This paper explores the reasons why the colonists revolted; what was radical about the Revolution and what was conservative. (2.5 pages; 1 source; MLA citation style)
The American Colonists fought a war to found the United States. Rebelling against the crown, taking up arms and in many cases dying for their beliefs. An armed insurrection is not undertaken lightly; it is the last resort.
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The colonies were prosperous during the 17th and 18th Centuries, but “beginning with the Stamp Act in 1765 the British government began to put pressures on them … that drew increasing resistance.” (Mack, p. 133). The British committed what is known as the “Intolerable Acts,” which including closing the port of Boston and suspending the Massachusetts government, which were designed to make it clear to the colonists that Britain intended to make laws and take actions that would affect the colonies for all time. They planned to make policies for the colonies “in all cases whatsoever.” (Faragher,p. 133).
In addition to the Intolerable Acts, Parliament passed the Sugar Act and the Stamp Act. The Sugar Act put a duty on the importation of sugar and thus affected mostly merchants, but the Stamp Act affected huge numbers of people. The Stamp Act required “the purchase of specially embossed paper” for all types of paper, including newspapers, legal documents, and even playing cards.
The tax had to be paid in cash; it had to be paid immediately, and it was imposed when the colonial economy was in a stagnant period. Because it affected everyone, it became the trigger for sweeping resistance and increasing calls for independence. In short, the colonies refused to allow themselves to be governed at a distance, or to obey laws they had no hand in creating.
The American Revolution was radical in the sense that it was a real revolution: it sought to overthrow the government by means of an armed revolt. It also sought to establish a government that was unlike anything else in the world: a confederation of colonies united into a single nation, with an elected government. This was a radical departure from anything that had been done in Europe.
The Revolution was conservative in that for many years, there was no desire on the part of the colonists for independence. Though they resisted, they would have preferred to remain British subjects rather than forming a new nation. They were the “loyalists,” who believed the conservative doctrine that “… the good society was one in which a strong state, controlled by a hereditary elite, kept a vicious and unruly people in line.” (Faragher, p. 142).
The issues that sparked the Revolution are very complex, but in general, Americans simply could no longer bear the unjust laws imposed on them by the British, who were intent on keeping the colonies “inline” with punitive measures. Although the Revolution was conservative in the sense that many Loyalists did not want independence but reform, it was revolutionary in the form of government it inspired.
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