61 U. Cin. L. Rev. 1 (1992-1993)
Foreword: Natural Law, Natural Rights

handle is hein.journals/ucinlr61 and id is 11 raw text is: UNIVERSITY OF
CINCINNATI LAW REVIEW
PUBLISHED QUARTERLY BY THE BOARD OF EDITORS
VOLUME 61                       1992                            No. 1

FOREWORD: NATURAL LAW, NATURAL RIGHTS
Walter Berns*
The world has never had a good definition of the word 'lib-
erty,'  said Abraham Lincoln, and the American people, just now,
are much in need of one. That was said in 1864. Judging from the
controversy provoked by Justice Clarence Thomas's appointment to
the Supreme Court, what the American people need just now is a
good definition (or a better understanding) of natural law and natu-
ral rights.
They are not likely to get it from Justice Thomas's critics. Profes-
sor Laurence Tribe, for example, Harvard's justice in waiting, op-
posed the appointment of Judge Robert Bork because of Judge
Bork's unwillingness to appeal to the natural law or natural
right when interpreting the Constitution; he then opposed Justice
Thomas because he threatened to do just that. But what that is,
or what it comprises, neither Mr. Tribe nor any of the other critics
has defined with any precision.
Americans previously were more competent on'this subject. All
eyes are open, or opening, to the rights of man, Thomas Jefferson
wrote on the eve of his death onJuly 4, 1826, and some 50 years ago
an American diplomat could still say that the natural and the divine
foundation of the rights of man is self-evident to all Americans:
but no longer, especially not in our law schools. There the profes-
sors talk much of rights, but not of their foundation in nature, or as
a gift from Nature's God. In fact, the very idea of nature as this is
understood in the Declaration of Independence-as the fixed stan-
* Walter Berns is John M. Olin University Professor at Georgetown University and
an adjunct scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. This is an edited version of an
article which appeared in the Washington Times on 9/9/91.

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