Monday, April 25, 2022

The Security And The Spirit Of Justice

“But there is no peace in the absence of justice.  It may subsist with divisions, disputes, and contrary opinions; but not with the commission of wrongs.  The injurious, and the injured, are, as implied in the very meaning of the terms, in a state of hostility.  Where men enjoy peace, they owe it either to their mutual regards and affections, or to the restraints of law.  Those are the happiest states which procure peace to their members by the first of these methods: but it is sufficiently uncommon to procure it even by the second.”


“From whatever motive wrongs are committed, there are different particulars in which the injured may suffer.  He may suffer in his goods, in his person, or in the freedom of his conduct.  Nature has made him master of every action which is not injurious to others.  The laws of his particular society entitle him perhaps to a determinate station, and bestow on, him a certain share in the government of his country.  An injury, therefore, which in this respect puts him under any unjust restraint, may be called an infringement of his political rights.  Where the citizen is supposed to have rights of property and of station, and is protected in the exercise of them, he is said to be free; and the very restraints by which he is hindered from the commission of crimes, are a part of his liberty.

“No person is free, where any person is suffered to do wrong with impunity.  Even the despotic prince on his throne, is not an exception to this general rule.  He himself is a slave, the moment he pretends that force should decide any contest.  The disregard he throws on the rights of his people recoils on himself; and in the general uncertainty of all conditions, there is no tenure more precarious than his own.”


“We must be contented to derive our freedom from a different source: to expect justice from the limits which are set to the powers of the magistrate, and to rely for protection on the laws which are made to secure the estate and the person of the subject. ... Without any establishments to preserve their manners, besides penal laws, and the restraints of police, they derive, from instinctive feelings, a love of integrity and candour, and from the very contagion of society itself, an esteem for what is honourable and praiseworthy.  They derive, from their union and joint opposition to foreign enemies, a zeal for their own community, and courage to maintain its rights.  If the frequent neglect of virtue, as a political object, tend to discredit the understandings of men, its lustre, and its frequency, as a spontaneous offspring of the heart, will restore the honours of our nature.”

- Adam Ferguson, from An Essay on the History of Civil Society

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