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is a cruel or one-sided law, then the more strictly it is enforced the more people will be injured and the more enemies it will make. And this will tend to get it changed. A king might pull out one by one the teeth of a Jew from whom he wished to squeeze money, and this would not necessarily excite any fear among other rich men. But
it were made a law that all men must contribute to the king as much money as he asks for at any time, under penalty of having their teeth drawn one by one each day; then there would soon be powerful opposition. Equality before the law compels men to make common cause with all others affected as they are, whereas without this men tend to want special favors and to let others shift for themselves. It is thus a strong democratic force.
INFLUENCE OF IDEAS UPON THE PROGRESS
OF LIBERTY AND DEMOCRACY
F we wish to tell at all completely the story of liberty, we shall have to add to all these forces
which have been at work in the national state the influence of great men, men who have had ideas of a better and juster society, and have put these into the minds of rulers and judges, or into the general sentiment of their peoples. We may note three classes of such great men.
The first type is those whom we call prophets or Religious religious teachers. Ancient Israel had many of this teachers type. Amos, Isaiah, and many others pleaded power- and fully for the cause of the poor, and the laws of Israel liberty were made more humane by their teachings. Christianity held that all men are equal before God. It dwelt a great deal in the Middle Ages upon God as a judge. It held, however, that He was so great and just a being that to Him human ranks and titles were of no account. He judged men according to their hearts, not according to their birth or wealth. This was in flat contradiction to the earlier laws of the Saxons, according to which a higher fine had to be paid for killing a man of good birth than for killing a man of low birth, and a man of low birth had to pay a heavier fine than a man well-born. The belief that men are equal before God did not at once do away with slavery nor with class privileges; but the tendency was in that direction. The Peasants' Revolt of the fifteenth cen
tury was largely aroused by a priest, John Ball, who put his doctrines into rhymes.
“When Adam delved and Eve span,
Who was then the gentleman?” Equity Another way in which religious influence directly af
fected English law was through that particular part of the law which is called “Equity.” Equity was a plan to provide remedies for wrongs which the law courts did not set right. Men went to the king's chancellor, who was usually a bishop, and complained they could not get redress through the king's other courts. They “urged that they were poor while their adversaries were mighty, too mighty for the common law, with its long delays and purchasable juries.” Or they had made certain agreements with neighbors or friends which the common law would not undertake to enforce because it had no rules which applied. Would not the chancellor enforce these honorable understandings, these “
uses, trusts, or confidences"? The chancellor in deciding these cases was at liberty to follow his conscience. He could ask what was fair, or equitable, or what belonged to good faith. This saved the law from becoming utterly rigid. It brought a new
element of conscience into it. Philoso The second type of great men who have helped phers and liberty and democracy we call philosophers. Stoic philiberty
losophers in Greece argued against slavery. Cicero urges that men are equal. “There is no one thing so like or so equal to another as in every instance is man to man." All share in the common gift of reason. Now law is merely what right reason requires; hence in giving us reason, nature gives us law. “And if nature has given us law she hath also given us right. But she has bestowed reason on all, therefore right has
been bestowed on all." A Roman lawyer who lived later than Cicero wrote, “By the law of nature men were born free.” This fine thought did not lead men at once to abolish slavery; but it was later to become a watchword of freedom in England and America and France.
Four modern writers who aided greatly in advancing the cause of human rights were Milton, Locke, Rousseau, and Jefferson. Milton was the great Puritan writer and the early settlers of New England were Puritans. Milton and Locke had great influence upon the ideas of our forefathers in America. John Locke was read in all parts of the United States, and probably did more to influence the thoughts of men at the time of the American Revolution than any other writer.
Milton was writing to defend those who had over- Milton thrown and beheaded Charles I. This rebellion and execution seemed to many people the greatest of crimes. Some had believed that the king could do no wrong, and that whatever evils his people might suffer, they could never under any circumstances be justified in rebelling against him. Milton wished to show that men are not bound to obey a wicked king. The title of his first book runs :
“ The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates: Proving That it is Lawfull and hath been held so through all Ages, for any who have the Power, to call to account a Tyrant, or wicked KING, and after due conviction, to depose and put him to death if the ordinary magistrate have neglected or denied to do it.” Milton wanted to prove that the rights of people are older than the rights of kings. He claimed therefore that men
were born free and that kings and other rulers were appointed to prevent violence:
“No man who knows ought, can be so stupid to deny that all men naturally were borne free, being the image and resemblance of God himselfe, and were by privilege above all creatures, borne to command and not to obey."
In a later book, entitled “Second Defense of the People of England,” Milton declares the right for kings of “ doing what they please is not justice but injustice, ruin, and despair," and addressing Cromwell, he continues :
You cannot be truly free unless we are free too; for such is the nature of things, that he, who entrenches on the liberty of others, is the first to lose his own and become a slave.”
The power of kings and magistrates is held in trust by them from the people “ to the common good of them all.” To say, “ The King hath as good right to his crown and dignitie, as any man to his inheritance is to make the subject no better than the King's slave, his chattel, or his possession that may be bought and sould."
John Locke is less passionate than Milton, but for that very reason he appeals especially to lawyers and statesmen. He dwells upon the state of nature, in which he supposes men to have lived at first:
“To understand political power aright, and derive it from its original [origin), we must consider what estate all men are naturally in, and that is, a state of perfect freedom to order their actions, and dispose of their possessions and persons as they think fit, within the bounds of the law of Nature, without asking leave or depending upon the will of any other man. A state also of equality, wherein all the power and jurisdiction is reciprocal, no one having more than another."