Revolutionary Ideas

  1. Basic colonial mindset

    1. We are Englishmen

      1. Fundamental Constitutional issues - who has control over what?

      2. Representation vs. Virtual Representation

        1. colonies argued that could not be taxed without direct representation

        2. Parliament argued that they already had "virtual" representation

      3. Ideology

        1. History had taught English to fear empires

        2. Influenced by the Enlightenment

          1. Intellectual movement of the 17th and 18th century in Europe

          2. rejected idea that humanity was inherently depraved but blessed with reason by

          3. through reason, humanity could construct a better society

          4. there existed "natural laws" of human society, including natural rights of man

          5. all societies, they believed should be based on natural law

        3. Influenced by John Locke (1642-1704), and important Enlightenment thinker

          1. denied the divine right of kings

          2. argued that government should be based on a social contract between government and people

          3. People could remove a government that betrayed their trust

          4. Revolution was justified when tyranny deprived people of their rights

        4. Influenced also by the British Whig party

          1. Party of merchants and new financial groups

          2. Theoretically believed that king governed at people's consent, that sovereignty rested in people

        5. Feared standing army

        6. Feared government corruption

    2. But colonists also uniquely American

      1. Religious changes - the New Lights and the First Great Awakening

        1. Quest traditional church authority

        2. Separated themselves from what they saw as corrupt churches (and by implication, a corrupt England)

        3. Missionization as a form of purification

        4. Began series of revivals, a basically new religious phenomenon

        5. Basis for modern evangelism

      2. Colonial anxiety

        1. Elites divided - how could they unite?

        2. Artisans had economic problems - blamed the British

        3. Farmers needed land - blamed the British

      3. Rebellion was a practical  possibility

        1. No rebellions because of earlier provocations

        2. But wealthier now -- more people, more ships

      4. Increasingly didn't need England

        1. Self-sufficient economically

        2. Had all the professional classes, schools, etc.

        3. Own bankers, merchants, artisans, etc.

  2. Fundamental ideas of the Founding Fathers

    1. Any government should prevent some men from rising to tyranny, others from falling into slavery

    2. Government should be plain, simple, and comprehensible to by common sense

    3. Government should be as near to the people as possible

      1. Frequent elections

      2. Rotation of office

      3. Politics should not be a career

    4. Rulers as servants of the people

    5. Government should be an empire of laws, not of men - leads to a written constitution

    6. No written constitution is complete without a specific list of individual rights (leads to Bill of Rights)

    7. A representative legislature is essential to free government

    8. There should be a separation of powers and checks and balances

      1. Wanted to provide liberty, not authority

      2. Emphasize protection rather than power

      3. Wanted delay rather than efficiency

    9. Right to vote and hold office should be limited to men who held a stake in society (property owners) - no universal suffrage

    10. Of course, everything is not so simple

      1. These ideas were promoted in the Revolution

      2. None of them were all that original

      3. Confusion and contradiction in ideas

      4. Some clearly hypocritical - slavery, for one

      5. Not all these ideas were universally agreed on - none, really

  3. Thomas Paine - the most important propagandist

    1. Publishes a pamphlet, Common Sense, in January, 1776 - 100,000 copies

    2. Basic ideas

      1. The king is the problem - didn't say much about Parliament

      2. English law was not protecting colonists

      3. No advantage to being in British Empire - particularly when they dragged colonies into European wars

      4. Lands to the west are colonies future - plants idea of manifest destiny

      5. Independence is a practical necessity, and we should get help from anywhere we can

    3. Will influence the writing of the Declaration of Independence

    4. Is the basic understanding of the Revolution that many common people will have