From Chapter II, “Principles”, Le Droit et la Loi, of Mes Idées Politique, by Charles Maurras. This is part one of two.
I always believed that the privilege of rights also represents the privilege of duties.
The experience of the nature of things established that the domain of common law is very limited and that there is, on the contrary, a multitude of private rights. Each group of men, which has its distinctive life, deserves a distinctive treatment. Whoever “favors” himself wants to be treated for his own benefit, and when this wish is not granted, the subject suffers, first of all, in the body which he is a part of, and secondarily in himself, due to the disrepute and the slackening which, by all necessity, affects that body.
Right, in order to be imposed and even to subsist, requires that it be exercised, that it be sustained, that it be published. It presupposes activity or it fades, little by little, in the blood and ashes of massacred men and burnt buildings, then in the sublime cold of these empty spaces where the raised voice of the most passionate of the rhetors is going to die out.
That is what the rhetors will never understand. They spend their life personifying “the right”. But men of action and men of analysis ask themselves what this person without subject, this right without a living substrate, can be,: in their turn, by not understanding the antithesis that lingers everywhere, this right that they oppose to force, this force that they want to make the opposite of the right! It makes as much sense to put the triangle and a color in opposition. There are colored triangles, there can be colors spread on triangular surfaces. I do not conceive a right that would be abstract, which would be separated from a moral or material person in whom it exists, and that is to say, from a force.
There is force, more or less strong, which is right; there is force, more or less strong, which is wrong. But a rational being who, without any force, would be the right or would have the right: that is what I cannot conceive.
The right, which needs force in order to be recognized, needs it even more in order to be.
Legal reasoning starts from the principles of the Just and the Unjust, its first notions already represent the second or the third power of a high abstraction, and its definitions, if extensive, are necessarily fluctuating when it is about adapting their generality to practical life: among the multitude of particular facts, often very different, and which sometimes contradict each other, the spirit is more or less inevitably induced to lose sight of the impersonal reasons to stop its choice or even to lead its attention. It is then that, for lack of impersonal reasons, others appear: the personal motive suddenly appears, active and vigilant, and the idea of the right no longer remains clarified and guided except by the idea of the “me”, by this “me” which is not without rights, but which claims to have them all and which instinctively steers the processes of thought towards its sole interest, sometimes understood in a tyrannical sense but always, to some degree, unconcerned with a good order, unconsciously favorable to some anarchy.
May the heavens protect me from saying that the Right leads to anarchy, he who wants, on the contrary, to rule it and pacify it! But he is a born warrior. In my opinion, the preference given to the legal method over the empirical method must belong to flourishing societies, strongly based on the principles which erupt from all sides and are obeyed by everyone.
Separate man from his family, his nation, his trade, tell him that he is king, tell him that he is God, and intoxicate him with the idea of Justice, you will see from what heart he will count the wrongs which will be done to him and what will be able to be his leniencies for the wrongs that he will come to do to others! This judge is too partial, a party too interested and too impassioned for it to be reasonable of him to remand theoretically all litigation. The one who recognizes all rights begins by imposing on the entire world all duties, without forgetting the penalties which correspond to all negligence.
That is the true folly of revolutionary individualism, whether it is political, social, or moral. It is impossible that an animal as sensible, as sad, as vulnerable as man, once placed on the interior altar that the dogmatic liberal erects on him, does not believe, nine times out of ten, himself to be the creditor of his fellow men and of the universe, in the place that the most miserable is on the contrary their debtor to the infinite!
This illusion of the creditor on society can only be only encouraged by the absurd metaphysics of Rights.