Sunday, July 4, 2010

The Natural Rights of Men

Philosophers since the ancient Greeks have argued for natural rights. These are rights we are born with and that can only be taken away by a written constitution or a government or a ruler. They are rights provided by the gods, or by God, or by nature. We are born with these rights. These are rights that are shared equally by all men at birth, and are inalienable -- cannot be taken away except by corrupt leaders.

When the United States was formed, the people of the U.S. entered into an agreement by signing the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights which were intended to protect our natural rights, or to make sure that the U.S. government would not be allowed to make any law that took away any of our natural rights.

John Locke (1632 to 1704) wrote about natural rights, and how the purpose of governments was to protect these natural rights and, at the same time, the right to "life, liberty and pursuit of happiness," as Thomas Jefferson would later write in the Declaration of Independence.

Political philosophy such as this was widely read in the 18th century, and the the idea of natural rights was widely accepted by the colonists.

According to Samuel Adams, Right of the Colonists, "Among the natural rights of the Colonists are these: First, a right to life; Secondly, to liberty; Thirdly, to property; together with the right to support and defend them in the best manner they can. These are evident branches of, rather than deductions from, the duty of self-preservation, commonly called the first law of nature."

Likewise, "The natural liberty of man is to be free from any superior power on earth, and not to be under the will or legislative authority of man, but only to have the law of nature for his rule."

So, that in mind, the following are the natural rights of man:
  1. Life
  2. Liberty
  3. Pursuit of Happiness
  4. Property
  5. To defend himself
  6. To defend his property
  7. To live where he chooses
  8. To leave the society he belongs to
  9. To enter into society by voluntary consent
  10. And to demand and insist upon the performance of society based on the original compact
  11. Every natural right not expressly ceded to society by a code remains to the people
  12. The right of the people to peacefully assemble
  13. The right of individuals to worship God as to the dictates of his conscience
  14. Every man is, under God, judge and sole judge of his own rights and of the injuries done him
  15. A fair trial of his peers
  16. A right to not plea in his own defence
  17. To pay for the trouble of those who come to his defense
  18. Be willing to pay his just quota for the support of government, the law, and the constitution; the end of which is to furnish indifferent and impartial judges in all cases that may happen, whether civil, ecclesiastical, marine, or military.
  19. To sign into an agreement of government for common defense
  20. The right to determine what fair wages are
  21. The right to keep the money he earns minus that of which he owes to his debtors, or the minimum needed to keep the government he agrees to join running
  22. To not give up his natural rights by entering into society
To this, Adams adds the following:
"In short, it is the greatest absurdity to suppose it in the power of one, or any number of men, at the entering into society, to renounce their essential natural rights, or the means of preserving those rights; when the grand end of civil government, from the very nature of its institution, is for the support, protection, and defence of those very rights; the principal of which, as is before observed, are Life, Liberty, and Property. If men, through fear, fraud, or mistake, should in terms renounce or give up any essential natural right, the eternal law of reason and the grand end of society would absolutely vacate such renunciation. The right to freedom being the gift of God Almighty, it is not in the power of man to alienate this gift and voluntarily become a slave.
Thus, as humans, we all have natural rights that can only be taken away by a governmental pact. Yet, by the signing of the U.S. Constitution, the founding fathers were certain our natural rights were therefore protected.

Still, and thankfully so, to be on the safe side they signed into law the Bill of Rights, which basically placed all the natural rights of made in a step by step fashion and made it into law that the U.S. government shall not be allowed to make any law taking these rights away from any U.S. citizen.

Thus, as U.S. Citizens we all have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, to defend ourselves, to property, to worship any God we choose, to peacefully assemble, etc. These are our natural rights -- rights we are born with. Rights that can only be taken away by our government, yet are protected by the one we live under here in the United States.

Happy 4th of July. And don't forget the true meaning of what we are celebrating. Don't forget the reason we signed the Declaration of Independence.

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