“To what extent was the American Revolution a revolution?”
Every 4th of July, Americans are told the story of the American Revolution. We remember the oppressed colonists fighting against the tyrannical King George III and the formidable red coats. Patriotic heroes are remembered, evil kings are cursed, and the liberties and freedoms won from the war are celebrated. Though America often likes to look back to the revolution, the question of just how much a revolution was the American Revolution is rarely asked. While the American revolution was not as radical of a revolution as we like to remember today, it still changed the political, social, and ideological aspects substantially of the thirteen colonies. Americans deservedly have to rite to remember the revolution, regardless to the fact of if there was true reason to start one, as a true full fledged revolution.
To decide just how much of a revolution the American Revolution was, one has to first explain what a revolution is. As defined by Princeton University, a revolution
“The overthrow of a government by those who are governed”
In accordance with this definition, for a protest to considered revolution, the established government must be overthrown by the people it governs over. The American Revolution easily fulfills this definition. The British government was overthrown by those it governed, the colonists. Since this criteria is met, the American Revolution can be considered a technical revolution. But to understand of just how much of a revolution the separation of America and Britain was, one has to look at the changes made in the political, legislative, and ideological aspects in colonial life.
The biggest change in America after the revolution was the colonies political system. Before the revolution the colonies were governed by Britain’s parliament. Parliament is not to much different from what Americans know congress to be today. Lead by the Prime Minister, parliament was filled with appointed officials to make and vote’s political decisions, such as congress does today. There are distinct differences between parliament and the congress though. First, a spot in parliament was (with the exception of the House of Commons) either appointed to you by the king, or was a birth right position. There was little decision from the people as to who would govern them. This was one of the biggest areas of contention from the colonies. They would argue that they were not full represented in congress. No person from the colonies actually presided in parliament. Parliament argued that they were virtually represented by a representative that was elected by a select few, rich upper class colonists. Colonists argued that this was not a valid form of representation, and demanded direct representation. Colonists wanted someone that the mass majority elected to represent them. Acts such as the stamp act, tea act, and intolerable acts, were used as proof by the colonists that they were being unfairly represented in parliament, as they were being taxed without direct representation.
Another thing about parliament that bothered colonists is that the king had supreme authority over all governmental decisions. A man with this much power can and, according the declaration of Independence, did invoke tyranny. The colonists felt the king, after the pamphlet of Common Sense came out, was doing nothing to help stop the unfair practice of “taxation without representation”. In fact they came to the conclusion he was helping and supporting the taxation. After the revolution the government would be radically changed. No longer was a monarchy instituted. Now a republic was in place. This was a government that was uncommon in the 18th century. The government was set up in to three branches, the Legislative Branch for deciding laws, the Executive Branch for declaring wars and overseeing the safety of the nation, and Judiciary branch which would...
Bibliography: Butler, Jon. Becoming America: The Revolution before 1776. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2001.
Middlekauff, Robert. The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution, 1763-1789 (Oxford History of the United States). New York: Oxford University Press, USA, 2007.
Raphael, Ray. A People 's History of the American Revolution: How Common People Shaped the Fight for Independence. New York: Harper Perennial, 2002.
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