fundamental legal, social, or ethical principles of freedom or entitlement according to some legal system, social convention, or ethical theory

Rights are entitlements or permissions, usually of a legal or moral nature. Rights are of vital importance in the fields of law and ethics, especially theories of justice and deontology.



Rights may be universal, but their enforcement must be local. ~ Murray Rothbard
  • ...if inequalities stare us in the face the essential equality too is not to be missed. Every man has an equal right to the necessaries of life even as birds and beasts have. And since every right carries with it a corresponding duty and the corresponding remedy for resisting any attack upon it, it is merely a matter of finding out the corresponding duties and remedies to vindicate the elementary fundamental equality.
  • If instead of insisting on rights everyone does his duty, there will immediately be the rule of order established among mankind. There is no such thing as the divine right of kings to rule and the humble duty of the ryots to pay respectful obedience.
    • Mohandas Gandhi, "Rights or Duties?", Harijan Magazine, 6 July 1947. Quoted in Mahatma Gandhi : The Essential Writings, edited by Judith M. Brown. Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 2008. (p.91)
  • Away with private wrongs! We'll not go forth
    To fight for these — but for the rights of men.
    • Sarah Josepha Hale, reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895), p. 524.
  • One of the grandest things in having rights is that, being your rights, you may give them up.
    • George MacDonald, reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895), p. 524.
  • Qui jure suo utitur neminem tedit.
    • Translated: He who exercises his own right injures no one.
    • Legal maxim, reported in Henry Louis Mencken, A new dictionary of quotations on historical principles from ancient and modern sources (1946), p. 1044.
  • Rights are lost by disuse.
    • Legal maxim, reported in Henry Louis Mencken, A new dictionary of quotations on historical principles from ancient and modern sources (1946), p. 1044.
  • No right is unlimited and immune from reasonable regulation.
  • The law helps the vigilant, before those who sleep on their rights.
    • Legal maxim, reported in Oscar B. Parkinson, Outlines of Commercial Law: A Text Book for Schools and Colleges (1912), p. 234. Sometimes reported as "equity" rather than "the law".
  • To name a thing is easy: the difficulty is to discern it before its appearance. In giving expression to the last stage of an idea, — an idea which permeates all minds, which to-morrow will be proclaimed by another if I fail to announce it to-day, — I can claim no merit save that of priority of utterance. Do we eulogize the man who first perceives the dawn?

    Yes: all men believe and repeat that equality of conditions is identical with equality of rights; that property and robbery are synonymous terms; that every social advantage accorded, or rather usurped, in the name of superior talent or service, is iniquity and extortion. All men in their hearts, I say, bear witness to these truths; they need only to be made to understand it.

    • Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, What is Property? (1840), Ch. I: "Method Pursued in this Work. The Idea of a Revolution".
  • Rights are grand things, divine things, in this world of God; but the way in which we expound those rights, alas! seems to me to be the very incarnation of selfishness. I see nothing very noble in a man who is forever going about calling for his own rights. Alas! alas! for the man who feels nothing more grand in this wondrous, divine world than his own rights!
  • All existing right is - foreign law; someone makes me out to be in the right, “does right by me". But should I therefore be in the right if all the world made me out so? And yet what else is the right that I obtain in the State, in society, but a right of those foreign to me? …If you let yourself be made out in the right by another, you must no less let yourself be made out in the wrong by him; if justification and reward come to you from him, expect also his arraignment and punishment. Alongside right goes wrong, alongside legality crime.
  • If you say to someone who has ears to hear: “What you are doing to me is not just,” you may touch and awaken at its source the spirit of attention and love. But it is not the same with words like, “I have the right...” or “you have no right to...” They evoke a latent war and awaken the spirit of contention.

Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922)Edit

Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 674-75.
  • Among the natural rights of the colonists are these: First a right to life, secondly to liberty, thirdly to property; together with the right to defend them in the best manner they can.
    • Samuel Adams, Statement of the Rights of the Colonists, etc. (1772).
  • Right as a trivet.
  • They made and recorded a sort of institute and digest of anarchy, called the rights of man.
  • Sir, I would rather be right than be President.
    • Henry Clay, speech (1850), referring to the compromise measure.
  • He will hew to the line of right, let the chips fly where they may.
    • Roscoe Conkling, speech at the National Convention, Chicago, 1880, when General Grant was nominated for a third term.
  • But 'twas a maxim he had often tried,
    That right was right, and there he would abide.
  • The rule of the road is a parodox quite,
    If you drive with a whip or a thong;
    If you go to the left you are sure to be right,
    If you go to the right you are wrong.
  • For right is right, since God is God,
    And right the day must win;
    To doubt would be disloyalty,
    To falter would be sin.
  • Wherever there is a human being, I see God-given rights inherent in that being, whatever may be the sex or complexion.
  • The equal right of all men to the use of land is as clear as their equal right to breathe the air—it is a right proclaimed by the fact of their existence. For we cannot suppose that some men have a right to be in this world, and others no right.
  • And wanting the right rule they take chalke for cheese, as the saying is.
    • Nicholas Grimald, preface to his translation of Marcus Tullius Cicero. Three Bookes of Duties to Marcus his Sonne. Same expression in Gower, Confessio Amantis.
  • For the ultimate notion of right is that which tends to the universal good; and when one's acting in a certain manner has this tendency he has a right thus to act.
    • Francis Hutcheson, A System of Moral Philosophy, The General Notions of Rights and Laws Explained, Book II, Chapter III.
  • We hold these truths to be self-evident,—that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
  • Let us have faith that Right makes Might, and in that faith let us to the end dare to do our duty as we understand it.
    • Abraham Lincoln, address in New York City (Feb. 21, 1859). See Henry J. Raymond's Life and Public Services of Lincoln, Chapter III.
  • With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right.
  • Mensuraque juris
    Vis erat.
    • Might was the measure of right.
    • Marcus Annaeus Lucanus, Pharsalia, I. 175. Found in Thucydides, IV. 86. Plautus—Truncul, IV. 3. 30. Lucan. I. 175. Seneca the Younger, Hercules Furens. 291. Schiller, Wallenstein's Camp, VI. 144.
  • All men are born free and equal, and have certain natural, essential, and unalienable rights.
    • Constitution of Massachusetts.
  • Every man has by the law of nature a right to such a waste portion of the earth as is necessary for his subsistence.
  • Reparation for our rights at home, and security against the like future violations.
  • All Nature is but art unknown to thee;
    All chance direction, which thou canst not see;
    All discord, harmony not understood;
    All partial evil, universal good;
    And spite of pride, in erring reason's spite,
    One truth is clear, Whatever is is right.

The Dictionary of Legal Quotations (1904)Edit

Quotes reported in James William Norton-Kyshe, The Dictionary of Legal Quotations (1904), p. 221.
  • Old rights must remain: it would be very unreasonable if it should be otherwise.
    • Joseph Yates, J., Mayor, &c. of Colchester v. Seaber (1765), 3 Burr. Part IV. 1872.
  • A pretensed right is no right at all.
    • Powell, J., Reg. v. Mackarty (1705), 2 Raym. 1183.
  • It shall not be in the power of any man, by his election, to vary the rights of two other contending parties.
  • By the laws of England, there can be no special right, no particular interest or privilege whatever, of perpetual duration, but such as have respect to some kind of inheritance.
    • Joseph Yates, J., dissenting in Millar v. Taylor (1769), 4 Burr. Part IV., 2385.

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