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American Revolution

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Thematic Essay

The American Revolution was characterized by a series of social and political shifts that occurred in American society as new republican ideals took hold in the gentry of the colonies. This time period was distinguished by sharp political debates between radicals (mudwumps) and moderates over the role that democracy should play in a government. This broad new American shift to republicanism and a new found support of democracy was a cataclysm to the traditional social hierarchy which characterized old mixed government in the Americas. This new republican ethic forced in a new age of American political values.

By 1775 republicanism had become a widespread ideology in the colonies. It incorporated federalist ideals which were influenced greatly by the Radical Whig party of Britain. The Whig party stressed the fear of corruption in a government monarchy. From this idea federalism was born. This political philosophy is a system of government in which power is divided between a central government and semi-sovereign political states. The radical leaders who were important in stressing these ideologies and new ideas were Samuel Adams, Patrick Henry, George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Thomas Paine, Benjamin Franklin, and John Adams.

The American Revolutionary period occurred in 1763 when Britain defeated France in the French and Indian War. Because of this war, England had almost doubled its own national debt. The colonists of the Mother Country (Britain), the peoples of America, expected to have their "rights of the Englishmen" given to them by their benefactor as a natural set of rights. Britain however began a new imperial reform in the colonies after almost two years of complete ignorance. Acts were passed which would tax colonists and help Britain pay for war debts that it did not have the money for. The acts were also instituted because of the need to enforce mercantilist policies in the Americas. The Sugar Act was passed to place a regulation on trade in the colonies and to indirectly tax tea (one of the most demanded products in the Americas). Another act that was passed was the Stamp Act. This was the first direct tax on colonial peoples. They responded to this with the plea "no taxation without representation". This was a saying that meant the British could not rightfully institute taxes on the colonists because they did not have any political say in whether or not they wanted to be taxed. Practically there was no way that a semi-independent nation 3,000 miles away from Britain could be represented in their government. This was a ploy by the radicals used to market and spark the idea of American independence and formulate more radical ideas.

Radical societies were formed to fight against the new acts being instituted by the British. The Sons of Liberty were formed in every colony, and used propaganda, intimidation, and mob violence to prevent the enforcement of the acts. This was a radical group that was formed because of the Revolution in America. American independence in and of itself was a radical idea. The colonies had been established as a money making scheme for great Britain; no one ever guessed they would spark war with their mother country and become their own sovereign nation.

Many Radical propaganda writers were influenced by the American Revolution. Thomas Paine was one of these people. Paine put out his pamphlet called "common sense". This document told over 150,000 copies. It was an emotional plea to the colonists to follow the radical idealists and make the separation from the tyranny of British rule. It was written on January 10, 1776. July 4, 1776 is another important date. This is the day that the United States Declaration



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