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ΕΠΕΑ ΠΤΕΡΟΕΝΤΑ, ,
DIVERSIONS OF PURLEY.
RIGHTS OF MAN.
your bitter Notes
H. To the ears of man, what music sweeter than the Rights of man?
F. Yes. Such music as the whistling of the wind before a tempest. You very well know what these gentlemen think of it. You cannot have forgotten
Sir, Whenever I hear of the word RIGHTS, I have learned to consider it as preparatory to some desolating doctrine. It seems to me, to be productive of some wide spreading ruin, of some wasting desolation.”—Canning's Speech.
And do you not remember the enthusiasm with which these sentiments were applauded by the House, and the splendid rewards which immediately followed this declaration? For no other earthly merit in the speaker that Edipus himself could have discovered.
H. We shall never, I believe, differ much in our actions, wishes or opinions. I too say
with you—Punish the wickedness of those mercenaries who utter such atrocities : and do you, with me, pity the ignorance and folly of those regular governments who reward them : and who do not see that a claim of Rights by their people, so far from treason or sedition, is the strongest avowal they can make of their subjection : and that nothing can more evidently shew the natural disposition of mankind to rational obedience, than their invariable use of this word RIGHT, and their perpetual application of it to all which they desire, and to every thing which they deem excellent.
F. I see the wickedness more plainly than the folly; the consequence staring one in the face: for, certainly, if men can claim no RIGHTS, they cannot justly complain of any
H. Most assuredly. But your last is almost an identical proposition ; and you are not accustomed to make such. What do you mean by the words right and wrong?
F. What do I mean by those words ? What every othe person means by them.
H. And what is that?
Nay, you know that as well as I do.
F. Must we always be seeking after the meaning of words?
H. Of important words we must, if we wish to avoid important error. The meaning of these words especially is of the greatest consequence to mankind; and seems to have been strangely neglected by those who have made the most use of them.
F. The meaning of the word right ?- Why-It is used so variously, as substantive, adjective, and adverb; and has such apparently different significations (I think they reckon between thirty and forty), that I should hardly
imagine any one single explanation of the term would
A RIGHT conduct.
The RIGHT hand. Right itself is an abstract idea : and, not referring to any sensible objects, the terms which are the representatives of abstract ideas are sometimes very difficult to define or explain.
H. Oh! Then you are for returning again to your convenient abstract ideas; and so getting rid of the question.
F. No. I think it worth consideration. Let us see how Johnson handles it. He did not indeed acknowledge any RIGHTS of the people; but he was very clear concerning Ghosts and Witches, all the mysteries of divinity, and the sacred, indefeasible, inherent, hereditary rights of Monarchy. Let us see how he explains the term.
No. He gives no explanation * :-Except of right hand.
* Johnson is as bold and profuse in assertion, as he is shy and
H. How does he explain that?
F. He says, RIGHT hand means->“ Not the Left."
H. You must look then for left hand. What says he there?
H. Aye. So he tells us again that right is—“Not wrong,” and wrong is—“ Not right *.”
But seek no further for intelligence in that quarter ; where nothing but fraud, and cant, and folly is to be found
sparing in explanation. He says that RIGHT means" True.” Again, that it means—“passing true judgment,” and—“passing a judgment according to the truth of things.” Again, that it means -" Happy.” And again, that it means—“ Perpendicular.” And again, that it means—" In a great degree.”
All false, absurd, and impossible.
* Our lawyers give us equal satisfaction. Say they—“DROIT est, ou lun ad chose que fuit tolle d'auter per Tort; le challenge ou le claim de luy que doit aver ceo, est terme DROIT.”
“ Right is, where one hath a thing that was taken from another wrongfully; the challenge or claim of him that ought to have it, is called RIGHT.”—Termes de la Ley.
[See how Dr. Taylor sweats, in his chapter of LAW and RIGHT, in his Elements of Civil Law.
“ Jus is an equivocal word, and stands for many senses according to its different use and acceptation. Some lawyers reckon up near forty. From whence it follows that the Emperor and his