How a former Victorian Southsea apprentice, who worked at Draper’s Emporium on the corner of King’s Road and St Paul’s Road between 1881 and 1883 (sadly levelled by WW2 German air raids on 10/01/1941), ideals inspired and more than influenced the creation of the United Nations and its key charters.
In 1940, Mr W published The Rights of Man, a tract inspired by the beginnings of the Second World War and his fears for the future.
Always politically progressive, Mr W fearlessly argued for the protection of equal rights for every man, woman, and child irrespective of background, race or creed.
In 1940, Mr W was also one of the most important contributors to the Sankey Declaration of the Rights of Man under the chairmanship of John Sankey, first Viscount Sankey, a British Labour politician, judge and legal practitioner who was Lord High Chancellor between 1929 and 1935. Mr W wrote the original draft for discussion.
Although the creation of the UN’s Declaration of Human Rights is generally credited to the Canadian John Peter Humphrey and the Frenchman René Cassin, Humphrey himself, in his book Human Rights and the United Nations: A Great Adventure (1984), admits that the Sankey Declaration (as draft by Mr. W) and Mr. W’s own Rights Of Man were among the sources he consulted for his own draft of the declaration. Mr W’s drafts were closely followed in the eventual drawing up of the wording for the 1948 UN Declaration of Human Rights, shortly after his death in 1946.
His name, H.G. Wells, better known as the author of such iconic titles such as “The War Of The Worlds”, “The Time Machine” and “The Invisible Man”.
Factoid 1) Mr. W helped also helped form and sustain the National Council for Civil Liberties, now known as Liberty, to monitor and fight for the freedoms that human beings need, and that weak or bullying governments who want all the power will always want to mess with.
Factoid 2) Mr. W has also served as the president of PEN International (1933-36) and PEN’s Wartime International Presidential Committee (1941-46) (PEN being a acronym for Poets, Essayists, Novelist), one of the world’s first non-governmental organisations and amongst the first international bodies advocating for human rights.
Factoid 3) As an aside, his book “Little Wars” published in 1913, led to hobby of Wargamming. To quote the legend “You only have to play at Little Wars three or four times to realise just what a blundering thing Great War must be,”
If you wish to read further, and it is rather long but also rather inspiring, here are Wells fundamental points from “The Rights Of Man” and the “Sankey Declaration” and please read man as meaning all mankind (it was simply just the way thing were phrased a while back)…
~ H.G. Wells – The Rights Of Man ~
Since a man comes into this world through no fault of his own, since he is manifestly a joint inheritor of the accumulations of the past, and since those accumulations are more than sufficient to justify the claims that are here made for him, it follows:
1. That every man without distinction of race, of colour or of professed belief or opinions, is entitled to the nourishment, covering, medical care and attention needed to realise his full possibilities of physical and mental development and to keep him in a state of health from his birth to death.
2. That he is entitled to sufficient education to make him a useful and interested citizen, that special education should be so made available as to give him equality of opportunity for the development of his distinctive gifts in the service of mankind, that he should have easy access to information upon all matters of common knowledge throughout his life and enjoy the utmost freedom of discussion, association and worship.
3. That he may engage freely in any lawful occupation, earning such pay as the need for his work and the increment it makes to the common welfare may justify. That he is entitled to paid employment and to a free choice whenever there is any variety of employment open to him. He may suggest employment for himself and have his claim publicly considered, accepted or dismissed.
4. That he shall have the right to buy or sell without any discriminatory restrictions anything which may be lawfully bought or sold, in such quantities and with such reservations as are compatible with the common welfare.”
(Here I will interpolate a comment. We have to bear in mind that in a collectivist state buying and selling to secure income and profit will be not simply needless but impossible. The Stock Exchange, after its career of four-hundred-odd-years, will necessarily vanish with the disappearance of any rational motive either for large accumulations or for hoarding against deprivation and destitution. Long before the age of complete collectivisation arrives, the savings of individuals for later consumption will probably be protected by some development of the Unit Trust System into a public service. They will probably be entitled to interest at such a rate as to compensate for that secular inflation which should go on in a steadily enriched world community. Inheritance and bequest in a community in which the means of production and of all possible monopolisation are collectivised, can concern little else than relatively small, beautiful and intimate objects, which will afford pleasure but no unfair social advantage to the receiver.)
5. That he and his personal property lawfully acquired are entitled to police and legal protection from private violence, deprivation, compulsion and intimidation.
6, That he may move freely about the world at his own expense. That his private house or apartment or reasonably limited garden enclosure is his castle, which may be entered only with his consent, but that he shall have the right to come and go over any kind of country, moorland, mountain, farm, great garden or what not, or upon the seas, lakes and rivers of the world, where his presence will not be destructive of some special use, dangerous to himself nor seriously inconvenient to his fellow-citizens.
7. That a man unless he is declared by a competent authority to be a danger to himself and to others through mental abnormality, a declaration which must be annually confirmed, shall not be imprisoned for a longer period than six days without being charged with a definite offence against the law, nor for more than three months without a public trial. At the end of the latter period, if he has not been tried and sentenced by due process of law, he shall be released. Nor shall he be conscripted for military, police or any other service to which he has a conscientious objection.
8. That although a man is subject to the free criticism of his fellows, he shall have adequate protection from any lying or misrepresentation that may distress or injure him. All administrative registration and records about a man shall be open to his personal and private inspection. There shall be no secret dossiers in any administrative department. All dossiers shall be accessible to the man concerned and subject to verification and correction at his challenge. A dossier is merely a memorandum; it cannot be used as evidence without proper confirmation in open court.
9. That no man shall be subjected to any sort of mutilation or sterilisation except with his own deliberate consent, freely given, nor to bodily assault, except in restraint of his own violence, nor to torture, beating or any other bodily punishment; he shall not be subjected to imprisonment with such an excess of silence, noise, light or darkness as to cause mental suffering, or to imprisonment in infected, verminous or otherwise insanitary quarters, or be put into the company of verminous or infectious people. He shall not be forcibly fed nor prevented from starving himself if he so desire. He shall not be forced to take drugs nor shall they be administered to him without his knowledge and consent. That the extreme punishments to which he may be subjected are rigorous imprisonment for a term of not longer than fifteen years or death.”
(Here I would point out that there is nothing in this to prevent any country from abolishing the death penalty. Nor do I assert a general right to commit suicide, because no one can punish a man for doing that. He has escaped. But threats and incompetent attempts to commit suicide belong to an entirely different category. They are indecent and distressing acts that can easily become a serious social nuisance, from which the normal citizen is entitled to protection.)
10. That the provisions and principles embodied in this Declaration shall be more fully defined in a code of fundamental human rights which shall be made easily accessible to everyone. This Declaration shall not be qualified nor departed from upon any pretext whatever. It incorporates all previous Declarations of Human Right. Henceforth for a new era it is the fundamental law for mankind throughout the whole world.
“No treaty and no law affecting these primary rights shall be binding upon any man or province or administrative division of the community, that has not been made openly, by and with the active or tacit acquiescence of every adult citizen concerned, either given by a direct majority vote of the community affected or through the majority vote of his publicly elected representatives. In matters of collective behaviour it is by the majority decision men must abide. No administration, under a pretext of urgency, convenience or the like, shall be entrusted with powers to create or further define offences or set up by-laws, which will in any way infringe the rights and liberties here asserted. All legislation must be public and definite. No secret treaties shall be binding on individuals, organisations or communities. No orders in council or the like, which extend the application of a law, shall be permitted. There is no source of law but the people, and since life flows on constantly to new citizens, no generation of the people can in whole or in part surrender or delegate the legislative power inherent in mankind.”
~ The Sankey Declaration of the Rights of Man ~
1. THE RIGHT TO LIVE
Every man is a joint inheritor of all the natural resources and of the powers, inventions and possibilities accumulated by our forerunners. He is entitled, within the measure of these resources and without distinction of race, colour or professed beliefs or opinions, to the nourishment, covering and medical care needed to realise his full possibilities of physical and mental development from birth to death. Notwithstanding the various and unequal qualities of individuals, all men shall be deemed absolutely equal in the eyes of the law, equally important in social life and equally entitled to the respect of their fellow-men.
2. PROTECTION OF MINORS
The natural and rightful guardians of those who are not of an age to protect themselves are their parents. In default of such parental protection in whole or in part, the community, having due regard to the family traditions of the child, shall accept or provide alternative guardians.
3. DUTY TO THE COMMUNITY
It is the duty of every man not only to respect but to uphold and to advance the rights of all other men throughout the world. Furthermore, it is his duty to contribute such service to the community as will ensure the performance of those necessary tasks for which the incentives which will operate in a free society do not provide. It is only by doing his quota of service that a man can justify his partnership in the community. No man shall be conscripted for military or other service to which he has a conscientious objection, but to perform no social duty whatsoever is to remain unenfranchised and under guardianship.
4. RIGHT TO KNOWLEDGE
It is the duty of the community to equip every man with sufficient education to enable him to be as useful and interested a citizen as his capacity allows. Furthermore, it is the duty of the community to render all knowledge available to him and such special education as will give him equality of opportunity for the development of his distinctive gifts in the service of mankind. He shall have easy and prompt access to all information necessary for him to form a judgement upon current events and issues.
5. FREEDOM OF THOUGHT AND WORSHIP
Every man has a right to the utmost freedom of expression, discussion, association and worship.
6. RIGHT TO WORK
A man may engage freely in any lawful occupation, earning such pay as the contribution that his work makes to the welfare of the community may justify or that the desire of any private individual or individuals for his products, his performances or the continuation of his activities may produce for him. He is entitled to paid employment by the community and to make suggestions as to the kind of employment which he considers himself able to perform. He is entitled to profit fully by the desirableness of his products and activities. And he is entitled to payment for calling attention to a product or conveying it to consumers to whom it would otherwise be unattainable. By doing so, he does a service for which he may legitimately profit. He is a useful agent. But buying and holding and selling again simply in order to make a profit is not lawful. It is speculation; it does no service; it makes profit out of want. It tempts men directly to the interception of legitimate profits, to forestalling, appropriation, hoarding and a complex of anti-social activities, and it is equally unlawful for private individuals and public administrative bodies.
7. RIGHT IN PERSONAL PROPERTY
In the enjoyment of his personal property, lawfully possessed, a man is entitled to protection from public or private violence, deprivation, compulsion and intimidation.
8. FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT
A man may move freely about the world at his own expense. His private dwelling, however, and any reasonably limited enclosure of which he is the occupant, may be entered only with his consent or by a legally qualified person empowered with a warrant as the law may direct. So long as by his movement he does not intrude upon the private domain of any other citizen, harm, or disfigure or encumber what is not his, interfere with or endanger its proper use, or seriously impair the happiness of others, he shall have the right to come and go wherever he chooses, by land, air, or water, over any kind of country, mountain, moorland, river, lake, sea or ocean, and all the ample spaces of this his world.
9. PERSONAL LIBERTY
Unless a man is declared by a competent authority to be a danger to himself or others through mental abnormality, a declaration which must be confirmed within seven days and thereafter reviewed at least annually, he shall not be restrained for more than twenty-four hours without being charged with a definite offence, nor shall he be remanded for a longer period than eight days without his consent, nor imprisoned for more than three months without a trial. At a reasonable time before his trial, he shall be furnished with a copy of the evidence which it is proposed to use against him. At the end of the three months period, if he has not been tried and sentenced by due process of the law, he shall be acquitted and released. No man shall be charged more than once for the same offence. Although he is open to the free criticism of his fellows, a man shall have adequate protection from any misrepresentation that may distress or injure him. Secret evidence is not permissible. Statements recorded in administrative dossiers shall not be used to justify the slightest infringement of personal liberty. A dossier is merely a memorandum for administrative use; it shall not be used as evidence without proper confirmation in open court.
10. FREEDOM FROM VIOLENCE
No man shall be subject to any sort of mutilation except with his own deliberate consent, freely given, nor to forcible handling, except in restraint of his own violence, nor to torture, beating or any other physical ill-treatment. He shall not be subjected to mental distress, or to imprisonment in infected, verminous or otherwise insanitary quarters, or be put into the company of verminous or infected people. But if he is himself infectious or a danger to the health of others, he may be cleansed, disinfected, put in quarantine or otherwise restrained so far as may be necessary to prevent harm to his fellows. No-one shall be punished vicariously by the selection, arrest or ill-treatment of hostages.
11. RIGHT OF LAW-MAKING
The rights embodied in this Declaraton are fundamental and inalienable. In conventional and in administrative matters, but in no others, it is an obvious practical necessity for men to limit the free play of certain of these fundamental rights. ( In, for example, such conventional matters as the rule of the road or the protection of money from forgery, and in such administrative matters as town and country planning, or public hygiene ). No law, conventional or administrative, shall be binding on any man or any section of the community unless it has been made openly with the active or tacit acquiescence of every adult citizen concerned, given either by direct majority vote of the community affected or by a majority vote of his representatives publicly elected. These representatives shall be ultimately responsible for all by-laws and for detailed interpretations made in the execution of the law. In matters of convention and collective action, man must abide by the majority decisions ascertained by electoral methods which give effective expression to individual choice. All legislation must be subject to public discussion, revision or appeal. No treaties or contracts shall be made secretly in the name of the community.
The fount of legislation in a free world is the whole people, and since life flows on constantly to new citizens, no generation can, in whole or in part, surrender or delegate this legislative power, inalienably inherent in mankind.
Soures: Dr Christine Berberich is a Reader in English Literature at the University of Portsmouth, Telib, PEN International and various
Written by Andrew Bennett