The first paragraph of the Declaration of Independence states:
“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.”
As the Second Continental Congress prepared the official document that would inform all the world that they intended to break from British rule, they carefully worded it so that there would be no question as to the reasons for this separation or for their authority to do so.
If asked the reason that the colonies separated from Britain, most today would say, ‘Taxation Without Representation.’ They would say that because that is what we have been taught in school.
This is at least a partially correct answer but is very incomplete. Taxation without Representation is only 1 of 27 grievances listed in the Declaration. These grievances…all 27 of them…not just that 1, were the reasons for separation. (There is a specific reason that we were taught that in school, but we will deal with that in another article.)
In this carefully worded document they also stated their authority in separating from British rule and establishing their own government. They said that they were ‘entitled’ to separate and form their own government by the ‘Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God’. Well, what does that mean? What are the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God?
The phrase, “The Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God”: was a well-known legal phrase during the founding era. Everyone knew what it meant back then.
Here is the definition from Webster’s 1828 Dictionary:
• The Laws of Nature: A rule of conduct arising out of the natural relations of human beings established by the Creator, and existing prior to any [written] precept. Thus, it is a law of nature that one man should not injure another…
In other words, the Laws of Nature are laws which are intuitively known to man, through his God-Given Conscience.
• The Laws of Nature’s God: ( Webster says) …the moral law…contained in the 10Commandments written by the finger of God.
Another primary source, Sir William Blackstone, one of the foremost legal authorities of the founding era, wrote that “The Laws of Nature’s God” included all Revealed Law, which meant other divine laws found in the Bible, in addition to the 10 Commandments.
It is really important that we learn and understand the meaning of this phrase, The Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God because it established the very basis for all law and government during America’s founding! If a law enacted on the people by the government fell within the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God, then the people were bound to obey it. Any law that fell outside the boundaries of the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God was considered ‘pretend legislation” and the people were not bound to obey it.
Proud to be an American, Tom Shobe.