American Constitutionalism

 Natural Law, Natural Rights, and American Constitutionalism

“Constitutionalism is descriptive of a complicated concept, deeply embedded in historical experience, which subjects the officials who exercise governmental powers to the limitations of a higher law. Constitutionalism proclaims the desirability of the rule of law as opposed to rule by the arbitrary judgment or mere fiat of public officials … Throughout the literature dealing with modern public law and the foundations of statecraft the central element of the concept of constitutionalism is that in political society government officials are not free to do anything they please in any manner they choose; they are bound to observe both the limitations on power and the procedures which are set out in the supreme, constitutional law of the community. It may therefore be said that the touchstone of constitutionalism is the concept of limited government under a higher law.”     

 David Fellman, Constitutionalism 

Classical and Medieval Sources of Natural Law 

Platonic Philosophy and Natural Law
Aristotle, Natural Law, and The Founders
Cicero and the Natural Law
Aquinas’s Theory of Natural Law
Late Medieval Transformations
The Protestant Reformers and Natural Law
Richard Hooker and Natural Law

Early Modern Roots of Natural Law

Hobbes: Natural Law to Natural Rights
Locke and the Natural Rights Tradition
Natural Law and the Law of the Nations
Montesquieu: Natural Law and Natural Right
Common Law and the Law of Reason
English Radical Whigs: Natural Law and Natural Rights

American Founding and Constitutionalism 

Colonial Roots of American Constitutionalism
The Declaration of Independence
The Influence of the Scottish Enlightenment
Constitution-Making in the Founding Era
Modern Constitutionalism
The Bill of Rights and Natural Rights
Lincoln and the Natural Law Tradition
The Post-Civil War Amendments
Natural Law and the Supreme Court
American Civil Rights Movements

Contemporary Theories of Natural Law

New Natural Law Theory

Critics of the Natural Law Tradition 

Machiavelli, Guicciardini, and Reason of State
Enlightenment Critics of Natural Law
Social Darwinsim and Natural Law
American Progressivism
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
Natural Law and Legal Positivism

John Rawls