Page:The Green Bag (1889–1914), Volume 25.pdf/21

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The Green Bag

to the few, and poverty and woe to the multitude. The prostitution of this great code by men selected at the instance of the plebeians, was viewed with equanimity by them when its perversion affected patricians, and the latter class calmly encouraged its misapplication when rights of plebeians were involved. Only the shameful treatment and martyrdom of Virginia aroused the whole people to a full sense 0f the terrible consequences resulting from misapplication of benefi cent laws. History abounds with similar instances. Selfishness has ever been alert to vantage ignorance and indiffer ence. Tyranny has pointed to law as vindication for acts of rapine, cruelty, and spoliation. Persecution has rejoiced while tears and blood were shed, and shrieks and lamentations heard from victims of perverted law. Craft and cunning have oftentimes been successful in having laws intended to restrain con strued to further selfish aims. The infinite variety of selfish purposes has ever been the source of perplexity and error in the enactment and enforcement of human law. The failure of governments and codes during the course of history has been caused by man's ignorance of himself, his needs, his interests. The average man, representative of the vast majority, has never comprehended the basic legal principle that restriction of individual desire is essential to the protection and preservation of individual rights. The fact that law, restraining gratification of his desire, likewise restrains the desire of others having greater physical and mental strength, seldom or never occurs to him. He should readily under stand that removal of restraint prevent ing him from gratifying his passion, greed, or lust would unleash desire of others having greater power to compel

gratification. But, failing to see what seems so apparent, ignoring the propo sition that general security is dependent upon compulsory self-denial, the ordi nary man lends willing ear to design ing men who promise benefit to him, knowing that by pandering to his desire they may gain his assistance in obtain ing undue and unjust advantage for themselves. In this way supreme and arrogant selfishness, whose vantage is usually a detriment to the humble, has enlisted the aid of the latter to secure privileges which made the condition of its dupes intolerable. This selfish attribute of man has ever furnished the opportunity of ignorance and unscrupulousness. The misguided zealot, who promises happiness when chaos shall reign, appeals to the dissatis fied, at war with conditions which have failed to bring individual benefit to them. Self-seeking demagogues enlist support by promising, as palliative for existing wrongs born of special privilege to one class, the transfer of special privi lege to another and larger class. The student of history is impressed with the great truth that man's effort to better his condition and bring about his own regeneration, has had, for its most seri ous obstacle, the aid of vantage-seeking, selfish friends. He finds that a large number of splendid governmental sys tems have been reared and destroyed, innumerable laws, beneficial and wise, enacted, ignored, and repealed; and critical analysis of cause and effect leaves no room for doubt that demagogues have been responsible for more of such mis chievous results than tyrants or igno rant fanatics. The profit-seeking friend of the people has always been their greatest enemy. Man is not omniscient. Finite limi tations encompass him. Compelled to frame laws dealing with human imper