Natural Law, Independence, and Revolutionary History Culture, 1772–1776
This interlude explores the emergence of natural law as a primary feature of patriot rhetoric in the early 1770s. Once colonists had begun questioning the British past and its relationship to their current circumstances, adopting natural law arguments more widely allowed them to continue to argue the same principles they had previously based on the British past by universalizing them under the rhetoric of “natural law” and “natural rights.” In the years just prior to independence, arguments based on the authority of the past began to diminish in favor of natural law arguments. This shift is evident in the most important revolutionary texts from this period: Thomas Jefferson’s A Summary View of the Rights of British America, Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, and the Declaration of Independence.
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