The story I want to tell is that of the attempt made by Bentham to eliminate what today we call human rights from political-legal argumentation, an attempt that responded to weighty reasons, and of John Stuart Mill’s revival of this concept, a revival made with commitment and intellectual daring.
The story is transcendent because it shows us the dangers that legal positivism detected in iusnaturalism, lest these dangers reappear; and, on the other hand, because the theoretical status that Mill gave to human rights still prevails, broadly speaking, in our days, a status that puts them as one the fundaments of the political and social order of the free world.
This elemental unit must correspond to an empirically perceptible reality just as such a unit.
If not, we do not have a reality in the true sense, but only in the figurative, a fiction.
In any event, its Declaration of Rights had already had its answer from John Lind.
An expression of the most genuine Enlightenment attitude, the analytical method demands that any reality is broken down into its simplest units, into its elements, and it cannot be divided further.
But what Mill did was no mere restoration, he could not undo what had been done, at most he could revive it.
Before beginning, I wish to clarify the terms used, at least minimally.
These reasons arose from the contemplation of the events, contemporaneous with Bentham, that happened during the American, and even more during the French, revolutions.
Bentham sympathised with the American Revolution because it appeared more as a struggle for colonial emancipation than as a civil war or a revolution, and thus it had to appeal more to the anti-imperialist convictions of a liberal.