An appeal to heaven: The language of rights on the eve of American independence

T. H. Breen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

2 Scopus citations


The scene is numbingly familiar. In urban centers one encounters ordinary men and women pouring into the streets. They demand greater freedom, an end to political oppression, a recognition of human equality, and the establishment of democratic procedures. Throughout restless and unstable societies, nongovernment organizations speak in the name of the people, seizing authority from autocratic regimes that seem to have lost legitimacy. Protesters champion the language of rights. Without working out the philosophic niceties of their own claims for due process and toleration, the downtrodden assert that simply because they are human beings they deserve the same liberty enjoyed by others who happen to control power. A demonstration of this sort could occur anywhere in the modern world. What contemporary Americans often forget is that the description also captures their own revolution, a violent regime change that began as a colonial rebellion against an empire of unquestioned military superiority.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Future of Liberal Democracy
Subtitle of host publicationThomas Jefferson and the Contemporary World
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9781403981455
ISBN (Print)9781403965646
StatePublished - Jan 1 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences
  • General Arts and Humanities


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