Bernard Bailyn's Interpretation of the American Revolution

Topics: American Revolution, Boston Tea Party, Intolerable Acts Pages: 5 (1762 words) Published: December 8, 2009
No one will argue that the American Revolution was one of the most significant events in shaping American ideology. The impact on the economy, sociological and ideological make-up of America are still seen in today's society. Many great minds have passed commentary on the causes and impacts of the American Revolution such as; Bernard Bailyn, Louis Hartz, Joyce Appleby, and Gordon Wood. This research examines why these experts believed what they did about the causes of the American Revolution and how we can correlate those causes to the economic and political crisis America is now facing in the 21st century as compared to the 18th century. Literature Review

The Revolutionary War physically started in 1775 and ended in 1783, however radical ideas and the beginning of anti-British feelings started at least a decade before the revolution actually took place. In Bernard Bailyn's work, "The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution", he first attributes American political thought to the pamphlets that circulated throughout England and the American colonies. These pamphlets enabled revolutionary writers to openly express themselves and their ideas and above all, not be made to follow a strict pattern as newspaper articles and periodicals usually did. While other forms of communication still existed, "it was in this form- as pamphlets- that much of the most important and characteristic writing of the American Revolution appeared."[1] They were a means for writers and thinkers to exchange ideas and refute each other's arguments on political theory. Pamphlets written by American colonists were often viewed as crude and nothing more than amateur literature compared to the practiced technique and artful literary constructions of the Englishmen. The major reason why American pamphleteers were more outspoken in their writings was because they were more readily able to write exactly how they felt about the British crown and the changes that should be made to the government. Unlike the English pamphleteers who had to take into consideration their close proximity to the King and the knowledge that if these authors were caught it meant death, American writers enjoyed the privilege of living an ocean away from Britain and enjoyed the ability to freely express their new ideas without fear of being put to death so easily.

One of the most famous pamphleteers was an Englishman named Thomas Paine. In 1774 Paine moved to America and in 1776 wrote Common Sense, a pamphlet advocating separation from England and a total reformation of the government. He criticized monarchies and said "that a thirst for power, is the natural disease of monarchy" and consistently emphasized "the necessity of a large and equal representation in government." [2] Paine's daring ideas created a frenzy in the colonies and ended up becoming a benchmark in revolutionary literature.

Pamphlets were one of the first ideological causes of the American Revolution. In 1754 the French-Indian War, otherwise known as the Seven Year's War, erupted as a result of disputes over land in the Ohio River Valley. The war ended in 1763 with the Treaty of Paris. Under the treaty, France gave England all territory east of the Mississippi River, except New Orleans and the Spanish were made to give up Florida to England in return for Cuba. England came out victorious from the war with new territories, but also with a large amount of debt.

With England's debt, starts the beginning of a long line of decrees, taxes and acts that the English Crown imposed specifically to control and regulate the American colonies. The Proclamation of 1763 prohibited any English settlement in the West and required those already settled in those regions to move back East, while the Sugar Act of 1764 was passed by Parliament to offset the war debt and help pay for the expenses of running the colonies and new territories. Also in 1764, England passed the Currency Act which prohibited the...
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