Resisting the Slavers

An issue has come up in the comments of both Thabiti’s blog and mine that I thought I should address quickly, at least if I can. I have written and spoken on this in other settings, but it appears that a few folks think it is somewhat relevant to this discussion. That is the question of the American War for Independence, and whether or not it was legitimate for our Founders to revolt against “the existing authorities.”

I believe it was legitimate but I believe this because it wasn’t over the levels of taxation. Rather, the issue was one of which bodies had the constitutional authority to tax the colonies at all. Living as I do in Idaho, if I were to receive a tax bill levied by the legislature of North Dakota, I would simply round file it. This would not place me in violation of the existing law — the North Dakota legislature would be the ones violating the law by trying to tax me. I don’t live there, and they have no legitimate jurisdiction over me whatever.

The circumstances were similar for the American colonies. There are some variations in all this, but when the colonies were first established, the crown was their executive authority, and they were given their own legislatures. As a result of the Glorious Revolution in England in 1688, the crown lost authority in England, and Parliament gained authority. They gained authority in such a way as to make them assume (wrongly) that their legislature (for England) was now in charge of all the legislatures in other places. But it wasn’t — that was the point of dispute. “No taxation without representation” was an American argument from the law. Parliament had no taxing authority over the colonies because the colonies had no representatives in Parliament.

In short, the Americans were the conservatives, fighting to maintain their rights under the constitution, and the Parliament represented the radical innovation.

That’s the short version, and I hope it makes sense. So to bring this into the slavery discussion, the American colonists were not long established slaves who decided to revolt against their masters. They were free men who resisted an attempt to make them slaves in the first place. In consequence, because of the circumstances they were in, I believe that such resistance was fully appropriate.

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