Most of us love our rights, but confusion about those rights indicates a lack of education. A “right,” according to Webster in the days of our Founding, meant order, “conformity” to the will of God, to the rule of law, and to the good and proper use of justice. The rights of man are those proper claims of man. Francis Lieber stated that “the only axiom necessary to understand rights is that ‘because I am a man, I have a right to be a man’.”
The confusion generally originates from how such a claim relates to other people. Your absolute right to eat, for instance, is not an absolute claim against me to feed you. Nor does your right exclude you from work. Your right to eat includes your right to find, grow, hunt, and preserve food. . . or earn money and go to the grocery store.
As a Christian, I am aware of a moral obligation (and right) to feed the hungry, and have regularly done so in my adult life, especially feeding dozens of children and their families on a semi-weekly basis for over six years. That was my right as well as an obligation, and the families were fed. It worked out well. Their right, especially for the children, was met by my right to feed them.
Rights and obligations are fraternal. Remember, Webster called all things “right,” a “conformity.” Think of it this way: just as, “Because I am a man, I have a right to be a man,” it is equally true that, “Because I am a man, I have an obligation to be a man.” In my personal experience, my rights have often been painful, and my obligations rewarding.
Thomas Jefferson firmly asserted that, “The equal rights of man, and the happiness of every individual, are now acknowledged to be the only legitimate objects of government.”
Some folks on both sides of the aisle pretend to follow such a creed, yet invariably, something eventually reveals that those people mean “equivalent rights,” or “happiness of this special group,” or they change “only” to “among the legitimate objects,” or they add something. To Jefferson and his America, “Equal rights for every happy individual.” Every one of us.
God-given rights and obligations of man are full and exclusive to each individual. The very moment a right becomes a compulsion on another person, or an obligation becomes a demand from someone else, the very heart, soul, and definitions of “rights and responsibilities” absolutely vanish in the face of pure lust and tyranny.