August 16, 2014


John Adams, Whig (Bradley J. Birzer, 8/14/14, Imaginative Conservative)

In an 1818 letter to the publisher, Hezekial Niles, Adams perceptively noted the role of ideas in the formation of the American revolutionary determination:

But what do we mean by the American Revolution? Do we mean the American War? The Revolution was effected before the War commenced. The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people, a change in their religious sentiments of their duties and obligations. While the king, and all in authority under him, were believed to govern in justice and mercy according to the laws and constitution derived to them from the God of nature, and transmitted to them by their ancestors, they thought themselves bound to pray for the king and queen and all the royal family, and all in authority under them, as ministers ordained of God for their good. But when they saw those powers renouncing all the principles of authority, and bent upon the destruction of all the securities of their lives, liberties, and properties, they thought it their duty to pray for the Continental Congress and all the thirteen state congresses, etc.

Perhaps few shaped that very thought and gave as much voice to the movement of revolution as had Adams. Jefferson had brilliance and flash when it came to ideas. But, Adams had perseverance.

One of his most interesting arguments can be found in his oft-neglected and nearly forgotten Novanglus letters, a spirited defense of the movement toward revolution from 1754 to 1775. He wrote twelve of them, and they represent one of the finest summations of what is called by its allies, Anglo-Saxon history, and its detractors, Whig history. In sum, Adams argued that American sentiment, soul, and passions represent yet one stage of the time-ful struggle of power and liberty. Seeing the rising tyranny and corruption in the mother land, the colonists had the choice: to succumb or to resist.

In resisting, they proved not only their English-ness but also their western-ness. As such, their resistance amounted to rebellion and reformation more than what we post-1789 types would consider "revolution."

Posted by at August 16, 2014 6:46 AM

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