I. Up to 16th Century Political thought and theory
»» Aristotle, Politics
»» Plato, The Republic
»» Machiavelli, The
Elizabethan Religious Statutes and The Queen's
»» Complete Works of Elizabeth I,
Including her letters and her poems.
and Speeches of Elizabeth I
»» Act of
Supremacy, Elizabeth I (1559). After the brief and bloody reign of
her sister, Mary I, who executed numerous Protestants for the cause of Roman Catholicism,
this document states Elizabeth's intention to reaffirm the English Church's independence
from Rome. Her beloved status among her subjects caused the first settlers of America to
name their colony "Virginia" in honor of this virgin queen.
Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion (1571) The official statement of faith of the Church
of England; this document formally adopts the Calvinistic doctrine of predestination and
repudiates common notion of "free will."
Act (1571) Forbidding criticism of Queen Elizabeth.
»» An Act
Against Papists (1593) Parliament's tough words against those who would attempt to
depose Elizabeth for her Protestantism.
»» A Short Treatise
on Political Power, John Ponet, D.D. (1556) President John Adams credited this Calvinist
document as being at the root of the theory of government adopted by the the
Americans. According to Adams, Ponet's work contained "all the essential principles
of liberty, which were afterward dilated on by Sidney and Locke" including the idea
of a three-branched government. (Adams, Works, vol. 6, pg. 4). Published in
Strassbourg in 1556, it is one of the first works out of the Reformation to advocate
active resistance to tyrannical magistrates, with the exception of the Magdeburg Bekkentis
(the Magdeburg Confession).
»» The Dutch Declaration of
Independence (1581); This Calvinistic document served as a model for the U.S.
Declaration of Independence. In his Autobiography, Jefferson indicated that the
"Dutch Revolution" gave evidence and confidence to the Second Continental
Congress that the American Revolution could likewise commence and succeed. Recent scholarship has has
suggested that Jefferson may have consciously drawn on this document. John Adams said that
the Dutch charters had "been particularly studied, admired, and imitated in every
State" in America, and he stated that "the analogy between the means by which
the two republics [Holland and U.S.A.] arrived at independency... will infallibly draw
»» Works of Richard
Hooker (1593) Anglican political commentator and major influence upon John
Governour, Sir Thomas Elyot
»» A Trew Law of Free Monarchs,
James I Stuart (1598). Championed the doctrine of "Divine Right of
Kings." This oppressive political theory contributed to the exodus of the Puritans to
America in 1630, and resistance to it was the ultimate goal of three revolutions: 1) the
Puritan Revolution of the 1640s, 2) the Glorious Revolution, and 3) the American
Dutie of A King, Sir Walter Raleigh (1599) Promoting the doctrine of
"Divine Right of Kings."
II. Up to16th Century Calvinistic Theology: Resistance and Predestination
The first four links, of course, cannot be said
to be of a Calvinist character, but they have been used by Calvin, and, in a sense, can be
said to have paved the way
»» Augustine (St Augustin), The City of God
»» _______, The Confessions
»» St Thomas Aquinas, Summa
»» Martin Luther, Works
»» John Calvin, The Institutes of the
»» How Superior Powers Ought to Be Obeyed
by Their Subjects, Christopher Goodman (1558). Justifying a
Christian's right to resist a tyrannical ruler. Goodman indicated that he
had presented the thesis of this book to John Calvin, and Calvin endorsed it.
»» The First Blast of
the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women, John Knox
(1558). A vigorous critique of the tyranny of "Bloody Mary's" reign in
England, and a call to resist. A large portion of the Americans
who fought in the American Revolution were adherents to Knox's doctrines as set forth in
»» Foxe's Book of Martyrs
(1563). Detailing the bloody persecutions of Puritans during the reign of Mary I,
this book was second only to the Bible in its popularity in the American colonies.
Calvinism, Theodore Beza (1570) Laying out the principle that God
willed and predestined the fall of Adam and the existence of sin and
evil. This assertion became the most controversial philosophical conflict among American
colonists up through the 19th century.
»» The Right of
Magistrates Over Their Subjects, Theodore Beza (1574). Expanding upon
Calvin's political resistance theory set forth in the final chapters of
his Institutes, this work by Calvin's successor in Geneva, Theodore Beza, was published in
response to the growing tensions between Protestant and Catholic in France, which
culminated in the St. Bartholomew Day Massacre in 1572. This text suggests that it is the
right of a Christian to revolt against a tyrannical King: a principle
central to the American colonists' cause.
»» Vindiciae Contra
Tyrannos, or, A Vindication Against Tyrants (1579). This Calvinist document is one of
the first to set forth the theory of "social contract" upon
which the United States was founded. The idea was disseminated through the English
Calvinists to the pen of John Locke, and eventually into the Declaration of Independence.
John Adams reported the relevance of this document to the American struggle.
III. 17th Century (English) Political Thought
»» The Citizen, Thomas Hobbes
(1641-47) Discussion of the natural law foundations of government.
Rex, Samuel Rutherford (1644). This excerpt shows Rutherford's social contract
theory and includes the Puritan theory of resistance to a tyrant.
»» Harrington, The
Commonwealth of Oceana (1646)
»» An Agreement
of the Free People of England (1649) The manifesto of the Levellers,
the leaders of the 1649 English Civil War that deposed Charles I and brought a period of
parliamentary rule. It expresses many of the ideals that later inspired the American
Instrument of Government, 1653; The Constitution of the English Commonwealth
under Oliver Cromwell. Many of the founders, such as Samuel Adams, considered
Oliver Cromwell their hero, and considered the Commonwealth as the glory years of England.
»» Hobbes, Leviathan
Constitutions of Carolina, John Locke (1669)
Treatise, Baruch de Spinoza (1670) Discussed the ultimate source of
legitimate political power.
»» Habeas Corpus Act
(1679) English Parliament established key right which was embraced in
»» English Bill of Rights
(1689) Early model for recognizing natural rights in writing. Much of its
language appeared later in the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution.
»» A Letter
Concerning Toleration, John Locke (1689) Classic
statement of the case for toleration of those holding different views.
»» Locke, Second Treatise
on Government (1689)
Concerning Government, Table of Contents. Algernon Sidney (1698) Built principles of popular
government from foundation of natural law and the social contract. This book has
been considered by scholars the "textbook of the American Revolution."
Century Political Thought
»» The Principles of Natural
Law, J. Burlamaqui, tr. Thomas Nugent (1748, tr. Thomas Nugent 1752) This was the textbook
on political theory used at Harvard. It was this book that gave James Otis, John
Hancock, Samuel Adams, Joseph Warren, and John Adams their understanding of political
»» The Principles of
Politic Law, J. Burlamaqui, tr. Thomas Nugent (1748, tr. Thomas Nugent 1752) Sequel to
The Principles of Natural Law carrying natural law into constitutional law. Commentary
on the ideas of Grotius, Hobbes, Puffendorf, Barbeyrac, Locke, Clarke, and Hutchinson.
»» Rousseau, The
Social Contract - Du
contrat social (1762)
»» Montesquieu, The Spirit of
the Laws (1748)
IV. 17th and 18th Century Calvinist Theology and the Issue of Toleration
»» The Indictment of Galileo (1633) The height of the conflict between religion and science
»» Healing Question, Sir
Henry Vane, 1656, published the following tract, expounding the principles
of civil and religious liberty, and proposed that method of forming a
constitution, through a convention called for the purpose, which was actually followed in
America after the Revolution.
»» A Treatise of
Civil Power in Ecclesiastical Causes; Showing That it Is Not Lawful For Any Power on Earth
to Compel in Matters of Religion, John Milton (1659). A formative
influence upon the ideals of religious toleration adopted by John Locke,
Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison.
of Elenctic Theology, [excerpt on predestination] Francis Turretin
(1660) The principle textbook used by students in American colleges in
the 18th century (used at Princeton into the late 19th century).
Compleat Body of Divinity, Samuel Willard. The primary textbook
used at Harvard College.
»» The New England
Primer, The best-selling textbook used by children in the colonial period. Millions of
copies were in print. Filled with Calvinist principles, the influence of
this little document is inestimable.
Christi Americana, Cotton Mather (1702)
Americana ("God's City: America"), Cotton Mather (1709)
This excerpt from Mather's sermon shows how Mather, with other Puritans, believed that
America was truly the "Promised Land." This thinking led
ultimately to the doctrine of Manifest Destiny, whereby Anglo-Americans
believed that it was their divine commission to spread their culture from
Atlantic to Pacific.
Truths Tending to Conversion, Increase Mather (1710). A sermon
wrestling with the paradox between predestination and man's effort toward
salvation. Mather appears nearly contradictory throughout.
»» The Works
Of Jonathan Edwards, Enlightenment Philosopher, Theologian, Orator, Scientist; Edwards
was the most important American-born Great Awakening preacher and
defender of orthodox Calvinism.
V. The American Revolution
1. Acts of Parliament concerning the
Proclamation of 1763 Forbid colonists from crossing the Appalachians.
The Currency Act,
The Sugar Act, 1764
The Quartering Act,
The Stamp Act, 1765
Precipitated the "Stamp Act Crisis" which fomented rebellion throughout the
The Declaratory Act,
1766 The English Parliament repealed the Stamp Act, but couldn't leave well enough
alone, and adopted this statement of parliamentary supremacy over the British colonies.
The Townshend Act,
The Tea Act, 1773
The Administration of
Justice Act, 1774
The Boston Port Act,
Government Act, 1774
The Quebec Act, 1774
The Quartering Act,
Another English view:
Speech on Conciliation with
America, Edmund Burke, March 22, 1775; Burke describes the character
of the American colonists and links their commitment to liberty to their Protestantism.
2. The Rhetoric of the Revolutionaries
»» Albany Plan for a
Union (1754) Ben Franklin's first attempt to Unite the States.
»» In Defense of
a Plan for Colonial Union, Benjamin Franklin (1754) Arguments in
favor of the Albany Plan of Union, which was rejected as too democratic.
Rights of the British Colonies Asserted and Proved, James Otis (1764)
Resolutions of the Stamp Act Congress, October 19, 1765
Declaration of Rights of the Stamp Act Congress (1765) Developed the
concept that people could not legitimately be taxed except by their elected
»» John Dickinson's
Letter 2, from Letters from a Farmer, 1767-1768
»» John Dickinson's
Letter 4, from Letters from a Farmer, 1767-1768
»» The Rights
of the Colonists, Samuel Adams (1772) John Adams indicated that all
the concepts which Jefferson later set forth in the Declaration of Independence were first
»» Declaration of
Colonial Rights of the Continental Congress (1774) John Adams said that the
Declaration of Independence was not much more than a recapitulation of this document.
of the House of Burgesses in Virginia (1774) This resolution was inspired by
similar resolutions made in the Puritan Revolution of 1641; the Burgesses resolved to
commit their crisis to prayer and fasting.
»» Give Me
Liberty or Give Me Death, Patrick Henry (1775). Famous oration which
motivated Southerners to join in the battle already taking place in New England
»» Letters From
an American Farmer, Hector St John de Crevecour (1782)
»» The Federalist Papers,
James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay (1787-88) Arguments for ratification of the
3. Key Official Documents (from 1776)
»» Sources of the
Declaration of Independence (1776) Documents which prove that Jefferson modeled the
Declaration largely upon the 1689
Declaration of Rights.
»» The Declaration of
Independence (1776) According to recent scholarship, this document
was modeled after the Dutch Calvinist Declaration of Independence. In other words, this
statement of basic principles was simply a restatement of what Protestant Political
theorists and preachers had been saying for centuries.
Constitutions A collection of the constitutions of each colony.
»» U.S. Articles
of Confederation The first Constitution of the United States.
»» The Virginia
Declaration of Rights, George Mason (1776) Unquestionably a document which Jefferson
had in mind when writing the Declaration of Independence.
»» The Annapolis
Convention (1786), prelude to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia.
»» United States Constitution
of Rights and the Amendments to The Constitution (1791) The concession to the
Anti-Federalists to win their acceptance of the Constitution.
4. The Works of the Founders
»» Authors Most Frequently
Cited by the Founders
»» John Adams
Discusses the Historic Sources Which Provided the Intellectual Foundations of American
»» Writings of Samuel Adams
One of the most thorough internet sites of its kind including numerous letters and
»» Other Letters - Alpabetic List / Chronological List
»» Thomas Paine: Common Sense
»» ____________: Rights Of