The Phenomenon of the Revolution
There is a reasonably large number of approaches to the definition of a revolution and, accordingly, to its analysis. Two fundamental features characterize the phenomenon of the revolution. They are a radical transformation of the socio-economic, ideological, and political structure of society, carried out with the breakdown of state power. In the North American colonies, there was no fundamental change in the social system, and there was no large-scale redistribution of property during the revolution. The American coup was relatively bloodless, the strength of the crowd did not guide it, and, most importantly, it was unquestionably successful for the revolutionaries themselves, unlike in other revolutions. Thus, the origin of the revolution was promoted by several reasons, mainly ideological reasons, and such a revolution had a strong influence on the entire subsequent history of the United States.
Revolution in American society
In American society, many practical reasons were leading to the revolution and the war. First, the economic restriction, in which the British authorities did their best to limit the freedom of the North American colonies appeared. Planters were supposed to sell tobacco to England at low prices and to buy fabrics, utensils, and iron tools at a high price. Industrialists were forbidden to build metalworking factories, and merchants were forbidden to trade with other countries. Moreover, the British government placed restrictions on the development of Western lands, intercepted trade with Indians, and imposed a limit on the issue of paper money. In addition to economic and territorial boundaries, the government legalized violations of personal freedoms1. For example, government representatives had the right to search any premises looking for smuggled goods, any newspapers and magazines could be censored, and those criticizing the existing government were forbidden at all.
Despite the existence of several practical reasons for changing the political system and declaring independence, the main impetus for the revolution was ideological differences. Apart from functional purposes, colonials had the struggle of ideas at the core of the American revolution. Based on recent works showing that the legacy of the Puritan republic has been preserved as a radical critic of the venal board. The ideology of the adherents of the commonwealth inspired the bulk of the protest literature in America. The represented thinking stood behind the landmark events of that time, such as the famous series of crises from protests against the Stamp Act to the Boston Tea Party. In particular, the restrictive measures of the British government in those years seemed to the colonists an evident proof of the very intentional conspiracy, into which conspirators in England and America secretly entered. Ideologists of the revolution had a substantial impact on the masses, and a description of their philosophical judgments and political views can be considered in several relevant documents.
The Declaration of Independence
The Declaration of Independence is a document according to which thirteen British colonies in North America announced the separation from the mother country and the formation of an independent state of the United States of America. The Declaration proclaimed the idea of the sovereignty of the people as the foundation of the country, which represents the liberal spirit of the ideologists of the revolution. The described design had a significant influence on the development of the struggle against absolutism in Europe and the anti-colonial movement in America. The preamble stated the fundamental ideas of equality “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”2 Thomas Jefferson was the principal compiler of the Declaration of Independence; other representatives of the philosophers of the revolution supported many of the statements indicated in the text of the document.
The natural equality of people proclaimed in the preamble of the Declaration was directly opposed to class privileges inherited from feudalism and inalienable rights to feudal lawlessness. This document characterizes Jefferson as a liberal person who puts the significance of human life above material values and political superiority. Since the politician criticizes the power of the monarch of the metropolis in the Declaration of Independence, it can be stated that he was an opponent of autocracy and promoted a free republic and democracy. An interesting fact is that the original version of the document contained intense criticism of the slave trade, which also describes Jefferson as a person with an open mind and unique approaches. It is important to note that Jefferson’s viewpoints on some things were at variance with that of his associates and congress, which did not prevent him from upholding his opinion.
The ideologists of the revolution saw their freedom in the unhindered development of property; the main thing for them was not abstract-theoretical freedom from a foreign power as practical freedom, ensuring their material interests. Therefore, liberty as a natural and inalienable right was seen by the colonists as a guarantee of freedom of property. In practice, freedom in the Declaration of Independence included the right to freely use and dispose of one’s material wealth, that is, the right to property. The adoption of the Declaration of Independence stimulated the legislative process in all states, where during 1776-1784, constitutions guaranteeing the rights and freedoms of citizens, the republican form of government, and the principle of separation of powers. The ideologists of the revolution, whose main statements were based on the philosophy of individual freedom, adopted the Declaration as the primary document securing human liberty from the persuasive influence of the state.
The Articles of the Confederation and the perpetual union is the first constitutional document of the United States. The articles of the Confederation were adopted at the Second Continental Congress on November 15, 1777, in York (Pennsylvania) and ratified by all thirteen states (Maryland did the last on March 1, 1781). The Confederation Articles established the powers and authorities of the Confederation. According to the articles, the Confederation resolved issues of war and peace, and diplomacy. The Confederation also controlled Western territories, money circulation, and state loans, but other questions remained with the states. For the first time, the name of the Confederation “United States of America”3 was documented. Initially, The Articles of the Confederation helped ideologists advance the philosophy of the revolution since this document promoted the ideology of unification, the formation of a state separate from the metropolis. Many representatives of the political elite supported this document as it strengthened their revolutionary position among citizens, and expressed their liberal opinion.
The Versailles Peace
On September 3, 1783, a package of international treaties was concluded in Paris and Versailles that ended the American War of Independence between Great Britain, the USA, France, Spain, and the Netherlands. The Versailles peace was preceded by lengthy negotiations and the conclusion of several preliminary agreements between all parties. The most significant achievement was that under a deal of 10 articles, the United Kingdom recognized the Thirteen Colonies as sovereign and independent states and renounced any claims to their management, their territory, and property.4 Obligations to pay legitimately arising debts to creditors of both parties were recognized.
The influence of this document was quite stable since the existence of such a state as the United States of America was finally recognized. The signing of the Treaty of Paris characterized the leaders of the War of Independence as personalities capable of achieving their goals and further as missionaries of a democratic idea. However, the ideologies of the end of the war of independence increased their authority among ordinary citizens, since they performed precisely the tasks that they faced at the very beginning of the revolution.
The USA Constitution
The USA Constitution was adopted on September 17, 1787, in Philadelphia by a constitutional convention, which was attended by 55 delegates representing 12 states because Rhode Island refused to participate in its work. The purpose of the Constitution was to legalize the new state of the United States of America. As indicated in the preamble of the document, the state should occur “to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty.”5 The establishment of this document was the final victory in the War for Independence. The central significance of the adoption of this document is the formation of the principle of separation of powers and the achievement of the fundamental dogmas of the revolution.
The establishment of this Constitution characterizes the founding fathers as educated people, capable of inventing original ideas that indicate the interests of the people. Despite the authenticity of various concepts of the Constitution, ideologists also relied on the work of many ancient philosophers. This fact emphasizes the level of engagement and a high degree of intelligence. The liberalism of ideologists is also disclosed in this document since it aims to protect freedoms in the present and the future. The high accomplishment potential is also revealed, as politicians claim that their main task is to guarantee justice and public order and to provide protection from external enemies.
Despite the emergence of revolutionary ideas among the political elite, the main driving force of the revolution is the people. Active propaganda was carried out to change the opinions of pro-government citizens and support emerging doubts. Protocols of thirteen legislative meetings, pamphlets, and newspapers of all colonies during this time certify how public opinion was gradually enlightened and aware of the power of parliament over the colonies. However, it was not only about enlightenment but also about frank propaganda depicting the British as a people sowing debauchery in the provinces. Of course, the least characterized by American pamphlets objectivity. Although, without these pamphlets, there would be no revolution. Propaganda against submission to Britain was a powerful tool for revolution.
During the revolution, many goals were achieved; for example, the revival of industry and expansion to the west. Citizens’ attitude to the revolution was very contradictory, on the one hand, conditions were provided for increasing profits among industrialists and farmers, but on the other side, such a revolution did not spare the adherents of the British system. Moreover, the state acquired an enormous public debt, which led to an economic crisis that did not please the population. Therefore, ordinary people differently understood the adoption of various documents and the conduct of the revolution. However, the revolutionary movement was supported by the vast majority of the American population. The representatives of the working classes who became the main driving force of the revolution actively joined the revolutionary organizations. Indeed, the ideologists of the revolution and the political elite had an essential function in the implementation of the revolution. Nevertheless, the success of this event is also explained by the support of the citizens.
The American Revolution, which coincided with the War of Independence, had a tremendous impact on the entire system of social relations, including the formation of democratic political systems in the United States. Allison claims that “the American Revolution is the story of how the United States was born as a centerpiece of a broad coalition of nations and peoples.”6 The rhetoric of freedom is central to understanding the origins of American statehood. The driving factor of the revolution was the struggle to restore the fundamental British liberties in the colonies. Concerning ideological influences, the colonists’ arguments were greatly influenced not only by Enlightenment philosophers and ancient authors but also by radical British journalism, which was disproportionately popular in the North American states than in its homeland.
Allison, David K., and Larrie D. Ferreiro. The American Revolution: A World War. DC, Washington: Smithsonian Institution, 2018.
“Treaty of Paris.” 1783. Web.
U.S. Declaration of Independence, 1776. Web.
U.S. Congress. The Articles of Confederation, 1777. Web.
U.S. Constitution, preamble.
- Allison and Ferreiro, The American Revolution, 53.
- U.S. Declaration of Independence, 1776.
- U.S. Congress. The Articles of Confederation, 1777.
- “Treaty of Paris,” 1783.
- U.S. Constitution, preamble.
- Allison and Ferreiro, The American Revolution, 9.