Once the Americans were free from British control after the American Revolution, they started to reevaluate their politics, the economy, and society. After America broke away from what they saw as a corrupt and damaging government, they altered how they wanted to govern their society, even though they returned to a more centralized government similar to the British. Those who weren’t educated, as viewed by the elite, didn’t experience a lot of change however the concept from the revolution still guided some to seek more financial opportunities.
Women, slaves, and loyalists experienced the most amount of change in society as women experienced more freedoms, some slaves were set free, and loyalists left America. Overall, America didn’t experience a lot of economic change, however it did experience political and social change. As soon as the Americans first broke away from Britain, they wanted their government to not resemble Britain’s at all. By doing this, they adopted the Articles of Confederation that had no national executive branch.
However, because the government under the Articles of Confederation had about no power because it couldn’t raise money through taxes, the people who led the national government came to realize that a more centralized government was needed. As the constitution was written and it was in the process of being ratified by all the states, the federalist papers written mostly by Alexander Hamilton were written.
In one paper by James Madison, he writes “Ambition must be made to counteract ambition” (Doc I), which shows the concept of checks and balances could be used to keep the national government in line and controlled. The Constitution, finally ratified, was similar to Britain’s government but also different in its more active system of checks and balances. Economically, Americans did not experience a lot of change. The Philadelphia society for the promotion of agriculture in 1786, handed out a medal, which said, “venerate the plough” (Doc F).
This shows how the elite were still rewarding the common people who weren’t financially better off than before the revolution. Similarly, in Shay’s Rebellion farmers led by the ex-military officer “[stopped] the courts of justice in several counties…crying out for a paper currency, [or] for an equal distribution of power” (Doc G). Shay’s Rebellion represented the economic conflict that the common people were continuing and eventually rebelled against though their actions were for nothing after they were broken up.
After the Revolution, women, slaves, and loyalists experienced differing degrees of change in society. Women, trained in the concept of Republican Motherhood, to embed values of justice and liberty in their children had taken over roles during the revolution. In a woodcut of a patriot woman, a woman is drawn carrying a rifle and a gunpowder horn (Doc A), representing how women played more significant roles in society by accompanying the fighting soldiers and in this case, fighting alongside them in the revolution.
However, all women were not happy to go back to their household chores after the revolution as seen by Molly Wallace who says “if [taught] to read, why not speak? ” (Doc J), illustrating how some women wanted to further their domestic roles and play a larger role in society. However, women suffrage would not occur for about another 140 years so their change in society was low. For slaves, depending on the region, there was much change in society.
After the revolution, many slaves were set free in the North, though it would take until the civil war for the slaves in the south to be set free. Under the Northwest Ordinance in 1787, “There shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in said territory” (Doc H), showing how slavery’s role in society changed significantly in people’s minds to outlaw it in new territories. The Loyalists, or the Tories, also experienced significant change in society.
After the revolution they were despised and in Pennsylvania Packet, it is said “Never let [the Tories] return to this happy land” (Doc B), demonstrating the hatred directed towards those who remained loyal to the British during and after the revolution. Loyalists experienced so much change in society that many left America, never to return, removing themselves altogether from the colonists as a result of the negative change.
Politically Americans experienced some change by forging a new government even though they took a new direction in the end. Economically, the common people, who fought for better lifestyles, still lived under the elites. However a significant amount of change occurred for women, slaves and loyalists, although the loyalist position in changed in society turned to a very negative manner. In these ways after the American Revolution, society experienced change in political and social life, but not economically.