There were many reasons for the American Revolution to begin, many reasons for its success, and many reasons it could have failed. It didn’t, and the world was forever changed. The “Old Guard” had a new pesky little country to be concerned with, and people everywhere had a Nation to look to as a beacon of hope. I will look at some of these reasons, and try to relate them to current events around the world today.
What are some of the factors that set the Revolution into motion in the first place? What brought those first hearty souls across the ocean to what would become America? There was the desire for religious freedom. To be able to worsip as one saw fit. The established European countries all had religion as a central part of government, and they all had a state sanctioned religion. If people wanted to worship differently, they risked discrimination or outright persecution. It is interesting when seen in light of today’s political climate.
The Religious Right bellows at us about our country being founded on religious principles. That God should be part of the public square. The Ten Commandents should be in classrooms, there should be prayer in schools, on and on. I can’t imagine how they cannot see that they are the “Redcoats” of today, trying to enforce a religious tradition on others. It was exactly what those fleeing religious intolerance were running from. America was the first country that said we are free to worship who, how, or what we wish. Or not to. The people who today preach that we need God in politics, that we need our leaders to proclaim their faith, and who try to force religious ideology back into schools are very, very, wrong. America was the first country truly founded secular. With government not allowed to involve itself in matters of faith. The founders of the nation saw the ravages religious fervor had laid upon Europe for ages. And they wanted America to have no part of it.
Another type of person that sought out America was the business man and the farmer, looking for room to grow and new markets to grow in. Europe had long standing traditions in business that many felt didn’t not allow the opportunities they were after. Most available farm land had been tied up for generations. There were also the speculators, looking to find gold or other riches. All these groups found successess in the New World. What made the Colonists want to be independent from England? There was more control than these free spirited enterprenuers were willing to tolerate. Taxation with representation, laws that restricted the way people could do business, and tight trade restrictions were all contributing factors. Relating that sentiment to today’s business climate is problematic, because today it is large corporations that attempt to manage markets instead of countries or governments. I think it would be safe to say that our founders never intended for America to be so corporate.
Another huge factor is mostly not able to be quantified. The spirit of the people, their desire to be free. The colonies were settled by all types dreamers. People who had grand ideas for the new land they had stepped upon. People who could imagine themselves governing their own destiny. And leaders to embolden them. The single biggest reason that the Revolution happened at all was because there were people to inspire it. There was a grand fusion of people and ideas at just the right time in history to make it all happen. Without the leaders, without the great patriots, without the great orators, it would have never have happened. At least not in the way that it did. That, sadly enough, is a sharp contrast to America today. There is little great leadership, little grand oratory, little to inspire the masses. Could you imagine, if we had George Bush instead of George Washington or Thomas Jefferson? DOOH! The desire to be free and the leadership issue are both important factors today in Iraq. Is the desire for democracy strong enough to sustain it? And is there good leadership to be found?
And why did the Revolution succeed? Again, great leadership. And timing. Britian had troubles of its own to look after, and never could commit fully to suppressing the uprising. And yes, we had help from the French. And we had patience. The soldiers kept fighting, the populace (mostly) kept supporting it. We also had the benefit of an ocean keeping us out of the fray in Europe until we got stronger.
On September 3, 1783, the Treaty of Paris was signed, the Revolution was officially over. What had once seemed the most unlikely of victories had came to pass. America was forging ahead on its own. And over the next two hundred years, she would become the Nation she is today. She has been a hope for the hopless and a dream for the visionary. And can continue to do so, if we once again honor her founding spirit. America should be a land for all to be free, and for all to aspire to emulate. Under the current Administration it is hard to say she is either. To restore her luster we must be less arrogant and more honorable. We must be a protector of freedom, not a bully. We must return to a path of respect and decency. We must never be a country that sanctions torture, no matter what. And we must remember that freedom is rarely free.
My hope is that the reader of this article will become interested in learning more. In finding out what people went through to give our Nation its birthright. To think about what it means to be an American. To be thankful for the luck of being born free. And to protect that freedom against those who wish to diminish it.