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Now, as municipal law is a rule of civil conduct, commanding what is right, and prohibiting what is wrong; or as Cicero, and after him our Bracton, have expressed it, sanctio justa, jubens honesta et prohibens contraria; it follows, that the primary and principal objects of the law are RIGHTS and WRONGS. In the prosecution therefore of these commentaries, I shall follow this very simple and obvious division; and shall in the first place consider the rights that are commanded, and secondly the wrongs that are forbidden, by the laws of England.
RIGHTS are however liable to another subdivision: being either, first, those which concern and are annexed to the persons of men, and are then called jura personarum or the rights of persons; or they are, secondly, such as a man may acquire over external objects, or things unconnected with his person, which are styled jura rerum or the rights of things. Wrongs also are divisible into, first, private wrongs, which being an infringement merely of particular rights, concern individuals only, and are called civil injuries; and secondly, public wrongs, which, being a breach of general and public rights, affect the whole community, and are called crimes and misdemesnors.
THE objects of the laws of England falling into this fourfold division, the present commentaries will therefore consist of the four following parts: 1. The rights of persons; with the means whereby such rights may be either acquired or lost. 2. The rights of things; with the means also of acquiring and losing them. 3. Private wrongs, or civil injuries; with the means of redressing them by law. 4. Public wrongs, or crimes and misdemesnors; with the means of prevention and punishment (1).
a 11 Philipp. 12.
b l. 1. c. 3.
(1) The distinction between private wrongs and public wrongs is more intelligible, and more accurately limited by the nature of the subjects, than the distinction between the rights of things, and the tights of persons: for all rights whatever must be the rights of
We are now, first, to consider the rights of persons; with the means of acquiring and losing them.
Now the rights of persons that are commanded to  be observed by the municipal law are of two sorts: first, such as are due from every citizen, which are usually called civil duties; and, secondly, such as belong to him, which is the more popular acceptation of rights or jura. Both may indeed be comprised in this latter division; for, as all social duties are of a relative nature, at the same time that they are due from one man, or set of men, they must also be due to another. But I apprehend it will be more clear and easy, to consider many of them as duties required from, rather than as rights belonging to, particular persons. Thus, for instance, allegiance is usually, and therefore most easily, considered as the duty of the people, and protection as the duty of the magistrate; and yet they are reciprocally, the rights as
certain persons to certain things. Every right is annexed to a certain character or relation, which each individual bears in society. The rights of kings, lords, judges, husbands, fathers, heirs, purchasers, and occupants are all dependent upon the respective characters of the claimants. These rights might again be divided into rights to possess certain things, and the rights to do certain actions. This latter class of rights constitute powers and authority. But the distinction of rights of persons and rights of things in the first two volumes of the Commentaries, seems to have no other difference than the antithesis of the expression, and that too resting upon a solecism; for the expression, rights of things, or a right of a horse, is contrary to the idiom of the English language: we say, invariably, a right to a thing. The distinction intended by the learned Judge, in the first two volumes, appears, in a great degree, to be that of the rights of persons in public stations, and the rights of persons in private relations. But as the order of legal subjects is, in a great measure, arbitrary, and does not admit of that mathematical arrangement, where one proposition generates another, it perhaps would be difficult to discover any method more satisfactory, than that which the learned Judge has pursued, and which was first suggested by lord C. J. Hale. See Hale's Analysis of the Law.
well as duties of each other. Allegiance is the right of the magistrate, and protection the right of the people.
PERSONS also are divided by the law into either natural persons, or artificial. Natural persons are such as the God of nature formed us; artificial are such as are created and devised by human laws for the purposes of society and government, which are called corporations or bodies politic.
THE rights of persons considered in their natural capacities are also of two sorts, absolute, and relative. Absolute, which are such as appertain and belong to particular men, merely as individuals or single persons: relative, which are incident to them as members of society, and standing in various relations to each other. The first, that is, absolute rights, will be the subject of the present chapter.
By the absolute rights of individuals we mean those which are so in their primary and strictest sense; such as would belong to their persons merely in a state of nature, and which every man is entitled to enjoy, whether out of society or in it. But with regard to the absolute duties, which man is bound  to perform, considered as a mere individual, it is not
to be expected that any human municipal law should at all explain or enforce them. For the end and intent of such laws being only to regulate the behaviour of mankind, as they are members of society, and stand in various relations to each other, they have consequently no concern with any other but social or relative duties. Let a man therefore be ever so abandoned in his principles, or vicious in his practice, provided he keeps his wickedness to himself, and does not offend against the rules of public decency, he is out of the reach of human laws. But if he makes his vices public, though they be such as seem principally to affect himself, (as drunkenness, or the like,) they then become, by the bad example they set, of pernicious effects to society; and therefore it is then the business of human laws to correct them. Here the circumstance of publication is what alters the nature of the case.
Public sobriety is a relative duty, and therefore enjoined by our laws; private sobriety is an obsolute duty, which, whether it be performed or not, human tribunals can never know; and therefore they can never enforce it by any civil sanction (2). But with respect to rights, the case is different. Human laws define and enforce as well those rights which belong to a man considered as an individual, as those which belong to him considered as related to others.
For the principal aim of society is to protect individuals in the enjoyment of those absolute rights, which were vested in them by the immutable laws of nature; but which could not be preserved in peace without that mutual assistance and intercourse, which is gained by the institution of friendly and social communities. Hence it follows, that the first and primary end of human laws is to maintain and regulate these absolute rights of individuals. Such rights as are social and relative result from, and are posterior to, the formation of states and societies: so that to maintain and regulate these, is clearly a subsequent consideration. And therefore the principal view of human laws is, or ought always to be, to explain, protect, and enforce such rights as are absolute, which in themselves are few and simple; and then  such rights as are relative, which, arising from a variety of connexions, will be far more numerous and more complicated. These will take up a greater space in any code of laws, and hence may appear to be more attended to, though in reality they are not, than the rights of the former kind.
(2) This distinction seems to convey a doctrine that can hardly bear examination, or be reconciled with sound law and morality. The circumstance of publication as evidence of shameless profligacy and hardened depravity, may alter the nature of the punishment, but cannot alter the intrinsic criminality of the vicious act. Whatever is pernicious to society as an example, must necessarily be vicious and des tructive in itself. What is ruinous and criminal to repeat and follow, must also be ruinous and criminal to commence. Human laws prohibit every where the guilty action, but punishment can only be the consequence of detection.
Let us therefore proceed to examine how far all laws ought, and how far the laws of England actually do, take notice of these absolute rights, and provide for their lasting security.
THE absolute rights of man, considered as a free agent, endowed with discernment to know good from evil, and with power of choosing those measures which appear to him to be most desirable, are usually summed up in one general appellation, and denominated the natural liberty of mankind. This natural liberty consists properly in a power of acting as one thinks fit, without any restraint or control, unless by the law of nature; being a right inherent in us by birth, and one of the gifts of God to man at his creation, when he endued him with the faculty of free-will. But every man, when he enters into society, gives up a part of his natural liberty, as the price of so valuable a purchase; and, in consideration of receiving the advantages of mutual commerce, obliges himself to conform to those laws, which the community has thought proper to establish. And this species of legal obedience and conformity is infinitely more desirable than that wild and savage liberty which is sacrificed to obtain it. For no man, that considers a moment, would wish to retain the absolute and uncontrolled power of doing whatever he pleases the consequence of which is that every other man would also have the same power; and then there would be no security to individuals in any of the enjoyments of life, Political therefore, or civil liberty, which is that of a member of society, is no other than natural liberty so far restrained by human laws (and no farther) as is necessary and expedient for the general advantage of the public. Hence we may
collect that the law, which restrains a man from  doing mischief to his fellow-citizens, though it
diminishes the natural, increases the civil liberty of mankind; but that every wanton and causeless restraint of the will of the subject, whether practised by a monarch, a nobility, or a popular assembly, is a degree of tyranny nay,
c Facultas ejus, quod cuique facere libet, nisi quid jure prohibetur. Inst. 1. 3. 1.