- obey "The Laws of Nature and of Nature's God"
Our nation's Declaration of Independence, the charter that created the United States of America, contains these words:
|When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the Powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved. . . . And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the Protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.
The Declaration of Independence was a history-changing declaration that powerful, intrusive government was contrary to "the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God," and that the People had a God-given right to a more libertarian system of government.
Our Founding Fathers fought against tax rates which scholars estimate were about 3-5%. Today's taxes are ten times higher, and our Founding Fathers would feel betrayed that we have lost what they fought for.
But more important than taxes is character. America's Founding Fathers believed that religion and morality were more important than low taxes. In fact, they believed that high taxes and tyrannical government was a symptom of the absence of religion and morality. One of America's most important founding charters had this requirement for the Northwest Territory:
|"Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind . . . shall forever be encouraged."
Congress subsequently applied this requirement to the Southern Territory and the Missouri Territory when parts of those territories joined the Union as states.
The Court requires government at all levels to maintain a neutrality between theism and non-theism which results, in practical effect, in a governmental preference of the religion of agnostic secularism. Justice Brennan argued, in his concurrence in the 1963 school prayer case, that the words "under God" could still be kept in the Pledge of Allegiance only because they "no longer have a religious purpose or meaning." Instead, according to Brennan they "may merely recognize the historical fact that our Nation was believed to have been founded 'under God." [Abington School District v. Schempp, 374 U.S. 203, 304, (1963).] This false neutrality would logically prevent an assertion by any government official, whether President or school teacher, that the Declaration of Independence—the first of the Organic
Laws of the United States printed at the head of the United States Code—is in fact true when it asserts that men are endowed "by their Creator" with certain unalienable rights and when it affirms "the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God," a "Supreme Judge of the world" and "Divine Providence."
[return to text]
"The Constitution: Guarantor of Religion," in
Derailing the Constitution: The Undermining of American Federalism,
edited by Edward B. McLean, Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 1997, pp. 155-56.
Today, however, the federal judiciary has declared that religion and morality must not be encouraged by any state in the union.
Notre Dame Professor of Law Charles E. Rice has observed (see box) that under current Court interpretation, if a student asks a teacher if the Declaration of Independence was really true when it spoke about God, "Providence," and "the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God," The teacher could not say "Yes, our nation is based on these eternal truths." Presumably, no competent public school teacher (?) would say, "No, America is just one big lie." So this means that a school teacher can only say "I don't know" when asked if the Declaration of Independence is true.
Not a single person who signed the Constitution intended to prohibit a school teacher from telling students that the Declaration of Independence was really true when it spoke about God, "Providence," and "the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God."
The Court's decisions represent just the tip of the iceberg. Below the surface are tens of millions of Americans who have never read the Declaration of Independence and do not know what principles America was built upon.
The Source of Law and Order
What did America's Founding Fathers mean when they spoke of "the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God?"
John Locke (1632-1704) was a Christian philosopher who had a great influence in America. He said:
[T]he Law of Nature stands as an eternal rule to all men, legislators as well as others. The rules that they make for other men's actions must . . . be conformable to the Law of Nature, i.e., to the will of God.
[L]aws human must be made according to the general laws of Nature, and without contradiction to any positive law of Scripture, otherwise they are ill made.
Locke, Two Treatises on Government, Bk II sec 135. (quoting Hooker's Ecclesiastical Polity, 1.iii, § 9 )
William Blackstone (1723-1780) was cited more frequently than Locke by America's Founding Fathers. In 1810 Thomas Jefferson wryly commented that American lawyers used Blackstone's Commentaries on the Laws of England with the same dedication and reverence that Muslims used the Koran.
Blackstone described the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God in a chapter in his Commentaries entitled, "Of the Nature of Laws in General." An excerpt is found here. Among the highlights:
Man, considered as a creature, must necessarily be subject to the laws of his Creator, for he is entirely a dependent being. And consequently, as man depends absolutely upon his Maker for everything, it is necessary that he should, in all points, conform to his Maker's will.
This will of his Maker is called the law of nature.
This law of nature, being coeval [existing at the same time - ed.] with mankind, and dictated by God himself, is of course superior in obligation to any other. It is binding over all the globe in all countries, and at all times: no human laws are of any validity, if contrary to this; and such of them as are valid derive all their force and all their authority, mediately or immediately, from this original. The doctrines thus delivered we call the revealed or divine law, and they are to be found only in the holy scriptures. These precepts, when revealed, are found upon comparison to be really a part of the original law of nature, as they tend in all their consequences to man's felicity [happiness].
Upon these two foundations, the law of nature and the law of revelation, depend all human laws; that is to say, no human laws should be suffered to contradict these.
The Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court recently had an occasion to describe the influence of Blackstone and further explain the meaning of the phrase "the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God":
|American law derives its principles from the common law of England, clearly explained in Commentaries on the Laws of England by Sir William Blackstone. In 1799, Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, James Iredell, charged the grand jury of the Circuit Court for the District of Pennsylvania as follows:
"[F]or near 30 years [The Commentaries on the Laws of England] has been the manual of almost every student of law in the United States, and its uncommon excellence has also introduced it into the libraries, and often to the favourite reading of private gentlemen; so that [Sir William Blackstone's] views of the subject could scarcely be unknown to those who framed the Amendment to the Constitution, ...."
Claypoole's American Daily Advertiser, April 11, 1799, Philadelphia, 3 The Documentary History of the Supreme Court of the United States, 1789-1800, at 347 (Maeva Marcus, ed., Columbia University Press 1990) (emphasis added).
Because Blackstone's Commentaries was the manual for law students in the United States during and after the revolutionary period and the drafting of the United States Constitution, we should consider his interpretations of common law not only as influential but also as authoritative for applying the common law today.
Blackstone's explanation of the common law is important because of the influence it has had upon the American legal system. In 1993, Justice Antonin Scalia stated:
"The conception of the judicial role that [Chief Justice John Marshall] possessed, and that was shared by succeeding generations of American judges until very recent times, took it to be 'the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is,' Marbury v. Madison, 1 Cranch 137, 177 (1803) (emphasis added) -- not what the law shall be. That original and enduring American perception of the judicial role sprang not from the philosophy of Nietzsche but from the jurisprudence of Blackstone, which viewed retroactivity as an inherent characteristic of the judicial power, a power 'not delegated to pronounce a new law, but to maintain and expound the old one.' 1 W. Blackstone, Commentaries 69 (1765)."
Harper v. Virginia Dep't of Taxation, 509 U.S. 86, 107 (1993) (Scalia, J., concurring).
Natural law forms the basis of the common law. (7) Natural law is the law of nature and of nature's God as understood by men through reason, but aided by direct revelation found in the Holy Scriptures:
"The doctrines thus delivered we call the revealed or divine law, and they are to be found only in the Holy Scriptures. These precepts, when revealed, are found upon comparison to be really a part of the original law of nature, as they tend in all their consequences to man's felicity." (8)
1 William Blackstone, Commentaries 42.
Blackstone's Commentaries explain that because our reason is full of error, the most certain way to ascertain the law of nature is through direct revelation. The ultimate importance of this law and its influence upon our law cannot be understated.
"Upon these two foundations, the law of nature and the law of revelation, depend all human laws; that is to say, no human laws should be suffered to contradict these. There is, it is true, a great number of indifferent points, in which both the divine law and the natural leave a man at his own liberty; but which are found necessary for the benefit of society to be restrained within certain limits. And herein it is that human laws have their greatest force and efficacy; for, with regard to such points as are not indifferent, human laws are only declaratory of, and act in subordination to, the former."
1 Blackstone, Commentaries 42.
There are impeccable American sources for the above proposition. James Wilson, Associate Justice on the first United States Supreme Court and signer of both the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution, said:
"Human law must rest its authority ultimately upon the authority of that law which is divine .... Far from being rivals or enemies, religion and law are twin sisters, friends, and mutual assistants. Indeed, these two sciences run into each other."
James Wilson, "Of the General Principles of Law and Obligation," in 1 The Works of the Honourable James Wilson, 104-06 (Bird Wilson ed., Bronson and Chauncey 1804).
John Jay, first Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court and coauthor of the Federalist Papers, declared:
"[N]o sovereign ought to permit those who are under his Command to violate the precepts of the Law of Nature, which forbids all Injuries ...."
"John Jay's Charge to the Grand Jury of the Circuit Court for the District of Virginia, May 22, 1793, Richmond, Virginia." 2 The Documentary History of the Supreme Court of the United States, 1789-1800, at 386 (Maeva Marcus, ed., Columbia University Press 1988).
Our own Declaration of Independence refers to "the laws of nature and of nature's God":
"When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation." (Emphasis added.)
It would be an odd logic to assert that the American colonies could use the law of God "to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them," but not to decide the fundamental basis of their laws.
|7. There can be no debate as to the connection between the common law and the natural law. . . . Chief Justice Sir Christopher Wray and the entire Court at King's Bench resolved a point of law as follows:
- "That in this point, as almost in all others, the common law was grounded on the law of God ...."
- Ratcliff's Case, 76 Eng. Rep. 713, 726 (K.B. 1592). [back]
|8. Blackstone indicated that one law was more reliable than the other:
- "If we could be as certain of the [natural law] as we are of the [revealed law], both would have an equal authority; but, till then, they can never be put in any competition together."
- 1 William Blackstone, Commentaries 42. [back]
When a nation departs from "the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God," crime obviously goes up, but so does government intrusion, taxation, and violation of God-given rights.
We must return to the Founding Principles of America.
next: Limited Government and the Rule of Law