U.S. State of Law Respects Natural Law
WHAT DOES NATURAL LAW MEAN?
The Declaration of Independence mentions the natural law, yet, the U.S. Constitution does not. Does it cause a problem due to ipse dixit [an assertion made but not proved?] of a given power? Most believe that the Constitution was drafted to protect natural rights of life, liberty, and property while others believe it was drafted to protect the Bill of Rights.
For some Americans, natural law is ordained by God, while for others it arises from the nature of human beings. Whatever source you subscribe, natural law’s content is discovered by reason.
LAW DICTATED BY A KING
One of the earliest recorded histories of law is the Code of Hammurabi written by the Babylonian king Hammurabi (1792-1750 B.C.) that included a collection of 282 rules. Hammurabi code of laws established standards for commercial interactions and set fines and punishments to meet necessary conditions of justice. In one of Hammurabi monument, “to prevent the strong from oppressing the weak and to see that justice is done to widows and orphans.” Many American laws reflect a variation of the Hammurabi Code of laws.
MOSES INTRODUCES LAW
The Old Testament law contains three main divisions which are civil, ceremonial, and moral. The following Old Testament laws are similar to today’s Americans laws. To mention a few in the civil area: Inheritance (Num. 18:26); Justice practices (Lev. 24:17-23); Kidnapping (Exodus 21:16); and Theft (Deut. 5:19). Under the Moral area that is also similar to the American laws are: Stealing or lying (Lev. 19:11); and Sexual sins like adultery, incest, bestiality, homosexuality, etc. (Lev. 18:20 & 20:9-21). Leviticus introduces the word “statutes” which is found in American law and state codes. By no means can it be said that the Old Testament laws influenced American law, but similarities are certainly there.
American United and 41 professors and legal historians argue that
“Aside from a failed attempt in the seventeenth century to establish a biblically based legal system in the Puritan colonies, American law is generally viewed as having secular origins.”
They further claim that the development of American law was influenced by the English common and statutory law, Roman law, the civil law of continental Europe and private international law.
GOD NOT IN CONSTITUTION
In 1787, delegates to the Federal Convention drafted a new Constitution for the United States. No mention of God or religion was made in the Constitution, however, Federalist often stated that the Constitution was divinely inspired under “the hand of God,” stated Dr. Benjamin Rush. It appears that God or religion did not influence the Constitution but perhaps did inspire the founding fathers to write an almost perfect document.
FRAMERS INFLUENCE BY HISTORICAL STUDIES
The framers studied Cicero, Polybius, Coke, Locke, Montesquieu, and Blackstone, among others as well as the history of the rise and fall of governments. The founders believing in the “natural law,” view law and rights as unalterable and of a higher order than any written law of man. To them, the constitution confirmed the law and secured the rights of men that bound the government to a moral code.
John Locke used the term “Natural Law” in his Second Treatise on Government. He wrote,
“The State of Nature has a Law of Nature to govern it which obliges everyone…that being all equal and independent no one ought to harm another in his Life, Health, Liberty, or Possessions (Locke, 270-71).”
Locke believed that Nature created man, thus, Nature dictates Laws by which man had to follow to preserve himself.
It is said that the Declaration of Independence is based on Natural Law, while the Constitution is a man-made positive law that does not conflict with Natural Law. The Constitution is thus seen as the Supreme law of the United States, that is designed to enforce the principles in the Declaration of Independence.