Just War, Rebellion, and the American Revolution: John Keown and Modern Critiques on Whether the War of Independence was Just.
Part 26: Just Rebellion Principle 3, Right Intention
By Leonard O. Goenaga
Regarding the right intention principle, Keown asks the following in relation to the America Revolution:
“Was it the intention of the rebels to promote a just cause and, during the conflict, to pursue peace and reconciliation, avoiding the imposition of unreasonable conditions such as unconditional surrender?”1
Tooley abridges Keown’s response where he writes,
Keown argued that Americans’ lacked “right intent,” because they refused British peace overtures and mistreated loyal Tories, often seizing their property. In fact, all of the British “peace” overtures, including the 1778 overture by Lord Carlisle, demanded America submit to the British crown.2
The conclusion of unconditional surrender as unreasonable is both questionable and within the jurisdiction of just in bello. However, what does factor into an analysis of right intent ad bellum are professions of their intention and actions taken prior to declaring independence. In their declaration, Colonists noted their great attention to appealing to their “Brittish brethren.”3 The fondness for the enemy takes on a tone of solemnity and sadness, concluding with the need of the Colonists to “acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.” In addition to the good intentioned tone of the Declaration, the Colonists efforts solidified their words. For over a decade Colonists “warned . . . reminded . . . appealed . . . [and] conjured” their British brethren “by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence.” As evidenced later during the treatment on the last resort principle, their civil resistance and efforts such as the Olive Branch Petition proved true the Declaration’s claims. Given both the contents of their professed intentions, and the preceding actions illuminating their words, the American Revolution adhered to the right intention ad bellum principle.
1 John Keown, “America’s War for Independence – Just or Unjust?” 298.
2 Mark Tooley, “Was the American Revolution Just?”
3 The Declaration on Right Intention: “Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence.”
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