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Explain the foundations of the ideology of revolution that began to evolve in the...

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greenisin | Student, Grade 11 | (Level 1) Honors

Posted November 16, 2011 at 7:56 AM via web

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Explain the foundations of the ideology of revolution that began to evolve in the colonies from the late 1760s to the mid 1770s.

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dwfieldsop | High School Teacher | eNotes Newbie

Posted November 20, 2011 at 10:38 PM (Answer #1)

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The foundations of the ideology of revolution that began to evolve in the colonies from the late 1760s to the mid 1770s are based in the social contract work of political scientist John Locke.

Locke believed that in the beginning of time, humans existed in a "state of nature" where there were no governments and no laws controlling human behavior.  While that might seem appealing at first, Locke believed that this state was ultimately unsustainable because it led to survival of the fittest atmosphere where man was constantly worried about protecting their basic instincts.  In order to provide more security for themselves and their family, man grouped together to form governments that would ensure a basic level of protection.  Therefore, the social contract is that because the alternative (anarchy) is so horrible, man agrees to give up his freedom in return for protection.

Now, how that applies to the colonists is answered by the question: what happens if the people do not feel that they are being protected by the government?  According to Locke, if the government is not providing protection, the citizens have not only the right but the responsibility to overthrow the government and install a new one.  Because of the various taxation policies of the British government (taxation without representation) as well as the threat of Native American attacks, the American colonists felt that the British government was not giving them sufficient protection for the amount of freedom they were giving.  The Founding Fathers (many readers of Locke) then felt that they should overthrow the British government's authority in the colonies in turn for a government that would offer them a better social contract.

This language can also be seen in Thomas Jefferson's writing of the Declaration of Independence where he writes that..."That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --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."

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