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political themes of early American politics, the major players, and issues that arose in the political arena of the time; with specific reference to Samuel Adams: Radical Puritan, by William Fowler, and Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation, by Joseph Ellis. It has 4 sources.
The first part of this essay analyzes ideological, historical, personal and administrative features of the first American government, and uses these to explain the 'contradiction' existent in American national identity ever since.
The chief contributors to the 'contradiction' or 'argument' mentioned above were the ideas about government and public life that Samuel Adams gained from his Puritan heritage and then from his experiences during the revolutionary period; the major causes of the American Revolution; the "Spirit of 76" or the Whig principles; the republican ideology stated in the Declaration of Independence; the changes in the organization of government from the Articles of Confederation to the U.S. Constitution; and the politics of the 1790's [Garraty and Barnes 2000].
Samuel Adams' ideas on politics stemmed largely from his Puritan background and his experiences during the Revolutionary period. His ideas were considered by many to contain a greater rigidity and austerity than his contemporaries'. Religion was the prime base from which he formulated his ideology and executed his actions. Adams held that the money paid out for taxes could be better utilized for a state "Episcopate in America...the revenue raised in America, for ought we can tell, may be constitutionally applied towards the support of prelacy..." [Boston Gazette, April 4, 1768.]He supported the idea of investigative journalism, to inform the people of the attempts to limit their rights and freedom, and actually feel indignation towards the forces behind them.
Through his efforts to raise awareness of the causes of Revolution, Adams also identified which acts could be detrimental to the Revolution. Puritan ideology referred to the correlation of the religious idea of covenant and political economics. He examined the promise of the early settlers to the King, saying they had 'promised the King to enlarge his Dominion, on their own Charge, provided that they & their Posterity might enjoy such and such Privileges' and the taxation of the colonists was a breach of their contract and warranted the revolutionary counter measures that ensued. Adams' emphasis of this ideology based on religious conviction was not new. He simply built upon the Puritan belief that as kings establish a contract with their subject much like God established a contract with man. He further stressed that a government that was based on religious principles could be criticized for veering away from those principles but not with designs to topple it and instate it with newer principles [Fowler 1997; Ellis 2000].
His experience as a revolutionary also helped shaped his political thinking and approach to the struggle for independence. The idea of a conservative revolution suggested that action be taken to mainly restore previously contracted rights, and maintain social stability and lay the groundwork for a sounder future political system. By this method, Adams found that a great deal of bloodshed and chaos could be avoided and also that society would be afforded a better chance for social improvement, given that a contract-based society created individual change and in turn led to social change - society often reflecting the strengths and weaknesses of its members [Fowler 1997].
Samuel Adams' ideas were also influenced by the Whig principles of the day, in addition to this, Republican ideology and changes in the organization of government from the Articles of Confederation to the U.S. Constitution. The 'contradiction' or 'argument' in the national fabric, as asserted by Ellis, could be directly linked to these factors also. Firstly, the colonists' reaction to imperial pressure incited in them the desire to study the nature of power and implications of individual rights. The loyalists based their ideology on order rather than liberty, drawing mainly from historical precedent. Their revolutionary opponents on the other hand, combined constitutional, traditional and historical arguments with assertions of natural law and rights. The revolutionary mindset reflected a resurrection of early Whig ideas, from Locke and others; these older stances however, resonated in the 1760s and 1770s, when the monarch sustained laws made by a Parliament, something over which the Americans had no control, thereby creating the 'contradiction' in the national fabric, that appears to have existed ever since [Fowler 1997; Ellis 2000].
The ratification of the Declaration introduced further complications to this scenario. The rejection of parliamentary rule remained inherent because King George III was responsible for his country's human rights transgressions. The king resisted the acceptance of the colonists' legislation, dissolved their legislatures, violated their constitutions, ignored their property rights, corrupted their judiciaries, made civil authority subservient to military power, and waged war against the British Americans whom the British government was obliged to protect. The viewpoints of the drafters of the Declaration coalesced and the 'contradiction' intensified.
Ellis in his book "Founding Brothers" asserts that the circle of revolutionists were the actual leaders who truly made American history. In my opinion Ellis has thoroughly researched the background of these leaders in such depth that he is justified in asserting this opinion. But perhaps what is more convincing in my opinion is the fact that Ellis explored several different aspects of the characters of these revolutionary leaders who made "the greatest generation of political talent in American history."[Ellis 2000].
Ellis effectively establishes his arguments to support his ideas on the creation of a nation and the contribution of the leaders made to the formulation of the American ideology and Constitution. He first outlines the American nation's sentiments and need of leadership who appreciate the value of freedom of the new state yet at the same time also well aware of the lack of a political system the young America faced. Secondly he establishes the framework for the issues that the Founding Brothers faced such as slavery, civil rights issues, Federal financial problems and authority. Ellis manages to combine the roles of the founding brothers in the chapter "The Dinner," "The Duel" and in "The Silence" to demonstrate that the precarious position of the nation could only be saved by this brilliant circle of individuals. And lastly, in my opinion Ellis has attributed the personalized nature of the relationships among the founders which have spawned revolutionary ideas to support and build the American nation [Ellis 2000].
Ellis in his arguments emphasize on the lack of the checks and balances in the young America's political structure that did deteriorated the trust among the public. Policies pertaining to legal, constitution and institutional were in the process of being developed; the founding brothers' contribution stems from the fact that they understood these needs and through their social, political and economical perspectives offered different visions and values rooted in the personality and characters of the idealists. George Washington, James Madison, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson as well as Samuel Adams all greatly contributed successfully in the making of America because of their personality as well as leadership and not because they were great thinkers. The initiatives they took in informing the public had a catalytic effect but it had been these individuals' combined efforts which had left a great impact on the public and the American political system [Ellis 2000].
In my opinion however, Thomas Jefferson among the group should be considered the leader among leaders. Although Jefferson is considered to be a simple among them all, he is focused in his visions and goals. It has been because of his secretive nature and manipulative skills that enabled him to go around his opponents with the least possible oppositions. In the course of his career managed to grasp the practical reality of the situation of the political scenario of America; and resolve it by laying…[continue]
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