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Ideas Behind the American Revolution

The five sources consulted for this study present both conflicting and complementary interpretations of the dominant ideas behind the American Revolution. These ideas include the political, the economic, the conspiratorial, and the social, and combinations thereof. This study will argue that the five writers are like five blind men investigating an elephant, each man focusing on the part before him, the part which he suspects is the most important, and the part which he describes at length and concludes is, indeed, the most important. Each combs through roughly the same available evidence and selects the material which supports his assumptions, ignoring, downplaying, or refuting the evidence which contradicts his assumptions and conclusions. To some degree, they are all correct: the American Revolution was a massive event which was produced by a conglomeration of impulses--the political, the economic, the social, and the conspiratorial. No revolution of scope and import would ever succeed unless it drew energy from all of the major sources of complaint--the political, the social, and the economic. The American Revolution was indeed a revolution of scope and import, and it was indeed inspired by the colonists' demands for economic and political freedom, while the leaders behind the revolution were generally of the upper social class in terms of the property they owned.

Bernard Bailyn, in The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution, argues that the Revolution was rooted in political ideals and principles which were in turn rooted in colonial politics and which survived the Revolution. Bailyn bases his research on "a collection of pamphlets of the American Revolution" (Bailyn ix), culling some 400 documents down to the 72 he considers the most significant. He writes that these pamphlets

reveal no merely positions taken but the reasons why positions were taken; they reveal motive and understanding: the assumptions, beliefs, ...

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Ideas Behind the American Revolution. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 22:58, June 24, 2019, from