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PART IV.

OF THE LAW CONCERNING THE RIGHTS

OF PERSONS.

LECTURE XXIV.

OF THE ABSOLUTE RIGHTS OF PERSONS.

The rights of persons in private life are either absolute, being such as belong to individuals in a single unconnected state ; or relative, being those which arise from the civil and domestic relations.

The absolute rights of individuals may be resolved into the right of personal security, the right of personal liberty, and the right to acquire and enjoy property. These rights have been justly considered, and frequently declared, by the people of this country, to be natural, inherent, and unalienable. The history of our colonial governments bears constant marks of the vigilance of a free and intelligent people, who understood the best securities for political happiness, and the true foundation of the social ties. The inhabitants of Massachusetts, in the very infancy of their establishments, declared by law that the free enjoyment of the liberties which humanity, civility and christianity called for, was due to every man in his place and proportion, and ever had been, and ever would be, the tranquillity and stability of the commonwealth. They insisted that they brought with them into this country the privileges of English freemen; and they defined and declared those privileges, with a callVOL. IL

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tion, sagacity and precision, that have not been surpassed by their descendants. Those rights were afterwards, in the year 1692, on the receipt of their new charter, re-asserted and declared. It was their fundamental doctrine, that no tax, aid or imposition whatever, could rightfally be assessed or levied upon them, without the act and consent of their own legislature; and that justice ought to be equally, impartially, freely, and promptly administered. The right of trial by jury, and the necessity of due proof preceding conviction, were claimed as undeniable rights; and it was further expressly ordained, that no person should suffer without express law, either in life, limb, liberty, good name, or estate ; nor without being first brought to answer by due course and process of law.a

The first act of the General Assembly of the colony of Connecticut, in 1639, contained a declaration of rights in nearly the same language;b and among the early resolutions of the General Assembly of the colony of New-York, we meet with similar proofs of an enlightened sense of the provisions requisite for civil security. It was declared by them,c that the imprisonment of subjects without due commitment for legal cause, and proscribing and forcing them into banishment, and forcibly seizing their property, were illegal and arbitrary acts. It was held to be the unquestionable right of every freeman, to have a perfect and entire property in his goods and estate ; and that no money could be imposed or levied, without the consent of the General Assembly. The erection of any court of judicature without the like consent, and exactions upon the administration of justice, were declared to be grievances. Testimonies of the same honourable character are doubtless to be met with

a Hazard's Siale Papers, vol. i. 408. 487, edit. Philad. 1792. Hutchinson's Ilist, of Massachuselis, vol. ii. 64.

b Trumbull's Hist. of Connecticut, vol. i. 98.

c Journals of the Assembly of the Colony of New York, vol. 1. 6.

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