Just War, Rebellion, and the American Revolution: John Keown and Modern Critiques on Whether the War of Independence was Just.
Part 21: The Second Continental Response (1774-1775) – Lexington and Concord (1775), Second Continental Congress (1775), and The Olive Branch Petition (1775)
By Leonard O. Goenaga
The attempts to disarm Colonists of both their right of governance and defense logically put the colonies on edge. It appeared to them that, upon the failure of Parliamentarian legislation to bring the Colonies into subjugation, the British now sought to bring them into it by force. In addition to the incident of the Massachusetts government, the various noted alarms gave the appearance that the British Army sought to leave the colonists unarmed and defenseless. 1 It comes as no surprise that the first battles of the Revolution would erupt at Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775. Having already dissolved the Massachusetts government and attempted earlier seizures of armories, General Gage sought to secure the militia supplies at Concord. Receiving intelligence of the attempt, militiamen were ready, and the attempt resulted in the first battles of a war between Great Britain and the Thirteen Colonies. 2
In addition to an armed response against the attacks and attempts of the British Army, the Continental Congress met a second time in Philadelphia Pennsylvania on May of 1775. Given the absence of any federal government among the colonies, the Congress functioned as a defacto national government. The Congress oversaw the war, continued to petition the King, and made preparations for independence should it become necessary.3 Although already a year into armed conflict, the Colonists did not avail the responsibility to pursue diplomatic resolutions. The Second Continental Congress passed the Olive Branch Petition on July 8 1775, listing grievances and a request to redress them. 4 It beseeched the King to graciously:
Procure us relief from our afflicting fears and jealousies, occasioned by the system before-mentioned, and to settle peace through every part of our Dominions. . . . [by taking measures] for preventing the further destruction of the lives of your Majesty’s subjects; and that such statutes as more immediately distress any of your Majesty’s Colonies may be repealed. 5
Predictably, their appeal went unanswered.
1 It should be noted that throughout the British Constitution, the right of an Englishmen to self-defense is consistent. The attempt of the British Army to unarm the Colonists by seizing armories paid with colonial monies were a direct violation of their rights as Englishmen. As expressed in the Bill of Rights (1688), Englishmen contained said right: “Disarming Protestants, &c. By causing severall good Subjects being Protestants to be disarmed at the same time when Papists were both Armed and Imployed contrary to Law. . . .Subjects’ Arms. That the Subjects which are Protestants may have Arms for their Defence suitable to their Conditions and as allowed by Law.”
2 Allen French, The Day of Concord and Lexington (Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1925) 272-273.
3 This Congress provided the framework for American government that would later develop.
4 See Appendix 7 for the text of the First Continental Congress’ Petition to the King (1774). Some examples of their complaints include: On standing armies without consent – “A Standing Army has been kept in these Colonies ever since the conclusion of the late war, without the consent of our Assemblies; and this Army, with a considerable Naval armament, has been employed to enforce the collection of Taxes.” On taxation without consent – “By several Acts of Parliament made in the fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth years of your Majesty’s Reign, Duties are imposed on us for the purpose of raising a Revenue; and the powers of Admiralty and Vice Admiralty Courts are extended beyond their ancient limits, whereby our property is taken from us without our consent.” On the right of jury and rule of law – “the trial by jury, in many civil cases, is abolished; enormous forfeitures are incurred for slight offences; vexatious informers are exempted from paying damages, to which they are justly liable, and oppressive security is required from owners before they are allowed to defend their right. . . . another empowering the Governour of the Massachusetts Bay to send persons indicted for murder in that Province, to another Colony, or even to Great Britain, for trial, whereby such offenders may escape legal punishment; a third for altering the chartered Constitution of Government in that Province”
5 See Appendix 8 for a copy of the Olive Branch Petition (1775)
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