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Literature and Ideas

right

n.

The Devil's Dictionary

Ambrose Bierce

Legitimate authority to be, to do or to have; as the right to be a king, the right to do one’s neighbor, the right to have measles, and the like. The first of these rights was once universally believed to be derived directly from the will of God; and this is still sometimes affirmed in partibus infidelium outside the enlightened realms of Democracy; as the well known lines of Sir Abednego Bink, following:

    By what right, then, do royal rulers rule?
        Whose is the sanction of their state and pow'r?
    He surely were as stubborn as a mule
        Who, God unwilling, could maintain an hour
His uninvited session on the throne, or air
His pride securely in the Presidential chair.

    Whatever is is so by Right Divine;
        Whate'er occurs, God wills it so.  Good land!
    It were a wondrous thing if His design
        A fool could baffle or a rogue withstand!
If so, then God, I say (intending no offence)
Is guilty of contributory negligence.