The American Revolution , while it may have been the first war that was started to
actually put into practice some ideas that previously had only been talked about,
did not have any ideas that were new. Nothing really changed as far as the
average man was concerned, after the revolution. Slaves were still enslaved, Indians
were still considered savages, women were not given equal rights and the governments
were still basically the same, except now there were no royal govenors.
Most of the main ideals expressed in the Declaration of Independence were
borrowed from John Locke, a famous english philosopher. He believed that
if the "ruling body if it offends against natural law must be deposed." Locke saw it as a
right and sometimes an obligation of subjects to overthrow their government, if
it became oppressive. The Americans fully embraced this idea. They did not make up
their own ideas.
The most radical idea of the revolution was the idea that the COMMON people
should have the right to govern themselves. In a world where monarchies
were the status quo, and people believed that monarchs ruled by divine right, the idea THAT
the average joe even had the ability to rule himself was mind-boggling.
While the Americans preached this idea and made it the backbone of their excuse for
breaking away from Britian, in truth they didn't really practice it. All of those at
the Continental Congress were upper class white men who owned land and held
important places in their respective states. After the revolution was over, the upper
class still ruled. There was not some earth-shattering, sudden and over-whelming clamor
for national equality. Things mostly remained the same and the upper class
made most of the laws.
One problem with naming the revolution as ANY kind of movement is that it depends
on whose side you were on and what year you are talking about.
Those things determine what the definition of conservative and radical is at the time. The
Articles of Confederation were very conservative because, at this time,
anything that proposed anything other than a weak central goverenment was considered
radical, such as the constitution which we presently live under. In our current
time, even the constitution is seen as pretty conservative though, mostly because it
didn't call for the freeing of slaves or deal with any other big issues. Basically those issues
were ignored. The thing that really needs to be stressed in all this is that the revolution
didn't really change ANYTHING. It was mostly just a cosmetic change as far
as government goes. Now, instead of Parliment and the Crown taxing America, it is
Congress. Big change. No major reforms were made, no drastic rebuilding of social
,political, or economic structures, nothing was done to disrupt the etablished rules and
regulations of what was considered to acceptable behavior.
The main staple of John Locke, and America's explanation as to why a country (in
this case the u.s.) had the right to sever their ties to the ruling body
(England) was that the power of the legislature "... is limited to the public good of the
society. It is a power that hath no other end but preservation, and therefore can
never have a right to destroy, enslave, or designedly to impoverish the subjects... To this
end it is that men give up all their natural power to the society they enter into,
and the community put the legislative power into such hands as they think fit, with this
trust, that they shall be governed by declared laws, or else their peace, quiet,
and property will still be at the same uncertainty as it was in the state of Nature." This is
interesting because it comes in direct conflict with the widely accepted idea of
the day that power lay with the government, not the people. This paticular Lockean ideal
states the exact opposite. It determines that men GIVE...
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