The Causes of the American Revolution

The Causes of the American Revolution

The Causes of the American Revolution

The Causes of the American Revolution

Excerpt

It was not so very long ago that all Americans were taught that the American Revolution came about solely and simply because all colonists hated tyranny and loved freedom; because all colonists resented the denial by a foreign government of their right to share in governing themselves; and because all colonists, therefore, rising in heroic resistance to the government which oppressed them, determined to make of America an independent nation, founded on the principles of political liberty and equality. The persistence of such a simple and clear-cut picture of the revolutionary struggle is reflected in the widely- held belief that the chief point at issue between colonies and mother country was the rightness or wrongness of the principle, "taxation without representation is tyranny."

The labors of historians of the past two generations, however, have made it impossible to believe quite so surely that the Revolution was no more and no less than a conflict produced by verbal disagreements between a people united in the cause of freedom and a regime which refused to accept freedom as the necessary basis of all governments. The reappraisal of the colonial and revolutionary era, begun by such scholars as Charles M. Andrews, George Louis Beer, Herbert Levi Osgood, and others has made it dear that, to see selfless devotion of the patriots to political ideals as the sole cause of the Revolution might well be a national tradition, but it is hardly sound history. Significant facts which today seem obvious -- for example, the extreme tardiness of the patriot leaders in formulating the demand for independence, or the apparent lack of unanimity among the colonists concerning what they wanted, why they wanted it, and how they proposed to get it -- were long overlooked by the traditional explanations of why the revolutionists fought. Beginning in the 1890's, historians directed their attentions more closely to the revolutionary use of the political ideals of freedom and equality, of independence and self-government; they patiently considered the influence of such factors as economic interests, the accidental conjunctures of men and events, and the personal ambitions and prejudices of revolutionary leaders or members of Parliament; and they sought to discover all the possible logical connections between one step in the conflict and the next. As a result, there is today general agreement among historians that to understand why the Revolution was fought, one must do more than accept at face value the familiar political slogans and catch-words, that he must consider the actions and the motives of diverse individuals, groups, sections, and classes, and must be aware of the relation of the British-American conflict to British imperial problems and to larger problems of world affairs. There is no longer doubt that the causes of the . . .

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