Natural Law Theory, Positivism, And The Fugitive Slave Law

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Since the spoken word, hundreds of philosophers have defined law in different ways. Philosophy allows people to study the nature of people’s beliefs which can differ over time. Not even the law is exempt from the opinions of philosophers. Seeing law in different ways allows people to come to different conclusions about legal cases. The Fugitive Slave Law was a controversial law in American history, which allowed slave-owners to capture their slaves who have fled north to free states. Once, jurors tried a group of emancipators in Boston for helping an escaped slave flee to Canada. These emancipators challenged the Fugitive Slave Law in United States v Morris. According to the Fugitive Slave Law, helping an escaped slave is in violation…show more content…
If a law is not moral, thus it is not a law. Aquinas thinks this for there must be a moral reason to follow a law. Thus, if a law does not have any moral reason for a person to follow the law, the law is unjust. According to Aquinas, a sanction (a punishment) would not be a good enough reason to follow an unjust law. The Fugitive Slave Law goes against the laws of nature. Humans have their own free will and the law of nature never permits one human to claim another human. People are not property and have their own free will. Obviously, morality says people are not possessions. One cannot approach a person and say, “I own you.” It is not morally justifiable. To Aquinas the Fugitive Slave Law is not a real law for the sake that the law does not follow morality. At the time of the Fugitive Slave Law, people knew slavery was wrong; so, the jurors in Morris did conduct appropriately. As stated before, natural law theory states a law requires morality. The jurors let the emancipators free since the Fugitive Slave Law was against morality and natural law. The jurors did the morally suitable thing through the lens of natural law theory since they were doing what morality said.
 Positivism, another attempt to answer what the law is, leads to a similar outcome as the Natural Law theory which was that the jurors in Morris did the right thing. John Austin discusses positivism in his book “The Province of Jurisprudence Determined.” First, Austin defines

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