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remains a vital divergence in the philosophy of the two movements.
The French theorists mistook the source of power for the foundation of freedom. Perceiving that power in the State should emanate directly or indirectly from the people, they fancied that universal suffrage was the equivalent and the guaranty of personal and national freedom. Borrowing a phrase from the American Declaration of Independence, they, too, declared that “ government is instituted to insure to man the free use of his natural and inalienable rights : ” but they defined these rights a3 “ equality, liberty, security, property,” and asserted that “every citizen has the right of taking part in the legislation ;” thus practically merging all human rights in the right of suffrage, as they had merged all political power in the sovereignty of the people. To them political liberty was not a means of securing men in their proper freedom, but was itself the end, the supreme good, of man and of society. “ The French Republic,” said they, “ places the constitution under the guaranty of all virtues.” 1 Thus they traced freedom to a political foundation, and vested it in a political form. Regarding this as the ultimate good, they declared, “ When government violates the rights of the people, insurrection of the people, and of every single part of it, is the most sacred of its rights, and the highest of its duties.”? This constitution was ordered to be engraved on tablets, and set up in the hall of legislation and in public places ; but, having been accepted by the people in their primary assemblies, it came back to be strangled in the convention that gave it birth. To-day again one reads in Paris, on the palaces, the churches, the museums, the libraries, the parks, the abattoirs, the very cemeteries, Propriété Nationale, Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité, — to be wiped out, perhaps, by the mop of the next régime.
The American Declaration of Independence, on the contrary, makes the essence of freedom not political, but ethical, — the attribute of man as a spiritual person: and the State, which by forms of political liberty is to guard this freedom, which is older and higher than itself, derives
1 Constitution, Art, 123. 2 Declaration, Art. 35.
from it something of its spiritual dignity; so that the body politic is possessed also of a moral personality. Hence the Declaration does not couch natural rights in political forms, but makes the whole nature of man – physical, intellectual, and moral — the basis of rights for which political society is bound to care, and before which goyernments must fall when they attempt to destroy the rights, inherent in personality, with which man is endowed by his Creator. As a sentient being, man has the right of life ; but why is his life a right girt about with law, when he takes at will the life of other animals, and feeds upon theirs to sustain his own ? As a creature of intelligence and will, man is capable of freedom, and has the right to liberty of thought, speech, movement, action. But why is liberty a right to him, when at his pleasure he puts restraint upon other animals, and makes them his servants ? As a being of a moral nature, with national affections, imagination, taste, the power of choosing good, capacity of virtue, man is capable of happiness, — a term that is never degraded to the animal passions and pleasures, — a term descriptive only of an intelligent, free, moral person. The good of such a person is higher than all laws of nature, higher than all material things and all conventional forms. The pursuit of happiness is an inalienable right, with which he is endowed by his Creator. As a social being, he retains all these original qualities and endowments: they cannot be alienated by social contract; they cannot be merged in political forms. Society is but an instrument for the more perfect development of this transcendent person in the best use and enjoyment of life, through liberty and the pursuit of happiness; and society compounded of such personalities is itself a spiritual organism, with the right to freedom and to the most consummate good for the whole body and for all its parts. Before this spiritual dignity of manhood, government must bow as to a nature higher than its own. Government cannot use man as a mere numerical factor in the social machine. Because of this original, spiritual dignity of his nature, government must make his life, his liberty, his happiness, its care, and see that these have their fullest play. Before this inherent, inalienable dignity,
government must go down, if it shall dare infringe upon the natural rights of man. And yet, because the wellbeing of man is above all other considerations, even that which threatens him with evil should not be rashly overthrown, lest the violence should do him greater harm. There is the American doctrine of man, of freedom, of government, of revolution, — that man, who is first in order of being, should have a political and social state suited to his endowments; that the true life of society is to be sought, not by perpetual revolution, but by progressive evolution; not by overturning, but by uplifting.
The French philosophy of the eighteenth century failed to construct a free and stable society, because it failed of that spiritual conception of society and man that underlies the American Declaration. The philosophy of Mill, Comte, Buckle, fails for the same reason. Neither materialism nor positivism can provide a basis for freedom in the individual or in the community. You cannot have the play of “Hamlet” without the Prince of Denmark; and, in the great drama of freedom, you cannot move forward without that grand impersonation of freedom, man, as endowed by his Creator with the gift and capacity of liberty and happiness. Society can give no man freedom: all men are created equal.
66 What constitutes a State ?
Thick wall or moated gate;
No: men, high-minded men,
Men who their duties know,
These constitute a State.” Upon the principles thus laid down, the Declaration of Independence proceeds to justify the rejection of British rule by an enumeration of specific grievances. The king is charged with attempting to subvert the legislative power in the Colonies, by suspending legislatures, by dissolving them, by refusing to sanction their acts; by denying new elections; by forcing upon the Colonies the direct legislation of the British Parliament, without permitting them to be represented in the Parliament, or even to be
heard there by petition. The king is charged with attempting to control or to corrupt the judiciary by making the judges dependent on his will alone; by exempting his officers, civil and military, from trial within the Colonies for offences there committed ; by abolishing in many cases the right of trial by jury; by arresting, without warrant of law, colonists for alleged offences against the government, and transporting them to England, to be there punished by arbitrary power. The king is charged with setting up a military jurisdiction over the Colonies, making the military independent of and superior to the civil power by quartering armed troops upon the Colonies, sending foreign mercenaries to subdue them, and by incit. ing negroes and Indians to insurrection. The king is charged with attempting to destroy the prosperity of the Colonies by restricting immigration, refusing grants of lands, cutting off trade, and imposing taxes without consent. And, as the crowning grievance, the king is charged with taking away the charters of the Colonies, and attempting to subvert their fundamental right of local government. For years, these growing usurpations had been opposed by petition and remonstrance, but in vain. It was evident that the object of the king was the establishment of an absolute tyranny over the Colonies. He was trying to subjugate them by force, —- ravaging their coasts, and burning their towns; and there was nothing left for them but to fall back upon their inalienable rights, and make a stand. The proofs of these several charges they had already laid before the world. History has ratified their action; and mankind confess their obligation to the framers of that great charter of freedom, which was the first to formulate the functions of government in harmony with the natural rights of man, and to cement government and people, law and liberty, power and right, in a way that should endure the strain of war and the severer strain of success.
Two other grievances, not named in the Declaration, had strong influence in provoking the Revolution, — the slave-trade, which had been forced upon the Colonies in the interest of British commerce; and the attempt to force upon all the Colonies the English Church Establishment,
which had always existed in some. In the first draught of the Declaration, preserved by Mr. Jefferson, there was a protest against the slave-trade, which in vigor, and pungency of rhetoric, surpassed any thing else in the document, and which, from the pen of a slaveholder, is a faithful testimony to reason and conscience struggling for the right. Let it speak for itself:
“He has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating and carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither. This piratical warfare, the opprobrium of infidel powers, is the warfare of the Christian king of Great Britain. Determined to keep open a market where men should be bought and sold, he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or to restrain this execrable commerce; and, that this assemblage of horrors might want no fact of distinguished die, he is now exciting these very people to rise in arms among us, and to purchase that liberty of which he has deprived them, by murdering the people on whom he also obtruded them, thus paying off former crimes committed against the liberties of one people with crimes which he urges them to commit against the lives of another.”
The fact that Jefferson wrote these words in a Declaration that he expected the entire Congress would adopt and send forth to the world, and that John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Robert R. Livingston, and Roger Sherman, his colleagues on the committee, agreed to report his draught to the Congress for adoption, shows that the authors of that paper were not vaporing about universal liberty to cover their own struggle for independence, but were honestly devoted to the rights of man, and ready to rest the argument for liberty upon manhood, without thought of race, color, or condition. But the conditions were new and strange. They were attempting a great revolution upon most unequal terms: without unanimity, they must fail; and, to secure that unanimity, the moral and logical conviction of the many yielded to the supposed interests and feelings of the few. Jefferson writes in his autobiography, “ The clause reprobating the enslaving the inhabitants of Africa was struck out in complaisance to South Carolina and Georgia, who had never attempted to restrain the importation of slaves, and who, on the contrary,