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WHAT IS CIVIL LIBERTY?

this doctrine has lost nearly all the arguments which were ever brought to its support. The notion of natural rights is not now held by anybody in the sense of reference to some original historical state of the human race. The biblical scholars would scarcely avow the exegesis by which the doctrine was got out of the Scriptures; the dogma to-day does not stand on the ground of an inference from any religious doctrine. The doctrine of evolution, instead of supporting the natural equality of all men, would give a demonstration of their inequality; and the doctrine of the struggle for existence would divorce liberty and equality as incompatible with each other. The doctrine, thus stripped of all the props which have been brought to its support, would remain only a poetic inspiration; but, if all this is admitted, if its historic legitimacy is all taken away, does that detract anything from the beneficence of the doctrine in history, render invalid a single institution which rests upon it now? Shall we any of us return into serfdom, because it is proved that our ancestors were emancipated under a delusion or a superstition?

On the other hand, it is when we turn to the present and the future that the rectification of the dogma becomes all-important. The anarchists of to-day have pushed the old dogma of natural liberty to the extremest form of abstract deduction, and they propose to make it a program of action. They therefore make of it a principle of endless revolution. If, however, the basis on which it once rested is gone, it is impossible that we should hold and use it any more. With our present knowledge of history, we know that no men on earth ever have had liberty in the sense of unrestrainedness of action. The very conception is elusive; it is impossible to reduce it to such form that it could be verified,