Emma Goldman once argued that “No real change has ever been brought about without a revolution… revolution is but a thought carried into action.” The thought of freedom allowed America to rebel against Great Britain and become what is today the United States of America. Rebellions prior to 1850 gave rise to new social and political ideas as well as established the American spirit of nationalism. The American Revolution, like most wars, was not sparked by a single event, but rather the relationship between America and Great Britain dissolved over a long period of time. “In 1651, The Navigation Acts were passed which allowed only British ships to trade with the colonies.”1 The colonists ignored the Acts and avoiding British law became common along with smuggling. “The French and Indian War, also known as the Seven Year’s War, began in 1754 and ended with the Proclamation of 1763.” The conflict arose because of the growing population of British colonists moving westward in search of new land where the French were located. The British defeated the French on many fronts but at a cost. Great Britain’s government was approaching bankruptcy, so they looked to the colonists to help pay for their army. The colonists however, questioned why the British wanted more money after numerous victories over the French. These conflicting ideals added fire to the existing flame. In other efforts to get the colonists to pay their part, Parliament passed the Tea Act. News of the act created massive protests in the colonies because Parliament was passing laws without their consent. On “December 16, 1773,” colonists protested their dislike for the act resulting in what is known as The Boston Tea Party.
The Sons of Liberty group, composed of patriots, loaded the docks of the British ships and dumped the chests of tea into the harbor. When news reached Great Britain, King George III and Parliament passed Coercive Acts to punish the American colonists. The Coercive Acts consisted of the Boston Port Act, the Massachusetts Government Act, the Administration by Justice Act, and the Quartering Act. All the for-mentioned events directly resulted in the American Revolution. Fought between the British forces and the Continental Army, the American Revolution ended on September 3, 1783 with the signing of the Treaty of Paris. The outcomes of the American Revolution are defining elements in American history. For instance, the Declaration of Independence was written by Thomas Jefferson for the purpose of announcing to foreign affairs our reasons for separation from Great Britain, which resulted in America becoming the land of the free. The Declaration of Independence “founded the country, motivated citizens, and stressed the importance of revolution.” The Articles of Confederation, written by John Dickenson was the first written document of government for America that was ratified by all thirteen states o March 1,1781. The Articles provided a loose alliance of the states and would later be replaced by the U.S. Constitution written by James Madison along with the founding fathers. The first ten amendments to be added to the U.S. Constitution is the Bill of Rights. They “addressed concerns raised by opponents of the new federal government.”
With this new established government, ideas of equality and liberty began to change. White males searched for economic opportunity while women, slaves, and Native Americans were rejected. Americans also began to fear secrecy and excess of liberty resulting in the obsession of conspiracy theories. The American Revolution altered the status quo leading to the upper and lower class dressing more similar as well as privileged people being viewed as negative. Without the American Revolution, the changes previously stated would not have occurred. The American people were proud of their new established country and felt an increased sense of nationalism as a result. America’s economic state after the Seven Year’s War was close to bankruptcy. British ships discontinued trade with parts of the United States, which caused differing interstate tariffs to be put into action and led to economic chaos. “To combat their war debts, state legislatures increased taxes,” resulting in farmers losing their property because of their inability to pay. The new American nation was depleted of specie making them look weak economically. Farmers went to the legislative buildings and protested demanding that they issue paper money to ease their economic hardship. In Massachusetts, the legislature refused to provide the protesters with which they were demanding. The conflict between the suffering American people and state legislatures resulted in protests often leading to violence.
One snowy morning in January 1786, Daniel Shay and his forces headed towards a federal arsenal in Springfield. Shots were fired and rebels were killed while the rest “retreated to Chicopee and Petersham.” Shay’s Rebellion is significant because it fueled Alexander Hamilton as well as other federalists who were in favor of a strong national government. The rebellion also informed the debate of the forming U.S. Constitution. As a result, the economic difficulties weakening the states effected class distinctions, which began to level with each other. America’s political stature was also changing; more men became able to vote and hold political offices because property qualifications were being eliminated. Shay’s Rebellion showed that the American people were principled and would fight for what they believed in. In western Pennsylvania, whiskey was a common drink among farmers. Farmers would often use excess grain to make whiskey to sell and make money. In 1790, Alexander Hamilton convinced congress to impose a tax to raise revenue for the Revolutionary War debts. He promoted an excise tax on whiskey known as the Whiskey Tax. The tax affected the price of grain used by farmers. Hamilton believed that the Whiskey Tax would make Americans aware of the effects of alcohol. However, the small farmers in the west would disagree.
Protests by the people in western Pennsylvania began as peaceful but would escalate to violent. On September 11, 1793, a tax collector named Robert Johnson was on his route when he was attacked by men and women who tarred and feathered him. Tar and feathering was a medieval practice to punish and intimidate the British loyalists. Another incident in 1793 happened when the house of Benjamin Wells, a tax collector, was broken into by a mob. When George Washington led his militia to cease the rebellion, the fighting by the western Pennsylvanians eventually subside due to their respect for the current president. The Whiskey Tax would be in effect until 1802. President Jefferson, of the Republican Party, would repeal the act. The Whiskey Rebellion imposed a threat to the stability of the new nation, but the federal government strengthened and was able to keep the union together during the crisis. The events lead to the further distinction of political parties in the United States. The Whiskey Rebellion would raise the question of what kinds of rebellions were acceptable under the Constitution. Nat Turner was born in Virginia on a plantation where he grew up learning to read and write. Throughout his childhood, Nat was sold three times. In his adult life, he became a preacher and the leader of African American slaves. Slavery had grown drastically in the south due to the invention of the Cotton Gin by Eli Whitney. Nat Turner believed that God had chosen him to lead his colleagues away from slavery. A man named William Channing was also a preacher who preached about abolitionism. Channing influenced Turner and this religious revolution became known as the Second Great Awakening. Nat Turner’s Rebellion began on “August 21, 1831” and would be the most violent and only effective slave rebellion in U.S. history.
Nat Turner’s Rebellion resulted in new laws and new groups of people. In 1832, Virginia legislature passed laws forbidding slaves and free blacks from learning how to read or write, increasing illiteracy. The slaughter of innocent slaves in the south led to sympathy from the north. Groups such as the Underground Railroad formed to help slaves escape slavery. The poor partnership between the government and the slaves would come to “define the young American nation in the years leading up to the Civil War.” Nat Turner’s Rebellion served as a motivation for slaves to unite as well as a reason for the north to aid the cause. The rebellions previously stated, gave rise to new political and social ideas. Shay’s rebellion resulted in the social classes leveling creating more of a middle class society. Other outcomes include the enabling of more men the right to vote as well as the influencing of Alexander Hamilton, the father of the national bank. The Whiskey rebellion demonstrated the determination of the American people to voice their opinion as well as the determination of the national government. Nat Turner’s Rebellion lead to discrimination laws and fueled motivations for a civil war. The American Revolution caused the American people to develop a strong sense of pride for their nation. With their sense of nationalism, Americans were able to create a government that would last to this day.