Prof. Reine Bethany
Research Proposal: The Laws of Nature, or Natural Law, Result in Freedom for All in the United States
This paper proposes to examine the "Laws of Nature," or natural law, to which Thomas Jefferson refers
in paragraph 1 of the Declaration of Independence. These laws of Nature, which proceed from Nature's
Creator, guarantee that "all men are created equal." Natural law, as it was also called, was a concept
developed in Europe and especially in England and belief in natural law resulted in the parliamentary
government of the kingdom of England. American government is arranged in great part according to the
pattern set by Parliament. In examining the Laws of Nature, I will be referring to the Declaration of
Independence, the Declaration of Sentiments by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and the Letter from
Birmingham City Jail, by Martin Luther King, Jr., as well as my research sources.
The purpose of this proposal is to show an overview of my investigation of natural law. My aim is to
show with a brief history of natural law how the concept of natural law was brought to the North
American continent by the British colonists, was implemented in the government of the United States,
and was responsible for the eventual abolition of slavery. Natural law was also the basis for the
development of full rights for women, and the passage of the Civil Rights Acts that were passed into law
by the U.S. Congress during the 1960s.
Main Research Questions
1. What were the Laws of Nature referred to in paragraph 1 of the Declaration of Independence?
2. How were the Laws of Nature thought to relate to Nature's God, also referred to in paragraph 1 of the
3. What is the history of the concept of the Laws of Nature? (These first three questions show the
background behind the thinking of the American colonists, who asserted their right to separate from
Great Britain based on the rights guaranteed them by natural law.)
4. How did the concept of natural law influence the development of the United States Constitution? (This
question will especially examine how the belief in natural law resulted in the Bill of Rights.)
5. How did natural law appear in the defenses of women's rights, abolition, and civil rights during the
centuries following American independence from Britain? (This question examines the results of natural
law being the foundation of U.S. government.)
I anticipate finding out that the concept of natural law existed for centuries before the United States
My claims will be (1) that the United States was prepared by history to become a human rights
sanctuary, (2) that founding a constitution on natural law results in protection of basic human rights,
and (3) that the abolition of slavery, institution of full civil rights for women, and the U.S. laws against
every form of discrimination are all the result of founding the nation on natural law.
(1) I will gain on overview of natural law by reading encyclopedia articles about it.
(2) Using the training in the library research class, I will search NYIT’s library holdings electronically. I
hope to find books, journal articles, newspaper articles, and perhaps diaries by founding citizens such as
John Adams, his wife Abigail Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson. I will also look for video
(3) After discovering what is available through NYIT, I will talk to a librarian to help me access and
evaluate my potential sources.
(4) Possibly I will also use Google Scholar, other libraries, and websites like nytimes.com for more books,
articles, and visual media.
Armitage, David. The Declaration of Independence: A Global History. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University
Chan, Michael D. "Alexander Hamilton on Slavery." Review of Politics 66 (Spring 2004): 207–31.
Holton, Woody. Unruly Americans and the Origins of the Constitution. New York: Hill and Wang, 2007.
Myers, Peter C. Frederick Douglass: Race and the Rebirth of American Liberalism. Lawrence: University
Press of Kansas, 2008.
Davis, Sue. The Political Thought of Elizabeth Cady Stanton: Women's Rights and the American Political
Traditions. New York: New York University Press, 2008.
The United States of America has a strong human rights record because it is founded on rights
guaranteed by natural law. Understanding our heritage of natural law is important because these
freedoms can be taken away if we do not maintain the beliefs on which they are established. My paper
shows the importance of natural law to our nation by tracing its history up to the nation's founding and
through the centuries since.
Purchase answer to see full