Saturday, November 17, 2012

What Was so Revolutionary About the American Revolution?

The great superpower that we know today as America started off with humble beginnings. Initially, the newly established settlements were known as the Thirteen Colonies of British America. But the fact that denizens of these colonies were considered to be subjects of the British Empire without having a voice in the policies and legislation that affected them caused tension between colonists and the British authorities for more than a decade before the outbreak of the American Revolution in 1775.

American colonists demanded the same rights as other British subjects, but British authorities gave them no consideration despite their qualms, viewing them as outcasts of high society, incapable of self-determination and undeserving of respect. Instead, Britain flaunted its might and imposed its will on the colonies through a series of direct taxes (later known as the "Stamp Act"). Not only did Great Britain increase taxes on the American colonists, it restricted trade to other countries through the Navigation Acts, stymied the economic development of the colonies through the Molasses Act and blocked the expansion of American settlers with the Royal Proclamation of 1763. 

The American colonies enjoyed a certain degree of freedom and autonomy during the initial period of their establishment, but now British authorities seemed bent on putting the colonies in their place and asserting British dominance. After the French and Indian Wars were won, Great Britain expected Americans to contribute to the defense of the empire, and the colonies would be taxed a yearly sum of £78,000. Americans rejected the notion that it owed Britain anything, based on the fact that they had no representation in the Parliament.

Parliament would not entertain such foolish notions, and subsequently declared that it had the right to levy any tax without colonial approval. Furthermore, in 1764 and 1765, Parliament enacted several more restrictive laws such as the  Sugar Act, the Currency Act and the Quartering Acts, all of which Americans deeply resented.

Sugar Act Inflames Indignance About the American Revolution

Tensions finally boiled over and American resistance to imperialism culminated in violence on one fateful day in 1770, when British soldiers opened fire on a mob of colonists. This day will forever be known as the Boston Massacre. But the feature about the American Revolution that makes it so special is not the fact that Americans took up arms against an oppressive force, it is the fact that the ideals behind the revolution solidified a divided nation and reinforced the determination of the colonists in order to make their efforts successful.

Benjamin Franklin spreads propaganda about the American Revolution

Another aspect about the American revolution that makes it groundbreaking is the fact that it broke the mold of history by seeking to bring republicanism and liberalism together in a way that had never before been witnessed on the face of the Earth. Americans would be the first to establish a new order that was radically different from any preceding orders. This new order was founded on the following principles:

  •  Rights come from God, not government
  •  Every aspect of political power must come from the people
  •  Limited representative republic
  •  Written Constitution
  •  Private Property Rights

Immanuel Kant, one of the greatest philosophers of all time, insists that revolution is a “natural” step in the realization of a higher ethical foundation for society. In fact, according to historians, Kant's ideas helped serve as a basis for the American revolution. However, one can't help but to wonder: If we have established a "higher ethical foundation for society" through revolution, then why does corruption, civil oppression and moral degradation still run rampant in American society? The definition of a revolution is a fundamental change in power or organizational structures that takes place in a relatively short period of time. Considering this definition, it stands to reason that one may also be curious to know just what type of social change the "revolution" instigated, and just what was so revolutionary about the American Revolution?

Modern scholars lay claim to the widely accepted belief that the American Revolution was a unique and radical event that produced deep changes and had a deep-rooted impact on the world, centered around an increasing belief in the principles of the Enlightenment. While interpretations about the American Revolution vary, I think it safe to say that the universal ideals of The Enlightenment, such as the equality of all men, has not been practiced by America in the past or the present, nor is it likely to be practiced by this country in the future.

The simple fact about the American Revolution is that it was not revolutionary at all. The reason why it was not is because it did not transform colonial society in any radical way. The only thing the colonists did was replace a distant government with a local one. Furthermore, until the Supreme Court ruling in 2012, America was the only country in the world that sentenced teenagers and pre-teens to life sentences without the possibility of parole. We have also usurped sovereign nations, such as Hawaii, in the interest of big business, supported corruption and terrorism abroad and destroyed healthy, domestic political movements through clandestine subterfuge, right here in America. This type of behavior does not exemplify a system of lofty moral values, does it?

Today, the right to free speech has been all but abolished with the implementation of "free speech zones", which were first used by President Bush as a means to suppress the negative publicity surrounding the Iraq War. The Fourth Amendment has been taken under siege by policies implemented under the Bush Administration and the stop and frisk policy of New York. Additionally, America asserted the right imprison any American citizen "suspected" of being a terrorist indefinitely when it passed the Military Commissions Act of 2006, not to mention recent drone strikes, which killed American citizens "suspected" of terrorism without trial.

 How would the founding fathers have looked upon the current state of affairs in America today. A saying from Benjamin Franklin comes to mind when I think about these recent "anti-terrorism" policies. He said that people who are willing to trade in their liberty for a little bit of temporary security don't deserve to have either.
As the level of freedom in America decreases, the middle class continues to be eliminated and the vast aperture between the rich and the poor continues to grow, it seems that America is in need of a "real" revolution. And while the American Revolution freed the colonists from the oppression of Great Britain, what will it take to make sure modern Americans are safe from their own government? My prediction: A revolution.

1 comment:

  1. Uncle Sam does not want you to die for Israel. That's a d*mn slander. The Israeli Army can whip any army on earth, including ours. We will never have to place American boots on the ground in Israel.