The Core Values and Beliefs that Led to the American Revolution

From 1765 until 1791, British America saw a sociopolitical and governmental revolution, famously named the American Revolution.

Numerous independent states were established by the Thirteen Colonies to overcome the British during the War of American Revolution that took place between 1775 and 1783.

This resulted in the establishment of the Constitution, independence from the British, and the birth of the United States of America.

The British Parliament opposed the taxation of American colonists, an institution in which they had no legislative participation.

Before the 1760s, Britain’s American colonies maintained a high degree of sovereignty in their domestic matters, overseen by colonial legislatures on a community scale. 

The Stamp Act of 1765 placed internal taxes on the colonies, resulting in colonial outrage, and the Stamp Act Congress brought representatives from many provinces together.

Tensions eased after the British repealed the Stamp Act but resurfaced with the enactment of the Townshend Acts in 1767.

To calm dissent, the British government sent troops to Boston in 1768, which resulted in the Boston Massacre in 1770.  

In 1770, the British government removed most of the Townshend taxes but kept the tea tax to assert Parliament’s power to tax the colonies allegorically.

The burning of the Gaspee in Rhode Island in 1772, the Tea Act of 1773, and the Boston Tea Party in December 1773 all contributed to a new intensification of hostilities.

The British retaliated by sealing Boston Harbor and adopting a series of draconian legislation that effectively revoked the Massachusetts Bay Colony’s self-government credentials. 

What exactly was the American Revolution?

Also termed the American War of Independence, the American Revolution was an insurgency contested between 1775 and 1783 in which a rebellion was led by the 13 of Great Britain’s North American colonies against the British regime to construct the sovereign United States of America, which was established with the Declaration of Independence in 1776.

What were the leading causes of the American Revolution?

Several causes led to the American Revolution, such as the Seven Years’ War, strict taxes and duties enforced upon the colonies, and rebellious acts like the Boston Massacre and the Boston Tea Party. 

Who led the American Revolution?

General George Washington commanded the American troops to victory during the Revolutionary War.

Despite having limited experience leading vast, conventional forces, Washington was a competent and resilient leader of the American armed units during the Revolutionary War.

The Continental Congress 

United States Continental Congress, The front of Independence Hall in Philadelphia
United States Continental Congress, The front of Independence Hall in Philadelphia

The other colonies rallied around Massachusetts, and in late 1774, twelve of the thirteen colonies sent representatives to organize a Continental Congress to coordinate their opposition to Britain.

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Opponents of Britain were referred to as Patriots or Whigs, while colonists who remained loyal to the Crown were referred to as Loyalists or Tories.

On April 19, 1775, British regulars assigned to recover a cache of military equipment were met by local Patriot soldiers at Lexington and Concord.

Patriot militia, aided by the newly established Continental Army, then laid siege to the British garrison in Boston, forcing them to withdraw by sea. 

Each province established a Provincial Congress, which took over power from the previous colonial administrations, repressed Loyalism, and committed to the Continental Army commanded by Commander in Chief General George Washington.

During the winter of 1775–76, the Patriots sought fruitlessly to attack Quebec and gather allied colonists there.

On July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress branded British King George III a despot who violated the colonists’ liberties as Englishmen and proclaimed the colonies sovereign and democratic states.

To oppose monarchy and aristocracy, the Patriot governance advocated the political ideas of liberalism and republicanism. 

Even though the Declaration of Independence elucidated that all men are formed equal, it was not until subsequent generations that constitutional revisions and federal laws began to guarantee equal rights to African Americans, Native Americans, poor white males, and women.

In the summer of 1776, the British conquered New York City and its important harbor, which they occupied to balance the war.

After the Continental Force conquered British forces at the Battle of Saratoga in October 1777, France joined the war as an adversary of the United States, turning the struggle into a worldwide fight.

For brief times, the British Royal Navy besieged ports and conquered other cities, but they could not crush Washington’s soldiers.

Britain also sought to keep the Southern states with the expected help of Loyalists, and the war shifted south.

In early 1780, British General Charles Cornwallis seized an American battalion at Charleston, South Carolina.

Still, he could not attract enough recruits among Loyalist residents to seize impactful command of the region.

Finally, in the fall of 1781, a united American and French contingent conquered Cornwallis’ army at Yorktown, ending the war.

The Treaty of Paris was negotiated on September 3, 1783, formally ending the war and guaranteeing the fledgling nation’s permanent independence from the British Empire. 

Causes of the American Revolution 

The Seven Years’ War (1756-1763)

Map of the British and French settlements in North America in 1750
Map of the British and French settlements in North America in 1750

Even though the Seven Years’ War was a multinational battle, the British and French Empires were the principal belligerents.

Both nations endured tremendous losses and piled up massive debts to support the lengthy and arduous war for territorial supremacy over many continents.

North America, which was geographically divided between the British, French, and Spanish empires in 1756, was arguably the most crucial theatre of the war.

With significant but costly wins at Quebec and Fort Niagara, the British emerged triumphant from the war. Consequently, the Treaty in 1763 assimilated vast swaths of formerly held French territory in Canada and the Midwest.

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The Boston Massacre (1770)

Paul Revere's engraving of The Boston Massacre, colored by Christian Remick
Paul Revere’s engraving of The Boston Massacre, colored by Christian Remick

Only a year after introducing the Townshend Duties, Massachusetts’ governor was already calling on the other twelve colonies to join his state in defying the British and banning their commodities, which corresponded with a riot in Boston over the capture of the aptly named Liberty for smuggling.

Despite these rumblings of discontent, nothing signaled that the colonies would seriously consider confronting their British overlords until the tragic Boston massacre of March 1770.

The Boston Tea Party (1773)

1789 engraving of the destruction of the tea
1789 engraving of the destruction of the tea

A light switch had been flipped. The British government could make significant political concessions to these frustrated voices, but they opted not to; thus, the opportunity to avert insurrection was lost.

In 1772, enraged patriots set fire to a British ship that had been enforcing unpopular trade rules, while Samuel Adams set about forming Committees of Correspondence — a network of rebels spanning all 13 colonies.

Nonetheless, in December 1773, the most renowned and open demonstration of rage and opposition occurred.

A party of colonists led by Adams boarded the East India Company trade ship Dartmouth and dumped 342 chests of British tea (worth over $2,000,000 in today’s value) into the sea at Boston Harbour.

This incident, now dubbed as the “Boston Tea Party,” is still revered in nationalistic American folklore. 

Core Values, Beliefs, and Ideologies of the American Revolution 

Declaration of Independence, by John Trumbull
Declaration of Independence, by John Trumbull

Political opinions and sentiments among the people of the Thirteen States were not uniform.

Loyalties and allegiances varied greatly between areas, groups, and even families and sometimes shifted during the Revolution. The American Enlightenment was a crucial forerunner to the American Revolution. 

The notions of natural law, inalienable rights, the sovereignty of the people, autonomy, land ownership, self-ownership, self-determination, liberalism, republicanism, and protection against tyranny were central to the American Enlightenment.

A rising number of American colonists adopted these ideas, creating a cultural milieu that gave rise to a new notion of political and social personality.

Liberalism 

John Locke, the first to develop a liberal philosophy
John Locke, the first to develop a liberal philosophy

In the United States, liberalism is a political and moral philosophy centered on the principle of the individual’s inalienable rights.

The essential liberal ideas of free speech, free press, freedom of religion, separation of church and state, due process, and equality before the law are universally regarded as a shared foundation of liberalism.

It varies from other forms of liberalism in that the United States has never had a permanent hereditary aristocracy and has evaded much of Europe’s class conflict.

Because of his contributions to the Social Contract and Natural Rights theories that supported the Revolution’s political ideology, John Locke (1632–1704) is often attributed to as “the philosopher of the American Revolution.”

Locke’s Two Treatises of Government, published in 1689, had a significant impact. He contended that because all persons were born free, governments need the “consent of the governed.” 

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In late-eighteenth-century America, belief in “equality by creation” and “rights by creation” was still common.

Locke’s beliefs on Liberty impacted the political thinking of English intellectuals such as John Trenchard, Thomas Gordon, and Benjamin Hoadly, whose policy philosophies affected the American Patriots.

The social covenant notion impacted many of the Founders’ view that the right of the people to depose their authorities was one of man’s “natural rights,” should such officials break the ancient rights of Englishmen.

In establishing the state and national constitutions, the Americans mainly leaned on Montesquieu’s critique of the wisdom of the “balanced” British Constitution (mixed governance).

Republicanism 

John Adams by Gilbert Stuart

The most fundamental aspects of republicanism globally are a participatory government in which voters elect officials from among themselves for a predetermined term, contrasted to a perennial ruling class or aristocracy.

These leaders create laws for the welfare of the entire nation country. 

Furthermore, contrary to a director a “pure” democracy in which the plurality vote dominates, a republic codifies in a charter or constitution a set of fundamental civil rights that are granted to all citizens and cannot be overruled by the majority rule.

The Whig party in Great Britain, which publicly challenged corruption inside the British government, influenced the American interpretation of “republicanism.”

Americans rapidly embraced republican ideas, viewing the United Kingdom as corrupt and unfriendly to American interests.

Political corruption was connected with conspicuous riches and inherited nobility, which the colonists despised.

The Founding Fathers, notably George Washington, Samuel Adams, Patrick Henry, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, James Madison, and Alexander Hamilton, were staunch supporters of republican ideals, which compelled men to prioritize civic duty over personal pleasures. 

Men were unwaveringly loyal by the civic obligation to be ready and willing to battle for their fellow citizens’ rights and liberties.

“Public Virtue cannot exist without private, and public Virtue is the only Foundation of Republics,” John Adams addressed to Mercy Otis Warren in 1776, concurring with several traditional Greek and Roman thinkers.

Conclusion 

Among the essential outcomes of the war were American independence and the end of British mercantilism in America, which opened up global trade opportunities for the US, especially with Britain.

The United States Constitution was quickly adopted, replacing the insufficient wartime Confederation and constructing a relatively national solid government organized as a federal republic. 

It had an elected executive, a national judiciary, and an elected bicameral Congress signifying states in the Senate and the citizenry in the House of Representatives.

It is the world’s inaugural federal democratic republic based on popular consent.

Shortly after, as the first ten amendments, a Bill of Liberties was enacted, providing fundamental rights claimed as a reason for the Revolution. 

Approximately 60,000 Loyalists emigrated to other British colonies, primarily Canada, although the vast majority stayed in the United States. 

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