“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”
The history of America is littered with government documents which pledge allegiance to the Monarchy of England. The oldest of these, the Mayflower Compact, argues: “Do by these Presents, solemnly and mutually, in the Presence of God and one another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil Body Politick, for our better Ordering and Preservation, and Furtherance of the Ends aforesaid: And by Virtue hereof do enact, constitute, and frame, such just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions, and Officers, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general Good of the Colony; unto which we promise all due Submission and Obedience.” This argument lays down that the colonies have the authority, in the absence of the British parliament and King, to create laws and the various other legal documents for their protection and security.
The Declaration of Independence, a trans-colonial document, asserts from the outset that unlike previous colonial documents such as the Mayflower Compact, the Declaration is not being presented to maintain peace and security in the absence of the British government. Rather, the colonies for the first time are taking leave of their British government and setting out on their own to govern themselves. Furthermore, they are announcing that not only are they setting out on their own but that they have the right under the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God.
The assertion of the Laws of Nature is a slow process that has taken thousands of years since the ancient Greek philosophers announced Natural Right. In his Nicomachaean Ethics, Aristotle argues for two types of justice: that which is just everywhere, and that which is just only in the city. Furthermore, there are two specific types of justice: legal and ancestral. The latter is just or unjust based on how the ancestors viewed it while the other is just or unjust based on the positive law of the day. This was altered centuries later by St. Thomas Aquinas who introduced the Natural Law. The Natural Law is that law which is inscribed on the hearts of all mankind; it is the Divine Law. The first knowable law is Self Preservation, which argues that you have not only a right but an obligation to protect your life. By the time of the Enlightenment and modernity the Natural Law had become the Law of Nature; a law which can be derived through reason and logic based on observations of nature. Once again, the first knowable Law of Nature is Self Preservation.
By invoking the Law of Nature, Thomas Jefferson and the colonies are invoking the belief that a state is obligated and permitted to separate from a parent for the first sake of Self Preservation. In fact, the charges made against Parliament and the King strike at the heart of Self Preservation. Furthermore, the Law of Nature dictates that when the child has matured they are to split off from their parent, such as the Bible says. In this instance, it is only right for the colonies to split from Mother England to govern themselves.