by Diarmuid F. O’Scannlain
The Heritage Foundation
February 03, 2014
Heritage Lecture
As a natural law thinker, Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story believed that human nature is inherent and unchangeable. Story wrote that God fixed the laws of mankind’s being, and thus it is “altogether unchangeable in its first principles.” But whereas Story’s philosophy appeals to truths that transcend the individual, the modern Supreme Court makes the individual the sole arbiter of what is true. Story would have disagreed with this relativistic assumption because it is precisely man’s fixed nature that makes the natural law universally applicable, as our own Declaration of Independence makes clear. From Story’s perspective, the Court’s recent jurisprudence is at war with itself: It purports to protect universal principles of justice, yet its assumptions undercut the very idea of universal principles.

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