Republicanism Leading to the “American Enlightenment”

After returning home from hard fought days on the battlefields, Americans united behind the shared value of a republican government.  Americans solely decided to break away from Great Britain because they genuinely felt that their liberties were being violated by the British monarchy and the overall system of British government.  Therefore, in order to ensure preserved rights in their new country, Americans rallied behind the appealing values of a republican institution; a government structure in which all power essentially came from the people, not a supreme authority, such as a king.  I believe that the structure of the British government caused Americans to realize that protected rights resulted in less corruption and more civic virtue.  Evidently, Americans believed that if they based their new government on Britain’s unjust system where the constitution was unwritten, and the people did not have equal rights and representation, the result would be a minority of powerful, corrupt aristocrats and a majority of dependent workers.  Then, the republic would certainly fail, as a nation ruled by group of select aristocrats is not much different from one governed by a powerful king aided by Parliament.  Americans wanted a clear break from dependency and the harsh realities it implies.  However, the early Americans argued that if America was comprised of independent property owners with equal rights, the republic would thrive.  Furthermore, Americans gradually came to value the ideal of equality.  In my opinion, the concept of equality is entailed in republicanism, as it values the rights of the individual and the chances he or she has to gain success from hard work.  Over time, Liberty became a desirable entity in many ways, one that must be protected and defended from greedy tyrants.  Republicanism embodied less corruption and more virtue at a time when the concepts of liberty and justice were beginning to take hold in America.  People wanted the availability of achieving anything they wanted, as equal rights most often provide equal opportunity.  I feel that the Americans wanted to know that they could attain any possible goal through hard work, not merely through status and connections as was custom in the past.  Through establishing republicanism in their new nation, the early Americans made the crucial divide between Britain and America, which was whether or not to foster the values of equal opportunity and liberty.  Did this new value of republicanism create an age of American Enlightenment? Without this “Enlightenment” could America have successfully become independent from Great Britain?  Could America have established a successful revolutionary movement solely on the premise of equality and not republicanism, or are both just as important?

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2 Responses to Republicanism Leading to the “American Enlightenment”

  1. Heather Milke says:

    I definitely think that the American Constitution is written down and holds many of the ideas that make America what it is today because the colonists learned from the mistakes of the British Constitution. I think that the ideas were not necessarily an “enlightenment”, but I definitely think that America became a strong, unified nation because of their grievances against the British government. Americans wanted equality and representation in their own government. I think republicanism was the solution to this want for equality. I think that America in a way did establish a revolution on the premis of equality. They were not originally fighting for freedom and their own government, but they wanted a say in the British government. They wanted an equal amount of representation as other British citizens. The idea of a republic came later. In my opinion, the desire for equality and representation is more important because it incited the revolution and paved the way to the idea of republicanism.

    • Wyatt says:

      I agree with Heather here. I dont think that the American colonists were angry about corruption, or worried to much about the fact that Britain lacked a written constitution. I believe, as Heather said, that the Americans desire for equality, and representation are what fueled the revolution. I would go so far as to say that the idea of Republicanism didn’t really come into play until after the revolution. We must also remember that many of the colonists didn’t back the revolution, up to 1/3 in fact, were loyal to Britain. The revolutionaries problem wasn’t with the entire British government, it was about representation and equality. In conclusion i would say that they could have, and did have a successful revolution based on the idea of equality, with republicanism playing a minimal role if at all.

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