AMERICAN REVOLUTION (1764-1789) | Essay for CSS and PMS
AMERICAN REVOLUTION (1764-1789) | Essay for CSS and PMS
The American Revolution was the political upheaval during the last half of the 18th century in which thirteen colonies in North America joined together to break free from the British Empire, combining to become the United States of America. They first rejected the authority of the Parliament of Great Britain to govern them from ove_rseas without representation and then expelled all royal officials. By 1774 each colony had established a Provincial Congress, or an equivalent governmental institution, to find individual self-governing states. The British responded by sending combat troops to re-impose direct rule. Through representatives sent in 1775 to the Second Continental Congress, the new states joined together at first to defend their respective self-governance and manage the armed conflict against the British known as the American Revolutionary War (1775-83, also American War of Independence). Ultimately, the states collectively determined that the British monarchy, by acts of tyranny, could no longer legitimately claim their allegiance, They then severed ties with the British Empire in July 1776, when the Congress issued the United States Declaration of Independence, rejecting the monarchy on behalf of the new sovereign nation. The war ended with effective American victory in October 1781, followed by formal British abandonment of any claims to the United States with the Treaty of Paris in 1783.
The American Revolution was the result of a series of social, political, and intellectual transformations in early American society and government, collectively referred to as the American Enlightenment. Americans rejected the oligarchies common in aristocratic Europe at the time, championing instead the development of republicanism based on the Enlightenment understanding of liberalism. Among the significant results of the revolution was the creation of a democratically-elected representative government responsible to the will of the people. However, sharp political debates erupted over the appropriate level of democracy desirable in the new government, with a number of Founders fearing mob rule.
Many fundamental issues of national governance were settled with the ratification of the United States Constitution in 1788, which replaced the relatively weaker first attempt at a national government adopted in 1781, the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union. In contrast to the loose confederation, the Constitution established a strong federated government. The United States Bill of Rights (1791), comprising the first 10 constitutional amendments, quickly followed. It guaranteed many “natural rights” that were influential in justifying the revolution and attempted to balance a strong national government with relatively broad personal liberties. The American shift to liberal republicanism, and the gradually increasing democracy, caused an upheaval of traditional social hierarchy and gave birth to the ethic that has formed a core of political values in the United States.
Following are the causes of the revolution.
The American Revolution was predicated by a number of ideas and events that, combined, led to a political and social separation of colonial possessions from the home nation and a coalescing of those former individual colonies into an independent nation.
The ideological movement known as the American Enlightenment was a critical precursor to the American Revolution. Chief among the ideas of the American Enlightenment were the concepts of liberalism, democracy, republicanism, and religious tolerance. Collectively, the belief in these concepts by a growing number of American colonists began to foster an intellectual environment which would lead to a new sense of political and social identity.
John Locke’s (1632-1704) ideas on liberty greatly influenced the political thinking behind the revolution. John Locke’s Two Treatises of Government, published in 1689, influenced the thinking of later philosophers such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778), as reflected in Rousseau’s I 762 treatise entitled Du “social contract”. The theory of the “social contract” influenced the belief among many of the founders that among the “natural rights” of man was the right of the people to overthrow their leaders, should those leaders betray the historic rights of Englishmen. In tennis 6f writing state and national constitutions, the Americans used Montesquieu’s analysis of the “balanced” British Constitution.
A motivating force behind the revolution was the American embrace of a political ideology called “republicanism”, which was dominant in the colonies by 1775. The republicanism was inspired by the “country party” in Britain, whose critique of British government emphasized that com1ption was a terrible reality in Britain. Americans feared the corruption was crossing the Atlantic; the commitment of most Americans to republican values and to their rights, energized the revolution, as Britain was increasingly seen as hopelessly corrupt and hostile to American interests. Britain seemed to threaten the established liberties that Americans enjoyed. The greatest threat to liberty was depicted as corruption-not just in London but at home as well. The colonists associated it with luxury and, especially, inherited aristocracy, which they condemned.
The Revolution was in some ways incited by a number of pieces of legislation originating from the British Parliament that, for Americans, were illegitimate acts of a government that had no right to pass laws on Englishmen in the Americas who did not have elected representation in that government. For the British, policymakers saw these laws as necessary to rein in colonial subjects who, in the name of economic development that was designed to benefit the home nation, had been allowed near autonomy for too long.
After the war finally ended in 1783, there was a Jleriod of prosperity, with the entire world at peace. The national government. still operating under the Articles of Confederation, was able to settle the issue of the western territories, which were ceded by the states to Congress. American settlers moved rapidly into those areas, with Vern10nt, Kentucky and Tennessee becoming states in the 1790s. However, the national government had no money to pay either the war debts owed to European nations, the private banks, or to Americans who had been given millions of dollars of promissory notes for supplies during the war. Nationalists, led by Washington, Alexander Hamilton and other veterans, feared that the new nation was too fragile to withstand an international war or even internal revolts such as the Shays’ Rebellion of 1786 in Massachusetts.
The national debt after the American Revolution fell into three categories. The first was the $12 million owed to foreigners-mostly money borrowed from France. There was general agreement to pay the foreign debts at full value. The national government owed $40 million and state governments owed $25 million to Americans who had sold food, horses, and supplies to the revolutionary forces. There were also other debts that consisted of promissory notes issued during the Revolutionary War to soldiers, merchants, and farmers who accepted these payments on the premise that the new Constitution would create a government that would pay these debts eventually.
The war expenses of the individual states added up to $114 million compared to $37 , million by the central government. In 1790, at the recommendation of first Secretary of the Treasury Alexandr Hamilton, Congress combined the remaining state debts with the foreign and domestic debts into one national debt totalling $80 million. Everyone received face value for wartime certificates so that the national honour would be sustained and the national credit established.
After the Revolution, genuinely democratic politics became possible. The rights of the people were incorporated into state constitutions. Thus came the widespread assertion of liberty, individual rights, equality and hostility toward corruption which would prove core values of liberal republicanism to Americans. The greatest challenge to the old order in Europe was the challenge to inherited political power and the democratic idea that government rests on the consent of the governed. The example of the first successful revolution against a European empire and the first successful establishment of a republican fom1 of the democratically elected government worked a model for many other colonial peoples who realized that they too could break away and become self-governing nations with directly elected representative government.
The American Revolution was the first wave of the Atlantic Revolutions that took hold in the French Revolution, the Haitian Revolution, and the Latin American wars of independence. Aftershocks reached Ireland in the Irish Rebellion of 1798, in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, and in the Netherlands.
The Revolution had a strong, immediate impact in Great Britain, Ireland, the Netherlands, and France. Many British and Irish Whigs spoke in favour of the American cause. The Revolution, along with the Dutch Revolt (end of the 16th century) and the English Civil War (in the 17th century), was one of the first lessons in overthrowing an old regime for many Europeans who later were active during the era of the French Revolution, such as Marquis de Lafayette. The American Declaration of Independence had some impact on the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen of 1789. The spirit of the Declaration of Independence led to laws ending slavery in all the Northern states and the Northwest Territory, with New Jersey the last in 1804-long before the British Parliament acted in 1833 to abolish slavery in its colonies.