The American Revolution and the American Civil War are two of the most monumental events in the history of the United States of America. However, their characterization as a “revolution” and a “civil war” has been argued for many years. It has been argued that the American Revolution was not a true revolution, but a civil war, and that the American Civil War was not a civil war but rather America’s time of revolution. Some aspects of the American Revolution support the argument that it was a revolution, while other aspects work in favor for saying that it was just a civil war. Similarly, some aspects of the American Civil War favor the idea that it actually was a civil war, while other aspects do the opposite.
To ultimately decide which characteristics of the American Revolution make it a “true” revolution or just a civil war, one must first have knowledge of the definition of a “revolution.” A revolution is defined as “a drastic and far-reaching change in ways of thinking and behaving…a relatively sudden and absolutely drastic change...a process of change involving the mobilizing of a mass social movement in order to break the political status-quo and radically transform the society…a complete often violent, overthrow of an established government or political system.” Two of these definitions fit the American Revolution, one of them being that there was that a government (British) being overthrown due to the violence of war. It could be argued that there was not radical social changes, for slavery still existed, women still had very few rights, and only landowning white males could vote. However, society did radically change because as the loyalists fled to Canada after the war, political and social structures were opened up to new people. Slave emancipation also gave strength in the North. Also, a large mass of people mobilized for battle, as 1/3 of the colonists were patriots. The other two definitions do not fit the American Revolution. The American Revolution was by no means a drastic change that nobody saw coming, but instead was a slowly developing pot of discontent and dislike that boiled over into a war. The discontent kept boiling up through the various taxes and laws that Britain enacted on the colonies over the span of many years. Therefore, the mindset and behavior of the colonists did not change either, for the patriots believed for years prior to the war that they deserved independence from Britain. Concluding, the American Revolution does fit half the criteria for being a revolution, but does not fit the other half.
The causes of the American revolution also need to be analyzed. One cause was the existing economic system of mercantilism that was taking place during this time. In the system, the colonies worked hard to make raw materials only to see Britain profit off those raw materials. This, however, had been going on since the colonies were put into existence; therefore it wasn’t a sudden and drastic change. Even when America did win independence, they still made raw materials and had the same jobs, only they benefited themselves. Nothing changed socially. Therefore, this cause would help to argue that it wasn’t a revolution. Another cause was the various laws and taxes, such as the Intolerable Acts, that the British put on the colonists. These ended up being violently, see the Boston Massacre and the Boston Tea Party where both patriots and British troops were killed and injured. This was an attempt to overthrow a government through violence and protest, which is part of the definition of a revolution. Another major cause of the American Revolution was the colonies’ role in the British government. Britain argued that the colonies were virtually represented, that although they could not vote they were represented in the legislature by similar voters. Actual representation, which the patriots wanted, stated that every person could vote for a representative. This was a...
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