American Self-Government: Example #2

All of America’s early colonies had legislatures of their own. Most of them, from the start, had been allowed self-government in their charters. When the British government began to change the rules by taxing them without any representation in Parliament, the colonies reacted. Their first line of defense was the charters they had been given.

When the British government dismissed their arguments, they turned instead to the idea that God had given each person the right to direct his own life, and that self-government was an inalienable gift from God. They put that in a document that has inspired people all over the world (except perhaps in Muslim nations). It was the Declaration of Independence.

Presenting the Declaration of Independence to the Continental Congress

Presenting the Declaration of Independence to the Continental Congress

In this document, the Continental Congress stated that the right to liberty was an inalienable right provided by God. It was the official beginning of what is normally called the American Revolution.

I tell my classes that I think “American Revolution” is not really the best description of that event. I don’t think these early Americans were all that revolutionary. Instead, their primary purpose was to preserve what they thought was the essence of their British heritage. Based on that, I have a name that I prefer: The American War for Continued Self-Government.

Now, I know it isn’t very pithy, but it is a much more accurate description of what took place. The colonies had experienced self-government for most of their existence. Britain was threatening to overrule them and wipe out their ability to make their own laws. Their response was to defend their long-established right. Therefore, this was a war to continue what they had been doing for a century and a half. It truly was a war for continued self-government.

Do we care about this anymore? Are we willing to defend the right of the United States to make its own choices in the world without first asking permission of other nations? As a country, we must continue to assert our right to self-government.