How Radical Was The American Revolution

How radical was the American Revolution?

How radical was the American Revolution?


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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Radical.  If the forefathers of this country had failed in their attempt to break from England, they would have been tried for treason and executed.

Thomas Paine ("These are the times that try men's souls"-from The Crisis, No.1) accused Colonial men of not being concerned about their children and told others he would not suffer the injustice of having his home searched; he exhorted people to see the extent of the evil threatening them.  In 1802 Paine was a virtual outcast, scorned as a radical and nonbeliever for his Age of Reason.  

In his speech to the Virginia Convention, Patrick Henry accused some of indulging "in the illusions of hope."  He stated that he was not deceived by the insidious acts of Britain:  "Give me liberty, or give me death!"

Benjamin Franklin was chased by British ships when he sailed across the Atlantic as an old man.  Had he been caught, he would have been killed. 

Compared to the French Revolution and the Russian Revolution where aristocrats were assassinated by the peasants, the American Revolution was not as radical.  Nor was it as radical as some South American revolutions that assassinated dictators, burned cities, and shot many before firing squads.

However, a fearlessness was in the Colonials who rebelled against Britain.  They risked their own lives and fortunes as well as the futures of their families.

Hope this helps.

jilllessa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Yes and no really.  In the beginning the men who helped to begin the revolution did not mean for it to be as radical as it became.  They wanted the British to give them the same rights that Englishmen in their own country took for granted:  the right to representation in government and the rights granted centuries before by the Magna Carta.  Because the British were unwilling to give these rights, the Revolution became extremely radical. However, the most radical moment was actually after the Revolution was completed and the British had lost.  At that moment, the safest thing to do would have been to make their own monarchy, but the thinkers behind the Revolution:  men like Jefferson, Washington, and Madison, realized that they had an opportunity to start something totally new.  They could create a Novus Ordo Seclorum (a new world order), and create a government based not on the past but on the current polical philosophies of the Enlightenment.  The Revolution may have been bold and risky, but the fact that the men of the Constitutional Convention created the first Republic in the history of the world since Rome: that was radical. 

kwoo1213 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It was extremely radical and extremely risky!  The Revolutionaries had no real plan when they decided to separate from the Loyalists.  They were up against the most powerful nation in the entire world.  For a parallel, it would be like the Bad News Bears trying to defeat the Boston Red Sox in a baseball game!  The Revolutionaries had so many things stacked against them, including lack of money, lack of supplies and ammunition/weapons, lack of a clear plan, etc., that the odds were most likely millions-to-one that they could eventually defeat the British.  The war was a long one and it took some luck, along with good strategy (MOST of the time) and sheer will, to defeat the British and win independence!  

timbrady eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It was quite radical.  The difficult thing to do is to place ourselves in the position of those men who backed the Declaration of Independence with the pledge of their life and honor.  We know that it all worked out in "their" favor; but this was not the liklihood at the time, and they stood an excellent chance of losing both.  In fact, I would bet that the smart money would have been on the British (for reasons which are detailed by kwoo1213 above).  When I first realized this, my respect for these great men grew exponentially.

brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I tend to disagree that it was radical, at least not in a social or economic sense.  A few privileged whites were running the colonies before independence and a few privileged whites were running it afterwards.  Slavery was still legal and growing.  Women still had virtually no rights despite Abigail Adams' suggestion to "Remember the Ladies".  Revolution is by definition a radical act, but I don't think it was as much of a revolution as our history books tend to claim.

accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think #7 adds an interesting qualifier to this statement focussing our attentions on the other motivations or reasons behind the civil war. It seems then that the civil war was radical in some areas, definitely, but perhaps not as revolutionary as we would like to think in others.

epollock | Student

The American Revolution was the most radical war in the history of America. For decades after the first colonies were established, the king and the Church of England were largely happy to ignore them. All along, Americans thought of themselves as fully English; after all, they had fought side by side with the British in the French and Indian War.

That very war, however, had brought Britain close to financial collapse, so in 1765 Parliament passed the Stamp Act to force Americans to shoulder their share of the burden of victory. The North American colonists were outraged at such taxation without representation. The Stamp Act was repealed, but Parliament taxed a variety of other commodities. Finally, Parliament repealed all offensive taxes except on tea—a move that led to the Boston Tea Party of 1773.

Across the ocean, Americans saw John Locke’s account of the creation of governments as a description of how their own societies and governments had come into being—America was for them the state of nature. King George III, Lord North, and the majority in Parliament saw things differently and chose to adopt a series of punitive measures in retaliation for the Boston Tea Party’s wanton destruction of property. General Gage was appointed military governor for Massachusetts, and believed he could bring order to the state. He was wrong and in trying to so imposes restrictions on the colonialists that were so harsh, thee colonialists felt they had no choice but to revolt.

krishna-agrawala | Student

If we can establish that American Civil War was fought only for the liberation of of the slave, then it would definitely be classified as the most radical war in history. But this is not entirely true.

Slavery was definitely a major point of friction between the two warring groups, but the war itself was started not for benefit of slaves but to maintain the unity and integrity of the country in face of secession of some of the southern states.

matthewchoma | Student

Thank you!

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