Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Rights of Mankind -- 1868

"I can hardly believe that any person can be found who will not admit that every one of these provisions is just. They are all asserted, in some form or other, in our DECLARATION or organic law. But the Constitution limits only the action of Congress, and is not a limitation on the States. This amendment supplies that defect"--Thaddeus Stevens

Stevens was the leader of the Radical Republicans who controlled congress during the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment and as such might well be thought of as the father of our modern republic. Section one in the context of that quote above--from one of its principle framers--is unambiguous:

"Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

This was indeed the manner in which Thaddeus Stevens aspired to in life... and also after his passing. As his death approached he selected a burial place, and wrote his own epitaph accordingly:

"I repose in this quiet and secluded spot, not from any natural preference for solitude, but finding other cemeteries limited as to race, by charter rules, I have chosen this that I might illustrate in my death the principles which I advocated through a long life, equality of man before his Creator."

His last will and testament included the appropriation of $50,000 for the establishment of an orphanage, aspiring to the same just purpose:

"They shall be carefully educated in the various branches of English education and all industrial trades and pursuits. No preference shall be shown on account of race or color in their admission or treatment. Neither poor Germans, Irish or Mahometan, nor any others on account their race or religion of their parents, shall be excluded. They shall be fed at the same table."

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Jacobin

"Being myself a warm zealot for the attainment & enjoiment by all mankind of as much liberty, as each may exercise without injury to the equal liberty of his fellow citizens, I have lamented that in France the endeavours to obtain this should have been attended with the effusion of so much blood. I was intimate with the leading characters of the year 1789. So I was with those of the Brissotine party who succeeded them: & have always been persuaded that their views were upright."--Thomas Jefferson

The term "Jacobin" was used against Jefferson by his political enemies as a slight. It has been used since in much the same fashion toward others. To Jefferson, the Jacobins were the equivelent of the Democratic Republican Party (aka; Jeffersonians) set though they were, in a very greatly different set of circumstances. Thomas Jefferson explains those circumstances in a letter to James Madison from Paris:

"The property of this country is absolutely concentered in a very few hands, having revenues of from half a million of guineas a year downwards. These employ the flower of the country as servants, some of them having as many as 200 domestics, not labouring. They employ also a great number of manufacturers, and tradesmen, and lastly the class of labouring husbandmen. But after all these comes the most numerous of all the classes, that is, the poor who cannot find work."

He went on to suggest possible solutions...

"I am conscious that an equal division of property is impracticable. But the consequences of this enormous inequality producing so much misery to the bulk of mankind, legislators cannot invent too many devices for subdividing property, only taking care to let their subdivisions go hand in hand with the natural affections of the human mind. The descent of property of every kind therefore to all the children, or to all the brothers and sisters, or other relations in equal degree is a politic measure, and a practicable one. Another means of silently lessening the inequality of property is to exempt all from taxation below a certain point, and to tax the higher portions of property in geometrical progression as they rise. Whenever there is in any country, uncultivated lands and unemployed poor, it is clear that the laws of property have been so far extended as to violate natural right. The earth is given as a common stock for man to labour and live on. If, for the encouragement of industry we allow it to be appropriated, we must take care that other employment be furnished to those excluded from the appropriation."

To Jefferson, it is certain that the laws of property must conform to Natural Law. Where we find descrepancies in his theory of property, it is on account of this.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Declaration of The Rights of Man and Citizen

The Declaration of The Rights of Man and Citizen was issued the same summer as The Bill of Rights to the Constitution of the United States of America. Like that document, its authors were in correspondence with Thomas Jefferson who was serving as Foreign Minister to France during its creation. Unlike that document it serves as more of a declaration and guide to lawmaking--and as a precident of ideals--than as a true legal document.

Article 1. Men are born and remain free and equal in rights. Social distinctions may be founded only upon the general good.

Article 2. The aim of all political association is the preservation of the natural and imprescriptible rights of man. These rights are liberty, property, security, and resistance to oppression.

Article 3. The principle of all sovereignty resides essentially in the nation. No body nor individual may exercise any authority which does not proceed directly from the nation.

Article 4. Liberty consists in the freedom to do everything which injures no one else; hence the exercise of the natural rights of each man has no limits except those which assure to the other members of the society the enjoyment of the same rights. These limits can only be determined by law.

Article 5. Law can only prohibit such actions as are hurtful to society. Nothing may be prevented which is not forbidden by law, and no one may be forced to do anything not provided for by law.

Article 6. Law is the expression of the general will. Every citizen has a right to participate personally, or through his representative, in its foundation. It must be the same for all, whether it protects or punishes. All citizens, being equal in the eyes of the law, are equally eligible to all dignities and to all public positions and occupations, according to their abilities, and without distinction except that of their virtues and talents.

Article 7. No person shall be accused, arrested, or imprisoned except in the cases and according to the forms prescribed by law. Any one soliciting, transmitting, executing, or causing to be executed, any arbitrary order, shall be punished. But any citizen summoned or arrested in virtue of the law shall submit without delay, as resistance constitutes an offense.

Article 8. The law shall provide for such punishments only as are strictly and obviously necessary, and no one shall suffer punishment except it be legally inflicted in virtue of a law passed and promulgated before the commission of the offense.

Article 9. As all persons are held innocent until they shall have been declared guilty, if arrest shall be deemed indispensable, all harshness not essential to the securing of the prisoner's person shall be severely repressed by law.

Article 10. No one shall be disquieted on account of his opinions, including his religious views, provided their manifestation does not disturb the public order established by law.

Article 11. The free communication of ideas and opinions is one of the most precious of the rights of man. Every citizen may, accordingly, speak, write, and print with freedom, but shall be responsible for such abuses of this freedom as shall be defined by law.

Article 12. The security of the rights of man and of the citizen requires public military forces. These forces are, therefore, established for the good of all and not for the personal advantage of those to whom they shall be intrusted.

Article 13. A common contribution is essential for the maintenance of the public forces and for the cost of administration. This should be equitably distributed among all the citizens in proportion to their means.

Article 14. All the citizens have a right to decide, either personally or by their representatives, as to the necessity of the public contribution; to grant this freely; to know to what uses it is put; and to fix the proportion, the mode of assessment and of collection and the duration of the taxes.

Article 15. Society has the right to require of every public agent an account of his administration.
Article 16. A society in which the observance of the law is not assured, nor the separation of powers defined, has no constitution at all.

Article 17. Since property is an inviolable and sacred right, no one shall be deprived thereof except where public necessity, legally determined, shall clearly demand it, and then only on condition that the owner shall have been previously and equitably indemnified