Alexander Hamilton on Natural Rights and Human Nature

“The sacred rights of mankind are not to be rummaged for among old parchments or musty records. They are written, as with a sunbeam, in the whole volume of human nature, by the hand of the Divinity itself, and can never be erased or obscured by mortal power.”

Hamilton, as most of the founding fathers, was a Deist. That refers to a spiritual belief system that is sometimes confused with Pantheism but is not quite the same. While Pantheism regards the universe as the manifestation of God, Deists believed [past tense appropriate because the Deism of the founders is extinct] in the deity of the Bible but did not see Him as any sort of personal God that intervened in the affairs of man. That’s why the phrase, “Nature’s God” often appears, and may be why some have associated Deism with Pantheism.  Deists didn’t believe that nature is God, they believed that nature could reveal God to those willing to study nature with reason and logic.  Deism rejected the supernatural aspects of Christianity.  Rather, Deists believed reason and study of philosophy in the natural world were the path to understanding God’s will and purpose.  Deism was Christianity for the 18th Century Age of Enlightenment, sometimes called the Age of Reason.

In the passage quoted above we see Hamilton’s understanding of Natural Rights. These are rights that are sacred, coming from nature’s God, not from written documents. In other words, not from governments. Government does not confer rights on its citizens. As stated in the Declaration of Independence, we are born with certain natural and unalienable rights bestowed upon us by our creator.  Governments should respect those rights. Governments may infringe rights. It never creates them.

Our Constitution spells our certain of those rights and states that it’s not an exhaustive list. There are numerable other rights belonging to the people.

Because our rights do not impose positive obligations on others except to refrain from unreasonably infringing them, they have come to be called “negative rights” because they impose limitations on government. Those who adopt this terminology have something untoward up their sleeves, and we should never listen to them nor take them seriously except to understand that they are serious in their determination to enslave us.

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