Donna K. Rice
Natural Law in the Declaration of Independence
Laying a Firm Foundation
The Declaration of Independence sets forth a foundation of our country that has roots in the concept of Natural Law. The statement,
"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. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed..." (The Declaration of Independence)
Speaks to our definition of Natural Law. Here's what each of us must consider as we examine our own political standing and voting habits.
What does the concept of "self-evident" represent in our minds?
Americans at the time of the writing of the Declaration of Independence were in general a religious people with a belief in the idea of "universal human equality from the teachings of Christianity." When we factionalize our communities based on different opinions, social standing, socio-economic positions, gender, religious beliefs, etc. we tend to lose sight of the idea of underlying human equality. We place value on beliefs and positions held, rather than humanity.
What truths do we hold to be self-evident?
Do we believe that all men and women--of any color, of any religious belief, of any social standing, of any cultural persuasion, of any difference of opinion--have the same equality of standing and rights in society as we ourselves hold? Within this mindset, comes the ability to fight for principles that protect all, rather than splintering into interest groups and fighting for standing based on those interests.
Do we believe that God gives each person unalienable rights based simply on their creation as a human being? When we view one another through this lens all human beings, regardless of identifying characteristics beyond their humanity, hold value and dignity to be respected by others simply because they are our fellow human beings?
Do we believe that Government is established to secure these rights for all, not just the few? Government, in the American experiment, was not envisioned to be our keeper. It was established to secure the independence of all based on some of the rights as derived from a worldview that valued all mankind over the powers of any monarch of government established that reigned tyrannically over subjects. Government was envisioned to proceed at the "consent of the governed" meaning government would be adjusted and managed by the general populace, not the reverse. Government was envisioned to be a necessary institution only to provide what individuals themselves could not. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness would be the opportunity of each individual.
In our original post on Natural Law, we presented this definition,
"Natural Law encompasses the systems and understanding of God-give rights and justice that are applied universally to all mankind. Natural Law is believed, by those who embrace the concept, to be everlasting, and common for all mankind. The foundation of many codified laws can be found in Natural Law. It undergirds the intrinsically held belief in the value and equality of all human beings."
Can you see, within our Declaration of Independence, the Natural Law based principle that all human beings are valuable, and have God-given rights and opportunities worth protecting?