Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Do The Founders Agree On Natural Rights?

You bet. There had to be consensus on this fundamental issue. Unalienable Rights are one of the building blocks of our country. The author of this post on American Creation raises an important point not to be ignored.  All the framers agreed that Natural Law was to be identical to Divine Law, but, if the former diverted in the only possible way it could; by a written law, the Scriptures were to be, in the words of Founding Father James Wilson; Superauthentick. Also, by using standard logic, evidenced by the fact the men quoted in the Constitutional Convention: Sir William Blackstone, Baron Montesquieu, Puffendorf, Richard Hooker, John Locke, and the below quoted Hugo Grotius, believed as they did:
The very meaning of the words divine voluntary right, shows that it springs from the divine will, by which it is distinguished from natural law, which, it has already been observed, is called divine also. … Now this law was given either to mankind in general, or to one particular people. We find three periods, at which it was given by God to the human race, the first of which was immediately after the creation of man, the second upon the restoration of mankind after the flood, and the third upon that more glorious restoration through Jesus Christ. These three laws undoubtedly bind all men, as soon, as they come to a sufficient knowledge of them.
Above, Grotius is affirming the Scriptures superior to Nature. Furthermore, "All Human Laws are null and void if contrary to the Divine Law" was adhered to by all. Natural Law can only be relevant if made into Human Law. In lock-step with the Unitarians of the day, John Adams understood Natural Law was subserviant to Revelation:
 I say RIGHTS, for such they have, undoubtedly, antecedent to all earthly government, — Rights, that cannot be repealed or restrained by human laws — Rights, derived from the great Legislator of the universe.
-A dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law, 1765

That Orthodox Christians: George Mason, Samuel Adams, and Alexander Hamilton, spoke largely of unalienable rights in terms of Natural Law, reinforces the fact they viewed the Scriptures superior. What then of this comment?

"If this is true, neither man's covenants nor God's can change this fact."

However, the Founding Fathers believed God's Word was superior. Is this a contradiction? God's promises are not inferior to man's ideas. Parts of the Bible not repeated in the New Testament; many I might add, are for a different dispensation; for instance, dietary laws. This is the key concept in this narrative, one brought to light by Montesquieu's fundamental "principles that do not change." Early American Law Books taught that government was free to set its own policy only if God had not ruled in an area. For example, Blackstone's Commentaries:
To instance in the case of murder: this is expressly forbidden by the Divine...If any human law should allow or enjoin us to commit it, we are bound to transgress that human law...But, with regard to matters that are...not commanded or forbidden by those superior laws such, for instance, as exporting of wool into foreign countries; here the...legislature has scope and opportunity to interpose.
In summation, the Founding Fathers appealed to Heaven as their authority, not Natural Law.

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