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The Dominant Ideas Behind the American Revolution

In addition, Bailyn concludes that the ideology spun by the American revolutionaries was a fresh one, not simply a borrowing of earlier ideas, but a philosophy which changed and challenged previous ideology to fit the specifics of the colonists' situation.

Bailyn, then, takes at face value the arguments of the revolutionaries about the nature of their own justification for the revolution. He sees the Revolution as the result of a coming together of high political ideals in which the revolutionaries sincerely and passionately believed. This was not a class conflict, or a mere complaint about taxes, or a rough demand for independence, or a desire to make as much money as they could out of the shadow of British restrictions.

Americans had come to think of themselves as in special category, uniquely placed by history to capitalize on, to complete and fulfill, the promise of man's existence [to reach] . . . a higher plane of political and social life than had ever been reached before. "The liberties of mankind and the glory of human nature is in their keeping," John Adams wrote.

. . . America was designed by Providence for the theatre on which man was to make his true figure, on which science, virtue, liberty, happiness, and glory were to exist in peace" (Bailyn 20).

These ideals, probably part genuine and part propaganda, were nevertheless supported by far more down-to-earth considerations. The Revolutionaries wanted economic and political freedom from the British so that they--the rich, white, male property-owners who were the fathers of the revolution--could create a country which would protect their own interests.

Morey Rothberg, in "John Franklin Jameson and the Creation of The American Revolution Considered as a Social Movement," focuses on the social, or sociohistorical aspects of the Revolution. Rothberg's analysis of Jameson's social argument with respect to the Revolution is contradictory and confusing. Clearly, R...

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