Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

H. Robert Baker

Second Advisor

David Sehat


Understandings of the Founding Era have been under continuous debate since the American Revolution itself. Whether one examines the Articles of Confederation or the Continental Congresses, the successes, failures, and significance of each have been argued over since the beginning. By looking at American understandings of crucial ideas about government and society during the American Revolution, including the foundation of American rights, we can better come to terms with an understanding of American identity. These understandings evolved during the American Revolution, and their evolution can be examined through the resolutions, debates, correspondence, and diaries of members of Congress from the the First Continental Congress in 1774 to the adoption of the Declaration of Independence in July of 1776. The Declaration represented the synthesis of natural law thought with British constitutionalism that was forged out of the necessity of compromise during the lead up to war in 1774, the outbreak of hostilities in 1775, and the subsequent escalation into war shortly thereafter, exhibiting the importance of wartime exigencies in the evolution of American thought.