Was the American Revolution a just war (from a biblical perspective)?

In my opinion, nope, it wasn’t. Who else agrees with me?

The reason why the American Revolution wasn’t a war that could be justified from a Christian perspective, is simply because of the fact that ends don’t justify the means. Just because the Founding Fathers fought for a noble goal (ie, democracy and political freedoms) does not justify the way that they achieved their goal-through violence.

Who else agrees with me that what the colonists did during the American Revolution (ie, go to war against the English) was totally sinful and unjustified?

Well, I do. But I’m a British citizen. (That being said, one reason I remain a British citizen after 30+ years of living in the U.S. is that I don’t accept the ideological foundations of the U.S.)

Well, looking at your statements again I think “totally sinful” is over-the-top. I’m not even sure what that means.

There were certainly legitimate grievances. But I do not think that taxation without representation is intrinsically unjust by natural law, and so I don’t think that the colonists had a legitimate ground for armed revolt.

I think that people who condemn Marxist/populist “liberation movements” in Latin America while upholding the justice of the American Revolution are guilty of a pretty serious double standard.


It’s a bit more complicated than that. They didn’t just go to war over abstract ideals like democracy. The notion that kings cannot tax the people without consent from the people’s representatives, is a fairly well-established constitutional rule in feudal society (which, after all, holds property rights in high regard). Even the absolutist monarchs of France would convene the Estates when they needed additional taxes (or try to find loopholes around the rule; which proves the general point). One of the grievances of the American revolutionaries was that the British Crown broke the constitution and became a tyrant when he sought to tax the colonists without granting them proper representation in Parliament. There’s something to be said for that viewpoint.

Could you explain why not? Do you regard property rights to be a part of natural law?

Okay, I will explain what I mean by “totally sinful”.

The colonists used violence against the British. They were murderers.

The American Revolution was NOT a just war.

But in Romans, the Bible says that we are to obey the government, and Jesus even told his disciples to pay taxes to harsh rulers.

As I said, there were certainly legitimate grievances. The question is whether armed revolt was justified.

Universal suffrage, of course, did not exist at this point. So plenty of people were being taxed without being represented.

I think Edmund Burke had it right: the British government had the legal right to act as it did, but was stupid and callous to do so. The colonists had plenty of legitimate grievances, but did not have sufficient grounds for armed revolt.


I tend to agree. I do, however, think that there is something to be said for ‘no taxation without representation’ on natural law grounds. That Christ commanded to submit to such taxation does not in itself mean the rulers extorting such taxes are not acting unjustly. Not every breach of natural law by government is sufficient grounds for disobedience or revolt.

One of the causes of the American Revolution was the granting of rights to Catholics to practice their faith freely in Quebec. Funny how no one wants to talk about the Quebec Act anymore.

I think there’s a distinction between what is intrinsically contrary to natural law, and what is a more appropriate and helpful way of fulfilling the mandates of natural law. All human, fallen governments fall short in some way of acting with perfect justice according to natural law.


However, the American colonists tried all other methods of redressing their grievances before the Revolution actually started. They tried nonimportation, nonexportation, and nonconsumption agreements. They tried an Olive Branch Petition that was aimed ata peaceful resolution to the differences between the Americans and the British. However, these attempts were all shot down and war was the only way to gain independence and the natural rights that the Americans were and are entitled to, as well as end the tyranny of King George III.

I just can’t see that life under this “tyranny” was really all that bad. They had to pay some taxes they didn’t want to pay. Big whoop, frankly. Yes, I know there were some serious injustices committed by British troops, but from what I can tell these were quite rare and blown up into huge proportions for propaganda purposes (like the “Boston massacre,” which actually resulted in the prosecution of the soldiers–hardly the act of a brutal tyranny).

As I said, I have problems with the “totally sinful” claim precisely because of the reasons you give above.


I can think of at least 26 reasons to cast off the British Crown. Most, I think, the average person would consider legitimate: archives.gov/exhibits/charters/declaration_transcript.html

That said, I do struggle with Edwin’s very, very fair point :blush::

[quote=Contarini]I think that people who condemn Marxist/populist “liberation movements” in Latin America while upholding the justice of the American Revolution are guilty of a pretty serious double standard.

Actually, that’s not how it started.

The Americans tried peaceful resistance, e.g. boycotts of taxed products, protests, etc., as well as destruction of property (e.g. tea) rather than violence against people.

The British response was to send troops to garrison Boston, and close the port (threatening the livelihood of tens of thousands). They then tried to seize the arms and munitions the colonist had stored for their self-defense.

The shooting started when British troops marched to seize the legitimate property of the colonists, which they held for their collective self-defense (which is clearly a natural right).

At Lexington and Concord, the British were the aggressors.

God Bless

That’s a pretty broad interpretation of “aggressors” there, since it includes insurrection against duly constituted civil authority.

Furthermore, the “minutemen” opened fire on the British, in essence using deadly force to protect property (which I think is proscribed by the Church) , twice (once on the green and once at the bridge)


continued using deadly force during the entire time the British force was retreating back to Boston…(which is where the vast majority of the 269 British casualties were incurred).

Seems kind of academic at this point. So what would the remedy / penance be at this point in time? A papal interdict forbidding the Mass and the comfort of all sacraments until and unless the U.S. re-joined the British empire?

Just War theory requires four conditions:

*]the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;
*]all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;
*]there must be serious prospects of success;
*]the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated (the power of modem means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition).
I would submit that the American revolt clearly failed to meet at least the first two conditions. Whether or not one concedes the “right” of the British to tax the colonists, it is manifestly obvious that they took no direct military action to assert that right. So there was no “aggression” for the colonists to “defend” against.

Further, the colonist, far from exhausting all other means of redressing their grievances, resorted to violence against property very early on (Boston Tea Party), the British closure of the Port of Boston and garrisoning of troops there was an effort to obtain restitution for the property stolen/destroyed and prevent further property crimes.

It is unknown who opened fire first at Lexington Green, “The Shot Heard Round the World”. What is known is that the colonists got by far the worst of it.

Once the shooting starts, it was war. Everyone knew that. And in war, you don’t allow a beaten foe to retreat unhindered.

You are also incorrect in that the Church does not teach that it is always wrong to use deadly force to protect property. St. Aquinas addressed this in the Summa, in the section on Murder.

On the contrary, It is written (Exodus 22:2): “If a thief be found breaking into a house or undermining it, and be wounded so as to die; he that slew him shall not be guilty of blood.” Now it is much more lawful to defend one’s life than one’s house. Therefore neither is a man guilty of murder if he kill another in defense of his own life.

If a man tries to burn down my house, or burn my crops, or destroy the means of my livelihood, I can use potentially deadly force to stop him.

God Bless

What do you mean “no direct military action”?

They sent a large garrison to Boston, completely closed the port (crippling the local economy), and sent over 1,000 troops to seize the colonists property.

That’s direct military action. There was no war until the Crown took direct military action against Boston.

God Bless

Direct military action is the colonists firing on British soldiers going about their duty.

Their duty included breaching the legal and natural rights of the colonists, against the very laws established by the British. That sort of “duty” is not protected under moral law.

If in some future distopian America, the police come to arrest you for proclaiming the Catholic faith, and you resist with violence, you will not have sinned. A Jew who killed an SS trooper “going about his duty” didn’t sin.

Crippling the economy of an entire city and colony by a military enforced blockade is direct military action, and it happened first.

God Bless

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