Rebellion Not Lightly Taken   1 comment

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.

(Original draft of the Declaration – prudence indeed will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light & 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 & usurpations, begun at a distinguished period, & pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to subject them to arbitrary power, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government & to provide new guards for their future security.)

The colonies had existed under the English system from their inception. They had put up with a lot. The Pilgrims had been abused by their own countrymen for exercising their religious beliefs. Their liberty was curtailed and so they left. But even in leaving, they maintained ties with the English crown and considered themselves subject to it. Many other American colonies were created for similar reasons. The Americas had seen their own liberty lost during the French and Indian War (which was really a larger war between the English and the French that came to our shores because England violated a territorial agreement with the French in Canada), being forced to accept incompetent British control of their militias which resulted in high casualty rates, unable to protect their own communities because they were away from home, crops rotting in the fields, etc. They had remained faithful, if argumentative, subjects.

Prudence (we might say practicality) said you didn’t change a well-established government so long as its necessary evils were tolerable. Distance from England had made its rule tolerable for over a century, but then England had decided that it needed the Americans to pay for the French and Indian War and that required governors who were active and abusive and rapacious. A long train of abuses and usurpations followed with the goal of forcing the colonies to submit to arbitrary rule without representation in Parliament.

Jefferson now asserted that it was their right (yes, liberty is a right), but also their duty (an obligation) to toss aside this abusive government and provide new protections for the future security of their rights. The Founders knew war would result and war never brings security to anyone, but the war would eventually end and the new government would have a chance to provide a new system to guard the rights of humans.

In summary, we shouldn’t rebel lightly. The American Founders were not inherently a revolutionary generation. They wanted liberty, but if there had been a way to do it without conducting a civil war against England, they would have. They had spent over a decade trying to avoid this moment and the moment was upon them, not because they wanted it, but because the crown had refused to stop abusing the rights of the colonists and the colonists had reached a point where the abuses had become intolerable. They had sought to reform their relationship with the British, but now they were left only with secession.

One response to “Rebellion Not Lightly Taken

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  1. Reblogged this on aurorawatcherak.

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