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The American Revolution as seen by Gordon Wood Essay

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The American Revolution as seen by Gordon Wood

Gordon S. Wood is a noted historian and history professor born in New England. Gordon S. Wood was born November 27, 1933 and is Alva O. Way University Professor and Professor of History at  Brown University and the recipient of the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for History for The Radicalism of the American Revolution. His book The Creation of the American Republic, 1776–1787 won a 1970 Bancroft Prize. (Wikipedia n.d.)

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  He has authored several books on the American Revolution in which he advances a sociological theory described as “revolutionary republicanism.”  Gordon Wood describes the American Revolution as the triumph of democracy over republicanism.  He believed the American Revolution was fueled by an awakening of consciousness in the colonialists.  The awakening generated thought about the true meaning of freedom, not just freedom to go about one’s daily life without interference,  but true freedom which eliminated the influence of the British monarchy on citizens’ progress in society.  Wood believes that according to the classical theory of republicanism, man is by nature a political being who is fulfilled by participation in self government.  Political liberty leads to personal liberty.

Wood believes the separation of the colonies from Britain occurred in two stages during which new radical democratic ideas engrossed the colonists.  The revolution started as a conservative protest against taxation without representation. It was an attempt to wrest political freedom from the monarchy.  The struggle turned into a quest for personal freedom as well.

The colony was expanding and becoming increasingly difficult for the British to monitor and control.  The colonists argued that their request for representation was in keeping with British governmental rules.

 They rejected the sovereignty of the monarchy.

They rejected the sovereignty of the monarchy because the monarchy created caste systems which assigned station and limitations in life.  In similar fashion to the British culture, persons were assigned importance based on their connection to the monarchy and the ruling class in.

  The colonists decided to change the course of the new American society by discontinuing the British style of government and its societal limitations.  This decision took place as the second stage of the revolution.

 Tension had been building between the British and the Colonialists for fifteen years prior to the start of the revolution in 1776.   The end of the French and Indian war brought more focus on the colonies’ relationship to Britain.

The British treasury was depleted by the long French and Indian wars. Britain fought the French aide by Native Americans over colonial territory in the Ohio valley and Canada.  The war ended in victory for the British but their funds were depleted.   The depletion of their treasury led to the decision to tax the colonies as a means of rebuilding their  financial resources. Unfortunately, the British neglected to offer representation in Parliament to the colonists.  They viewed the colonies as a possession without legal rights.  The British limited trade and taxed other colonial commodities causing a negative affect on the earnings of the colonists.  The imposition of these laws and taxes was done to establish British dominance over the colonies.

The Revolution was caused by several pieces of incendiary legislation passed by the British Parliament. For Americans the laws were unlawful acts of a government that had no sovereign authority to pass laws on Englishmen in the Americas without elected representation in the government.  For the British, law makers saw these taxes and restrictions as necessary to control colonial subjects who had been straining the reigns of freedom in making decisions about utilization of colonial resources.

The American Revolution embraced a group of  intellectual and social changes which occurred in the development of American colonial society. New republican ideals entered into the American consciousness.  These ideals gave birth to our present form of society and government. During the Revolution, heated political debates erupted over the role of democracy in government.  Some debates were so intense, even the most liberal Founding Fathers feared mob violence would take over.

 Consequently, many issues of  the new  American democracy were not agreed upon until the Constitution of the United States and the United States Bill of Rights were signed in 1787.

The American Revolution redefined class and social position for the colonists; however, they  unfortunately neglected to consider  the freedoms of slaves and women.   They only considered White males.  Therefore Wood argues the revolution was incomplete and he argues it can be viewed as a failure in hindsight because of the failure to equalize all of society. (Wood Aug 2003)[1]

[1] Wood , Gordon S., The American Revolution, A History: Random Press 2003

2.Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: http://wikipedia.org/wiki/Gordon S. Wood

 

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