Patriotism, Philosophy and Victory in the War for Independence Essay
America’s fight for independence would emerge quite naturally out of the needs of its people to establish a form of governance, of economy and of society reflective of the demands created by the path of development of the colonies. Its people would be assisted in their ascent to this revolt by no small degree of propaganda, which would help to represent the trespasses of kingship as a form of governance for the masses. Of the primary documents mentioned in American Firsthand, Thomas Paine’s 1776 pamphlet Common Sense, remains the most famous and representative of such literature.
And indeed, the sentiment here delivered helps to explain how the patriots prevailed in conflict with the mighty British military. In a text designed to produce a sense of revolutionary outrage, Paine crafts a philosophical treatise on appropriate governance designed to counter that which had very organically emerged in the colonies with the increasingly archaic nature of monarchy such as that imposed upon the colonists by the British.
In his pamphlet, Paine openly calls for and advocates armed resistance as a means to the defense of the economic and governmental systems developing separate from the British Crown. He characterizes the distinction between kingship and the evolving colonial democracy as being irreconcilable, contending that “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. (82)
Couched in Paine’s sense of righteous indignation, the text largely drives toward this point by making the concerted argument that the colonists can tolerate the imposition of kingship so far as they can tolerate the sacrifice of the freedoms which had become inherently associated to persistence in the nascent America. This would be the undercurrent that would sweep the colonists into vehement support for the cause of independence, drawing a core philosophical connection between the anticipated form of government and the emotional disposition of those which the means to achieve it.
For the patriots, this mode of communication with the public would be essential to drawing steadfast support for an unlikely ambition. There would be so strong a wave of indignation that the type of language employed by figures like Paine would have a real, tangible and irreversible impact on the attitudes of the colonists. The indignation resonates in Paine’s advocacy of progressive thoughts on the rights of man. In his text, he writes with great rhetorical flourish of the natural tendency of individuals toward civil liberty.
This endows his work with the sense of a divine endorsement of individual liberty and an explication of the rational movement toward democratic governance. Of Thomas Paine’s recommendation that the colonists awaken to the injustice being dealt them at the hands of the monarchy, there is a principle encouragement toward the acquiescence to democracy which would be used to define a moral divergence between the aspirant colonial leaders and members of the oppressing British Crown.
Drawing a hypothetical discussion of a spontaneously occurring new civilization which clearly intimates the experience of the colonists, he remarks that there is an inherent drive amongst these pioneers to consent “to leave the legislative part to be managed by a select number chosen from the whole body, who are supposed to have the same concerns at stake which have who appointed them. (Paine, 67) This clear endorsement of the natural proclivity of the colonists toward democratic organization would find clear favor with a people enjoying the manifold benefits of existing in a society separate from the dominance of the crown. Particularly, there would be a resonance with colonists in the idea that each of them might be accorded equal and inviolable rights. As Paine notes, this is an idea hinted at by the British Law of Commons, but made immediately ridiculous by the inbuilt inequality of the monarchy as a form of government.
The rationality at center would be reflected in the quickness with which the colonists would begin to take up arms against a much greater force. Yet still other documents noted by America Firsthand denote that Paine had seized on already prevalent sensations amongst statesmen and community leaders considering the failed rationality of British oversight. Quite certainly, America’s burgeoning into a representative democracy and a constitutional state of governance would be produced by years of political discord and intensive philosophical discourse.
The literature of the period leading up to and inspiring the revolution would play a key part in proliferating the ideas of democracy, of the natural rights of man and of the various themes of social justice which would contribute to the theoretical founding of the Union. A sermon by Massachusetts statesman and preacher Nathaniel Niles, delivered in 1774, would prefigure some of the more recognized and influential works of revolutionary America, including Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence (1776) and An Act for Establishing Religious Freedom (1777); and Paine’s Common Sense.
Indisputably, Niles would be inclined to note in these works—and further approve of the adaptation of his own ideas—of the natural tendency of individuals toward civil liberty, the sense of a divine endorsement of individual liberty and an explication of the logical movement toward democratic governance. On the primary topic, Niles would provide an explicit definition. “Civil liberty consists,” according to Niles, “not in any inclinations of the members of a community, but in the being and due administration of such a system of laws, as effectually tends to the greatest felicity of a state. (Niles, 260) In the absence of any such constitutional administration for the colonies, British rule would be regarded in this text as a pointedly counter-intuitive form of governance to the growing proclivity for civil liberties. Such is a perspective at the very heart of Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence.
A document to the Enlightenment philosophy according men equal rights and proceeding from a conception of a natural liberty foundational to the subsequent authorship of the U. S. Constitution, it would bespeak the inevitability of Niles’ conception, that the attainment of civil liberty was primary among men, and that “to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. ” (Jefferson, 8) Here, we begin to recognize a persistent pattern amongst the patriots who would lead American to self-determination. Essentially, figures of deep ideological conviction, they would succeed in stimulating revolutionary fervor by reinforcing the primacy of their beliefs. Herein, they would uncover a social pattern underscoring this belief.
Such would coalesce into an outright fervor for victory from what had come to be seen as occupation. In addition to the social inclination toward civil liberties, Niles also speaks to the divinity of such a consideration, arguing with a recurrent parallel that God himself considers personal and civil liberty to be gifts of the highest order. Remarking on multiple occasions of the Jews’ struggle to gain freedom from their Egyptian oppressors, the author expresses a sentiment which compares the injustice of this slavery to the injustice of British tyranny in the colonies.
To make the case that God would specifically endorse the colonialist cause, he asserts that of the Jews that God “promised them freedom from the oppression of their enemies as a testimony of his favour in case of their obedience; and as chastisement for their disobedience, he threatened them with servitude. ” (Niles, 266) Niles’ purpose here is to remark upon the divinity in the quest for political liberty, using his pulpit as a forum through which to espouse a spiritualized sense of resistance to the monarchy.
This parallels the proposition found in Jefferson’s Act, which impels the reader to observe the improprieties of a theoretical—though clearly Britain-inspired—force which “hath established and maintained false religions over the greatest part of the world, and through all time. ” (Jefferson, 14) Here, Jefferson equates the British imposition of authority throughout the colonized world with a misrepresentation of God’s will. His content speaks of an oppressive religious system but bears the mark of allegation against the British abuse of Christianity.
By seizing on a subject of deep emotional importance to those subjected, there becomes a core association between patriotism and godliness, further endowing colonists with an unshakeable conviction. Just as Jefferson’s discussion would be a practical application of Niles’ religious perspective, so too would Thomas Paine’s work speak to the political ideas in Niles’ work. This clear endorsement of the natural proclivity of the colonists toward democratic organization would find clear favor with Nathaniel Niles, himself an active supporter of this strategy.
In fact, perhaps most important of the foundations to the Niles discussion is his testament to the superiority of democratic governance as a means to best representing the good of a civilization, arguing that “when a majority unite in any measures, it is to be supposed, they are such measures as are best calculated to secure the particular interests of the members of that majority; and , consequently, the general interests of the body are more effectually provided for. (Niles, 266) This, the author argues, is an indication that the desire to improve a governance of a society must be founded on aspirations to move policy and rule more closely into proximity of majority interests. In Niles’ 1774 text, the loud beckoning for a populist ascendancy to independence can be detected.
The combined texts of Niles, Paine and Jefferson form a nuanced case against the policies and practices of the British. And certainly, the point at which they seem most to form a concurrent school of philosophy is in their shared sense of this independence movement as not simply concerning the liberty of the American colonists but as serving the more universal ‘natural rights’ of man.
Each of these texts refers as its ideological underpinning to an intercession between administrative practicality, social morality and divine providence in arguing that the desire of the colonists for independence could be viewed as a larger resistance to the European practices of monarchical colonialism which had shaped the globe for centuries prior. This natural tendency toward self-determination stands as a testament to the will of the fledgling republic’s leaders and remarks tellingly of their ascendance to victory over the British.
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