Founded on Eight Words
Dr. Judd W. Patton
Associate Professor of Economics, Bellevue University
July 4, 1837, John Quincy Adams asked his audience a rhetorical question:
“Is it not that the Declaration of Independence...laid the cornerstone of
human government upon the first precepts of Christianity?”
where is this cornerstone found in the Declaration of Independence?
Answer: In the eight word phrase: “the Laws of Nature and of
eight words in the prologue of the Declaration of Independence: “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.”
Jefferson penned these words he was not creating a new phraseology or idea.
Christians of the eighteenth Century had been using the language to describe
God and His Laws. They believed that God revealed His will through creation
(nature) and, of course, through divine revelation in the Bible, i.e., the
Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.” In their view Nature’s
God’s connoted God’s rulership and inexorable moral laws.
American education in law and political thought had long been heavily
influenced by the writings of Baron Charles Montesquieu, John Locke, and Sir
William Blackstone. These “Enlightenment” thinkers also operated within
a Biblical framework and, in fact, helped spur the common usage of his
phrase and concept.
For example, in
his Commentaries on the Laws of England, the textbook for American
law students in the 18th and 19th centuries, the
author and legal authority, Sir William Blackstone, taught that natural law
consists of two components: (1) the physical laws of nature, and (2) the
revealed laws of the Bible. He
stated, “Upon these two foundations, the laws of nature and the law of
revelation, depend all human laws; that is to say, no human laws should be
suffered to contradict these.” Clearly
he expounded “the Laws of Nature” and the laws of “Nature’s
God” in his book.
declared their separation and independence from Great Britain by citing 27
violations of “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.” King
George III had violated Godly precepts, seen both in nature and scripture,
and thereby established “absolute Tyranny over these States.”
Therefore, they felt justified to “throw off such Government.”
of Independence was the call to existence of the United States of America.
Abraham Lincoln declared as much in his Gettysburg Address on
November 19, 1863: “Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought
forth, upon this continent, a new nation...” Eighty-seven years prior to
1863 is 1776. Thus the Declaration established our value system as a new
Nation. The Constitution eleven years later was and continues as our
necessary bylaws “in Order to form a more perfect Union” and to
“secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”
Quincy Adams, our sixth President, knew exactly what he was saying. The
Declaration of Independence, together with the U.S. Constitution, laid the
cornerstone of our United States government upon the first precepts of
Christianity – “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.” July
4th celebrates a nation founded on eight immortal words.
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