« AnteriorContinuar »
patria potestas, slavery and inheritance of personal status and of property were foundations which endured a thousand years. So also in India caste is the key to all judicial research, and in China paternal authority and filial piety. Following the American revolution individual liberty and restriction of the powers of government were the leading ideas of the revolutionists concerning social organization. The founders of the United States were close students of the relations of the state to its citizens, but did not concern themselves deeply with the laws governing the relations of man to man, or attempt radical changes in the laws relating to property. Even so immoral a business as the trade in African slaves was not prohibited at once, and slavery was recognized as lawful though immoral. Freedom from the unnecessary restraints of government was their great desideratum. The word liberty is given a great variety of meanings. As expressive of the freedom of action which is permissible to a person it must necessarily mean such freedom as is compatible with equal freedom for all others. Where many persons live in close proximity to each other, complete freedom of action in each with full protection against the acts of others is impossible. The moral law imposes its restraints, and not only denies all liberty to wrong or injure others, but enjoins positive duties toward them in endless variety resulting from the interdependence of man and his fellows. No system of laws has ever yet been worked out on even a professed adherence to fundamental moral principles.
Most of the confusion of thought and defective reasoning of those who speak and write on the subject of political science arise from a failure to observe the difference between questions of morality and questions of expediency and the limitations on expediency imposed by morality. While it is impossible to draw sharp lines of separation, it is not difficult to perceive that each has its legitimate field, and that the science of law, when law-making becomes a science, must rest on the application of moral principles to the determination of the rights of men and their conduct in life and an intelligent understanding of the principles which affect the selection of
expedients for the accomplishment of moral ends. Real progress and improvement in social conditions follow the promulgation of the moral law in such form that it is learned, understood and accepted as authentic by the multitude. Most great teachers of it have given their rules a religious sanction. It is entirely logical to do so, for the moral laws which should govern the relations of men must emanate from the overruling power that gives life. Moses, Confucius, Gautama, Christ and Mohammed, have each left a deeper and more enduring impression on the world than all the conquerors who have terrorized the earth combined. The fact that error is combined with truth in some of their teachings does not disprove the divinity of the moral law. It may prove the existence of the human element in the teacher and his liability to err. The work of these great teachers has been truly constructive, while that of the great warriors has been the organization of forces and the use of them for purposes of destruction and mastery. Simple moral truths of universal application lie at the base of every great system of religion. The beliefs and ceremonials are the shell and husks, ostensibly designed to protect and nourish the kernels of truth, yet in fact concealing them. It is easily perceived that moral principles are eternal truths, established by and according with the power that rules the universe. They are the same everywhere and under all circumstances. The imaginings as to the unknowable, the priestly establishments, the creeds and religious ceremonials, human inventions, are changed and moulded to suit changing tastes and inclinations.
Departure from the moral law in human conduct is due either to unreasoning impulse or views of expediency, or both combined. The rules of morality and expediency must of necessity be identical as to acts or conduct affecting the actor alone, for it is right to do what best promotes his permanent welfare, and it is also expedient. The departure from the true course in such matters is usually due to a desire for some excessive temporary pleasure, to be compensated later by corresponding pain or depression, or the gratification of some particular desire at the expense of others more laudable.
There is full liberty of choice of food, clothing, ornament, labor, recreations, fields of inquiry, aims in life, ideals, and of every activity so far as each of them is equally consistent with human welfare.
In conduct affecting others expediency is the justification which the wrongdoer makes to himself for the greatest departure from moral rectitude. Murder, robbery, theft, forgery and every other crime and intentional wrong to others, have their root in a belief or impression of the expediency of the act. Expediency is the justification claimed for all crafty schemes through which men gain riches and power to the detriment of others. Expediency is the excuse for falsehood and cowardly neglect of duty. The inability of a man to protect himself and those dependent on him by strictly moral means makes room for resort to immoral acts, deemed necessary. It is immoral to kill or maim another, yet deemed justifiable in self-defense or to protect one's family. Though expediency prompts to all kinds of immoral conduct, it has its legitimate field of vast extent. There are many different ways of accomplishing a desirable end by moral methods. The choice and use of expedients are the most common employments of the mind. The moral law fixes limitations. Expediency may freely lead in every path that touches no forbidden ground. The diversity of human accomplishments is due to choice of expedients and ends to be accomplished. Choice and use of moral expedients for moral ends are the true field of liberty. Choice of food, clothing, habitation, furnishings, labor, repose, recreation, amusement, associates, literature and moral purposes to be accomplished, affords an illimitable field for selection of activities. One may freely follow the dictates of his own tastes and inclinations wherever full liberty of action is permissible.
Whatever the social state, from the lowest savages to the most cultured nations, parental authority over young children is recognized everywhere. The parental relation is established by the divine law of reproduction. Among the most degraded
savages the relation of the mother to her child is obvious, while that of the father is often obscure or wholly unknown. All the burdens connected with rearing the young are borne by the mothers, who are often enslaved and oppressed by the males with whom they come in contact. The first well defined step in the advancement of civilization is the establishment of family relations with fathers recognizing definite relations to their wives and children. As society improves, the purity and strength of domestic ties increase. The happiness of each person and the welfare of the state are dependent everywhere on the measure of love, unselfishness and devotion to duty prevailing in the homes. To rear and protect their offspring, parents must direct, restrain and instruct them. The rulership is arbitrary in the sense that the parent acts according to circumstances on his own judgment and without restraint from fixed rules. The protection of the child from mistreatment lies in the love of the parent, who finds joy in the comfort and happiness of the child and pain in its suffering. While anger and hatred are sometimes exhibited by parents, pity and love almost invariably temper the blows and quickly restore the bond of sympathy. No other shield against harm could possibly be found of anything like the strength and efficiency of parental love. While parents have full power to direct and restrain, they must of necessity accord to their children an ever increasing measure of liberty of action commensurate with their expanding strength and mental powers. Lessons in self-reliance are necessary and may be taught to the very young with advantage. It is often better to let the little child suffer the punishment nature imposes for its act than to restrain it. The pain caused by heat and cold can only be clearly understood by experiencing it. Pain is a sentinel that warns of immediate danger, and through some pain the child must learn what to shun. What dangers and sufferings the child should be subjected to must depend in great measure on the care and instruction the parents can give it. The child has its rights and is entitled to its due measure of liberty. Of the limitations of these the parents of necessity must judge from time to time, till the capacity of the child to
govern himself is approximately equal to that of the parent to govern him. Nature fails to indicate a definite size or age at which this capacity first comes into existence. In Rome the power of the father over his son continued throughout life and over his daughter so long as she remained under his hand, that is till she married and was transferred to the family of her husband. The patriarchal system was a very natural development in those parts of Asia which were inhabited by a settled population, living under peaceful conditions and supporting themselves from agriculture or pastoral pursuits. The father of the family was the natural head of it, and the family included grandchildren, as well as children, and all other. members of the household. Polygamy in places greatly extended the membership of the family and made the head of it a ruler over a community. To people reared under such conditions a paternal government would appear to be the only natural one. Among savage tribes like the American Indians and the lower Africans frequent wars disrupted families. The leadership of war parties was taken by the strong and vigorous young men, and their feats in arms gave them influence in the councils of the tribe. The elders were listened to in council, but lacked the requisite strength and endurance for commanding war parties. The organization of such warlike tribes was democratic, and combinations of the Indian tribes mostly took the form of confederacies.
In the Asiatic monarchies the king assumed authority over all the people similar to that exercised by the father over his family. This power was arbitrary and without limitation. The theory of such a government is false, because the love, which is such an active and constant monitor in the home and furnishes such a safeguard against oppression, is wanting in the kingdom. The love of even the best of kings for their subjects is largely theoretical, and in the nature of things cannot be the same in quality as that of the father for his own family. The restraining force being absent, tyranny of course results. In a populous state warm sympathy for and full appreciation of the peculiarities of each citizen by the sovereign is impossible.