Tuesday, July 14, 2020

The Proper End of Law

Principle #2: Natural rights are bestowed by God

“When human laws contradict or discountenance the means, which are necessary to preserve the essential rights of any society, they defeat the proper end of all laws, and become null and void… the whole human race is entitled to [natural rights], and that it can be wrested from no part of them without the blackest and most aggravated guilt.” (“The Farmer Refuted: or, a more comprehensive and impartial View of Dispute between Great Britain and the Colonies,” by Alexander Hamilton, Feb 25, 1775)

Many words like these from our founders may give the impression that our founders would condone the regular thwarting of the laws within society, so long as the individual or group of individuals believed those laws to violate their natural rights. Here Alexander Hamilton called such laws "null and void," and indeed some citizens have taken this tact in the exercise of civil disobedience, which at times has been warranted. How are we to understand these pronouncements as they pertain to our times?

First, It is important to understand the context of the times in which these principles where articulated. The revolutionaries of our founding went far beyond civil disobedience, they declared war to dissolve the political bands to their sovereign power. The principles they articulated appealed to God given rights and God given law, an appeal that reached above the king and demonstrated his acts against God's law to be the acts of illegitimacy. This idea was not just revolutionary it was transformation in a world of absolute monarchies and conquest. It would have sounded to many like a fanciful ludicrousy except for the fact that it spoke truth to the human soul.

The signers of The Declaration of Independence admitted to the difficulty of that choice to rebel and perhaps in doing so left behind a blue print for the generations that would follow. Consider the standard and principles they have given for a justified rebellion:

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.

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. That, WHENEVER ANY FORM OF GOVERNMENT BECOMES DESTRUCTIVE TO THESE ENDSit is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that GOVERNMENTS LONG ESTABLISHED SHOULD NOT BE CHANGED FOR LIGHT AND TRANSIENT CAUSES; and, accordingly, all experience has shown, that MANKIND ARE MORE DISPOSED TO SUFFER, WHILE EVILS ARE SUFFERABLE, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.

But, WHEN A LONG TRAIN OF ABUSES AND USURPATIONS, pursuing invariably the same object, EVINCES A DESIGN TO REDUCE THEM UNDER ABSOLUTE DESPOTISM, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. Such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of government.

The guiding principle in revolution and rebellion from the political bands of their sovereign power are the the proper end of the law. The proper end of the law being to secure these natural inalienable rights. Whenever any for of government becomes destructive to these ends, when they defeat the proper end of all laws, they become null and void. In this state of usurpation and absolute despotism it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such governments, and provide new guards for their future security.

These principles remain true and in force and The Declaration of Independence provides a blue print for the causes and conditions which would justify such acts of insurrection. It is instructive to note that prudence dictates that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes, and that it is the nature of mankind to suffer evils while they are sufferable.

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