our struggle with England.nThe validity of some of the facts alleged in the Declaration isndoubtful, though it does contain some timeless philosophicalntruths—truths that touch constitutional interpretation. One isnthe notion that whatever rights we have in a temporal governmentnmust ultimately be viewed as the gift of “Nature’s God,”nWlio regards all men as equal in His sight: not equal in terms ofnabilities, entitlements to worldly goods, or accomplishments,nbut with a claim to be treated equally under the law. This notionnof equalih’ before the law, and nothing more grandiose, isnwhat was meant by the 14th Amendmenfs guarantee of “equalnprotection,” “due process,” and “privileges and immunities” tonall Americans. I’he Declaration should not be viewed, as somenhave urged, as a device for the easy removal of contract andnpropert)’ rights, or for redistribution of weakh to achieve equalitynof result.nhi its confirmation of equality before the Creator, the Declarationndid not exhaust the natural-law foundations of any legalnsystem—those that have been recognized since the time of Aristotlenand Cicero, on through Aquinas, and by Burke and thenFramers themselves. These include the guarantee that yournproperty will not be taken without just compensation, that youncannot be punished for an act that was not a crime when youncommitted it, and that you cannot be both judge and part}’ innyour own case. Some of these are now express constitutionalnguarantees, but Supreme Court Justice Salmon Chase believed—asndid Blackstone and Coke —that these limitationsnwere fundamental aspects of any government—monarchy, aristocracy,nor republic—that purported to be bound by the rule ofnlaw. Natural law is part of the foundation of our Constitution,nas of ever)’ legitimate constitution, but the words of the Declarationnhave no continuing legal or constitutional status.
January 1975April 21, 2022By The Archive