Some time ago I was watching the film The Magnificent Yankee (1950), a film about Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes. Early in the film, Holmes is introduced to the first of his law-school graduate secretaries played by Jimmy Lydon, best known for his role as Henry Aldrich in the film series of the same name.
To butter up Mr. Holmes, he starts spouting off some of the Justice’s legal views, one of which was how the law must change with the times.
The question always is, on what basis is something a law that needs to be obeyed?
We cannot live within the fluid boundaries of legal relativism. There must be a definitive and final legal standard of appeal to justify moral decisions at the personal and governmental levels. If not, then one judge’s opinion is as good (or as bad) as another. And that’s the way it’s become. While the Constitution states that it is “the law of the land,” there is very little law in it. It doesn’t say anything about murder, theft, or rape. It assumes an existing body of fixed law that many have described as Natural Law or the Law of Nature, as the Declaration of Independence puts it. Holmes rejected Natural Law. He believed “that men make their own laws; that these laws do not flow from some mysterious omnipresence in the sky, and that judges are not independent mouthpieces of the infinite… claiming that morality is human in its origin.”1
What is the origin or morality in a species that evolved from unaccounted for matter-only cosmos? How can the process of evolution bring about morality and justify it? It’s no wonder that the biography of Holmes and his family is titled The Yankee From Olympus. The judges determine what’s moral. “Let it be written; let it be done.”
The Law of Nature was always enlightened by revealed law as William Blackstone made clear. We’ve done away with such a notion. God has been kicked out of His own creation. Mere created entities have assumed the role of gods.
The following is a sample of what some of our nation’s prominent leaders thought of the moral foundation of law in the United States…