The idea of injustice precedes that of justice. Dr. Maurice de Fleury in his book, L’Ame du Criminel, says : Assuming the legend of Cain and Abel to be true, the brothers had a quarrel and whenmCain struck Abel, the latter struck back. The fight continued form some time. Just when Abel was directing a blow, his arm was struck and fell helpless by his side. The impulse to deliver the blow returned to the brain as consciousness of purpose frustrated and th is was the first sense of that want of correspondence which is called injustice.
If at such a juncture a tree or rock should happen to faU upon the victor or a lion make him his prey, and the vanquished escape, the latter would thank a supposed providential interference, build an altar and found a worship.
Out of a great number of cases of hurts-injustice-the sufferers build such theory of justice as corresponds with their idea of the satisfaction of their demands.
“Just right” is what fits a place or case. Adjustment and even justification are words used in a mechanical sense. Justice, however, cannot be predicated till we come to relations between persons. It is evident that in the notion or sentiment of justice there are present two elements : first, fitness in general, as in common with accuracy ; secondly a recognition of something more, which may be the sentient nature of the object. We do not speak of injustice save where there is a possibility of suffering.
There are a great many applications of the term justice, but in all of them it has some relation to sentient beings and to fitness. The differences apparently spring from different standards of authority, rules of privilege, right, immunity, etc. Every uproar among men is a proof of injustice, in the same way as the creaking or screeching of a machine is an evidence of parts ill adjusted.
The loudest advocates of justice complacently overlook the fact that nobody extends justice to the inferior animals.
The adjustment of relations between man and man will probably be best where each one is alive to his own interests and convenience.
In the absence of this condition justice is the warcry in quixotic campaigns, the success of which in any instance serves to destroy some privilege and emancipate some ignorant, helpless folk to become tools of fanatics and victims of speculators. The free are those who free themselves. These and these only can or will do themselves justice and they are prevented from doing themselves and each other justice most of all by the prevailing belief in justice as a “ruj!ing principle.”
The motto : “Let justice be done though the heavens fall,” is a perfect example of fanaticism, equal to insisting on some one performance, though any amount of loss and suffering results.
But the very men who harp on justice are the ones who delegate th e trial and execution to functionaries chosen haphazard, ana make a religious duty of submitting to injustice whenever these functionaries are ignorant, corrupt, prejudiced or mistaken in their judgment. The idea that any person might do himself justice, though no doubt existed that the act were justice, is horrifying to the good socialists, because the executioner was not appointed by society. Justice, then, is a prerogative of society, a favor rather than a right, in their view. They become involved in perplexities.
The heavens may fall, but not the dignity of the state. They deny justice to save respect for its mechanism. An unjust law is enforced by the same authority which enforces a just law. It is enforced all knowing that it is unjust, and because it is unjust, to the end that it may be repealed. Somebody is made a victim of injustice in order that by forcible wrong, thus done by authority, another branch of authority may be induced to alter a decree and issue another decree (which will be certain to accomplish another wrong to somebody) .
Revenge is not justice, but simply the impulse to do hurt for hurt.
It lacks measure, balance. It is at most a propensity which makes for the extermination or humb1ing of aggressors.
The Egoist does not worship justice. He recognizes the impossibility of its existing as a donation. The ruler or the society which decrees justice is the shepherd who manages his flock, not for the sake of the flock, but for his interest in it. The Egoist aims at the accommodation of interests according to the capacity of the contracting parties. Egoist with Egoist must recognize, and on reflection will rejoice at the prospect of a rule of not trespassing where-he had better not. From this he can arrive at a position of comfort in having aIlies of great value to him, through their not being afflicted with any superstition. They multiply his power and he adds to theirs .
As to justice in the sense of meting out punishment to persons according to their alleged moral delinquencies, the idea gives place to that of protecting ourselves and serving our convenience. We may suppress a dangerous madman and a dangerous sane man as a measure of prevention, not having the old Moralistic horror of responsibility in the case of ourselves dealing with the madman, and not having the Moralistic furor against the sane offender. We need not therefore resort to casuistry in case of slight doubt if we are determined that it is unsafe to risk permitting either to live. Thus Egoists will not let an offender off on technicalities or scruples if they deem it necessary to expel him or kill him, and thus, too, if one has killed another the inquiry will be as to whether or not the slayer merely anticipated an intelligent verdict by a jury.
Let us beware of the craze for justice. It is the mask of social tyranny. It demands a delegated authority and a prerogative in this authority. Thus it builds a citadel of injustice ; so that th” man who does himself justice is declared by the law to be guilty of a crime against it, the monopoly of administration of justice.