Equality and the American Revolution








Equality is something Americans strive to provide and maintain... we always have. It has become a necessary part of our culture... even now to the point that when people think of America, they naturally think of freedom and equality. The foundations of this country have relied upon it, just as it was the created by the events in the laying of those foundations. J.R. Pole states in his book, The Pursuit of Equality in American History, that the American Revolution plays an extremely significant role in the history of equality in American society. "The American Revolution in all its aspects constituted an upheaval which was also a point of departure and reference for all subsequent definitions of equality; it was a major event in the ideology and rhetoric of world history." (Pole, 3)
Pole suggests that the reason for the start of the American Revolution was an "outraged sense of equality." America was so offended by its mother country, England, that they put an unbelievable amount of emphasis on the very idea of equality; making it the "center of the nation’s public morality." (Pole, 38) When the revolution was over, the Bill of Rights and the Constitution -- the framework of this nation -- emphasized equality so greatly that it has now persuaded the rest of the world that America is, indeed, the so called, promised land; the land of freedom.
"The men who led the colonial protest... had little idea that they were inaugurating an intellectual upheaval." (Pole, 132) Yet, by the time the Revolutionary War was done, America had a new identity and new egalitarian values. And this new equality "retained a remarkably central place as the moral imperative around which American thinking turned..." (Pole, 132) Equality had begun, however inadvertently, in the aftermath of the Revolutionary War.
Pole states that during the time of the Revolutionary War, it would have been foolish to believe that any event, no matter how significant or momentous, would have foreseen "the proclamation of the ideal of natural rights equality as the general principle of the American people. Yet that is what happened in the American Revolution." (Pole, 23)
According to Pole, the Revolution caused what he calls the "Interchangeability Principle:" the idea that Americans are exchangeable with one another. This theory suggests that all Americans are equal in regards to their natural abilities. However, the differences appear in the area of circumstance: "...vast differences made by education, habits of life, leisure..." and so forth. (Pole, 142) Yet there is still the belief that America is devoid of any class structure. This was brought about by such historical events as the Revolutionary War; just as this idea is constantly being steeped in the minds of American society by any circumstance that promotes egalitarian beliefs. Any such fight for freedom or equality simply emphasizes the idea that America is a free nation, therefore, supposedly, free of social classes.
"But," as Pole states, "if we were to try to give the idea some formal definition it would be enough to describe it as a widespread, and often rather optimistic conviction that the social, racial, educational and economic differences that divide people... are not the most significant indicators of their true qualities or abilities." (Pole, 142) In other words, regardless of circumstantial differences, there exists an innate belief in American society that those differences do not make them any more or less valuable than anyone else.
Certainly, the Revolutionary War had a significant effect on the rise of egalitarianism in American society. Even though this effect was somewhat unintentional, it has created a nation with a strong sense of values and determination. The American Revolution produced the equality-driven nation that is known to Americans as well as other societies around the world.







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