Peter Forsskal: Thoughts on Civil Liberty
The Text
  << English
Thochts anent Ceevil Leeberty    
  © Dauvit Horsbroch

The mair a man can live gauin his ain gait, the mair he is free. Sae neist tae life itsel, naething cuid be mair dear tae man nor his freedom. Nae wicelike cheil ever gies hit up or astricts it but throu skaith or dreid that some muckle ill micht befaw him.

A benefit that’s faur ben man needsna ony leemits whan awbody loves virtue. Hooanever, we affen gie in tae vices an wrangdaein. Sae boondaries shuid be set for us sae that oor richt tae freedom isna hairmin oor neebors an, at the hinnerend, the’r eneuch freedom that it lats us act oot oor benmaist will athoot daein ony ithers skaith.

Whan this is alloued til aw an ilka memmer o society, true ceevil leeberty follaes. Sae this means that naebody is pit fae daein whit’s fittin an uissfae tae the community, that ilka honest body can live in safety, follae his conscience, use his property, an haud-haun tae the weel o his society.

But the sairest danger tae this leeberty aye springs fae thaim in the kintra that’s the maist poseetions, estates an wealth in thair aucht. Folk o that ilk haes the can tae misuse thair pouer, an throu drawin mair richts an maucht tae thairsels pits the ither fowk o the land in dreid o them.

The full freedom o ony society isna won at throu its ceetizens feelin safe fae thair ruler’s micht alane, but it is the first, muckle step taewards a generally blithe fowk. Hooanever, subjects can ding ane anither doun an-aw. An, in mony republics, sic as the Polish an Italiens anes, that baith threaps bonnily on freedom, the feck o fowk in thae kintras is thirlt tae the heich heid anes aw the same.

Wis ony body tae speir whit owergauin pouer wad be maist hairmfae for a kintra – the ruler’s or the ceetizens - A trew the second ane wad be the waur tae thole, but the first ane mair incurable, an sae a body shuid evite an scunner at the first ane the maist. Gin it’s no done awa wi, the ither ane can never be redd awa. Whaur the state lippens on the ruler, muckle pouer is affen depute tae wickit subjects in his name, that’s no wordie o thair ruler’s favour. But in haudin pouer thir subjects thinks thairsels abuin the law. For a wheen reasons, the micht o pouerfae rulers is faur harder tae haud-agin. Ower muckle respect for the haliness o the crount heid gies mony unjust rulers thair beild. Mony fowk jalouses that a body heized abuin them maun be awmaist divine an can never hae eneuch in his aucht. For instance, the kings o Barbary, that’s thocht tae be haly, gets awa unpeyed wi ill-usin thair ain fowk. The Non-Jurors in Ingland maks it a maiter o conscience no tae be leal til an unleal kingly faimly thareawa. An nearer hame, whan Swaiden’s men, guids an siller wis sair spendit throu the weirs o King Chairles the twalt, this teuch hero* wis yet thocht the defender o his kintra an no its ruinage. Sae subjects daesna aye see throu thair prince’s injustice, but even whaur fowk daes ken it, thay canna get easy lowsed o it. Whan it’s necessar, princes gairds thair privileges thair lane, an rules awthing thair lane, sae that the weel an maucht o the hail kintra is gaithert in ae body. But whanever a wheen subjects is dounhauden throu ither subjects, awbody taks tent o the unfairness, an whan a puckle fowk misuses thair pouer aw at the same time, the feck will easy get the owerhaun o thair raivelt ettles. Sae maucht alane an the public’s dreid canna keep the rulers at the croun o the causay for aye. This is whit wey the heich heid anes tries tae keep thair injustice in hidlins. But injustice canna lang be hidden whan awbody is free tae threap in public screivings aboot ony wrangdaein that’s commitit agin the public intress. *See Enväldets skadeliga påföljder (“The sair affcome o aesome rule”), Stockh. 1757.

Sae the smeddum o ceevil leeberty springs oot astrictit government an the unthirlt wrutten word, as lang as the’r a sair paikin for ony bit screive that it’s weel seen is undecent, haes intil’t blasphemy agin God, miscaws private bodies or is airt an pairt in vice.

Haly writes, wicelike estaiblisht laws an the honour o private bodies haesna ony danger tae thole throu the freedom tae speak an speir. This is acause the truth aye wins whan fowk is alloued tae nae-say or fend it wi equal measure.

In actual fact, freedom o the wrutten word eiks brawly tae knawledge, taks awa aw hairmfae statutes, pits the haims on the injustices o aw offeecials, an is the government’s maist siccar defence in a free state acause sic a form o government is faur ben the fowk o the land. It’s no affen that a body hears o ony dangerous ettle tae cowp the weel estaiblisht laws o Ingland. This is acause ony public stoushie is evitit fae early on throu the freely voiced crack o the public whan it’s fasht. On the ither haun, in ane kintra that we ken,* the’r a kenspeckle instance o angert fowk takkin tae the streets whan thaim that held pouer fendit thair privileges wi hatrent an force. A body that haesna muckle tae loss will soon turn on thae fellaes an ceetizens that’s astrictin his ain an society’s freedoms. An acause he haesna muckle tae stert wi, his risk is sma, but the loss til his unfreens an tirrans is faur mair. Acts o this ilk is dreich, but thay’r common nanetheless. Tharefore, leeberty maun be upheld throu leeberty. The dounhaudin o uncontentit fowk pits leeberty in an affa danger, regairdless o whither or no the’r a reason for the uncontent. A wicelike state lats its fowk gie voice tae thair uncontent throu the pen, insteid o wi guns, an this enlichtens on the ane haun, an evites risings an fechts on the ither. *Denmark.

It is toucht on abuin (§. 3) that the affcome o ceevil leeberty is that ilka honest body can live in safety, follae his conscience, use his guids an gear, an haud-haun tae the flouerin o his society. A’ll gae ower thir pynts in brief. The law maks oor lifes safe for the maist pairt acause it threaps that naebody can dae skaith til an honest cheil’s bouk an health an gae unpunisht. Still an-aw, a body haes tae tak tent tae pursuers an cairry oot the deceesions o judges, even whan the defender haesna commitit ony crime. Acause society canna dae athoot coorts o law, an whiles judges is ane-sidit,* the hatrent o the public haes whiles been steert tae claim the maist saikless o ceeitizens. The’r nae sairer danger til a body’s life an repute nor this. Either this canna be chenged or the freedom o a body tae fend hisel in public is upheld as a wey tae keep the public souch calm an hinner pawkie judges. Even whan this canna be won at, than at least the fairest compensation for a muckle injustice sic as thon is that a dowie convict be alloued, as in Ingland, tae shaw til his fellae kintramen that he dees saikless. *See a hantle publications anent trials, judges, an a fittin freedom an safety o the wrutten word.

Conscience can affen be grundit on fause opeenions that we shuid tholna whan the heidmaist ettle is the ruinage o society an fowk, like the Jesuits’ sleekit rules. Hooanever, thaim that seems dangerous throu want o conscience micht become guid ceetizens onywey, whaurever society sees some length o thair gait. Tho the Mennonites shuns aith-takkin, a body can lippen on ay an naw fae them. Mony o them jist canna be made tae licht on an inemy, but thay will freely gie siller for the uphaud o sodgers. Wicelike fowk haes shawn that unalike releegions can oxter alang athoot fashin ceevil unity, as we see amang the growin sattlement o Pennsylvanie. Unner leeberty itsel fause releegious ideas will gie wey tae the pouer o truth an dwine awa at the hinnerend, but whaur sic ideas is sairly dung doun a body jist steers zeelots til heather weirs. Lastly, as the’r nae place whaur awbody is free o fause ideas, it isna that important whither thay openly fail, as in Ingland, or mak thairsels heepocrits as ithergaits.

In a society fowk haes property, pairtly as memmers o the state, pairtly for thair ainsels. Belangin the first kind is public income an whit haes been bocht wi it, thegither wi the public services. Belangin the second kind is whit a body owns his ainsel. The law shuid hain the baith agin ony ill-haunlin or ill-will. Aw memmers o society shuid hae a reasonable share in public burdens an benefits acause society is in common like leeberty shuid be. Sae a wheen fowk shuidna stent the feck tae pey for thair ower spennin, but raither awbody shuid pey intae the public income gauin bi thair ain means. An ae thing mair, naebody wi the can for public offices or poseetions o honour shuid ever hae thae ettles dung doun.

Gin a body haed tae tak a fittin test afore appyntment til ilka public office, an thaim that haed completit sic a test wis alloued tae move up tae the neist office abuin, conform tae the time thay haed serrred in thair foregauin poseetion, an promoval belanged the cheil that haed first proven his skeel, syne offices wadna be in unwordie hauns. This wad mean faimly, siller or patrons wadna be shairer weys for promoval nor an eident body’s ain skeel.

Nae tests is easier or mair tae be lippent on nor the examens for public office. Tests o that ilk is used bi us for pittin kirkmen tae the proof, an for aw public offeecials in China. But examens isna warth a preen whan a body is alloued tae speir aboot onything he wants an judge ony gait he thinks fit. It wad, tharefore, be necessar tae ask that for ilka office a body shuid hae a fittin ken o’t, fittin buiks, fittin training an that a body shuid be at the public’s caw for the tasks he cairries oot.

The’r naething tae stop a body usin his ain gear for the benefit o his ainsel an society. Hooanever, it’s no awbody that can easy get haud o the kind o gear that wad benefit society. Naebody can jist get land aw gaits, whither throu darg or peyment, tho the’r mony fowk haes mair land nor thay labour, tae the muckle doundrag o the public guid. But the’r instances o laws fae bygane times, sic as the laws o Moses amang the Hebrews, aboot ilk faimly’s sma heritor grund (3rd Buik o Moses, 25:13-15, 23, 24, 40 an 41), or thon law o Licinius amang the Romans anent 500 jugera (257 1/7 tunnland1). Thae laws serred weel in labourin the land while uphaudin the richts o the indwellers forby.

The’r naething mair oor aucht nor the bouk an mind, sae the’r naething mair reasonable nor makkin saut tae the kail, in a douce wey oor ain can, lattin us practice uissfae skeels wi oor ain ken. Tae freely mak-oot o fermin an manufacture, fae crafts, tred, an lare shuid be open til awbody, unless the parteeclar cawing daes society skaith.

Uissfae labourars is chased aff the landward, as the laws daesna allou landless cottars in villages an bothies the benefit o ony beild, but for some physical doundrag or auld age that maks them decrepit onywey. This means that as soon’s thay get thon natural feel for freedom thay maun flee tae the touns whaur thay can flit fae job tae job or wirk at something that’s no ower taiglesome. Hooanever, whaurever the landward body can be the maister o his ain cottage, as in Ingland an Germany, mony labourars in thae airts bides in thair hamelt places, grows in strength, taks on uissfae treds, an hires thairsels oot tae the ferms. Aw this is tae be preferred ower toun life, whaur the labourar bides unmairried, lives lairge an easy-osie, wares his time in sleep or radgieness, an syne thrangs the cairrages o the sillert fowk, beggin or stealin bawbees, but lands up a burden til hisel an the kintra.

Public scuils wad serr as fittin places for forderin skeels an thair freedom. In sic places a body cuid be fully educate at his ain pace, the length his skeel an unnerstaunin cuid tak him, in aw kind o airts an crafts, an be recognised at aince as a free maister in the cawing he haes waled til hisel. But the nummer o ilka kind o cawing shuid be stentit gauin bi whit society wants for the time.

On the ither haun, oor steekit guilds an the trainin up o prentices is a rare wey tae uphaud idleness, astrictit practices, a want o fowk, radgieness, poverty an pyntless fouterin.

Even the sae-cryed free airts thairsels isna free in Swaiden. Ithergaits, thay mair deserve the name. In Germany, ilka body is alloued tae publicly learn ithers awthing that he hisel haes learnt. A body shuid either be pit-fae makkin buik-lare his cawing fae the stert, or else he shuidna be stoppit syne fae freely makkin this maist saikless tred his breid an butter.

At lang an last, it is forby an important richt in a free society tae be free tae haud-haun tae the weel o society. But, for this tae gae forrit, it maun be possible for the state o society tae be something that awbody kens aboot an can openly crack aboot. Whaur this daesna happen, speak o leeberty isna worth a docken. It is necessar that maiters o weir an a puckle o fremmit negotiations wants done hidlins wise, no on accoont o its ain ceetizens, but throu its unfreens. Maiters anent peacetime an the weel o hamelt affairs shuid be faur less hidden fae the een o the fowk. Ithergaits, it micht easy faw oot that thae ootlins that’s wantin tae dae us skaith finds aw oor secrets throu creishin luifs, while the fowk that belangs the kintra, that’s weel placed tae gie uissfae advice, kensna whit’s gauin on. On the ither haun, whan the haunling o the kintra is open at least the mair tentie can see whit’s richt or wrang an lat ken, whaurever  the’r freedom tae screive. In this wey alane can the public crack be airtit throu truth an love for the faitherland, that’s common guid awbody lippens on.

God, the Awmichty, that’s tentie o men’s happiness, eik til oor Swaidish Freedom an haud it gauin for ever mair!


(Dr Dauvit Horsbroch)

  Back to top