According to ancient history, natural rights took root in Greek Philosophy, when the Roman philosopher Cicero alluded to them. Afterwards, it was also referred to in the Bible, and its popularity kept on growing further when in the Middle Ages, Catholic philosopher Albert the Great and his student Thomas Aquinas developed the theory. With the Age of Enlightenment, came the objections and challenges that the whole idea of natural laws presented before the divine rights of kings. Thus they became a substitutive justification for the foundation of a social contract, positive law, and government. Consequently, this led to the formation of legal rights, in a show of classical republicanism. Contrarily, the entire natural rights concept is also used by most people to challenge the authenticity of such institutions.
But what does natural rights mean exactly? The notion of human rights is also correlated to the concept of natural rights. Some experts think of both as the same, while others like to split them in order to remove any association that some human rights features might have with natural rights. It is difficult to dismiss natural rights, since they are usually thought to be past the power of any government or international organization. In 1948 the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights came into being and became a critical legal tool preserving one perception of natural rights into international soft law. Commonly, natural rights were considered to be negative rights, while human rights in comparison were positive. Despite any underlying similarity between the two, natural rights and human rights cannot exactly be synonymous.
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Brief History Of Natural Rights In The United States
Natural rights are those that are believed are significant for all people and creatures to have (natural law.) These rights are frequently seen as those that can never be removed. The idea of what natural rights are, has kept on changing from the beginning of time. For over a year, the Americans had sent petitions to England declaring their complaints against the British government. Colonists even engaged the British public, begging them to choose various individuals for the Parliament, who might be more open to reach a middle ground. Yet, the British wouldn’t do this. The Americans thought that the English were by and large uncalled for. so they made the natural law and the declaration of independence. After the declaration was composed they made the U.S. and turned into a nation.
Although the theory of natural rights first came up a long while ago, it was more broadly examined by the English scholar John Locke in the 17th century. Locke said that the most significant natural rights are “Life, Liberty, and Property”. Moreover, building upon Locke’s ideology, “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” were first documented as natural rights in the American Declaration of Independence and they were instituted by Thomas Jefferson. The three are viewed as natural since they are not bound to human laws but are profoundly linked to the motivation behind human presence. They are seen as natural, since nobody ought to be repealed from them. Governments can set up numerous guidelines and laws, however none of them ought to negate these essential rights.
In some situations, these natural rights are not clearly mentioned or explained in a country’s constitutional document. However, they still play a huge role as the fundamental principles behind them. The founders of these natural rights are famous philosophers like Martin Luther, John Locke, Thomas Hobbes and Thomas Paine. They formed crucial philosophical perspectives regarding these natural rights and their importance in society.
Natural Rights Definition
As per its definition, natural rights are basic human rights founded upon universal natural law, contrary to any rights founded upon man-made positive law. Despite there being no consensus as to which right is natural and which is not, the most common ideology is that nature grants every human (regardless of time or space, and without any discrimination concerning age, gender, nationality, or race) with certain inherent rights such as “life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness”. These rights cannot be revoked or hampered by any government, and whether or not they are preserved in a national legal code, no government remains legitimate if it is not successful in advocating them.
Natural Rights Theory
The initial segment of natural rights theory contains basic rights which are acquired from the law of nature and embody things such as life, freedom and property. The theory commands that the most elevated need be given to individual self-conservation and all that is important to bring about the protection of that person. Nevertheless, Locke does not just support this narcissistic notion of self-preservation, but additionally emphasized upon the need to think about others as our equivalent. He recognizes obligations and freedoms. According to Paul Kelly, freedom is the ability to do or procure something without any previous obligation. The option to get property is a freedom. That is in the event that we don’t take anything that was claimed by another person. We cannot steal, but rather, we have to approach the proprietor for authorization to sell his property. Likewise, securing a property is an obligation. This is on the basis of the fact that property confines the freedom of others and forces obligations upon them. Children acquire natural rights as they grow. There are certain obligations like preserving ourselves as well as others. However, safeguarding others does not mean assisting them to survive.
The second aspect of the theory of natural rights contains special rights. These include non-consensual and consensual special rights. According to Paul Kelly, non-consensual special rights, as the name proposes, do not need the consent between two people. Thus the primary distinction is consent. For example, the connection between a parent and a kid. In any case, Locke unmistakably expresses that not every person can practice non-consensual rights. An individual who is not a parent can clearly not practice these special rights. The relationship isn’t chosen and hence consent is not vital. The option to gain property and the option to rebuff are extra instances of non-consensual rights. Consensual special rights, then again, are rights which depend on consent. As it were, it is an agreement with others where power or authority, such as political rights, are handed over to someone else. For instance, consensual rights exist as a feature of an understanding between two people with whom those rights exist.
Locke legitimizes his teaching of limited government by furthering the idea that a controlled government is the most ideal approach to ensure that rights are being protected. For instance, the privilege to property is one of the characteristic rights and subsequently pre-political. Thus, the government cannot abuse this right. There are particular significant rights that the administration cannot encroach. Despite the fact that Locke remains somewhat nonpartisan on the topic of what type of government is proper, he focuses on the theory that a limited government is handed over by consent and confined by subjection of intensity. The privilege to revolt is another significant component and is a defense for a limited government. According to Steven Smith, the point when governments become restrictive or when they start damaging natural rights, is when individuals reserve a right to revolt against them.
Natural Rights Example
As an example, let us take a look at when the Soviet Union was dissolved and new countries came into existence. In order for them to be considered as legitimate countries, they had to implement basic laws into their constitution which played a huge role in controlling and readjusting the society. Moreover, for this regulation to become effective, the fundamental constitutional laws needed to have natural laws as their foundation. It was ensured that the spirit of the natural laws was safeguarded in any federal or legal matter.
Social Contract Theory
We have already discussed before that natural rights have been around since quite a long time, and were developed and gained popularity with the help of the philosophers during the Age of Enlightenment. These natural laws have been crucial to the modern civil society and its republican government. Natural rights came into being as part of the social contract theory. This theory focused on the questions concerning where our society originated from, and those concerning the authenticity of the power that the state had over an individual. Locke, Jefferson, and many others believed that the main objective of the government is to safeguard the citizens’ natural rights with the help of a social contract since many historical events highlight the infringement of natural rights by both, the government and the people. A social contract is a contained agreement among the members of a society to cooperate for social benefits. The social contract theory argues that individuals have consented, either clearly or quietly, to give up some of their freedoms and privileges, and submit to the power of the one in authority, in exchange that the rest of their rights are safeguarded. Therefore, the association between natural and legal rights, is often an element of the social contract theory.
Locke’s theory of natural rights consists of basic and special rights, along with certain obligations and freedoms. Some rights are natural and pre-political while others are not. Locke accepts that a dictatorial government isn’t probably going to ensure natural rights, and in this manner sets up a line of argumentation to help his precept of limited government with rule by law, and division of power. The individuals likewise reserve the option to revolt, if the government does not respect their natural rights. Rather than an authoritarian or supreme government, Locke’s limited government can be considered responsible for its activity.
Furthermore, looking at The Declaration of Independence, where the U.S. natural laws are stated, it has no legitimate authority and does not comprise the basic law of the United States as compared to the Constitution or the Bill of Rights. However, its words have reverberated as the principles and standards of the United States. The 19th century activists asked Americans to live up to the principles of equality and abolish slavery. In the 20th century, the civil rights movement forced America to respect the commitment made in the declaration. Thu, the document still holds value today and speaks as boldly about our rights as U.S. citizens, as it did in 1776.