The story of the American Colonies break from the British Empire with an emphasis on it's leaders and causes from Lexington to Yorktown
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In the latter part of the eighteenth century, traditional governments in
Europe were challenged by a wave of political revolutions, the most
significant of which were the American and the French. These movements
resulted from dynamic economies and drastically changing societies, but they
were also products of the Enlightenment. In addition, they owed much to the
English limited monarchy, with its cabinet system, which was initiated by the
Glorious Revolution of the seventeenth century.
The American and French revolutions were similar to the earlier Dutch and
English upheavals but they were conditioned more directly by an expanding
capitalistic economy which gave them more of a middle-class orientation. They
were also more secular in tone. Their impacts upon other societies were
naturally more forceful; indeed, they nearly completely destroyed the
credibility of absolutism and aristocracy by popularizing and applying the
principles of the Enlightenment.
Despite their obvious similarities, the two revolutions also were
significantly different. The American movement was more limited in scope and
in direct political effects. It was unique in its own time as a demonstrable
proof of the "return to nature" and the practicality of the "social contract."
Its foreign influence was primarily indirect, through the emotional and
intellectual appeal of its example. The French Revolution, on the other hand,
was much broader in its economic, social, religious, and political results. It
brought the violent overthrow of a social order that had lasted for centuries.
Moreover, it launched military conquests that brought the same general
upheaval to the whole of western Europe.
Both revolutions merit serious study today. They left a legacy of liberal
and constitutional ideas for all peoples, as evidenced by the Latin American
movements of the early nineteenth century and by many more recent ones in Asia
and Africa. This heritage of the French Revolution has been partially obscured
by another legacy of nationalism and war. In contrast, the American liberal
heritage has been maintained, almost completely intact, into the twentieth
century. Rural people in a vast land which continually beckoned the pioneer,
stayed closer to the simple individualistic assumptions of the eighteenth
century. That is why American individualism is dying so hard and with such
contortions in our time.