The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers, Digital Edition > My Day
My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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NEW YORK—Somebody kindly sent me a page from The Wall Street Journal the other day with an editorial, or a column, by William Henry Chamberlain.

I was rather surprised by the article because I thought his thesis was one which had been accepted long ago by practically everyone. I cannot remember when I have heard anyone contend that "Human Rights Against Property Rights" is a slogan worth consideration. It certainly has never been since I grew up.

What I have heard is that human rights must not be "subordinated" to property rights. I remember hearing it said in my youth that human rights were occasionally subordinated to property rights, but it had a meaning then. Now it certainly has less and less meaning as time goes on and it becomes clearer that we have all learned this lesson.

Today in this country human rights are always paramount, but property rights can be made to serve human rights and are in many ways essential to development of our society.

I would grieve, however, to have John Locke's statement of the aim of government substituted for what Mr. Chamberlain calls "a more vague" phrase.

John Locke said: "The triple aim of government could be defined as the preservation of life, liberty, and property."

In the Declaration of Independence "property" was changed to "the pursuit of happiness," and I think our forefathers changed it to be more precise, not vague at all.

Property can contribute greatly to the pursuit of happiness but many things go into that contribution and one of them is what has developed in this country—namely, controlled capitalism which does not deny the ownership of property but does deny its acquisition in ways that may be harmful to human rights.

It is not only because we are at variance with the economic system of the Soviet Union that few people try to emigrate to that country. It is largely because any thinking person would dislike to have his mind made subordinate to any government, knowing well that slavery of the mind soon develops slavery of the body.

We must not confuse basic things with secondary things and, important as property is, it is secondary to human rights.

If you want to keep up with what goes on in the United Nations, this 10th anniversary year is a good year to get into the habit of doing so. And you can begin to do so by getting a publication issued by the Committee on International Relations of the National Education Association of the U.S., 1201 16th Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. The magazine is called "Box Score on the U.N.," and is prepared by Robert H. Reid. Three million copies were produced last year and the publishers are prepared to extend its distribution to schoolteachers and children as well as to any groups wishing to study the U.N. and its work.

I saw a play called "The Desperate Hours" the other night. I thought it was well-acted and sustained its interest, but I cannot say that it was one of the outstanding plays of the season. Nevertheless, it has attained great popularity and I think it would give anyone who did not mind that kind of excitement a considerable amount of entertainment.


(Copyright, 1955, by United Feature Syndicate, Inc.)

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About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, June 24, 1955

Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
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Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project The George Washington University 312 Academic Building 2100 Foxhall Road, NW Washington, DC 20007

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Transcription created from a photocopy of a UFS wire copy of a My Day column instance archived at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library.