Foreign Policy Blogs

Outdoing All Former Fanatics

I’m back.  Just in time to go away again for the holiday weekend.  Take a moment to re-read the Declaration of Independence, why don’t you?

All men are created equal.  They are endowed by the Creator with certain unalienable rights.  Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

Good stuff.

But even better is Jeremy Bentham’s response, “Short Review of the Declaration,” written the same year.  Bentham states:

Of the preamble I have taken little notice… But rather surprising it must appear, that they should advance maxims so incompatible with their own present conduct.  If the right of enjoying life be unalienable, whence came their invasion of his Majesty’s province of Canada?  Whence the unprovoked destruction of so many lives of the inhabitants of that province?  If the right of enjoying liberty be unalienable, whence came so many of his Majesty’s peaceable subjects among them, without any offence, without so much as a pretended offence, merely for being suspected not to wish well to their enormities, to be held by them in durance?  If the right of pursuing happiness be unalienable, how is that so many others of their fellow-citizens are by the same injustice and violence made miserable, their fortunes ruined, their persons banished and driven from their friends and families?  Or would they have it believed, that there is in their selves some superior sanctity, some peculiar privilege, by which those things are lawful to them, which are unlawful to all the world besides?… In these tenets, they have outdone the utmost extravangance of all former fanatics.

Interesting questions to ponder.