There is a lot of talk today about restricting free speech, implementing gun control or outright banning of guns, or attacking the free exercise of religion. They use terms like “safe spaces” and “speech codes,” promote things like “common sense gun control” and preach about the need to protect the children.
There’s one word you don’t hear anyone using, though — unalienable.
The most famous use of the word is in the Declaration of Independence:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
What does unalienable mean?
To understand what Thomas Jefferson and the other Founding Fathers meant it’s important to understand the philosophy of the man who inspired them — William Blackstone.
Blackstone was an English jurist, judge and Tory politician that lived from 1723 to 1780. He wrote Commentaries on the Laws of England. This played a big role in the development of the American legal system.
In 1765, Blackstone wrote:
For the principal aim of society is to protect individuals in the enjoyment of those absolute rights, which were vested in them by the immutable laws of nature; but which could not be preserved in peace without that mutual assistance and intercourse, which is gained by the institution of friendly and social communities. Hence it follows, that the first and primary end of human laws is to maintain and regulate these absolute rights of individuals. Such rights as are social and relative result from, and are posterior to, the formation of states and societies: so that to maintain and regulate these, is clearly a subsequent consideration. And therefore the principal view of human laws is, or ought always to be, to explain, protect, and enforce such rights as are absolute, which in themselves are few and simple; and, then, such rights as are relative, which arising from a variety of connexions, will be far more numerous and more complicated.
And these may be reduced to three principal or primary articles; the right of personal security, the right of personal liberty; and the right of private property…
I. The right of personal security consists in a person’s legal and uninterrupted enjoyment of his life, his limbs, his body, his health, and his reputation.
II. Next to personal security, the law of England regards, asserts, and preserves the personal liberty of individuals. This personal liberty consists in the power of locomotion, of changing situation, or removing one’s person to whatsoever place one’s own inclination may direct; without imprisonment or restraint, unless by due course of law.
III. The third absolute right, inherent in every Englishman, is that of property: which consists of the free use, enjoyment, and disposal of all his acquisitions, without any control or diminution, save only by the laws of the land.
So great moreover is the regard of the law for private property, that it will not authorize the least violation of it; no, not even for the general good of the whole community.
First, it must be emphasized again that rights do not come from government. They come from our Creator, whether you believe that to be God, Allah or the Flying Spaghetti Monster. And since the government doesn’t bestow them or grant them, they cannot take them away.
They can, and do, violate them, however.
For example, civil asset forfeiture is a massive violation of the absolute right to property. So is eminent domain.
This is an important distinction.
Read this next part carefully and internalize it. Some make the case that repealing the Second Amendment would essentially revoke our right to bear arms. It wouldn’t because the right of personal security is a natural, unalienable right. Repealing the Second Amendment wouldn’t even grant the government the power to ban firearms, as the Constitution doesn’t give the federal government any such power. They would have to pass another amendment giving them that power.
But even then, they wouldn’t be doing anything other than violating our rights, not revoking them. They can’t because the government doesn’t grant them. Think about that.
Many Americans don’t understand this concept anymore. Perhaps it’s the removal of civics from the government school system or perhaps it’s something they learned and have since forgotten, but when you hear people calling for “muscle” to force a person to leave a public space, it’s clear they don’t understand natural rights.
But the Founders did. They gave us a Constitution that limited government and protected those rights. We have to protect our Constitution, agreed?