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tioned right, not derived from gove is not inalienable ; they are rights ernment, not derived from society, of agreement, governmental rights. existing independent of law and We think it evident the expression, government, independent of socie. the right of the PEOPLE, has referty—a right which man has received ence to this circumstance, and merefrom God, and for the exercise of ly indicates that the individuals of which he is responsible to God any community are united in exeralone ? How then can the declara- cising their natural rights. tion of independence be any author- There is an equal want of eviity for another and distinct right, dence to establish the second posithe legal right of a majority to tion, that this organized body is a change constitutions at will ?
We may suppose It is assumed here, we are aware, three cases. The first is, that all first, that this right of THE PEOPLE
the individuals of any community belongs to the people as an organ
are united in overthrowing a govized body; and, secondly, that this ernment. They are then constituorganized body is a permanent one, ted as an organized body, but by acting by a majority; whence it is their own consent, and for a speinferred, since the right itself is in- cific purpose. But the organization defeasible, the people as an organ- ceases by its own limitation, when ized body, always have it in reserve the object is gained for which it exto exercise at pleasure. We say isted. The next thing after overboth of these positions are mere throwing a government, is to form a assumptions, without any proof. new one, and this of course requires In regard to the first, we know with consent and union in the exercise of absolute assurance that each indi. natural rights. The second suppo. vidual possesses these inalienable sition, therefore, may be, that the rights, but what is the process of larger portion of the individuals of reasoning—the intermediate truths, the people agree to act together for by which we arrive at the conclu- this purpose. But this united body sion that the organic whole has the is a new organization, made by a same? An organic whole has a new agreement, and for another
pur. will distinct from that of each indi. pose. It may have authority over vidual composing it, and the exercise those who are united together in it; of an indefeasible right by a majori- but how can it justly exercise any ty, is incompatible with the exercise over those individuals who do not of the same by the individuals of a join in it? since each has the same minority. Indeed how could an in- natural right to resist the new as dividual alienate to the body as an the old government, and they may organic whole, an inalienable right? combine together to do it-and that Besides, we can give a more consis- on the authority of the declaration tent meaning to the phrase. The of independence. But we may supright is inherent in the individual. pose, thirdly, that all the individuals But the efforts of individuals against who were engaged in the revoluan oppressive government, would tion, unite as one whole, and conbe in vain, without coöperation. sent to invest the body with authorThey must exercise their rights in ity to form a government. Here concert, to be successful. They then is another union of all the inagree to do it. This compact, dividuals of the community, but this which is itself a sort of government, too is for a specific purpose, and it may lay each individual who is a must cease when the purpose is separty to it, under certain obligations cured, and of course with it the ex. to the organized whole; but the ercise of any rightful authority by a right thus accruing to that body majority as a whole, over the individuals of the minority. For, suppose high in the scale of intelligent exthe majority of this body, united by istences, but at the same time it consent to form a government, imposes upon him the most solemn should afterwards endeavor to over- moral duties, and never does man throw it, could it, by virtue of that act under a more awful responsiauthority, rightfully demand of the bility, than when renouncing the individuals of the minority to act authority of man, he directly apwith it or to acquiesce in what it is peals to his Creator, as the sole doing? The reply of each individ- judge of what he is then doing. ual is obvious,--the authority of This is indeed, the necessary charthe people as a body, over me, is acteristic of these rights, which by my consent, and I consented to clearly makes them distinct from a union for a specific purpose, to the rights of government and law, form a government, not to over- that for them man is accountable, throw one,—and the individuals of not to man, not to the people as a that minority may combine to make body, not to government, but to resistance, and that on the authority God. The questions arising under of the declaration of independence. them, may be settled peaceably by These three things, then, are dis- agreement, or violently by force ; tinct—the individual man possess- but when men have once appealed ing in his very nature from his Cre. to these rights for their justification ator, certain permanent and inalien- in overthrowing or forming a new able rights ; men united as a people government, there is no organized into government, possessed in its body, armed with the power of law corporate capacity, of permanent, settle the controversy.
Union but not inalienable rights; and, there may be of those who are definally, men united as a people into voted to the same object, yet a one body, for a temporary purpose, union of action, not formed by law, either to abolish or to create a gove but by free consent, and for a speernment, and possessed in its cor- cific purpose. Wherefore, accord
, porate capacity of only temporarying to the declaration of indepenrights. We say, then, there is no dence, any portion of the people of proof that the inalienable rights of Rhode Island had the right, if they the individual reside in the whole thought it their duty to exercise it, people, as an organized body, or and could agree to do it in concert, that the organization of the people of forming a constitution in the for the exercise of these rights in month of November, 1841, at Proviabolishing or establishing govern- dence; but the remainder of the ments, is a permanent one. But inhabitants possessed precisely the upon these fallacious suppositions same right to form another in the alone, rests the argument for “the year 1842, at Newport, or to conlegal right” of the majority to tinue to live under the one which had change governments at will ; and it existed for almost two centuries. If is only through a mistaken interpre. the latter thought it best to yield to tation, that the declaration of inde- the former, they could do it; but pendence can be appealed to in this if in their judgment they thought it
best to resist, in order to secure life, We return now to the true doc- liberty, and the pursuit of happitrine of that instrument. It is, that ness, they could do it. It is not to man, as a creature of God, there necessary to decide here, which belong inalienable rights, implant- party would be in the wrong: if ed, as it were, in his very nature, wrong, it is a moral wrong, for by the Being who made him. The which each individual of the two grant of these rights, elevates him bodies is accountable to a higher than an earthly tribunal—having in ly he must have seen in his cooler these transactions made the appeal moments, that the greater part of alone, “to the Supreme Judge of his fiery sentences have nothing to the world for the rectitude of their do with the question to be settled. intentions.”
Gov. Hubbard writes in the same We see not how there is room loose manner, though he had the for a shadow of doubt, but that the benefit of the discriminations in the right laid down in the declaration of Democratic Review. He justifies independence, is “the right above the formation of the new constituall human law, a right of resistance tion, as a revolution; for he says, the to law, a right of revolution ;” more principle on which its supporters especially, we see not how there acted is the same as that on which can be any with the writer, whose we practiced as a nation, “ when words we have just quoted. For, we recognized the independence of he admits this right of revolution the South American republics and " is founded on the natural rights of Texas ;” and yet, he seems all of the individual,” and is to be ex. unconscious of what a revolution is, ercised when “ government trans- and talks of it as if it were a mere cends the limits of its just author. occurrence of party politics. ity.” But what other rights are But we are dwelling too long mentioned in the declaration of inde. upon this part of the subject. We pendence than the natural rights of will now examine the declaration of individuals ? and when does it jus. rights in the constitutions of the tify their exercise, except when the several states, taking that of Congovernment “ becomes destructive necticut as a fair specimen of the of the ends” for which it exists? whole. This is the language of itAre they not the same right, and " that all political power is inheboth alike the right of revolution ? rent in the people, and all free How then can the writer adduce governments are founded on their the authority of this venerable de authority, and instituted for their claration in favor of another and benefit; and that they have at all very different right? Unless, then, times an undeniable and indefeasithe proceedings in Rhode Island ble right to alter their form of gove are to be justified as a revolution, ernment in such manner as they it gives them not the sanction of its may think expedient.” Here is an authority. In fact, the greater part assertion of an inherent and indeof the writers in their defense, make feasible right in the people to form no distinction. They justify them as a government, and as this right is a revolution on the authority of the exercised peacefully, it looks more declaration, and then deny that it is like a legal right, vesting the majora revolution. “A member of the ity with legal authority over the Boston bar,” in a review of Dr. minority. But in order to underWayland's Discourse, defends the stand the import of this declaration, formation of the new constitution, we must examine again and with expressly on the strength of the more care, the doctrine of natural "old liberty doctrine, without which rights. we should never have broken one The idea of rights includes, first, link of parliamentary despotism, power, both physical, intellectual, one chain of British misrule,” and and moral, for the accomplishment yet he acknowledges, that Dr. Way- of certain ends, which ends may land admits the existence of that be summed up in one, doctrine as well as himself. But suit of happiness ;” and, secondly, in the tumult of excited feelings, he the consciousness of its being a confounds all distinctions. For sure. moral duty, to employ this power
56 the purfor this purpose. These two things Creator has given him, and not for in union, the power, and the sense the sake of the whole people as an orof moral obligation to use it, con- ganized body. Indeed, government stitute what may be called an au. and law embody the wisdom of the thority to man, founded in his na- whole, and use it for the good of the ture to pursue happiness—an au- individual. So long as government thority not from human government completely answers this end, no and law, but from God. Every questions arise to be settled, and we man knows without the wavering need not here inquire into the ground of a doubt, he has the proof within of its authority. We state ils undehimself, that he, the individual man, niable object. has that right, well denominated a We now turn to another fact. A Natural Right. But we must care- particular government becomes defully distinguish here; this evidence structive of the ends for which it from the nature of it does not prove exists. Here then a question arises, that the right belongs to the people not for the people as an organized as an organized body, but to each body to decide, but for each indiindividual of those who constitute vidual, as it is the individual who is the people. According to this, each interested in it. One individual, man is a sovereign, and there is conscious of his natural rights, knownothing to prove that any individual ing that government exists for their has, by virtue of his sovereignty, security, and feeling that it has any legal claim over another. We failed of this end, judges it to be have thus far gone on with absolute his duty to resist it, and as far as certainty.
he can, to overthrow it; another Let us now look at a fact. We individual does the same, and so find these individual men at the pres- on till each individual, either exent time, and so far as we know, pressly or by implication, deteralways in the past, under govern- mines upon the exercise of the same ment and law. We state the ex- right ; and for this decision, no istence of these as a fact, in order one is accountable to another, but to avoid a discussion of the theories each and all to God. We will supthat have been made, to explain the pose now, that the existing governmanner in which government over ment makes no resistance, and that a particular nation was first formed.
a new government is to be formed. We prefer to look at the historical The individuals, who agreed in the fact, and to decide each case as it duty of changing the government, arises on its own merits, by the ap- agree also in making a new one, plication of acknowledged princi. and declare it to be the indefeasiples. What, now, is the relation ble right of the people to do so. which government and law hold to But the question is, do they mean this power, which his Creator has that this indefeasible right belongs given to each individual for the to the people as an organized pursuit of happiness ? That the body, or to each individual of those pursuit of happiness on the part of who, by consent, are united toeach man might be not only con- gether for that purpose ? The latsistent with the pursuit of it on the ter; because, the inherent, indefeapart of every other, but promotive sible right, belongs to the individual, of it, is a possible supposition ; and and is derived from God, while if it were a reality, there would be whatever rights belong to the peono need of government and law. ple as an organized whole, are de. These, then, exist in order that each rived from the consent of each indi. individual may employ in the best vidual, and are therefore alienable, way the natural rights which his since the consent may be with.
drawn. This conclusion seems to After saying that at the Revoluus certain. The right of altering, tion“ the whole population was abolishing or forming governments, remitted to their original rights," laid down in the declarations of “their rights as men,” and that “all rights, is the natural right of the the states but Connecticut and Rhode declaration of independence, with Island, created forms of government no other difference than this, that for themselves," to the query,
"how it is exercised with the consent, ex- were these formed ?” he replies, press or implied, of each individual“ by the actual or implied consent of the community, and with the co- of the whole people.” (If you mean operation of government. But this of each individual in that body, the is a very different thing from a right whole people, you have proved that, in the people, regarded as an organ- for each man was remitted to his oriized body, and whose will is ex- ginal rights, and he acted accordingpressed by the majority and bind. ly.) He goes on to say,
a consti. ing legally upon the minority, to tution being thus once formed by an make governments at will. We have act of popular sovereignty,” (that is, seen that the proof goes only to of the sovereignty of the people, and show, that the natural, inalienable if you mean, that each individual of rights, reside in each individual of the body acting sovereignly, or inde-, the people, and that whatever right pendent of any other, consented to belongs to the people as an organ- the constitution, you have proved ized body, is alienable, being by that, and we do not deny it) — "the consent, and temporary,
elective franchise may be restrictsent being given for a temporary ed to a particular class,” &c. He purpose.
then inquires, “is the consent thus We stop here for a moment. For given, really or by implication, to it is this ambiguous use of the word a constitution,” (by each individupeople, which gives any plausibility al, however, it is to be observed,) whatever to the opinions we op “revocable,” and “can the exercise pose. It may refer to the individu. of the sovereignty be resumed at als composing the body, simply as any time by the whole people,” (that acting in concert and by agreement is, can each individual in the body for a specific temporary purpose, or
of the whole people agree to reit may
denote.a permanent organiz. nounce the existing government, and ed body, expressing its will through acting again in a sovereign capacity, a majority. It is used in the for- make a new one? we admit such. mer sense, we have shown, a case is conceivable,)“ without the both in the declaration of indepeno consent of the parties to whom the dence and in the different declara- power may have been confided ?" tions of rights. But those who de. (We see not how there would be any fend the legality of the formation parties left to withhold consent.) But and ratification of the new constitu- let us look to the writer's own an. tion in Rhode Island, uniformly use swer to these questions. The an. it in the latter sense, and thus per- swer depends, he supposes, upon vert the genuine American princi. this, whether the rights which beples of the declaration of indepen- longed to the whole people, when dence, and of the constitutions of the they formed a new government at the states, in the very act of appealing Revolution—that is to say, to each to them as authority.
individual in the body of the whole We will now upon this point follow people; for it is only to man as man, the writer in the Democratic Review, that inalienable rights have been sentence by sentence, and point out proved to belong—" were transferathe fallacy in the use of this word. ble or defeasible?" Undoubtedly