Tags: mike pompeo | human rights | declaration of independence

The Declaration of Independence, Founding Fathers and the Natural Law

The Declaration of Independence, Founding Fathers and the Natural Law

By Tuesday, 02 July 2019 11:13 AM Current | Bio | Archive

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently established a Commission to “provide fresh thinking about human rights discourse where such discourse has departed from our nation’s founding principles of natural law and natural rights.”

Reacting, a New York Times editorial (June 24, 2019) took umbrage with Pompeo’s “reference to ‘natural law’.”

Because natural law is “held to be more powerful than the laws people write,” the Times opined, it “can suggest a narrower, religious sensibility.” The Times went on to complain that when the term is "thrown about, it’s often been by people concerned with what they think is unnatural — homosexuality, trans-gender rights, reproductive choice and sexual equality."

Appealing to “Natural Law” is now politically incorrect?

How ridiculous is that?

The natural law — the immutable laws of nature — formed the legal basis of the Declaration of Independence.

The Founding Fathers, believing that the rights they possessed under the English Constitution were insufficient, “claimed the ideal rights belonging to them as men under the common law of mankind and the natural law of God.”

The Declaration, the renown British philosopher Sir Ernest Barker noted, “made natural law the basis of resistance and the ground of secession.”

Hence, this sentence in the Declaration: “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.”

The natural law is the moral underpinning of all man-made law. And from the natural law flow man’s natural rights which no government can abrogate. Governments as the Declaration points out are instituted to “secure” one’s natural rights that pre-exist.

Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Sam Adams, James Wilson, George Mason, and Alexander Hamilton were all proponents of the natural law.

After the Continental Congress approved the Declaration of Independence, Alexander Hamilton wrote this defense of the legality of its action:

There are some events in society to which human laws cannot extend, but when applied to them lose their force and efficacy. In short when human laws contradict or discountenance the means which are necessary to preserve the essential rights of any society, they defeat the proper end of all laws and so become null and void…. The sacred rights of mankind are not to be rummaged for among old parchments or musty records. They are written as with a sunbeam in the whole volume of human nature, by the hand of Divinity itself and can never be erased or obscured by mortal power.” [Italics added.]

For Hamilton “no tribunal, no codes, no system can repeal or impair the law of God, for by his eternal laws it is inherent in the nature of things.”

George Mason’s Declaration of Rights (1787), which was adopted as the preamble of the Virginia Constitution, refers to the natural law:

That all men are by nature equally free and independent, and have certain inherent right, of which, when they enter into a state of society, they cannot, by any compact, deprive or divest their posterity; namely, the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.

Natural law doctrines of limited government and inalienable rights prepared the way for the institution of judicial review. Chief Justice John Jay, Chief Justice John Marshall, Justice Samuel Chase, among others, appealed to the natural law in decisions they authored.

Daniel Webster and Abraham Lincoln cited natural law in their attacks upon slavery.

In modern times, John F. Kennedy said at his inaugural: “…I have sworn before you and Almighty God the same solemn oath our forebears prescribed nearly a century and three quarters ago. The world is very different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life. And yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe — the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God.” [Emphasis added.]

And Martin Luther King, Jr. declared, “A just law is a man-made law that squares with the moral law or the law of God…. And unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the natural law.”

From Thomas Jefferson to Martin Luther King, Jr., Americans have understood that the American Credo has been rooted in the tradition of natural law, has been imbued with the belief that there is a higher standard by which all man-made rules must be measured.

But, as we celebrate the 243rd anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the natural law for The New York Times has become a pejorative concept because it may undermine its elitist ideological notions.

George J. Marlin, a former executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, is the author of "The American Catholic Voter: Two Hundred Years of Political Impact," and "Christian Persecutions in the Middle East: A 21st Century Tragedy." He is chairman of Aid to the Church in Need-USA. Mr. Marlin also writes for TheCatholicThing.org and the Long Island Business News. To read more George J. Marlin — Click Here Now.

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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently established a Commission to “provide fresh thinking about human rights discourse where such discourse has departed from our nation’s founding principles of natural law and natural rights.”
mike pompeo, human rights, declaration of independence
Tuesday, 02 July 2019 11:13 AM
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