Thursday, July 7, 2011

Nathaniel Chipman, on Blackstone, 1793

I consider Vermont's Nathaniel Chipman, who was active in law during the formative years of the federal legal system under the Constitution, to be one of the most perspicacious of the writers who I have found on the topics of Natural Law and principles of government.  I think that this will eventually become clear to you, the readers, as I post more of his work at this site.  The following was written by him, discussing William Blackstone's definition of a law:

“If laws command or prohibit that, which is absolutely indifferent to the state, they deviate from the true spirit and principles of legislation in a free government. They are arbitrary. They agree not with the definition, which is a good one, of ‘commanding what is right, and prohibiting what is wrong.’ If they go farther, and command the violation, or forbid the performance of any moral duty, they become tyrannically unjust. In the former instance, instead of feeling an obligation, we feel ourselves insulted; in the latter we are filled with the utmost abhorrence of the laws. When the laws coincide with the principles above laid down, when they fully agree with the above definition, they are strictly binding on the consciences of men. They ought not to allow themselves an alternative.”

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