Judd W. Patton, Ph.D. (Biography) Bellevue University Online
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 America Founded on Eight Words 

Dr. Judd W. Patton
Associate Professor of Economics, Bellevue University

On 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?”

Just where is this cornerstone found in the Declaration of Independence?  Answer: In the eight word phrase: “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.”

Consider the 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.”

When Thomas 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.

Moreover, 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.

Our forefathers 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.”

The Declaration 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.”

John 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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