An article written by Jim DeMint, recently published by The Federalist, claims that “since its inception, America has been surrounded and protected by a unique set of ideas that created the strongest, most prosperous, most secure and compassionate land of opportunity that has ever existed.” Those ideas, which are to be explicitly found at the very beginning of the Declaration of Independence, were considered by America’s founders as “self-evident,” since they were directly, naturally, spontaneously and easily deduced from the “Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God” (from the first sentence of the Declaration of Independence).
“Generations of Americans,” DeMint goes on, “have been faithful to the belief that God imbued all people with unalienable rights, being the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness the main three on the list.” Moreover, governments are instituted among Men “to secure these rights” — the Declaration goes on to say — “deriving their just powers from the consent of the government.” That is, that rights are considered unalienable only because they are inherent to the natural order of life, as established by the laws of nature, which are in turn established by God. Taking such rights away would be, strictly speaking, contra natura, counternatural.
The idea of Natural Law, understood as an inherent order to the universe, able to provide governing principles easily, which would be almost spontaneously reachable by human reason alone, although with, maybe, a bit of effort (in spite of its self-evident character) is not at all an American invention. It was long accepted and developed by thinkers from Parmenides and Plato, through Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, to John Locke, and then inherited by Lafayette and Jefferson. And although all of these authors, as DeMint explains, might have interpreted the concept in several different ways, they would all agree on the fact that “Natural Law informed arguments of both faith and reason,” as related to truth, beauty, justice and right, implying that Natural Law is indeed “knowable without divine revelation,” even though it originates from God.
Jim DeMint’s article on the contemporary political abandonment of the idea of Natural Law, and its consequences as applied to our understanding of right and justice (that is, understanding rights as “arbitrary things granted by governments” rather that unalienable natural rights) can be read fully here.