Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 56.djvu/480

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THE rights of personal security, personal liberty, and private property have been called the "rights of the people of England," and may be said to constitute the richest heirloom in the Anglo-Saxon family. While, in a certain sense, they belong to all civilized people, yet, in their practical application, they are peculiarly the creation of Anglo-Saxon common sense and love of order. The underlying principle of these rights, clothed by the Latins in the seductive garb of Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité, gave us a Reign of Terror, a Commune, and finally a doubtful republicanism; but the same principle, embodied in the less dazzling formula, "That no man shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law," produced in the hands of the Anglo-Saxons more enduring democracies "of the people, by the people, and for the people."

With the instinct of a race born for self-government, the Anglo-Saxons have ever sought and almost always found the highest safeguard for their ancient rights in the courts of law. Between a partisan Legislature and a tyrannical Executive an honest judiciary has generally been found ready to annul the excesses of the one and to prevent any infringement by the other; so that it has become a belief, having the force of faith, that in our courts will be found the bulwark of those liberties which we consider essential to the full enjoyment of life.

Laws and courts, however, are after all the creation of men, and, like all such creations, they are necessarily imperfect and fallible; or, more correctly, they are organisms which develop and improve. In other words, justice and law are only relatively immutable and perfect. They do, indeed, represent, in a sense, abstract perfection, and at any given time they must be considered the highest criterion of human conduct. But justice and law are not such divinities that they can withdraw themselves from the operation of those forces which we call progress. Seriousness, dignity, and venerability are not sufficient to sustain the majesty of the law; it needs also adaptation to those higher conditions and broader views which mark the growth of human thought. The more we come to look upon law as the standard and gauge of upright human action, the more do we grow to expect it in consonance with the highest dictates of human knowledge and reason, for what is above us must represent what is best in us, else it will be neither respected