The Revolution and the Rights of Man
Author John Keats argues that “the American Revolution was neither wholly American nor revolutionary,” and “represented the transatlantic evolution of European ideas whose origins were as old as Europe itself” – and territorial expansion. Add to this a poisonous mix of sharp-trading Puritans, pacifist Quakers and self-reliant Southern planters – “too many lumps of self-interest that simply would not melt” — and Jefferson’s borrowing and modifying phrases from Locke and Rousseau.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org
The Revolution and the Rights of Man
“The American Revolution was particularly dangerous to America and the world because the ostensible reason for fighting was to proclaim and protect the rights of man. Since these were seen to be natural and universal, the American Revolution was implicitly designed for export.
The Revolutionary veterans began to export it without waiting for their government’s approval. Within nine years after the war ended, there were no less than two hundred thousand Americans – one tenth of the national population – settled in the eastern Mississippi valley lands claimed by Spain.
To the Spanish, the newcomers were violent, armed revolutionary republicans. Worse, they were heretics who belonged to a race long inimical and dangerous to the Spanish one.
But the pursuit of [westward expansion] policies could not be undertaken by anything so weak and vague as the [Articles of Confederation]. Worse, the confederation was unable to exert any effective control over the scores of thousands of Americans who were taking land for themselves in the west.
Some of these self-reliant and self-confident, people, very much afire with Revolutionary ardor, were entertaining ideas of capturing New Orleans, invading Mexico, liberating people there from Spanish rule, and so extending the blessings of republican liberties to a people tyrannously denied their natural human rights.
The soberest of the leaders of the confederation were well-aware that the military power of the United States was non-existent, and that its political power were nearly so. [It was time] to weld thirteen separate republican States into a single military power that could control and protect its property.
The delegates succeeded in producing a powerful legal instrument to this end, but two years after the Constitution was adopted, a popular concern to protect the gains of the Revolution demanded that the other shoe be dropped: A Bill of Rights was tacked on. Once this was done, the Revolution was now legally ready for export, because the ostensible reason for going to Valley Forge was built into the law of the land. In defending [the Bill of Rights], the Americans would always be on the side of humanity.
The Revolutionary Americans, caught in the mystique of their own ardent rhetoric, believed this at the time, and many Americans have believed it ever since: what is good for Americans is good for anyone in the world; the world must be made safe for republican democracy whether the world liked it or not.
So the Constitution, as amended, was a document that first created a military power, and then in the names of God, natural law and human rights gave the people of the United States a sacred and legal command to use. It is not, therefore, a historical accident that in its 193-year history, the United States of American has engaged in more wars with more different people in more parts of the world than any other nation in the long history of man on earth.”
(Eminent Domain: the Louisiana Purchase and the Making of America, John Keats, Charterhouse, 1973, excerpts pp. 215; 217-218)