The next article, Copyrights and Patents, requires this material as background, and it is too significant not to repeat or clarify over and over again.
Samuel Rutherford’s Conclusion: “All civil power is directly from God in its root: God made man a social creature, inclined to be governed by man. Therefore, God must certainly have put this power in man’s nature.” Because God and nature intend goodness and peace for mankind, then “God and nature must have given us a power to accomplish this end — and this must be a power of governing ourselves.”
It must be a power derived from ourselves, by ourselves, and for ourselves together, strictly by the guidance of our Creator and Sustainer. Today, it is (poorly) reflected in the popular saying, “You aren’t the boss of me.” Although that cartoon caption contains none of the wisdom, and is generally uttered in a morally questionable context, it is ethically true for self-governed individuals.
Rutherford’s truly noble quote, on which our society was built, “All men are created equal,” comes from this opening conclusion in Lex Rex. Not only equal in value and quality, but equal in our capacities to live and pursue the functions of free society, including government. We used to say, “A man’s home is his castle.” We were our own king in our own domain.
William Pitt, Lord of Chatham, gave an impassioned speech in the House of Commons in England. “The poorest man may in his cottage bid defiance to all the forces of the Crown. It may be frail—its roof may shake—the wind may blow through it—the storm may enter—the rain may enter—but the King of England cannot enter!—all his force dares not cross the threshold of the ruined tenement!” Yet that was not enough for our new nation.
That uniquely American ideal that “any little boy or girl can grow up to be President,” has been one of our nation’s greatest achievements, once reserved for the world’s de facto high classes, or for ruthless or charismatic revolutionaries.
Rutherford’s text expresses the idea that any idiot can govern, but that is certainly not what “equality” means, nor is it ideal. What mattered most to Rutherford (and later, Locke) was that every person could (and should) control himself, every citizen could (and must) effect his part in society, and ultimately that we could (and would be expected to) mutually conduct our affairs without external compulsion or significant restraint.
We know what to do and what not to do, in other words. That is, by definition, “civil society.” The primary role of “government,” (controlling, limiting or restricting) is one of restraining, citing, or ultimately punishing those whose bad behavior afflicted others.
The greatest importance goes to the very idea that we must be and will be governed — either by and for ourselves, or by and for somebody else. Once we chose which course to take, our next decisions were easier to make.
This should help with the next article, Copyrights and Patents.