LS 490 Unit 8 Assignment

Unit Eight Assignment


LS 490


Throughout the history of this nation, there has always been divide based on the grounds on race. With this divide, there are individuals who believe like George Wallace and then there are individuals who have beliefs like Martin Luther King Jr. The biggest reason for the differences in views between these two is the environment that they were raised in. For example, George Wallace was raised in Alabama and was taught that segregation was the right way, therefore this made him believe that his ideology was the only correct way to think (Wallenfeldt, 2019). One thing these men have in common is that both have produced speeches that are still examined to this day. Even though the content of each one was much different, they both had a lasting impact on this country. In this assignment, we will be discussing each speech, along with applying their words to philosophical theories and determining what category each fall under.


To understand these speeches, one must understand the backgrounds of each individual. Essentially, one was a proponent for keeping segregation legal and the other one fought day and night trying to gain equal rights as an African-American. And these speeches most certainly reflected these values. From the opening statement of Martin Luther King Jr’s speech, it is clearly established why he is there and what he is trying to accomplish. When applying the content of each to philosophical theories, a few questions must be answered in order to determine where they belong.

Positive or Natural Law

In the area of philosophy, there are two main categories that are used for classification. Positive law is defined as “laws made by man that require some specific action.” Where as natural law is defined as “principles that are universal in society, governing moral acts” (Positive Law, 2017) Basically, one who follows positive law only recognizes law set fourth by those who have the power to do so. On the other hand, a believer in natural law recognizes that we have unalienable rights as citizens of this country.

In terms of these speeches, there are several key statements in each that show which side they were on. To illustrate Wallace’s views, statements such as, “we intend…to practice the free heritage as bequeathed to us as sons of free father” showed that he leaned more towards the natural law side (Wallace, 1963). But, with his emphasis on his belief that the government should not allow legal segregation, showed that he was a bit of a hybrid, combining both ideas, like the philosopher Ronald Dworkin.

As for Martin Luther King Jr., it was clear in his speech that he was a follower of natural law. This is proven by such statements as, “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal” (King Jr., 1963) With this statement, it shows that his beliefs were that everyone is equal under the law of man, no matter their skin color. These thoughts were more aligned with the ideas of philosophers like Thomas Aquinas.

Subjects Duty

Under the guidelines of every philosophy, the subject plays a different role. For example, John Austin believed that subjects should obey the command of authority, with little limits to what constitutes a command (Murphy, 2007). Regarding Martin Luther King Jr’s speech, it was evident that he believed that people should follow law if it was fair law and should protest unfair law through peaceful means. Statements like “We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence” prove that. On the other side, it also appears that George Wallace shared similar views with respect to a subject’s duty, but with a much different agenda. From the content of his speech, with statements like “we give the word…that we will tolerate their boots in our face no longer” shows that he believed violence was the way to solve the issues present. These views of a subject’s duty would fall under the philosophy most related with that of Aquinas.

Common Good of Law

As we learned from week one of this course, a commonplace of law is that it is for the common good of the society (Murphy, 2007). When applying this to the speech given by Wallace, he shows that he believes that law should only benefit the common good of the white race. This is extremely clear in his words, “segregation now…segregation tomorrow…segregation forever.” Anything less than legal segregation would not be enough for him. In staunch contrast is the speech of King Jr., which conveys his idea that changes in the law should be for the betterment of society and prevent discrimination of individuals. This is apparent in such statements like, “no, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until “justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

Harm to Others

The principal of harm to others is the next idea that will be discussed. As a philosophical theory, this principal was essentially brought forth by John Stuart Mill and defined to be unless one is causing harm to another, then their actions should not lead to punishment. The entire tone of Wallace’s speech is that of anger and retribution for the wrong of allowing segregation to illegal. While he did not particularly call for the action of violence, his content, such as, “we can no longer hide our hands in the sand…telling ourselves…that our free fathers are being attacked” showed that if violence was needed, then it must be done. This kind of rhetoric fueled the fire that southerners had and could have led to violent acts against African-Americans

This speech was 180 degree different from that of King Jr. Through out his entire speech, his emphasis was on keeping the peace and enduring whatever they had to, in hopes things would change. The statement of “there will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights” showed that he would not quit championing for rights, but all while being peaceful and not infringing on other’s rights.


Depending on which philosophy one believes in, morality can be an item of importance. For instance, Hart believed that law was based on a set of primary and secondary rules, but morality was not to play a significant role in law. Through out Wallace’s speech, he referenced that God was the almighty and not the government, therefore it would safe to assume that he believed morality was divine, rather than being inspired by rules and regulations. One example was the statement of “we intend to renew our faith as God fearing men…not government fearing men.”

While King Jr. also referenced to God, his speech presented this figure as a more caring, gentle idol, by using this name while speaking of “His” children. In terms of morality, King Jr. had much more of an optimistic outlook. This is because he believed that through peaceful protest and endurance, eventually morality would win out, which would equate to African-Americans being given fundamental right. Ultimately, this perspective would be proven to work through such acts as the Civil Rights Act and the holding of Brown v. Board.


King Jr., L. M. (1963) I have a dream speech. Retrieved from

Murphy, C. M. (2007) Philosophy of Law: The Fundamentals. Retrieved from!/4/12/6@0:36.0

Positive Law, (2017) Retrieved from

Wallace, G. (1963) Inauguration Speech. Retrieved from

Wallenfeldt, J. (2019) George Wallace: American Politician. Retrieved from

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