Origin of Rights Term Paper

Pages: 4 (1404 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 6  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Business - Law

Origin of Rights

In today's world, the concept of rights is embedded deeply in our culture. Individuals in the United States have the right to freedom of speech guaranteed in the Constitution. Most individuals know that they have the right to single phone call after arrest, and they know about their Miranda rights. Americans understand that they have specific property rights, such as the right to own the land. In addition, the concept of universal human rights comes up frequently as these rates are violated in different areas of the globe during times of war. Subjects such as animal rights have been become frequent and controversial topics of discussion across the country.

It all the idea of rights has infused our culture, and deeply impacts our lives, we often do not have good grasp of the origin of such rights. Often, we accept the rights that we have in the United States as self-evident and undeniable. In modern terms, Prussen-Razzano defines rights as "liberties in thought, action, and speech that secure individual freedom and provide the necessary substructure upon which a just society and government can be built" (Prussen-Razzano; Part II). This short paper examines the origin of rights from both a philosophical and legal perspective.

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The idea of human rights has a long history in European nations, dating back to the time of King John of England. This King was forced to sign the Magna Carta, a document that outlined a number of basic human rights. These included the right to free of the interference of government, the right to be free of excessive taxes, the right to own and inherit property, and established principles of due process and equality. Other areas of the world also had religious and political traditions that included the concepts of human rights that required rulers to treat their subjects with compassion, and limiting their power over their subject's property and lives (Human Rights Web; Short History).

Term Paper on Origin of Rights Assignment

At the same time, there was not a strong, single, underlying understanding of the concept of rights based on philosophical or legal concepts. Such an understanding evolved in the 1700s and 1800s in Europe, with the development of the idea of natural rights (Human Rights Web; Short History).

The ideas of the philosophers Hobbes and Locke had a significant impact on the development of the idea of natural rights. Hobbes argued that humans are essentially evil, and will act only in their best interest, and that life would be "nasty, brutish, and short" if humankind was left to fend for itself. As such, Hobbes felt that in order to obtain security and free them, humans must surrender all rights and freedoms to sovereign through a consensual social contract. The sovereign holds the powers of all subjects, and protects humankind from falling back into a brutish natural state (Nuncio).

In contrast, the philosopher Locke argues that humankind is essentially good in a state of nature. In nature, Locke argues there is perfect equality and peace overseen by the law of nature and reason. Here, each individual has the freedom to an act and legislate this natural law. Thus, notes Locke, living in a larger society means that the individual must surrender his or her freedoms and rights to the state. This social contract helps to safeguard the lives and welfare of the citizens of the state (Nuncio).

In the 18th century, the ideas of the philosophers Hobbes and Locke were adapted and refined by great philosophers like Rousseau, Paine and Bentham into the idea of natural law. Natural law "ultimately defines rights as inalienable, imprescriptible, universal, and inherent" (Nuncio).

The idea of natural rights played a crucial part in the development of Europe and the United States. This is seen especially in the French Revolution in 1789, where the French people overthrew the monarchy and created the Declaration of the Rights of Man. Similarly, in 1776 the British colonies in North America and declared their independence from the British Empire in the U.S. Declaration of Independence, a document-based strongly upon the idea of the quality of individuals, and rights that included liberty, life and the pursuit of happiness (Human Rights Web; Short History). Later, the American Constitution became another legal… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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