On one end of Europe to the other, a simple but dangerous anthem that brought a great change on the face of world history is the word “why? ” Time-honored certainties crumbled: traditional assumptions on the authority of society, the structure of the universe, and even the very existence of God, were put into question. “Dare to know! ” challenged thinkers and philosophers, just centuries before the wave of revolution took place in different parts and phases in Europe and America.
This also paved the way for the equal emphasis on practical and theoretical doctrines, which has placed great faith in innovation and a belief that all members of the human race had a right to share its fruits. Such principles as these, embodying new visions of human rights and opportunities, would be translated into action before the end of the century.
In North America, England’s 13 colonies severed themselves from the mother country to forge a republic. In 1776, the revolutionaries issued a Declaration of Independence, with a text that rang out with enlightened precepts, ranging from the practical notion of government accountability to the credo that every individual had a natural right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
It would take eight years of war before the Declaration could be put into practice, and, when it was, the power relationships within the new state revealed that Enlightenment still had its limitations: the land’s original inhabitants were being remorselessly driven into the wilderness, slavery was legal, and only a small percentage of the male population — and none at all of the female — enjoyed the right to vote. Nevertheless, the principles of tolerance, self-determination and equal citizenship in a democratic republic had become reality, and the force of these ideas would prove unstoppable.
Soon thereafter the Old World experienced its own revolutionary upheavals. In 1789, France’s disaffected bourgeoisie and downtrodden poor rose up together against their weak but autocratic king. The men who came to power when the monarchy fell were the children of the Enlightenment. They had imbibed the unsentimental rationalism of Voltaire, the broad historical perspectives of Montesquieu, and the passionate social idealism of Jean Jacques Rousseau (“The Age of Reason”). The bloody course of their Revolution, with its years of terror and turmoil, might have horrified these mentors, but the Revolution’s rallying cry of “Liberty!
Equality! Fraternity! ” was a triumphant answer to a century of searching and fundamental questions. II. The American Revolution “That whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, that is against the protection of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, it is the right of the people to change or to abolish it and to establish a new government laying the foundation on such government as to them shall seem most likely to affect their safety and happiness. ” American Declaration of Independence
The signing of the Declaration of Independence as drafted by Thomas Jefferson summed up the spirit of America’s feelings on liberty and equality. It expressed their final resolve to break with Britain and put an end to the long years of rule by a king and Parliament thousands of miles away from America. This document united the thirteen colonies of diverse culture, faith, and temperament, uniting them as a new nation. They had crossed the Rubicon. “We must all hang together or else we will be hanged separately by our enemies,” warned Benjamin Franklin, a delegate from Philadelphia (J.
Foe, C. Parco, and M. Coronado. “Revolution in America and France”). The Fight for Freedom America’s first shots of the revolution were fired in Lexington, Massachusetts. British soldiers had been sent on a secret raid to find and destroy rifles that had been collected by the revolutionaries. Warned by patriots such as Paul Revere, colonists fired upon the British troops. The American Revolution had begun. The Americans were up against a military giant, with 50,000 well-trained troops and another 50,000 Americans who wanted to remain British.
The British were well-equipped; they had superior numbers, and had their great navy offshore the colonies. Nevertheless, the inexperienced Americans ‘slew the giant’. There were several factors that contributed to their victory. The Americans were fighting on their own territory for their own survival. The British, on the other hand were not well-motivated to fight, and frequently faced unfamiliar and unfriendly territory. The English troops included Hessian mercenaries from Germany, who became attracted to the ideals of freedom and often defected to the Americans.
Although the Americans were poorly trained as soldiers, they had much experience handling guns in the wilderness of America. Further, they were led by a competent and tough leader by the name of George Washington. He inspired hope and courage in his men when all seemed to be lost. Although he had never won any battle before the revolution, Washington was a good military strategist. During the war, the British won most of the battles, but Washington made sure the Americans never were completely crushed. He only fought the British when the odds were in his favor.
He used hit and run tactics against the foes. The red uniform of the British made an easy target of the American snipers. Moreover, the distance between the British forces from their homeland brought communication and supply problems. As one historian noted that ‘every biscuit, man and bullet required by the British troops in America had to be transported across a wide ocean. ” The ships were small and cramped and it took at least six weeks to make a one-way trip. To make matters worse, British ships were harassed by pirates and other enemy ships, like the Dutch and the French.
Lastly, and probably the most decisive factor, unlike the British who fought alone without allies, the Americans were aided secretly at first and then openly by the French, Spanish, and Dutch. Other foreign influences on the outcome of the war came from the Polish and Prussians. What began as a struggle for American independence turned into a multinational war against England. III. Various Foreign Influences: A. French Contribution About twenty years prior to the outbreak of the revolution, colonial wars fought in North America which started as wars between despots in Europe.
These wars, involving Britain and France among others were the War of the League of Ausburg or the “King William’s War”, the War of Spanish Succession in 1702-14 was “Queen Anne’s War”, and the Seven Years’ War also known as the French and Indian War (G. Zaide and S. Zaide. “The Rise of the United States”). France and his allies lost heavily on the French-Indian War, resulting to the loss of her colonies mainly in North America and India. Economic policies of Britain only ensured to make money out of the New World to add to their home treasury and finance their wars in Europe.
They restricted trade and raised taxes against the desires of the native Americans. Although the British won, this exacted a great price. The cost of funding the wars and maintaining such colonies, which caused the British to lay down heavy taxes on its American colonies as their means of support in exchange for their protection, ignited a desire from the colonists to liberate them from England’s rule. King Louis XVI of France was not personally sympathetic to the cause of the American Revolution. But he held a grudge against the British who robbed him of his Canadian colony.
After suffering a disgraceful loss in the France and Indian War, France wanted to shift the balance of power, hoping to remove some of England’s dominance. The philosopher Rousseau helped Franklin lobby the French government to aid the Americans. Therefore France went to war with the Americans to exact revenge on the British Also, many of the French were sympathetic to the Americans. Later in the war, the French gave large numbers of infantry led by General Lafayette, and French warships reached the American revolutionaries.
They volunteered their services including Lafayette, as well as give off their financial support for the training of the many inexperienced and beleaguered American army (“French Volunteers and Supporters of the American Revolution”). In 1780 came the most crucial help, which was the arrival of French troops in Rhode Island. A year after this resulted to the defeat of the British who were under the command of Cornwallis. American and French troops fighting at each other’s side might have been an odd picture, considering that both parties had been enemies about fifteen years earlier.
France’s assistance became a significant instrument for the emergence of America as an independent nation (“The French Contribution to the American War of Independence”). B. Spanish Contribution That the Spanish fought alongside with Americans in the latter’s bid to be free of Britain’s control is not often taught or largely known by many. The subject’s ambiguity extends amongst historians who are not in agreement towards the extent and importance of Spain’s role for the forging of independence for the colony.
According to Samuel Bemis, Spain rejoiced over the fighting by the British and Americans that such a war could result to the dwindling of power for both. Like the French, the Spanish government was far from being inspired by the morals of democracy. It was also poised to seize and regain control of lost territories to England, with the end result of weakening the whole British Empire. But unlike the French, the Spanish support was not impassioned by the oppression felt by the Americans from the British. It could even have felt hostile to the cause, fearing this could spread and inspire its own colonies to revolt.
For Bemis, Spain’s involvement was not a key role for the success of the American Revolution (S. Bemis. The Diplomacy of the American Revolution). However, this has been challenged by many historians including Thomas Chavez. They believe that Spanish support played a significant role and its effects are far reaching than thought by many (T. Chavez. Spain and the Independence of the United States: An Intrinsic Gift). The colonists acknowledged that Spain’s financial and military contribution helped brought the victory (M. Recio.
“Exhibit Looks at Spain’s Influence on American Revolution”). C. Polish Contribution Some Polish immigrants played an illustrious military career as they served the Continental Army. Silas Deane and Benjamin Franklin’s recruitment of Tadeusz Kosciuszko in France, a Polish general and considered by his fellow countrymen as a national hero due to his victory over the Russian Empire, paved the Polish influence over American independence. Arriving in America in 1776, he served as a colonel of the Continental Army during the revolution.
Kosciuszko became an ardent believer of the tenets sited in the Declaration of Independence. This also led him to make effort to meet Thomas Jefferson, the man who penned the Declaration. The meeting created a bond of deep appreciation and friendship towards one another. One of his vital contributions was the fortification of Philadelphia. Other ports were constructed under his command which proved critical such as the American retreat from the Battle of Ticonderoga and the battle won at Saratoga in 1777 (“Tadeusz Kosciuszko”).
Another key Polish influence was the nobleman Count Casimir Pulaski. A freedom fighter even in his native land, he fought against Russia’s control over Poland. Defeated, he left his country to escape captivity, transferred to different parts of Europe and finally came to France. Upon hearing of American’s struggle for independence, Pulaski sought to join the American’s fight. He volunteered his military service before Deane and Franklin. Later, he received recommendation by Washington for the count to serve as cavalry commander.
Later, he served the Continental army as brigadier general and proved his dedication for the cause (AnnMarie Francis Kajencki. Count Casimir Pulaski: From Poland to America, a Hero’s Fight for Liberty). D. Prussian Contribution One of the prominent Prussian influences of the American Revolution was Frederick William Freiherr Von Steuben, who enlisted himself to join the American’s fight against British rule. He gained military training and prominence as he served the Prussian’s fight during the Seven Years War (or French and Indian War). Proof of his mettle in battle was his ascent as aide to Frederick the Great.
He met Franklin in France, after which he sailed to America, armed with a letter of introduction to George Washington. His major contributions were his introduction of European military training and discipline to the unskilled colonist army and transform it to become more reliable, which lifted up the quality of service among its troops. He made considerable help to Washington in planning strategies and mobilization of the Continental Army. He was hailed as one of the credible heroes of the revolution (“Frederick William (Augustus) Freiherr (Baron) Von Steuben Biography, 1730–94”).
IV. Conclusion Clearly, without foreign assistance or influence, the American victory would have been impossible. Fortunately for the Americans, this aid came with no strings attached. Neither Spain nor France gained territory for her efforts in this costly war. Ironically though, France’s major assistance to the American’s fight for freedom brought the French government into debt and financial crisis. In fact the war helped destabilize the French nation’s economy, leading to the French Revolution. It inspired liberalism and brought a wave of change throughout Europe.
The change it brought was inevitable. Not only did it set aflame the winds of revolution in France but to the American colonies of Spain as well (“American Revolution – The Complete History 1775-1783”). The American success story could not stop the inspiration that a nation can change its own society. It marked a new milestone in the history of democracy. The Americans asserted their right to establish their own government, which sent the waves across the Atlantic and to people everywhere — the will of the people should reign supreme in any society.
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