The commoner. (Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-1923, August 16, 1901, Page 5, Image 5

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The Commoner.
Dr. Lambert Defends Jefferson.
Rev. L. A. Lambort, defending- Jefferson,
and tlio Declaration, of Independence, said:
We come now to the meaning of the word
"equal" as used in the Declaration. That word
seems to be the cause of a great deal of confusion
in the minds oi some people. We see not why it
shouul be, since the Declaration itself indicates
clearly its meaningthat the equality asserted is
equality in those natural rights of every man as
against the encroachments of his fellow man, of
society and of government; rights which spring
from his nature, his personality, his responsibility
to God, and his destiny. These rights belong to
him because he is a man, and they are equal in all
men because they are men. All are equal in the
right of immunity from unjust aggression.
Dr. Brownson, in one of his profound essays,
gees down to the theological reason of this equal
ity assorted in the Declaration a reason which
we may well suppose did not enter into Jefferson's
mind when ho asserted it; which shows that iio
wrote wiser than ho loiow. In volume XVIII.,
pages 45 and 46, Brownson thus speaks of those
natural rights which Jefferson sums up in the
words "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness:"
"Man lives by communion with God, and he
communes with God in the creative act and the in
carnation, through his kind, and through nature.
This threefold communion gives rise to three in
stitutionsreligion or the church, society or the
slate, and property. Tho life that man derives
from God through religion and property is not de
rived from Him through society, and consequently
so. much of his life he holds independently of so
ciety; and this constitutes his rights as a man as
distinguished from his rights as a citizen. In re
lation to society, as not held from God through
her, these are termed his natural rights, which
society must hold inviolablo, and government pro-v
tect, for every one, whatever his complexion or so
cial position. These rights the rights of con
science and the rights of property, with all their
necessary implications are limitations - on the
rights of society, and the individual has tho right
to plead them against the state. Society does not
confer them and cannot take them away, for they
are at least as sacred and as fundamental as her
Thus this great man of genius, familiar with
Catholic theology, delves to the bottom of the
problem. The rights hero spoken of as deriving
from communion with God through the creative
act and through nature are, of course, common to
all men and equal in all men who live in that
communion through the creative act and through
nature. But all men so live. Therefore those
rights are equal in all.
Jefferson, therefore in asserting this equality
of natural rights as coming through the creative
act, expressed a profound truth of Christian phil
osophy. Where did he get it? Certainly not from
the French infidels. God sometimes uses men as
instruments in works they do not fully under
stand the import of. In shaping the course of
events out of; which this republic, with a Providen
tial mission, grew. Ho used as instruments men
who were unconscious, of or adverted not to Hfs
designs, and yet they did their parts to the con
summation of tho result as surely as Moses did
his in obedience to the voice from the burning
bush. Jefferson and the other fathers of this re
public were near that fire and received' more re
flected light from it than they wot of. They were
Providential men who, aside from their' own per-,
sonal motives, did their part in the unfolding of a
divine plan, as Constantino did in his time and
Charlemagne did in his.
The rights that we have seen have their root in
communion with God, cannot be violated with Im
punity, whether by the individual, society pr gov
ernment. Retribution follows - their violation -as-
the night tho day. These birthrights of man must
not be Invaded, while he invades not the same
rights in others. When they are so invaded a
wrong is done, the natural dignity of man Is out
raged, tho circle that the Creator has drawn round
about his-manhood is raided; acrime is committed
not only against the human victim, hut against
his Maker, and against the order of His provi
dence. It is needless, or should be, to say that the
Declaration, by the word of "equal' does not refer
to adventitious differences, such as height, weight,
strength, degrees of intelligence, wealth, poverty,
etc. No particular height, weight, wealth, poverty
or degree of intelligence is essential to man in
order to be a man. The" four-foot man Is no less
a man than the eight-foot man. The infant weep
ing on its mother's breast is, so far as natural
rights are concerned, no less a man than he who,
mumbling and trembling with age, stumbles to
wards the grave. The starving beggar, thin as a
lath, 4s qo less a man than the ponderous states--man,
the fat politician, or the sleek and juicy al
aorman. And tho man with only sense enough to
earn an honest living in the sweat of his face is as
much a,man as the great ones who, for better or for
worse, ploughed deep furrows in the world's his
tory. No, children, it was not ephemeral differ
encesall of which are plus man, and as unlm
. portant a3 the difference between length of noses
that J-fferson denied. He was not a humorist,
nor an idiot.
It is claimed that the rights of the Declara
tion belong to the abstract,, not to'th6 concrete
man. Such a claim is groundless; for those fights '
""belong-.only to men who iive in communion with
God through the creative act and .through, nature..
&uch men .are created and therefore real or con
crete men. That which is not has not and cannot
have real rights. The rights of nouexlstence'arc
non-existent. The rights that a man cannot enjoy
till he,bocqmes an abstract are like, Counselor Cur
rents definition of nothing a footless boot without
a leg, or a bodyless shirt without neck or sleeves;
or, we might add, a soup made from the. shadow
of a bone in tho abstract.
Governments do not deal with men in the ab
stract. They can neither sue nor be sued, hanged
nor sent to congress. Be a right ever so patent
and ample, the abstract man cannot enjoy it. An
essential condition to the enjoyment of rights in
concreteness, real existence. When the Declara
tion speaks of rights it has reference to real, live
men of flesh and blood. The dead part has no
practical use for mundane rights, and the potential
or abstract man can enjoy them only when he
ceases t ce potential or abstract and takes a
cognizable place in the procession from the cradle
tc the grave. When Jefferson wrote the Declara
tion he wisely refrained from dealing with meta
physical potentials.
We would remaind Father Sheahan that in
equality of glory of the saints in heaven does not
prove that he quotes St. Paul to prove, namely, the
inequality of the saints themselves. They may be
unequal, tut his argument does not prove it; it
only provej the inequality of glory. Nor does in
equality of torments prove inequality in the
demned. He confounds the conditions with the
conditioned a serious lapse from close thinking.
"Ine equality of men is a creation of our
No, It is, as we have seen,, an apprehension or
judgment of the mind corresponding with objective
"Jefferson's preamble contains the principles
of anarchy."
This, we presume, refers to the principle that
the just powers of governments are derived from
the consent of the governed. If this principle be
anarchic, then Bellarmin, -Suarez and the theolog
ians generally are anarchists, for they held and
taught that the authority to rule comes directly'
from' the people- to ttie ruler;- that the people,
though not the creators of the authority, their con
sent Is the medium through which it comes to the
ruler. It Is Important to observe here that the
Declaration does not say that the people are the
cteators or ultimate source of authority. It slra
rly states that "tho Just power to govorn cornea
from the consent of the governed,' without con
sidering further its ultimato source. The state
ment, then, is true, according to the theologians we
have named.
Wo will now quote a few extracts from soma
well knovvn and weighty theologians on how th
power comes to the ruler.
Bellarmin: "The dfvine right has not given
this powsr (of ruling) to any man in particular,
for it has given it to the multitude; besides the
positive law being taken away, there is no reason
why one man should rule rather than another,
among a great number of equal men (mark "equal
men"); therefore power belongs to the whole
multitude." Having pointed out where this power
exists as in its subject, the great cardinal goea
on to show how it passes from the multitude 'to
the ruler or body of rulers, thus: "In tho third
place, observe that the multitude transfers thla
power to one porson or more by natural right. . Ob
serve, in the fourth place, that particular forms of
governments are by the law of nations, and not by
divine law, since It depends on tho consent of the
multitude to place over themselves a king, con
suls or other magistrates, as Is clear; and for a
legitimate reason, they can change royalty Into
aristocracy, or into democracy, or vice versa, as it
was done in Rome."
Suarez; "In the second place, it follows from
vhnt has been said that the civil power, when
ever it is found in a man or prince, has emanated
according to usual and legitimate law from the
people and the community, either directly or re
motely, and that It cannot otherwise be justly
possessed." - -. ,
Conclna: "It Is evident therefore that -the
power existing in the prince, the king, or in many
persons, whether nobles or plebeians, emanates
fiom tho community itself, directly or inlilrectly."
We will conclude these quotations with an ex
tiact from Compendium Salmaticense, a text book
on ethics in its time in Catholic colleges and uni
versities: "It Is universally admitted that princes
recelvo this power (of ruling) from bod; but, at
the same time, it is maintained with more truth
that they do not receive 'it directly, but through
the medium of the people's consent; for all men
are naturally equal, and there is no natural dis
tinction of superiority or Inferiority. Since nature
has not yiven any individual power over another,
God has conferred this power upon the community,
which, a3 It may think proper, to be ruled by one
or by many appointed persons."
We submit that in view of these vigorous and
exact statements, the proposition of Jefferson la
the Declaration seems tame.
Were all these Catholic theologians anar
chists, and did they teach the principles of au
archy? If not, then Jefferson did not.
If we have devoted more time and space than
the article we have commented on calls for, it is
because we are in times when the public mind, in
flated by commercial success and successful crim
inal aggression, is on a common drunk, and under
tho Malayan impulse to run amuck with swagger
ing disregard to the time-honored principles im
bedded in the Declaration and constitution; prin
ciples that should be to us what the compass is to
the mariner when his ship is in the fog; principles
that stand as a bar to anarchy on the one hand,
and government absolutelsm on the other. At
such a time to weaken those pillars on which the
grand structure of the republic rests is to play
blind Samson over again, and invite his fate.
Poor Human Nature.
"What would you do if you had a million,
dollars?" said one plain, everyday man.
"Oh," replied the otbor, "I suppose I'd put in
most of my time comparing myself with soma one
who" had 'a billlon-andi 'feeling discontented:''-1
Washington tan - ',, -