American Revolution Justice and Civic Life Essay



Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, and Howard Zinn

As we have discussed in class, Rousseau’s Social Contract Theory advocated for an agreement between the people and the government, that all of society have a voice. The American Revolution did indeed grant freedom from England’s monarchy (King George), but it ultimately extended that freedom to only 6% of the population—property owning, white, Christian, males. Jefferson’s words then, “that all men are created equal, and they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,” counter the reality of the time. And, Henry’s rebel rousing speech, “I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death?” could have perhaps rallied even the most apathetic colonist (remember, the colonists were English citizens, and loyalty to the crown and patriotism to England were still very strong elements of colonial life). Then of course, we have Howard Zinn’s twentieth century perspective—echoing that of Rousseau’s position regarding war: “The American Revolution was not a simple affair of all of us against them. And not everyone thought they would benefit from the Revolution.”

You will incorporate all of the following texts into your essay:

Origins of Civil Society, Jean Jacques Rousseau

Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death, Patrick Henry

The Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson

Untold Truths about the American Revolution, Howard Zinn

This is how I would like you to approach your assignment:

Introductory Paragraph:

First sentence: quote, interesting statistic or fact (check online for Brainy Quotes)

Second sentence: define Rousseau’s Social Contract Theory (that the government derives its power from the people)

Third sentence: identify Jefferson and Henry as two pivotal forces who inspired revolution from an oppressive monarch, King George.

Last sentence: (THESIS) explain how Rousseau influenced the American Revolution.

Second Paragraph:

Proved an overview of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Social Contract Theory, and provide two examples of 18th century society fails in this regard (include a quote from the text).

Third Paragraph:

Discuss how Patrick Henry’s Speech Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death (include a quote from the speech) was influenced by Rousseau’s writing.

Fourth Paragraph:

Discuss how Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence (include a quote from the text) was influenced by Rousseau’s writing.

Fifth Paragraph:

Discuss how Howard Zinn’s article, Untold Truths about the American Revolution, reflects Rousseau’s notion of wars between nations.

Sixth Paragraph:

This paragraph will include the word “I.” AS I want you to put yourself in 18th Century America, and explain, why you would or would not have fought in the American Revolution. On the one hand, Rousseau endorses the notion that people should be free from the chains of an oppressive government, but on the other hand, he also discusses that fighting war only benefits the rulers of the land. You must defend your answer by relying on a quote by Rousseau. As always, our success on this essay will be on how well you argue your point, not which position you take.


Aside from the concluding paragraph, you may not use I, you, we, our, etc.

You may not use contracts such as isn’t, wasn’t aren’t, etc. Instead, use is not, was not, are not, etc.

You must properly use in-text citations. For example, when quoting Howard Zinn’s article, “The American Revolution was not a simple affair of all of us against them” (Zinn, 2009, para.22).

Or, “Give me liberty or give me death” (Henry, 1775, para. 5).

****You must include a references page with all four texts; you may NOT use any other outside sources!!!!!!!!**********