When in the Course of Human Events…—Hobbes, Locke, and the Long Parliament Against America

  • Ivan JankovicEmail author


In this chapter, the standard arguments often made for the Lockean character of the American Revolution were rejected in one crucial aspect: They fail to explain the critical belief all revolutionary Americans shared—that they, as members of colonial political societies had a right to unilaterally secede from the mother country. This belief was expressly claimed not only in many political pamphlets but also in the very Declaration of Independence. The main problem with the theories of Lockean ancestry of the Revolution is that they fail to capture a territorial dimension of the dispute, and more radically—its constitutional dimension. Relying on Locke and language of natural rights fails to explain how it was possible that the North American colonials in the 1770s could have believed that the British Empire was a composite, complex, confederated polity, rather than a unitary kingdom, explicitly equated with “body politic” in Locke’s Second Treatise. The chapter sketches the evolution of the state-building theory and practice in England from the seventeenth century onwards and reviews the radical responses by Americans in the eighteenth century.


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© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of MaryBismarckUSA

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