Regardless of the many other factors that would lead to the Revolution, it would be a man who over sixty years after his death would inspire the colonists consider their inherent rights. The writings of John Locke in his Two Treatsies of Government would infect the colonists with his radical ideas and interpretation of property and that compelled them to take action. Never mind that Locke is considered by many to be the father of classical liberalism, classical liberalism is a good thing mind you; John Locke held that the word property had two different meanings. The first meaning was the universally understood idea that property was stuff, things, possessions, there was no denying this, nor was it disputed by anyone. The second, and much more radical idea, was that property also consisted of the rights of man to himself.1 As the colonists grew farther away from Britain through the combined factors of physical separation and the passage of time, they would begin to chafe under the incessant and increasing demands of the Crown. These men would start to question Britain’s right to lord over them, tax and spend for them while requiring them to use almost worthless scrip from an ocean away. Many American pamphelteers and writers would cite Locke’s trinity of life, liberty, and property when engaging in political discourse, citing that these rights were the natural rights of all free men.2
These concepts meant that because they had an innate right to be and make their own decisions and be free men, they would and indeed must question why they were still subject to the whims of the crown. They believed their situation was becoming dangerous and precarious in regards to the plans Britain had for the colonies. Would they have to serve the crown for all time? They would eventually come to realize they had become or were becoming slaves to the Crown. They provided materials and goods to the Crown, paid taxes to the Crown, and owed their undying loyalty to the same. They never saw England nor had any direct interaction with her but were beholden to the country, albeit with less rights than a “natural” Englishman. The colonists knew they should not be subject to someone else who would limit their rights in words or deeds. Being controlled by and subject to men that were across the sea, and in all likeliness had never set foot into the Americas, would be the division that caused attitudes to be so different among the colonists. This want for freedom and these crazy ideas would help to foment the coming revolution. I am glad John Locke was there to inspire our America.
1. Robert Middlekauff, The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution, 1763-1789 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1982), 123.
2.Benson Bobrick, Angel in the Whirlwind (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1997), 47.