The Patriot Philosophers had a positive outlook on mankind when determining the principles and structures of good government. They believed that True Liberty, which was the balance between absolute freedom (anarchy) and absolute order (tyranny), was possible through the Virtue of the People. They believed that certain positive qualities and characteristic had been implanted in the human soul and would lead the people to be able to exercise self-restraint to achieve True Liberty.
They espoused principles of both schools of thought: the Democratic principles of participation in government and protection of the people, and the Republican principle of representation where decision making authority is given to representatives of the people to make laws on their behalf.
They also believed in Natural Law – the will of God and His “higher law.” These concepts justified resistance and rebellion and their belief in the basic right to govern themselves.
The Colonists had a love, pride, and affection for Britain. After the war, a “pernicious project” adopted by Parliament to directly tax the colonists started the discontent. They felt their rights were being taken away. They weren’t consulted on taxes; their petitions for redress went ignored. After revolting the Stamp Act, Parliament made things worse with the Declaratory Act and the Coercive Acts in response to the Boston Tea Party. The Colonists still had the spirit of reconciliation in the Declaration and Resolves of the First Continental Congress, but Britain wasn’t listening. They actually sent out troops to destroy militia munitions and arrest the patriot leaders, leading to the battles at Lexington and Concord. This brought them to the Declaration for the Causes and Necessity of Taking up Arms, which by the way has some most excellent language, if not a bit of drama. The Colonists felt they had to choose between unconditional submission to “the tyranny of irritated ministers” or resistance by force. They resolved to “die free men rather than to live as slaves.”
Prior to Common Sense, independence wasn’t really discussed openly – it was still considered treason. Common Sense pointed out why rule by king and monarchy was basically a ridiculous idea. Because it was accessible to everyone, the common working folk and not just the upper class, it became a widely accepted topic of conversation. It said what everyone was feeling; “that the same tyranny which drove the first emigrants from home, pursues their descendants still,” and got the people talking about it.
The Declaration of Independence was basically an indictment of the King and Parliament listing all of their offenses and violations of the “inalienable rights” of the Colonists. It then showed that based on those things, the Colonists were rightfully declaring their independence from Britain.