The necessary condition for a political revolution is a fundamental socio-political transformation. In recent world history, the 18th century is widely regarded as a revolutionary age (Glaser 7). Especially, given the influence new ideas from the age of Enlightenment had in French and American Revolutions. In America, the founding fathers were heavily influenced by the ideas of the English philosopher, John Locke on the capacity for humans to establish and sustain self-government (globalsecurity.org, par. 3). Given the undertaking of the founding fathers to wrest control of America from the king of England, coupled with their subsequent success, the American War of Independence was undoubtedly a political revolution that ushered in a new era in world history.
The most outstanding aspect of the American Revolution that made it revolutionary was the creation of a new nation grounded in the ideas of freedom from tyranny, and personal liberty. In the United States of America, the English King ceased being the sovereign and instead, the new constitution established the position of the presidency. Unlike in England whereby succession to the throne was based on inheritance (globalsecurity.org, par. 4). In the US, the presidency was designed to be subject to civil limitations and checks and balances with the other branches of government; the Judiciary and Congress. This way, the drafters of the constitution thought that the possibility of one branch of government acquiring tyrannical powers was minimal (Glaser 16).
The American Revolution was notably revolutionary for asserting individual rights as the basis for a social contract. This was a new idea that had not been supported or defined elsewhere in the Western world (Glaser 13). In America's constitution, each citizen was bestowed inalienable rights which could not be trampled upon without due process as had been the case under the crown. Supporting this principle was Republicanism. In essence, the new nation was not a matter of being the president's or any other single individual's concern (Wood 236). Instead, the supreme power was vested in the people who would express it through their elected representatives. North-American British colonies had been ultimately under the control of the British crown since the onset of colonization in the early 17th century (globalsecurity.org par. 34). As such, the British crown was ultimately in charge of all land in the colonies. However, land tenure was a preserve of individual citizens in the new nation with government land belonging to the public instead of a single government entity.
Since classical times, democracy was nothing but a failed idea. In all instances it had been tried, it had failed terribly whereby countries that tried it always reverted to monarchism or another form of tyranny. However, in the American Revolution, the founders were adamant that their new nation would be based on democratic ideals (Glaser 14). This idea, in essence, was revolutionary because the colonies were adamant to negotiate and record it in a written constitution. Earlier, laws governing the colonies were unwritten and could be subject to alteration from parliament to assuage the monarch's desires and needs (Wood 123). However, in the new republic democracy was ensured through the protection of voting rights and property rights for all eligible citizens. This was also evidenced in the way the revolution raised debates about subjugated groups of people such as slaves and women. Eventually, how the constitution addressed these groups would ultimately help secure freedom for them. This is through the process of reform that continued to thrive over a 19th century America in the form of the suffragettes, abolitionists, and such movements formed to combat religious intolerance (globalsecurity.org par. 2). Northern states gradually abolished the institution of slavery throughout the early 19th century.
In the colonial period, a small proportion of white men participated in political matters or voted. Political parties were non-existent. Instead, adult white males deferred their voting rights to gentlemen. Political matters were a preserve of these gentlemen who also doubled as established lawyers, wealthy merchants, and planters (Wood 213). However, in the intermediate period leading to the revolutionary war, political participation heightened as individual citizens started taking part in political issues affecting them. This led to unprecedented events such as open protests against unfair taxation in 1765 and the Boston Tea Party in 1773. The most outstanding event was the uprising that gave birth to the revolution in 1776 (globalsecurity.org, par. 12). After 1776, common citizens continued to call for expansion of suffrage to accommodate a larger portion of the population in political participation. As such, the American Revolution occasioned a gradual wide-ranging socio-political overhaul of the entire American political system regarding improved political participation.
For women, improved political participation was not the only positive gain from the revolution. The revolution brought dramatic improvements in the lives of American women. Toward, the revolution, women were immensely involved in civil disobedience activities against British tyranny such as boycott and protest campaigns (Glaser 76). When war came, women also actively participated in it through making weapons for the war effort. Some women also took part in the war as spies. They also took more prominent roles such as running businesses and firms while their husbands fought the British. After the revolution, women were also inspired to start protesting male power as well as demanding more respect from society (globalsecurity.org par. 17). The first feminist writings demanding equal rights emerged from the period immediately after the war.
A revolution should entail violence and social unrest on a wide scale. While the American Revolutionary War was fought on many locations, all over the thirteen colonies, it was controlled, and not as sporadic as it was in France (1789) and Russia (1917). Nevertheless, the revolution greatly upset the lives of the old colonial elites who depended heavily on the old monarchical order for sustenance (globalsecurity.org par. 23-26). Of all loyalists, about 100,000 fled the United States. Some were also expelled after their property had been expropriated while others were expelled for remaining faithful to the king. Other Loyalists were also attacked and killed by patriots. However, given the longevity of the revolutionary war, the violence was not only meted against the Loyalists by the Patriots but went both ways. In fact, in some instances, the Loyalists were more brutal in acts of revenge against the Patriots. Nevertheless, the Patriots eventually won the war even with heavy odds stacked against them.
After the revolutionary war, the newly formed United States started transacting on its own with other nations independent of the British Empire. The new nation quickly formed relations with other countries not only in Europe but also to its South. The US especially formed cordial ties with Spanish Colonies in Latin America culminating in crafting of the Monroe Doctrine (Glaser 55). In the interest of protecting and expanding her interests in South America. Increasingly, in pursuance of her geopolitical interests, the US eventually became the most prominent power in both North and South Americas. Such a fete was unachievable without the attainment of independence in America. The transformation of the US into a global power from a colony, in essence, is revolutionary (globalsecurity.org par. 32). This is because it upset the power balance in the Americas from the old colonial powers in favor of the USA. It is therefore inconsequential that these changes took place over time instead of happening instantly. The scope of change and how the attainment of independence in America facilitated this process, qualify the American revolution as revolutionary.
The effects of attainment of independence in America were not only revolutionary in the aforementioned direct way. It was also indirectly revolutionary. The American Revolution was more profound indirectly than it was directly (Wood 234). It was indirect in the sense that, the uprising would inspire other such uprisings against tyranny not only in France a decade later, but also elsewhere around the world, more than a hundred years later (Glaser 71). Anti-Colonial leaders such as Ho Chi Minh and Kwame Nkrumah in Asia and Africa would cite the American Revolution as an inspiration behind their anti-colonial campaigns in the 20th century.
The American Revolution remains one of the most revolutionary events in modern world history. It permanently upset the old monarchical order that had prevailed in the world since classical times. It also introduced a written constitution grounded in democratic principles of individual rights, property rights, and republicanism. He revolution also inspired other similar revolutions not only in the intermediate period but also over a hundred years late. As such, the event was one of the most revolutionary occurrences in the world and continues to inspire revolutionary thinkers all over the globe.
Global Security. The American Revolution; the First War for Independence. 2005 http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/ops/revolution.htm. Accessed October 15, 2018.
Jansen, Hans. The War of Independence of the American Revolution that was No Revolution: Another Look at the Reasons. Florida Gulf Coast University. 2013. https://fgcu.digital.flvc.org/islandora/object/fgcu%3A21422/datastream/OBJ/view/THE_WAR_OF_INDEPENDENCE_OR_THE_AMERICAN_REVOLUTION_THAT_WAS_NO_REVOLUTION__ANOTHER_LOOK_AT_THE_REASONS_.pdf Accessed 15 Oct. 2018.
Wood, Gordon. The Radicalism of the American Revolution. New York: Vintage Books, 1991.
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