colonial citizens of America that may, arguably, have had the greatestaffect on the struggle for independence and the formation of aconstitutional form of government in the United States. The birth ofthe republican ideology, while impossible to place an exact date on,or even month, can be traced back more than a decade before theRevolutionary War. It can also be argued that this social machinebegan to function as a result of circumstances which led many colonistto choose to come to America. The uniformity of this ideology,however, would change and modify itself as circumstances warranted inthe period between 1760 and 1800. It is first necessary to understand the exact reasons why theancestors of the American revolutionaries chose to live in America, asopposed to staying in England, where a healthy and prosperous life wasa much greater possibility.Order now
America was, in the eyes of its firstEnglish settlers, an open book with no writing on the pages. It wasthe foundation of a building that had not yet been built. Many feltthat it was up to them to shape the way this new land would function,as opposed to the way Parliament or the King felt it should. Thememories of these early pioneering settlers were a common theme forAmerican revolutionaries before the Revolutionary War.
These earlysettlers were the creators of the foundation to the building therevolutionaries would finish. Another common theme which drove the revolutionary ideologywas the knowledge not only of the monumental significance of the jobto be undertaken, but also the impact a free democracy on a scale aslarge as America would have on future generations of Americans who,certainly, would not take their freedom for granted. The ideology heldby most American revolutionaries was one in which they knew theirsacrifices would be acknowledged and appreciated by future generationsof Americans. There was also the knowledge that America would serve asan example to God and the rest of the world of what the advantages ofa free society could be. Religion also played an important role in the establishment ofthis ideology. God, in the eyes of the earliest revolutionaries, wason the side of liberty.
There was religious justification for actionsundertaken by both England and America. The English stated thatrebellion was a sin, while the Americans stated that the corruption ofEngland, as well as its intolerance of liberty to the point ofwarfare, was also a sin. War, from the religious perspective of therevolutionary in America before the outbreak of war with England, wasseen as a necessary evil. God could permit war as a means of escapingtyranny, such as that which England was symbolic of. God was, in theeyes of the pre Revolutionary War revolutionaries, without question onthe side of liberty and personal freedom. The suffering of Americans under the tyrannical hand ofEnglish government was much the same as the suffering undertaken byJesus at the cross.
He suffered for all the sinful people of theworld. He died for our sins. The revolutionaries felt much the sameway about any suffering that may be incurred throughout the war. Theyfelt that it would be looked back upon as a sacrifice that they madefor the success of future generations of Americans. On an even largerscale, it would also be looked upon as a sacrifice for liberty andfreedom in all countries around the world who suffered under thesinful hand of oppression.
The revolutionaries also had their own ideas aboutindependence as well. To them independence was a necessity. It wasabsolutely key to any further advancement towards their ultimate goalof freedom to enjoy personal liberties. How exactly independence wasphysically achieved was not as important as the fact that it hadalready, and would always be, achieved in the minds of Americans.
Their thoughts and actions were already that of an independent peopleregardless of whether or not England still had legal domain over them. Independence was a essential aspect of self-preservation which,according to the revolutionaries, was their objective. Their motivewas not an act of active rebellion against authority as much as it wasone of self-preservation. As the Revolutionary War continued to wage on longer than hadbeen expected by many revolutionaries, it became clear that somesacrifices, or modifications of this ideology would have to be made.
One of the first clear examples of this can be seen with the formationof the Continental Army. An army went directly against therevolutionary ideology in that it necessitated a sacrifice of personalfreedom and liberty. While the decision of one to join this army waswell within the boundaries that were deemed acceptable byrevolutionaries of the time, the rules and sacrifices one would haveto make to serve in this institution would go against the ideals setby revolutionaries. An army was seen by the revolutionaries as amachine of possible corruption, in that it held power significantenough to wield itself against the principles of liberty anddemocracy.
As the war raged on, however, it became clear that some typeof army would be necessary. It was an evil necessary to achieve theends envisioned by the revolutionaries. What resulted was an armythat, in many respects, was different from any other army of the time. The Continental Army became a mixture of traditional militarydiscipline and republican ideology. The call to fight using an armyexisted, but at the same time the suspicions of an army lingered.
TheContinental Army would need a special form of discipline, as well as aunique individual to lead it. George Washington became the man for this job. Having pastmilitary experience in the French and Indian War, as well as politicalexperience in the Virginia House of Burgesses, he was to make an idealgeneral for the task at hand. Throughout his military duties in theRevolutionary War, he was always under the command of Congress. Thisinsured that there would be no way for him or his army to grow beyondthe smallest size necessary. Washington was faced with manydifficulties, however, in his term of military service during theRevolution.
He had to respect the personal liberties his soldierspossessed as Americans, as well as keep some form of effectivediscipline, and constantly plead with Congress for essential equipmentfor his army. His handling of all of these problems is what kept theContinental Army cohesive and effective throughout the war. Another military figure in the Revolutionary War who serves toshow the unique nature of the Continental Army was the Prussiangeneral Baron von Steuben. It is he who formed a uniform system ofdiscipline that catered to the soldiers revolutionary beliefs, whileat the same time making an effectively disciplined military machine. The separation of the officers from the common soldiers, which intraditional military discipline was deemed absolutely necessary, wasdiscarded in the Continental Army.
Officers were to eat, train, anddrill their soldiers personally. Von Steuben knew that this would be amore effective means to discipline an army whose members fought notfor an officer, or for fear of an officer, but for a much largercause which did not even necessitate their participation in an armyanyway. The result of Von Steuben?s methods was the development of asense of professionalism in the Continental Army which, coupled withthe ideologies of the men, was sufficient motivation to fight untilthe end. One of the most significant challenges to the originalrepublican ideology didn?t come from the formation of an army, butcame after the war in the political arena which was, at the time,under construction. Faction in the system of government, which canbe seen as an enemy of liberty and personal freedom and as potentiallydestructive to the original republican ideology, developed in thenewly formed government after the war.
The faction developed, in some respects, along social lines. Many merchants and businessmen had different ideas about how thegovernment should be run, than did rural agrarian farmers which madeup a large percentage of the voting population. It is these ruralfarmers and small scale merchants who tended to cling to the originalrepublican ideology more than urban merchants and businessmen. Whatwas developing was a party system consisting of two parties that hadmuch the same objectives, but differed greatly on the means necessaryto reach these objectives. What made this situation so volatile, wasthe fact that a party system, according to the original interpretationof republican ideology, was a breeding ground for corruption. Thereasons for this assumption can be clearly seen in the EnglishParliament, which consisted of three parties.
The way in which the American people responded to this can beseen in several different ways. Although parties were looked upon as abad thing according to the original version of the republic ideology,as it became clear that they were here to stay, many Americans wereforced to modify their opinions. One man whose personal struggle withthis issue is well documented is James Madison. Madison, at first,supported a multiplicity of parties over a system of only two parties.
The reasons for this clearly coincide with the ideals of the Americansat the time. There should be many parties for Americans to choose frombecause each person has the right to believe whomever he or she wants. For this reason, there should be many parties in which people couldfreely choose to follow. As time and circumstances progressed however, Madison opinionon the subject changed drastically. Madison came to believe thatparties, while a possible enemy of a free government, are inevitableand unavoidable.
He then realized that the best response to theproblem would be to control the affects. He also realized that amultiplicity of parties would not be conducive to stability in agovernment which, in the case of the United States at the time, was anecessity. The specific advantage to having only two parties, as seenby Madison, was that given equal power and representation, they couldkeep each other in check. This would make it nearly impossible for anyone party to take too much control of the government. It can clearly be seen that the ideology in which the Americanpeople subscribed to prior to the Revolutionary War did go throughseveral challenges and modifications by 1800.
Although parties did notarise until after the Revolutionary War, there were stillmodifications and challenges much earlier, as can be seen in theContinental Army. What is also unique is, despite the numerouschallenges and slight modifications, the ideology was able to persistthrough these traumatic years and shape a nation and a government inways that history had not before seen done with such ease. This is atrue testament to the fortitude and durability of the republicanideology and America as a whole.