What is that, precisely? We hear about the revolution all the time, but what we are really hearing about is the Revolutionary War. The shooting part. That is what is in the history books and the lessons we learned in school. The men and women of the time thought of the Revolutionary War and the Revolution as two different things. We all know when the Revolutionary War started. We were taught in school that it started July 4th 1776, when the Colonies declared their independence from the Crown. That is wrong, but we will get there later. So what was the American Revolution, if not the war?
When asked, John Adams replied:
The Revolution was effected before the War commenced. The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people; a change in their religious sentiments of their duties and obligations. This radical change in the principles, opinions, sentiments, and affections of the people, was the real American Revolution.
Webster has several definitions for revolution, but this one strikes me as most fitting: “A fundamental change in the way of thinking about or visualizing something.” If we take John Adams explanation along with Webster’s definition, it changes everything about how we think of our revolution.
The revolution, the change in minds and hearts, could be said to have begun back in Europe and was the cause of the colonists migration to the Colonies. That revolutionary ideal took root and grew here, it was the radical change John Adams spoke of.
The first settlers arrived on these shores with no support, no government, and no structured society. They had to build it themselves. Once they did, once they began the act of “self governance”, it became a part of their culture. A parent begins to participate in self governance and passes that duty on to their children, who in turn raise children who do not know any other way. Self governance becomes the new normal. The new normal, do you see that?
Now let that idea breathe for a few years, grow over five or ten decades, and you will see that it really was not much of a revolution at all. Denying those rights by force was now the radical thought. The idea that every living being had inalienable rights was the new normal.
When you look at the revolution through the eyes of our fore fathers, you see that they were not fighting to gain anything. They were fighting to preserve something. Something they believed could not be taken away by any earthy power.
The revolution was, in my mind, not an event or a time period. It was a process. A culture that grew over generations and was never meant to end.