Monday, March 31, 2014

Cicero on Natural Rights

Natural rights did not originate with the Founders, or with the Enlightenment for that matter. Both were highly influenced by Marcus Tullius Cicero (106 BC–46 BC).  Cicero was the philosophic father of natural rights.

"True law is right reason in agreement with nature; it is of universal application, unchanging and everlasting; it summons to duty by its commands, and averts from wrong-doing by its prohibitions. … We cannot be freed from its obligations by senate or people, and we need not look outside ourselves for an expounder or interpreter of it. And there will not be different laws at Rome and at Athens, or different laws now and in the future, but one eternal and unchangeable law will be valid for all nations and all times.
"The most foolish notion of all is the belief that everything is just which is found in the customs or laws of nations.
"But if the principles of Justice were founded on the decrees of peoples, the edicts of princes, or the decision of judges, then Justice would sanction robbery and adultery and forgery of wills, in case these acts were approved by the votes or decrees of the populace. But if so great a power belongs to the decision and decrees of fools that the laws of Nature can be changed by their votes, then why do they not ordain that what is bad and baneful shall be considered good and salutary? Or, if a law can make Justice injustice can it not also make good out of bad?”

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