Table of Contents
The period between 1763 and 1783 is considered a pivotal period of the United States history as Americans were able to liberate themselves from colonization by Great Britain. More importantly, the American Revolution was a benchmark that created revolutionary ideologies such as liberty, freedom, and equality. Ideally, a revolution is characterized by series of events that result in widespread, meaningful and permanent change. Scholars, however, have questioned whether the events of 1763 to 1783 brought about the expected change regarding equality, freedoms, and democracy. Some have even questioned if the American Revolution was indeed a revolution since some groups benefited more than others. Although there exist different scholarly contentions as to the extensiveness of the American Revolution, the events set the stage of other revolution such as the French, Chinese and Russian revolutions. This paper explores the reasons behind the American Revolution and whether it was indeed a revolution. Further, this paper would be incomplete without taking a deeper look at the people involved and the groups that benefitted most from the revolution.
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War for Independence
In the United States’ history, the American Revolution is conceptualized as the period between years 1763 and 1783. The revolution was a multifaceted series of developments that involved war with the Great Britain colonizers and other nations (Morton 2). The civil war against the British was a critical event that crystallized the American Revolution. The first approach was through peaceful protest movements aimed at the British government which was considered oppressive and discriminatory. In this regard, notable revolutionaries during that period were Americans from all social classes who protested against slavery, landholding and cultural interference (Morton 3). The formation of Sons of Liberty movement marked the start of advocating for the rights of the colonists. Although American Revolution and Independence are two closely related concepts, their realization was somewhat different.
It is arguable, therefore, that the idea for a free America was conceptualized by the Sons of Liberty who opposed the British colonizers by defying taxation regime. Further, Drayton (16) stated that “the aim of Americans (subjects of the British Crown) is to be released from British Oppression, the Stroke of the British Sword and thus the Tenor of a British Act of Parliament.” As such, the basis of American Revolution was regard for liberty and sovereignty of the people. In fact, the declaration of independence captures the resolve by American patriots in the statement, “that these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be free and the Independent States” (Congress 1776).
Participants in America’s War for Independence
The idea for American Independence and liberation from the British government was not unanimous in the United States as there were Patriots and Loyalists. The two factions (Patriots and Loyalists) according to Otfinoski held different positions towards the American freedom from the colonial government (2). The Patriots comprised only a third of American population advocated of American liberty from Britain. Some of the other terms that have been historically used to refer to patriots include revolutionaries, rebels or American Whigs. Notable revolutionaries (patriots) include Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and George Mason. The patriots incorporated American from all walks of life including merchants, farmers, and slaves who opposed the British tyranny. On the other hand, were the Loyalists like William Franklin, and Samuel Adams whom, as Otfinoski (2) explains, supported the King of England.
Despite being led by notable Patriots such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, the American Revolution brought on ordinary people such as James Armistead and Crispus Attucks. In fact, like other Black patriots, James Armistead was a slave whose contribution in the war for American independence cannot go unheeded. According to Otfinoski (2), Armistead was a double agent who conducted spying activities on the British on behalf of the American patriots. The war at Cornwallis, Yorktown in 1781 was successful thanks to the information James Armistead delivered to the Patriots (Morton 17). Women’s contributions in the war for independence can also not be ignored. Most women took care of families, provided logistical support and attended to the sick during the war (Otfinoski 8). However, some women such as Deborah Samson were actively involved in the combat alongside men, and she is considered the bravest woman in American history. American patriots were largely inspired by Thomas Paine’s assertion that “the authority of Great Britain over this continent is a form of government, which sooner or later must have an end” (11).
People who signed the Declaration of Independence
Following the Patriots’ resilience and the British government’s lack of enough resources to sustain the civil war, the United States was ultimately declared an Independent nation. The declaration of independence on August 2, 1776, marked a new era of United States history founded on democracy, civil rights and freedoms. As Morton (5) reports, the thirteen British colonies were declared sovereign and independent from the British rule. The declaration for independence document was signed by fifty-six delegates representing the different states in the United States. The declaration was drafted by Thomas Jefferson and was later subjected to the Congress for adoption. In fact, by dint of signatures by state’s representatives (delegates) America was affirming its superiority after achieving independence.
Americans from different social, economic and political spheres also appended their signatures on the document. A fundamental component of the declaration was the affirmation that the new America was founded by the people. There had been extensive criticism by the likes of Paine that the colonial government was tyrannical and that the king ruler’s undermined democracy. The Declaration of Independence made America a sovereign state capable of forming alliances, taxation, and trade with other nations (Morton 19). Regardless of who signed the document, it was clear that America as an independent nation was born. It was not known, however, whether the ideal situation that American would be equal could be achieved.
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Despite the American Revolution bringing widespread and permanent changes, there are some groups of people who benefited more than others socially, politically and economically. The War for Independence established American-only Federal and State governments, but they were not all inclusive. On the part of the British government, Morton noted that the nation suffered political and economic instability as the war in a foreign land was a costly affair. It is absurd that despite the involvement of all American from different occupations (slaves, farmers, activists, and planters among others) in the war for independence, the benefits of British ouster were not widespread. However, the revolution affirmed the American nationhood and liberties (Morton 15).
The American declaration of independence meant that the sovereignty belonged to the Americans especially the white male majority. The natives were granted political power to decide the fate of other people including the slaves, farmers, and women who were considered the minority groups. As things turned out, women, slaves, and poor Americans continued to be disenfranchised in the independent nation. The Declaration of Independence provided that, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that their Creator endows them with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Liberty, Life and the pursuit of Happiness” (Congress 1776). However, that was not the case as the Blacks continued to be subjected to slavery, women were discriminated, and workers were oppressed.
Some notable authors such as Morton observed that the new America was not entirely different from the British controlled colonial land. Regrettably, Black Americans continued to suffer as slaves and were not integrated into the American community. Morton (23) notes that most Blacks preferred the British colonial government to free America as there were no prospects of freedom. Furthermore, the course for American Independence was opposed by a considerable number of people other than the Loyalists. In fact, a majority of the wealthy Americans in the North and South had formed coalitions with the colonial masters, and the declaration of independence interfered with their socioeconomic well-being.
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Whether America Became an Independent Country
It is believed that in theory and practice the American Independence secured rights for the colonists and future generations. However, oppressive practices such as slavery continued to be legal in the 13 colonies indicating that a significant number of people continued to be held in bondage. The ideal position as provided by the declaration was that Americans were supposed to be equal and independent. The country according to Otfinoski only achieved political independence which did not translate to social and economic freedom (54). It is arguable, however, that America needed a transition period to achieve the desired goals of a free nation. The enactment of the American Constitution solidified the citizenry resolve of having an independent country based on democracy and civil liberties.
Morton (2) argues that the American Revolution and the formation of a new American administration borrowed heavily on British ideologies. This makes the American Revolution more of an evolutionary endeavor as the new national government retained most of the British administrative practices. However, the American culture was profound, and the revolutionaries played a critical role in developing a new nation. There was the establishment of high American ideals, improvement of economic opportunities and end of the tyrannical rule.
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In conclusion, the American Revolution was a starting point for social, political and economic changes in the United States. After exploring some literature on the American Revolution, I am of the opinion that the events of 1763 and 1783 were a reference point for America’s sovereignty. The idea that the “Revolution” was not a revolution is debatable. In this respect, when history scholars define change and end of oppression in the United States, the revolution is a reminder of freedoms and liberties. Notably, other countries such as France and China were particularly inspired by the American Revolution heightening their spirits for independence. It is conceivable, however, that the Revolution benefited a particular class of people especially the elite whites and wealthy families. On the part of minorities such as Blacks and Women, the American Declaration of Independence did not live up to the promise. The debate on whether it was an actual revolution is influenced by the fact that there were minimal social, economic and political changes in the United States. As such, the question about whether the American revolution was actually a revolution remains debatable.
- Congress, U. S. “Declaration of independence.” (1776)
- Drayton, William Henry. “A Charge on the Rise of the American Empire” (1776)
- Paine, Thomas. Common Sense: 1776. Infomotions, Incorporated, 1776.
- Morton, Joseph C. Greenwood Guide to Historic Events, 1500 – 1900: The American Revolution. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 2003. Print. pp. 1-18.
- Otfinoski, Steven. People of the American Revolution. Pelham, NY: Benchmark Education Co, 2011. Print. pp. 1-55