In this essay, Lee Ward discusses the controversies within the natural law tradition in the years leading up to the American Revolution. Almost all political thinkers at the time were influenced by earlier theories of natural law, but they had developed these theories into distinct liberal and conservative strains, which led to very different views of the rights of the American colonies within the British Empire. William Blackstone represented the conservative school of thought, according to which Parliament’s power of legislation was virtually unlimited. On the other hand, American thinkers such as James Otis, Thomas Jefferson, and Thomas Paine represented a more liberal interpretation, according to which the colonies had the natural right to manage many of their own affairs. The earliest of these liberal thinkers did not go so far as to call for rebellion, and many maintained an admiration for Britain; over time, however, these arguments were gradually radicalized into the calls for American independence that led to the Revolutionary War. In the source readings associated with this section, you will be able to consider a variety of arguments on the subject of natural law and colonial self-government. As you read, try to determine how these thinkers relate to each other and to earlier ideas about natural law, and observe how the arguments for American independence emerge from the natural law tradition.