unseen over their deliberations. Hence she came to be regarded as also the spirit of order without which the Greek philosophers, notably Plato, held there could be no justice.

This theory that justice and even the laws were but the will of deity, revealed in various ways, was long generally accepted. In Rome, in the time of the kings, the king was the Pontifex Maximus, and as such, with the help of the College of Priests, declared the laws and decided lawsuits. For some time also under the Republic, when a vote was to be taken in the Comitia upon a proposed law, the question was thus put: "Is this your pleasure, O Quirites, and do you hold it to be the will of the gods?" Under the Empire, despite the reasoning of many philosophers and lawyers that the Emperor derived from the people his power to make laws and declare the law in any given case, he assumed and was assumed to have derived the power and inspiration solely from the gods.

The early Christian Church also preached the doctrine that the ruling power in the state, however established, was ordained of God and as such was entitled to the obedience of the pious. This belief that justice and judgment were simply the will of God, to be ascertained, not by reason but by other means, was so general and deep that such crude devices as trials by ordeal and battle were often resorted to for determining guilt or innocence and other questions of fact. Indeed, resort to such expedients for determining questions of law, as well as questions of fact, was not unknown. In the tenth century under the Saxon King Otto a question arose whether upon the death of their grandfather his grandchildren by a prior deceased son should share in the inheritance along with their surviving uncles. The king ordered a trial by battle, which being had, the champions for the grandchildren were the victors. It was therefore held to be the divine will that grandchildren by a prior deceased child should inherit direct from their grandfather. I may here remind you that trial by battle was not formally abolished in England until well into the 19th century. And there is even now professed a belief that the will of God can be ascertained by counting ballots. "Vox Populi Vox Dei" is still a shibboleth.

But the doctrine that justice is heaven born, superior to and controlling the opinions and wills of men, did not escape challenge even in ancient times. Those sects of philosophers known as Epicureans and Sophists, consistently with their theory of the nature of virtue in general, maintained that justice was merely a name for such conventions among men as they should adjudge best for their own utility and happiness. The most vigorous champion of this latter theory appears to have been one Carneades, a Greek philosopher of the second century B.C., said to have been the founder of the third Academy and expounder of the philosophy of probabilities and to have possessed the acutest mind of antiquity. In a course of lectures at Rome he stated the arguments for the orthodox view of justice and then boldly assumed to answer them and demonstrate that justice was not a virtue at all as virtue was defined by the philosophers, but was merely a convention; was what men should agree to be a sound basis for the maintenance of civil society, and hence that it varied with times, places, circumstances, and even opinions. This argument evidently had much effect upon public opinion, for Cato urged in the Senate that Carneades be banished because dangerous to the state.

So great was the influence of Carneades that a century later Cicero, a disciple of the Stoic school of philosophy, thought it necessary to refute him specifically as the chief heretic, and to uphold the orthodox theory against his arguments. Cicero denounced with eloquent warmth the doctrine that utility was the foundation of justice. He declared that, not utility, but nature, was the source of justice, that justice was a principle of nature, the ultimate principle behind all law. To abridge the familiar quotation from his "De Republica," "There is a law which is the same as true reason, accordant with nature, a law which is constant and eternal, which calls and commands to duty, which warns and terrifies men from the practice of deceit. This law is not one thing at Rome, another at Athens, but is eternal and immutable, the expression and command of Deity." In his treatise "De Legibus" he declared that men are born to justice; that right is established not by opinion but by nature; that all civil law is but the expression or application of this eternal law of nature; that the people or the prince may make laws but these have not the true character of law unless they be derived from the ultimate law; that the source and foundation of right law must be looked for in that supreme law which came into being ages before any state was formed.

This theory of the Stoics so eloquently urged by Cicero was practically the jus naturale of the Roman jurists of classical times, though more moderately expressed by them. It does not seem to have been wholly academic, but to have been actually applied at times. In his history of Rome, Mommsen relates that even during the nearly absolute sway of Sulla, after the fall of Marius, the Cornelian Laws enacted to deprive various Italian communities of their Roman franchise were ignored in judicial proceedings as null and void; also that, contrary to Sulla's decree, the jurists held that the franchise of citizenship was not forfeited by capture and sale into slavery during the civil war with Marius. Later, when the church became a power in the state there are instances where laws adjudged to be contrary to the laws of God were refused effect. In England as late as the middle of the 17th century Chief Justice Hobart, a judge of high repute, asserted that "even an act of Parliament made against natural equity, as to make a man judge in his own case, is void in itself for the laws of nature are immutable and they are the laws of laws." In the 18th century Blackstone assented to the doctrine of a jus naturale and wrote of it: "This law of nature being coeval with mankind and dictated by God himself is of course superior in obligation to any other.... No human laws are of any validity if contrary to this, and such of them as are valid derive all their force and all their authority, mediately or immediately, from this original." True, Blackstone combated the doctrine that duly enacted statutes were to be held void if the judges thought them contrary to reason, but he admitted that that extreme doctrine was more generally held. In this country the doctrine of a higher law than the Constitution even, and to be obeyed rather than the Constitution and laws enacted in accordance therewith, has had and even now has earnest advocates.

But the contrary doctrine of Carneades and the Sophists would not down. After Cicero and the civilians, after Hobart and Blackstone, came our modern utilitarians, or sophists, Bentham, Mill, Austin, and others, who have vigorously maintained with weighty arguments the utilitarian theory of justice; and that theory is now generally accepted by lawyers and statesmen as at least the most workable theory in human affairs. There still exists, however, in the minds of many the belief that above and behind all the turmoil and strife of politics, all the flux and reflux of social movements and public sentiment, the confusion of enactments, amendments, and repeals of statutes, the swaying of judicial opinion, there is some law of nature or in nature, some criterion, which if ascertained and obeyed would be perfect justice.

This question of the origin, the foundation of justice, whether it be of God or of men, seems to have been much more debated than the question what is the nature of justice whatever its origin or foundation. Yet some attempts, other than those attributed to Socrates, have been made of old to give a definition of justice. The earliest description I have found is that of the early Pythagoreans, who, in accordance with their practise of symbolizing the virtues by geometrical figures, designated justice by the square, and the just man by the cube. Plato seems to have had a theory of justice when he wrote in the "Gorgias," "Nature herself intimates that it is just for the better to have more than the worse, the stronger than the weaker, and in many ways she shows that among men as well as among animals justice consists in the superior ruling over and having more than the inferior." In these days our first impulse may be to denounce Plato's statement as altogether wrong if not worse. We should remember, however, that Plato was not considering any altruistic virtue such as kindness, sympathy, benevolence, generosity and the like, but only what nature indicates to be the essential condition of successful association. Thus interpreted, are we prepared to confute the statement? Do we know of any state of society in human or animal life at any time, past or present, of which the contrary of Plato's statement is true?

But passing over all other attempts of the ancients to define justice, none of which seems to have been much regarded by contemporary opinion, I will only cite the most famous, that by Ulpian, the renowned jurist of the best period of Roman jurisprudence, whose writings were most drawn upon by the learned compilers of the Institutes and Digest of Justinian; viz., "Justitia est constans et perpetua voluntas jus suum cuique tribuendi," or "Justice is the constant and perpetual will to render to every one his right." This definition was adopted by the compilers as correct and made the introduction to the Institutes. It thus received the imperial sanction and was quoted wherever the law of Rome prevailed, down through medieval times and later, almost as if it were an inspired or at least authoritative definition not to be questioned. But notwithstanding the acclaim with which this definition was hailed, I question that it was any improvement on that of Aristotle, who tersely defined justice as "that virtue of the soul which is distributive according to desert." Indeed, I think Aristotle was nearer the mark.

Upon the revival of the study of law and jurisprudence in the 11th and 12th centuries several of the more famous jurists of that time, Azo, Irnerius, Placentinus and others, essayed definitions of justice, but they do not seem to have improved upon Ulpian. Their definitions were vitiated by theological assumptions and none of them has become a text for commentators or students. Neither in modern times has any definition of justice been suggested which has received such universal assent as did that of Ulpian in his time and for centuries afterward. We may therefore return to Ulpian's definition as our point of departure, since his definition is substantially that suggested earlier by Aristotle, and observations on the later will also apply in many respects to the earlier.

Ulpian's definition is elegant in style, but it does not carry us very far in our inquiry. We are told indeed that justice is a state or disposition of the mind, the disposition to render to everyone his right or, as put by Aristotle, is the disposition to distribute according to desert. It was this statement that captured the medieval jurists and which they made their text, but it is now regarded as incomplete and even inaccurate. One may have the disposition, the desire, the will, to render to every one his right, but unless he can know what is his fellow's right he may unwittingly fail to accord it to him and thus unwittingly do injustice. It evidently is not enough to have the disposition or will; hence the definition is incomplete, and any definition is incomplete which does not furnish a criterion for determining what is the given man's right.

But the definition as far as it does go is not strictly accurate. The man of malevolent disposition who would wrong his fellow if he dared, may yet, to avoid unpleasant consequences to himself, render fully to every other man his right. It would seem, therefore, that justice is an attribute or quality of conduct rather than a disposition or state of mind, and of conduct toward others rather than of conduct toward one's self. It is only of the conduct of men in their relations to other men that we can predicate justice or injustice. One's conduct may result in good or evil to himself and so be wise or unwise, but assuming, what probably is never the fact, that it affects only himself, in no way affects any other, his conduct is neither just nor unjust. Robinson Crusoe, until the arrival of the man Friday, had no occasion to consider our problem.

But, admitting that each man's conduct, whether active or passive, does affect some other person, what is the criterion by which to determine the justice or injustice of that conduct? It is not enough to say that if the conduct in any degree impedes the other person in the enjoyment of any of his rights it is unjust, otherwise not; for then the question comes to the front, what is the right of that other in the given case? Indeed, this latter question is the crux of the problem of justice. The derivation of the word "justice" also shows this. The Latin justitia or justitium according to some scholars is compounded of jus, right, and sisto or steti, to place, or to cause to stand, and hence the whole word may be held to signify the maintenance of jus or right. With the question of jus or right correctly answered, the problem of justice is practically solved. The right of the one being known, the effect of any particular conduct of another on that right, and consequently its justice or injustice, is determinable with comparative ease. Hence to make progress in our inquiry we must consider the problem of rights, for we almost instinctively accept as correct so much of Ulpian's definition as implies that justice is to be predicated of the act of rendering to everyone his right. We instinctively feel that if we render to another his full right we do him full justice, and that if we ourselves are deprived of any right we suffer injustice. What is his or our right is therefore the real question. This will be our next subject for consideration.



The problem of Rights is also centuries old. There have been in later years glowing tributes to human rights even more than to justice, though the sentiment of rights is egoistic, while that of justice is in some measure altruistic. There have also been diverse opinions in the past, as now, as to the source, foundation, and nature of what are called Rights, as there were and are of justice. A brief review of these opinions and of the changes in them may present the problem more vividly.

In patriarchal times there could be no political questions about rights. The head of the family was supreme and sole ruler and judge. Even in Rome under an organized civil government the pater familias was long left the power of life and death over the members of his family. When families and tribes were combined in states, government was long conducted on the theory that as the individual had belonged to the family or tribe into which he was born or adopted, so he now belonged to the state, to be directed and disposed of as the state might order. What he might enjoy of life, liberty, or property was the gift of the state, subject to revocation at will. Plato reflects this theory in making Hippias declare that the measure of man's right is what the state commands. The total abolition of the liberty of innocent persons by holding them in slavery was not deemed any infringement of any right of theirs. This theory was acted upon in democratic as well as in monarchical states. Slavery was as lawful in Athens, Sparta, and republican Rome as in Persia or Egypt. True, there were rebellions and revolutions at times, but, though sometimes provoked by oppression, they were usually to acquire the power of government and not in defense of individual rights. The Plebeians revolted to obtain a greater share in the governing power. The civil wars of Marius and Sulla were not waged for liberty but for power. In Sicily, where the slaves under Eunus had for a time wrested the governing power from their masters, they did not hesitate to enslave in turn.

The doctrine that the individual man has some rights by nature which the state ought not to disregard had no place in ancient nor medieval governments. The English Magna Charta purports to be a grant from the king and, though framed by the barons and forced upon the king, it contains no assertion of rights by nature. The rights claimed were claimed as accustomed rights previously conferred and enjoyed, such as the laws and customs of the time of Henry I. Apart from provisions as to improved methods of administration, the language of the Charter implies restoration rather than revolution.

So in the Petition of Right in the reign of Charles I, no appeal was made to natural rights, but the demand was for accustomed privileges, for the observance by the king of the old laws and customs of the realm, especially those in force under Edward I and Edward III. In the Petition, the Charter of King John is cited, not as a schedule of the rights of man in the abstract, but as "The Great Charter of the Liberties of England," implying that the liberties therein named were not the natural heritage of men in general but the peculiar heritage of Englishmen, under English law. The prayer of the Petition is simply that the king shall accord the people of England "their rights and liberties according to the laws and statutes of the realm."

So in the Bill of Rights framed by Parliament and approved by William and Mary upon their accession to the throne, it was not asserted that the acts of James II complained of were contrary to any natural right of the subject, but that they "were utterly and directly contrary to the known laws and statutes and freedom of this realm." The purpose of the Bill of Rights was declared by the Parliament in behalf of the people to be "for the vindicating and asserting their ancient rights and liberties." In the earlier remonstrances of the legislatures of the English colonies in America against various acts of the king and Parliament, only the accustomed rights of Englishmen were claimed to be violated. The colonists, at first, claimed as against king and Parliament no rights not accorded to Englishmen in England.

But though the notion that man has rights by nature, not granted by the state and which the state should respect as such, did not for centuries find expression in state papers or state action, it was by no means non-existent. It was early in the minds of many and found some expression in the writings of jurists and philosophers. In Rome it was a corollary of the doctrine of the existence of a jus naturale. The statement of that doctrine by Ulpian incorporated in the Digest implies a doctrine that man does have some rights anterior to and independent of the state. So far, however, as the statement was susceptible of that construction it was not generally acted upon and remained practically a dead letter. The doctrine itself survived, however, engaging the attention and receiving the support of various writers. It gradually gained ground among students of politics and spread rapidly after the Protestant Reformation, so-called, because of the impetus given by that event to the exercise of private judgment. As early as the 17th century, though finding little or no expression in the Petition of Right or Bill of Rights, the doctrine that individual rights were derived from nature rather than from the state was generally entertained by the Puritans and other dissenters from the Established Church, and was invoked by them to some extent as justifying the revolution of 1640. The doctrine also passed over to the Puritan Colonies in America and early found some expression there. In the Massachusetts "Body of Liberties" of 1641 there is a suggestion that the liberties, etc., therein recited, were those demanded by "humanity, civility and christianity" rather than "accustomed" liberties. It was further asserted that these liberties were to be enjoyed by the people of the Colony and their posterity forever.

The later disputes as to the proper limits of the power of the British King and Parliament over the American Colonies led the colonial lawyers and politicians to a study of the theory of natural rights advanced by various political writers, English and Continental. It has been said, I think with truth, that the writings of Locke, Voltaire, Rousseau, Montesquieu, and even of Blackstone, were more widely read and studied in America than in Europe. The brilliant writings of Tom Paine also had great influence. The result was that the doctrine of natural rights came to be generally accepted by the people of the Colonies as the real foundation of their claims and the real justification for their resistance to the objectionable acts of the King and Parliament. In 1774 the first Continental Congress in its Declaration of Rights declared that the people of the Colonies had those rights by "the immutable laws of nature" as well as by their charters and the principles of the English Constitution. Two years later in the Declaration of Independence the representatives of the people made no reference to their charters nor to the principles of the English Constitution as the foundation of their claims, but based them exclusively on the theory of natural rights. They declared: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

The same influences undoubtedly contributed to bring about the French Revolution of 1789, and the theory of natural rights again found expression in the French state papers of that period. In August of that year, in the early stages of the Revolution, the following "Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen" was put forth by the National Assembly and afterwards made the first two articles of the Constitution of 1791, viz., "Art. 1. Men are born and remain free and equal in rights. Social distinctions can be based only upon public utility. Art. 2. The aim of every political association is the preservation of the natural and imprescriptible rights of man. These rights are liberty, property, security and resistance to oppression."

Thus in the latter part of the 18th century the doctrine that man has some individual rights by nature, not by grant or prescription, and not alienable, obtained official recognition in two great nations. It has since been formally and officially iterated in the Constitutions of many American States and has been proclaimed and invoked as an impregnably established political truth. Nevertheless the doctrine is only a theory, not yet demonstrated nor undoubted. It has been assailed and in the opinion of many refuted, by Bentham, Mill, and other utilitarian writers, the successors of Epicurus, Carneades and the Sophists. Even in France and America it is now repudiated by many and declared to be an obstacle to social and political improvement. Still, despite the vigorous arguments against the doctrine, there remains the innate feeling and a general belief that society abridges individual rights instead of conferring them. In support of this notion may be cited the fact that the statutes of any state or nation are almost wholly restrictive or compulsory in character, and rarely, if ever, permissive. From the Decalogue down, the language of the law has been compulsive, "Thou shalt" and "Thou shalt not"; and men generally act upon the theory that what society does not forbid by statute or custom the individual may do.

In passing now from the region of theory, of speculative opinion, to what seems to me the region of facts, of actual conditions, of actual traits of human nature, I wish it to be understood distinctly that in what I may say about rights I am considering only the precepts of justice, and that I differentiate those precepts from the precepts of religion, charity, philanthropy, benevolence, and other similar virtues, and even those of what is loosely called humanity. If it be true as asserted by Addison that justice is the greatest and most godlike of the virtues, it does not follow that the just man, to be just, must possess all or any of the other virtues. One can be just without being religious, charitable, or philanthropic, and even without earning the reputation of being humane.

I wish further to premise that I am considering our subject only with reference to those who have grown to the age of self-maintenance and consequent freedom. I do not take into account the rights of children under that age.

With these premises borne in mind, I would now in the next chapter call attention to some propositions of fact, which I shall assume to be established by science and history and by the reader's own experience and observation, and which I think bear more or less directly on our subject.



Men are endowed by nature with sundry powers, faculties, capacities, physical and mental. These, however, are not at all uniform, but are diverse in kind and degree in different races of men and in different individuals of the same race. Nature seems to work through diversity rather than through uniformity, indeed through inequality rather than through equality. Not all men are born poets, nor are all poets equally good poets. Not all men are by nature adapted for intellectual pursuits, and those who are so adapted are not in that respect equally favored by nature. Even in the field of the simplest manual labor there is great diversity of natural capacity. It seems to be nature's theory that mankind, the human race as a whole, will be better served by diversities, by differences in kinds and degrees of powers, than by uniformity and equality.

Further, normal men are also by nature endowed, if not with rights, yet with sundry instincts, desires, passions; also with sundry feelings, emotions, sentiments; and also with some degree of reason and power of choice. Some of these may not be apparent in infancy, but they appear in a greater or less degree of intensity as the individual develops.

Among these instincts or desires is the desire to live, the desire to serve each his own welfare and that of his offspring, and the desire to decide for himself what will best serve that welfare. As a corollary, he also has by birth the desire for freedom to exercise any and all of his talents and powers in such manner, to such extent, and in pursuit of such objects as he prefers, or to be idle if he prefers idleness. Further, he has the instinct of acquisitiveness, the desire to appropriate to himself and retain control of such material objects as he thinks may serve his welfare and that of his offspring, and especially does he have a natural instinct and desire to possess and control exclusively for himself whatever, much or little, he has wrenched from nature or otherwise obtained by the exercise of his various powers. This instinct is also observable in some animals. A dog will hide a bone for his own exclusive future use. Man also instinctively claims for his own the natural increase of what he has acquired, the young of his beasts, the fruits of his orchard.

This desire for control includes the desire to store up, to use, to consume, to transfer, and even to destroy at will. This desire is seen in young children, who will try to clutch and hold whatever attracts them, and who will hoard or break toys or throw them away as their whims may be. As they get older the desire to control grows stronger, for they destroy less and preserve more in order to have greater measure of control; but still they desire freedom to consume or destroy at their own will. So strong is this desire of control that men wish to direct what shall be done with their property after their death.

If one is balked or hindered in the gratification of any of these desires, there is excited in him a feeling of resentment against the cause, even if it be only some force of nature. There is a note of anger in the cries of a child over interference with his play, the deprivation of any toy or other thing he may have or desire. That the wind or the rain was the cause does not sooth him. In the mature man also, anger adds some force to the kick he gives even inanimate objects unexpectedly impeding him. Who of us has ever fallen over a chair in the dark without mentally, at least, consigning it to perdition? The old law of Deodand was an expression of this feeling of resentment against inanimate objects even. By that law, according to Blackstone, whatever chattel was the immediate cause of the death of a reasonable creature was forfeited to the crown, as when a cart ran over a man. By the laws of Draco whatever caused a man's death by falling upon him was to be destroyed or cast out of the community. Thus a statue having fallen upon a man, it was thrown into the sea. The Mosaic law savagely declared: "If an ox gore a man that he die, the ox shall be stoned and his flesh shall not be eaten."

Is not this instinctive feeling of resentment at interference with one's person, liberty, or property, the rudiment of a later developed idea, or sentiment, of rights possessed? Resentment is felt only when one is deprived of something he feels he is entitled to. Granting that nature has not endowed man with rights, it has imbued him with a belief that he has rights, and also with a disposition to defend them.

Man is also born into a material world of natural forces, and hence to gratify his desire to live and serve his own welfare and that of his offspring, he must adapt himself to his environment, fit himself to withstand heat and cold, provide himself with food and shelter. He not only desires to, but he must, exercise his powers of mind and body and hence should be free to exercise them to that extent at least. Nature does not feed, clothe and shelter man. It only provides the raw material which man must himself find, take, and convert by his labor, manual and intellectual, into food, clothing, shelter, and whatever else he desires.

But man is also born into association with other men, into some sort of social organization, and well for him that he is. It is not society, however ill organized, that has caused, or today causes, poverty. That is the primitive condition of the human race. It is only through some social organization ensuring to man freedom for his labor and security for his savings that he can escape poverty. If each individual by his own unaided efforts had to find the raw material, mold it to serve his needs and desires, and also defend it from attacks by others, his life would be one of dire poverty, scarcely above that of the higher animals.

Further, nature has so formed man that he not only needs but desires association with other men. Children instinctively flock together for common play, and this social instinct continues through life and extends to work as well as play. We find men everywhere in the civilized world voluntarily entering into associations for various purposes thought by the members to be of service to themselves or others. But there is over and surrounding these associations that larger association, racial or territorial, which we call society. This is the necessary association into which man is born and in which he must live if he desires other than mere animal life. This society must be maintained if the race of men, as men and not as mere animals, is to continue. Indeed, society itself has a sort of instinct for self-preservation. It is not a mere aggregation of individual units but is an association of sentient correlated beings with a resultant life and movement of its own.

Association, however, does not extinguish nor appreciably lessen the natural instincts, desires, feelings, sentiments, etc., of the individual, though they may be made less active by continued restraint. Association even extends the scope of man's individual desires and activities. He now desires freedom to make arrangements with other men of such nature and for such purposes as he and they may agree upon. If he is prevented by authority from making such arrangements he feels some resentment, feels that his right is infringed. He also comes to desire that those who have entered into arrangements or contracts with him should perform their part, and he instinctively feels resentment at their neglect or refusal to do so. He feels that he has a right to the performance of the contract.

Another desire is developed or given play by society,—the desire to equal one's fellows in the race for benefits, and, that accomplished, to excel them. He desires to win in every game, to be the victor in every contest of physical or mental powers, and in business as well as in sports. If he is held back he feels resentment against the power assuming to restrain him. He thus feels he has a right to equal and to excel if he can. Whether competition should be enforced or stimulated by society is a question in economics. What affects the question of rights and hence of justice is whether this desire to excel should be impeded.

In this association, however, each individual man finds himself in close contact all through life with other men having like instincts, desires, feelings, emotions, etc., as his own; and who also feel like resentments and have like notions of rights possessed. If each is left by society free to gratify these desires or to enforce his claims of rights in his own way unmindful how his action may affect others; if they be left free to "take who have the power" and only they may "keep who can," society could not exist and civilization, if not the race, would perish.

Society, therefore, must frame and enforce rules for the regulation and control of the conduct of its individual members, must even restrain them to some extent from the gratification of some of their desires. On the other hand, these instincts, desires, etc., must still be reckoned with. They cannot be wholly suppressed nor even very much reduced or impeded if society is to progress or even exist. There must be left to the individual some degree of liberty of choice and action. An eminent American jurist, James C. Carter, vividly stated this, though perhaps in the extreme, when he wrote that the sole function of law and legislation is to secure to each individual the utmost liberty which he can enjoy consistently with the preservation of the like liberty to all others. "Liberty (he wrote), the first of blessings, the aspiration of every human soul, is the supreme object. Every abridgment of it demands an excuse, and the only good excuse is the necessity of preserving it." (Carter's "Law. Its origin and growth," page 337.)

There must also be left to the individual some personal motives for labor and thrift, for, after all, it is the toil of individuals that supports society and its members. It is the surplus products, not consumed, but stored up by the economy of individuals that constitutes the energy of society. However it may be improved in the future, the nature of the average man today is such that he will not toil and deny himself without prospect of rewards to accrue to himself for his own personal use. He will not strive to earn and then conserve his earnings unless he can have them for his own, to control, use and dispose of at his pleasure. However it may be with a few unselfish, devoted souls, men as a rule are not yet so altruistic as to devote themselves exclusively to the good of others, of society. I think it evident that if the impelling natural desire to serve one's self be wholly or even largely disregarded by society, little would be produced or saved by voluntary labor and self-denial. The alternative would be the restoration of some system of enforced labor, of slavery, for the vast majority of men. At this day, after centuries of exhortation to practise the virtues of benevolence, of brotherly love, of self-sacrifice for the good of others, men do not from pure love of humanity voluntarily endure heat and cold, expend their labor and savings in working mines, in braving seas, in building and operating factories, railroads and steamships, in growing corn and cotton. Even those public offices, in which the altruist might find the best opportunities for serving the people, are not much sought for unless some personal honor or pecuniary profit be attached to them. Should society decree that the laborer, whether with hands or brain, should have no individual reward proportionate to the efficiency of his labor, but only his numerical proportion of the product of all laborers, I fear the efficiency of all classes of laborers, manual and mental, would fall to the "irreducible minimum."

The foregoing statements and inferences lead to the question, how far should society go in undertaking to regulate the conduct and restrict the freedom of the individual,—that freedom which would be his if he were alone in the world? It may be thought that this is a question of expediency for economists and sociologists, and so it is largely, but it is also a question of rights and hence of justice, since every action or non-action of society affects the freedom of the individual in the gratification of his desires or, in other words, in his pursuit of happiness.



The question stated at the close of the last chapter is most important and, in a sense, is perhaps the crux of the whole matter. Not only may error in the solution of the question injuriously affect the material interests of individuals and hence of society as a whole, but it may cause unhappiness far greater than that caused by any material loss, viz., a sense of injustice. As said by the English judge, "Injustice cuts to the bone."

At the outset I accept Herbert Spencer's theory that the idea of justice contains two sentiments, positive and negative; the one the sentiment of the individual that he has the right by nature to the unimpeded use of his faculties and to the benefits he acquires by such use; the other the consciousness that the presence of other individuals with similar claims of rights necessitates some limitation of his own claims. Out of those two sentiments is evolved, I think, the idea of justice or injustice according as they are or are not in equilibrium. They suggest the definition that justice is the equilibrium between the full freedom of the individual and the restrictions thereon necessary for the safety of society. The restraint of personal conduct within too narrow limits, the necessity of which cannot be made clear, excites resentment, stimulates angry passions, and hence causes unhappiness through a sense of injustice. Restraint within necessary limits only, the necessity of which can be seen, arouses no resentment; on the contrary, it satisfies the individual, favors harmonious cooperation, profits society and increases the happiness of its members, through the appreciation of that necessity.

But for the fixing of the boundary line between necessary and unnecessary restraints upon personal conduct, some other matters still are to be considered. I have said that man instinctively feels resentment at interference with whatever he may think is his right to do, or get, or keep. If this interference is from any of his fellow men his resentment is greater than when it is from natural forces. There arises the desire for vengeance, the desire to "get even,"—to use a common phrase,—by inflicting a corresponding injury on the offender. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, is instinctively demanded now as of old. If unable to inflict a corresponding injury there is the desire to inflict an equivalent injury. To paraphrase Bacon, revenge is justice running wild.

This instinct should be heeded by society. If it be necessary for its own preservation that society restrain this instinct, prohibit private vengeance, then it must itself provide for satisfaction of the instinct; the offender must be compelled to make full compensation or else be made to suffer in turn some deprivation of rights claimed by him that shall be commensurate with the offense. This should be done speedily and gratuitously so far as possible. Delay and expense cause resentment in the suitor for justice and so cause injustice. In doing this, society not only protects itself but it restores an equilibrium of rights disturbed by the offender. This restoration of equilibrium is an essential element in the concept of justice. Of course, as society progresses and human nature improves, this desire of the injured for vengeance on the offender becomes weaker. The virtues of mercy, forgiveness, or willingness to forego the demand for punishment, come into play and society is allowed to attempt to reform rather than to punish, or is allowed to pardon altogether. These virtues, however, are not part of the concept of justice. If the punishment seems inadequate, or the pardon seems undeserved, there remains, or is again excited, the feeling of resentment. The equilibrium is not restored.

Another sentiment or feeling is to be reckoned with in order to secure this equilibrium in society. The young, untrained child is impatient of all restraint. It is only by experience that he learns he must submit to restraint if he would have any sort of association with his fellows. He learns that he must submit to the rules of the game if he would have a part in the game. As he comes to maturity he becomes conscious that society must impose restraint upon him and hence feels no resentment against all restraint, as does the untrained child. He does, however, feel resentment if restraints are imposed upon him in his pursuit of happiness which are not imposed upon others in their pursuit. Similarly he feels resentment if exemptions from restraint are allowed some others and not allowed him also. Furthermore, he is quick to note any discrimination against himself and prone to imagine it when in fact there is none.

Almost as soon as the average child is placed with others under a common authority, as in a public school, he begins to complain of the teacher's partiality to other pupils. He will stay in no game where the rules operate unequally against him. He insists on an even chance with his fellow players. When later in life he engages in business he resents any favoritism shown by the government of his state or town to others in the same or a similar business. This feeling is especially noticeable in the matter of taxation. If one believes the taxes imposed by the government are unnecessarily heavy he may feel some resentment, but his resentment is much greater if he believes he is overtaxed in comparison with his fellows, that they are escaping their proportionate share of the burden, or that taxes are imposed on his products in order to favor the products of others, as when oleomargarine was taxed to handicap it in its competition with butter.

This feeling of resentment at inequality of restraints and burdens imposed and exemptions granted is not ignoble, is not a feeling to be suppressed or even concealed. It is far different from the feeling of envy. If I can only afford to ride in a trolley car I may envy the man who can afford to ride in a luxurious motor car and yet not feel wronged. But if I am excluded from a public street car to which he is admitted I have a different feeling, that of resentment. I may be perfectly willing that all others, rich or poor, shall use the streets to the full extent that I do, but if it be proposed that my use shall be limited in order that some others may for their private purposes have more than an equal use with me, my feeling is not one of envy but of indignation. So I can appreciate that if I wilfully or through carelessness injure another I should make full compensation, and hence can cheerfully submit to the law compelling me to do so; but if the law undertakes to exempt any other person from a similar liability, I feel a keen sense of wrong. Conversely, the most strict disciplinarian, the martinet even, if otherwise competent receives ready obedience and respect if it is seen that he treats alike, according to their merits, all subject to his authority. This feeling is natural. Nature is impartial in the application of its laws. It allows no exemption. Its fires burn the weak as well as the strong, the child as well as the man, the poor as well as the rich. One star differs from another star in glory, but no one of all the millions of stars is exempt from any of the laws set by nature for stars.

This feeling of right to impartiality of treatment had some faint expression in the Massachusetts "Body of Liberties" of 1641, in which it was declared that the liberties, etc., therein enumerated should be enjoyed "impartially" by all persons within the jurisdiction of the colony. It was more distinctly recognized in the Connecticut Declaration of 1818 and a part of the Connecticut Bill of Rights today, "That all men when they form a social compact are equal in rights and that no man or set of men are entitled to exclusive public emoluments or privileges from the community." Again it appears in the federal and some state constitutions in the provision against the granting of titles of nobility. It seems to be at least impliedly recognized in the XIVth amendment to the United States Constitution in the clause that no state "shall deny any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws," since "the equal protection of the laws" necessarily implies protection against unequal laws, laws favoring some at the expense of others or of the whole. If the state favors one more than another it does deny that other equal protection. I do not subscribe to the doctrine that "the greatest good of the greatest number" is to be sought. The only legitimate search is for the good of the whole number without discrimination for or against any one. This sentiment found expression in the once popular slogan, "Equal rights for all. Special privileges for none." I say once popular, for today it would seem not popular in practice. True, special privileges are still loudly denounced, but under the name of special exemptions, they are still demanded by those who denounce them most loudly.

It is not inequality of natural powers of body or mind, nor inequality in natural conditions, that excites this feeling of resentment I have noted. The man of feeble natural powers may envy him of strong natural powers, but he can see that society, that law, is not responsible for that inequality. If one finds himself from lack of natural ability or adaptiveness unable to accomplish what others of superior ability or adaptiveness easily accomplish, and hence he fails to receive the prize they so easily win, he may feel great disappointment and regret, but if honest with himself will not attribute his failure to the injustice of society.

It is not essential to the preservation of society and the race that such inequalities should be removed, that all men should be reduced to a dead level of capacity, that human nature should be ignored. It is strongly felt, however, that society should not itself create artificial inequalities, should not allow one man or set of men a liberty it will not allow to others, should not impose burdens on one man or set of men to be borne by them alone while others are exempt; or if it does undertake to do so it should be able to demonstrate that such artificial inequality is necessary for the safety of all. The intensity of this feeling against artificial inequalities is so great that men sometimes prefer equality before the law even to liberty. When the British ambassador said to Madam De Stael that Frenchmen had no more liberty after the Revolution than before, she answered that they had acquired equality before the law and they preferred that to more liberty. This sentiment was tersely and well expressed in the French Declaration of Rights of 1795. "Equality consists in this, that the law is the same for all whether it protects or punishes."

Of course, no assertion of rights can be carried to the extent of the dictum, "Fiat Justitia ruat Respublica," for if the state fall, all hopes of justice fall with it. When the alternative is the conquest of the particular society by invasion or its disorganization by rebellion or rioting or otherwise, some of its members must submit to the sacrifice of some or all of their rights. Nature will sacrifice individuals for the preservation of the race. Society must sometimes do the same. "Inter arma silent leges." But such times are exceptional and not within the scope of our inquiry.

To sum up the matter, justice is the according to every one his right, and that right is such freedom of action in gratifying one's desires as can be exercised in harmony with like freedom by others. In other words, it is equal freedom, equal restraint. It is order and harmony. Plato and Aristotle were right in teaching that order is an essential element of justice.

But who is to determine the matter? Who is to determine what degree of restraint or liberty is necessary to secure this order and harmony, this justice? Obviously it is society, or rather, individuals acting as a whole through society and not each individual acting for himself, that must determine such questions. Society has the responsibility. If it imposes too many restraints or imposes them unequally it excites, as said before, resentment and antagonism, sometimes to the extent of resistance. If it imposes no more restraints than are necessary and imposes them equally, order and harmony are secured. And when we have this equal freedom with equal and only necessary restraints we have order and harmony,—in other words, justice. Indeed, to repeat, justice in some of its aspects may be considered as the desired equilibrium between the needs of society and the interests of its individual members.

I have left out of the account various virtues,—pity, sympathy, philanthropy, generosity and the like. Though these make social life more agreeable and contribute much to the sum of human happiness, they are not essential to the existence of the race or society. Society as an organization is not held together by these virtues, though many of its weaker members might suffer and perish if they were non-existent. Allow men as much freedom of thought and action as can be exercised without interference with like freedom of others, but restrain them from exercising any greater freedom, and they can and will live together in society though they may be wholly selfish in feeling and conduct. What is called the golden rule, that we should do to others as we would have them do to us, is a precept of philanthropy, of charity, not of justice. The rule enunciated by Confucius five hundred years before Christ, the rule that we should not do to others what we would not have them do to us, is sufficient for the existence of society. The French Convention of 1793 stated the proposition in these words: "Liberty is the power that belongs to man to do whatever is not injurious to the rights of others; it has nature for its principle, justice for its rule, law for its defense: its normal limit is the maxim, Do not to another that which you do not wish to be done to you."

This order and harmony, however, are not easily secured. Not only are there honest differences of opinion as to what restraints are necessary and how and on whom they should be imposed, but society is divided into groups or classes with interests conflicting, or thought to be conflicting, and each seeking to impose restraints on others while retaining freedom for themselves. While professing to demand more liberty and equality, they are often really insisting on greater restraint and inequality. The successful insistence of the trades-unions of England in securing from Parliament a statute exempting their funds from answering in damages for injuries caused by them is a conspicuous instance. Another and equally glaring example is the effort in this country to exempt from the law against combinations in restraint of trade, combinations to increase the cost of living by increasing the prices of agricultural products and the prices to be paid for labor. The effort seems to be to compel men to compete in the use of their savings no matter how wasteful the competition, and to forbid men competing in the use of their labor, no matter what the idleness thereby caused. I think it a truism that whoever seeks to be exempted from the restrictions or liabilities he would impose on others, seeks not justice, but to do injustice.

Another hindrance arises out of the very virtues of pity and sympathy. These impel many to endeavor, not to persuade, but to compel the more efficient and prudent who have by their farsightedness, courage, industry and thrift made good provision for themselves and their offspring, to provide also for the inefficient and the improvident. To be asked to give to these does not offend any sense of right, but if one be told he must give he feels resentful at once. He feels he has a right to decide for himself to whom and to what extent he shall give of his savings. Society did not come into existence nor does it now exist to correct the inequalities of nature, the inequalities of natural powers, nor to prevent the efficient and prudent receiving and enjoying the results of their efficiency and prudence. Nature itself makes no such effort. It rather tends to eliminate the less efficient and preserve the more efficient. Even if society may strive to preserve the inefficient and improvident, should it do so by hampering and restraining those wiser and more capable? We must expect nature to deal with society, with states and nations, as it does with individuals. If a state by its laws discourages the exercise to its full extent of the efficiency of the few and renders less severe the penalties for the inefficiency and imprudence of the many, it cannot long maintain any advantageous position among other nations. Whatever the precepts of religion, of philanthropy, or of other virtues may require, the precepts of justice do not require society to support men in idleness nor even to furnish them with employment. Neither do the precepts of justice require the state to furnish opportunities, nor even to establish equality of opportunity, but only equality of right to take advantage of opportunity. It is a saying, but not a fact, that opportunity knocks once at every man's door. Nature does not bring opportunities, much less equal opportunities, to men's doors. It requires men to go out and search for opportunities, or at least to be on the watch for them, as it requires men to search or watch for other things they desire; and he of the quickest perception and most farsighted will soonest see them, and when seen he does not feel any obligation to share them with others less vigilant or even less fortunate. Society does not support its members, they support it and must support it and themselves by their own exertions, find their own place, find employment for themselves, so far as the precepts of justice are concerned.

However prevalent the sentiment that more than equality of right to use his opportunities is due to any one, it is not an instinctive sentiment. The contrary is the fact. Unless we are dominated by some other sentiment than justice, we instinctively yield assent to Aristotle's proposition that the prize flute should be awarded to the best flute player whether opulent or indigent, literate or illiterate, citizen or slave. A group of small children exploring the fields and woods for wild flowers will concede to each what flowers he finds whether by his better eyes or better luck. So with groups of small boys fishing in the streams and brooks. In games of cards for stakes, the players do not expect to hold cards of equal value and they concede the stakes to the winner, whether won by his greater skill or superior cards.

Also there is an instinctive sentiment that the evil results of one's own conduct should be borne by him alone. If one suffers loss through his own misjudgment, incapacity, or want of care, then, whatever the precepts of other virtues may require, we do not feel that justice requires us to bear any part of that loss. On the contrary, we feel instinctively that he should bear the loss alone, that it is the natural penalty for his lack of judgment, capacity, or care. If my neighbor neglects to insure his house and loses it by fire, I see no reason why he should not bear the loss alone.

In this connection, perhaps I should not omit to notice references often made to the rights of labor, the rights of capital, property rights, and personal rights, as if they were different in their nature and importance. I do not as yet see such difference. All rights are personal rights, and the right of each to control his labor, his savings, his person, and his property is the same. I am not yet convinced that the right of the laborer to make use of his labor is superior to that of the capitalist to make use of his capital; that, whatever his greater need, the right of one without property is superior to that of one who has property; that the right to get is superior to the right to save. It is also loudly proclaimed that "property rights" are of little importance compared with "human rights," unmindful of the truth that the right "of acquiring, possessing and defending property" is, as much as any other, a human right and, as such, necessary to be maintained if the race is to rise above its primitive condition of poverty. However, I do not see that the differences, if any, affect the general question of individual rights.

The conclusion I arrive at is this: Society, and with it the race, cannot survive unless it restrains to some extent individual freedom of action, nor can any particular society long survive if it carry that restraint too far. It should, therefore, ascertain and maintain the line, the equilibrium, between necessary freedom and necessary restraint. It is only by such action of society that justice can be established and the welfare of the race be advanced. This brings us to the question of how and by what instrumentalities society can best perform this momentous task, the securing of justice. This will be considered in the next chapter.



In the present state of civilization society cannot act effectively for determining and maintaining the line, the equilibrium, between necessary freedom and necessary restraint, or in short, justice, except through some governmental organization with power to define and enforce. Appeals to altruistic sentiments will not suffice. This truth was recognized by the framers of our federal and many state constitutions, in naming first among the purposes of government the establishment of justice.

Any government, however, or rather those entrusted with its administration, may through mistake or wilfulness do injustice to some of its subjects. It has often done so in the past and the future is not free from the danger. The very possession of power excites a desire to use it, and it is an admitted characteristic of our human nature that those vested with power, political or other, are prone to exercise it unduly, to abuse it. Men in authority are often said to be "drunk with power." Hence to ensure justice the governmental organization should be such that the limits of the various powers of the government be carefully defined and its administrators be kept within those limits.

Some years ago I might have pointed to our own federal and state governments as the best in form and character for establishing justice and rested there. In later years, however, the superiority of our system is questioned, and radical changes are urged, and indeed some have been made, in the federal system and in that of some of the states. I feel, therefore, that I should make some defense of the system, believing as I do that in its general form and character it is best adapted to secure firmly as much individual liberty of action and equality of right as is consistent with the welfare of the whole number, or, in other words, best adapted to secure justice.

It has become a familiar maxim that the functions and powers of government may all be grouped in three classes or departments, corresponding to the duties already named: (1) that of determining what rules and regulations should be observed, what restraints and duties should be imposed upon its subjects; (2) that of determining whether in a given case any of these rules, etc., have been violated; and (3) that of punishing their violation and otherwise enforcing their observance. These three groups have come to be called the three powers of government and to be designated as the legislative, judicial, and executive, though they are usually named in another order as the executive, legislative, and judicial.

The most efficient form of government for good or evil, and the quickest to act, is undoubtedly that in which all of these powers are united in a single individual. If that individual were always strong, yet peace-loving, self-controlled, sagacious and exclusively devoted to the welfare of his subjects, that form of government would perhaps secure them justice most surely and speedily. Such men, however, are rare and such governments have been found to be invariably and almost inevitably arbitrary in their dealings with their subjects, and in the plenitude of their power to become oppressive. While they may effectually protect their subjects from foreign aggression and domestic anarchy, their tendency is to impose burdens and restrict individual liberty more than necessary, and to disregard the innate desire of men for liberty or at least for equality of restraint. This form of government has already largely disappeared and is further disappearing, though it may again be resorted to for the restoration of order, should the present forms of government fail to prevent violence and preserve the peace.

But other forms of government have not been and are not yet wholly free from the same objectionable tendency. The vesting of all these governmental powers in a group or class of persons instead of one person has been followed by the same results. Aristocracies or oligarchies have the same tendency and even in a greater degree. They have proved even more selfish and tyrannical than the single ruler. They, like all crowds, are less sensitive in conscience, less moved by appeals to reason, than is the single individual. They offend more the sentiment of equality. The French Revolution was not so much against the king as against the nobility, who with their oppressive feudal exemptions had excited the resentment of the people at large. It was not till after he had cast in his lot with the emigres that the king was deposed and guillotined.

Nor have pure democracies, in the few instances where they have undertaken to exercise directly all the powers of government, showed less tendency to be arbitrary and inconsiderate of individual freedom and desires. The nearest approach to such a government was that of ancient Athens where the populace sent into exile, practically without trial, Aristides, called the Just, Miltiades, the victor of Marathon, and Themistocles, the victor of Salamis. The excesses of the Paris Commune of 1870 during its reign, the lynchings of today by mobs of so-called "respectable citizens" who assume the power to accuse, judge and execute all at once, indicate how much regard unrestrained democracies would have for the rights of their individual members.

Nevertheless, despite the danger of more or less arbitrariness, of more or less oppression of the individual, any government must be made strong enough perfectly to maintain order and peace among its subjects. Order is earth's as well as heaven's first law. The goddess Themis in the early Greek mythology was the goddess of order as well as the supplier of themistes or decisions. She was present as the spirit of order in the councils of gods and men. The government that cannot or will not maintain order and peace, prevent violence and fraud, enforce individual rights and redress individual wrongs completely and promptly, is so far a failure and whatever its form should be reformed or overthrown. Even military despotism is better than disorder.

On the other hand, there must be taken into account the tendency, already mentioned, of the possessor of unlimited power over others to use it for his own benefit or pleasure at the expense of those subject to his control, where not restrained by affection or like virtues. Under all governments there has been more or less friction between the persons governing and those governed; more or less strife, sometimes culminating in rebellion and even revolution. If it be said that under a government by the people directly, a pure democracy, such as seems to be advocated at this day, there would be no distinction between governors and governed, that all would be governors and governed alike, the answer is that in a pure democracy the governing power is and can be exercised by only a part of the people, a majority it may be, but still only a part. This part are the governors. The other part, perhaps nearly as numerous, are governed. Friction and even factious strife would still exist. Indeed, a government by a pure democracy ruling directly would probably be more arbitrary than any other, as was the case in Athens. The government by one, or that by a few, would be restrained to some extent by public opinion, would refrain from extreme measures lest they excite effectual resistance, but a majority would feel no such restraint. It would itself constitute public opinion and it would be less likely to fear resistance.

It is evident, therefore, that the frame of government should be such as to secure uniformity in its action so that it shall not act arbitrarily and unequally on its subjects. I assume that no sane man would desire to live under any government where the wielders of the governmental power, one or many, are entirely without legal restraint. We all desire normally, not only order and peace, but also personal liberty and equality of rights. The problem, then, is how to order the frame of government so that it shall be strong enough to protect us individually as well as collectively, but not left able to oppress us or any of us. As said by Alexander Hamilton, we "must first enable the government to control the governed, and in the next place oblige it to control itself."

One great step toward such a form of government was made in the establishment of our federal and state governments by giving effect to the theory of the tripartite nature of governmental powers, entrusting each of the three to a different person or group of persons, or, in other words, to a different department, each restraining the other departments from exceeding their defined powers, so that the government, however democratic, shall not run wild. At this day, however, even this feature of our form of government is assailed as hampering the people and their government and greatly delaying desired reforms. It may be admitted that a government with its powers thus separated in different departments is not able to act as quickly as desired by zealous persons confident of the excellence of their schemes and impatient for their realization, but, on the other hand, it is less liable to act too hastily, less liable to act arbitrarily, or to disregard individual rights and interests.

The idea of a division of governmental powers is not of recent origin. Aristotle argued that the judges should have no other political power, should not themselves enforce their decisions. In Rome under the Republic there was divided between the pretor and the judex the power to decide controversies. The pretor had other duties, but the judex was confined to the single duty to hear and determine. The framers of our Federal Constitution and of our early state constitutions did not act hastily nor unadvisedly. As heretofore stated, the long controversy with Great Britain over the relations between that country and her Colonies, the arbitrary acts of the British King and Parliament, caused in the Colonies a profound study of the nature of government: what should be its purposes and how best to effect its purposes and avoid its abuses. The principal men among them in each Colony were familiar with the history of governments and with the theories of government advanced by European lawyers and political philosophers. They were acquainted with the arguments of Montesquieu and others that a separation of the powers of government and the vesting of each, the executive, legislative, and judicial, in different hands was essential to liberty. They did not merely theorize, however. They had themselves lived and labored under governments not thus divided in functions or only partially so. Colonial governors had assumed legislative functions in the promulgation of ordinances, and also judicial functions as judges of probate and in other ways. The colonial legislatures did not hesitate to dictate to the courts in particular cases and often acted as a court of appeal. In Massachusetts Bay the legislature came to be known as the General Court and exercised judicial power freely, sometimes calling in the judges to sit with them. The same individual could at one and the same time fill an executive and a legislative or judicial office. In colonial Massachusetts William Stoughton held the offices of military commander, lieutenant governor, and chief justice at the same time. Because of the frequent and prolonged absences of the titular governor he was often the acting governor. As an inevitable consequence, when sitting as a judge he was more a zealous prosecutor than an impartial judge. His conduct in the witchcraft trials was comparable to that of Jeffreys in the infamous "Bloody Assizes." Hutchinson was also often acting governor while holding his commission as chief justice.

In view of their experience and deep study, the opinions formed by the framers of the early constitutions of this country should be of great weight in forming our own. It is worth while to cite the opinions of some. Thomas Jefferson was not in his day, nor has he been since, regarded as opposed to popular government. Virginia had as early as 1776 declared in its first constitution that the three great departments should be kept separate. Jefferson, who besides his other opportunities of observing the operation of government was himself chief magistrate of the state, criticized that constitution as not making such separation effectual. In his "Notes on Virginia" he wrote of it: "All the powers of government, legislative, executive and judiciary, result to the legislative body. The concentrating these in the same hands is precisely the definition of despotic government. It will be no alleviation that these powers will be exercised by a plurality of hands and not by a single one. One hundred and seventy-three despots would surely be as oppressive as one. Let those who doubt it turn their eyes on the republic of Venice. As little will it avail us that they are chosen by ourselves. An elective despotism was not the government we fought for, but one which should not only be founded on free principles, but in which the powers of government should be so divided and balanced among several bodies of magistracy as that no one could transcend their legal limits without being effectually checked and restrained by the others. For this reason the convention which passed the ordinance of government laid its foundation on this basis, that the legislative, executive and judiciary departments should be separate and distinct, so that no person should exercise more than one of them at the same time. But no barrier was provided between these several powers." It was this defect, this lack of barriers, that Jefferson lamented.

When the draft of the Federal Constitution of 1787 was submitted to the states, one of the principal objections urged against it was that in its structure sufficient regard was not paid to keeping the three departments of government separate and distinct. In reference to this objection Madison wrote in the "Federalist": "No political truth is certainly of greater intrinsic value or is stamped with the authority of more enlightened patrons of liberty than that on which this objection is founded. The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny. Were the Federal Constitution therefore really chargeable with this accumulation of powers, or with a mixture of powers having a dangerous tendency to such an accumulation, no further argument would be necessary to inspire a universal reprobation of the system." He elsewhere declared the maxim to be a "fundamental article of liberty."

Hamilton was apprehensive of danger to liberty from the legislative department and favored a strong executive to guard against it. He declared in the "Federalist" that the legislative department was "everywhere extending the sphere of its activity and drawing all power into its impetuous vortex,"—that the people "never seem to have recollected the danger from legislative usurpation which by assembling all power in the same hands must lead to the same tyranny as is threatened by executive usurpation." Washington in his Farewell Address, after much experience with, and observation of, legislative action, said: "The necessity of reciprocal checks in the exercise of political power by dividing and distributing it in different depositaries and constituting each the guardian of the public weal against invasions by the others has been evinced by experiments ancient and modern, some of them in our own country and under our own eyes. To preserve them must be as necessary as to institute them."

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