Critique of the doctrine of inalienable, natural rights

The Declaration of Rights -- I mean the paper published under that name by the French National Assembly in 1791 -- assumes for its subject-matter a field of disquisition as unbounded in point of extent as it is important in its nature. But the more ample the extent given to any proposition or string of propositions, the more difficult it is to keep the import of it confined without deviation, within the bounds of truth and reason. If in the smallest corners of the field it ranges over, it fail of coinciding with the line of rigid rectitude, no sooner is the aberration pointed out, than (inasmuch as there is no medium between truth and falsehood) its pretensions to the appellation of truism are gone, and whoever looks upon it must recognise it to be false and erroneous, -- and if, as here, political conduct be the theme, so far as the error extends and fails of being detected, pernicious
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