"Our legislators are not sufficiently apprized of the rightful limits of their power; that their true office is to declare and enforce only our natural rights and duties, and to take none of them from us. No man has a natural right to commit aggression on the equal rights of another; and this is all from which the laws ought to restrain him; every man is under the natural duty of contributing to the necessities of the society; and this is all the laws should enforce on him; and, no man having a natural right to be the judge between himself and another, it is his natural duty to submit to the umpirage of an impartial third. When the laws have declared and enforced all this, they have fulfilled their functions, and the idea is quite unfounded, that on entering into society we give up any natural right."
Thomas Jefferson
(1743-1826), US Founding Father, drafted the Declaration of Independence, 3rd US President
Letter to Francis W. Gilmer (27 June 1816); The Writings of Thomas Jefferson edited by Ford, vol. 10, p. 32.
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Reader comments about this quote:
Jefferson was extremely right on through-out until he mingled natural duty with an ability to force. "Social Contract" is an oxymoron and an erroneous use of terms A natural right, all ways supersedes any and all duties.
 -- Mike, Norwalk     
  • 3
    The natural duty is to promote care of your neighbor. What goes around comes around. Old farming communities know this duty of conscience well, it is how everyone gets through the hard winters, and dry summers ! Lend a helping hand. It is truly unnatural to commit aggression on the equal rights of another. To declare and enforce only our natural rights and duty to our fellow man.
     -- Ronw13, Yachats Or     
  • 1
    Religion is: real piety in practice, consisting in the performance of all known duties to God and our fellow men. (Bouviers Law Dictionary). The de jure States united was to be a bifurcation of religion and absolute secular law. Not that one was to have (or not have) an influence on the other (little to extreme) but rather, there was to be no national establishment of religion (a theocracy - recognizing one religious dogma over another) - a blending of religious dogmas and secular natural law. For expressions of eternal light, self preservation and a multiple of other reasons, each individual has a moral imperative (an ethical duty or religious responsibility if you will) to our fellow men BUT !, that is outside the domain of force - recognizable within the jurisprudence of corporeal man's justice pursuits / secular law's definitions.
     -- Mike, Norwalk     
  • 5
    There's got to be more to the point Jefferson is making. The word 'law' is used interchangeably to mean natural laws (those 'rules' governed by nature that humankind has no power to make) and 'statutes' (those rules imposed by humans upon other humans, either by consent or by force). Whenever the word 'law' is used to refer to 'statutes' there will ever be a logical fallacy built into the argument. When we can come to realize our 'laws' are but mutual agreements regarding the stewardship of the common wealth, and as such, have no jurisdiction over the personal and private acts of individuals as long as they do not deprive others of their own natural-born rights, the 'long arm of the law' will have a lot less to enforce. NO statute can grant a right, they can only aim to protect a right.

    Mike will have to come to terms with the word law as even a republican form of government is known as 'a government of laws and not of men' -- what laws are being referred to then? ;-) Of course, men make the 'laws' so, what government is not republican? ;-)

    I like Mike's definition of law and religion -- maybe one day such an understanding will be more widely shared -- an enlightened people they would surely be!
     -- E Archer, NYC     
  • 4
    The one Natural law that promotes true happiness , Love thy neighbor as thyself. First works. All else seems to fall into place. Love is the key. God is Love. Policing falls into place, when oppression is removed. Our True Liberty denied creates uncertainty, if cuff money is not paid the governor, the fight begins. When enough are backed into a corner, pay day to payday, you bring about a confrontation that is predictable ! Any mule will buck if the burden is to heavy. Tyrannical government has the attitude, damn the mule, load the cart !
     -- Ronw13, Yachats Or     
  • 3
    "Love thy neighbor" is not a law, it is a rule. Not making the distinction between rules and laws attempts to elevate the authority of the rule-maker to that of the law-maker as if they were one and the same.

    I would say that the 'rules' agreed to within a republican government ought to harmonize with the Golden Rule. Why? Because of the Natural Law:

    "Do unto others as you would have done unto you, because as you sow, so shall you reap."

    The 'rule' is because of the 'law.' The corruption is when men attempt to play God and mete out harsh judgement according to "God's law" as they interpret it to be. It doesn't really matter if the judge is secular or religious, it is the assumption of authority over others because "the law says so."
     -- E Archer, NYC     
  • 2
    (-; Archer, thanks for the segue ;-) Not specifically agreeing with Jefferson's definition of natural law; - the laws of nature and of nature's God (natural law) is a science of measuring natural occurrences. By way of example: if one jumps off a cliff, the natural law of gravity's implementation will result. If one borrows/spends more than he can pay back, the natural law concerning fiscal matters will implement bankruptcy. Man can not make natural law, only use tools such as codes, ordinances, regulation, rules, statutes, etc. to define such. There are natural laws that concern life, liberty, property and lawful domain which has been referenced by happiness. When man mentally and philosophically perceives himself to be a god, he attempts to replicate nature by carnal force. The nomenclature of natural law's tools become entreated as law itself. Carnal man's laws are not natural, they are theocratic tyranny enslaving the noble being man's mind, soul and person. All restraints of natural rights and liberty are criminal acts. There is also a huge separation between natural law and justice that is blurred in the criminal carnal man's legal system.
     -- Mike, Norwalk     
  • 1
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