Was the American Revolution a Revolution?

All of us alive today have grown up learning about the American Revolution. Although it contains the word “revolution” in its name, there are many who don’t consider the American Revolution a real revolution. After considering the definition of a revolution – a radical change of an entire system, usually by war, resulting in a change of the way of life of the people involved – and the American society before and after the American Revolution, it is obvious that those who don’t consider the American Revolution a revolution are mistaken. Among the many aspects of colonial society affected by the American Revolution, those most greatly affected by the revolution were the attitude towards slavery, the role of women, and the role of trade.

The Civil War, as well as events associated with it, being a large part of our history, is taught to all children in America at an early age. Growing up, we are taught the evils of slavery and how slaves were treated poorly. The evils about which we’ve been taught were actually occurring prior to the American Revolution. Over the course of the revolution, the attitude toward and treatment of slaves changed.

Before the American Revolution, many people, though not all, thought of slaves as “subhuman” or as animals. Even among those who gave the slaves the good treatment they deserved, there was still a feeling that the whites were better than the slaves. How many black people did could have been seen living in their nice house with a few white slaves? None; that sight was non-existent. The few black people who were free had little money. Had they been wealthy, there was still no way they ever would have found a white person who would have been their slave. Nor would that have been allowed.

As the revolution progressed, though, the role of slaves and the attitude toward them changed. The patriots needed all the help they could get to fight off the British. A law was made that allowed all slaves who fought in the war to be free after one year of fighting. The slave’s owner, of course, had to consent. Over the course of the revolution, the concept of a slave went from a lowly character to a person of worth – anybody fighting for the colonies was respected for standing up for the rights of the colonies.

While slavery existed many years before the American Revolution, so did the ideal ideas of the roles of men and women in society. Men were traditionally the ones to go out and work the land and to provide for the family, while women traditionally worked around the house – cooking, cleaning, working with the children, washing, and performing other duties of the sort. These traditions were mostly brought about as a result of Adam’s and Eve’s actions in the Garden of Eden. The Bible says, in 1 Timothy 2:14-15, “Adam wasn’t deceived, but the woman, being deceived, has fallen into disobedience; but she will be saved through her child-bearing, if they continue in faith, love, and sanctification with sobriety.” It was the first woman’s actions that brought about the traditional role of women in society.

At the beginning of the revolution, the traditional roles of men and women still existed among the colonists. Mary Silliman’s War showed the duties of women around the household before the war. Mary, the main character, did all the cooking, cleaning, washing, etc. in the house. Her life was the life of a typical woman at the time. She didn’t go out and work in the fields, as the slaves did, or work in an office, as her husband did.

As the story continued, though, Mary Silliman’s role in the war showed some gradual changes in the roles of women. Once Mary’s husband was captured, she missed him very much (as one could easily guess, especially since she was pregnant). Mary didn’t know how to function without her husband – she didn’t know how to run the farm. Regardless, Mary learned. Not only did she help manage the slaves, instruct them as to what to do, and sell the crops to the army, she also worked to get her husband back. She went against the traditions of the time and met with men in high-up places to discuss getting her husband back. There was a classic example showing the change when a man came to Mary’s house to discuss a plan he had. He suggested that he and some other men go and kidnap a loyalist judge on the British “side.” She refused. At first, the man tried persuading her, but when she continued to resist, he listened. He said something to the effect of, “As you wish, madam.” Colonial society went from the men making all the important decisions to the small step of allowing women to make a few important decisions.

Slavery and gender roles in society were not the only prominent issues affected by the American Revolution. People in early colonial society weren’t always able to provide everything they needed for themselves off their land. They had to go elsewhere to get the supplies they considered necessary. Before the American Revolution, the colonies and Britain traded back and forth. Because the idea of mercantilism existed at the time and Britain was using the colonies to make money for itself, Britain often made laws that made the colonists unhappy. The events that had the greatest impact on the start of the American Revolution were the making of controlling laws by Britain. Britain taxed almost everything possible – molasses, tea, stamps on official documents, stamps on cards, and many imported goods. Britain made all sorts of outrageous laws, including a law preventing colonists from going west of the Appalachian Mountains, and laws against trade with other countries besides Britain. Britain had absolute authority over the American trade system.

With the American Revolution, the whole trade system changed. Although it was still the same basic idea – you can’t really deviate from the idea of trade and still call it trade – Britain was no longer involved in making the colonies’ decisions. The colonies could make their own laws about trade (once the Constitution was written). The colonies, not Britain, could decide who they traded with and what taxes they charged; they had complete control over the system of trade.

The term “revolution” requires a radical change of an entire system that changes people’s lives. Slavery, the attitudes toward women, and the trade system were only a few parts of the entire system that changed during the American Revolution. (Not to mention the change in government from a Monarchy to a Democracy!!!!!) People’s lives have been different ever since the American Revolution. Had the colonists never broken away from Britain, we wouldn’t be studying American history. Rather, we’d be studying British history. The large step of breaking away from England has radically changed the way the colonists lived and has had a huge influence on the way we live today.