We shall speak about American Revolution, which had incredibly great influence on the processes of development both economical and social life of the United States. The process of creation of the country had a revolutionary character: struggle with outside force –mother country was combined with drastic internal changes. America became the first democratic republic of new time; its structure embodied political ideals of the Age of Enlightenment. Something was left from its colonial past – institution of slavery and institutions of local governing.
Bernhard Knollenberg considers that “a major cause of colonial discontent was the series of judgments and decisions made by British policy-makers of the period” (John C. Wahlke, p. 50). Still, there weren’t any sign of that “old system”, which was the subject of struggle for European revolutionaries. Old system had never existed in America, and decisive condition of internal changes was winning of independence. Taking into account all these ideas, we can suppose that American Revolution wasn’t actually revolutionary in direct sense of this word.
Let’s examine the main peculiarities of American Revolution in order to see the differences in comparison with other famous revolutions. What is Revolution? Revolution (Latin ‘Revolutio’ – overturn) – is a radical qualitative change, drastic uneven conversion from one qualitative condition to the other, from old to the new one. American Revolution had several peculiar features, setting it apart from revolutions in common sense of the word (taking into account preceding English Bourgeois revolution and the Great French Bourgeois revolution, which happened a little bit later).
The first peculiar feature of American Revolution was that it happened at the territory, which tactically didn’t recognize feudalism as social and economic formation. Definitely, this circumstance allowed Engels to make conclusion that history of the United States of America began at “more favorable grounds… where weren’t any signs of obstructing medieval ruins… with elements of modern bourgeois society of XVII century…” The fact, that colonists belonged to bourgeois elements in their majority, also played considerable role.
American society of revolutionary period didn’t know hereditary aristocracy, landowners and serfs, governmental bureaucracy (except of alien ideology of British administration), workshops, guilds, privileged clergy and other feudal attributes of Europe. This society had democratic spirit by their positions and state of public opinion. Social contradictions were not so critical, as they were in continental Europe. The second peculiarity of American Revolution is that it pursued national liberation aims.
This revolution started as struggle – initially peaceful, later armed – with British colonial oppression. The revolution began as national liberation movement, growing into independence war. Still, social and class contradictions became more important during the process of development: independence war at the same time became a civil war as a result of increasing split in American society. Loyalists’ movement, supporting the British crown and opposing revolted nation, became good illustration.
A number of representatives of exploiter classes, joined national liberation movement, renounced it, because they understood that independence and democracy march together. The most incredible feature of American Revolution was the absence of terror, which was a character feature of English revolution, and especially the French revolution (the end of XVIII century). Any royal governor was killed, and loyalists had opportunity to leave the territory of the United States. Struggle for independence in colonies and proclamation of republic didn’t arouse feeling of terror.
Beyond the limits of Britain Americans were treated quite well; even Russia, which waged war with France, had economic relations with America. The governors of America were known for their moderateness of views not in their purposes (independence and republican regime), but in means and methods of solving internal problems. They used definitely political instruments of struggle, often used compromises instead of conspiracies and turnovers with subsequent annihilation of defeated with help of gallows or guillotine (as against France).
Thanks to these methods, elite, which was in head of independence struggle, was able to keep the power till the end. “Republicanism was not without consequences for everyday life, but the changes were not in material relationships. The significant alterations, it is now becoming increasingly apparent, occurred in the realm of values. ” (Legacies of the American Revolution, p. 62). The task of independence and building of new government united society, and all social classes believed in the American ideal – freedom and independence. – “the stepping stones to a larger freedom” (Allan Nevins, p. 117)
Civil freedoms played great role, leading social tension into peaceful course. The very governmental structure of the United States excluded establishment of revolutionary or other kind of dictatorship on a substantial scale. Only states had a real sovereignty; the center, from which they would be able to lead the united policy, was absent (Articles of Confederation). As distinct from powerful French Convent, Continental Congress wasn’t able to usurp power, because in this case it would have to struggle with other thirteen states.
Being a commander-in-chief, G. Washington didn’t show any desire to become a new Caesar or Cromwell and to start another war – a civil one. After he ‘buried the hatchet’ with England, the army was disbanded and the country almost didn’t have permanent armed forces. American Revolution didn’t touch slave-owning system of the South, which during 80 years after the end of independence was restrained development of American capitalism. It almost didn’t influence property relations, and contented itself with liquidation of feudal remnants in land relations.
Nevertheless, we cannot disclaim its great achievements – winning of independence, creation of united federal republic, constitutional and legal institutionalization of bourgeois-democratic rights and freedoms. “Americans, including historians, seem to think the Revolution was a good thing. If any episode in our past is enshrined in our consciousness, this is it. ” (James H. Hutson, p. 289). In conclusion I want to tell that Revolutionary War wasn’t actually revolutionary, although it had great impact on further development of country and drastically changed the future of America.
1. The Causes of the American Revolution. Contributors: John C. Wahlke - editor. D. C. Heath and Company, Boston, 1967 2. Essays on the American Revolution. Contributors: James H. Hutson - editor, Stephen G. Kurtz - editor. University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, NC, 1973 3. The American States during and after the Revolution, 1775-1789. Contributors: Allan Nevins - author. Macmillan, New York, 1924 4. Legacies of the American Revolution. Contributors: Not Cited - author. Utah State University Press, Logan, UT, 1978