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About Hesperian student / (Lincoln [Neb.]) 1872-1885 | View Entire Issue (Jan. 1, 1879)
oral welfare. This subject has given rise
to endless debate, and the opposite views
that exist And able partisans.
The temperance reformers, for instance,
claim that the liquor trniUc should be con
trolled by a prohibitory law j their oppon
ents dispute this. Tlioy say that govern
ment may with equal justice apply a pro
hibitory law in the case of tea and collco.
The principle; implied is that the personal
habits and the appctito of man are not
j proper subjects for legislative control.
. This leads us directly to the question;
what is the sphere of government? To an-
I swer it, we must look at the nature and
source of government.
It docs not require much argument to
prove that man is made for society. Noth
ing more than utter savagism could result
fro mi the absence of social ties. But the
existence of communities is a fact beyond
human control. It results from a tendency
which is inherent in man.
Absolute personal freedom is therefore
an impossibility. It implies that cacli
man may infringe without limit upon t he
rights of any other. Man is morally im
perfect. He is so constituted that his in
dividual feelings are stronger than his so
cial attachments In case of conflict, he
gives the preference to the former. A re.
straining power is therefore indispensable
to the existence of society. This is govern
incut, and it has its source in the nature
To determine the sphere of government
one can scarcely do better (linn to glance
at the beginnings of democracy in our
land. The Puritan " Blue Laws" are fa
miliar to the student of early New Eug.
land history. To us, (lie restraints they
Imposed upon personal milliners seem to
have been absurd and uncalled for. Does
it not provoke a smile to read that in Con
uecticut no man could use tobacco more
than once a day, and that lie must then be
ten miles from any house? A persons ex
penditures were even regulated. Now
can we suppose that any people would
submit to such laws unless these are dic
tated by the general sense of the com
munity? Wo have outgrown this non
sense as we say; to put it more philosoph
ically, our altered social conditions have
caused the change.
From this illustration wc see thai when
the community is small, and thus resem
bles a fainliy, its laws arc determined by
its habits and customs which prevail. The
rigid code of the Puritans was simply a
reflection of their belief. They strove to
maintain universal morality, and if the
means they employed were not the best,
they at least set up strong barrieis against
the corrupting influences of vice. The
"Blue Laws" no longer exist. Viry true
The increase of population, which makes
it diillcult to retain a system of laws
touching extensively on manners, has
combined with the disorganizing inilu.
cnee of the Revolution to overturn them
As population increases, there seems to
arise the idea that government is a per
sonified power which stands aloof from
the people and dictates what they shall
and shall not do. This is a fiction. The
character of the government represents
the collective sense of the community. In
being a law-abiding citizen, a man is sim
ply submitting to self-control for what the
people as a whole think is his best good.
Civil law is the restraint which a man sub
mits to in order to bo secure in the enjoy
mcut of such rights as do notconilict with
the general welfare.
Then is there any well defined lino be.
tween the interests of the individual and
thobc of the people as a mass? From the
illustration we have just given, it may bo
seen that thecoiiuectiou is quite evident in
tlie early stages of society. With the gen.
erali.atiou of the laws, which accompan
ies national growth, the relation is obscur
ed yet the principle remains. In our day,
litis same relation comes to the surface as
a factor in many a vexed question. It not
only appears in prohibitory legislation
and in laws for compulsory education, but
also in other questions in social economy
that are now being agitated. We may re-
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