ORIGIN OF GOVERNMENT CONCLUDED.
VI. THE theory which derives the right of government from the direct and express appointment of God is sometimes modified so as to mean that civil authority is derived from God through the spiritual authority. The patriarch combined in his person both authorities, and was in his own household both priest and king, and so originally was in his own tribe the chief, and in his kingdom the king. When the two offices became separated is not known. In the time of Abraham they were still united. Melchisedech, king of Salem, was both priest and king, and the earliest historical records of kings present them as offering sacrifices. Even the Roman emperor was Pontifex Maximus as well as Imperator, but that was so not because the two offices were held to be inseparable, but because they were both conferred on the same person by the republic. In Egypt, in the time of Moses, the royal authority and the priestly were separated, and held by different persons. Moses, in his legislation for his nation, separated them, and instituted a sacerdotal order or caste. The heads of tribes and the heads of families are, under his law, princes, but not priests, and the priesthood is conferred on and restricted to his own tribe of Levi, and more especially the family of his own brother Aaron.
The priestly office by its own nature is superior to the kingly, and in all primitive nations with a separate organized priesthood, whether a true priesthood or a corrupt, the priest is held to be above the king, elects or establishes the law by which is selected the temporal chief, and inducts him into his office, as if he received his authority from God through the priesthood. The Christian priesthood is not a caste, and is transmitted by the election of grace, not as with the Israelites and all sacerdotal nations, by natural generation. Like Him whose priests they are, Christian priests are priests after the order of Melchisedech, who was without priestly descent, without father or mother of the priestly line. But in being priests after the order of Melchisedech, they are both priests and kings, as Melchisedech was, and as was our Lord himself, to whom was given by his Father all power in heaven and in earth. The Pope, or Supreme Pontiff, is the vicar of our Lord on earth, his representative the representative not only of him who is our invisible High-Priest, but of him who is King of tings and Lord of lords, therefore of both the priestly and the kingly power. Consequently, no one can have any mission to govern in the state any more than in the church, unless derived from God directly or indirectly through the Pope or Supreme Pontiff, Many theologians and canonists in the Middle Ages so held, and a few perhaps hold so still. The bulls and briefs of several Popes, as Gregory VII,, Innocent III., Gregory IX., Innocent IV., and Boniface VIII., have the appearance of favoring it.
At one period the greater part of the mediæval kingdoms and principalities were fiefs of the Holy See, and recognized the Holy Father as their suzerain. The Pope revived the imperial dignity in the person of Charlemagne, and none could claim that dignity in the Western world unless elected and crowned by him, that is, unless elected directly by the Pope or by electors designated by him, and acting under his authority. There can be no question that the spiritual is superior to the temporal, and that the temporal is bound in the very nature of things to conform to the spiritual, and any law enacted by the civil power in contravention of the law of God is null and void from the beginning. This is what Mr. Seward meant by the higher law, a law higher even than the Constitution of the United States. Supposing this higher law, and supposing that kings and princes hold from God through the spiritual society, it is very evident that the chief of that society would have the right to deprive them, and to absolve their subjects, as on several occasions he actually has done.
But this theory has never been a dogma of the Church, nor, to any great extent, except for a brief period, maintained by theologians or canonists. The Pope conferred the imperial dignity on Charlemagne and his successors, but not the civil power, at least out of the Pope's own temporal dominions. The emperor of Germany was at first elected by the Pope, and afterwards by hereditary electors designated or accepted by him, but the king of the Germans with the full royal authority could be elected and enthroned without the papal intervention or permission. The suzerainty of the Holy See over Italy, Naples, Aragon, Muscovy, England, and other European states, was by virtue of feudal relations, not by virtue of the spiritual authority of the Holy See or the vicarship of the Holy Father. The right to govern under feudalism was simply an estate, or property; and as the church could acquire and hold property, nothing prevented her holding fiefs, or her chief from being suzerain. The expressions in the papal briefs and bulls, taken in connection with the special relations existing between the Pope and emperor in the Middle Ages, and his relations with other states as their feudal sovereign, explained by the controversies concerning rights growing out of these relations, will be found to give no countenance to the theory in question. These relations really existed, and they gave the Pope certain temporal rights in certain states, even the temporal supremacy, as he has still in what is left him of the States of the Church; but they were exceptional or accidental relations, not the universal and essential relations between the church and the state. The rights that grew out of these relations were real rights, sacred and inviolable, but only where and while the relations subsisted. They, for the most part, grew out of the feudal system introduced into the Roman empire by its barbarian conquerors, and necessarily ceased with the political order in which they originated. Undoubtedly the church consecrated civil rulers, but this did not imply that they received their power or right to govern from God through her; but implied that their persons were sacred, and that violence to them would be sacrilege; that they held the Christian faith, and acknowledged themselves bound to protect it, and to govern their subjects justly, according to the law of God.
The church, moreover, has always recognized the distinction of the two powers, and although the Pope owes to the fact that he is chief of the spiritual society, his temporal principality, no theologian or canonist of the slightest respectability would argue that he derives his rights as temporal sovereign from his rights as pontiff. His rights as pontiff depend on the express appointment of God; his rights as temporal prince are derived from the same source from which other princes derive their rights, and are held by the same tenure. Hence canonists have maintained that the subjects of other states may even engage in war with the Pope as prince, without breach of their fidelity to him as pontiff or supreme visible head of the church.
The church not only distinguishes between the two powers, but recognizes as legitimate, governments that manifestly do not derive from God through her, St. Paul enjoins obedience to the Roman emperors for conscience' sake, and the church teaches that infidels and heretics may have legitimate government; and if she has ever denied the right of any infidel or heretical prince, it has been on the ground that the constitution and laws of his principality require him to profess and protect the Catholic faith. She tolerates resistance in a non-Catholic state no more than in a Catholic state to the prince; and if she has not condemned and cut off from her communion the Catholics who in our struggle have joined the Secessionists and fought in their ranks against the United States, it is because the prevalence of the doctrine of State sovereignty has seemed to leave a reasonable doubt whether they were really rebels fighting against their legitimate sovereign or not.
No doubt, as the authority of the church is derived immediately from God in a supernatural manner, and as she holds that the state derives its authority only mediately from him, in a natural mode, she asserts the superiority of her authority, and that, in case of conflict between the two powers, the civil must yield. But this is only saying that supernatural is above natural. But and this is the important point she does not teach, nor permit the faithful to hold, that the supernatural abrogates the natural, or in any way supersedes it. Grace, say the theologians, supposes nature, gratia supponit naturam. The church in the matter of government accepts the natural, aids it, elevates it, and is its firmest support.
VII. St. Augustine, St. Gregory Magnus, St. Thomas, Bellarmin, Suarez, and the theologians generally, hold that princes derive their power from God through the people, or that the people, though not the source, are the medium of all political authority, and therefore rulers are accountable for the use they make of their power to both God and the people.
This doctrine agrees with the democratic theory in vesting sovereignty in the people, instead of the king or the nobility, a particular individual, family, class, or caste; and differs from it, as democracy is commonly explained, in understanding by the people, the people collectively, not individually the organic people, or people fixed to a given territory, not the people as a mere population the people in the republican sense of the word nation, not in the barbaric or despotic sense; and in deriving the sovereignty from God, from whom is all power, and except from whom there is and can be no power, instead of asserting it as the underived and indefeasible right of the people in their "own native right and might." The people not being God, and being only what philosophers call a second cause, they are and can be sovereign only in a secondary and relative sense. It asserts the divine origin of power, while democracy asserts its human origin. But as, under the law of nature, all men are equal, or have equal rights as men, one man has and can have in himself no right to govern another; and as man is never absolutely his own, but always and everywhere belongs to his Creator, it is clear that no government originating in. humanity alone can be a legitimate government. Every such government is founded on the assumption that man is God, which is a great mistake is, in fact, the fundamental sophism which underlies every error and every sin.
The divine origin of government, in the sense asserted by Christian theologians, is never found distinctly set forth in the political writings of the ancient Greek and Roman writers. Gentile philosophy had lost the tradition of creation, as some modern philosophers, in so-called Christian nations, are fast losing it, and were as unable to explain the origin of government as they were the origin of man himself.
Even Plato, the profoundest of all ancient philosophers, and the most faithful to the traditionary wisdom of the race, lacks the conception of creation, and never gets above that of generation and formation. Things are produced by the Divine Being impressing his own ideas, eternal in his own mind, on a pre-existing matter, as a seal on wax. Aristotle teaches substantially the same doctrine. Things eternally exist as matter and form, and all the Divine Intelligence does, is to unite the form to the matter, and change it, as the schoolmen say, from materia informis to materia formata. Even the Christian Platonists and Peripatetics never as philosophers assert creation; they assert it, indeed, but as theologians, as a fact of revelation, not as a fact of science; and hence it is that their theology and their philosophy never thoroughly harmonize, or at least are not shown to harmonize throughout.
Speaking generally, the ancient Gentile philosophers were pantheists, and represented the universe either as God or as an emanation from God. They had no proper conception of Providence, or the action of God in nature through natural agencies, or as modern physicists say, natural laws. If they recognized the action of divinity at all, it was a supernatural or miraculous intervention of some god. They saw no divine intervention in any thing naturally explicable, or explicable by natural laws. Having no conception of the creative act, they could have none of its immanence, or the active and efficacious presence of the Creator in all his works, even in the action of second causes themselves. Hence they could not assert the divine origin of government, or civil authority, without supposing it supernaturally founded, and excluding all human and natural agencies from its institution. Their writings may be studied with advantage on the constitution of the state, on the practical workings of different forms of government, as well as on the practical administration of affairs, but never on the origin of the state, and the real ground of its authority. The doctrine is derived from Christian theology, which teaches that there is no power except from God, and enjoins civil obedience as a religious duty. Conscience is accountable to God alone, and civil government, if it had only a natural or human origin, could not bind it. Yet Christianity makes the civil law, within its legitimate sphere, as obligatory on conscience as the divine law itself, and no man is blameless before God who is not blameless before the state. No man performs faithfully his religious duties who neglects his civil duties, and hence the law of the church allows no one to retire from the world and enter a religious order, who has duties that bind him or her to the family or the state; though it is possible that the law is not always strictly observed, and that individuals sometimes enter a convent for the sake of getting rid of those duties, or the equally important duty of taking care of themselves. But by asserting the divine origin of government, Christianity consecrates civil authority, clothes it with a religious character, and mates civil disobedience, sedition, insurrection, rebellion, revolution, civil turbulence of any sort or degree, sins against God as well as crimes against the state. For the same reason she makes usurpation, tyranny, oppression of the people by civil rulers, offences against God as well as against society, and cognizable by the spiritual authority.
After the establishment of the Christian church, after its public recognition, and when conflicting claims arose between the two powers the civil and the ecclesiastical this doctrine of the divine origin of civil government was abused, and turned against the church with most disastrous consequences. While the Roman Empire of the West subsisted, and even after its fall, so long as the emperor of the East asserted and practically maintained his authority in the Exarchate of Ravenna and the Duchy of Rome, the Popes comported themselves, in civil matters, as subjects of the Roman emperor, and set forth no claim to temporal independence. But when the emperor had lost Rome, and all his possessions in Italy, had abandoned them, or been deprived of them by the barbarians, and ceased to make any efforts to recover them, the Pope was no longer a subject, even in civil matters, of the emperor, and owed him no civil allegiance. He became civilly independent of the Roman Empire, and had only spiritual relations with it. To the new powers that sprang up in Europe he appears never to have acknowledged any civil subjection, and uniformly asserted, in face of them, his civil as well as spiritual independence.
This civil independence the successors of Charlemagne, who pretended to be the successors of the Roman Emperors of the West, and called their empire the Holy Roman Empire, denied, and maintained that the Pope owed them civil allegiance, or that, in temporals, the emperor was the Pope's superior. If, said the emperor, or his lawyers for him, the civil power is from God, as it must be, since non est potestas nisi a Deo, the state stands on. the same footing with the church, and the imperial power emanates from as high a source as the pontifical, The emperor is then as supreme in temporals as the Pope in spirituals; and as the emperor is subject to the Pope in spirituals, so must the Pope be subject to the emperor in temporals. As, at the time when the dispute arose, the temporal interests of churchmen were so interwoven with their spiritual rights, the pretensions of the emperor amounted practically to the subjection in spirituals as well as temporals of the ecclesiastical authority to the civil, and absorbed the church in the state, the reasoning was denied, and churchmen replied: The Pope represents the spiritual order, which is always and everywhere supreme over the temporal, since the spiritual order is the divine sovereignty itself. Always and everywhere, then, is the Pope independent of the emperor, his superior, and to subject him in any thing to the emperor would be as repugnant to reason as to subject the soul to the body, the spirit to the flesh, heaven to earth, or God to man.
If the universal supremacy claimed for the Pope, rejoined the imperialists, be conceded, the state would be absorbed in the church, the autonomy of civil society would be destroyed, and civil rulers would have no functions but to do the bidding of the clergy. It would establish a complete theocracy, or, rather, clerocracy, of all possible governments the government the most odious to mankind, and the most hostile to social progress. Even the Jews could not, or would not, endure it, and prayed God to give them a king, that they might be like other nations.
In the heat of the controversy neither party clearly and distinctly perceived the true state of the question, and each was partly right and partly wrong. The imperialists wanted room for the free activity of civil society, the church wanted to establish in that society the supremacy of the moral order, or the law of God, without which governments can have no stability, and society no real well-being. The real solution of the difficulty was always to be found in the doctrine of the church herself, and had been given time and again by her most approved theologians. The Pope, as the visible head of the spiritual society, is, no doubt, superior to the emperor, not precisely because he represents a superior order, but because the church, of which he is the visible chief, is a supernatural institution, and holds immediately from God; whereas civil society, represented by the emperor, holds from God only mediately, through second causes, or the people. Yet, though derived from God only through the people, civil authority still holds from God, and derives its right from Him through another channel than the church or spiritual society, and, therefore, has a right, a sacredness, which the church herself gives not, and must recognize and respect. This she herself teaches in teaching that even infidels, as we have seen, may have legitimate government, and since, though she interprets and applies the law of God, both natural and revealed, she makes neither.
Nevertheless, the imperialists or the statists insisted on their false charge against the Pope, that he labored to found a purely theocratic or clerocratic government, and finding themselves unable to place the representative of the civil society on the same level with the representative of the spiritual, or to emancipate the state from the law of God while they conceded the divine origin or right of government, they sought to effect its independence by asserting for it only a natural or purely human origin. For nearly two centuries the most popular and influential writers on government have rejected the divine origin and ground of civil authority, and excluded God from the state. They have refused to look beyond second causes, and have labored to derive authority from man alone. They have not only separated the state from the church as an external corporation, but from God as its internal lawgiver, and by so doing have deprived the state of her sacredness, inviolability, or hold on the conscience, scoffed at loyalty as a superstition, and consecrated not civil authority, but what is called "the right of insurrection." Under their teaching the age sympathizes not with authority in its efforts to sustain itself and protect society, but with those who conspire against it the insurgents, rebels, revolutionists seeking its destruction. The established government that seeks to enforce respect for its legitimate authority and compel obedience to the laws, is held to be despotic, tyrannical, oppressive, and resistance to it to be obedience to God, and a wild howl rings through Christendom against the prince that will not stand still and permit the conspirators to cut his throat. There is hardly a government now in the civilized world that can sustain itself for a moment without an armed force sufficient to overawe or crush the party or parties in permanent conspiracy against it. This result is not what was aimed at or desired, but it is the logical or necessary result of the attempt to erect the state on atheistical principles. Unless founded on the divine sovereignty, authority can sustain itself only by force, for political atheism recognizes no right but might. No doubt the politicians have sought an atheistical, or what is the same thing, a purely human, basis for government, in order to secure an open field for human freedom and activity, or individual or social progress. The end aimed at has been good, laudable even, but they forgot that freedom is possible only with authority that protects it against license as well as against despotism, and that there can be no progress where there is nothing that is not progressive. In civil society two things are necessary stability and movement. The human is the element of movement, for in it are possibilities that can be only successively actualized. But the element of stability can be found only in the divine, in God, in whom there is no unactualized possibility, who, therefore, is immovable, immutable, and eternal. The doctrine that derives authority from God through the people, recognizes in the state both of these elements, and provides alike for stability and progress.
This doctrine is not mere theory; it simply states the real order of things. It is not telling what ought to be, but what is in the real order. It only asserts for civil government the relation to God which nature herself holds to him, which the entire universe holds to the Creator. Nothing in man, in nature, in the universe, is explicable without the creative act of God, for nothing exists without that act. That God "in the beginning created heaven and earth," is the first principle of all science as of all existences, in politics no less than in theology. God and creation comprise all that is or exists, and creation, though distinguishable from God as the act from the actor, is inseparable from him, "for in Him we live and move and have our being." All creatures are joined to him by his creative act, and exist only as through that act they participate of his being. Through that act he is immanent as first cause in all creatures and in every act of every creature. The creature deriving from his creative act can no more continue to exist than it could begin to exist without it. It is as bad philosophy as theology, to suppose that God created the universe, endowed it with certain laws of development or activity, wound it up, gave it a jog, set it agoing, and then left it to go of itself. It cannot go of itself because it does not exist of itself. It did not merely not begin to exist, but it cannot continue to exist, without the creative act. Old Epicurus was a sorry philosopher, or rather, no philosopher at all. Providence is as necessary as creation, or rather, Providence is only continuous creation, the creative act not suspended or discontinued, or not passing over from the creature and returning to God.
Through the creative act man participates of God, and he can continue to exist, act, or live only by participating through it of his divine being. There is, therefore, something of divinity, so to speak, in every creature, and therefore it is that God is worshipped in his works without idolatry. But he creates substantial existences capable of acting as second causes. Hence, in all living things there is in their life a divine element and a natural element; in what is called human life, there are the divine and the human, the divine as first and the human as second cause, precisely what the doctrine of the great Christian theologians assert to be the fact with all legitimate or real government. Government cannot exist without the efficacious presence of God any more than man himself, and men might as well attempt to build up a world as to attempt to found a state without God. A government founded on atheistical principles were less than a castle in the air. It would have nothing to rest on, would not be even so much as "the baseless fabric of a vision," and they who imagine that they really do exclude God from their politics deceive themselves; for they accept and use principles which, though they know it not, are God. What they call abstract principles, or abstract forms of reason, without which there were no logic, are not abstract, but the real, living God himself. Hence government, like man himself, participates of the divine being, and, derived from God through the people, it at the same time participates of human reason and will, thus reconciling authority with freedom, and stability with progress.
The people, holding their authority from God, hold it not as an inherent right, but as a trust from Him, and are accountable to Him for it. It is not their own. If it were their own they might do with it as they pleased, and no one would have any right to call them to an account; but holding it as a trust from God, they are under his law, and bound to exercise it as that law prescribes. Civil rulers, holding their authority from God through the people, are accountable for it both to Him and to them. If they abuse it they are justiciable by the people and punishable by God himself.
Here is the guaranty against tyranny, oppression, or bad government, or what in modern times is called the responsibility of power. At the same time the state is guarantied against sedition, insurrection, rebellion, revolution, by the elevation of the civic virtues to the rank of religious virtues, and making loyalty a matter of conscience. Religion is brought to the aid of the state, not indeed as a foreign auxiliary, but as integral in the political order itself. Religion sustains the state, not because it externally commands us to obey the higher powers, or to be submissive to the powers that be, not because it trains the people to habits of obedience, and teaches them to be resigned and patient under the grossest abuses of power, but because it and the state are in the same order, and inseparable, though distinct, parts of one and the same whole. The church and the state, as corporations or external governing bodies, are indeed separate in their spheres, and the church does not absorb the state, nor does the state the church; but both are from God, and both work to the same end, and when each is rightly understood there is no antithesis or antagonism between them. Men serve God in serving the state as directly as in serving the church. He who dies on the battle-field fighting for his country ranks with him who dies at the stake for his faith. Civic virtues are themselves religious virtues, or at least virtues without which there are no religious virtues, since no man who loves not his brother does or can love God.
The guaranties offered the state or authority are ample, because it has not only conscience, moral sentiment, interest, habit, and the vis inertia of the mass, but the whole physical force of the nation, at its command. The individual has, indeed, only moral guaranties against the abuse of power by the sovereign people, which may no doubt sometimes prove insufficient. But moral guaranties are always better than none, and there are none where the people are held to be sovereign in their own native right and might, organized or unorganized, inside or outside of the constitution, as most modern democratic theorists maintain; since, if so, the will of the people, however expressed, is the criterion of right and wrong, just and unjust, true and false, is infallible and impeccable, and no moral right can ever be pleaded against it; they are accountable to nobody, and, let them do what they please, they can do no wrong. This would place the individual at the mercy of the state, and deprive him of all right to complain, however oppressed or cruelly treated. This would establish the absolute despotism of the state, and deny every thing like the natural rights of man, or individual and personal freedom, as has already been shown. Now as men do take part in government, and as men, either individually or collectively, are neither infallible nor impeccable, it is never to be expected, under any possible constitution or form of government, that authority will always be wisely and justly exercised, that wrong will never be done, and the rights of individuals never in any instance be infringed; but with the clear understanding that all power is of God, that the political sovereignty is vested in the people or the collective body, that the civil rulers hold from God through them and are responsible to Him through them, and justiciable by them, there is all the guaranty against the abuse of power by the nation, the political or organic people, that the nature of the case admits. The nation may, indeed, err or do wrong, but in the way supposed you get in the government all the available wisdom and virtue the nation has, and more is never, under any form or constitution of government, practicable or to be expected.
It is a maxim with constitutional statesmen, that "the king reigns, not governs." The people, though sovereign under God, are not the government. The government is in their name and by virtue of authority delegated from God through them, but they are not it, are not their own ministers. It is only when the people forget this and undertake to be their own ministers and to manage their own affairs immediately by themselves instead of selecting agents to do it for them, and holding their agents to a strict account for their management, that they are likely to abuse their power or to sanction injustice. The nation may be misled or deceived for a moment by demagogues, those popular courtiers, but as a rule it is disposed to be just and to respect all natural rights. The wrong is done by individuals who assume to speak in their name, to wield their power, and to be themselves the state. L'état, c'est moi, I am the state, said Louis XIV. of France, and while that was conceded the French nation could have in its government no more wisdom or virtue than he possessed, or at least no more than he could appreciate. And under his government France was made responsible for many deeds that the nation would never have sanctioned, if it had been recognized as the depositary of the national sovereignty, or as the French state, and answerable to God for the use it made of political power, or the conduct of its government.
But be this as it may, there evidently can be no physical force in the nation to coerce the nation itself in case it goes wrong, for if the sovereignty vests in the nation, only the nation can rightly command or authorize the employment of force, and all commissions must run in its name. Written constitutions alone will avail little, for they emanate from the people, who can disregard them, if they choose, and alter or revoke them at will. The reliance for the wisdom and justice of the state must after all be on moral guaranties. In the very nature of the case there are and can be no other. But these, placed in a clear light, with an intelligent and religious people, will seldom be found insufficient. Hence the necessity for the protection, not of authority simply or chiefly, but of individual rights and the liberty of religion and intelligence in the nation, of the general understanding that the nation holds its power to govern as a trust from God, and that to God through the people all civil rulers are strictly responsible. Let the mass of the people in any nation lapse into the ignorance and barbarism of atheism, or lose themselves in that supreme sophism called pantheism, the grand error of ancient as well as of modern gentilism, and liberty, social or political, except that wild kind of liberty, and perhaps not even that should be excepted, which obtains among savages, would be lost and irrecoverable.
But after all, this theory does not meet all the difficulties of the case. It derives sovereignty from God, and thus asserts the divine origin of government in the sense that the origin of nature is divine; it derives it from God through the people, collectively, or as society, and therefore concedes it a natural, human, and social element, which distinguishes it from pure theocracy. It, however, does not explain how authority comes from God to the people. The ruler, king, prince, or emperor, holds from God through the people, but how do the people themselves hold from God? Mediately or immediately? If mediately, what is the medium? Surely not the people themselves. The people can no more be the medium than the principle of their own sovereignty. If immediately, then God governs in them as he does in the church, and no man is free to think or act contrary to popular opinion, or in any case to question the wisdom or justice of any of the acts of the state, which is arriving at state absolutism by another process. Besides, this would theoretically exclude all human or natural activity, all human intelligence and free-will from the state, which were to fall into either pantheism or atheism.
VIII. The right of government to govern, or political authority, is derived by the collective people or society, from God through the law of nature. Rulers hold from God through the people or nation, and the people or nation hold from God through the natural law. How nations are founded or constituted, or a particular people becomes a sovereign political people, invested with the rights of society, will be considered in following chapters. Here it suffices to say that supposing a political people or nation, the sovereignty vests in the community, not supernaturally, or by an external supernatural appointment, as the clergy hold their authority, but by the natural law, or law by which God governs the whole moral creation.
They who assert the origin of government in nature are right, so far as they derive it from God through the law of nature, and are wrong only when they understand by the law of nature the physical force or forces of nature, which are not laws in the primary and proper sense of the term. The law of nature is not the order or rule of the divine action in nature which is rightfully called providence, but is, as has been said, law in its proper and primary sense, ordained by the Author of nature, as its sovereign and supreme Lawgiver, and binds all of his creatures who are endowed with reason and free-will, and is called natural, because promulgated through the reason common to all men. Undoubtedly, it was in the first instance, to the first man, supernaturally promulgated, as it is republished and confirmed by Christianity, as an integral part of the Christian code itself. Man needs even yet instruction in relation to matters lying within the range of natural reason, or else secular schools, colleges, and universities would be superfluous, and manifestly the instructor of the first man could have been only the Creator himself.
The knowledge of the natural law has been transmitted from Adam to us through two channels reason, which is in every man, and in immediate relation with the Creator, and the traditions of the primitive instruction embodied in language and what the Romans call jus gentium, or law common to all civilized nations. Under this law, whose prescriptions are promulgated through reason and embodied in universal jurisprudence, nations are providentially constituted, and invested with political sovereignty; and as they are constituted under this law and hold from God through it, it defines their respective rights and powers, their limitation and their extent.
The political sovereignty, under the law of nature, attaches to the people, not individually, but collectively, as civil or political society. It is vested in the political community or nation, not in an individual, or family, or a class, because, under the natural law, all men are equal, as they are under the Christian law, and one man has, in his own right, no authority over another. The family has in the father a natural chief, but political society has no natural chief or chiefs. The authority of the father is domestic, not political, and ceases when his children have attained to majority, have married and become heads of families themselves, or have ceased to make part of the paternal household. The recognition of the authority of the father beyond the limits of his own household, is, if it ever occurs, by virtue of the ordinance, the consent, express or tacit, of the political society. There are no natural-born political chiefs, and wherever we find men claiming or acknowledged to be such, they are either usurpers, what the Greeks called tyrants, or they are made such by the will or constitution of the people or the nation.
Both monarchy and aristocracy were, no doubt, historically developed from the authority of the patriarchs, and have unquestionably been sustained by an equally false development of the right of property, especially landed property. The owner of the land, or he who claimed to own it, claimed as an incident of his ownership the right to govern it, and consequently to govern all who occupied it. But however valid may be the landlord's title to the soil, and it is doubtful if man can own any thing in land beyond the usufruct, it can give him under the law of nature no political right. Property, like all natural rights, is entitled by the natural law to protection, but not to govern. Whether it shall be made a basis of political power or not is a question of political prudence, to be determined by the supreme political authority. It was the basis, and almost exclusive basis, in the Middle Ages, under feudalism, and is so still in most states. France and the United States are the principal exceptions in Christendom. Property alone, or coupled with birth, is made elsewhere in some form a basis of political power, and where made so by the sovereign authority, it is legitimate, but not wise nor desirable; for it takes from the weak and gives to the strong. The rich have in their riches advantages enough over the poor, without receiving from the state any additional advantage. An aristocracy, in the sense of families distinguished by birth, noble and patriotic services, wealth, cultivation, refinement, taste, and manners, is desirable in every nation, is a nation's ornament, and also its chief support, but they need and should receive no political recognition. They should form no privileged class in the state or political society.
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