Portrait of Mercy Otis Warren

Mercy Otis Warren on Civil and Religious Rights and Tyranny

Found in: History of the Rise, Progress, and Termination of the American Revolution vol. 2

In the final chapter of her history of the American Revolution, Mercy Otis Warren suggests that as the war came to a successful conclusion, it was reasonable to assume that the principles of republican liberty would remain central to America well into the future. This was true “in consequence of their attachment to the religion of the fathers, united with a spirit of independence relative to civil government.” Nevertheless, she did have some concerns.


This hope shall not yet be relinquished. There has indeed been some relaxation of manners, and the appearance of a change in public opinion not contemplated when revolutionary scenes first shook the western world. But it must be acknowledged, that the religious and moral character of Americans yet stands on a higher grade of excellence and purity, than that of most other nations. It has been observed, that “a violation of manners has destroyed more states than the infraction of laws.” It is necessary for every American, with becoming energy to endeavour to stop the dissemination of principles evidently destructive of the cause for which they have bled. It must be the combined virtue of the rulers and of the people to do this, and to rescue and save their civil and religious rights from the outstretched arm of tyranny, which may appear under any mode or form of government. (FROM: C H A P T E R X X X I: Supplementary Observations on succeeding Events, after the Termination of the American Revolution • Insurrection in the Massachusetts • A general Convention of the States • A new Constitution adopted—General Washington chosen President • British Treaty negotiated by Mr. Jay • General Washington’s second Retreat from public Life • General Observations)