Letter: Without justice, there is no happiness
March 24, 2015
To the Editor:
Sir William Blackstone's Commentaries on the Laws of England were the cornerstone of law teachings in the U.S. until 1920 — they are still regularly referenced in Supreme Court decisions, and have the force of legal precedent. The next time a public representative claims ignorance, you may now point them in the right direction.
In order to understand Blackstone a bit better, here's a good web page that will help you understand the writings I reference from the Commentaries: http://www.sullivan-county.com/deism/blackstone.htm.
Reading about Blackstone is all most people do — reading his actual works will prove that there is nothing new under the sun.
As an aside, Blackstone is credited with many of the ideas laid forth in the Declaration of Independence, but John Locke had a greater influence through his Second Treatise of Government, and was more highly respected by Thomas Jefferson — the Declaration's author.
The second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence proclaims:
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
The idea of the pursuit of happiness was christened on pages 40 and 41 of Volume I of Blackstone's Commentaries. Keep in mind that the 'f' sounds like an 's.'
"CONSIDERING the creator only as a being of infinite power, he was able unqueftionably to have prefcribed whatever laws he pleafed to his creature, man, however unjuft or fevere. But as he is alfo a being of infinite wifdom, he has laid down only fuch laws as were founded in thofe relations of juftice, that exifted in the nature of things antecedent to any pofitive precept. Thefe are the eternal, immutable laws of good and evil, to which the creator himfelf in all his difpenfations conforms; and which he has enabled human reafon to difcover, fo far as they are neceffary for the conduct of human actions. Such among others are thefe principles: that we fhould live honeftly, fhould hurt nobody, and fhould render to every one it's due; to which three general precepts Juftinian a has reduced the whole doctrine of law…
"… For he has so intimately connected, so inseparably interwoven the laws of eternal justice with the happiness of each individual, that the latter cannot be attained but by observing the former; and, if the former be punctually obeyed, it cannot but induce the latter. In consequence of which mutual connection of justice and human felicity, he has not perplexed the law of nature with a multitude of abstracted rules and precepts, referring merely to the fitness or unfitness of things, is some have vainly surmifed; but has gracioufly reduced the rule of obedience to this one paternal precept, "that man should "pursue his own happiness." This is the foundation of what we call ethics, or natural law."
The basis and definition of the pursuit of happiness embodied in our founding document is clear: Without justice, there can be no happiness. Think about that.