Rebels They Were Not! – Part 2

American Founder, John Adams, answers the question, “Rebels or Not?”


Editor’s Note: Read Part 1

Were the Founders rebels, or were they upholders of the law?

In Part 1, brought to the bar were Chatham, Smith, Burke, Dunning and Wilkes – four of England’s leading statesmen of 1775 – to testify that it was not the Americans but the British Crown and the British Parliament that rebelled against English law by oppressing the Americans.

Today we hear the words of Founder John Adams as he presents the American perspective on “rebel or not.”

Kindling with indignation, Adams employed the fruits of his long study of British law, the Constitution and natural rights to vindicate the true sentiments of the colonists – saying, among other things, that the British overthrew established law, thus invoking the law of nature and the right to self-defense and independence. Said he:

“My friends, human nature itself is evermore an advocate for liberty. The people can understand and feel the difference between true and false, right and wrong, virtue and vice. To the sense of this difference the friends of mankind appeal.

“That all men by nature are equal; that kings have but a delegated authority, which the people may resume, are the revolution principles of 1688; are the principles of Aristotle and Plato, of Livy and Cicero, of Sidney, Harrington, and Locke, of nature and eternal reason.

“If the parliament of Great Britain had all the natural foundations of authority, wisdom, goodness, justice, power, would not an unlimited subjection of three millions of people to that parliament, at three thousand miles distance, be real slavery? But, when both electors and elected are become corrupt, you would be the most abject of slaves to the worst of masters.

“All America is united in sentiment. When a masterly statesman, to whom she has erected a statue in her heart for his integrity, fortitude, and perseverance in her cause, invented a committee of correspondence in Boston, did not every colony, nay every county, city, hundred, and town, upon the whole continent, adopt the measure as if it had been a revelation from above?

“Look over the resolves of the colonies for the past year; you will see that one understanding governs, one heart animates the whole. The mighty questions of the revolution of 1688 were determined in the convention of parliament by small majorities of two or three, and four or five only; the almost unanimity in the colonial assemblies, and especially in the continental congress, are the clearest demonstration of the cordial and indissoluble union of the colonies.

“If Great Britain were united, she could not subdue a country a thousand leagues off. But Great Britain is not united against us. Millions in England and Scotland think it unrighteous, impolitic, and ruinous to make war upon us; and a minister, though he may have a marble heart, will proceed with a desponding spirit.

“I would ask by what law the parliament has authority over America?

“By the law in the Old and New Testament it has none; by the law of nature and nations it has none; by the common law of England it has none; by statute law it has none; the declaratory act of 1766 was made without our consent by a parliament which had no authority beyond the four seas.

“If Great Britain has protected the colonies, all the profits of our trade centred in her lap. If she has been a nursing mother to us, we have, as nursed children commonly do, been very fond of her, and rewarded her all along tenfold for her care.

“We New England men do not derive our laws from parliament, nor from common law, but from the law of nature and the compact made with the king in our charters. It may as well be pretended that the people of Great Britain can forfeit their privileges, as the people of this province. If the contract of state is broken, the people and king of England must recur to nature. It is the same in this province. [He is saying, the colonial charters had been broken, and thus voided]

“The two characteristics of this people, religion and humanity, are strongly marked in all their proceedings. We are not exciting a rebellion. Resistance by arms against usurpation and lawless violence is not rebellion by the law of God or the land. Resistance to lawful authority makes rebellion. Hampden, Russell, Sidney, Holt, Somers, Tillotson, were no rebels.

“This people, under great trials and dangers, have discovered great abilities and virtues, and that nothing is so terrible to them as the loss of their liberties. They act for America and posterity. If there is no possible medium between absolute independence and subjection to the authority of parliament, all North America are convinced of their independence, and determined to defend it at all hazards.”

John Adams was right. Britain’s alteration of the law, an alteration which had as its stated object to “bind the colonists in all things”, and then gave full proof of that very intent by cannon and ball,  thereby dissolved the legal relationship that under colonial charter had for a century and a half guaranteed (and in fact delivered) self-government, local taxation by consent, trial by jury, and all other rights and privileges of Englishmen under British, natural, common and religious law.

This made the British so-called attempt to put down a “rebellion” lawless violence and usurpation on the part of England, one so extreme and deaf to the lawful, reasonable, and repeated appeals of the colonists, that the compact was dissolved, returning the Americans to their rights under the Law of Nature, and thus their resort to arms, an act of self-defense consistent with their Inalienable Rights under that Law of Nature. Who then were the rebels? Certainly not the Americans.

Steve Farrell is the Founder and Editor-In-Chief of Self-Educated American, one of the original and most popular pundits at (1999-2007), and the author of the highly praised inspirational novel, Dark Rose


Bancroft, George. “History of the United States, Volume IV,” pg. 124.