According to the New York Times, the American Revolution was “less as a glorious liberty struggle than as a hyper-violent civil war that divided virtually every segment of colonial society against itself, and left many African Americans and Native Americans worse off, and less free.”
Of course it was a violent civil war. Most wars ARE violent. The British Empire was the most powerful military in the world. England had acquired territory all over the world through conquest and they weren’t nice about it. As ugly as you think American history was, British history was even worse.
The indigenous people in the areas colonized by the British were treated little better than cattle. The modus operandi was to capture some of the natives, give them some military training, then place them under the command of British officers and use them to control the remainder of the local population.
The wars that resulted were horrific. The American Revolution was no different. The homes of tax collectors were burned to the ground. Politicians were tarred and feathered. There was much cruelty and a lot of killing on both sides.
The concept that had existed for hundreds of years was that royalty owned the land, along with everything and everyone who lived upon it. Then along came Thomas Paine. Now Paine was not as popular at the time as he should have been, but he made a great impression on the Founding Fathers with his treatise Common Sense, published on February 4, 1776. (pdf warning)
In Common Sense, he declared and proposed that “in America the
law is king. For as in absolute governments the king is law, so in
free countries the law ought to be king; and there ought to be no
other. But lest any ill use should afterwards arise, let the crown at
the conclusion of the ceremony be demolished, and scattered
among the people whose right it is.”
Paine himself was greatly influenced by John Locke, who himself rejected the divine right of kings to rule. He believed that all humans when born live in their natural state- free to do as they please. In this “state of nature,” humans are entirely free. But this freedom is not a state of complete license, because it is set within the bounds of the law of nature. It is a state of equality, which is itself a central element of Locke’s account. According to this philosphy, there is no natural hierarchy among humans. Each person is naturally free and equal under the law of nature, subject only to the will of their creator.
Each person, moreover, is required to enforce as well as to obey this law. It is this duty that gives to humans the right to punish offenders. But in such a state of nature, it is obvious that placing the right to punish in each person’s hands may lead to injustice and violence. This can be remedied if humans enter into a contract with each other to recognize by common consent a civil government with the power to enforce the law of nature among the citizens of that state. Although any contract is legitimate as long as it does not infringe upon the law of nature, it often happens that a contract can be enforced only if there is some higher human authority to require compliance with it. It is a primary function of society to set up the framework in which legitimate contracts, freely entered into, may be enforced, a state of affairs much more difficult to guarantee in the state of nature and outside civil society.
As you can see, this idea is the central core that the Declaration of Independence was based upon:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
Locke also thought that property was important to the natural state. Each person, according to Locke, has property in his own person—that is, each person literally owns his own body. Other people may not use a person’s body for any purpose without his permission. But one can acquire property beyond one’s own body through labor. By mixing one’s labor with objects in the world, one acquires a right to the fruits of that work. If one’s labor turns a barren field into crops or a pile of wood into a house, then the valuable product of that labor, the crops or the house, becomes one’s property.
For this reason, the communists HATE Locke with a burning passion. Communism says that each person’s labor belongs to everyone. This means that people have no rights to their own body, their labor, and therefore no right to the fruits of that labor. Instead, you and everything you produce are community property. So they are trying to rewrite history to discredit him. We have always been at war with Eastasia.
So you can see that the authors of our founding documents were not in favor of slavery. However, since slavery had been a part of the British past for several hundred years, they also knew that a new nation would never receive support from those whose livelihoods depended on slavery. The new nation would be dead before it even began. Even Foote realized this when he said:
a long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial
appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in
defence of custom. But tumult soon subsides. Time makes more
converts than reason.
As a compromise, slavery would have to remain for the time being.
The fact that the US didn’t have a ideologically pure beginning doesn’t invalidate any of the ideas that it was based upon, nor does it mean that the entire nation should be dismantled, nor is the declaration “a philosophical fig leaf hung over a grubby battle to defend white liberty grounded in slavery and Native dispossession” as the New York Times asserts that it is. (They even warped the quote “a Republic, if you can keep it” quote.
So as we enter the early stages of the collapse and latest version of American civil war, remember the foundations of the First American Civil war and hope that whatever the results, at least one nation that values the natural rights of man survives.