Chapter 2: Revolution
Chapter 2: Revolution 805209
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Political Thought in America Chapter 2 Revolution Introduction revolutions can be caused by a variety of factors economic dislocations caused by modernization tax crises military defeat failure of nerve inability of the existing regime to envision policy altematives that will stabilize society any combination of the above can exist the American Revolution can be said to have been caused by a tax crisis Stamp Act Sugar Act Townshend Acts and failure of nerve by ParliamentGeorge 111 however the violence and failure of the revolutionary regime experienced by other revolutions eg the French and Russian Revolutions didn t occur in the United States America seems stuck at the revolutionary moderate stage Brinton why The Americanization of Republicanism many possible reasons for the peculiar course of the American Revolution this was a colonial revolt the absence of feudalism in the Thirteen Colonies the revolutionaries did not have to create a new egalitarian society from scratch there was no single church allied with the govemment against revolution moreover religious support tended to be revolutionary representative institutions eg Virginia s House of Burgesses already existed in the colonies revolutionary America was not faced with the threat of hostile neighboring countries American cities did not have extreme poverty perhaps most importantly the political thought of the revolutionaries themselves veered towards republicanism and republican virtue republicanism based on the old republics of Sparta Athens Rome the early Saxon migration to England Calvin s Geneva Florence the English Commonwealth and the behavior of Parliament during the Glorious Revolution of 1689 was especially in uenced by Aristotle Cicero John Locke Montesquieu and British Whig politics the colonists agreed that a republic was the only govemment devoted to maximizing the general good of the entire community resting on the consent of the whole population this consent made them free republics historically only seemed to fail once they became corrupt and this corruption could be held off by public regardedness by citizens called the republican virtue republican thought contended that citizens who relied on govemment for support or who were in a subservient position to another could not be relied on to exercise their liberty republican colonists considered property ownership the definition of personal independence however there had to be care taken as to maintain a balance between the communal and independent aspects of republican theory Varieties of American Republicanism three varieties of republicanism moralist radical and aristocratic moralist republicanism in Massachusetts Boston was the center of colonial revolt in the 1760s and 1770s Samuel Adams was at its center and he represents the affection for the Puritan tradition and used town meetings to his political advantage Adams thought of America as a Christian Sparta its future depended on the exhibition of a combination of Christian and Spartan values austerity temperance frugality fortitude he believed the British promoted luxury and extravagance John Adams was a moralist as well recommending taxes on luxuries in Congress radical republicanism in Pennsylvania Pennsylvania was less ethnically and religiously homogenous than Massachusetts the artisans who congregated in Philadelphia held different viewpoints and ambitions than their Bostonian counterparts these artisans were frequently ScotchIrish Presbyterians or German farmers and focused on religious animosities towards Britain artisans derived their radicalism from the necessity of asserting themselves as independent men that their business caused due to their contracts wmerchants radical republicans believed that independence was necessary from forcing the producing classes from economic slavery to British aristocrats and that the wealthy merchants should be prevented from controlling local politics as well Pennsylvanian politics eliminated a chief executive of the colony as well as restrictions on suffrage aristocratic republicanism in Virginia in Virginia it was accepted practice for the tidewater gentry to govem the colony the aristocrats justified their role by looking to the tradition in republican thought that the aristocracy could have an important role in the maintenance of republics virtue rested in the protection of property and a balance of power between the classes of society The American Republican Synthesis both Thomas Paine s Common Sense and the Declaration of Independence Thomas Jefferson combined these different strands of republicanism together into a consensus both documents re ect their authors Paine was an artisan and Jefferson a Virginia planter Common Sense advances many tenets of radical republicanism Paine was in favor of a unicameral legislature and for the first time argued for independence in a forthright manner Paine saw a dichotomy between government and society simplicity of government was the core tenet of Paine s theory he dismissed the British govemment as a failure for being too complicated and still having the in uence of tyrannies the King and the aristocracy by way of the House of Lords he also used biblical arguments comparing George III to the pharaoh of Exodus and arguing that God disapproved of governance by kings in order to break Americans of their feeling of cultural identi cation with England Paine relied on antiCatholic feeling asking how they could feel loyal to a monarchy founded by William the Conqueror a French Catholic bastard the Declaration of Independence achieves success as a consensus document by seemingly solving crucial republican concepts for example the assertion all men are created equal was puzzling to many of the day due to the existence of slavery however Jefferson called upon the theories of the Scottish Enlightenment to say he meant that all men were created equal morally as all were bom with a conscience this answer could satisfy all but the most recalcitrant slaveowners advanced the idea of there being a happinessprivate facilitating each person s ability to satisfy their personal desires and happinesspublic the right to live in a wellordered society republican colonists embraced both meanings of happiness Loyalist Critique there was a widespread but unorganized opposition to the Revolution loyalists tended to be from the more advantaged classes in society and were more likely to be Britishbom but were not necessarily Tory conservative Peter Oliver s The Origin and Progress of the American Revolution asserts that the people were manipulated by those in power Samuel Adams James Otis to be in favor of revolution solely for the former s personal ambition blamed revolutionary discontent exclusively on the machinations of political elites and political issues as manufactured constructs for advancing personal ambition could not fathom that the middleclass could govem rationally Jonathan Boucher as a preacher criticized the Bible verse used to justify revolution Galatians 51 Stand fast therefore in the Liberty Wherewith Christ hath made us free argued that this meant freedom from sin not from govemment dismissed equality as inconsistent with the proper maintenance of society believed the Lockean consent theory was deeply awed eg acquiescence could not substitute for consent also that people in this society would be trained to initiate revolution all the time In Conclusion the American interpretation of republicanism served to restrain and make moderate the revolution while in other countries with revolutions the revolutions have become contested memories in this one the Revolution is an artifact of political consensus