American Revolution

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What were the goals and ideals of the American Revolution?

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The goals and ideals of the American Revolution are clearly expressed in the Declaration of Independence. For many years, we were satisfied with our relationship with Great Britain. However, that began to change after the French and Indian War.

The colonists believed that the role of the British government was to protect their rights. After the French and Indian War, the colonists felt the British government was violating their rights. The colonists were unhappy with the new tax laws. Since the colonists had no representatives in Parliament, they believed the British could not tax them. This was because British citizens have the right to have representatives in Parliament who could vote on proposed taxes. Since the colonists had no representatives in Parliament, they believed they shouldn’t be taxed.

The colonists had other concerns also. The colonists were afraid of search warrants, or writs of assistance, that gave the British officials the right to search the colonists if they expected smuggling was occurring. The colonists felt this violated their rights.

The colonists believed that if the government didn’t protect their rights, then they had to change the government. As hostilities increased between the British and the colonists, the colonists believed they needed to be free from British rule. The colonists felt they had learned from the British how to govern themselves. Now that issues arose and blood was shed after the Boston Massacre and the battles at Lexington and Concord, the colonists believed they needed to be independent. They wanted a government that would protect and respect their rights. They believed the British government was no longer doing this. Thus, the colonists believed a new government was needed. These concepts were expressed in the Declaration of Independence and the Revolutionary War that followed the issuing of the Declaration of Independence.

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The American Revolution ushered in a new form of government that many looked at as an “experiment” that might well fail. However, we often forget that the new United States’ government was not initially the same type of government we are accustomed to. We usually associate our revered Constitution with the revolution. In fact, it was not written until several years after the war ended, and it was actually our second attempt to craft a workable national government.

As the Revolution progressed, Americans created a government based on the Articles of Confederation, which was ratified in 1781. This government relegated most power to the individual states, as Americans were not inclined to trust a strong central authority as they fought for independence from Britain. The American ideal at this point was to keep power close to home and avoid subjecting themselves to powerful forces outside their own states.

However, this form of government proved inefficient, and in 1787 the Constitutional Convention took place in Philadelphia. After much argument and haggling, the delegates wrote the Constitution, which created a government with a much stronger central authority. The Constitution was ratified the next year. In effect, this represented a shift in ideals toward a more powerful national government.

Our original revolutionary ideal was to free ourselves from the tyranny of a strong and intrusive central government. However, practicality dictated that we come up with another form of self-government, which became the federal system that we recognize today. 

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The goals and the ideals were related, but not completely the same.  The goal of the Revolution was simple; the colonists wanted to be independent from Britain.  The ideals were connected to this, but went beyond simple independence.  The ideals of the Revolution had to do with democracy.  The Revolution was based on the idea that government existed only by the consent of the people.  It was also based on the idea that the government should exist to preserve the rights of the people.

In other words, simple independence was not sufficient as a goal of the Revolution.  The ideals of the Revolution called not just for independence but for democracy.

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