November 14, 2022


Review: America’s Revolutionary Mind: A Moral History of the American Revolution and the Declaration that Defined It by C. Bradley Thompson

By: Peyton Holliday

“The genesis of the American mind begins with John Locke.” (232) Dr. C. Bradley Thompson laid out in his book America’s Revolutionary Mind a new history of the American Revolution that is distinguished from other histories in that it focuses on the moral history. The book lays out a history of the Revolution from a moral standpoint and shows how John Locke influenced the Revolution. Thompson stated that the Americans suffered from a long train of abuses in a short period of time from 1764-1774. The Declaration lays out these abuses and for the Americans during the Revolution they say this as John Locke described, “Revolution is justified when a government ceases to be the protector of the rights of its citizens and becomes the chief destroyer of rights.” (287)

Thompson lays out in his book of how the Declaration of Independence is a road map to the causes, meaning, and nature of the Revolution. His book covers the four main aspects found in the Declaration’s first paragraph and most famous line. “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal. That they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights. That among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Pulling from primary sources such as the founder’s letters, writings, and influences, Thompson dives into Equality, Rights, Consent, and Revolution. 

To understand the mind of Americans at the time of Revolution, Thompson used a letter of John Adams that stated the Revolution started in 1760. In 1760 the minds of Americans began to shift and that is where the Revolution truly started. The Revolution was in the minds of the people before the first guns were fired at Lexington and Concord in 1775.

While the Revolution was a massive shift in the colonies relationship with Britain, Thompson uses a quote from Jefferson to outline what the colonies thought about government, “The way to have good and safe government, is not to trust it all to one, but to divide it among the many, distributing to everyone exactly the functions he is competent to.” (347)

Overall, the entire book lays out the mind of those involved in the American revolution. Answering questions of how they thought and what was important to the colonies during the time leading up to the Revolution. One of the themes outlined in the book was that of liberty and freedom and how the colonists “view[ed] the preservation of liberty as resting on the ability of the people to tame, check, and channel the sphere of power through a mixed and balanced constitution.” (297)

Thompson spends an entire chapter of his book talking about slavery and what he called the “post-emancipation problem” and outlining the founder’s thoughts and practices on slavery. He explains how the founder’s personal lives were vastly different from each other and some owned slaves and others did not. Each founder’s perspective was that truly all men are created equal, but some of them such as Jefferson and Patrick Henry wrestled with themselves on how to handle the issue nationally and in their personal lives. 

America’s Revolutionary Mind is a resource that all Americans should lend their reading time to go get a grasp on the founder’s vision and direction, as well as the philosophy of the moral revolution that happened in the hearts and minds of Americans in before the first shot was fired in 1775.

As an American, this book helped to outline the importance of our founding and the freedoms that we hold dear. Thompson shows through primary sources how the founders shaped our nation and shaped America. A few days ago we were all able to vote and it’s important to remember how our country was founded It is important that we vote our values and vote in the spirit of freedom. 

Freedom did not come easily for the Americans and we fought a war over our freedoms in 1776 and another war in 1861 to live up to the principles laid out in the Declaration of Independence that all men are created equal. These words still ring true in our nation today and it is our duty as voters to make sure that we look down our ballots and vote for the freedoms that we hold dear.