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THE AMERICAN CITIZEN
SOCIETY: RIGHTS: GOVERNMENT
Knowledge of Government.-An essential factor in securing our own happiness and that of those with whom we are associated is a knowledge of the nature and operation of the government under which we live. The great object of government is the securing of justice among men. In order that men may live in peace together, there must be laws restraining them from acts of injustice and protecting them in the enjoyment of their rights. The function of government is to make and execute such laws. The importance of a knowledge of government becomes very great to a citizen of a republic because he has a part in choosing those who make and execute the laws, and thus to some extent may justly be held responsible for the government.
Society.–Man is by nature a social being; that is, he has no natural desire to live alone, but rather to join other men and to associate with them. The simplest and most original association of human beings is found in the family, and this is the foundation of all society. Human interests cannot be solitary; any one interest is related to all others. So families unite to form groups or tribes or communities. The reason why human beings unite to form groups is because of the
feeling that only by means of a common order of communication and protection can the best interests of all be secured. These common purposes and bonds of nearness and intercourse give a group or community the qualities of a public alliance or union. Such a group is called a social unit; and living in such a group or community constitutes a state of civil society.
Benefits of Civil Society.–One man can do very little alone, but when he unites his efforts with those of others he can accomplish great results. Yet each man must to a large extent have the care of himself.
If every person were provided for from a common store, amassed by the labor of all, many, depending upon the labor of others, would not be industrious, and so the supplies would be decreased. The present arrangement obliges each man to provide for his own wants and those of his immediate family. Thus more is earned, and the general welfare is better promoted than if each labored directly for the benefit of all. But the direct benefits of a civil society are great and lasting. As for material advantages, we enjoy not only the fruit of our own labor, but, in large degree, that of the labors of others. Without civil society, man would remain in a state of ignorance, since each individual would be obliged to begin at the very beginning of all that has been done. But as society now is, each generation bequeaths an intellectual inheritance to its successor. Man is the heir of all the ages, and this makes progress possible. Separated from others, man would become fierce and savage; brought into the society of others, his manners soften, and his moral and religious nature develops.
Grades of Culture.—Man is the only animal that is able to pass all barriers and to live in nearly every part of the earth. He is able to do this because, in addition to his really superior
physical powers, he possesses high intelligence. He has overrun the earth and in a large measure subdued it, because he can think, plan, contrive, and reason. He makes other animals and the elements and forces of nature the servants of his will. In his higher stages of civil society, he no longer depends upon
his own muscular strength nor upon that of animals; but by use of iron, steel, and other metals, he employs the greatest forces of nature.
The progress made by any group of men toward the attainment of permanent food supply, proper clothing, substantial dwellings, and power over the forces of nature furnishes a direct measure of their culture, and the grade or stage of society. Thus we consider as in the savage state all those who live chiefly by hunting and fishing, use rude implements, wear little clothing, and have no permanent dwellings. A grade higher, as in a state of barbarism, may be put those who use rude tools of metal, have domestic animals, weave cloth, and have houses; but who have not as yet learned the use of writing. This is the entering wedge of civilization, since writing is the means by which man transmits knowledge from one generation to another. Through the various grades of civilization man passes to the highest grade, in which the inventions and discoveries of mankind are in general placed at the service of all. Wherever these conditions prevail, the people are enlightened.
The Nation the Highest Community.—The highest community is the nation or state. It is a portion of mankind, united by firmly established organization, and limited to clearly defined country or territory. The human beings belonging to a nation are the people. The nation then, in this sense, is the body of inhabitants of the country, speaking the same language in general, and having common interests and