Just Rebellion Principle 2: Proportionate Cause

Just War, Rebellion, and the American Revolution: John Keown and Modern Critiques on Whether the War of Independence was Just.

Part 25: Just Rebellion Principle 2: Proportionate Cause

By Leonard O. Goenaga

Regarding the proportionate cause principle, Keown asks the following in relation to the America Revolution:

Even if the cause of the colonists in seeking independence were just, was it proportionate to the good expected? 1

Tooley abridges Keown’s response where he writes,

Even if America’s revolution was just, was it “proportionate” to the good it sought? Keown thinks not, even though the new nation’s democracy was “impressive.” But arguing against it, Keown claimed the revolution “opened the door to the decimation of the Native Americans [and] also pitted colonist against Parliament, white American against African-American, neighbor against neighbor, and father against son. He also alleged that America’s Revolution may have spawned the French Revolution and its “bloodbath.” 2

As mentioned earlier, in addition to several of Keown’s observations being entirely subjective, post-facto assumptions are not germane to the consideration of proportionate cause ad bellum. The Declaration lists several causes that impelled them to separation. Related to proportionate cause, these included the very security of life, liberty, happiness, and safety.3  As Brown notes on Suarez’ treatment of tyrannicide and proportionate cause, “slaying the tyrant must not be likely to bring about the same or greater ills as before.”4  Either the Colonists were left with the continuation of an apparent tyrannical pattern that robbed them of essential English liberties, or a condition of governance that protected and preserved said liberties. Given the just cause of acting against tyranny has been affirmed, the proportionate good of liberty as opposed to tyranny favor a conclusion that the American Revolution adhered to the proportionate cause ad bellum principle.


1 John Keown, “America’s War for Independence – Just or Unjust?” 295.

2 Mark Tooley, “Was the American Revolution Just?” The argument that the American Revolution is to blame for the French seems rather bizarre. The American experience stemmed greatly from Calvinistic and Lockean influences, while the French experience stemmed greatly from secular humanism and Rousseauism. As for the Indians, this again begs post-facto knowledge. The British just waged a war against the French and Indians, which initiated the various agitations that culminated in the Revolution. As also evidenced in Washington’s gestures, the newly formed nation sought to extend, as they had with the Olive Branch Petition, a gesture of intentional peace through the giving of the Indian Peace medals. See <http://www.greatseal.com/peace/indianmedals.html> (accessed December 26, 2011) for more information on said medals.

3 The Declaration on Life, Liberty, and Happiness: “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”. On Safety: “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.”

4 Davis Brown, The Sword, The Cross, and The Eagle, 165.


Self-Educated American 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