Thursday, April 22, 2010

Freedom Principle 1: Natural Law

The great political thinker, Marcus Tullius Cicero, was a Roman political writer, ahead of his time, and held the highest office of state, Roman Consul.  He studied law in Rome, and Philosophy in Athens.  He wrote The Republic and the Laws projecting some future society full of promise based on a thing called, Natural Law.

So what is Natural Law?  Jefferson referred to it in the Declaration of Independence as, "the laws of Nature and of Nature's God."  I know volumes have been written on this subject alone; I hope to give a brief idea of what it means.  In a nutshell, Natural Law is an established way of 'right conduct' within the laws of our Creator.  Natural Law is not negotiable, and it does not cease to exist because someone doesn't agree with, or like it.  It's a fact and a law of the Universe, like gravity.  It is the Creator's order of things.

The Founders were clearly influenced by Cicero and his recognition of Natural Law.

Cicero defined Natural Law as 'true law', and says:

True law is right reason in agreement with nature; it is of universal application, unchanging and everlasting; it summons  to duty by its commands, and averts from wrongdoing by its prohibitions... It is a sin to try to alter this law, nor is it allowable to repeal any part of it, and it is impossible to abolish it entirely.  We cannot be freed from its obligations by senate or people, and we need not look outside ourselves for an expounder or interpreter of it.  And there will not be different laws at Rome and at Athens, or different laws now and in the future, but one eternal and unchangeable law will be valid for all nations and all times, and there will be one master and ruler, that is God, over us all, for he is the author of this law, its promulgator, and its enforcing judge.  Whoever is disobedient is fleeing from himself nd denying his human nature, and by reason of this very fact he will suffer the worst punishment. (Quoted in Ebenstein, Great Political Thinkers, p. 133.)
Cicero also proffered that since man is the only created being with a rational mind, shared only by God, that we must have right reason in common, and therefore also, Law in common.  He said we must conceive of this whole universe as one big commonwealth of man and the gods.

He asserted that right reason coupled with government regulation of human relations was called 'justice.'  Cicero regarded love as a mighty social bond and pointed out that justice was impossible without it, under the principles of God's just laws:
For these virtues originate in our natural inclination to love our fellow-men, and this is the foundation of justice. (Ibid., p. 134)
Cicero believed emphatically that what is "right is based, not upon men's opinions, but upon Nature" and that is was impossible to ratify an evil "law".  In other words, you cannot make right a thing that goes against Natural Law, by a popularity vote.  Of course, Cicero says it best:
The most foolish notion of all is the belief that everything is just which is found in the customs or law of nations... What of the many deadly, the many pestilential statutes which nations put in force?  These no more deserve to be called laws than the rules a band of robbers might pass in their assembly.  For if ignorant and unskillful men have prescribed deadly poisons instead of healing drugs, these cannot possibly be called physicians' prescriptions; neither in a nation can a statute of any sort be called a law, even though the nation, in spite of being a ruinous regulation has accepted it.  (Ibid., pp. 134-35.)
But if the principles of Justice were founded on the decrees of peoples, the edicts of princes, or the decisions of judges, then Justice would sanction robbery and adultery and forgery o wills, in case these acts were approved by the votes or decrees of the populace.  But if so great a power belongs to the decisions and decrees of fools that the law of Nature can be changed by their votes, then why do they not ordain that what is bad and baneful shall be considered good and salutary?  Or, if a law can make Justice Injustice, can it not also make good our of bad?  (Ibid., pp. 134-35.)
It is clear to see why our Founders expressed the absolute need for a virtuous and moral society.  Anything less would produce inharmonious consequences.

Did you know that our unalienable rights come from Natural Law?  Here are more examples of Natural Law:
  • Habeas Corpus
  • Limited Government
  • Separation of Powers
  • Checks and Balances
  • the right to Contract
  • Justice by Reparation
  • the right to Bear Arms
  • the institution of Marriage
  • No Taxation without Representation
In fact, Natural Law is the foundation of what we've to come to know as The People's Law and the American Constitution is grounded in it.

Natural Law is what Thomas Jefferson was talking about when he famously said:
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.
 We will explore what the other unalienable rights we have in the 8th Freedom Principle. 

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