Home >> Cyclopedia Of Knowledge >> Proclamation to Sheriff Scotland >> Right


rights, legal, sovereign, person and word

RIGHT. It has been shown in Lew [1. p.174] that the word right occurs under t ome form in all the Teutonic languages ; nd that it bears a double meaning equi latent to the signification of the Latin word jus, namely, law and faculty. The Anglo-Saxon word bore this double meaning, but right, in modern English, has lost the signification of law, and has retained only its other meaning.

Right, in its strict sense, means a legal claim ; in other words, a claim which can be enforced by legal remedies, or a claim the infringement of which can be punished by a legal sanction. It follows from this definition that every right presupposes the existence of positive law.

The causes of rights, or the modes of acquiring them, are various, and can only be explained in a system of juris prudence; for example, a person may ac quire a right by contract, by gift, by succession, by the non-fulfilment of a condition.

Every right correlates with a legal duty, either in a determinate person or persons or in the world at large. Thus a right arising from a contract (for ex ample, a contract to perform a service, or to pay a sum of money) is a right against a determinate person or persons ; a right of property (or dominion) in a field or house, is a right to deal with the field or house, availing against the world at large. On the other hand, every legal duty does not correlate with a right ; for there are certain absolute duties which do not correlate with a right in any determi nate 'person. Such are the duties which are included in the idea of police ; as the duties of cleanliness, order, quiet at cer tain times and places.

The word right is sometimes used, improperly and secondarily, to signify not legal but moral claims ; that is to say, claims which are enforced merely by public opinion, and not ny the legal sanction.

In this sense the right of a slavt against his master, or of a subject against his sovereign, may be spoken of, although a slave has rarely any legal right against his master, and a subject never has a legal right against his sovereign. It is in the same sense that a sovereign government is some times said to have rights against its sub jects, although in strictness a sovereign government creates rights, and does not possess them. In like manner, one sovereign government is said to have rights against another sovereign govern ment; that is to say, moral rights, de rived from the positive morality pre vailing between independent nations, which is called international law.

We likewise sometimes hear of certain rights, styled natural rights, which are supposed to be anterior to civil govern ment, and to be paramount to it. Hence these supposed natural rights sometimes receive all the additional epithets of in defeasible, indestructible, inalienable, and the like. This theory of natural rights is closely connected with the fiction of a social compact made between persons living in a state of nature; which theory, though recommended by the authority of Locke, has now been abandoned by nearly all political speculatori.