Our Individual and National Duty of Self-Preservation

Natural rights are rights that flow to man from God through nature. Because these rights rest on God rather than government, America’s Founding Fathers described them as inalienable. And since they exist upon a divine foundation, the Founders argued that they were fixed and unchanging -- and warned that they were not to be infringed.  Moreover, because the source of natural rights was (and is) God himself, our Founders believed those rights carried more weight than they otherwise would, which meant each natural right was coupled with a corresponding duty.

Samuel Adams, one of the driving forces behind the American Revolution, made this point when he described “the duty of self-preservation … [as] the first law of nature.” In other words, the first lesson he drew from natural law was not only that we have an individual right to preserve our lives but a duty to do so as well. Like many of America’s Founding Fathers, Adams’ worldview had been framed by the writings of Enlightenment philosopher John Locke, who wrote that our lives were our chief property, and that those lives, being the gift of God, come to us joined with an intrinsic obligation to defend them.

Throughout this nation’s history, even those who have never read the works of Adams or Locke have intuitively understood the things about which they wrote. And this understanding has translated into everything from deadbolts on our front doors to concealed-carry guns on our persons and the emergence of "castle doctrine" legislation in states throughout the land.

What we must grasp is that from every individual right and duty a national equivalent can be extrapolated. Adams indicated as much when he wrote: “Government was instituted for the purposes of common defense.” And in Federalist 41, James Madison was even more specific when he wrote that “security against foreign danger is one of the primitive objects of civil society.”

To put it plainly, those to whom we entrust power in government -- the president, the Congress, and the Senate -- should use that power to defend our nation and the lives of our fellow citizens the way we use our individual powers to defend our own lives and the property we possess. And while there are many honorable ways by which our elected officials could do this, three clear examples would be the construction of fences on our borders, using missile defense shields to cover our shores, and supporting a dominant and ruthless military that is ready to respond to any threat at a moment’s notice.