How Revolutionary Was the American Revolution?
The American Revolutionary war lasted from 1775 to 1783; the price America had to pay to gain independence. But does the name “Revolutionary war” fit the effects that war had? The dictionary definition of Revolutionary can be quoted as “a radical and pervasive change in society and the social structure, especially one made suddenly”; the key phrase in that definition being “one made suddenly”. I believe the American Revolution can be considered as not revolutionary using this definition because these significant problems before and during the Revolutionary war took far longer than “suddenly” to occur: Lower class’ representation in government, abolishing slavery and segregation, and women’s right to vote.
To begin with, the meaning of how long immediately is can be determined only by perspective. In my opinion, immediately is anything from present to fifteen years later. Most of these changes listed in this paper did not occur until thirty to a hundred years later. Some didn’t happen at all and still happening today. During the monarchy over America, middle and lower class had barely any representation at all in Legislature. In 1765, an average of twelve to seventeen percent of people in Legislature belonged in middle class. A total of zero percent had salaries low enough to be classified as poor. This means that the poor had no say in government. After the Revolutionary war, in 1785, the middle class’ representation went up to 30-62%. While that may be an important change, the lower class still had no say two years after the Revolution.
Also out of the fifty members of the Constitutional Convention who wrote the U.S. Constitution, all of them received a well-to-do income. None of them knew what it felt like to work on a farm or live on the streets. How could they write the outline of our country’s principles, which the poor have to follow, if they don’t know how they live? Most of our nation’s fathers worked as lawyers, owned slaves, used the manor system, and controlled trade. Their owning of slaves means that abolishing slavery probably did not make it onto their to-do list, because who would want to get rid of something that they used incessantly? Since the leaders of our new nation owned slaves, abolishing slavery would not occur until a long while later.
Like mentioned in the last paragraph, slavery did not end until approximately one hundred years after the Revolutionary war, making it another key factor in the argument. Slavery and the Atlantic Slave Trade played very prominent part before and during the Revolutionary war, especially in the Southern colonies. Subsequent to the Revolution, newly appointed leaders of the nation decided not to discuss the outlaw of slave trade until 1808. In the mean time they just stuffed the idea in the closet of Problems to Deal with Later. Well, 1808 came around, and although most of the Northern states —including Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine- had already banned slavery, most of the Southern states still thought in the slavery mindset.
Even in 1863 when the president, Abraham Lincoln, enforced the Emancipation Proclamation, not all of the states abolish slavery. In lieu, the proclamation secured slavery in the Southern states. Later that year, the thirteenth amendment passed, officially ending slavery. Eighty years after the Revolutionary war ended and slavery had just become illegal. But even though our nation had finally slayed the Beast of Slavery that does not mean that its ghost did not haunt our ancestors in the form of segregation. Practically all of the slave’s posterity had trouble getting equal rights as whites. Even post-slavery abolition in Northern states in 1819, educated African-Americans with a diploma and extraordinary grades had difficulty getting a decent job.
According to the African-American valedictorian of a free New York school, he could not find a job because “the prevailing genius of the land admit (him) not as such, or but in an inferior degree.” An intelligent, young man like him could not even become a mechanic or merchant, in a state that already abolished slavery, because of the terrible treatment and deficiency of cooperation he received from his coworkers. Even though New York rid itself of slavery, the remains still existed.
Lastly, women’s rights and suffrage would not occur until a hundred and fifty years following the Revolution. In a letter Abigail Adams sent to her husband John Adams before our founding fathers wrote the Declaration of Independence, she states that if women are not to receive equal treatment as men then they would be “determined to foment a Rebellion.” This letter itself is quite revolutionary in the sense that at that time men’s authority had never been questioned by women. But despite Mrs. Adam’s persistent attempts for equality, it wouldn’t be till 1920 that women’s suffrage is mentioned, in the 19th Amendment in the U.S. Constitution.
Even though changes occurred right after the American Revolutionary war, they are vastly outnumbered by significant things that stayed the same until a long time post-war. The social classes and lower class’ representation in government, equal rights with other races, and women’s suffrage are examples of the major problems that the Revolutionary war did not alter immediately. Going back to the definition mentioned earlier, it is true that the American Revolution can be classified as effective and the effects being widespread. But these changes took a long time to occur, and in the end time is all that really matters.