The War for Independence and the Transformation of American Society

The War for Independence and the Transformation of American Society

The War for Independence and the Transformation of American Society

The War for Independence and the Transformation of American Society

Excerpt

This book assesses the impact of the War for Independence on the lives of Americans during the period of the conflict.

The Revolutionary War established a nation and confirmed American identity. The ideals expounded translated into guideposts for creating a Republican society, with emphasis on citizen responsibility and the promotion and protection of opportunity for freedom and equality. If societal reform seems minimal during the immediate war period, vistas were opened for continuity in progress. While the war during its span effected political reconstruction, stirred social mobility, brought economic self-sufficiency and expansion, and fixed in the American popular culture the “Spirit of ’76,” the war also had a negative side in the oppression of dissenting and ethnic minorities, further ingraining violence as endemic to the collective consciousness of the people, hardening class lines between the poor and the more affluent, bolting down more securely the institution of slavery, and accentuating even further sectional awareness and animosity. Yet most Americans united in spirit and action at least to some degree in support for the war. Like other wars in American history, however, there was the belief that the Revolutionary conflict could be easily won, making for less than adequate backing for the war effort and dissensions and frustrations. But total victory eclipsed in memory the dissonances. Largely overlooked in perceptions of the Revolutionary War is that during the war Americans were redefining themselves while forming expectations for the future.

Historians over time have searched for the meaning of the Revolution—its causes, objectives, and results. Historiography swerved from the celebratory tones of the nineteenth century to twentieth-century fathoming of the competing and conflicting forces that lay below the surface. “Progressive” historians exposed the theme of men on the make seeking to distract by a large war the underclass from their aspirations for a society

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