Lawlessness And Law Enforcement -- By: Charles B. Wilcox

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 055:217 (Jan 1898)
Article: Lawlessness And Law Enforcement
Author: Charles B. Wilcox


Lawlessness And Law Enforcement

Charges B. Wilcox

Government exists for the benefit of the governed. It has for its object order on the one hand, liberty on the other: protection to life, property, and reputation on the one side; freedom and the pursuit of happiness on the other. That form of government is best which gives the largest measure of liberty to the individual while at the same time it preserves order in society. Government is a growth. We have at first an absolute monarch: all authority centers in him; he does whatever he pleases. After a while his powers are limited, and then by a gradual process still further limited, until a republic is reached,—a form of government which derives its just powers only from the consent of the governed. Laws at first were few and rude: they dealt only with the most flagrant crimes; they met the needs of man as an animal. But he has a social nature; and, as that is developed, law must be inflicted to meet its needs. He has also an intellectual, a moral, and a religious nature; and, as these unfold and society becomes complex, law must be inflicted to meet its ever-changing requirements. Laws which were on the statute-books in colonial times now awaken a smile; laws containing a categorical list of things that may not be done on the Sabbath; laws against scolding and profanity, with heavy penalties attached. In that period we find in constant use the whipping-post and the stocks. A few centuries ago in England there were one hundred and

twenty-three crimes for which a man could be hanged. Some people say the world is growing worse. They are not careful students of history. This is the brightest hour the world has known. There never was so much sympathy, fraternity, and humanity among men as there is today. Changes are constantly going on, and an ever-advancing civilization makes it necessary for our legislators every year or two to repeal old laws and enact new ones. Society is not yet ideal. The golden rule is not the universal law of life. Multitudes are not willing to recognize the fact that every man’s liberty .must end where the rights of his fellow-man begin. Hence the necessity of government.

Now government reaches its ends through the medium of law. But what is law? Law is a course of action such as is thought best by the sovereign for the public good, prescribed by properly constituted authority, and enforced by such sanctions and penalties as may be necessary. Again, law is such a course of action governing the people in their relations to one another as the sovereign believes will bring the greatest good to the greatest number. But in our republic the people are sovereign. There is a sense in which every citizen is a legislator, a judge, an executive of l...

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