Inalienable Rights, American Slavery, And More – On Foundations Of Freedom: Where does the Bible say that we have inalienable rights? Why did Jefferson use the words “pursuit of happiness”? What does God want punished…or protected? Why did the some of the Founders have slaves, while the Pilgrims didn’t? Did Jefferson really fight to end slavery? Tune in to learn the interesting answers to these questions and more!

Air Date: 05/19/2022

On-air Personalities: David Barton, Rick Green, and Tim Barton


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Transcription note:  As a courtesy for our listeners’ enjoyment, we are providing a transcription of this podcast. Transcription will be released shortly. However, as this is transcribed from a live talk show, words and sentence structure were not altered to fit grammatical, written norms in order to preserve the integrity of the actual dialogue between the speakers. Additionally, names may be misspelled or we might use an asterisk to indicate a missing word because of the difficulty in understanding the speaker at times. We apologize in advance.

Faith and the Culture


You found your way to the intersection of faith and the culture. Thanks for joining us today on WallBuilders Live. It’s Foundations of Freedom Thursday. So we’re going to be getting to your questions in just a moment.

I want to welcome you to the program. This is the place where we take on all the hot topics of the day from a biblical, historical and constitutional perspective. My name is Rick Green. I’m a former Texas legislator and America’s Constitution coach. And I’m here with David Barton. He’s America’s premier historian and our founder here at WallBuilders, and Tim Burton, national speaker and pastor and president of WallBuilders.

Check us out at for more information. That’s also where you can make your one-time or monthly contribution. We appreciate all of you across the nation that come alongside us in that way and help us to amplify this voice of truth here at WallBuilders Live. Thanks for listening today. Thanks for being a part of this. It’s time to dive into those questions from our listeners out there.

Alright, David and Tim, it’s time to dive into those questions. The first one comes from Abraham Laughlin. And Abraham even has a [inaudible 01:02] So when I first saw that, I thought, wow, Lincoln is giving us a question from the dead, that’s pretty cool. Anyway, Abraham, thanks for sending this in. It’s about pushback. He says, “I’m getting some welcomed pushback in our biblical citizenship class. Where in scripture does it say we have inalienable rights? I know how I would answer but would love to hear your well-studied answer. God bless you and your work.”

Abraham, first of all, thanks for doing a biblical citizenship class and getting folks in your community to do the same. And of course, I’m glad they’re asking questions like that. That’s really, really a good thing. Guys, we’ve been begging people to dig deep, do the Jefferson thing, like he said, do his nephew question with boldness, even the existence of God. So getting people to be hungry so that they get solid in their apologetics is a healthy, healthy thing. So let’s dive into this one. Inalienable rights, first of all, what is that, and then how do we back that up with scripture?

Inalienable Rights


Yeah, inalienable rights, inalienable is a term that really is popularized by the Founding Fathers, it’s in the Declaration of Independence, etc. And a number of Founding Fathers defined that, they includes like John Dickinson, who want to signed the Constitution and Sam Adams and John Adams and James Wilson and so many others. And it really means it’s a rite that God gave to us simply because you’re alive and you’re a human. It belongs to every single person on the face of the earth.

Now, the trick becomes, do you have a government that will protect the rights that God gave you? And the answer in most cases is no. God gave you for example a right to share the gospel with others, even a mandate to do that. Don’t try doing that in France because it called proselytization and it’s illegal there.


By the way, you should try doing that in France.


Yeah, that’s right, you should try doing it. But you may face some civil problems if you do.


Yeah. One of the things that makes America Unique and this is kind of a digression, although a relevant one, is one of things that makes America unique is America is one of the few places where your God-given rights have been politically protected for basically the entirety of our nation’s history since we separate from Great Britain, where we recognize that God definitely is the one who gave rights. And you would have the same God given rights of the right to life or the freedom to speak or the right to self-defense and self-preservation.

Politically-Protected God-Given Rights

You would have those same rights as any nation in the world. It’s just that not every nation in the world recognizes those God-given rights. If they’re not politically protected, they’re not freely enjoyed. America is one of the very few nations anywhere in the world that’s ever politically protected those God-given rights.


And so in our Bill of Rights, we have some 18 or so inalienable rights are listed there. And by being in the Bill of Rights, it puts them off limits from government; government is not allowed to regulate those. Now, as Tim said, we’re like the only nation out there to do that or handful at best that actually do that. So if you look at inalienable rights, we would say there’s inalienable right to life, there’s an inalienable right to liberty, there’s an inalienable right to self-defense, to freedom of religion, to so many other things that we have in the Bill of Rights.


And also too, as you’re saying inalienable right and you mentioned so many Founding Fathers use that verbiage. This was also a part of what would even go back to in the Declaration when the Founding Fathers described the laws of nature and nature’s God, the inalienable rights are things that the Founding Fathers and really political philosophers, moral commentators for hundreds of years identified that God made the world to function and operate in certain ways. And God put inside of man, God put inside of His Word, inside of creation, some basic self-evident truths. And among those basic, self-evident truths were the fact that God gave people a right to life and liberty.

And actually, people like John Locke or other individuals was a property. Jefferson said the pursuit of happiness and there’s a lot of fun conversation about why he would use pursuit of happiness and not property and ultimately, it comes down to that was part of him wanting to go against some of the proslavery positions of some of the Founding Fathers from some of the deep southern states. And he wanted to clarify what we’re talking about when you John Locke says you have the God-given right to own property. That was like the idea of being able to be territorial, that God has given you a place and animals in nature they stake out this is their territory and they defend their territory.

Animals can be very territorial, that was the idea from John Locke is that every individual should be able to own his own place. It goes back to being the king of your own castle, which is part of castle doctrine that there’s a lot of details and layers with that. Nonetheless, this is what John Locke, other political philosophers and commentators identified. These are things revealed in both creation and in God’s Word, which where Blackstone is the one who really kind of originated for the Founding Fathers ideas where they learned it from would have been largely William Blackstone, the laws of nature and nature’s God.

This is part of the roots of this notion of inalienable rights, this is part of natural law. Natural law reveals that God has put in it in everyone this notion of self-preservation and self-protection, it’s an all of creation, where animals they will go into either a fight or flight mode. But the reason they have fight or flight is for self-preservation. And this is where the Founding Fathers then unfold and finally get the Second Amendment that part of self-preservation is the right to keep and bear arms.


Because if bad guys have guns and the best way to protect yourself, to have self-preservation against a bad guy with a gun or a tyrannical government with guns, is for you, in fact, then to be armed, the best way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a well-trained good guy with a gun. Again, part of that notion, but there’s a lot of roots going back to the natural law as well which is important for this conversation.


And so when you look at the Bible, you’re not going to find inalienable rights enumerated or listed or mentioned anywhere in the Bible. However, we know they exist. And we know this because we use our biblical reasoning. For example, the first ever civil law God gave is to Noah when Noah got off the boat in Genesis 9. And the first law says, alright, whoever sheds man’s blood by man will His blood be shed. And so essentially, what God says is, look, I don’t want you to take an innocent life. And if you do, you’re going to be punished for it.

Matter of fact, this is where capital punishment comes in the first time in the Bible is we don’t want this happening. And prior to that you did not have any kind of protection for life and that’s why the flood came and wiped everybody out. There should have been protection for life.

But people started murdering, Cain and Abel and etc and God says, wait a minute, let’s take a new start at this. And so when they get off the boat with Noah, he comes in with these laws and said, from here forward, this is where it’s going to be. And so the Bible does make it clear that you can’t murder, you can’t take somebody’s life, that’s the wrong thing to do.


And just to be clear because I know there’s probably some people listening going well, it wasn’t just murder that God destroyed the world. No, it was a total debauchery. It was a rejection of all basic biblical moral truth. And this is why it says in Genesis that God looked down and saw Noah, the most righteous of his generation. Noah was not a perfect person. He just was not as jacked up as everybody else in his generation.

Capitol Punishment

There was a complete embracing of sin and culture at the time. And among that sin, there certainly would have been murdered, there would have been raped, there would have been lots of things that violated some of God’s notions of right and wrong, and that’s why God wipes them and starts over.

But dad, to your point, one of the things that we know was very significant in this whole equation was the idea of the preservation of innocent life, which is why God gives this first command to, really there’s believe several moral commands given, but the first one you see that’s part of the origins of civil government is that if man sheds blood by man, his blood will be shattered; meaning if someone murders, then they need to stop that murder, take that person out of commission so they cannot continue to take people’s innocent lives away from them. This is very different than a justified war. It’s very different than self-defense.

And we’ve talked about on the program before, it might have been years ago. But the difference between killing and murder, there’s a difference between shedding innocent blood and shedding blood. King David in the Bible did not get in trouble for killing Goliath. He was a hero for killing Goliath. That was in the midst of a war.

That was also a level of self-defense. It was very different than when David murdered Uriah after having an affair with his wife, Bathsheba. That’s a very different scenario. David got in a lot of trouble. And this is one of the many major moments of flesh and weakness and sin and evil in David’s life that we see outlined in Scripture.

Nonetheless, you see a distinction between killing and murder even outlined in the Bible. All that again to say this is definitely something that it’s very easy to look at scripture and come to obvious conclusion that if God wants us to punish the people that are taking away someone’s life and specifically shedding innocent blood in the scenario, well, God is trying to preserve innocent life. Why? We know in Psalm 139 that God actually formed and knit every single individual together and there’s mother’s womb. In Jeremiah 1:5, before we were even formed, He knew us.

What God Wants to Preserve

There’s a lot of details In the Bible about God creating us in his image in male and female and God is wanting to preserve that life, which is where we come up with part of this notion of the inalienable right to life that comes from God confirmed and revealed in Scripture.


And as Tim mentioned, self-defense is one of those. I mean, that’s the real clear. Way back in Exodus 22, if you kill someone who is attempting to rob your house, or harm you or come in in the middle of the night to do damage, there’s no problem. That’s not innocent blood. And the same way we see couple passages in Nehemiah. We see one in Luke. All this about self-defense was good. Bible doesn’t say self-defense is inalienable right. But the Bible does say you have the right to defend yourself without getting in trouble, at least from God’s perspective.

The same when it comes to liberty. You look at liberty as inalienable right. And where’s that in the Bible? Well, now remember, Jesus said his commission quoting out of Isaiah, and then he said it in Luke 4, he said, I’ve come to set at liberty to captives. That’s why I’ve come. And here’s one of the best verses I think in the Bible on the role of civil government is in 1 Timothy 1 verses 8-12.

And here’s what it says it says, we know that the law is good if one uses it properly. We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for law breakers and rebels. And by the way, I wish the federal government would get that memo because they keep making laws to regulate all the good guys, not the bad guys.

So the Bible says the law is made not for the righteous but for the law breakers and rebels. And here’s what it list: the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, now listen to the list; for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine.

So this is where perjury, that’s one of our civil offenses. But notice that it said, the law is made to punish slave traders. Jesus says, I’m coming to give liberty. I’m come to sit at liberty the captive. So that’s the inalienable right to liberty. That’s what Jesus came to do, is restore us to that. And if you’re a slave trader involved in that, the Bible says that’s why laws exist.

Where Did They Come From?

And so you can take what we call the inalienable rights and you can pretty much go to the Bible and find where the Bible says that needs to be defended, that needs to be protected, those who violate that need to be punished. And it’s from that reasoning that we say this is what’s an inalienable right. And that’s what the Founding Fathers and as Tim mentioned, Blackstone, and Locke and Montesquieu, and all these others talking about natural rights and inalienable rights.

That’s where this comes from, is the concept that when you look at the Bible and see what God wants to punish, you know what he wants to protect and He wants to protect the right to life, He wants to protect the right of religious freedom. I mean, there’s more than 30 verses in the New Testament alone that talk about the right of religious conscience and how it’s got to be protected for what the First Amendment does.

So all these areas the Founding Fathers were protecting what were God-given rights that are given to every single individual in the Bible. The Bible wasn’t written for Americans, it was written for the whole world, all the nations of the world and all generations. And this is what God wants to protect. And that’s why we call them inalienable rights.

And America has really done a good job across our history of trying to protect these rights. We don’t get it right all the time. But we at least have the standard we keep coming back to when we get off track. And that’s really important.


Yeah, David, I liked what you said that I mean its biblical principles are for the whole world. America just happened to really harness those principles and sow those principles into the community better than anybody else ever had. And so we got the wonderful results of that. But hopefully, we’ll export that around the world and others will enjoy the same. Quick break, guys, we’ll be back with more questions in just a moment. Stay with us, you’re listening to help WallBuilders Live.


Hey, guys, this is Tim Barton, I am interrupting the normal broadcast to bring you something pretty special. This summer, we are doing a special program for college aged students 18-25 year olds. And it’s something that is becoming more and more special based on where the climate is.

In the middle of a crazy culture, in the middle of a nation going in crazy directions and right now we’re seeing in academia where even Christian universities are promoting critical race theory, teaching the 1619 project, we want to do something to help equip young people the next generation, to know the truth, the truth of the Word of God, the truth of America, the truth of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the free market, we want to get into a lot of this.

And this is something that if you are an 18-25 year old, or if you are a parent or grandparent, if you have an 18 or 25 year old, if you’re in church, you know 18-25 year olds, this program is something that can be life-changing for them, you want them to be a part. Go to and look for the summer institute to be part of this program.


Welcome back. Thanks for staying with us here on WallBuilders Live. It’s Foundations of Freedom Thursday and we’re diving into another question from the audience. If you’d like to be a part of that, just send one into us [email protected], [email protected]. It’s the email, Joseph one and here it is. “My understanding is that the founders who owned slaves didn’t free them until after the revolution because as English colonies, they were under English law and it was illegal to freedom. If that is the case, how did Plymouth get away with outlawing it from the beginning?”

Alright, David and Tim, question is about basically that timeframe before the revolution that you didn’t have slavery in Plymouth and other areas in New England. But yet, Joe’s heard about that in English colonies you couldn’t free your slaves because it was illegal.



Well, it’s very important to note 1620 is a long time before 1776. And actually, those are two very good eras to assess. But with 1776, it’s very true that there were many Founding Fathers who took antislavery positions, who were not able to end slavery in their states or in some cases free their slaves.

If you look at Virginia, for example, some of the laws, even after the American Revolution in Virginia identified that if you were in debt and you had slaves and you could not free your slaves until you had fulfilled and paid off all your debt because slaves can be collateral. And so there are examples like a Thomas Jefferson, it’s well known that Thomas Jefferson had lots of debt, which he actually got through marriage. When he married his wife, her family had a lot of debt. And so he took on that debt.

Thomas Jefferson – Actual History

And so even though he had done many things trying to end slavery in Virginia, now, this is well documented, unfortunately, not enough people have studied the actual history of Thomas Jefferson. They don’t know his actual antislavery positions. And today, people look at him and they’re like, man, this guy is such dichotomy and we don’t understand why would you have slaves and yet do antislavery things. Well, there’s a lot more to that story. And it wasn’t as simple as him choosing to keep slaves while promoting the ending of slavery in Virginia.

But to the point of the question, that was part of what happened in Virginia. However, one of the things that Jefferson said even in the original draft of the Declaration of Independence was that they had worked in their states many times to pass laws and the king kept vetoing those laws. Well, Virginia was one of the states that had worked on ending slavery in their state under Jefferson’s really kind of courage and leadership and some of those antislavery laws and the king had vetoed those laws.

In 1773, Benjamin Franklin wrote a letter to a pastor where he identified that in Pennsylvania, actually, the general sentiment of all American colonists, he said, especially those in Pennsylvania, is to see slavery ended. He said, in Pennsylvania, many of us have already individually freed our slaves, he said, and we’ve tried to pass antislavery laws and the king has struck those down. He says, in fact, even in Virginia, they’ve tried to pass many antislavery laws. He says, I have no doubt the one they’re working to pass right now, the king will strike that down too as he has all those before them.


So like even Franklin from Pennsylvania knew. In Virginia, they’ve tried to do this and the king keeps striking those down. Well, the guy leading the charge against slavery in Virginia, by and large, was Thomas Jefferson. This is where there’s a lot more to that story. Now, where this does change is it’s very clear in the 1700s, these are British colonies. Back up to Plymouth, when Plymouth is coming to America, they have been given permission by the king to come to the Jamestown colony.


And actually, it’s not just permission, he wants the heck out of Europe. They’re publishing stuff that ticks him off. And he essentially said, if you will leave and go to America, I’ll stop harassing you. And so it’s just get out of my country, get out of my face, get out of my jurisdictions, leave. And so I’m not sure he even expected them to live. I’m not sure he expected them survive over there. Because when they turn into a successful colony, he says, oh, by the way, on you guys, and I’m sending you a governor. But it wasn’t that way at the beginning.


Well, and yeah, so let’s back up. Because the way the story unfolds was the Pilgrims in Plymouth, the Pilgrims had a permission slip; their charter was to go to the Jamestown colony essentially, whether it was to go to Virginia. And if you remember the story of the Pilgrims, there were two ships, it was the Mayflower and the Speedwell. And the Speedwell is oh, it’s not going to work and the Mayflower finally comes, and the main beam breaks and all this crazy stuff happens.

When they get closer to the coast, there’s these massive storms that are blowing them north and they’re trying to get to Virginia. And they can’t get to Virginia because of the storms. And we would say this is very providential. But they get blown north and this is where they realize we’re going to go into a land and the land doesn’t have a government. This is what led them to write the Mayflower Compact. And it was a charter. And so when the pilgrims are now in the New England area of this new world, they are an independent kind of autonomous zone, so to speak.

Jamestown or Plymouth

And dad, to your point when you said that it was only after the fact that king ends up sending them a governor, this was a bit after the fact that they’ve been there for a while. And when you look at the development of the New England colonies, whether it be the development from Rhode Island or Connecticut or Pennsylvania, as these colonies unfold and develop, certainly, the king wanted to have control over their colonies. He did appoint leaders and governors over them over time. But initially, they were very autonomous in the way they operated, which is why early on they were able to do things very different.

Now, it’s also worth noting, when we talk about slavery in general chattel slavery wasn’t a thing in the Jamestown or Plymouth era. That wasn’t something that was allowed under the common law. So even though England was part of the slave trade on some level, chattel slavery still violated the common law. So it wasn’t allowed in the newer colonies in America of Jamestown and Plymouth.


And by the way, chattel slavery means just owning someone because you can because of their color, because of whatever. They had what they called slavery like 20 years of slavery on a rock pile for crimes. And so that was also called slavery. But chattel slavery is simply owning an individual because you can or because you want to.


So, and dad, to further illustrate your point, there were three kinds of slavery that were identified at that time. There was a slavery if a people group attacked another people group, and obviously, there’s two groups fighting, one group is going to win. And at the end, even for the pilgrims, they said if it’s justified warfare, and somebody attacks us and we defend ourselves, and they leave two or three people behind, those people can become our slaves, our servants because it was a justified war. They attacked us, we defended ourselves, and kind of the idea to the victor go the spoils. But it was justified wars.

The 1600s

This wasn’t a war we started. But this was the 1600s. And that was much of the way the world operated at that time, actually, it was pretty much all the way the world operate at that time. So they recognized slavery in justified warfare. They recognized slavery as punishment for a crime for a specified period of years. And they actually came out and they criminalized.

In 1641, they criminalized chattel slavery because the North Atlantic slave trade was already happening at that point. And even in Jamestown, chattel slavery was not legal until 1653 where a court decision said that a person could legally own another person, not for punishment of a crime, not for being captured unjustified warfare, but just because that person should work for you for the rest of their lives…


Just for economic reasons.


That was 1653. So early on, the early colonies did not have chattel slavery. And this is where when you look at Plymouth and compared to the Pilgrims, well, how could the Pilgrims be antislavery and they were under the king and then the Americans? This is part of what led many Americans to begin opposing the king more and more and more and more.

And when you look at the Founding Fathers, go back and read Thomas Jefferson’s original draft of the Declaration of Independence, one of the grievances Thomas Jefferson wrote in that draft was they wanted to be able to end slavery or end the slave trade in the colonies and the king kept striking down their laws, blocking all of their legislative attempts.

The king was actually enslaving people and sending them to the new world and he was provoking those enslaved people to rise up against the Americans, etc, etc. Go back and read that original draft and it’s a long as grievance in the draft. It’s a full paragraph. It’s a large paragraph.

England’s Control

But the point is that the Founding Fathers, the vast majority of them embrace the philosophy of the pilgrims, where they identified chattel slavery is wrong and we should not be doing it. The reason the Pilgrims were able to get away with it for so long is because they were much more autonomous in how they operated that.

As you mentioned, they eventually did get a royal appointed governor. But that wasn’t until much later in the 1600s, that they had a king appointed governor who started changing their laws to be more reflective of the position of England.

And even England, in the early 1600s, England was not the same kind of chattel slavery promoters that they became in the 1700s going forward. So laws of England changed, the appointed governors changed. And that’s why Plymouth looks very different.

But if you look at the Plymouth area, if you looked at Massachusetts in the 1700s, they absolutely under British rule, they did have slavery, they did have chattel slavery. And there were many Founding Fathers from Massachusetts who were against slavery their entire life like a Sam Adams, like a John Adams, recognizing that what was going on under the leadership of the king in that state was not right.


And I’d also point out it wasn’t after the revolution that we started freeing slaves. It was as soon as we declared our independence from Great Britain. Because when we declared our self-independent, state started writing independent constitutions and you have Massachusetts very first constitution says we’re having no slaves. Vermont did that in 1777. And then there’s a number of Founding Fathers that once they declared independence, they freed slaves like William Whipple. There are lots of examples of slaves being freed during the war. So it was once we got free from Great Britain.


And really even, and I know we’re out of time, but there were Founding Fathers in front of some of the northern colonies who were even freeing their slaves before the revolution like a Benjamin Franklin, like a Benjamin Rush. So there were people even before the revolution, Founding Fathers, who were already coming to the realization of the problems of slavery and chattel slavery specifically. So there’s a lot more to the story.

We have a book called The American Story that documents and details some of these specific accounts and gives a little more context of Plymouth and of the Founding Fathers to give greater detail. So that book is available at or Amazon or wherever you get your books. But The American Story will have much more details to help clarify some of this question.

Inalienable Rights, American Slavery, And More – On Foundations Of Freedom


Alright, friends, out of time for today. Thanks for Joining us for Foundations of Freedom Thursday. We’ll have more of your questions next Thursday and dive into some of those foundational principles.

In the meantime, be sure we earlier in the week talked about this, be sure to check out these youth programs that are happening this summer, the Summer Institute with WallBuilders happens at The American Journey Experience, amazing opportunity for young people ,18-25 to spend a week with David and Tim and Glenn Beck and all these other folks and get to actually dive into the vault and all the amazing artifacts that are there. It really brings it to life. And it submits the worldview. And it allows you to really be confident in defending the principles of liberty.

So check that out today at and then be sure and check out for 16-25 year olds. Our regional academies are still open this summer all across the nation: Idaho, Arizona, Florida, Delaware, Colorado. Colorado one is happening fast. If you’d like to attend one of those and as I mentioned yesterday, we have some scholarships available, $100 scholarship to the first 10 people that email today, [email protected].

You still got to do your application at But if you email Abigail and you’re accepted under your application, then you’ll get a $100 scholarship as a WallBuilders Live listener. That’ll happen for the first 10. So check that out today, Thanks for listening to WallBuilders Live.