HIST 170 American History

HIST 170 American History

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HIST 170 American History

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HIST 170 American History

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Course Code: HIST170
University: San Jose State University

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Country: United States


The events that led to the foundation of the United States have variously been described as “the American Revolution” or “the American War of Independence.”Which do you think is a more fitting description? Was this a revolution, which not only overthrew a government but also ushered in revolutionary social, political, or cultural changes? Or was it merely a war of independence, in which one government replaced another, without disturbing social relationships and Americans’ everyday lives to any great extent? Was it a forward-looking attempt to create a new revolutionary society, or a conservative struggle to take America back to the way things were before 1763? (Or was it something else altogether?) As you begin to think about this question, you may want to consider the issues raised by the historian George Allan Billias:
Was the transformation [from English colonies into the United States of America] sweeping enough to justify the term revolutionary? Did the new nation differ that much from the former colonies? Did the laws, institutions and customs of the United States constitute a sharp break with the British heritage? Was American society radically reshaped and restructured as a result of independence? Was there a dramatic shift in the ideas, attitudes, and behavior of most Americans in the relationship between individuals and their government, the society, and with one another? Within the context of our nation’s history, such issues may be reduced to a single question: How revolutionary was our Revolution?
To successfully answer this question, you will need to present at least two major areas in which America either did or did not see revolutionary change (depending on your argument), as well as one area that might support a counterargument (for example, if you argue that it was not a revolution, an area that did nonetheless see significant change). Your essay should successfully support your argument based on your two major supporting examples, and clearly show why they outweigh the counterargument you also examine.


In essence, the topic of the American Revolution is no doubt one of the most debated subjects by virtually all historians for the last couple of decades now. Apparently, many people have had varied opinions on whether the event that led to the creation of the United States qualifies to be described as the American revolution that brought about the social, political and cultural revolutionary. This paper intends to discuss in support of the notion that the independence or rather the American Revolution was not a social revolution of any kind particularly to the common American people of the time. While there are contradicting positions on this topic, the opposing argument is viable given that the American Revolution had a little positive effect on the daily lives of Americans; in fact, most people were subjected to hash taxation. In this sense, the wealthy used the war to gain independence from Britain to preserve their power and wealth. This was achieved by the fact that the lower classes were used to win this war where the rich could benefit massively.
Primarily, the history of the American politics have for long been centered on the mobilization of the lower-class individual, especially by the upper-class politicians to gain power and maintain the level of their wealth (Douglass, 2014).  While such movement involved rather genuine grievances of the lower class individual, it helped in achieving effectiveness, therefore becoming one of the most tactical deceptions that ever existed for centuries (Dudley, 1992). For instance, the overall accumulated grievances, particularly against the wealthy in Boston, hugely accounted for the explosiveness of the actions by the mob immediately after the Stamp Act of the year 1765 (Dudley,1992). Through such Act, the British were in a position to fund the French war where most colonies had initially suffered a great deal particularly in expanding the British Empire (Madison, Hamilton, & Jay, 2016).  While such war was aimed at bringing the notion of leveling the path between the poor and the rich, it was a complete way that the British used the poor to gain their political relevance and expand their territories (Dudley, 1992).
The conflict that arises between the poor and the rich overshadowed the urge for independence in the America states. Notably, these conflicts were used by the political leaders in mobilizing the whole population against England, therefore, granting little benefits to those poor people who were rebellious while they enjoyed the bigger portion of the benefits. More movements were organized against the corrupt leaders and the wealthy especially in states such as North Carolina. In the long run, the original American revolutionary was meant to benefit some few individuals rather than changing the social well-being of most American people who were regarded to be poor. In this light, there was no way that the aspect of revolution was going to be a social revolution since it was meant to benefit some leaders in the community.
The idea that the American Revolution was a fight for independence is a rather misplaced argument considering that there was a big gap in social control even after the achievement of the so-called independence.  For instance, in states such as Maryland, the new constitution of the year 1776 stipulated that anyone who intended to be a governor had to own at least 5,000 pounds of a property while to be a state senator one had to own 1,000 pounds (Dudley, 1992). In this light, 90 percent of the American population could not hold an office. Additionally, the revolution did not put an end to the aspect of slavery and therefore the population of the black slavery was at 25 percent. In this light, most requests by the blacks who were willing to join the revolutionary army to fight for their freedom were turned down on various occasions. Despite the fact that states such as Maryland maintaining control, the issues of slavery and heavy taxation became a major concern, therefore, debtors were forced to pay paper money. This was a mere sacrifice by the upper class in the urge of maintaining power. Despite the formation of the new constitution, people’s rights were violated therefore rubbishing the idea that the American Revolution was a social revolution to the American people (Freethorne, 2009).
The overall transformation from the colonized state was not instant particularly with the aspect of slavery. In this light, American Revolution did not bring about the end of slavery but with time there was the abolition of the same in later years (de Crèvecoeur, 1782).  However, there were no significant improvements from the colonies as people were still oppressed with heavy taxation and exclusion by unfair constitution rights (Dudley, 1992).  In this sense, it was ironical how people fought for a revolution yet be left in the hands of rich individuals who were greedy and wanted more power (Wood, 2015). Noteworthy, the expectations of many Americans those things would be better and an apparent reshaped beginning was received in a different way altogether given the fact that the rich people only wanted to use the poor to chase away the British so that they themselves would benefit (Durivage & Priest, 2014). With the context of the American history, the level of the American Revolution was not as many people would have expected (Wagner, 2018).
On the other hand, there are those individuals who might see the American Revolution as a total transformation that altered most of Americans lives. Apparently, some Americans would like to consider their revolution as not being necessarily radical but rather downright conservative. Some would describe the American Revolution as being nonviolence where people made speeches rather than bombs (Dudley, 1992). Additionally, there are different images of this kind of revolution that relates it to the drawing rooms as well as legislative halls instead of cellars and streets. A revolution where people did not kill each other and equality was the yardstick of daily activities in the vast American society (Dudley, 1992). However, this does not take away the fact that the American Revolution was filled with internal violence and various social struggles where people were deprived of their rights. Indeed the American Revolution was a radical transformation that saw the underprivileged in the society going against the elite. It was a rather time of economic deprivation particularly to the poor people and this should no longer be a doubt regarding the American Revolution (Dudley, 1992).
In conclusion, it is evident that the idea surrounding the American Revolution can be an ongoing debate where people ought to have varied opinions particularly the historians. In this light, the American Revolution was a rather radical transformation where there was a growing rift between the poor and the rich in the society. Despite the fact that the elite advocated the poor to protest for their rights, it was clear that this was done so that the elite could acquire power and maintain their status quo.
de Crèvecoeur, J. H. S. J. (1782). Letter 3,”. What Is an American.
Douglass, F. (2014). Frederick Douglass on Slavery and the Civil War: Selections from His Writings. Courier Corporation.
Dudley, W. (Ed.). (1992). The American Revolution: Selections from William Dudley, ed., Opposing Viewpoints. Greenhaven Pr. pp. 49-70
Durivage, J., & Priest, C. (2014). The Stamp Act and the political origins of American legal and economic institutions. S. Cal. L. Rev., 88, 875.
Madison, J., Hamilton, A., & Jay, J. (2016). The Federalist Papers: The Making of the US Constitution. Arcturus Publishing.
Richard Freethorne. (2009) “Letters to Father and Mother,” in Michael P.Johnson, Reading the American Past: Selected Historical Documents,Volume 1: to 1877, 4th ed., (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2009), 37-41.
Wagner, R. L. (2018). The Stamp Act: Revolutionary Resistance in New York.
Wood, G. S. (Ed.). (2015). The American Revolution: Writings from the Pamphlet Debate Vol. 1 1764-1772 (LOA# 265). Library of America.

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