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Puritan Revolution and Republicanism

  • History of Liberty Seminar 2001

Tags U.S. HistoryPolitical Theory

03/01/2004Joseph R. Stromberg

The transforming ideology of the American Revolution consists of four elements: liberalism, republicanism, English law, and Protestantism. Liberalism was developed by the Levellers, saying that natural rights could be evolved from natural law.

English law lends itself to the rights of Englishmen as the Colonists understood them. Constitutionalism held that certain laws were above the King. Protestantism created new occasions for state intervention. In New England the church and state largely merged in practice.

Republicanism broadened the citizenship base. The Long Parliament in 1641 had a large Presbyterian section. Oliver Cromwell emerges out of all this and becomes a dictator. The new model Army wanted to make policy. Levellers come from this. The notion of self-ownership develops here. The Puritan Revolution is reined in by Cromwell. Republican ideas come into the picture by 1651 just before the restoration. Americans saw George III and his standing armies after 1763 undertaking the bad things they feared.

The downside to republican theory was there was a theory of government but not of rights. That can go off into nationalism. They dreamed of an empire which remains republican.

From the 2001 History of Liberty seminar.

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