The Role of the Revealed Law
In our previous synopsis, we discussed how the Founders believed that the government cannot take away one’s unalienable rights because they were given by God, not the by government. But they believed that these unalienable rights could not remain unalienable unless they were protected as enforceable rights under a code of divinely proclaimed law. This is our eleventh in a series of articles describing the Founders’ Philosophy based on W. Cleon Skousen’s book The Five Thousand Year Leap.
Professor Skousen analyzes the essential elements of God’s code of divine law. Based on Blackstone’s writings, Skousen says that this divine pattern of law for human happiness requires several things. It requires that man recognizes God’s supremacy. He goes on to write that it requires “that man is specifically forbidden to attribute God’s power to false gods; the name of God is to be held in reverence, and every oath taken in the name of God is to be carried out with the utmost fidelity; there is a requirement that one day a week is to be set aside to study God’s law; that it is also a day of worship and personal renewal; that there are requirements to strengthen family ties by honoring our parents and being faithful in marriage; that human life is sacred; that he who willfully takes another life must forfeit his own; that a person shall not lie; that a person shall not steal; and that every person must be willing to work for the things he desires and not covet and scheme to get the things which belong to his neighbor.” He points out that these principles are immediately recognized as the Ten Commandments.
Our Founders believed that Revealed Law (Divine Law) endows man with Unalienable Duties as well as Unalienable Rights. Professor Skousen explains that the Founders believed there are two kinds of duties – public and private. Public duties relate to public morality and are usually supported by ordinances that can be enforced by police power. Private duties are those which exist between a person and his Creator. The Founders called these duties principles or private morality.
William Blackstone wrote on both public and private morality. He said that if a man abandoned his principles in private and his actions did not offend others, then he was not subject to sanction. When speaking of citizens’ actions, Blackstone goes on to say “if he makes his vices public, though they be such as seem principally to affect himself (as drunkenness, or the like), they then become by the bad example they set, of pernicious effects to society; and therefore it is the business of human laws to correct them.” It certainly seems our Founders believed private immoral acts of public officials, which become known to the public, should be sanctioned by law. Bill Clinton is certainly fortunate that our public officials today have strayed from our Founders’ Philosophy.
Our Founders believed that our unalienable duties, both public and private, are an inherent part of Natural Law. They constitute a responsibility imposed on each individual to respect the absolute, or unalienable, rights of others.
Our Founders discovered that God’s revealed law provided true “justice” by requiring the criminal to completely restore the property he had stolen or to otherwise pay the damages he had caused. This is called “reparation.” As stated in previous articles, our Founders studied and modeled our form of government on the governments of the ancient Israelites and of the Anglo-Saxons. They noted that the system of justice through reparation was practiced by both the ancient Israelites and Anglo-Saxons as well. This so impressed our Founders, they instituted the system of justice through reparation in our government.
If a criminal was too irresponsible to repay his victim, that criminal was given a heavy prison term and could not be considered for parole until he guaranteed full cooperation in the repayment of his victim. However, today, many of our politicians believe taxpayers should compensate victims of crime. In some states, victims of crime are given reparation by the state. Professor Skousen writes, “It [policy of the State paying reparations] encourages a bandit to say to his victim, ‘Don’t worry, mister. You’ll get it back from the state.’”
Our Founders believed that the revealed law was supreme. But they also believed that when new law had to be enacted, it could not violate the revealed law. But who was to decide? Most nations throughout time have been subject to the whims of despots, kings, or emperors. How can citizens be protected from these whims? Where does the source of sovereignty lie? It lies within the people.
The next principle to be discussed is our Founders’ belief in the sovereignty of the people.
For greater information on this and other founding principles, please see The Five Thousand Year Leap by W. Cleon Skousen.