American Revolution and Social Change
The American Revolution in the latter half of the eighteenth century was a time of great social change (United States, 2007). As a matter of fact, this social change was global in nature, seeing as the international parties involved in the Revolution for some reason or the other, took the American Revolution as a model for social change in the future (American Revolution, 2007). During the period referred to as the American Revolution, the Thirteen Colonies that were to become the United States of America, managed to gain independence from the British Empire.
The Colonies had to rebel against the British Empire in order to gain independence, of course. Thus, they entered into the American Revolutionary War, which is also called the American War of Independence. This war, like all other wars, led to massive social change to boot. Lives were lost, and the birthing of new ideas occurred with respect to how societies must conduct themselves. Happening between 1775 and 1783, the war culminated in the famed American Declaration of Independence in the year 1776. Victory for the Colonies was actually achieved on the battlefield in the year 1781 (American Revolution).
France had played a vital role in helping the new nation of Americans with finances as well as munitions. France also helped the Colonies to organize a coalition against the British Empire. The Americans were rebelling against the royalty or upper crust at the time (American Revolution). Naturally, they were desirous of social change, enough to fight over it. Theirs was a struggle to achieve a kind of an equalizing democracy. The American revolutionaries tried to change through bloodshed their government. They did not appreciate the laws and regulations of the British Empire.
Rather, society in their opinion had to conduct itself outside most of the laws.
By eradicating monarchy and the establishment of republics in the end, the American revolutions had changed the society drastically. Hence, John Franklin Jameson (1968) has written: “The stream of revolution, once started, could not be contained within narrow banks, but spread abroad upon the land.”
Also according to Jameson, the social change brought about via the American Revolution concerned many areas of American life, including business, slavery, the ownership of land, the intellectual as well as religious life, and the interactions between the members of different socioeconomic groups. In a way, the Revolution was Karl Marx’s dream come true, seeing as the lower socioeconomic groups were no longer able to tolerate the ruling class and had decided to overpower the ruling class for good.
What is more, the society of the Americans after the Revolution had no longer to apply the principles of the British Empire in their lives. They had no longer to be influenced by the British religion, for example, nor by the political ideologies of the British. By changing the government of the land, the Americans had in fact changed the social order, including the norms and principles to live by. The idea of American democracy was brought out in the open for the first time.
The republican ideology was introduced with its emphasis on liberty, equality, individual rights, and struggle against corruption. Not only did this ideology change the lives of the American people for good, but it also entered the European mind that had for centuries seen only imperialism in practice (American Revolution). The idea that a society could revolt against the monarchy was taken seriously, worldwide. Hence, the impact of the social change brought about by the Revolution became global. As a matter of fact, the eradication of the social control of the British
Was seen in various countries around the world after the American War of Independence. The British Empire that had established colonies in many parts of the world was asked to leave, very often by force, thanks to the American Revolution that had done the same successfully by showing the world that it was possible for nations to achieve prosperity for themselves without the social control of the British.
Moreover, it was possible for nations that had previously been ruled by the British to formulate their own laws, such as the social control of corruption, without the supervision of the British. Today, the word ‘democracy’ is heard day after day on international television. Moreover, every nation is required to include the democratic model of government into its political practices, even if it is difficult to include this model for some reason. Even the United Kingdom believes in democracy today, despite the survival of the British Empire.
Regardless of whether democracy has a hold over a certain government’s practices or not, however, the American Revolution has shown the world – like other revolutions in history – that it is possible for common people to rebel against governments, when in fact, their voices have been totally ignored. ‘Enough is enough’ is the impetus to social change that a revolution implies. In other words, the common people are expected to be patient for only a limited amount of time before they get ready to impose social change on the entire society.
Not everybody in the Colonies would have agreed with the idea of the American Revolution. There are always people in society that resist change, and particularly resist the kind of change that is brought on through violence. Countless people hate wars, even if certain wars are fought for human rights. Regardless of such people’s reactions to a revolution, however, the American.
Besides, the social change that it implied took into consideration all corners of society, including the people that had resisted change and war. Before the American Revolution, man was held as superior to another man. The British Empire was superior to the Colonies. The American Revolution changed that also by helping the slaves realize that they were equal to their masters in essence. After all, if the people of the Colonies could, as a whole, fight against the monarchy, the slaves too could eventually achieve their freedom. The idea of equality imposed through the Revolution was groundbreaking for the slaves.
Eventually, they were able to become legally emancipated, when the United States abolished slavery for good. A vast number of slaves at the time of the American Revolution were Africans. Although they had achieved freedom in the United States, their children and grandchildren were to continue struggling against the racism that they felt was prevalent in society, long after the American Revolution. In point of fact, Africans experienced that the whites had a low opinion of them, and did not offer them the kinds of opportunities they deserved.
Because of their ancestors’ experience through the American Revolution, however, the Africans were able to use the model of the American Revolution to continue struggling against the alleged superiority of man over another man. The struggle against racism has continued. Even today, Africans in America try to fight racism in one way or another. The Civil War has passed. And yet, the social change that the absolute end of racism would bring about is awaited. Already, it is a known fact in America that
The African Americans are equal to the white Americans in essence, despite the fact that the latter had owned the Africans during another period of time. Yet another kind of social change brought about by the American Revolution was the change in the role of women. Before the American Revolution, women had contributed to the operation of agricultural farms and small businesses. However, they had seldom acquired independent economic status.
When the War of Independence started, the role of the women changed in that they were expected to take complete charge of businesses and farms in the absence of men. Furthermore, the republican ideas called for discussions on women’s rights, roles in society, as well as education. Eventually, women, too, were to achieve an equal role in society with men. Today, discrimination against women is against the law in America. This kind of social change is particularly helpful for society as a whole, given that women may now contribute equally with men to the economic growth of America.
Some of the states of America, after the Revolution, changed their property and inheritance laws to allow women to inherit shares of estates and to exercise a certain level of control over property following marriage. Women no longer had to suffer after the deaths of the men in their lives. They could support themselves through inheritance. All the same, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica, “the Revolution itself had only very gradual and diffused effects on women’s ultimate status.
Such changes as took place amounted to a fuller recognition of the importance of women as mothers of republican citizens rather than making them into independent citizens of equal political and civil status with men” (United States).
Once again, because the American Revolution introduced into the minds of all Americans the idea of equality between men, the issue of women’s rights erupted long after the American Revolution as well.
Although the immediate effects on the status of women were seen to be little, the long term social change brought about by the American Revolution in terms of the role of women in society, is massive. Man could rise against a monarchy during the Revolution. In the case of the women of America, this idea meant that they no longer had to consider themselves subjected to men. As a matter of fact, the issue of women’s rights, like democracy, is discussed globally today. The American Revolution has, at least, some part to play in the social change that this issue implies for women around the world.
Apparently, the people of America were satisfied with the social change brought about through the Revolution. If not, another revolution could have begun to introduce new norms and forms of social control. ‘Enough is enough’ remains the impetus to revolutions. But in the case of America, ‘so far so good’ appears to be the way the social changes have been perceived. In other words, the social changes brought about by the American Revolution have been seen as positive.
- “American Revolution. ” (2007). Wikipedia. Retrieved from http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/American_Revolution. (26 March 2007).
- Jameson, John Franklin. (1968). American Revolution Considered as a Social Movement. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
- “United States. ” (2007). Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved from http://www. britannica. com/eb/article-77713. (26 March 2007).