Was the American Revolution Really Revolutionary?
During the Age of Revolution (1774-1849), many revolutionary movements occurred in Europe and the Americas. One of the most revolutionary revolutions was the French Revolution, a period of social and political upheaval in France that resulted in an upswing of nationalism, as well as the decline of monarchies and the rise of Democracy. The entire political and social structure of France was overthrown as a result of The French Revolution, making it one of the most radical revolutions of its time.
The American Revolution didn’t have many immediate effects on the social and economic structure regarding slaves and women, but because the United States was the first formerly European colony to successfully achieve independence and adopt a Democratic form of government,there was more religious tolerance, and economic and social structures such as mercantilism and aristocracy faded, the American Revolution was truly revolutionary.
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The idea that all men are created equal was the basis of the fight for independence in the Americas. The idea of equality originated in the minds of American elites, because of their desire to be seen as equal and no longer inferior to the British elites. But when Thomas Paine described America as unique and as a child of Europe, Americans wanted independence from their parent country, Britain. After the revolution, the United States of America was established and this new nation adopted a Democracy. Although the attempt to establish a direct Democracy failed because the elite came to realize that citizens participating in the legislative process directly could lead to self-oppression in larger, more populated states, the Founding Fathers decided that a Democratic Republic was more attainable for Americans. In this Democratic Republic, constituents were able to elect officials from their states to serve on behalf of them. This form of government was more centralized and very different from that of Europe, which was a goal of Americans. The Constitution established this new form of government and set up the separation of powers. In Europe, parliament made the laws, enforced the laws, and judged the law and the Founding Fathers, more specifically James Madison, declared that The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary was the very definition of tyranny. So, the first three articles in the Constitution establish the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial branches of government. The idea of checks and balances described the process of each branch checking the other branches to secure a balance of power. The establishment of the American Republic and the constitution are significant changes that not only affected Americans and the British, but also inspired other revolutions around the world.
Before the revolution, many people of faiths different from the established religion in each colony faced religious intolerance. In Rhode Island, Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson were ostracized for their disagreements over belief. Similarly, In the Massachusetts Bay, four Quakers were hanged for standing up and speaking about their beliefs. But the Catholics faced the most discrimination. Catholics, especially Spanish and French Catholics, were banned from holding public office and had little to no political rights. Prejudice and bigotry regarding religion persisted throughout the colonies until after the American Revolution when Thomas Jefferson, inspired by John Locke, declared that all religions should be tolerated and people running for public office shouldn’t be judged based on their religious beliefs. This is known as the separation of church and state and is the first amendment of the constitution. This amendment gave constituents more religious freedom and the ability to participate in political affairs. The American Revolution was the main factor that contributed to religious tolerance and the acceptance for people of all beliefs, and without the revolution many people in the colonies would be ostracized and oppressed just based on their religious differences.
With the revolution came many economic and social changes, one of which being the end of mercantilism.The imposition of taxes on goods and restrictions for trade on the colonies by parliament frustrated the colonists and became a factor in the revolution. The British restricted how the colonies could spend money, what they could produce, and who they could trade with. After achieving independence, Mercantilism was terminated and there were no longer restrictions on trade. And along with Mercantilism, the practice of primogeniture ended. Instead of the eldest son of an elite inheriting an entire estate, people were able to own property and attain social mobility. This meant that no one could gain nobility based on the family they were born into, which also ended the Aristocratic system. Along with all these changes, education became more important to Democracy. The idea of Republican Motherhood meant that women were to be educated so that they could teach their children about Republicanism. This gave women more freedom and drive to educate themselves and express their religious and political views.
The United States was not only the first colony to establish independence from Europe, but also the first Republic Democracy, one of the only nations to abandon the mercantilist system, and establish a constitution that separated governmental powers and separated religion and government, which couldn’t have happened without the American Revolution. Therefore, the American Revolution was truly revolutionary.