Sec.10. The youngest reader probably knows, that in speaking of society, we do not refer to any of those associations usually called societies, but to civil society, composed of the people of a state or nation. A nation, or state, is a large number of persons united under some form of government; as, the French nation; the British nation; or the state of New-York; the state of Virginia. Sometimes it signifies the ruling or governing power of a state or nation, as, the state has provided for educating its citizens, and for supporting the poor.
Sec.11. The object of the people in forming a state association, or, as is sometimes said, of entering into civil society, is to promote their mutual safety and happiness. In uniting for this purpose, they agree to be governed by certain established rules and principles; and the governing of the people of a state or nation according to these rules, is called civil government. The word government also signifies the rules and principles themselves by which the people are governed; and sometimes the persons who administer the government—that is those who make the laws of a state and carry them into effect—are called the government.
Rights and Liberty, defined.
Sec.1. We have spoken of the rights of men, and of laws as designed to secure to men the free enjoyment of their rights. But a more particular definition of rights and laws will be useful to young persons just commencing the study of civil government.
Sec.2. A right means ownership, or the just claim or lawful title which a person has to anything. What we have acquired by honest labor, or other lawful means, is rightfully our own; and we are justly entitled to the free use and enjoyment of it. We have a right also to be free in our actions. We may go where we please, and do what ever we think necessary for our own safety and happiness; provided we do not trespass upon the rights of others; for it must be remembered that others have the same rights as ourselves.
Sec.3. The rights here mentioned are natural rights. They are so called because they are ours by nature or by birth; and they can not be justly taken from us or alienated. Hence they are also called inalienable. We may, however, forfeit them by some offense or crime. If, for example, a man is fined for breaking a law, he loses his right to the money he is obliged to pay. By stealing, he forfeits his liberty, and may be justly imprisoned. By committing murder, he forfeits his right to life, and may be hanged.