Monday, November 4, 2019

American Revolution

American Revolution To what extent was the American Revolution caused by an ideological commitment to republicanism? There has been much debate surrounding the causes of the American Revolution. It has been a key debate amongst historians producing several schools of thoughts with conflicting interpretations of the revolution. They all place a different focus, some blaming short term issues while others trace the revolution back to a combination of factors. Fundamentally, no historical event can be fully explained by one single event or development. I hope to show that the American Revolution was a result of a long term process, its causes lie in the change in relationship between the American people and their English colonialists. Part of this process is the development of and commitment to a republican ideology. However such an ideology cannot be produced within a vacuum but is the result of an accumulation of social change triggered by certain grievances or objections to the existing order. On the o ne hand, it has been argued that the causes of the American Revolution lay in the political changes that came about after the 1760s. The materialisation of a considerable political ideology namely republicanism has been argued to have been the key force which propelled the American people into a revolution. Comparatively, Americans had previously been content and indeed loyal to the mother country and its monarchy. Steve D. Crow even labels Virginians as ‘royalists’ and proclaims that the majority of people had once ‘sided with the King’.[1] However this is not a view that lasted but one can trace the collapse of such a view from the 1760s and perhaps even earlier. Republicanism is the political embodiment of this very shift in belief toward the mother country. America went from it being primarily controlled by English colonialists to Americans demanding sovereignty, self government and freedom from English influence. Inspired by enlightenment writers such as John Locke the Republicans believed that a legitimate state authority should be derived only through consent of the governed.[2] Through such criteria, Britain was increasingly seen as corrupt, hostile and a threat to the liberties that Americans enjoyed. The greatest threat being ‘corruption’ as colonialists were seen as royal appointees not answerable to the people, causing unnecessary taxation and being part of an inherited aristocracy: This all against the ideals of republicanism.[3] Therefore, as the strength of republicanism greatened, with it augmented the breakdown of the relationship between the English and the Americans. Republicanism is indeed a key movement which combined a number of objections to the British, an organised movement that had not before existed. The nature of the movement most definitely spurred on masses of support and marked a departure from the acceptance of British rule. However, it is questionable whether this commitment to republicani sm was enough on its own to have caused the American Revolution. There are several causes that predate republicanism, these causes not as organised but certainly are key turning points in changing the attitude of the American people in favour of revolt against English control. However, the Neo-Conservative School of Thought would argue that the commitment to republicanism was indeed enough to cause the American Revolution. They place the main reason for the revolution in the ‘conservative act’ which took place as American tried to preserve a life they had started. The revolution was based upon certain ‘principle’ that they sought to protect.[4] These very principles were the foundation of the Republican agenda. Robert E Brown and Daniel J Boortsin write that the American people sought to ‘maintain the status quo’ through revolution. For example, the British imposed taxes to create capital after the French and Indian war even though it was contr adictory to the constitution. Neo-conservatives argue that the Americans rebelled against this as they were protecting their existing rights of no taxation without representation. Boortsin rights ‘the patriots more true followers of the British Constitution than the British themselves.’ A natural evolution if this desire to maintain and protect ‘principles’ can be argued to have been Republicanism. This is because, Republicanism sought to condemn the ‘corruption’ of the British rule and protect American rights which have been betrayed under British rule as it became clear that the British were seeking their interests. In a similar vein the Imperial School of Thought believes that it as also political issues namely constitutional issues that caused the revolution. Historians such as George L. Beer, Charles M. Andrew and Lawrence H. Gipson are not as negative about British rule as the Neo-Conservatives. Instead they highlight the prosperity exper ienced by colonies under British rule. As Andrews asserts the British protected ‘American goods and ships’. Gipson puts forward the case for taxation as being just as the British had made great sacrifices â€Å"defending the North American colonies in the Great War for Empires.†[5] Nevertheless, despite this positive view of British rule the Imperial School of Thought agree that ‘constitutional’ disagreements erupted between the two countries. As Americans sought self government the British in parallel pushed for more control. Thus, the British and the colonies clashed as the fought for different gaols. Therefore, these groups of historians favour a political explanation as the main cause of the American Revolution. In this light they may than agree that a commitment to the republican ideology was indeed the main cause of the American Revolution. However, by centring their explanation of the revolution upon political developments and clashes such his torians ignore other factors that were influential in creating a revolution. Others historians have brought forward the economic occurrences that in their opinion hold greater weighting when it comes to what they believe caused the American Revolution.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.