What Are the Natural Rights?

Thomas Jefferson identified three fundamental natural rights in the Declaration of Independence as “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” The natural rights of all human beings are based on his words in the United States Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal.” In other words, no one should be denied equal rights under the law on account of race, creed, color, sex or national origin.

Historians believe that Jefferson’s source of inspiration was John Locke, a philosopher whose theory was that all individuals possess certain “inalienable” natural rights, that is, rights that are God given and are, therefore, incapable of being surrendered or transferred. The government cannot take them away.

The U.S. Constitution does not contain the words “inalienable” or “natural rights”; however, the Bill of Rights, which contains the first 10 amendments to the Constitution, does list the basic rights of Americans. Such rights include freedom of religion, freedom to complain to the government, freedom to have an impartial jury, freedom of citizens to be informed of what crime they are being accused of and freedom to have a lawyer. The amendments allow for protection from having private property taken without just compensation and protection from unreasonable searches and seizures.