Homework Help

Did the American Revolution fundamentally change American society (Socially,...

user profile pic

jc211 | eNotes Newbie

Posted January 7, 2010 at 8:05 PM via web

dislike 1 like
Did the American Revolution fundamentally change American society (Socially, politically, economically)?

If it did change, to what is the extent and why? I am doing an DBQ and I believe that there was a big change politically, a medium change socially, and slight change economically, but I wanted to see other opinions and reasoning so that i have a good counter-argument.

9 Answers | Add Yours

user profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted January 7, 2010 at 8:13 PM (Answer #2)

dislike 0 like

This depends to a great extent on what you see as big, medium, or small change.  If we are talking about the time up through the writing of the Constitution, I would argue that the social changes were pretty small.  I would agree with you on the economic change.  Politically, I think I would go down to medium-big, if I may be allowed to split hairs that way.

Politically, the biggest change was from English rule to American rule.  Almost as important is the move to a system with more separation of powers and checks and balances.  Moving from a parliamentary system to a presidential one, and having an independent judiciary were big deals.  The only two reasons I say it wasn't a huge change is that the colonies had always had a fair amount of self government and the power structure didn't change much in terms of who held office and who could vote.

Socially, I don't see any change.  The same people who were prominent before the Revolution were prominent after it.  While thousands of Tories fled, it's not like they were uniformly from the elite.  Slavery continued, women didn't get rights, the franchise wasn't opened to all white men.  So I don't see that being much of a change at all.

Economically, they were still pretty dependent on Great Britain.  This continued until well after the turn on the century.

user profile pic

krishna-agrawala | College Teacher | Valedictorian

Posted January 7, 2010 at 8:49 PM (Answer #3)

dislike 0 like

There can be no doubt about the political consequences of the American Revolution for the USA itself and for the rest of the world. The revolution created a big and strong independent nation, free of dominance UK.

The revolution benefited USA economically also very much. As a matter of fact the major cause of the American Revolution was to free themselves of the unjust laws and taxes imposed upon them by UK, that hurt them economically. The revolution, leading to independence from UK, put them in greater control of their own economic policies, and in this way secure their economic interests better.

When it comes to assess the impact of American Revolution, on social changes in America, it is rather difficult to distinguish between the effect of revolution and independence from the general social changes that have taken place around the world since the time of American Revolution. However it is reasonable to assume that the greater economic prosperity and spirit of independence fuelled by the revolution must have contributed to the social changes in the USA.

user profile pic

sciencehour | College Teacher | eNoter

Posted January 8, 2010 at 3:44 AM (Answer #4)

dislike 0 like

  It was a very big change from all points of view . A new modern and great nation was born free from the imperial Great Britain restrictive political rule and with no imposed exclusive commercial laws .

 The most important act was the fight for freedom , for the right to be self-governed with their own institutions .

With his Declaration of independence from 4 of July 1776 Thomas Jefferson lays the foundation for the Enlightment values and principles that made the new federal republic - United States of America with the new constitution from 1787 the most important state on Earth : citizens rights - life , liberty and happiness.

user profile pic

Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted January 8, 2010 at 3:51 AM (Answer #5)

dislike 0 like

I think that the previous response was very strong.  The only slight place where I might diverge would be in the social impact of the Revolution.  I think a case could be made that one of the most unique impacts of the conflict was the emergence of a uniquely Colonial then American culture which stressed different values than its British counterpart.  The idea of self- made and practical approaches to consciousness is vastly different than the stratified and institutional hierarchy of its English roots.  I would also say that the Revolution helped to expose some of the fundamental tensions which would later come out in American History.  The most prevalent of these would be the issue of race and slavery.  The contradictions and duality of experience in being "American" is revealed much after the Revolution.  Women and African- Americans who fought and sacrificed for the cause of freedom received little in way of reward upon achieving it.  Outside of this difference, i think that changes previously addressed were quite strong.  The economic empowerment or control that happened after the Revolution was important, as well as the growing economic divide between North and South.  Each region possessed its own way of achieving economic progress.  The political change could be seen in the adoption of the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution, both of which had the construction of an "Anti- King George" government in mind.

user profile pic

epollock | Valedictorian

Posted January 8, 2010 at 8:43 PM (Answer #6)

dislike 0 like

On December 4, 1781, Edmund Burke started the opposition landslide in Parliament. On February 28, 1782, a renewed motion to end the war passed by 19 votes. Germain resigned and Lord North announced the resignation of the entire cabinet, including himself. North was replaced by a Whig the king detested, the elderly Charles Watson-Wentworth, the 2nd Marquess of Rockingham and the new Secretaries of State would be Shelburne and Fox.

The suspension of the fighting in America was not, however, the end of the war. The French recaptured St. Eustatia in November 1781. In April of 1782, de Grasse’s expedition to conquer Jamaica failed. In India, the French tried unsuccessfully to rouse a coalition of Indian princes against the British East India Company. In mid-October 1782, a preliminary agreement was reached in talks between the Americans and Shelburne, who become prime minister when Rockingham died. It conceded American Independence. It fixed the western boundary of the United States at the Mississippi River. It set a boundary between British Canada and the Northern part of Colonial territory.
The final treaty was signed on September 3, 1783. There were losers in the American Revolution, although some of the losers did not do badly. Sir William Howe lost his seat in Parliament in 1780, but the king appointed him lieutenant general of ordnance in 1782. Banastre Tarleton went up the ladder of army promotion and found a second career representing Liverpool in Parliament. Charles, Earl Cornwallis, was appointed governor-general of India in 1786 and remains one of the key figures in the creation of British India. Lord George Germain retired to his estates in Sussex. Benedict Arnold set himself up in the West India trade.

The big losers were the Loyalists. Fifteen thousand Loyalist refugees flooded into Nova Scotia, becoming the new governing elite of Canada. The black slaves who had joined the British in pursuit of their freedom were far bigger losers.
Over the course of the war, upward of 80,000 American slaves ran away, joined the British, or found some way to freedom. After the Paris Treaty was signed, the British denied any responsibility for them. Some were shipped to Nova Scotia; some formed the core of a black colony on the west coast of Africa, Sierra Leone. Others were sold back into slavery. After the preliminary treaty in November 1782, the Continental Congress began planning the demobilization of its army, irrespective of whether its soldiers had been paid the money Congress owed them or its officers granted the pensions George Washington had demanded for them.
In March 1783, Washington addressed some of his officers to quash a rumored conspiracy to march on Philadelphia and install him as king. By 1783, everyone on both sides of the war knew that George Washington had been America’s indispensable man. He had lost more battles than he had won, but time and again he had saved his army to fight again.
He had proven resourceful and flexible, dignified without arrogance. With the peace terms settled, he led the army back into New York City as the British pulled out. He later announced his intention to resign and return to civilian life.
The soldiers Washington had led also faded back into private lives once Congress officially disbanded the army in June 1784.

Henry Knox succeeded Washington in command of the army and then followed Washington in politics as secretary of war when Washington was elected president of the United States.
American soldiers had fought in 1,200 battles, skirmishes, and sieges, and lost over 10,000 killed and wounded. These soldiers not only secured American Independence, they developed a sense of common nationality. It would take another 80 years of political strife to finish the beginnings of this work, but it would be the foundation of “an empire for liberty.”

user profile pic

dbello | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted January 9, 2010 at 7:34 PM (Answer #7)

dislike 0 like

Unfortunately the myth of American independence seems to rest with the idea that the colonials immediately decided to revolt against England when the going got tough.  This mentality cannot be further from the truth, it took years for the colonials to realize that salutory neglect was a justified argument. The idea of colonial independence was in fact an idea that most colonials chose not think about primarily because it would severely disrupt the political, socio-economic balance between them and the mother country.  However, the American Revolution came, and when it ended the new nation that was born knew its survival depended upon its relationships with Europe.  Thank God George Washington had the foresight to include Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay and Henry Knox to deal with the fundamental transition from English colonies to independent country, politically,economically and socially.  I think it is fair to say that Washington understood that without their individual abilities to blend instinct, common sense, sheer will and even arrogance the new nation might not have endured.

user profile pic

ask996 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

Posted January 10, 2010 at 11:18 AM (Answer #8)

dislike 0 like

I would say that the American Revolution was the impetus for establishing a true American society. Americans (so to speak) were living, breathing, farming, evolving, and etc. prior to the revolution, but there was still the specter of their freedom from England hanging over their head.

user profile pic

brettd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted July 31, 2010 at 6:12 PM (Answer #9)

dislike 0 like

American political society did change after the Revolution, at leats on paper.  But the same elite whites who ran the country and economy before the Revolution were largely in place running the country after it.  We had a Constitution, a Bill of Rights and the right to vote and be represented, but it was all pretty fragile.  Socially, almost nothing had changed.  The old Colonial Social Pyramid was largely still in place.  In terms of the economy, and especially in the South, the majority of Americans remained poor, and the ones who were rich were very rich, both before and after the Revolution.

user profile pic

litteacher8 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted August 20, 2011 at 6:25 AM (Answer #10)

dislike 0 like
American society did change, but slowly. So does every country. We were independent in many ways before the revolution, and more after. For example, we drank more coffee than tea. We were more rural than industrial. We were also more democratic. We built on all those things.

Join to answer this question

Join a community of thousands of dedicated teachers and students.

Join eNotes