Political Philosophy Subthemes

Political philosophy: the political and ideological ideas of both the Whig patriots and their opponents. Concepts may be found in the particular document; more often, they will be inferred from the context of the document.


  • American nationalism/unity/rights of America: assertions that the colonies together or “America” ought to unify; demands for American rights.

  • Aristocracy: attacks on the British as aristocrats seeking to deny Americans or colonists their rights.

     

  • British supremacy: support for British supremacy on all sides; attacks on Americans for denying it; disputes over the meaning of that supremacy.

     

  • Catholicism and anti-Catholicism: attacks on (as corrupt, tyrannical) or defenses of Catholicism (or Papism, Papists).

     

  • Charters and fundamental law: defenses of colonial liberties, based on seventeenth-century charters or natural or fundamental law; denials that charters provide autonomy from British oversight.

     

  • Conspiracy: insistence that the British or the British ministers have conspired to deprive colonists of their liberties and freedom.

     

  • Contract theory: idea that laws, taxes, and rights depend upon agreements of the people or actions of their elected representatives.

     

  • Corruption and virtue: implicit or explicit comparison between colonial or British virtue and British or colonial corruption, corruption defined systemically and structurally, virtue (service, honesty) applied to both individuals and institutions.

     

  • Democracy: idea of popular rule, attacked or defended.

     

  • Dependence and independence: Tory insistence and patriot denial that patriots seek independence; calls for independence; psychological and political meaning of abject dependence.

     

  • English constitution: defenses of colonial liberties or British authority on the basis of the English or British constitution, the unwritten higher law of the realm.

     

  • Equality: natural equality; demands for equality before the law, equal treatment.

     

  • Free assembly: demands for freedom to assemble and make the group's viewpoints clear.

     

  • Free press: praise for a free press; attacks on restrictions on the press (preventing patriot or Tory writings).

     

  • Freedom: freedom as a natural right; freedom and liberty.

     

  • Harmony: calls for harmony, consensus, agreement.

     

  • History: appeals to recent (e.g. French and Indian War) and distant (e.g. Greece and Rome) history.

     

  • Justice, law, and natural law: demands for justice; appeals to law and natural law to justify behavior.

     

  • Labor theory of value: theory that only labor produces value (e.g. land gains value from the labor put into it, not its location or fertility; colonists labored without English aid and thus ought to control the fruits of their efforts, their own country.

     

  • Legislative power: assertions of the supremacy of the legislature, particularly colonial legislatures, as justified by popular elections.

     

  • Liberty: demands for liberty (in the abstract) and for concrete liberties.

     

  • Longing for peace, peace overtures: desires for peace between Britain and her colonies, or—less often reports of concrete peace plans.

     

  • Luxury: lamentations about the nefarious effects of luxury, over-consumption of imported goods.

     

  • Mixed government/hierarchy: support for balanced government, similar to that of England, where different institutions (Parliament, King; people, assemblies, governors) share governing authority; disagreements over what kind of mixed government to support and which is corrupt.

     

  • Monarchy: ideological support for monarchy in general and/or King George III in particular, by both patriots and Tories; or attacks on same by patriots.

     

  • Parent-child analogy: favorable or unfavorable appeals to the parent (Britain)-child (America) analogy, e.g. “Mother country” and/or “colonies.”

     

  • Popular sovereignty: idea that the people, through their representative, control government.

     

  • Property: duty of government to protect property, and its ability to do so.

     

  • Rebellion: assertion that the colonies are in rebellion and denial from colonists that their actions constitute rebellion.

     

  • Republicanism and representation: support for/attack on republican forms of government; representation of the people through their representatives as a definition of a republican form of government.

     

  • Rights of Englishmen: demands for the rights Englishmen have as subjects of the crown, usually paired with liberty or freedom.

     

  • Slavery, bondage and consent: insistence that the British ministry is holding the colonies (metaphorically) in slavery, and attacks on that proposition, some pointing to real, chattel slaves.

     

  • Standing armies and militias: attacks on standing (professional) armies as fonts of tyranny and defenses of building armies from citizen-militiamen.

     

  • Tyranny, oppression, despotism: synonyms—often appearing together—indicating evil governance and rule.

     

  • Wilderness settlement and rights: historical argument linking the labor of making settlements to the insistence on keeping political rights.