How did the American colonists win the revolution? Was it a triumph of enlightenment ideas?

The American colonists won the revolution with a combination of strategy, tenacity, and help from allies. It was a triumph of Enlightenment ideas, because in gaining independence, the former colonies separated from the absolute authority that King George III and Parliament held over them. The rationality Thomas Paine expressed in Common Sense represented Enlightenment thought. Toleration of religious diversity and recognition of the natural rights of man were progressive outcomes of the Revolution.

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The American colonies won the Revolutionary War even though the Continental Army was far outnumbered by the British forces; historians place the number at four to one. The colonies were divided, as many remained loyal to Britain; however, Loyalists were not entirely trusted by Britain and thus underutilized in battle. One reason the Continental Army was successful was because the sheer size of the colonies made it difficult for Britain to maintain its control. Washington's troops also utilized guerrilla tactics like those he had encountered in wars with Native Americans, and Britain was unused to these rules of engagement. And ultimately, it was the assistance of the French at Yorktown that decided the outcome of the war.

Many Enlightenment ideas were embraced by those who desired independence from Britain. In Common Sense, Thomas Paine utilizes reason to build his argument for independence. For example, he pointed out the fact that people in the colonies were not only from Britain, but from all over Europe and thus not under Britain's control. Another logical point is that a small country ruling an enormous continent from across a vast ocean is an absurd notion.

Besides embracing reason, Enlightenment ideas about the natural rights of man, enumerated by Locke as "life, liberty and property," came to underpin American democracy along with governing by consent. The concept of a republic led by an elected leader replaced the monarchy and ruling by divine right. Because American independence meant that colonists were no longer required to belong to the Church of England, tolerance of diverse religions including deism broadened American religious thought. And finally, a turn toward scientific progress, notably led in American by Benjamin Franklin, marked the new nation's promotion of Enlightenment ideals.

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