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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/641

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Thereupon the state becomes the accuser, the witness, and the judge, and, without an opportunity to be heard or to call witnesses in defense, the offenders are held to await trial. Should any one become disgusted with his duties as a citizen and attempt to end his misery, if caught in time, he may be punished as an abandoned criminal.

Amid this never-ending round of obligations the nature and limits of the authority that imposes them is a question seldom stated, yet it must be recognized as one of vast importance to mankind. The axiom that the people do not need to limit their power over themselves has been used to quiet all complaints, and the patients have gradually become stupefied by their own wisdom. There would seem to be an ever-increasing inclination on the part of the state to unduly stretch its rights over the individual both by careless legislation and by indifference to its solemn obligations.

It is true, that to read the Scriptures in English or to speak against the Prayer-book is no longer a capital offense, nor are innocent old ladies executed at Salem for witchcraft; but personal liberty and the rights of property are constantly violated, and the citizen is utterly without redress. The comfort administered in monarchies to those who complained on this score was that the king could do no wrong; but a few years ago the Supreme Court of the United States declared that this doctrine had no place in American jurisprudence. This enunciation of a democratic feeling was, however, mere emptiness; for, in other cases before the same tribunal, it has been held as axiomatical that the sovereign power is free from all legal duties. Law, it is said, is a rule of action laid down by a superior; and the state can not be said to be in subordination to itself, excepting so far as it may choose to part with its sovereignty.

For many years the only redress against the United States for wrongs done by it was by bringing the injuries to the attention of Congress. Latterly the Court of Claims has been established, but has jurisdiction only to hear cases that arise out of contracts made within six years from the time suit is brought. For those older than this for all sorts and the vast variety of claims that may arise, other than for mere money demands the sole redress is still before the legislative body. It would take a series of volumes almost as great as those containing the duties of the individual to the state to recount the tales of robbery and outrage on the part of the national Government that appear in the appeals for justice now on record at Washington. Had these same acts been committed by private bodies, the united wrath of the people would have exterminated the offenders.

For goods or lands wrongfully taken by the officers of the