Jul 21, 2020 in History Essay

American Revolution Essay

Abstract

The basic premise of the gap of thirteen colonies with England was the development of capitalism there. The American Revolution was formed by an array of historical patterns prepared by the entire preceding development of the colonies. The immediate cause that influenced the mass movement against the mother country and then the revolutionary war against it was the policy of an increased pressure and oppression that England was carrying out in the colonies at the time. Blinded by the success in the struggle for the world trade leadership and colonial predominance, the England’s ruling classes did not understand that creating artificial obstacles in the free development of the American colonies, would inevitably lead to fighting for complete separation from the mother country. The metropolitan policy was prejudicial to the interests of all classes within the colonies. The development of education encouraged the intelligence to fight the British colonization and gain independence. Ideological causes of the American Revolution had considerable significance for its success. 

The American Revolution

The American Revolution was a political event in the British colonies of North America in the years that led to the formation of the United States. It was caused by the reluctance of colonies to obey the governance of the metropolis. The book by the American historian Bernard Bailyn The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution is a classic work on the intellectual history of the United States of the colonial period (Bailyn, 1992). He managed to change the comprehension of a whole generation of researchers on the philosophical roots of the American government and form a new understanding of distinctive features of the American Revolution itself, which distinguishes it from other social disasters of modern times. Previously, the majority of American historians preferred to look at the American Revolution from an economic perspective. The events of the second half of the 18th century were mostly interpreted as a result of the confrontation of different warring classes based on the socio-economic causes of the conflict. Therefore, the ideological content of the revolution has left beyond the attention of historians. As a consequence, the origins of a new political concept, created by the founders of the fathers in the discussion of classical ancient texts and discussions around the need for a federal government after the revolution were lost in the eyes of historians.

Thus, the study at hand aims to observe and analyze the ideological origins of the American Revolution and observe the rich intellectual life of the colonies that existed, in contrast to Europe, despite a virtually complete absence of professional intellectuals.

The Freedom Rhetoric of the American Revolution

In spite of the fact that there is a robust historical tradition emphasizing the critical importance of economic factors as the root cause of the American Revolution, Bailyn (1992) argued that the rhetoric of freedom is central to understanding the origins of the American state. At the time of the Revolution, America was not completely formed as a developed socio-economic and political organism, and the Americans only had to conquer and assert their independence. However, the prerequisites for the establishment of an independent state were present, and the American Revolution was a result of all the objective prerequisites for uniting the colonies into a single state (Wood, 2011).

According to the research, the American Revolution and the subsequent establishment of the federal government were a unique experiment in the human history and a successful application of political philosophy in reality (Bailyn 1992). For a long time, it was considered as the paradigmatic example of the French Revolution. Indeed, in the North American colonies there was no radical change of the social system, rather there was a large-scale redistribution of property. It was relatively bloodless non-guiding force of the crowd and, most importantly, a stunningly successful one in terms of the revolutionaries themselves. 

Admittedly, after the revolution there was relatively little modification of existing legal, social and economic institutions. Most of the changes were aimed at weakening the authority of government, especially the executive branch for the restoration of ancestral liberties. According to the political philosophy of the founding fathers, that freedom was preceded by the Constitution and was not established by it. A new generation of political thinkers has re-looked the concept of revolution itself along with the large-scale social and political changes.

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The Major Factors that Led the British Colonists in America to Revolt against Britain

Along with the general nature of the works, numerous authors tend to consider the origins of the revolution in the aggregate of its causes and prerequisites (Paine, 1776). Some scholars consider the social causes of the origin of the revolution; the others saw its economic and ideological factors. Each of these factors influenced the American Revolution and had a direct bearing on the question of its causes. However, the postulates of the American Revolution can be understood when considering all aspects. None of them was non-decisive that could determine the course of events. For a long time, ideological factors of the American Revolution were neglected because most academics analyzed only economic ones. However, among the prerequisites important role has belonged to the political factors.

 Therefore, one of the driving forces of the revolution was the struggle for the restoration of liberties of British colonies (Kurin, 2013). As for the ideological influences, the argument of the colonists had a great impact not only on the Enlightenment philosophers and ancient authors, but also the radical British journalism, received disproportionately more popular in the North American states than in their homeland. These ideas were widely traced among the revolutionaries’ view of an existence of a conspiracy against freedom that came from the dominant forces in the British Parliament, seeking to put an end to the conquest of the Glorious Revolution of 1688 (Wood, 2011). 

In the middle of the 18th century, all of the thirteen American colonies had virtually the same type of political organization as in Great Britain (Kurin, 2013). Most governors were appointed by the King from the representatives of the local aristocracy, or of royal officials, who were sent from London. Only two colonies: Connecticut and Rhode Island, elected governors themselves. Each colony had its own legislature that had the right to form laws and regulations in case they were not contrary to the laws of the mother state. The control of the assembly work has been entrusted to governors who were dependent on the assembly. The historians reported, however, that throughout the colonial period, there was a struggle between governors and legislators, coupled with an increased political consciousness of American people (Adams, 1775). In fact, by the middle of the 18th century, they have ensured that their role in the political life became more meaningful.

The State of the British Empire before the American Revolution of 1775-1783

By 1760s the British Empire could no longer maintain the traditions even inside itself. It happened for several reasons. First of all, England lived residual effects of the bourgeois revolution that took place a hundred years before and kept the country on the brink of its constant aspiration to change (Paine, 1776). Secondly, the empire secured the ground for the Industrial Revolution. The bourgeoisie was ready to change the old traditions, so it was more challenging to save them on another continent. Thirdly, the fact that Great Britain was a huge colonial empire also was the reason for its subsequent failure. It should have controlled too many variables and territories in order to maintain its imperial influence. In addition, America was a continent that inhabited not just the British. There were a lot of immigrants from other countries, who were young and ready for a social development. For the majority of people, Great Britain was not ideal, and they did not need English traditions.  

Many findings reveal that another reason was the Britain’s effort to maintain its influence by trying to stop the colonization of the American continent (Adams, 1775). They understood that the larger the territory - the harder it was to control it. Within the newly emerging social context, there was a ripe for a qualitative leap (Adams, 1775). On the one hand, there were the colonial authorities, who were concerned about the preservation of their interests; and on the other - a new population of America that could perfectly cope with their inner self-control and, at the same time, had no spiritual connection with the traditional foundations of English society. Therefore, a huge country was ready to solve its problems on its own and could not depend on the Great Britain.

Furthermore, accustomed to the freedom, Americans were put into conditions where, according to the order of the British Parliament, authorities were free to search any premises in search of smuggled goods. Besides, all newspapers and magazines could be censored for criticizing the existing power and were threatened with severe punishments. These preconditions have led to strong resistance and disagreement between the America and England. The American colonists demanded the nomination of their representatives in the Parliament and they warned the Great Britain that if their demands were rejected, the North American colonies would not pay taxes to the royal treasury.

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Social Changes in America before the Revolution

Similarly to the economic sphere, where development was complicated by vestiges of the old approaches, in ideology, new innovative ideas fought their way in the fight against obsolete, reactionary theories (Paine, 1776). Until the beginning of the 18th century, the American culture was dominated by clerics who instilled moral and religious fanaticism. As a result, it paralyzed the formation of public opinion and the development of a common culture. In literature and music, the religious works were predominant. From the middle of the 18th century, the development of culture and social thought went through serious changes that were a direct consequence of the growth of the middle class and the formation of the national bourgeoisie (Adams, 1775). By that time, a leading position in the spiritual life of society took on a new meaning. A widespread idea of the bourgeois successfully developed a secular education, spider, art, and literature.

Before the revolution, the bourgeois enlightenment, as the ideology of the rising capitalism, had a progressive value. The second part of the 18th century was characterized by a wide spread of literacy, printed materials, and libraries. The public’s interest for literacy and printed books was rising rapidly, and the printing business was growing in New York, Boston, and Philadelphia (Kurin, 2013). Moreover, the colonists had established a whole network of libraries, which served as important centers of education. Journalism also played a considerable social and educational role. Imported from England and printed within the colonial territories, different kinds of anthologies, newspapers, and magazines had a powerful influence on the development of education and the growth of social and political consciousness. In 1765 it was published 43 newspapers in the colonies (Wood, 2011). Most of them were printed in the northern and central colonies, where the education level among the population and interest in political news were relatively higher than in the South.

Admittedly, the American education was inextricably linked with the names of brilliant scientists and thinkers such as Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, who played  prominent roles in the struggle for the independence of the colonies (Kurin, 2013). For example, Franklin criticized religious fanaticism that was prevalent in the American colonies and promoted scientific science. Along with the natural sciences and philosophy, Franklin worked  in the field of political economy, whereby he acted as a good scientist and a public figure. His commitment to education was combined with criticism of the system of slavery. He argued that slave labor was ineffective and that its use required a much larger investment than the use of hired labor (Wood, 2011). Finally, it is important to emphasize that Franklin was one of the pioneers of the national liberation movement. He showed himself as a supporter of unification of the colonies and called for their empowerment. Franklin is considered to be the author of the first draft of the union of the North American colonies, which he proposed to the Congress in Albany in June 1754 (Kurin, 2013). 

Ideological Achievements of the American Revolution

Many historians argued that the American ideology was born since the arrival of the Puritan Pilgrim Fathers. Remarkably, in the beginning the colonists sought to establish a political isolation from the other developed countries of the world, but then, it was developed into an ideological state that was integrated in the world community (Wood, 2011). However, later on the United States supported the postulate of exclusivity and the messianic nature of American society. From a historical point of view, the American ideology was based on an absolute belief in progress and the progressive development of human civilization. Such progress was conceived in the context of the liberal paradigm as the evolution from animal to human, and the human cycle from an unfree individual to a free one (Kurin, 2013).

Thus, the concept of exclusivity and the messianic nature of American society laid the foundation not only of the American exceptionalism. Subsequently, the idea of exclusivity has maintained and strengthened the USA thanks the distance from the overpopulated Europe, extremely favorable geographical and natural conditions, socio-economic development, and the growing success of the North America. The literature reveals that the American Revolution of the 18th century and the formation of the United States had introduced a new political dimension: it represented a new experiment aimed to free the humanity from the monarchical tyranny (Wood, 2011). 

Conclusion

The American Revolution of 1775-1783 had a considerable importance for the further development of democracy in the country. It liberated the state from the British dominance and provided an opportunity for its people to develop freely, forming a unique democratic environment. The development of education and new ideas served as a major prerequisite for the revolution. The rich intellectual life of the colonies, despite the virtually complete absence of professional intellectuals, was the main driving force of the American Revolution. Therefore, the driving factor in the revolution was the struggle for the restoration of ancestral liberties of British colonies.

 

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