The Government Class Book eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 386 pages of information about The Government Class Book.

Sec.10.  Hence liberty itself is a natural right.  The words right and liberty, however, have not the same meaning.  We may have a right to a thing when we have not the liberty of using it.  John has a pencil which is justly his own; but James takes it from him by force.  John’s liberty to enjoy the use of his pencil is lost, but his right to it remains.  James has no right to the use of the pencil, though he enjoys the use of it.

Sec.11.  This example serves also to explain further the use of the different terms applied to rights and liberty.  John’s right to his pencil, being guarantied to him by the laws of civil society, is a civil right.  It is with equal propriety called a natural right, because, by the law of nature, he has a right to the use of his pencil.

Chapter III.

Laws, defined.

Sec.1.  Law has been briefly defined. (Chap. 1.  Sec.6.) As in the case of rights and liberty, laws are distinguished by different names; as, the law of nature, or natural law; the moral law; the law of revelation, or revealed law; the political law; the civil or municipal law.

Sec.2.  The law of nature, is of the highest possible authority, being established by the supreme Lawgiver himself.  It is called the law of nature, because it is right in itself—­right in the nature of things, and ought to be obeyed, though no positive command had ever been given to men.  It is a perfect rule of right for all moral and social beings.  It is that eternal rule of right to which God himself conforms.

Sec.3.  The law of nature, as a rule of human action, arises out of man’s relation to his Maker and to his fellow men.  As a creature, he must be subject to the laws of his Creator, on whom he is dependent.  He is also in a measure dependent upon his fellow beings.  All being created equal, each is bound by the principles of natural justice to render to others that assistance which is necessary to make them as happy as himself, or which they justly owe to him in return.

Sec.4.  The moral law is that which prescribes to men their duties to God and to each other.  As a rule of human conduct therefore, it corresponds exactly to the law of nature.  The moral law is briefly expressed in the decalogue or ten commandments, and is still more briefly summed up in the two great commandments, to love God with all our heart and to love our neighbor as ourselves.  God being its author, it is called the divine law; and, being found in the Holy Scriptures, in which his will is revealed to mankind, it is called the revealed law, or law of revelation.

Sec.5. Political law, as has been observed, is that system or form of fundamental rules, called the constitution, by which the people in their political capacity, or as a body politic, agree to be governed.  The nature of this law will more clearly appear from a more particular definition of constitution, and from a description of the manner in which a constitution is made. (Chap.  V.)

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