The New Federalism[index]
Biologists may view civilization as an unstable deviation from the law of survival of the fittest or as a stable adaption for survival within the law. Of course, either view may be correct because they are different theories based on a small trajectory of the same transient phenomenon. According to the law of survival of the fittest, fittedness secures both rights and order, at least for a sufficient time to perform a useful reproductive function. In civilized societies, biological strength is replaced with government and laws wherein individuals who may be less fit in one sense practice a sort of democratic tyranny over (restrain) the fittest. No one is as free as the surviving fittest individual would have been, but no one is eaten without first receiving the full benefits of due process. Only time will disclose whether civilization provides a stable focus or an unstable saddle in the phase space of singular points controlling evolutionary dynamics.
In eighteenth century Europe, the masses weren't doing much better than the weakest prey of the fittest competitor. Their biomass was great, but they were illiterate, in poor nutrition, miserably housed, and beyond hope of escape. Even in relatively enlightened England, most people were excluded from political power.
For centuries this system was regarded as completely natural. Ruling was the business of kings. People had nothing to say about the conduct of their rulers, much less choosing them. Except as a reservoir of possible violence, the people did not count.
In thirteenth-century England appeared the Great Charter of King John and the Great Charter of the Woodlands, better known today as Magna Charta and Charta De Foresta, respectively. These charters contained provisions that regulated the administration of justice and secured the personal liberty of the subject and his rights of property and may be considered the forerunners of our own state constitutions in the United States. The first elected representatives were chosen when knights from the shires were selected to meet with the barons and prelates to consider the request of Henry III for men and money to conduct a war against France. In 1265, the first representatives of the boroughs and towns met at Westminster in a forum called Simon de Montfort's Parliament. The Model Parliament of 1295 is important because it was the first to include representatives of all classes.
Natural Rights: The Seeds of Revolution[index]
By the eighteenth century, the concept of "natural rights" had been set forth by numerous writers in France, England and the United States, including Montaigne, Hobbes, Montesquieu, and Thomas Paine. We assert that natural rights existed before any government, and that no government has the power to deny that which exists according to a higher authority. This is the stuff of revolutions. Its seeds grew to mature blossoms in the writings of the revolutionaries in the United States and France during the late eighteenth century.
When the revolutionaries in what was to become the United States declared our independence from England, their basic premise was that all men are created equal and endowed by their creator with inalienable natural rights. This means that the source of these rights is a creator or super-human power, not government. When a state protects civil liberties, it does not confer rights, but merely confirms rights that belong to man naturally. Therein lies the basic difference between democratic and totalitarian governments.
Thirteen years later, the revolutionaries in France followed the Declaration of Independence in the United States with their own Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen. In that document it is stated that all men are born and remain free and equal in respect of rights and have natural and imprescriptible rights.
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