John Locke, a self-taught writer and theologian from Bristol, England, wrote, “The Christian man is bound to self-government in all manner of life as he is precisely instructed in the Holy Word. The church is the perfect model of local government; if the Christian will rule himself as he ought, he will have little need of government and be so much the better for it.”1
Samuel Adams (cousin of President John Adams) had thoroughly read the works of Locke and it was he who proposed the idea of independence to the Continental Congress. Arguing for the colonies to unite as a single country rather than just as free and separate, Adams was the force behind forming one body politic. It was Adams who approached John Hancock, then Governor of Massachusetts and President of the Congress, with the idea.
From his studies of Locke and later his influence under George Whitefield’s preaching, Samuel Adams drafted a document in 1772 called “The Rights of the Colonists.” Its premise became a key wording in the Declaration of Independence. Adams’ document reads, “The right to freedom being the gift of Almighty God…the rights of the colonists as Christians…may best be understood by reading and carefully studying the institutions of the Great Law Giver and the Head of the Christian Church, which are to be found clearly written and promulgated in the New Testament.”2
Within the Continental Congress, several men whose names are forgotten in modern history texts were instrumental in the formation of the idea of independence and the written document we treasure, The Declaration of Independence. John Adams, the first Vice-President, served at every meeting of this Congress and while reluctant at first to declare all out war, continued abuse from the English crown won him over. It was Patrick Henry who delivered his famous oratory “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death” to the Virginia Convention, one of the most repeated phrases at the Continental Congress. Roger Sherman, Church servant and later a Congressman, was the only man to sign all four major historical documents. He is the author of The Great Compromise which gave us two legislative bodies to be part of the system of checks and balances.
In the fight for independence, it was George Washington who assumed the role of Commander in Chief of the Army and won the decisive battles necessary to repel British control of the colonies.
1. The Works of John Locke, Book II, “Of Civil Government” (Oxford University Library, Edition 1714).
2. Gibbs, David, as quoted in One Nation Under God (Seminole, FL: Christian Law Assoc., 2003) p. 121.