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Although the original U.S. Constitution did not initially grant women the right to vote and otherwise participate in the government, women were afforded, on a limited basis, to participate in the increased emphasis on public education following the end of the Revolution. The theory behind allowing this greater participation by women in the educational process was that in order for the republic to succeed, women must be able to teach the democratic principles upon which the nation was founded to the children (Cohen, 2000). This idea of allowing women to become educated became known as "Republican Motherhood."
The American Revolution was also a major inspiration for future revolutions in other countries and the American governmental form also served as a model for the organization of other governments. The colonies' victory over what was then the world's greatest power, Great Britain, created a strong sense of patriotism throughout the new nation and demonstrated to the rest of the world that such insurrections could be successful. The world powers, Great Britain, Spain, and other nations with colonial interests began to take a different approach in regard to the management of their colonies by weakening their control. Arguably, it could be said that the American Revolution began to signal the end of colonialism. In any event, there can be no denying that the American Revolution played a direct role in the sentiment that evolved into the French Revolution (History Channel, 1996). Ironically, the very King who supported the American colonists in their efforts against Great Britain, Louis XIV of France, was himself the subject of Revolution. The soldiers and officers who fought on behalf of the American colonies gathered revolutionary thoughts while serving there and transferred these thoughts to others upon their return to France. Although the French Revolution did not materialize immediately after the American Revolution, the result was the same as the French people expelled the French monarch and established a National Assembly similar in structure to the U.S. Congress. More interestingly, the French Declaration of Rights of Man almost exactly mimics the American Declaration of Independence.
The spirit of Revolution spread to other nations as well (Langley, 1996). In the area that is now known as Latin America, Haiti was the site for the world's first republic populated primarily by Blacks when slaves there revolted in 1791. In South America, Simon Bolivar, using the skills he learned participating in the Haiti Revolution, led forces in Venezuela toward independence. Venezuela was the first of several South American republics that were formed subsequent to revolutions in the early 1800s and then Mexico's successful revolution in 1821. America, as a nation, did not participate by sending money or men to these other revolutions but the American Revolution and its accompanying ideology provided the impetus for these struggles for self-determination and freedom.
The spirit of the Revolution did not spread to all the colonists. A significant number of American colonists remained loyal to England and their loyalty meant that they were placed in danger both during the War and the years immediately subsequent to it (Bailyn, 1976). Most either fled to Canada or England but in doing so were forced to abandon their homes and personal property. Many of those who fled to Canada played instrumental roles in the formation of that country. Attempts at compensating these loyalists were made through Great Britain's treaty with the new country but there remained significant prejudice against said individuals and most received far less than what they left behind.
Similarly, the Anglican Church, which enjoyed widespread popularity in the American colonies, disappeared completely from the American scene once the War ended. Under Anglican theology, the official head of the Church of England is the British monarch and such loyalty, even for religious purposes, would not be tolerated in the new republic. Further, because of the doctrine recognizing the separation of Church and State, the new American citizenry was not prepared to allow the Anglican Church to enjoy tax free status. The Anglican Church re-established itself in the United States as the Episcopalian Church but all ties with the British monarchy were severed.
More significant than the demise of the Anglican Church was the abolishment of the English system of primogeniture (Alston, 1984). Under English law, primogeniture required that all land be passed from father to the eldest son. The result of this system was to keep land concentrated in the hands of a very few select individuals. In the United States the system of primogeniture was abolished in nearly all the individual states almost immediately and within all the states within 15 years after the end of the Revolutionary War. The end of primogeniture proved to be a windfall for the new nation as the land of the Loyalists was seized after the War and parceled out to the many landless that were eager to own property. The sale of this property was not only profitable for state governments but was also a great social equalizer as thousands who were previously land poor were suddenly lifted to the ranks of property owners.
The effects of the American Revolution were remarkable. Some of the effects were obvious such as the formation of a democratic government, the separation from the British monarchy, and the end of colonization in the American colonies; however, some of the other effects were far less obvious. The ideas that supported the American Revolution spread rapidly throughout the rest of the world and would influence many subsequent revolutions and would eventually lead to a greater demand for equality and human rights throughout the rest of the world. Arguably, the ideals of the American Revolution continue to influence political and sociological change even today as more and more nations adopt the principles that America's founding fathers espoused nearly two hundred and fifty years ago.
Alston, L.J. (1984). Inheritance Laws Across Colonies: Causes and Consequences. The Journal of Economic History, 277-287.
Bailyn, B. (1976). The Ordeal of Thomas Hutchinson. Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
Cohen, P.C. (2000). Women in the Early Republic. OAH Magazine of History, 7-11.
History Channel. (1996). French Revolution. Retrieved July 16, 2011, from History.com: http://www.history.com/topics/french-revolution
Holton, W. (1999). Forced Founders, Indians, Debtors, Slaves, and the Making of the American Revolution in Virginia. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.
Langley, L.D. (1996). The Americas in the Age of Revolution, 1750-1850. Ne Haven: Yale University Press.
Wood, G.S. (1993). The Radicalism of the American Revolution. New York: Vintage.
Zagarri, R. (2007). Revolutionary Backlash: Women and Politics in the Early American Republic.…[continue]
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