The American Revolution and its Declaration of Independence are a hallmark to the Enlightenment ideals of individual liberty, social equality, and the opposition to government tyranny and despotism. It persisted from 1775 until 1783 between the mercantile British mother country and its 13 colonies in America. Led by the efforts of Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine, John Adams, Abigail Adams, Elizabeth Murray, the prominent Sons and Daughters of Liberty, American colonists waged a war that revolutionized politics, economics, and social issues across the globe.
The strongest evidence that demonstrates how the American Revolution was indeed a revolution lies in the events of how the American colonists, not only questioned, but rebuked the authority and actions of the British monarch, George III. People questioned their ruler’s right to govern and concluded that they, the people, were the foundation of the nation, as exemplified in the first statement of the Constitution ‘We the People’. The American Revolution debunked the rigid, antiquated European hierarchy that relentlessly bestowed privileges to the perpetual elite, instead asserting a democratic republic that advocated for the common people’s representation and John Locke’s natural rights of 'life, liberty, and property” as written in his Second Treatise of Government. James Otis, in the ‘Rights of British Colonies’, writes, “'There is no one act which a government can have a right to make that does not tend to the advancement of the security, tranquillity, and prosperity of the people”, conveying that the essential purpose of the government is for the people, a sentiment that was once radicalized by the uptight feudalist norms.
As depicted in the concluding words of Benjamin Franklin’s interview ‘Testimony Against the Stamp Act’, the Revolution spurred colonists to strive for economic liberty as well. Benjamin Franklin appeals to the audience, underscoring how much the American colonists have sacrificed for the sake of the British as well as the colonists’ inability to further pay the imposed imperial taxes. He concludes that, with the revolution, their previous pride for British imports has been passionately replaced by patriotism for American products. James Otis’ ‘Rights of British Colonies Asserted and Approved’ upheld and popularized the notion, “Taxation without representation is tyranny”. John Dickinson is attributed great fame for his compelling work in ‘Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania’, in which he advocated resistance to British imports and protested against imperial taxes. Dickinson argues that the tax is not consensual to the people, as Parliament does not include any Americans, and therefore, their imposed taxes are unconstitutional. He implies the Townshend Duties are a “dangerous innovation” that, upon further development, could lead to continual extortion of American colonists in order to unfairly raise revenues for the British. To further incite imagery and amass war effort, Thomas Jefferson even wrote that the British sought to reduce the colonies to slaves. Benjamin Franklin, James Otis, and John Dickinson vigorously contend that the British unconstitutionally violate the common people’s natural rights and cruelly take their economic liberty.
In addition to monumental changes in economics and politics, the American Revolution also inspired consideration of social inequalities. As American colonists preached the natural rights to escape British control, they had to carefully consider and address every individual - male, female, colored, white, old, young, wealthy, and impoverished - in regards to their high proclamations of equality and liberty. James Otis’ ‘Rights of British Colonies Asserted and Approved’ states, “The colonists are by the law of nature freeborn, as indeed all men are, white or black…. The colonists, being men, have a right to be considered as equally entitled to all the rights of nature with the Europeans, and they are not to be restrained in the exercise of any of these rights but for the evident good of the whole community”. Abigail Adams, the second First Lady of the United States, was a strong advocate for women’s rights and education and is famously recorded in the ‘Rights of Women in an Independent Republic’ for her iconic feminist line, “Remember the Ladies” in an endearing letter to her husband, John Adams. She advises her husband to consider implementing laws that would be favorable to women which could include the right to own property and argues that men and women should be, not master and servant, but treasured partners and friends in marriage. Her husband later remarks in a correspondence to John Sullivan about the qualifications of voters whether they be man, woman, young (ages 12-21), and poor.
What was once considered a radical idea left a resounding and revolutionary impact on the world as we know it. The iconic quote, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” exemplifies the spirit of the Whig Party against the perceived tyranny of the British imperialists. The American Revolution progressively usurped the authority of the monarch, promoted public representation, addressed social inequalities, and defined despotic, unconstitutional acts for itself in a backdrop of antiquated, conservative hierarchy and privilege. It was a revolution that thoroughly transformed the way people thought about their sovereigns and rights in politics, economics, and social issues, inspiring and changing history in ways impossible to completely fathom.