The Revolutionary War and its aftermath

The Revolutionary War and Its Aftermath

The American Revolution was not radical enough because it kept political, social and economic continuity. While it succeeded in creating a new independent nation built in the tenets of democracy and personal freedom, it failed to yield a total upheaval of old institutional and social structures. A true revolution radically overthrows old institutional and social structures and transfers power to new social groups.

            The Revolution brought no tangible changes on the economic and social structure of women and slaves. The Revolution was primarily fought to secure rights and privileges for white men, who persisted to deny basic rights to women and black men. Women played important role during the revolution, such as boycotting British products and keeping their farms running.[1] But in the aftermath, the Revolution failed women of America on material gains like improved economic position and legal status. The republican thought precluded women and slaves from positions of political influence. In spite of women’s role in keeping their homes and their patriotic activity during imperial resistance, they were not given voting rights or considered citizens under the new dispensation.

Their role was limited to that of being republican mothers-raising and educating virtuous future citizens.[2] They were excluded from the new American polity. Women’s role such as petition efforts and fund-raising during the revolution as well as new role of women as republican mothers in the aftermath served as a precursor to women’s political movement in the 19th century. One of the founding documents of American women’s movement is the Declaration of Sentiments. The Declaration highlighted the social, legal and economic inequalities existing between men and women, the Declaration echo the language of the Declaration of Independence. It emphasized subordination of women, especially married women in mid-19th century American society. The writers attacked institutions of marriage and religion for subordinating women.[3]

In many respects, the Revolution reinforced American commitment to slavery. Slavery was a core institution during the 18th century, which the white Americans accepted and applauded as a positive thing. The revolutionary ideals of equality and freedom promised to bring some hope for the slaves only to become a paradoxical. A revolution founded on the basis of equality allowed the institution of slavery to continue. Revolutionary thought of equality produced a revolutionary generation of freed blacks and enslaved people that could started the antislavery movement in the US. In his speech to commemorate the signing of Declaration of Independence,

Douglas championed for rights, citizenship, and equality of black people. He condemned American society for enslaving blacks and called for the promise of freedom and liberty be applied to all men.[4] Drawing on the revolutionary ideals, slaves revolts started in the quest for freedom. This tension intensified in the 1940s and threatened to tear apart the Union. The Southern States wanted the North to respect the right to property and to keep off from interfering with slavery. Georgia was one of the 11 confederacy states that did secede from the Union in 1861 due to slavery. White Georgians cited northern and Republican hostility to slavery and repeated assaults upon slavery as the reason to secede.[5] The desire of South Sates to maintain the institution of slavery is cited as the primary cause of the Civil War.[6]

The revolution affected Native Americans in the sense that it promoted westward expansion and created governments unfriendly to territorial claims of Natives. During the revolutionary war, some Native Americans sided with America while others with England. The likes of Cherokee, Creek, Iroquois and Shawnee sided with England hoping with hope that British victory would restrain land-Hungary settlers from moving westward. Their fears came to pass because in the aftermath, the Native Americans were excluded from Paris treaty negotiations that led to the culmination of the war.

Since the American Indians were not represented in the negotiations, they received poor treatment in diplomatic arrangement.[7] As a result, American Indians faced new flood of settlers to their land. These settlers were encouraged by the US government to expand westward to claim Indian territories for themselves.  As settlers moved farther west, American Indians were driven out of their rightful land. The American Gold Rush describes East meeting West in which American settlers moved westward in search of wealth and gold. The gold rush resulted in violence and bloodshed between the settlers and Native Americans, loss of land and disease overwhelmed the natives.[8] The enslaved natives were ill-treated in areas with gold mines. According to Swain, settlers built houses as soon as they claimed land.  

Women and men of all ranks won the Revolution but only a few founding fathers and white elite benefited from it. The American Revolution was not a true revolution from the viewpoint of equality and personal liberty. It did not end all civic and social inequalities but rather created new inequalities for women, black men and Native Americans. It did not bring material gain to black men and women who were denied most basic rights by white men but rather subordinated women and reinforced slavery. 


[1] THE AMERICAN YAWP, A Massively Collaborative Open U.S. History Textbook, Stanford University Press Edition. http://www.americanyawp.com/

[2] THE AMERICAN YAWP

[3] Elizabeth Cady Stanton, The Seneca Falls Declaration 1848 of Sentiments. American History from Revolution to Reconstruction and beyond

[4] Frederick Douglas, Frederick Douglass Project: 5th of July SpeechWritings.1852

[5] Yale Law School, Confederate States of America Georgia Secession. The Avalon Project Documents in Law, History and Diplomacy, https://avalon.law.yale.edu/19th_century/csa_geosec.asp

[6]James M. McPherson, For cause and comrades: why men fought in civil war (Oxford: Oxford University Press,199)17

[7] Jeffrey D Schultz, Encyclopedia of Minorities in American Politics (Phoenix, Ariz: Oryx Press, 2000),587

[8] William Swain, Letter Written from “The Diggings” in California. 1850. Accessed on December 16, 2020 http://www.pbs.org/weta/thewest/resources/archives/three/swain2.htm

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