Understanding Historical Context
Whenever we consider the topic of wondering whether or not the American Revolution was biblically justifiable, we must first pause to consider why this Revolution occurred in the first place. Many people say it was simply over “taxation without representation” and this was one of the reasons but not by any means the only reason. Why did our founding fathers sign the Declaration of Independence and separate from Britain? Well, they actually had the good wisdom to tell us why in the Declaration. Let’s consider a few of their reasons. First, let’s consider this statement:
The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.1
So, the central claim of our founding fathers is that the King of England had overreached his authority to the point of Tyranny. In other words, the King had overstepped his legal bounds. They are now going to tell us how the King did so. Here is the first consideration they list:
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
Not only that, but we read next:
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
So, the King demanded the Governors obtain his consent before passing laws. But, when they petitioned him, we see here that he completely neglected the requests by failing to act. Imagine you are one of these governors, you need to pass a law for the public good, but you have to ask the King’s permission. However, when you go to the King for permission, he abandons your requests thus leaving you powerless. Of course, this means the people you have been called to lead are unable to have anything done for them to better their situation. That is the exact scenario we are talking about here that the founders lay out.
Altering The Law
Later in the Declaration, the Founders state:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
These colonies had governing charters which were agreed upon with England. They had elected officials who served in these colonies. However, in the Massachusetts Government Act, the King proclaimed the colonies could no longer elect officials but that they would be appointed by his decision.2 This act was put in place to punish the colonists for the Boston Tea Party. In 1773, British Parliament had passed an act stating all colonists had to pay for English tea even though they had no leaders to represent them in England.3 Even if no one purchased the tea the colonists would be taxed for it, they tried to stop the ships with tea from being received in the harbors, but Britain forced them to be received.4 In that situation, the colonists could either pay an unjust tax upon them or throw the tea in the harbor, that was their only decisions as forced upon them by Britain.5
The King had disregarded the charters and was imposing his own rule. It would be similar to the Federal government in America saying state constitutions were not to be followed any longer and instead the Federal government has sole authority. He demanded they pay taxes on tea they didn’t buy and then changed their government structure when they took the only action available. This overreach in power is the type of situation faced by our founding fathers. The King was taking away the very agreements which England had signed with the colonies. It was an illegal action and egregiously wrong. On top of all this, we read later in the Declaration:
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
While he was imposing multiple unlawful measures the King had also agreed with parliament that he didn’t have the responsibility to protect the colonies. Basically, he was proclaiming that he would lay down the law, change their laws, but then leave them on their own to defend themselves. Picture a President backed by congress telling the state of Florida, “your constitution doesn’t matter, you have to ask me before making any laws, but I am not going to protect you, you have to protect yourself.” That would be illegal on its own head. The Founders were patient men, however, and so they took every legal means possible before declaring independence from Britain. In fact, they had discussions with England regarding substantial issues for over a decade prior to the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Here is what they say:
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Our Founding Fathers took every means they could for petition and legal action before separating from the nation of England. However, since the King had abrogated his responsibility to protect them, imposed unlawful taxation, changed their government structures, and refused to allow them to make laws, their only course of action was to separate from the crown and sign the Declaration of Independence.
Now, that we know the historical situation regarding the American Revolution we can now apply the Bible to see if it was justifiable from the Word of God. The Founders made the claim that the government in England had given up its authority since it decided not to protect the colonies. This is a biblical concept since Romans 13:3-4 specifically mentions the bearing of the sword and punishment of evildoers as a governmental responsibility. A government that is not going to protect its citizens is failing to perform its biblical function and has shirked its responsibility before God. Therefore, since the government of England told the colonies it wasn’t going to “bear the sword” in any sense to protect them, then it had given up its authority just as those who signed the Declaration stated.
Also, we must understand a vital principle when considering the notion of the American Revolution and it is that laws are above those who enforce them. For example, the constitution maintains higher authority in the land than our President sworn to protect it. The Apostle Paul exemplified this concept when enacting civil disobedience in Acts 16:16-34. He had been unjustly beaten as a Roman citizen, the authorities command him to come out of prison, but Paul disobeys telling them the magistrates need to come to escort him out. Paul was holding the magistrates accountable to the law they were sworn to uphold. He did this because the law is above the magistrates. We see this same principle in the Founders since they were holding the King responsible to the laws he was called to uphold. The King wasn’t adhering to those laws just as the magistrates who beat Paul weren’t either. Paul had every right to disobey and so did the Founding Fathers.
Tying Up The Subject
Did the Founding Fathers have biblical justification for the American Revolution? I would answer with a hearty yes to that question. Keep in mind we are not talking about men who were anarchists like the violence we saw at the Capitol building here in early 2021. We are discussing men who were the leaders of their day. They were politicians with authority and some also functioned as pastors. These were men who had been delegated the authority to lead their colonies. Since England had acted against its own laws, the men had the biblical grounds to disobey. Because England said they were not going to protect the colonies those who were political figures in the colonies still had the responsibility to ensure those under their leadership were protected. They had exhausted every legal measure. They were dealing with a government that was exercising illegal authority. This government had abrogated its responsibility before God to protect its people. Yet, they still claimed the right to tax and impose laws. What else were the founding fathers supposed to do than exercise the duty of civil disobedience and establish protection for their citizens so their God-given rights could be maintained? It was their Christian duty to see the biblical reality of England’s abrogation of authority and illegitimate laws. It was also their Christian duty to practice disobedience and as lesser magistrates to “bear the sword” so their citizens would be protected.
In my estimation, the American Revolution was completely justifiable and the Founders acted biblically. They were not anarchists who tried to seize authority through unlawful means. These men went through legal procedures, they tried to discuss the matter with those imposing tyranny, and yet, they understood that as leaders they had the duty before God to protect those under their care. Therefore, they did what was right in the eyes of God, they separated from England who had abrogated its authority, and they established a government that would protect the people of the colonies. We have an amazing heritage of men in this country who faithfully did their duty before God. May we also perform our duty in every realm for the sake of His name!
1 All citations from Declaration of Independence can be found here: