Here is a part of the shaft of the literary arrow fired by Richard Overton against all tyrants and tyranny, … from the prison of Newgate in 1646:
this by nature everyone’s desire aims at and requires; for no man naturally would be befooled of his liberty by his neighbour’s craft or enslaved by his neighbour’s might. For it is nature’s instinct to preserve itself from all things hurtful and obnoxious; and this in nature is granted of all to be most reasonable, equal and just
: not to be rooted out of the kind, even of equal duration with the creature. And from this fountain or root all just human powers take their original
I have struck out a portion of the text which I do not understand, but which does not appear – to my knowledge – to alter the meaning. Perhaps someone will enlighten me to the contrary.
[ LATER: someone did. Julie translates this to “the basic tendency of each kind of thing in nature to preserve itself cannot ever be changed”. ]
I am more interested in this portion:
it is nature’s instinct to preserve itself from all things hurtful and obnoxious
Ayn Rand would surely have commented on the negativity of this sentence, that avoiding a negative is not the same as pursuing happiness, but it does seem to me that this passage acts as a rational justification of the god given natural rights Overton considers elsewhere in the text. This seems to back up that observation:
And from this fountain or root all just human powers take their original
My question then, which is a genuine one, is does this mean that Overton achieved the same essential moral insight that Rand did from his prison cell in Newgate centuries before she did from her apartment in New York? Namely, that a rational animal must choose the actions it requires to live happily / preserve itself from all things hurtful and therefore should, rationally, be free to do so.
It is, I think, pretty darn close. This obviously doesn’t mean that the Levellers, beloved of the Left, are really Objectivists. It just means that they had something important in common.