Thomas Jefferson: Government’s Role is Defense of God-Given Rights

TomJefferson AP

When declaring independence from King George III’s tyrannical rule, Thomas Jefferson wrote that men are born with God-given, “unalienable rights,” and the government’s duty is to protect those rights.

This no-doubt comes as news to Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT), Joe Manchin (D-WV), and the whole Democrat Party, almost every member of which is focused on using the expansive powers of government to chip away at God-given rights rather than protect them.

For example, on August 6, 2013, Breitbart News quoted Murphy saying, “The Second Amendment is not an absolute right, not a God-given right. It has always had conditions upon it like the First Amendment has.”

Murphy is wrong in at least three places: 1. Second Amendment rights are God-given. 2. They are “absolute” because they were given by Him who is absolute. 3. First Amendment rights are absolute as well (as they, like all unalienable rights, have their origin in God, not government).

As for the “absolute” nature of these rights, William Blackstone explained:

The absolute rights of man, considered as a free agent, endowed with discernment to know good from evil, and with power of choosing those measures which appear to him to be most desirable, are usually summed up in one general appellation, and denominated the natural liberty of mankind. This natural liberty consists properly in a power of acting as one thinks fit, without any restraint or control, unless by the law of nature: being a right inherent in us by birth, and one of the gifts of God to man at his creation, when he endued him with the faculty of free-will.

Note: “absolute rights” have limits but they are not limits put in place by government, rather, they are limits inherently present in “the law of nature” and evident in the order of nature. For example, my right to keep and bear arms is “absolute” but natural protections on it end if I use my guns–or try to use my guns–to take innocent life. Moreover, my right to life–one of the most fundamental of natural rights–ends if I use my Second Amendment rights to take the life of an innocent or am in the act of the trying to take that life.

Government gun control does not do this. In fact, gun control is not even necessary to it. Rather, nature teaches us these things and the laws of man reflect it in statutes against murder and attempted murder and by laws that shield law-abiding citizens who kill attackers in self-defense.

This all comes together in Jefferson, who wrote:

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.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

We are born with “certain unalienable rights.” The fact that they are “unalienable” means they cannot be separated from us; they are part of our humanity. And it is government’s duty to “secure these rights,” not to regulate or in anyway diminish them. Therefore, when the Second Amendment says, “The right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed,” we must understand that it is incumbent on government to shield that right from infringement.

AWR Hawkins is the Second Amendment columnist for Breitbart News and host of Bullets with AWR Hawkins, a Breitbart News podcast. He is also the political analyst for Armed American Radio. Follow him on Twitter: @AWRHawkins. Reach him directly at


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