American Revolution v. Declaration of Independence

July 23rd, 2012   Submitted by Wendy McElroy

Was America born from war or from the Declaration of Independence? The question draws a distinction between the American Revolution (or War of Independence) and the principles that inspired it.

In the coming months, America may plunge more deeply into foreign wars despite Obama’s apparent reluctance to do so before the Presidential elections. In an article (July 17) entitled “US Won’t Intervene in Syria Until After November Vote,” Middle East commentator Jason Ditz reports, “Pro-Syrian-opposition lobbyists say the Obama Administration has warned Syrian rebel factions as well as other pro-war allies that they will not intervene in a serious way against the Assad regime until after the November US election.” And, then, there are escalating tensions with Iran.

If a war or intervention is declared, then it will be promoted as a noble cause in much the same manner as the occupation of Afghanistan was sold as a way to protect Afghan women from the brutal Taliban. When anti-war critics deny the possibility of a ‘noble war’, the American Revolution is likely to be invoked as proof of its feasibility. This counter-example is commonplace within the libertarian and conservative movements, where the American Revolution tends to be venerated. “War is the health of the state,” libertarians admit, but somehow the American Revolution is slotted into a different category than all other wars. The urge to do so is understandable. How can you not like a struggle inspired by the writings of John Locke, Algernon Sidney and Thomas Paine? How can you not support the spunky rebellion of 13 colonies — 2 1/2 million people — against the arrogant British Empire?

To answer, it is necessary to examine the principles of the Revolution and compare them to the conduct of the Revolution, especially as it progressed from being a rebellion and became instead a war.

What is the difference? A revolution is “an overthrow or repudiation and the thorough replacement of an established government or political system by the people governed.” It is most often a response to the extreme injustice of an authority. A war is “a conflict carried on by force of arms, as between nations or between parties within a nation; warfare, as by land, sea, or air.” It often has no connection to rebellion against injustice.


The nobility ascribed to the American Revolution rests upon the principles enunciated by the Declaration of Independence. The central principle is that “all men are created equal” and “are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights” including “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Having established its moral basis, the Declaration goes on to explain the specific grievances against British rule which “absolved” the “united colonies” from “all allegiance to the British Crown.”

In short, the Declaration justified a rebellion for the purpose of throwing off an occupying power. What followed was a war not only against Britain but against fellow-colonists who preferred British rule. In short, against fellow-colonists who politically disagreed even if the disagreement was peaceful. Like every war, the War for Independence involved massive violations of individual rights and the rapid growth of the state. Thus, as the Revolution became a war, it violated the core principle of the Declaration that was its justification: namely, the equal and inalienable rights of all men. The War of Independence should be scrutinized with the same critical eye as any other war.

To briefly give a sense of the scope of the war’s ultimate betrayal of the Declaration’s principles, consider merely a few of the massive violations of rights that occurred.

1. As a means of financing its Army, the Continental Congress issuing approximately $226 million in paper money. The states joined in by putting out about $200 million of their own bills of credit. Hyperinflation resulted, with people becoming reluctant to use the new currency. Congress recommended forcing them to use it. Eventually (1780), Congress devalued its currency at the rate of $40 of paper money to $1 of specie. The devaluation did not prevent Congress from cranking up the printing press again. Such machinations gave rise to the saying “not worth a Continental.”

2. The states north of Maryland (and including Maryland) adopted price controls in one form or another. In Rhode Island, for example, anyone who bought an item at an “unapproved” price would forfeit the cost of it — half would go to the state, half would go to the informer.

3. Circa 1765, American merchants were estimated to validly owe English creditors some 24 million pounds sterling. When the Philadelphia physician Benjamin Rush — an early advocate of independence — listed five motives inspiring Whigs (those who supported rebellion), one motivation was, “an expectation that a war with Great Britain would cancel all British debts.” Rush continued, “There were certainly Whigs from the facility with which the tender laws enabled debtors to pay their creditors in depreciated paper money.”

4. If the American Revolution was a war for “no taxation without representation,” then it did not apply that principle with any consistency. Some 400,000 residents of the colonies — approximately 17% of the population — were black slaves. Not only did the War for Independence not free them, it led to the United States Constitution which embedded their slavery into the legal fabric of the new nation. There can be no greater “taxation without representation” than to ‘confiscate’ all that a person has while permitting him no voice. (Note: when the British offered freedom to blacks who served in their army, the rebels followed suit. Nevertheless, both sides routinely disregarded such promises.)

Undoubtedly, many colonials rebelled for no other reason than a sincere desire to determine their own lives. But using violence to say “no” to tyranny almost always leads to implementing other political and social ends through the continued use of violence. The treatment of colonials who were loyalists is an example.

At the time of the American Revolution, an estimated 15 to 20 percent of colonists were Loyalists who preferred British rule, often because they were members of the Church of England. The Loyalists consisted of some 500,000 people. After the war, they were persecuted by state governments even if they had taken no action to aid the British. They were persecuted for politically disagreeing. Every state passed laws to confiscate their property. Approximately 100,000 loyalists fled America because their person and wealth were not safe from former neighbors.

Much more could be written about the inequities of the American Revolution as it became a civil war. But even from a few examples, it should be clear that war cannot be noble. Revolutions can; they can be the collective equivalent of saying “no” to injustice. The longer revolutions take, however, the more likely they are to become wars. And wars, including the War for Independence, are violations both of nobility and of the principles announced in the Declaration of Independence.

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53 Responses to “American Revolution v. Declaration of Independence”

  1. Rick DiMareNo Gravatar says:

    “Not only did the War for Independence not free [the slaves], it led to the United States Constitution which embedded their slavery into the legal fabric of the new nation.”

    Wendy, nice article. I would just like to contest this statement because there was actually an often-overlooked legal plan embedded in the Constitution to make slavery die out within about 20 years after ratification, not a legal plan designed to embed slavery.

    And if this anti-slave plan had subsequently been honored by slaveholding states, and the agreed upon slave taxes promptly paid after the 1796 Hylton case, and after the tax cap on slave ownership ended in 1808 under the Slave Importation Clause, neither the Civil War nor the federal take over of the currency would have been necessary. However, not only did slaveowners change their minds about letting slavery atrophy, but actually sought to expand the practice to other states.

    I try to explain the Constitutional details in this short essay “Lincoln as the Constitution’s Slave Tax Enforcer:” s-slave-tax-enforcer-1787-1861/#more-83

    • Tom JNo Gravatar says:

      Plan or no plan, the War for Independence led to the United States Constitution, which secured slavery in the South for another 70 plus years.

      • Rick DiMareNo Gravatar says:

        Tom, without the Constitution there would be no United States, and slavery might still be tolerated in the U.S. today. The Articles of Confederation were not working, mainly because the they didn’t force the states to concede enough power to the feds. Under the Articles, the feds could only assess a tax against the states and send a bill to the state governments, then simply hope to get paid.

        The Constitution changed that by giving the feds power to collect taxes directly from the people, but only when taxes were considered to be “indirect.” (Direct taxes still had to be apportioned, like under the Articles.)

        The two classes of taxation created by the Constitution are greatly misunderstood, even today, and even by the vast majority of U.S. lawyers, but they caused conflict over how to treat the slave’s labor for tax purposes, and therefore influenced events that led to the Civil War (and the good news is that they potentially give us property right in our labor/wages).

        • HReardenNo Gravatar says:

          Given that slavery outside of parts of Africa and Asia today was eventually abolished elsewhere throughout the world why do say that it would probably exist today in the US? I believe that slavery would have been abolishedas technology expanded and industrialization became a reality in the South. The old South would have changed into the new South as it has. Slavery would have become impractical and too costly in the South. So called “free labor” is a misnomer. Slavery wasn’t free labor. There was a cost to enslaving workers. The Articles of Confederation were working. That is why power hungery men like Hamilton favored a powerful central government.


        • Hello Rick, Hello H.R.: I have to agree with H.R.’s view that the Articles of Confederation were working but did not serve the goals of those who wished to centralize power. It seems to me that a loose federation of largely autonomous states would have resulted in more and a better lasting freedom. Perhaps I am misinterpreting your comments but, if you *do* think the government created by the Constitution was superior to the system established by the Articles of Confederation, then I’d be interested in hearing more about ‘why’.

          • Rick DiMareNo Gravatar says:

            The Constitution was far superior to the Articles, and hopefully within our lifetimes, we’ll see why. One of the main features (which few lawyers study or understand) is that the Constitution created two classes of taxation, with rules for direct taxation applying only to taxes levied on “property because of ownership.”

            Prior to the Civil War, mainly because of the value of the slave’s labor being mixed with real estate values and slaveowner profits, the Direct Tax Clauses only applied to real estate and “capitation” taxes.

            However, after the Civil War, and particularly after the 1895 Pollock case, the door has also been opened to the possibility that one’s wages can be one’s personal property (not income). This is important for libertarians concerned about property rights because property rights don’t exist in the positive.

            Anarchists probably don’t want to hear this, but property rights only exist because some legalized gang called the state is standing by to establish boundaries and punish/prevent trespassing.

            Anyway, I think the property rights in labor idea has been hung up for awhile, probably because of sensitive issues surrounding the differences between the labor/energy/actions of men vs. that of women, but again, I’m hopeful that the Constitution is ultimately going to provide unprecedented personal freedom and property rights for “natural persons” (and the focus on the rights of artificial or legal corporate persons will diminish).

            • HReardenNo Gravatar says:

              Rick DiMare: Hopeful? Why are you hopeful?


              • Rick DiMareNo Gravatar says:

                Because it’s not like we have to re-invent the wheel or have endless violent revolutions. The law supporting a (Lockean “self ownership”) property right in one’s labor/wages/mind/body/actions/energy is already established by U.S. legal precedent, so it’s only a matter of teaching and motivating lawyers.

                Also, the momentum happening with libertarian, occupy, tea party, etc. groups is giving me hope. Although these groups can have a rather crude understanding of law, I think the proliferation of groups like this show that people are ready for real change at the grass roots level (the only place real change actually happens).

                • HReardenNo Gravatar says:

                  Your post can
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        • Tom JNo Gravatar says:

          Rick: I’m an anarchist, so the non-creating of the United States doesn’t bother me at all. Regarding slavery, it lasted in the US longer than it did everywhere else in the world that it was practiced, and ended extremely violently, unlike it did everywhere else. That hardly speaks well for the US Constitution; and I agree with others that it would have died off on its own (as it did elsewhere), largely because it was an inferior economic system.

          Furthermore, the adoption of the US Constitution was an extralegal power grab and concentration of power on behalf of nationalist factions like militarists, land speculators, public creditors, and privileged merchants. That’s all completely at odds with libertarian principles, particularly that of creating the power to tax at the federal level, when none existed (that’s not to suggest inflating national currencies like the Continental Dollar isn’t also taxation).

          A good article for all on this subject, written by Jeffrey Rogers Hummel, titled The Constitution as Counter-Revolution: A Tribute to the Anti-Federalists:

          • Rick DiMareNo Gravatar says:

            Tom, I thought Hummel’s article was very good.

            You will likely disagree with this following statement, but the idea of a natural person having a direct legal relationship with both federal and state governments was, in my view, the most significant improvement made by the Constitution.

            Hummel doesn’t mention the Constitution’s two Direct Tax Clauses, but keep in mind that the relationship with the federal government is potentially benign if it were somehow possible to avoid the intrusive federal indirect taxes, like various forms of income taxes, which are all indirect. (Personally, I don’t mind non-intrusive indirect federal taxes like those hidden in the cost of goods and services.)

            But the feds aren’t going to let us off the hook easily, without a legal demand. They use any opportunity possible to make taxes Constitutionally indirect so they can collect the taxes directly themselves and avoid the apportionment and proportionality requirements imposed by the Direct Tax Clauses, which requirements compel them to rely on state revenue collectors.

            • helioNo Gravatar says:

              Great article. Anything that challenges the sacred history of the bald eagle tribe is a righteous boon.

      • HReardenNo Gravatar says:

        Slavery existed in both the North and the South. During the War of Yankee Agression slavery existed in D,, MD (until 1864) Washington City (DC) until 1863, WV (even after it became a state in the USA in 1863), KY (KY never joined the CSA and was occupied by the USA throughout the war), MO (MO was dived and controlled by both sides ans slavery existed in both parts). Ironicly slavery was supposedly abolished in the State of Jones which was geographicly in the South inside MS.


  2. Rick…this is fascinating. I may well turn the “slave tax” matter into an article. If I do, then I will certainly cite you prominently. Thanks for the link. I recommend that everyone click through.

  3. HReardenNo Gravatar says:

    Things are not going to go perfect or be perfect bassed on our definition of perfect. The principle to keep in mind that justifies the American Revolution is that people have a right to be independent. People of different political views joined in the struggle for independence. Nobody was certain what would be the result of it should the revolution succeed. Some like Hamilton support a strong governnment just not the British government while others wanted very littlle if aany government.


    • Good morning HR…I think the American Revolution was justified. I do not think the war into which it turned was. Someone mentioned Murray Rothbard’s “Conceived in Liberty” — which was actually co-authored by Leonard Liggio — and I think you might find it eye-opening. Thanks for commenting!

  4. Samuel AdamsNo Gravatar says:

    John Adams was of the opinion that the real revolution took places in the 20 or so years prior to 1774 (sorry, no cite) as the colonists changed their views on their relationship to the crown. Much of that change was due to the work of a few radicals like James Otis and Sam Adams, working both within and without the system.

    For an excellent look at the history of the colonies prior to the war for independence, see Murray Rothbard, Conceived in Liberty, available from

    • “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.” This is an excerpt from a 1818 letter written by John Adams. The entire letter can be found here. -revolution/

      It is a great quote– and I agree that the Revolution intellectually was waged and won in the pulpits, taverns, etc. before a drop of blood was shed — but when people speak of the American Revolution as an event, they mean the upheaval that commenced in 1776. It would have been amazing and history would have changed had the intellectual Revolution been actualized through non-violent resistance and civil disobedience.

      • HReardenNo Gravatar says:

        Wendy war could have been avoided had the British empire not been so bone headed. The intellectuals of the revolution originally did not seek independence but rather the empire backing down with their oppresssive measures and taxes. It was the empire that started the war by marching on Lexington Green and Concord to steal gun powder. Btw, gun powder was stolen by British troops at the order of VA Gov. Dunmore (John Murray of Scotland) from the magazine in Williamsburg. Liberty could not have been achieved without war because to be passive would have been to allow liberty to be trampled. The response by the empire to the Declaration was to esculate things and send more troops to America. Reason was tried but you can reason with unreasonable men. It was the 18th century not the 20th century. The reason that India was able to become independent without a convential war is because the empire was concerned about it’s reputation in the eyes of the world. In the 18th century that was not the case. Pacifism rarely is the answer. Sometimes war is the answer. It was the answer to stopping National Socialist Germany because you can not reason with unreasonable men and particularly if they are bent on waging war.


    • HReardenNo Gravatar says:

      Sam Adams: John Adams may have been refering to the Albany Conference which took place in Albany, NY in 1754. Men representing 7 of the American colonies gathered in Albany to discuss a plan for a uniting of the colonies. I believe Franklin organized the gathering. I don’t think the objective was to break away from the empire but to organize the colonies into a united political confederation.


    • Hi Joe:

      You cannot do much better than Anthony. Every libertarian should read that article by him on every Independence Day. I had lunch with Anthony at Freedom Fest last week and we actually discussed the American Revolution. He lamented how difficult it was to convince Americans that almost anything untodo happened. BTW, I consider the Constitution to be significantly at odds with the Declaration of Independence. I believe the latter expresses the intellectual Revolution to which the above-poster Samuel Adams alludes while the former expresses the erosion of those ideals

  5. Bob RobertsonNo Gravatar says:

    My “wake-up” was meeting a Canadian whose ancestors had been persecuted following the war, and moved to Halifax rather than stay in Massachusetts.

    • Nice to see you back Bob. I live in SW Ontario to which a great many Loyalists fled for safety. Loyalists were more conservative and business-oriented than most of the colonists and they brought with them many skills and talents that made them rise rapidly in stature here. Some of the wealthiest families can trace their roots back to Loyalist ancestors who arrived with nothing and changed that circumstance quickly. Of course, many were offered land etc. by the British to compensate for property confiscated ‘down under.’ The Canadian view of the American Revolution is often quite different.

      • HReardenNo Gravatar says:

        My view of the loyalists is the same of my view of Southerners who sided with the Yankees during the Second War of Independence. I consider them as people who opposed liberty. They were statists who favored empire. The fact is that it wa th lotalists who wanted to inpose their support for empire on to the patriots rather than the other way around. I am glad they left and headed north to Canada because they were wrong to desire to inpose their view of government on those who supported liberty. Btw, there were people who were born in England who immigrated to America afte the revolution who still were loyal to England and during the War of 1812 fleed to Canada.v There were Americans who immigrated to Canada prior to the War of 1812 who left Canada and returned to the USA.


  6. WmR CohenNo Gravatar says:

    If there is one idea which Americans need to know about the founding of America it is that the more individualistically oriented of them such as Thomas Jefferson wanted to make sure that their children never had to endure living under any form of tyrant and did so by limiting the powers they granted as sovereign states to the federal government.

    Unfortunately the schools fail to impress their students with this idea by leaving it completely out of the curriculum.

    I hope that the efforts of each of us who shares that notion of the founder’s vision to enlighten our neighbors may help restore our freedom in the future.

    I am glad you make the point about the creation of fiat currency in order to pay those who joined to fight the British. As I understand it they were told that the paper would become redeemable for gold or silver coins in the future but that promise was never kept.

    Certainly the experience with the Continental lead to the clauses in Article 1 Section 8 and section 10 which empowered the Congress to “coin” money and regulate the value thereof, and that States would hold only gold and silver coin as tender for payment of debts.

    I learned from an article in Freedom Daily that during the post revolutionary war years some men who had borrowed money and signed contracts to repay in gold or silver coins pleaded with their sovereign state governments to strike those lines in the contracts and issue a paper currency to repay instead.

    The G.Edward Griffin book The Creature From Jekyll Island is a font of info on the history of central banking and the secret origin of the Federal Reserve System by private bankers.

    Enjoyed your article.

    • Bob RobertsonNo Gravatar says:

      I can’t imagine why the government schools would leave out the very valid distrust and dislike of government by the lauded Founding Fathers that they teach as infallable, divinely inspired prophets.

    • Thanks for the thoughtful comment Wm. The currency issue is fascinating, and you are quite correct that various states simply nullified the “redeem in gold or silver” provisions in much the same way FDR nullified all existing “gold clauses” in contracts in the 1930s. Those trusting souls who accepted government IOUs were left with fiat money which, as the saying goes, was “not worth a Continental.”

    • GilNo Gravatar says:

      The same President who made an illegal lang grab? If so I’d say mission failed.

  7. Seth KingNo Gravatar says:

    I think the reason why the War of Independence became an ignoble war was because the people fighting it were still statists. They had no intention of abolishing the state altogether, so it should come as no surprise that they engaged in statist actions during the war.

    I have to believe that an anarchist war could very well be fought in a noble manner.

    • HReardenNo Gravatar says:

      The soldiers who fought in the war did so for a variety of reasons. Some may have been Anarchists. Nobody knew what would happen should the Americans defeat the empire. Many may have assumed (prior to the Articles of Confederation being implemented in 1781) that there would be 13 independent states and Congress would disbannd or perhaps be a temporary Congress that conviens from time to time to deal with issues that affect all of the states. George Mason refused to sign the Constitution and despiesed politics. Patrick Henry was also opposed to the Constitution.


  8. HReardenNo Gravatar says:

    The war began on April 19, 1775 when the mem of Lexington Green, MA and Concord, MA attempted to defend their communities from an army of theives in red coats. Thus the war began prior to the Declaration. Those who attempted to defend their communities from invaders were right and those who declared indepenence were right. The war was a matter of national defence against an army that had invaded to impose government literally at the point of a gun. The gun was visible. Congress at that time had no “real’ power. Congress could not force states and indivisuals to pay taxes. In fact soldiers rarelt were paid on time because of the inability of Congress to collect taxes. All Congress could do is write letters to the states requesting monies to fund the war. Although states were given quotas for soldiers the states were incapable of consripting men into military service. In contrast the British military impressed men into their army. Not only were the men who were soldiers in the First American Revolution right but the Americans who fought for independence in the Second War of Independence right. Also after the war the 13 states were governed by the Articles of Confederation which did not impose a large federal government.


  9. JustSayNoToStatismNo Gravatar says:

    @Administration: More issues with posts not showing up. This is bad.


    “Tom, without the Constitution there would be no United States”

    ^The land mass of the United States would certainly exist. The government probably would have anyways, but if not, all the better.

    “and slavery might still be tolerated in the U.S. today.”

    ^I hope that’s a joke. Seriously. Are you kidding? You can’t possibly believe that.

    “The Articles of Confederation were not working, mainly because the they didn’t force the states to concede enough power to the feds. Under the Articles, the feds could only assess a tax against the states and send a bill to the state governments, then simply hope to get paid.”

    ^If that’s called “not working” I would like to see government become even more dysfunctional.

    • Seth KingNo Gravatar says:

      Okay, I decided to check the spam comments and sure enough you were in there. I have no idea why your posts are being labeled as spam.

      • Seth…thanks for figuring this out. It has been a recurring problem for JustSayNoToStatism and for me too in that I really like the fellow’s posts.

  10. KenNo Gravatar says:

    I found most interesting about the disconnect between those wanting freedom and then finding themselves in a war where the attempt to raise money through taxes and an army for defense stretched even Patrick Henry when governor of VA. It became quite the juggling act as war threatened the infant freedom movement. It is from these times that those in power tend to use the war card and fear to increase their influence and pocketbooks. The other thing war did is create a debt so big that “something” had to be done … and centralization was underway. The Lion of Liberty – Patrick Henry by Unger gives great insight into that person on transition from the Articles toward the Constitution … and Patrick Henry was quite the prophet in seeing how centralized this country would become.

    • HReardenNo Gravatar says:

      Although taxes affect everyone, direct taxes were paid by freeholders unless a head tax was
      imposed.So given that only freeholders could hold a legislative or elected office and there were few
      freeholders, the people imposing direct taxes in the states were imposing taxes on theirselves and
      the small number of people who elected them. Taxes at that time were far less oppressive.
      Ironicly the price of the tea that was shipped to Boston in 1773 was less even with the tax
      than what people in Boston jad previously paid because it was a surplus shimpment and
      it was shipped directly from India without being shipped to England first as was sop at
      the time.


  11. Fritz KneseNo Gravatar says:

    Interesting Wendy. However, I am not totally sure you are not splitting hairs here. All war involves huge infringements upon lots of people. If revoluition requires war then it will infringe upon rights (assuming such a thing exists). Then revolution is nearly as “immoral” as any other war. For example, I think that bif freedom has any chance it will require revolution. But how do you justilfy probably huindreds of millions of deaths to promote the philosophy of freedom? Some days I afeel that it would be justified. Otdher days not. Got to go. More another time.

    • Hello Fritz: Sorry to be so long in answering. I’ve been traveling…something I *hate* doing because I am such a homebody. But I digress. I do not think revolution necessarily leads to war. Violent revolution, of course, has that potential in spades. But non-violent revolutions such as that conducted by Gandhi in India or Lech Walesa in Poland can sometimes pull off the feat of achieving great good without open and sustained violence (war) erupting.

  12. Fritz KneseNo Gravatar says:

    The real question I keep coming back to in my mind is how can we get from the basically police state that we live in into a basically anarchistic society where individual freedom is actually respected rather than given lip service?! The “people” will never vote it in considering that Joe Average is terrified of small change much less the radical change necessary to create a free society. A revolution would likely create a more despotic not less government. When I was young, the only reasonable option available to maximize personal liberty and also promote a free society seemed to be to “drop out” and go back to the land. Of course that course has its perils as well, but I have tried to do so to what reasonable extent I could. For me, being out in the boondocks away from the mobs in town is a good option, but it is not real freedom either. I have thought that by being a living example of what a free life could be like that other like minded individuals would emulate the idea . But even if it worked, it would take centuries to evolve towards a free society. I will likely be dead before I get to 70 ten year from now. So forgive me if I am a bit cynical about the chances for freedom.
    Have you read Pharmocracy by William Faloon of the Life Extension Foundation? A brilliant book by a man who has been fighting the good fight against the FDA for over 30 years. Once again, government interference in free enterprise has largely destroyed the great promise that life extension had when I was young. It seems obvious that our masters do not want common men living longer and such agencies as the FDA are assuring the rich get richer at the expense of the health of common people.

  13. Paul BonneauNo Gravatar says:

    “What followed was a war not only against Britain but against fellow-colonists who preferred British rule.”

    This article uses collective terminology more than it should. There is nothing wrong with throwing off the rule of others. If some third party (in this case Tories) prefer to be ruled, there is nothing wrong with that either. What’s wrong is imposing on others.

    The whole country did not do bad things in war; individuals did. Some Tories passively supported the King; others went to war against the rebels. The second group of Tories were bad people. Likewise the rebels that harmed passive Tories.

    We should try not to judge too much, or indulge in Monday morning quarterbacking. It’s not like the concept of panarchy existed at all in the world at that point, so it’s a bit much to whack those folks for not taking up panarchy. I doubt you could find anyone who would say no evil things happened in the Revolution; likewise it’s wrong to say no good happened. To me it’s the most justifiable war that was fought in this country by far, even if some people participating did evil. By the way the fighting was going on over a year before the Declaration came out, and at first few were calling for independence.

    “Undoubtedly, many colonials rebelled for no other reason than a sincere desire to determine their own lives. But using violence to say “no” to tyranny almost always leads to implementing other political and social ends through the continued use of violence.”

    By the same people? You cannot condemn one group because another group did bad things. It’s perfectly legitimate to oppose tyranny with violence (not always the best way, but still legitimate). Save your condemnation for the people who did evil, not for all rebels.

    “After the war, they were persecuted by state governments even if they had taken no action to aid the British.”

    Not all. Some switched sides and became the American ruling class in the coup of 1787. But what happened after the war is irrelevant to the legitimacy of rebellion.

  14. Paul BonneauNo Gravatar says:

    BTW very many people were killed as a result of Gandhi’s throwing the British out of India; but we reasonably do not ascribe those deaths to Gandhi himself.

  15. Tom JNo Gravatar says:

    From “The Rocky Road of American Taxation” by tax historian Charles Adams:
    “It is not difficult to argue that the founding fathers of America revolted over taxes that were neither unfair nor oppressive. The Americans were among the most blessed and fortunate people on earth; they had the protection of the British nation and their land was rich and choice. Business was good and there were jobs for everyone. Europe’s social castes did not enchain them and their sons were not conscripted to fight wars in far away places. If revolution is the consequence of oppression then the American Revolution should never have occurred.”

    From an article by Gary North titled “Tricked on the Fourth of July”:

    “I do not celebrate the fourth of July. This goes back to a term paper I wrote in graduate school. It was on colonial taxation in the British North American colonies in 1775. Not counting local taxation, I discovered that the total burden of British imperial taxation was about 1% of national income. It may have been as high as 2.5% in the southern colonies…

    The colonists had a sweet deal in 1775. Great Britain was the second freest nation on earth. Switzerland was probably the most free nation, but I would be hard-pressed to identify any other nation in 1775 that was ahead of Great Britain. And in Great Britain’s Empire, the colonists were by far the freest.
    I will say it, loud and clear: the freest society on earth in 1775 was British North America, with the exception of the slave system. Anyone who was not a slave had incomparable freedom.…

    In an article on taxation in that era, Rabushka (author of Taxation In Colonial America) gets to the point.
    “Historians have written that taxes in the new American nation rose and remained considerably higher, perhaps three times higher, than they were under British rule. More money was required for national defense than previously needed to defend the frontier from Indians and the French, and the new nation faced other expenses.”

    So, as a result of the American Revolution, the tax burden tripled.…
    That the largest signature on the Declaration of Independence was signed by the richest smuggler in North America was no coincidence. He was hopping mad. Parliament in 1773 had cut the tax on tea imported by the British East India Company, so the cost of British tea went lower than the smugglers’ cost on non-British tea. This had cost Hancock a pretty penny. The Tea Party had stopped the unloading of the tea by throwing privately owned tea off a privately owned ship – a ship in competition with Hancock’s ships. The Boston Tea Party was in fact a well-organized protest against lower prices stemming from lower taxes. “
    So, once again, I shall not celebrate the fourth of July.

    Also from “The Rocky Road of American Taxation”, by historian Charles Adams, regarding the Boston Tea Party:

    “The Boston Tea Party was a turning point in colonial reaction to British rule. By 1773 the tax issue was becoming obscure. Both parties were moving toward war.

    Recently American postage stamps have depicted the Boston Tea Party as a glorious act of defying British colonialism. Most people believe it was a protest against British taxes on tea, but this is not true. American tea merchants had been boycotting British tea for five years. Smuggled Dutch tea was used throughout the colonies. In response, the British government decided to remove the duties on East Indies tea when it arrived in Britain so it could be sold in America at a price cheaper than smuggled Dutch tea….

    The Boston Tea Party is a sobering event that raises difficult legal and moral issues. It is anything but the cause célèbre American historians have made of it. This wanton destruction of property was not well received in the colonies. Massachusetts was a known seedbed of hotheads and warmongers. Franklin was shocked and acknowledged that full restitution should be paid at once to the owners of the tea. Most Americans believed this way, but unfortunately the majority of Americans were to feel the heel of the British boot. A number of “Intolerable Acts” were adopted by the Crown…”

    Lastly, the writer of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, among other things, owned slaves till the end of his 84 years long life, and then even still, was insolvent at his end. Political libertarians love to give Jefferson a pass on his unlibertarian record in numerous areas, but he far from deserves one from principled libertarians.

  16. Paul BonneauNo Gravatar says:

    One other thing. Whose war was it?

    We don’t normally consider the Confederacy to have warred on the Union; they did everything they could to avoid war. It was Lincoln’s war.

    Likewise, why consider the Revolution America’s war? And thus that the responsibility for it (fiscal and otherwise) must be laid at the feet of the rebels? They’d likely have left England’s embrace peacefully it they had a chance. The war was the King’s and Parliament’s choice. All the bad things including ill treatment of Tories and currency destruction and all the rest, are a result of England’s actions. To think otherwise, is the same thing as blaming a rape victim for the cost of medical and psychological care.

    Yes, they could have avoided the cost by not rebelling. They could have been contented slaves forever. They actually were pretty happy during the period of “salutary neglect”, up to 1763. But they weren’t so lucky as Charles Adams imagines after that. Oh, perhaps with enough begging (they did plenty of that too) they might have reduced the depredations to a tolerable level. Still, one has to wonder about people who think we should have been satisfied with that.

  17. Paul BonneauNo Gravatar says:

    Tom, your comments are very strange. Yes, Americans ended up paying higher taxes after the Revolution than they did to the British, but you have to ask yourself why that was so. If you refer to Rothbard’s “Conceived in Liberty”, there are several reasons. First, wars are expensive; no surprise you have to pay a lot of money for a while after them, but that does not mean (done properly) taxes must be higher 20 years down the road. Comparing taxes just before and just after the Revolution is pretty mindless, if not outright manipulative. Second, it matters what people you are talking about (again, too much collectivism being displayed here). Those least inclined to independence, the Tories and near Tories with favorable positions in the colonies, are the very reason taxes went so high. Washington for example favored an expensive standing army rather than a cheap and effective militia. Many in Congress had their hands in the till, engaging in war profiteering. These are the people who engineered the Articles of Confederation when there was no need (the war being almost over) and later the coup of 1787. These included such manipulators as Hamilton and Robert Morris, who did everything they could to game the system and drive taxes up and give the federal government taxing authority.

    It’s crazy to blame the Revolution on high taxes when the profiteers who only supported it when it became convenient for their shady dealing were the cause of the high taxes. The real revolutionaries, the ordinary people, hated the taxes as much as they hated the Stamp Act. They were the victims, not the cause, of high taxes.

    I have written about Charles Adams’ Tory-friendly view on the Strike-the Root site, entitled “The Boston Tea Party: An Attack on Property Rights?” (I guess links are not permitted in these comments – my comments are now out of order…).

    Maybe we should just call up the Queen and tell her we didn’t really mean it when we rebelled!

    • Tom JNo Gravatar says:

      Paul (sorry for the delay),

      The Declaration of Independence to a significant extent is misleading, false, and collectivist (as political documents commonly are), to justify the creation of the Continental Congress in order to wage nationalist war against Britain; and the war was just beginning then, not “almost over” as you wrote. This is the case with the D.O.I. because with the with the exception of slaves, life for the inhabitants of the colonies had not been that of brutal oppression and strangulation by the King of England, far from it as my previous post tried to show. Life had recently been made worse for the residents of Massachusetts, and only them, due to the adoption of the Coercive Acts, which were enacted by Britain in reaction to the “Sons of Liberty” destroying shipments of tea owned by the East India Company, intended for sell to all.

      I read your article on the Boston Tea Party in Strike the Root, and also George Smiths article on it that you mentioned. You ask “Who were the victims?” of the tea dumping. They were 1) as is always the case with trade protectionism, those teas consumers who weren’t able to purchase the cheaper tea (made cheaper by a tax cut), and 2) the innocent residents of Massachusetts subjected to the Coercive Acts.

      Furthermore, receiving and selling tea, and paying duties on tea are not an act of aggression, so the threats of violence (and death) made by the “Sons of Liberty” to the agents of the American firms doing that in New York and Philadelphia, were themselves a threat of aggression and therefore a clear violation of libertarian principle. By the logic of the “Sons of Liberty” and those who agree with them, it’s justified to aggress or threaten aggression against everyone who pays taxes or who are beneficiaries of state privilege; this covers almost everyone, everywhere.

      A related article: The Downside of the “Tea Party”
      This related short piece has many links to other related articles: th-of-july/;
      For reference, your article: y-rights

    • Tom JNo Gravatar says:

      The paragraph below was originally at the end of my previous post, but after 2 failed attempts to get it to post, I removed it to see if shortening the post would help matters. I don’t know if that made a difference or not, because there are longer posts up than it was.

      George Smith finishes his article with the following: “But the Coercive Acts had precisely the opposite effect. They stiffened American resolve, inflamed passions even more, and instigated the crucial transition from resistance to revolution.”

      Firstly, my read of history is that a third of the population of the 13 colonies was opposed to political independence from Britain, while a third was indifferent to it, and a third was supportive of it, so his “American resolve” is collectivist and inaccurate. Secondly, the tea destruction had the counterproductive effect of inflaming the passions of all political parties in Britain against the colonies (this included former friends), and this produced support in Britain for the Coercive Acts, which in turn produced greater support in the colonies for the concentration of political power to wage nationalist war (the opposite of an increase in individual liberty in the colonies). on-tea-party

  18. Fritz KneseNo Gravatar says:

    Wendy, I think it extremely unlikely that non-violent revolution will work out, at least for very long. It seems to presuppose that most people are able to change in response to logical arguments. Unfortunately, that just is not true. The fear of consequences makes violence or its threat very effective. Sinced the statists have most of the good weapons , they control us all.

  19. R CrossNo Gravatar says:

    This is an excellent article and clearly worthy of further consideration. I would like to point out one thing that I believe countless people misunderstand. The “central principle”, as the article put it, of the Declaration of Independence is not that “all men are created equal” and “are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights” including “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” The central principle is that mankind has a right to abolish his political bonds with his government and establish one of his own choosing. This central principle is based on those unalienable rights. The statement that “all men are created equal” and “are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights” is used to justify the right of secession.

    Although I believe the argument used to justify this right is important, people have misunderstood it as the end-all be-all of the Declaration for far too long and it has lead many people to discount freedom in the pursuit of equality. As Lord Acton once said, “The finest opportunity ever given to the world was thrown away because the passion of equality made vain the hope for freedom.”

  20. primus inter paresNo Gravatar says:


    Thank you for writing the excellent article above.

    Though do not agree with every assertion made by the commentators, I extend my thanks to all of them for adding interesting points of view and relevant facts.

  21. SleepySalsaNo Gravatar says:

    Miss McElroy,

    Could you please provide the citation for the Rhode Island price controls? I am pretty familiar with that time period (such as with the pivotal role that Committees of Safety played), but I have never heard of price controls being implmented.