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Updated: Aug 7, 2023


  • This blog includes the following content:

  1. 1. The downfall of the Natural Law Theory

  2. 2. The Association of Natural Law and English Law.

  3. 3. The Impact of the Natural Law Theory on the American Law.

  4. 4. The resurrection of the Natural Law Theory.

The downfall of the Natural Law Theory:

  • The Natural Law Theory marked its end in the 18th century due to the following reasons:

  • An individualistic notion of society brought forth a communal vision enabled by the growing wave of nationalism in the 18th century.

  • Practical ways gained importance over Derivable manners due to the evolution of Natural Science.

  • The 18th Century society required a Sociology viewpoint to govern society rather than a theoretical one.

  • Prominent thinkers of this period were:

  1. Montesquieu

  2. David Hume

  3. Bentham

  4. Austin


  • He didn't completely disregard the Natural Law Theory rather he adhered to bits and pieces of that theory which made sense to him.

  • According to him, man should be governed by the rules of the environment.

  • His perspective paved the way for an analogous study of law and government.

David Hume:

  • He was strictly against the postulates of the Natural Law theory because according to him the very basis of this theory, which is the rationale of humans is just a source of perplexity and can not be taken into account to form laws by which everyone has to be governed. Moreover, he emphasised that the Natural Law theory is not as perfect as the other thinkers believe it to be because there are still variations in ideologies and undeniable requirements for the Positive Law.

  • He believed that the law should be rigidly enforced on people and that these rules should be dynamic, so it keeps up with the ever-changing needs of humans.

  • He highlighted that contentions like ‘man is a selfish being’ and ‘man’s need of society is neverending’ are baseless. As the society of the 19th century was evolving, the demand for an empirical outlook was also rising, which the Natural Law Theory failed to provide.


  • He completely negated the Natural Law Theory. Furthermore, he strenuously criticised the Social Contract Theory.

  • According to him, there was no such concept of Natural Law Theory and Social Contract Theory, ever in fact and even if they were there then also they won't be binding upon the current society. For him, Natural Law Theory was just an utterance.


  • He didn't acknowledge the Natural Law Theory because he was a firm believer in Positive Law Theory and that State was sovereign.

  • According to him, the existence of rulers or absolute commanders and their source of authority was not a social contract, but the nature of man is to obey the leader.

The Association of the Natural Law School and English Law:

  • Following were the opinions of the prominent thinkers on the relationship between The Natural Law school and English Law:

  1. Coke CJ: He emphasised the superiority of common law over the acts of parliament.

  2. Prof. Holdsworth: According to him, the parliament and the law which emerged as superior in the 16th century never rebelled against it.

  3. Blackstone: He brought forth the notion of the supremacy of the law of nature which is the guiding force, universally applicable and also the foundation of all human laws, as it is given directly by divinity.

  4. Maitland: He highlighted the significant role of Natural Law in the concept of English Law.

  5. Lord Mansfield: He emphasised the inclusion of Natural Law in English Law by submitting the Doctrine of Unjust Enrichment.

  • All these Ideologies depict the relationship between Natural Law and English Law. The postulates of Natural Law are used in various ways and in many circumstances to clarify the enforcement of English Law.

  • For example, the Hon’ble High Court of England can regulate organizational deeds and quasi-judicial judgments by issuing a Writ of Prohibition or Ceritorari because they do not comply with Natural Law and Natural Justice.

  • The notion of ‘Reasonableness’ which was seen in many laws like Tort etc., is the by-product of Natural Law Theory.

The Impact of Natural Law Theory on the American Law:

  • Impact on the Constitution:

An individual’s undeniable freedoms/ Natural Freedoms have been comprised in the Constitution of America.

  • Impact on Decisions of the Hon'ble Supreme Court of America:

The case of Marbury v. James Madison resulted in a system whereby all the judgments of the Hon’ble Supreme Court of America got scrutinised based on its accordance with the Constitution.

  • ‘Due process of Law’ is imposed to protect the undeniable rights and liberties of individuals.

  • Rommen:

According to him, the Natural Law Theory in the US will ensure that Moral relativism and lawful positivism never sustain there.

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