The First Revolutionary and Anti Revolutionary Ideology Essay


Essay #1: Revolutionary and Anti-Revolutionary Ideology
The aim of this first paper is for you to read a group of primary sources and produce a piece of written work that demonstrates your understanding of those sources, and your analytical, explanatory, and writing abilities.

Jonathan Boucher, On Civil Liberty, Passive Obedience, and Nonresistance (1775)
Samuel Seabury, An Alarm to the Legislature of the Province in New-York (1775)
Thomas Paine, Common Sense (1776)
Thomas Jefferson, Declaration of Independence (1776)

The colonial crisis of the eighteenth century led to significant debates, in Britain and America, over the nature of authority, and the meaning of terms like liberty and equality. Supporters and opponents of the American Revolution often had very different definitions and understandings of these concepts.
Using the Week 5 documents listed above, write a short essay analyzing the contrasting attitudes to authority and government, and the differing ideas about liberty and equality, among the supporters and opponents of the American Revolution. How did those who supported the Revolution understand the relationship between government and the people, and how did this differ from the ideas of those who opposed the Revolution? How did each group define liberty, and what did they think of the idea of natural equality?
In constructing your paper, remember that this is not simply an exercise in summarizing. While some summary of each author’s argument may be necessary, you should move beyond summary in order to compare and contrast the ideas of each author. Do not simply quote the documents, and do not simply repeat what they say; explain their arguments in your own words, and compare them with one another in order to explain how the key ideas of Revolutionary supporters and opponents differed.

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Jonathan Boucher, On Civil Liberty, Passive Obedience, and
Nonresistance (1775)
I entreat your indulgence, whilst, without too nicely scrutinizing
the propriety of deducing from a text a doctrine which it clearly
does not suggest, I once more adopt a plan already chalked out for
me, and deliver to you what occurs to me as proper for a Christian
audience to attend to on the subject of Liberty…
Obedience to government is every man’s duty, because it is every
man’s interest; but it is particularly incumbent on Christians,
because (in addition to its moral fitness) it is enjoined by the
positive commands of God; and, therefore, when Christians are
disobedient to human ordinances, they are also disobedient to God.
If the form of government under which the good providence of
God has been pleased to place us be mild and free, it is our duty to
enjoy it with gratitude and with thankfulness and, in particular, to
be careful not to abuse it by licentiousness. If it be less indulgent
and less liberal than in reason it ought to be, still it is our duty not
to disturb and destroy the peace of the community by becoming
refractory and rebellious subjects and resisting the ordinances of
God. However humiliating such acquiescence may seem to men of
warm and eager minds, the wisdom of God in having made it our
duty is manifest…
If it were necessary to vindicate the Scriptures for this their total
unconcern about a principle which so many other writings seem to
regard as the first of all human considerations, it might be observed
that, avoiding the vague and declamatory manner of such writings,
and avoiding also the useless and impracticable subtleties of
metaphysical definitions, these Scriptures have better consulted the
great general interests of mankind, by summarily recommending
and enjoining a conscientious reverence for law whether human or
divine. To respect the laws is to respect liberty in the only rational
sense in which the term can be used, for liberty consists in a
subserviency to law. “Where there is no law,” says Mr. Locke,
“there is no freedom.” The mere man of nature (if such an one
there ever was) has no freedom: all his lifetime he is subject to
bondage. It is by being included within the pale of civil polity and
government that he takes his rank in society as a free man.
Hence it follows that we are free, or otherwise, as we are governed
by law, or by the mere arbitrary will, or wills, of any individual, or
any number of individuals. And liberty is not the setting at nought
and despising established laws — much less the making our own
wills the rule of our own actions, or the actions of others — and not
bearing (whilst yet we dictate to others) the being dictated to, even
by the laws of the land; but it is the being governed by law and by
law only…The more carefully well-devised restraints of law are
enacted, and the more rigorously they are executed in any country,
the greater degree of civil liberty does that country enjoy. To
pursue liberty, then, in a manner not warranted by law, whatever
the pretense may be, is clearly to be hostile to liberty; and those
persons who thus promise you liberty are themselves the servants
of corruption.
True liberty, then, is a liberty to do everything that is right, and the
being restrained from doing anything that is wrong. So far from
our having a right to do everything that we please, under a notion
of liberty, liberty itself is limited and confined — but limited and
confined only by laws which are at the same time both its
foundation and its support. It can, however, hardly be necessary to
inform you that ideas and notions respecting liberty, very different
from these, are daily suggested in the speeches and the writings of
the times; and also that some opinions on the subject of
government at large, which appear to me to be particularly loose
and dangerous, are advanced in the sermon now under
consideration; and that, therefore, you will acknowledge the
propriety of my bestowing some farther notice on them both.
This popular notion, that government was originally formed by the
consent or by a compact of the people, rests on, and is supported
by, another similar notion, not less popular, nor better founded.
This other notion is that the whole human race is born equal; and
that no man is naturally inferior, or, in any respect, subjected to
another; and that he can be made subject to another only by his
own consent. The position is equally ill-founded and false both in
its premises and conclusions. In hardly any sense that can be
imagined is the position strictly true; but, as applied to the case
under consideration, it is demonstrably not true. Man differs from
man in everything that can be supposed to lead to supremacy and
subjection, as one star differs from another star in glory. It was the
purpose of the Creator that man should be social; but, without
government, there can be no society; nor, without some relative
inferiority and superiority, can there be any government. A musical
instrument composed of chords, keys, or pipes, all perfectly equal
in size and power, might as well be expected to produce harmony,
as a society composed of members all perfectly equal to be
productive of order and peace. If (according to the idea of the
advocates of this chimerical scheme of equality) no man could
rightfully be compelled to come in and be a member even of a
government to be formed by a regular compact, but by his own
individual consent, it clearly follows, from the same principles,
that neither could he rightfully be made or compelled to submit to
the ordinances of any government already formed, to which he has
not individually or actually consented. On the principle of equality,
neither his parents, nor even the vote of a majority of the society
(however virtuously and honorably that vote might be obtained),
can have any such authority over any man. Neither can it be
maintained that acquiescence implies consent; because
acquiescence may have been extorted from impotence or
incapacity. Even an explicit consent can bind a man no longer than
he chooses to be bound. The same principle of equality that
exempts him from being governed without his own consent clearly
entitles him to recall and resume that consent whenever he sees fit;
and he alone has a right to judge when and for what reasons it may
be resumed.
Any attempt, therefore, to introduce this fantastic system into
practice would reduce the whole business of social life to the
wearisome, confused, and useless task of mankind’s first
expressing, and then withdrawing, their consent to an endless
succession of schemes of government. Governments, though
always forming, would never be completely formed; for the
majority today might be the minority tomorrow, and, of course,
that which is now fixed might and would be soon unfixed.
Samuel Seabury, an Alarm to the Legislature of the Province
in New-York (1775)
The unhappy contention we have entered into with our parent state,
would inevitably be attended with many disagreeable
circumstances, with many and great inconveniences to us, even
were it conducted on our part, with propriety and moderation.
What then must be the case, when all proper and moderate
measures are rejected? … When every scheme that tends to peace,
is branded with ignominy; as being the machination of slavery!
When nothing is called FREEDOM but SEDITION! Nothing
I will not presume to encroach so far upon your time, as to attempt
to point out the causes of our unnatural contention with Great
Britain …. Nor will I attempt to trace out the progress of that
infatuation, which hath so deeply, so miserably, infected the
Colonies …. Most, if not all the measures that have been adopted,
have been illegal in their beginning, tyrannical in their operation.
… A Committee, chosen in a tumultuous, illegal manner, usurped
the most despotic authority over the province. They entered into
contracts, compacts, combinations, treaties of alliance, with the
other colonies, without any power from the legislature of the
province. They agreed with the other Colonies to send Delegates to
meet in convention at Philadelphia, to determine upon the rights
and liberties of the good people of this province, unsupported by
any Law ….
The state to which the Grand Congress, and the subordinate
Committees, have reduced the colonies, is really deplorable. They
have introduced a system of the most oppressive tyranny that can
possibly be imagined;-a tyranny, not only over the actions, but
over the words, thoughts, and minds, of the good people of this
province. People have been threatened with the vengeance of a
mob, for speaking in support of order and good government…
Behold, Gentlemen, behold the wretched state to which we are
reduced! A foreign power is brought in to govern this province.
Laws made at Philadelphia, by factious men from New-England,
New-Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and the Carolinas,
are imposed upon us by the most imperious menaces. Money is
levied upon us without the consent of our representatives …. Mobs
and riots are encouraged, in order to force submission to the
tyranny of the Congress.
Thomas Paine, Common Sense (1776)
Perhaps the sentiments contained in the following pages, are not
YET sufficiently fashionable to procure them general favor; a long
habit of not thinking a thing WRONG, gives it a superficial
appearance of being RIGHT, and raises at first a formidable outcry
in defense of custom. But the tumult soon subsides. Time makes
more converts than reason.
As a long and violent abuse of power, is generally the Means of
calling the right of it in question (and in Matters too which might
never have been thought of, had not the Sufferers been aggravated
into the inquiry) and as the King of England hath undertaken in his
OWN RIGHT, to support the Parliament in what he calls THEIRS,
and as the good people of this country are grievously oppressed by
the combination, they have an undoubted privilege to inquire into
the pretensions of both, and equally to reject the usurpation of
In the following sheets, the author hath studiously avoided every
thing which is personal among ourselves. Compliments as well as
censure to individuals make no part thereof. The wise, and the
worthy, need not the triumph of a pamphlet; and those whose
sentiments are injudicious, or unfriendly, will cease of themselves
unless too much pains are bestowed upon their conversion. The
cause of America is in a great measure the cause of all mankind.
Many circumstances hath, and will arise, which are not local, but
universal, and through which the principles of all Lovers of
Mankind are affected, and in the Event of which, their Affections
are interested. The laying a Country desolate with Fire and Sword,
declaring War against the natural rights of all Mankind, and
extirpating the Defenders thereof from the Face of the Earth, is the
Concern of every Man to whom Nature hath given the Power of
On Monarchy and Hereditary Succession
Society in every state is a blessing, but Government, even in its
best state, is but a necessary evil…
MANKIND being originally equals in the order of creation, the
equality could only be destroyed by some subsequent
circumstance: the distinctions of rich and poor may in a great
measure be accounted for, and that without having recourse to the
harsh ill-sounding names of oppression and avarice. Oppression is
often the CONSEQUENCE, but seldom or never the MEANS of
riches; and tho’ avarice will preserve a man from being
necessitously poor, it generally makes him too timorous to be
But there is another and great distinction for which no truly natural
or religious reason can be assigned, and that is the distinction of
men into KINGS and SUBJECTS. Male and female are the
distinctions of nature, good and bad the distinctions of Heaven; but
how a race of men came into the world so exalted above the rest,
and distinguished like some new species, is worth inquiring into,
and whether they are the means of happiness or of misery to
For all men being originally equals, no one by birth could have a
right to set up his own family in perpetual preference to all others
for ever, and though himself might deserve some decent degree of
honors of his contemporaries, yet his descendants might be far too
unworthy to inherit them. One of the strongest natural proofs of the
folly of hereditary right in kings, is, that nature disapproves it,
otherwise she would not so frequently turn it into ridicule by
giving mankind an ass for a lion.
As to usurpation, no man will be so hardy as to defend it; and that
William the Conqueror was an usurper is a fact not to be
contradicted. The plain truth is, that the antiquity of English
monarchy will not bear looking into.
But it is not so much the absurdity as the evil of hereditary
succession which concerns mankind. Did it ensure a race of good
and wise men it would have the seal of divine authority, but as it
opens a door to the foolish, the wicked, and the improper, it hath in
it the nature of oppression. Men who look upon themselves born to
reign, and others to obey, soon grow insolent; selected from the
rest of mankind their minds are early poisoned by importance; and
the world they act in differs so materially from the world at large,
that they have but little opportunity of knowing its true interests,
and when they succeed to the government are frequently the most
ignorant and unfit of any throughout the dominions.
Thoughts on the Present State of American Affairs
In the following pages I offer nothing more than simple facts, plain
arguments, and common sense; and have no other preliminaries to
settle with the reader, than that he will divest himself of prejudice
and prepossession, and suffer his reason and his feelings to
determine for themselves; that he will put on, or rather that he will
not put off, the true character of a man, and generously enlarge his
views beyond the present day.
Volumes have been written on the subject of the struggle between
England and America. Men of all ranks have embarked in the
controversy, from different motives, and with various designs; but
all have been ineffectual, and the period of debate is closed. Arms,
as the last resource, decide the contest; the appeal was the choice
of the king, and the continent hath accepted the challenge…
We have boasted the protection of Great-Britain, without
considering, that her motive was interest not attachment; that she
did not protect us from our enemies on our account, but from her
enemies on her own account, from those who had no quarrel with
us on any other account, and who will always be our enemies on
the same account. Let Britain wave her pretensions to the
continent, or the continent throw off the dependance, and we
should be at peace with France and Spain were they at war with
But Britain is the parent country, say some. Then the more shame
upon her conduct. Even brutes do not devour their young, nor
savages make war upon their families; wherefore the assertion, if
true, turns to her reproach; but it happens not to be true, or only
partly so, and the phrase parent or mother country hath been
jesuitically adopted by the king and his parasites, with a low
papistical design of gaining an unfair bias on the credulous
weakness of our minds. Europe, and not England, is the parent
country of America. This new world hath been the asylum for the
persecuted lovers of civil and religious liberty from every part of
Europe. Hither have they fled, not from the tender embraces of the
mother, but from the cruelty of the monster; and it is so far true of
England, that the same tyranny which drove the first emigrants
from home, pursues their descendants still…
Our plan is commerce, and that, well attended to, will secure us the
peace and friendship of all Europe; because, it is the interest of all
Europe to have America a free port. Her trade will always be a
protection, and her barrenness of gold and silver secure her from
I challenge the warmest advocate for reconciliation, to shew, a
single advantage that this continent can reap, by being connected
with Great Britain. I repeat the challenge, not a single advantage is
derived. Our corn will fetch its price in any market in Europe, and
our imported goods must be paid for buy them where we will.
But the injuries and disadvantages we sustain by that connection,
are without number; and our duty to mankind at large, as well as to
ourselves, instruct us to renounce the alliance: Because, any
submission to, or dependance on Great-Britain, tends directly to
involve this continent in European wars and quarrels; and sets us at
variance with nations, who would otherwise seek our friendship,
and against whom, we have neither anger nor complaint. As
Europe is our market for trade, we ought to form no partial
connection with any part of it. It is the true interest of America to
steer clear of European contentions, which she never can do, while
by her dependence on Britain, she is made the make-weight in the
scale of British politics…
Reconciliation is now a fallacious dream. Nature hath deserted the
connexion, and Art cannot supply her place. For, as Milton wisely
expresses, “never can true reconcilement grow where wounds of
deadly hate have pierced so deep.”
A government of our own is our natural right: And when a man
seriously reflects on the precariousness of human affairs, he will
become convinced, that it is infinitely wiser and safer, to form a
constitution of our own in a cool deliberate manner, while we have
it in our power, than to trust such an interesting event to time and
O ye that love mankind! Ye that dare oppose, not only the tyranny,
but the tyrant, stand forth! Every spot of the old world is overrun
with oppression. Freedom hath been hunted round the globe. Asia,
and Africa, have long expelled her—Europe regards her like a
stranger, and England hath given her warning to depart. O! receive
the fugitive, and prepare in time an asylum for mankind.
Thomas Jefferson, The Declaration of Independence (1776)
IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one
people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them
with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the
separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of
Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of
mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel
them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created
equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain
unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the
pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments
are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the
consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of
Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of
the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new
Government, laying its foundation on such principles and
organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most
likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will
dictate that Governments long established should not be changed
for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath
shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are
sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to
which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and
usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design
to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their
duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards
for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of
these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains
them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of
the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries
and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an
absolute Tyranny over these State. To prove this, let Facts be
submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome
and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate
and pressing importance, unless suspended in their
operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so
suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation
of large districts of people, unless those people would
relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a
right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual,
uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their
public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into
compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for
opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of
the people…
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by
refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the
tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither
swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies
without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and
superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction
foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our
laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for
any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants
of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable
Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring
themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all
cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of
his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our
towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for
Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have
been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character
is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to
be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren.
We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their
legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We
have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and
settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and
magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our
common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would
inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too
have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We
must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our
Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind,
Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America,
in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge
of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name,
and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly
publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right
ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved
from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political
connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and
ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent
States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract
Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things
which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of
this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine
Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our
Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

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