In order to examine why America turned into the DemocraticRepublic that it did after the Revolutionary War one must first look into theunderlying elements that led to its development. Things like politics andunique sentiments for different ideologies played a big part into leading thecountry into war and shaping what the people of the country were supposed tobelieve in. A main proponent and source of conflict for these new beliefsystems was religion. It was a long disputed and troublesome issue that onlyadded to the melting pot of tensions between the British and the Americancolonists. So, the role of the first great awakening in developing one of thefirst modern governments based around secular values must be evaluated.
Overthe course of many years and different events/ struggles the United Stateswould be developed into a strictly secular country protected by its ownconstitution under the watchful eye of the found fathers and revolutionaries.We had had enough and with religion as the guide of the people and a new statewas created. Tobegin with, the Great Awakening was a revival of protestant ideologies thatcame over Europe and British America during the mid-1700’s.
People from allover were sick of the corruption and abuse of power that came with thethreatening of religious liberty from the Church of England. So, the peoplerose up and supported churches with pure doctrines which had yet to becorrupted by greedy or power-hungry officials of either church or state. Moreimportantly though, it taught people that it was of the upmost importance toquestion those in power when it seemed that what they were doing was just. Ittaught them that it was okay to question the past and other belief systems evenwhen the whole of their society was structured up on it. The questioning ofChurch Doctrine also led to the rise of new churches such as the Evangelistmovement perhaps one of the most revolutionary developments of the New World.It was because the people chose to question their own age-old belief systemthat evangelist preachers that believed and, “sought to include everyperson in conversion, regardless of gender, race, and status.” wereallowed to exist in their traditionally conservative society. Radicaldiversions from the norm such as these simply wouldn’t have been possiblewithout radical change in what was deemed acceptable in society.
Thankfully,years of corrupted officials and malpractice from not only British officials ofthe Church of England, but also governmental officials had pushed the peopleover the edge. The breakout of new ideological and revolutionary cultures leadingto a revolution in thought and general progressivism in the country. With thesenew ideas also came a certain rejection of the old ways including a rejectionof the Church of England and the British government. People wanted change, butmost of all they wanted to be rid of British beliefs that had been forced uponthem for so long when they were being occupied. The founding fathers did notwant the same systems of oppression that the British had to come into existenceagain one day in their government and so they structured things so thatreligion wouldn’t play such a big role in it. Most of all they wanted topreserve religious freedom which had been absent from their lives for so longwhile under the British. So, documents like the Bill of Rights and theConstitution were created with the belief that certain freedoms should besecured in the pursuit of a non-suppressive government that would allow peopleto pursue whatever religion that they thought was right. Although,religion wasn’t a huge cause of the Revolutionary war the lack of it did play apart in cementing new thought structures into the culture of the people ofBritish America.
Over the centuries the Church of England had claimed itselfinfallible, but once Protestant churches rose up and out of the woodwork thingsbecame more complicated. Now, their authority and credibility had come intoquestion with rebellious grassroots movements in tow. All of a sudden it had tocompete with new churches who claimed and believed that everyone had a right tochoose, distinctly challenging the church of England. Once, this becamecommonly accepted in the colonies it became just another one of the many lineson which the colonists and their rulers laid separated on. Now people wereeither Congregationalists or Presbyterians meaning that the colonists and theirrulers were now distinctly different from one another.
They wanted to distanceand distinguish themselves apart from them as much as possible because theydidn’t want anything to do with them. They wanted to make their own governmentwhere people could listen to and preach any belief that they thought wascorrect or that fit their own philosophy. The Great Awakening gave rise to beliefssuch as these.
When the Revolutionary war finally began most churches andreligious officials chose to stay out of it although each side believed thatwhat they were doing was righteous in the eyes of god. The colonists believedthat it was their responsibility to stand up to tyranny as had been time somany times before in the scriptures. The British on the other hand had theirown religious officials pledge themselves to the kinh by oath and that “theprincipal Seat of the glorious Kingdom which Christ shall erect upon Earth inthe latter Days.” in the new colonies.
When they did finally win it wasseen as a sign from god that he was partial towards America when forced todecide between his children. One person who believed that this undoubtedly fittheir new theology was Jonathan Mayhew. He believed that Christian resistanceto tyranny and in this case against the British was an obligation of allChristian people and it wasn’t that extreme during the times of therevolutionaries. Still, they believed that it was important to preservereligious freedoms when creating the government that they had fought so hardfor in their struggle against the British. When the British wanted to land aBishop here we stood steadfast and resisted their stealthy advantages becauseit was under control of the revolutionaries and not the British. to had foughtso hard to see it won by the British. They were not about to expose themselvesto religious influence when the ideals of the Great Awakening had told themthat they had to distance themselves from the British and to foster ideals thatwere not possible under the British. These ideals went into the founding ofAmerican government and in the development of government after the war.
Thankfully we resisted attempts to intrude on freedoms such as these and werose to independence after years of struggle. We got the religious independencethat we fought so hard for. Furthermore,once the American Revolution had given the American people a moral right tostand up themselves and assurance that their cause was righteous it became mucheasier for the average person to support these causes. When once they had beenseen as extremist now it could be accepted as the norm. Their new governmentwon credibility because victory proved to everyone that god was on their sideand during that time period it made a world of difference. Also, the cultureduring this time period is characterized by the fact that there was an increaseand finally for the first time an acceptance of “secular optimism”.This mean that man and god were distinctly different whether or not godexisted.
All of these ideas culminated in a secular government in which peoplewere free to pursue whatever religions that they wanted to. All of thisbecoming acceptable because of years of people pursuing progressive beliefs andquestioning the traditional in lieu of extenuatingly dire circumstances. So,people stuck to their beliefs systems through war and tribulations leading tothe development of a new republic in which the common person had a chance to bewhoever they wanted to be. All the while being free from persecution and underthe protection of a new and progressive constitution with only the interests ofthe people it served at heart. Today Benjamin Franklin’s, “zeal for publicgood” in the face of corruption is preserved through the constitution asit is shaped by years of struggle and deviation from what was deemeduniversally acceptable in favor of pursuing the best possible basis for agovernment that quite simply served the people.
This was instead of outdatedbeliefs that were to be forced on them if they showed any sign of rebellion inthe case of British rule. Even though during the revolutionary war religiondidn’t play a huge role it certainly did in the shaping of cultural ideologiesin the face of adversity and even ones that were deemed too controversial forto be accepted in any other time period other than at that very time. Religion was what shaped our country even ifthe revolutionary war was more politically motivated than anything. The beliefsthat rose from rebellion are what went into establishing the ideals that wewanted to make available to people in the country. We wanted to make sure thatevery person had the right to choose for themselves instead of being forced to followa certain code or belief. The founding fathers wanted to prevent the oppressionthat had followed the colonies for so long under the British. The establishmentof protestant churches and the beliefs that sprouted up and out of them arewhat made the country what it is today.
It is what made radical beliefs likethat each person should be able to pursue whatever religion they wanted tookay. So, the great awakening fostered ideals that would not have been possibleunder oppression and this effectively led to. Government became free ofreligion because of the ideals that had sprouted through the Great Awakening.They are what allowed the government to justify things such as freedom ofreligion. Anotherone of the manifestations of the progressivism that stemmed from the GreatAwakening and subsequent Protestantism was Manifest Destiny. For too long thepeople of British America to the boundaries of their own subjective statesbecause it was simply easier to control. People were fed up with high land pricesand just how packed everyone was so many jumped at the chance to expandwestward when the time finally came. According to Historian Frederick Meyeranother one of their motivations could have come from, ” a sense ofmission to redeem the Old World by high example .
.. generated by thepotentialities of a new earth for building a new heaven”. So, we expandedto the west developing the land as we went along and forming a better world.
One that was now free of abominations such as religious corruption, or at leastin the United States, and beginning to take its first steps towardsindustrialization and meaningful progress. Factories, steamboats, and trainssprung up across the countryside. Wealth finally became diverted from wealthylandowners to people that were highly skilled and were capable of creating veryspecialized things. All the while things like the Church of England faded outfrom existence in the US and eventually were eliminated completely because thehead of the organizations was of course and English monarch.
Also, anotherreligious group called The Quakers formed the first anti-slavery organizationin the country’s history in 1775, the year the revolution itself began. Alongwith this during the revolutionary war the British freed many slaves hoping todisrupt the American economy at some point. While this did perhaps have a veryminor effect this more importantly led to the development of black communities.In 1807 with help with groups like the Quakers revolutionary sentiment becameplentiful enough to ban the importation of slaves into the country. Northernstates also began to either ban slavery completely or to gradually phase itout, never granting things such as equal rights though. TheDeclaration of Independence is important because obviously it signified thesecession of us from the British as a territory, but also because it outlinesvery radical language that was uncommon for the time.
First and foremost, theDeclaration of Independence was a very import legal document. So, when it statedthat “We hold these truths to be self-evident, That All Men Are CreatedEqual; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights;that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Wequickly became one of if not the most progressive countries on the face of theplanet. Although, we still left out anyone that wasn’t a white male fromgaining power in the country this was still a big leap forward.
No longer wouldthe country be allowed to be ruled by oligarchs or select groups of theprivileged and wealthy. Another influential and revolutionary passage from thedeclarations of independence is, ” that they are endowed by their Creatorwith certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and ThePursuit of Happiness.”.
Again, a stunning departure from traditionalvalues as motivated by both religious and political values. To declare all menequal was to give up decades of having a rigged power structure in which theruling class of select white men was always in power. Stating that all men hadrights meant that all men had a right to a variety of different freedoms andpower no matter the circumstances. Also, to take a look at the bigger picture,the revolutionaries took control from a monarchy and instead established arepublic in which every single white man was equal.
This drastic departure fromtradition was the result of decades long efforts to dismantle the status quo,but also to create a future where everyone had the opportunity to make somethingof themselves and that is the world that we live in today. A world defined bythe revolution in religious thought, freedom and even the lack there-of. Finally,as emphasized by the principles of the declaration of independence the purposeof any meaningful government was as interpreted by the founding fathers toensure the preservations of the rights of the people with their consent. Orperhaps more specifically with their own power being derived from the peoplethat it serves. So, in order to do this, they embraced radical concepts such asRepublicanism, Religious Freedom, and the concept of general equality amongwhite men.
Although, it certainly isn’t what we’re used to today it certainlyis a huge part of understanding where we come from. Over time these ideasbecame the seeds for a variety of freedoms that we enjoy today and are atestament to the genius of the founding father. Begun by the proliferation of anew era of religious thought a chain reaction of events begun without knowing whereit would take anyone. If anything, the source of all of this can be said to befrom the people of the colonies just having enough with all of the injusticethat was being forced upon them during their own desire for freedom andsomething better. Still, where all of those beliefs came from is ultimatelyfrom the questioning of traditional and commonly accepted norms as a result ofan awakening of Protestantism. Inconclusion, events such as the great awakening in the United States led to arevival of Protestantism. Along with this came a questioning of the status quoand a new renaissance for progressive ideals along with rights for groups ofpeople that encompassed more of the population.
Progressive movementsindirectly led to the development of the revolutionary war by allowing thequestioning of authority to become acceptable in the general population. As aresult, our country gained independence and we gained the power to governourselves. Immediately we replaced our monarchy with a Republic in which ourfounding fathers pledged to uphold the sanctity of government. Deriving powerfrom the people and dedicating themselves to making sure that above all thedevelopment of a government where most people had a voice was always going tobe possible. They did so by explicitly saying in the declaration ofindependence that all men are created equal and that everyone is entitled touniversal rights. A controversial and radically progressive ideology which cameto embody the era that came after protestant revivalism. Although the foundingfathers were somewhat shortsighted in some of their policies and meanings whatthey established for the basis of the government led to some great things.
Concepts like Manifest Destiny became more appealing and the average personfinally had a chance to make it in a world characterized by the odds beingstacked against the common man. Finally, though with progressive ideals andhope for the future religious motivations and theory inadvertently led to thedevelopment of a more developed and overall stronger country. One in which wehad to answer to no one and we were finally free to do as we pleased. Even ifit took a whole revolution the ideals that emerged from them are what allowedthe country to move forward and to have made progress that would otherwise nothave been possible.
At the core of all of these events is the Great Awakening.The jump starts we needed for developing the progressive ideals that pushed usout of the dreary 18th century and into the future and ultimately progress. Therevolution that came before the war was an ideological one in which we learnedwhat we were really fighting for and what all of that really mattered to notonly the founding fathers, but also for future generations. Progressivismreally is the source of most of the progressive that came upon the UnitedStates before our war for Independence and our war for ideological freedom.