Essential Liberty-Endowed by their Creator

02/05/2010 09:50

“Endowed by their Creator”

A year later in Philadelphia, on July 4th, 1776, Jefferson and 55 merchants, farmers, doctors, lawyers and other representatives of the original 13 colonies of the United States of America, in the General Congress, Assembled, pledged “our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor” to the cause of liberty. They declared, “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.”

Our Founders further avowed, “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 of these ends, it 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.”

Our Declaration of Independence was derived from common law, “the Laws of Nature and Nature's God,” all men being “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.” It calls upon “the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions” and “the protection of Divine Providence.”

The Declaration's common law inspiration for the Rights of Man has its origin in governing documents dating back to the Magna Carta (1215), and was heavily influenced by the writings of Charles Montesquieu and John Locke.

However, its most immediate common law inspiration was William Blackstone's 1765 “Commentaries on the Laws of England,” perhaps the most scholarly historic and analytic treatise on Natural Law.

Blackstone wrote, “As man depends absolutely upon his Maker for everything, it is necessary that he should in all points conform to his Maker's will. This will of his Maker is called the law of nature. ... This law of nature, being coeval [coexistent] with mankind and dictated by God Himself is, of course, superior in obligation to any other. It is binding over all the globe, in all countries, and at all times; no human laws are of any validity if contrary to this. ... Upon these two foundations, the law of nature and the law of revelation, depend all human laws; that is to say, no human laws should be suffered [permitted] to contradict these.”

In 1776, the Second Continental Congress appointed a committee representing the 13 states to draft a formal document of incorporation, and then approved the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union for ratification by the states on November 15th, 1777. The Articles of Confederation were ratified on March 1st, 1781, and “the United States in Congress assembled” became the Congress of the Confederation.

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