The American Identity: Revolutionizing the American Revolution

Published: 2021-06-29 06:53:15
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Alan ZhengMs. SheptyckAPUSH Period 723 October 2017The American Identity: Revolutionizing the American Revolution        On July 4th, 1776, 442 days following the “shot heard round the world” at Lexington and Concord, the Second Continental Congress adopted Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence, proclaiming the independence of the United States of America from Great Britain. Historians highly debate which of certain factors have caused the colonists to revolt and call for reform. Some say that the Americans did so mainly to restore political and economic norms with Britain. However, even though the partial reinforcement of older British institutions was a motive that did spur the American Revolution, the emerging American identity had a significant impact on the Revolution’s inception, continuation, and legacy by influencing the development of new ideals concerning political structure, extension of rights, and British relations due to both British neglect and oppression.        Before the French and Indian War, England followed a policy of salutary neglect, allowing the colonies to foster their own more democratic, self-governed political systems (to a certain extent) as long as they still adhered to the mercantilist relationship. However, after the Peace of Paris and the Proclamation of 1763, England abandoned this policy and felt the need to solidify control and let the colonies take the brunt of the war debt through taxes, which angered the colonists, since they had no say in this seemingly unjustified taxation (Newman and Schmalbach 72). Some agree with Daniel Boorstin, who writes in his essay Revolution Without Dogma, “The argument of the best theorists of the Revolution … was not, on the whole, that America had institutions or a culture superior to the British. Rather their position… was that the British by their treatment of the American colonies were being untrue to the ancient spirit of their own institutions” (97). The colonists think that these “institutions” have been violated because the taxation without representation, and Boorstin says they just want to have more significant voices than the current ones through royal governors, which were being muffled. Starting from here, some colonists started to see themselves in opposition to the crown. Boorstin refutes the possibility of any American identity, identifying the source of revolution as the effort to reestablish a relatively fair relationship with Britain.  However, the resistance to these new English reforms only “had emboldened people who previously counted for little in the political arena to find a mind of their own” (Nash 124). During Britain’s salutary neglect, the colonists became somewhat accustomed to having more individual say concerning the government, with “more and more ordinary people … participating in electoral politics” (Wood 117). When Parliament started these taxes and enforced laws such as the Quartering Act and Stamp Act, the Americans felt that their individual power had been taken away.  Eventually some Americans saw the “monarchical techniques of personal influence and patronage as ‘corruption’... tearing at the bonds holding the traditional monarchical society together” (Wood 118). This shows that Americans wanted to go further than simply restoring British institutions; they wanted to also break free of them and create a novel structure of government. The democratic traits the local institutions grew out of the British neglect were some of the political seeds of the flowering American identity, as well as the will to create a non-monarchical society.

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