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“The American Revolution” by Gordon S. Wood

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The emergence of this rambunctious middling democracy was the most significant consequence of the American Revolution. The origins of the Revolution necessarily lie deep in America’s past. A century and a half of dynamic development in the British continental colonies of the New World had fundamentally transformed inherited European institutions and customary patterns of life and had left many colonists believing that they were seriously deviating from the cultivated norms of European life. Americans Resistance turned into rebellion: but as the colonists groped to make sense of the peculiarities of their society, this rebellion became a justification and idealized of American life as it had gradually and unintentionally developed over the previous century and a half .In this sense, as John Adams later said “the revolution was effected before the war commenced” it was a change “in the minds and hearts of the people.”

The revolution was not simply an intellectual endorsement of a previously existing social reality. It was also an integral part of the real transforming that carried America into the liberal democratic society of the modern world. The Revolution shattered what remained of these traditional patterns of life and prepared the way for the more fluid, bustling individualistic world that followed. What began as a colonist rebellion on the very edges of the civilized world was transformed into an earth- shaking event- an event that promised, as one clergyman declared, to create out if the “perishing World… a new world, a young world, a world of countless millions, all in the fair Bloom of Piety.”

Between 1760 and 1776 some 20,000 people from southern New England moved up the Connecticut River into New Hampshire and into what would later become Vermont. In the same period migrants from Massachusetts streamed into Main and founded 94 towns. A total of 264 new towns were established in northern New England during the years between 1760 and 1776. Land fever infected all levels of society. While Ezra Stiles, a minister in Newport, Rhode Island, and later the president of Yale University, bought and sold small shares in places all over New England and in Pennsylvania and New York, more influential figures like Benjamin Franklin were concocting huge speculative schemes in the was unsettled lands of the west.

Although the European invasion of the New World had drastically reduced the numbers of the Native people, largely through the spreading of disease, about 150,000 Indians remained in the area east of the Mississippi. New England had few hostile Indians, but in New York there were 2,000 warriors, mostly fierce Senecas, left the once formidable Six Nations of the Iroquois. In the Susquehanna and Ohio Valleys dwelled a variety of variety of tribes, mostly Delaware’s, Shawnees, Mingos, and Hurons, who claimed about 12,000 fighting men. On the southern frontiers the Indian presence was even more forbidding. From the Carolinas to the Yazoo River were some 14,000 warriors, manly Cherokees, Creels, Chocktaws, and Chickasaws. Although these native people were often deeply divided from one another and had reached different degrees of accommodation with the European settlers, most of them were anxious to resist further white encroachment of their lands.

The American Revolution, like all revolutions, could not fulfill all the high hopes of its leaders. Within a decade after Independence was declared, many Revolutionary leaders had come to doubt the way America was going. Not only accomplish its tasks both at home and abroad, but they were also having second thoughts about the immense power that had been given to the popular state legislatures in 1776. In the confederation came together with mounting concern over examples of legislative tyranny and other political and social conditions in the states to produce a powerful momentum for constitutional change. The result was the federal constitution of 1787. This new national Constitution, which replaced the Articles of Confederation, not only limited the authority of the states but also created an unprecedented concentration of power at the federal level. Many Americans could only conclude that the new Constitution represented as a radical a change as the Revolution itself. At last, in the eyes of some, the inauguration of a federal government promised the harmony and stability that would allow America to become a great and glorious nation.

The year of 1763 was the start the injustice that occurred prior to the American Revolution. The Proclamation of 1763 banned all westward migration in the colonies. In 1764 the parliament passed the sugar and Currency Acts. The stamp act and the Quartering Act were passed in 1765. In 1766 the parliament repealed the stamp act and passes the Declaratory Act. In 1767 the parliament passes the Townshend Acts. In 1770 Was the Boston Massacre. That same year the Townshend Act was repelled except of the duty on Tea. The British ship Gaspee was burned down off of Rode Island. In 1774 the parliament passes the Tea Act on May 10th. That same year on December 16th 7 months later was the Boston Tea Party. In 1774 Parliament passes the coercive acts and the Quebec Acts they were the final acts that the King or parliament passed before the war. In 1775 King George the third declares the colonies in open rebellion.

The “United States of America” thus possessed a literal meaning that is hard to appreciate today. The confederation resembled an alliance among closely cooperating sovereign states that a single government- something not all that different from the present-day European Union. Each state annually sent a delegation to the Confederation Congress, and each delegation only had a single vote. The confederation was intended to be and remained, as Article 3 declared, “affirm league of friendship” among states jealous of their individuality. The states’ rivalries were most evident in the long, drawn- out controversy over the disposition of the western lands between the Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi River. The Articles sent to the states in 1778 for ratification gave the Congress no authority over the unsettled lands of the interior, and this omission delayed their approval. States like Virginia and Massachusetts with ancient charters claims to this western territory wanted to maintain control over the disposal; of their land. But states without such claims, such as Maryland and Rhode Island, wanted the land to be pooled in a common national domain under congress.

The history of the American revolution, like the history of the nation as a whole, ought not to be viewed as a story of right and wrong or good or evil from witch moral lessons are to be drawn. No doubt the story of the Revolution is a dramatic one: thirteen insignificant British colonies huddled along a narrow strip of the Atlantic coast three thousand miles from the centers of the Western civilization becoming in fewer that three decades a huge, sprawling, republic of nearly 4 million expansive-minded, evangelical, and money-hungry citizens is a spectacular tale to say the least. But the Revolution, like the whole of American history, is not simple morality play, it is a complicated and often ironic story that needs to be explained and understood, not celebrated of condemned. How the Revolution came about, what its character was, and what its consequences were- not whether it was good or bad- are the questions this brief history seeks to answer.

As Carl Becker, one of the leading Historians at the time, put it, the Revolution was not only about home rule; it was also about who should rule at home. It was now seen as anything but a contest over ideas. This denigration of ideas and emphasis on class and sectional conflict dominated history-writing during the first half of the twentieth century. Then in the mid century a new generation of Historians rediscovered the constitutional and conservative character of the Revolution to new heights of sophistication.

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