When most people talk about the Revolution – they tend to point to “taxation without representation” as the main reason. Or, they go through a few of the listed grievances in the Declaration of Independence – but almost everyone seems to miss the underlying, root cause: Unlimited, arbitrary power “in all cases whatsoever.”

And they’re also unaware of why the fighting broke out in April, 1775: A British gun control program.

As we commemorate the Lee Resolution on July 2nd, and the Declaration of Independence on July 4th, we first need to start with another resolution, The Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking up Arms, drafted by Thomas Jefferson and John Dickinson – and passed by the Second Continental Congress on July 6, 1775.

After listing a few issues, they continued with this essential statement:

But why should we enumerate our injuries in detail? By one statute it is declared that Parliament can “of right make laws to bind us in all cases whatsoever.” What is to defend us against so enormous, so unlimited a power?

What they referenced here is the Declaratory Act, given royal assent on March 18, 1766 – the very same day Parliament repealed the hated Stamp Act.

In his “Massacre Day” oration of March 5, 1774, John Hancock also referenced this hated law:

They have declared that they have ever had, and of right ought ever to have, full power to make laws of sufficient validity to bind the Colonies in all cases whatever. They have exercised this pretended right by imposing a tax upon us without our consent;

As Hancock made clear, the issue of “taxation without representation” was just one example of the arbitrary, tyrannical power that could be exercised by a government claiming power over the people “in all cases whatsoever.”

This also made its way into the text of the Declaration of Independence:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

And in the Winter of 1776 – when things seemed to be going poorly for the Revolutionaries, Thomas Paine, writing in The Crisis noted that “these are the times that try men’s souls.”

But Paine urged people to push on against all odds. Why?  Because of the Declaratory Act. He put it this way:

Britain, with an army to enforce her tyranny, has declared that she has a right (not only to TAX) but “to BIND us in ALL CASES WHATSOEVER,” and if being bound in that manner, is not slavery, then is there not such a thing as slavery upon earth.

These patriots – and many others – recognized there was no negotiating with an empire that claimed unlimited power. All the other grievances were merely a result of that, and that’s why they pledged their lives, fortunes and “sacred honor.”

But the Declaratory Act was passed in 1766 – and the fighting didn’t really break out until 9 years later – as a result of a British gun control – and confiscation – program.

Here are a few highlights from that British gun control program that resulted in the “shot heard round the world”

  • September 1774 – General Gage seized gunpowder north of Boston
  • Many people started resigning from the official militias and started independent ones, to avoid royal control – and disarmament
  • The King then banned the importation of all arms and ammo without a permit
  • SURPRISE!  No one – that we’re aware of – was ever given a permit to do so

Then Gage – Governor of Massachusetts and Commander-in-Chief of the British in America – authorized what we might call “stop and frisk” today – warrantless searches of people for arms and ammunition without any provocation. The policy drew fierce criticism from the colonists. In fact, the Boston Gazette wrote that of all General Gage‘s offenses, it was this one that outraged people the most.

Then, Lord Dartmouth, the royal Secretary of State for America, suggested total gun confiscation – “disarming the Inhabitants of the Massachusetts Bay, Connecticut and Rhode Island”

We’re all aware of what happened next. With a goal of confiscation, the British marched on Lexington and Concord in April 1775.

Just two months later, Gage decided to offer amnesty – and peace – to everyone who gave up their arms, EXCEPT Samuel Adams and John Hancock.

The colonists, unsurprisingly, didn’t take too kindly to this threat. The Second Continental Congress, with John Hancock as president, responded with that Declaration of the Causes on July 6th:

In our own native land, in defence of the freedom that is our birth-right, and which we ever enjoyed till the late violation of it; for the protection of our property, acquired solely by the honest industry of our forefathers and ourselves, against violence actually offered, we have taken up arms. We shall lay them down when hostilities shall cease on the part of the aggressors, and all danger of their being renewed shall be removed, and not before.

Give up your guns and give up your friends? NO DEAL.

Michael Boldin