A Conservative Movement led to American Independence

July 4, 2018
It’s rather ironic that we’ve dubbed America’s War for Independence a “Revolutionary War,” because in many ways it was not “revolutionary.” Rather, it was a conservative movement, attempting to preserve and respect the good parts of the past.
​To better understand that the War for Independence was not technically a “revolution,” but a conservative movement, it helps to compare it with the French Revolution, which was a revolution in every sense of the word!​

John Quincy Adams liked how the German conservative, Friedrich Von Gentz, described the major differences in his 1800 book titled, The Origins and Principles of the American Revolution, compared with the Origin and Principles of the French Revolution.

Gentz showed that the French revolution was violating old rights and trying to create radical, arbitrary rights out of thin air. Essentially, the French invented grand wishes based on their feelings and called their wishes “rights.”

In contrast, the American colonists were just trying to preserve their previously-established  rights as British citizens. They even wrote to the king that “We ask only for peace, liberty and security…we demand no new rights.” To put it in modern terms, they were not whining for socialized medicine, or demanding that everyone should have equal possessions and no private property, or asking for more social welfare without having to lift a finger. They just wanted their essential rights.

Another difference is that the French revolutionists went wild: they made arbitrary laws, stole property from the rich, murdered royalty, robbed the clergy’s possessions, etc., and it eventually led to Robespierre’s Reign of Terror and  Napoleon’s dictatorship. The French revolutionists had a “thirst for destruction,” Gentz said.

The American colonists, on the other hand, kept themselves within the bounds of their previously-established rights and natural law. They first attempted a peaceful solution for many years and didn’t want to go to war. They wanted preservation, not conquest, and were defending themselves, not attacking, as Gentz described.  They finally had to resist though, because King George III and the British Parliament continued to tighten the American colonists’ chains.

The British Parliament chained up the American colonists in the form of taxes. Gentz proclaimed the only purpose of the taxes was to make the “colonies feel their chains.” In other words, the taxes were an attempt to make America bow down at the feet of Parliament. But for all the previous years, Parliament didn’t even have control over the colonists! An essential right of British citizens was that they could not be forced to pay taxes unless their own representatives established them. Since the colonists did not have representation in Parliament, they had not been under Parliament’s authority–they were just under the authority of the king and his governors.

Instead of the British Parliament, almost all American colonies had their own representative assemblies, which basically functioned like small American parliaments. In England, legislative and executive powers were split between the king and parliament, but in America, the powers were split between the king and America’s representative assemblies, as Gentz explained. The king could only levy taxes if the American representative assemblies agreed. So, when the British Parliament declared the Stamp Act, tea tax, etc., Parliament was violating the rights of Americans.

The American colonists were accustomed to self-government–it’s the system they grew up in. There was a “long established chartered right of the colonies to govern themselves,” as Russel Kirk explained in his book the Roots of American Order. But when Parliament enacted one tax after another, they were putting an end to America’s old, constitutional ways of self-government.

That means the “Revolutionary” War prevented a revolution. The Crown was revolutionizing the system of government in America. When the American colonists resisted, they were stopping a “royal revolution,” as Kirk put it.

In the Olive Branch Petition to the king, the colonists said they wanted nothing more than the “restoration of the former harmony.” When the king refused to restore the former harmony, the American colonists were left with no other choice than staying chained with their rights stripped away, or fighting to conserve their self-government and way of life.

They chose the conservative route by fighting to preserve their inherited rights and liberty. As a result, we now get to celebrate being a free, independent country with our rights maintained.

Have a happy Independence Day!

In Service,

Colorado Citizens Coalition

Gary Gates started the non-profit Colorado Citizens Coalition because he has a passion for individual liberty and preserving the Constitution, and it’s a fight he’s engaged in with every facet of his life. He believes a coalition is needed because it takes all of us being actively involved to move our state and country forward. We as citizens must stay informed because We the People are in charge and must hold government accountable. Gary desires to provide Colorado citizens a free resource to get useful information about state government from a conservative perspective.

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