Critics have pointed to the lack of agreement between the proponents as proof for the claim that the concept of natural rights is merely a political tool. This marked an essential departure from medieval pure law theories which gave precedence to obligations over rights. The concept of inalienable rights was criticized by Jeremy Bentham and Edmund Burke as groundless. Bentham and Burke claimed that rights arise from the actions of presidency, or evolve from tradition, and that neither of those can provide something inalienable. (See Bentham’s “Critique of the Doctrine of Inalienable, Natural Rights”, and Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France). Presaging the shift in thinking in the nineteenth century, Bentham famously dismissed the thought of pure rights as “nonsense on stilts”. By way of distinction to the views of Burke and Bentham, Patriot scholar and justice James Wilson criticized Burke’s view as “tyranny”.
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