DbKatie Gordon APUSH Mr. Vieira September 24, 2012 DBQ: To what extent did the American Revolution fundamentally change American society? In your answer, be sure to address the political, social and economic effects of the Revolution in the period from 1775 to 1800. After the American Revolution, Americans, who were free of British control, started to reevaluate politics, the economy and society. After breaking away from what they thought was a corrupt and evil government, Americans changed how they wanted to govern their society, even though they ultimately reverted to a more centralized government similar to Britain.
The uneducated masses, as viewed by the elite, didn’t experience a lot of change though the ideals from the revolution still guided some to seek better financial opportunities. Women, slaves, and loyalist experienced a considerable amount of change in society as women experienced more freedoms, some slaves were set free, and loyalist left America. Overall, America didn’t experience a lot of economic change, but it did experience, to varying degrees, political and social change. Politically speaking, the Americans did not want their government to resemble that of the British government.
Which brings about the development of the Articles of Confederation. However, there were many holes in the Articles: there was no executive branch, the federal government could not implement taxes and overall the government did not have much centralized power. Everyone knew that a change needed to be supplemented and quick. This brings about the writing and ratification of the Constitution. In order to persuade states to ratify the Constitution, Alexander Hamilton wrote and circulated the Federalist Papers.
James Madison also writes, “ambition must be made to counteract ambition” (Document I), insinuating the system of checks and balances that the Constitution insures. This active separation of power was pivotal in the ratification of the Constitution, which contrasted the American government from the British government. Americans did not experience much change economically. The Philadelphia society for the promotion of agriculture in 1786, handed out a medal, which said, “venerate the plough” (Document F). This demonstrates how the elite were still “rewarding” the common people who weren’t financially better off than before the revolution.
Similarly, in Shay’s Rebellion farmers led by the ex-military officer “[stopped] the courts of justice in several counties…crying out for a paper currency, [or] for an equal distribution of power” (Document G). A particular example of the downfall of American economy was Shay’s rebellion. This represented economic strife that the common people were enduring and ultimately rebelled. Two important socio-economic issues the founding fathers discussed were the rights of women and slavery. Women’s roles increased greatly during the revolution. While me were away fighting or running the country, women were at home running and defending the farm.
This can be seen in the woodcut (Document A) and in Abigail Adam’s letters to Thomas Jefferson (Document G). Women had, for a time, the right to vote in New Jersey. The revolution also increased the education of women and encouraged them to be more involved in public life. However, all women were not content to go back to their household chores after the revolution as seen by Molly Wallace who says “if [taught] to read, why not speak? ” (Document J), illustrating how some women wanted to further their domestic roles and play a larger role in society.
Women were not ultimately granted the right to vote until many years later, but that foundation started during the American Revolution. The practice of slavery was common during the time period of the American Revolution in the colonies and in Europe. At the time, it was the primary economic engine in the south and Caribbean. American revolutionaries thought about the morals of slavery, but were unable to change much at this time. However, slavery could be banned in the Northwest Territories, where it wasn’t too important to that region’s economy.
The Northwest Ordinance specifically says, “There shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in said territory” (Document H). Although the revolution was not directly able to ban slavery, it cased the issue and allowed future generations to solve it. The revolution also enabled religious freedom to be written into the fabric of our nation. Many European nations had state religions of this time. Some of the first settlers to the colonies came in search of religious freedom. However, some of them instituted theocratic governments once here. But the revolution showed that America was a melting pot of ideas and people.
They believed that our government should not sponsor one particular religion. Virginia enacted such a law in 1786. Politically Americans experienced some change by forging a new government even though they revised it in the end. Economically, the common people, who fought for better lifestyles, still lived under the heel of the elites. However a significant amount of change occurred for women, slaves and loyalist, although the loyalist position in changed in society in a very negative manner. In these ways American society experienced change in respect to political and social life, but not economically.
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