Just War, Rebellion, and the American Revolution: John Keown and Modern Critiques on Whether the War of Independence was Just.
Part 31: Summation: In Light of the Evidence
By Leonard O. Goenaga
In summary, this paper has concluded that in light of the scriptural, traditional, and historical evidence, Keown is incorrect in concluding, “the colonists were not [justified]”, and “despite the prevailing consensus . . . the War of Independence is difficult to reconcile with Church teaching.”1 Rather, this paper has contended that, as communicated through the Declaration of Independence, and evidenced in the context-clarified experiences of the Colonists, the prevailing consensus is correct in maintaining that the American Revolution adhered to just war ad bellum principles. Keown claimed that necessary to proving that the American Revolution was a just war was to show “that the British were tyrannical.”2 As the interwoven testimony of presented scriptural principles, Christian contributions, and English Constitutional rights expressed, the precedence and actions of the British were surely tyrannical, and thus a just cause to seek the unfortunate remedy of war. This paper has followed the just war tradition according to the long line of Christian thinkers as they related to the English/American experience, and as they related to the topic of rebelling against tyranny. It has followed the just war tradition according to scripture, Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, Suarez, Locke, the English Constitution, and the Declaration of Independence, and so concludes that, based upon “convincingly meeting” all seven jus ad bellum criteria, the American Revolution was just.3
1 John Keown, “America’s War for Independence – Just or Unjust?” 278-279.
2 John Keown, “America’s Unjust Revolution: What British Tyranny?”
3 Keown concluded his paper by stating, “This paper has set out the seven criteria laid down by the just war tradition for the waging of a just war and has applied those criteria to the American War of Independence.” Keown’s conclusion is a bit misplaced, given the state of a just waging of war begs the question of a in bello treatment, whereas Keown utilizing mainly ad bellum criteria. He further states, “My paper follows the just war tradition according to Thomas, not Tooley”, however he utilizes contemporary post-Vatican II criteria unavailable to Aquinas.
The Moral Liberal Research Writer, Leonard O. Goenaga, is a Baptist Associate Pastor (assigned to the Youth) at Glory of God Christian Fellowship, Raleigh, North Carolina; a Mentor (Computer Lab/Technology) at the Wake Forest Boys & Girls Club; a husband (to Katrina); and rugby coach. He holds a B.A. in Political Science (with a specific concentration in Political Theory, Social Contract, and Constitutionalism), a second B.A. in Religious Studies (with a concentration in World Religions and Early Christianity), a Master of Divinity in Christian Ethics, and an A.A. in Entrepreneurship. He has begun Ph.D with a concentration likely centered on an analysis of Locke’s Social Contract, H.L.A. Hart’s Legal System, American Constitutionalism, and Baptist Ecclesiology of Covenant. Visit his website at Leonardooh.com