THE INDIVIDUAL, SOCIETY, AND THE STATE.
"What Parliament has given Parliament can take away." Not rightly, declares Jus; and it imagines a case.
Suppose Parliament grants a life-pension to a distinguished general; suppose the next Parliament, being of another color, rejects the grant, will Mr. Plimsoll pretend that in such a case Parliament would have the right to take it away? Not he; no honest man could think so for a moment. Private persons do not consider themselves entitled to take back that which they have given to others, even without any consideration whatever.
True, so far as private persons are concerned. But private persons do consider themselves entitled to take back that which has been taken from them and given to others. If the body politic, or State, which compels A to belong to it and aid in supporting it, pledges a certain sum annually to B, and, to meet this pledge, forcibly collects annually from A a proportional part of the sum, then A, when he becomes strong enough, may not only decline to make any further annual payments to B, but may take from B all that he has been compelled to pay to him in the past. To-day, to be sure, A, as soon as he acquires power, generally vitiates his claim upon B by proceeding to pledge others in the same manner in which others, when they were in power, had pledged him. But this fact, being accidental rather than essential, has no logical bearing upon the question of A's right to recover from B. It follows, then, that private, persons cannot be held to the pledges of an association which forces them into its membership, and that Parliament, which represents the will of a majority of the members of such an association, and of a majority which necessarily varies continually in its make-up, stands on a very different footing from that of private persons in the matter of observing or violating contracts.
But suppose the position of Jus that they stand on the same footing to be granted. What has Jus to say then? This,—namely, that it finds itself in sympathy with Mr. Plimsoll and the people of Keswick in their desire to enjoy the beautiful scenery of Latrigg; that it believes the right of way to such enjoyment was originally theirs; and that the sooner they recover it, the better. But how? It has already denied that "what Parliament has given Parliament can take away"; so it finds itself obliged to pick its way around this difficulty by the following devious path:
If Parliament has given away to private persons that which ought to have been retained in public hands for the public use and benefit, with or without sufficient (or any) consideration, then let the Nation keep faith and buy it back.