Betsy Ross 1777, a ca. 1920 depiction by artist Jean Leon Gerome Ferris of Ross showing Gen. George Washington (seated, left), Robert Morris and George Ross how she cut the revised five-pointed stars for the flag. (from here (en.wikipedia.org))

When the people of the thirteen British colonies rebelled against the rule of King George III, did they commit treason?

When we talk about the American Revolution and speak of traitors, Benedict Arnold usually comes to mind. Arnold was an American general who plotted with the British agent to surrender West Point. Here are some references.

The second reference indicates that it took considerable temptation to turn Arnold into a traitor, to betray the rebels.

What about the rebels? Were they traitors? When they rebelled against the regime of King George III, did that turn the American colonists into traitors?  This has been the subject of much debate. In fact, in 2011 the BBC reported on a formal debate between British barristers and American attorneys, Is the Declaration of Independence Illegal? (bbc.com). Consider how history.com begins its article on that debate.

Even America’s founders knew that revolting against the British Crown could raise some serious legal quandaries. That’s one of the reasons why the Continental Congress tasked five delegates—among them Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and John Adams—with drafting a formal document justifying the 13 colonies’ break with Great Britain. This statement of rights and grievances, known as the Declaration of Independence, was ratified on July 4, 1776. The signers believed they had validated their rebellion; the British, meanwhile, saw it as an act of treason. (continues here (history.com))

The Americans used the Declaration of Independence to thoughtfully defend their rebellion. When we consider the document as a whole, what was the essential argument?

Romans 12:17-19 New King James Version

17 Repay no one evil for evil. Have[a] regard for good things in the sight of all men. 18 If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. 19 Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.

The point of the Declaration of Independence was to establish that King George III had made it too great a burden to live peaceably under his rule. The Founding Fathers: Smugglers, Tax Evaders, and Traitors (mises.org) makes the point that the Americans already had a free country, and they were unwilling to give that up. This was an age when people crossed the ocean on wooden ships, often suffering miserable voyages. When arrived in the colonies, they often had nothing and might have to pay off a debt working as indentured servants. So, they cherished their liberty as something earned with hard work and suffering, something for which they were willing to risk being called a traitor.

Take the time to read the Declaration of Independence. This document explains why the founders rebelled and what they fought for, why we celebrate the 4th of July.

4 thoughts on “WAS IT TREASON?

  1. Happy 4th of July, Tom!

    Something that has been on my mind regarding the great debate over an “ungodly rebellion” or “a Biblically defensible response,” is that they STRUGGLED. This was a “debate.” It still is sometimes.

    I have never seen an “ungodly rebellion” stand around and argue about the exact meaning of Romans 13 and whether or not our rebellion is actually going to be God honoring. LOL!

    So, doing my best this year to try to be grateful for the struggle and the debate, for the mess and frustration that is our democracy.

    1. @insanitybytes22

      One of the funny things about the American Revolution is that Thomas Paine, a Deist and the most famous pamphleteer of the American Revolution, quoted the Bible to make his case in “Commonsense”. Yet the United States was supposedly founded by Deists even though Paine never advocated his Deism until much latter, and it was not popular.

      Because Paine advocated against executing royalty, the king in particular, that same deist, Thomas Paine, almost got guillotined by the revolutionaries in France during the French Revolution.

      Reliant upon human reason without God, the French revolutionaries created a reign of terror. This distinction, the reliance of American revolutionaries upon God, is why we now have cause to celebrate.

      Happy Independence Day!

  2. Even in 1776, sincere Christians living in the North American colonies disagreed with one another about whether the Declaration of Independence signaled ungodly rebellion or a Biblically-defensible response to tyranny. North American Christians fought on both sides of the war. Others escaped to Canada (really!). So, in a sense, the debate has been happening for almost 250 years. J.

    1. @Salvageable

      I agree. There was some division, but I find it interesting that historians use to say that colonies were split about evenly over whether to rebel.



      Given that the governments of the colonies seemed to wholeheartedly support the rebellion it seems unlikely that most of the colonists did not support the rebel rebelion. Then there is little indication that the loyalists put up much of a fight. The hard core just headed off to Canada. I think the Patriots had the votes.

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