Much more than a revolt against British taxes and trade regulations, the American Revolution was the first modern revolution. It marked the first time in history that a people fought for their independence in the name of certain universal principles such as rule of law, constitutional rights, and popular sovereignty.
This section examines the causes, fighting, and consequences of the American Revolution. You will read about the problems created by the Seven Years' War, and British efforts to suppress American smuggling, to prevent warfare with Indians, and to pay the cost of stationing troops in the colonies. You will also read about the emerging patterns of resistance in the colonies, ...view middle of the document...
In the 1500s and 1600s, Europe was being swept up in an intellectual movement known as the Enlightenment. Men like John Locke began arguing that humans have natural, God-given rights to life, liberty, and property that not even the king himself could take away. This was a sharp move away from the medieval thinking that held that the king had the God-given right the of life and death over his subjects. In this new enlightened era, Parliaments and elected governments could check the power of a king who got too power-crazy.
The colonists' complaints about taxation without representation didnâ€™t come out of thin air; their complaints were part of a movement that challenged the medieval idea that that some people were born higher than others. To the enlightenment thinkers nobles and commoners were titles made by humans and therefore could be unmade as well.
Of course, this was the beginnings of democracy in Europe, not what we know today. Non-Europeans, non-Christians, and women were not seen as being included in this movement toward equality. Now that the Americans were at war, they needed to justify their war if they hoped to win over any colonists on the fence or Europeans who might send money and troops (France and Spain perhaps?). The Founding Fathers (as they would come to be known) set about putting quill to paper explaining exactly why they were doing what they were doing.
Inspired by John Locke, Thomas Paine and other enlightenment thinkers, the founding fathers at the Second Continental Congress set about drafting a document that would express the reasons it was breaking all ties with Great Britain. The task of writing this Declaration of Independence fell on five delegates at the Congress- Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Robert Livingston, and Roger Sherman. However, most of the original draft was written by Jefferson. It took Jefferson only 2 days to write his document and the Congress cast their votes on July 2, 1776. The verdict, Jefferson's draft (minus a part attacking the slave trade) was passed. On July 4, 1776 news circulated about the vote and this became the official date of the birth of the United States of America.
The tone of the Declaration of Independence was clear. Men were born free by God with certain rights that could not be taken awayâ€“â€“ even by the king himself. The Declaration of Independence attacked the crown and Parliament for its abuses against the American colonies. The conflict may have its beginnings in taxation without representation, but taxes were not the issue. One Patriot soldier who was interviewed 50 years after the Revolution stated that he experienced neither oppression nor heavy taxes on the part of the British. In fact, he had never even seen the stamps that had started the whole mess. The real issue was that "we had always governed ourselves, and we had always meant to..."
Declaring independence is one thing. Winning it is another issue altogether....