“Man … must necessarily be subject to the laws of his Creator.. This will of his Maker is called the law of nature…. This law of nature…is of course superior to any other…. No human laws are of any validity, if contrary to this: and such of them as are valid derive all their force…from this original.” – Sir William Blackstone (Eminent English Jurist)
The Founders DID NOT establish the Constitution for the purpose of granting rights. Rather, they established this government of laws (not a government of men) in order to secure each person’s Creator endowed rights to life, liberty, and property.
Only in America, did a nation’s founders recognize that rights, though endowed by the Creator as unalienable prerogatives, would not be sustained in society unless they were protected under a code of law which was itself in harmony with a higher law. They called it “natural law,” or “Nature’s law.” Such law is the ultimate source and established limit for all of man’s laws and is intended to protect each of these natural rights for all of mankind. The Declaration of Independence of 1776 established the premise that in America a people might assume the station “to which the laws of Nature and Nature’s God entitle them..”
Herein lay the security for men’s individual rights – an immutable code of law, sanctioned by the Creator of man’s rights, and designed to promote, preserve, and protect him and his fellows in the enjoyment of their rights. They believed that such natural law, revealed to man through his reason, was capable of being understood by both the ploughman and the professor. Sir William Blackstone, whose writings trained American’s lawyers for its first century, capsulized such reasoning:
“For as God, when he created matter, and endued it with a principle of mobility, established certain rules for the…direction of that motion; so, when he created man, and endued him with freewill to conduct himself in all parts of life, he laid down certain immutable laws of human nature, whereby that freewill is in some degree regulated and restrained, and gave him also the faculty of reason to discover the purport of those laws.”
What are those natural laws? Blackstone continued:
“Such among others are these principles: that we should live honestly, should hurt nobody, and should render to every one his due..”
The Founders saw these as moral duties between individuals. Thomas Jefferson wrote:
“Man has been subjected by his Creator to the moral law, of which his feelings, or conscience as it is sometimes called, are the evidence with which his Creator has furnished him …. The moral duties which exist between individual and individual in a state of nature, accompany them into a state of society . their Maker not having released them from those duties on their forming themselves into a nation.”
Americas leaders of 1787 had studied Cicero, Polybius, Coke, Locke, Montesquieu, and Blackstone, among others, as well as the history of the rise and fall of governments, and they recognized these underlying principles of law as those of the Decalogue, the Golden Rule, and the deepest thought of the ages.
An example of the harmony of natural law and natural rights is Blackstone’s “that we should live honestly” – otherwise known as “thou shalt not steal” – whose corresponding natural right is that of individual freedom to acquire and own, through honest initiative, private property. In the Founders’ view, this law and this right were inalterable and of a higher order than any written law of man. Thus, the Constitution confirmed the law and secured the right and bound both individuals and their representatives in government to a moral code which did not permit either to take the earnings of another without his consent. Under this code, individuals could not band together and do, through government’s coercive power, that which was not lawful between individuals.
America’s Constitution is the culmination of the best reasoning of men of all time and is based on the most profound and beneficial values mankind has been able to fathom. It is, as William E. Gladstone observed, “The Most Wonderful Work Ever Struck Off at a Given Time By the Brain And Purpose Of Man.”
We should dedicate ourselves to rediscovering and preserving an understanding of our Constitution’s basis in natural law for the protection of natural rights – principles which have provided American citizens with more protection for individual rights, while guaranteeing more freedom, than any people on earth.