Was the American Revolution a Civil War?
The similarity and the differences between revolutions and civil wars has informed various historical concepts in the recent past. One of the things that historians have revealed is that civil war and a revolution appear to be similar due to various aspects of motivation and tactics. In some cases, these terms have been used interchangeably. John Shy, a contemporary historian, identified the American revolution as a civil war. This concept dominated numerous debates in history and numerous historians in the recent past have linked the two terms (Wood, 2013). Various factors inform the argument that the American Revolution was not a civil war as numerous historians have depicted. The aims of the revolution One of the common factors that reveals that the American revolution was not a civil war are the aims of the of the war. The main aim of the conflict was to attack the British regardless of the target objective. The Battles in Lexington and Concord triggered the meeting at Philadelphia which is dubbed the Second Continental Congress. The meeting involved delegates from every state across the country. All the delegates supported armed conflict (Brinkley, 2016). However, there were two groups that disagreed on the purpose of the war. John and Samuel Adams led one faction and argued for an independent America. On the other hand, John Dickinson, a delegate from Pennsylvania hoped for a reconciliation with Britain. At the beginning of the war, the conflict was not about independence but it was focused on addressing the grievances that the people had against the British rule (Wood, 2013). As the war progressed, many colonists started to change their minds about the conflict because of the approach that the British took during the war. The British continued to incur heavy costs during the war and the crown assumed that the aims of the war were too expensive to pursue. The crown came up with a plan to recruit Indians and African Americans to join the war. The crown also hired German mercenaries. The colonists were angered by the move that the British initiated (Wood, 2013). In Virginia, the Royal Governor made the "Lord Dunmore's Proclamation" where in 1775, he revealed that the slaves who were owned by rebels could leave their masters and join the British in the extensive war efforts. The tension between the colonists and the British government intensified when the colonial government blocked the ports and rejected efforts of reconciliation. The colonists agreed that the best move was to claim their independence. Statistics reveal that at the beginning of the war, about a third of the colonists supported the crown but as the war progressed, the colonists did not support the war efforts (Brinkley, 2016). In 1776, Thomas Paine, a colonist, shared the sentiments that the colonists had towards the crown. The pamphlet published on January 1776 turned the anger of the Americans towards the parliamentary system of British. The pamphlet was entitled "Common Sense" and it highlighted the need to break away from the British system based on the argument that the system was oppressive towards its own people. Common Sense was written in plain English and in the first months of 1776, the pamphlet reached to many people hence stirring the idea of independence and consequent rebellion (Brinkley, 2016). The American Declaration of Independence The other factor that differentiated the American revolution as a revolution and not a civil war was the Declaration of Independence. The efforts made by various parties pushed the Continental Congress in Philadelphia to shift its objectives to separate from the British. The Congress made a declaration on January 2, 1776 where it resolved that "these United Colonies are, and, of right, ought to be, free and independent states; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain is, and ought to be totally dissolved (Brinkley, 2016)." The American Declaration of Independence was approved on July 4 and this provided a justification of the resolution. Thomas Jefferson and other supporters of independence created the Declaration of Independence. The first section of the declaration had one of the most famous statements where Jefferson stated that the main role of governments is to protect "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness (Wood, 2013)." The second section provided a list of the crimes that the King in Britain had committed because he violated the contract agreement between the British government and the colonists. The Declaration of Independence showed that the revolution was not a civil war because all forces in America were united towards independence and against the British. The Progress at the Battlefield The other factor that differentiates the American revolution from a civil war is the progress in the battlefield. The progress of the war indicated that the conflict was about the suppression of the British rule and the fight towards independence. The war progressed in the North and in the South. At first, the British fought the war with the aim of suppressing a rebellion from the Americans. This miscalculation led to misappropriation on the tactics that the British applied on the Americans (Wood, 2013). The conflict changed course when the Americans attacked Canada in the north. The confrontation was led by General Benedict Arnold and they attacked and captured Fort Ticonnderoga in 1775. During the Spring of 1776, the British administration had discovered that the conflict was not a local situation but it was a campaign that had been launched against them in America and in Canada. The agitation spread to the mid-Atlantic colonies and this revealed that the colonies were now united towards a common enemy. Greta Britain had to change its tactics of fighting the conflict but the forces had already gained reinforcements (Brinkley, 2016). The conflict spread to other colonies because the leaders of the American front secured funding and aid from abroad. The leaders of the American front established that their closest allies at the time of conflict were the French who stood as enemies towards the British because the British were likely to lose some of their territories. The French supplied the needed resources to the American soldiers but refused to recognize the formation of the United States as a country on its own. The French made several decisions that attracted a heated conflict in Europe. In the end, some European countries such as Spain and Netherlands opposed the conflict and they stood against the British (Wood, 2013). The progress of the war in the south revealed that the conflict was more of a revolution than a civil war. The Americans had won in the battle at Saratoga because the French had intervened in the conflict. The British attempted to enlist the people who were still loyal to the crown including the slaves who were loyal to the crown. The loyalist mentality was very strong in the south especially in the Carolinas. The conflict in the South hence started because of the tensions between the loyalists and the patriots (Brinkley, 2016). However, the British lost in their tactical strategy because the patriots would integrate with the civilian population. The British suffered because while they freed slaves to join theme, they fostered hatred from the whites. This meant that the British were unable to destabilize the region. The Americans stood at an advantage when George Washington replaced the general in the South and placed a tactical general Nathaniel Greene. Greene avoided the open field confrontations until he fought the British general Cornwallis. Cornwallis lost many men in the battle at Guilford Court and the British moved their front to Yorktown (Brinkley, 2016). The Americans under general Greene and with reinforcement from France attacked Yorktown and pushed the British general to surrender. On October 17, 1781, general Cornwallis surrendered and he forced his army of 7000 to surrender. Clearly, the confrontation was mainly about the British and the Americans and not about the patriots and the colonists (Brinkley, 2016). The progress of the conflict led to the signing of the terms that enhanced the independence of the United States. The final treaty was signed by delegates from the United States and Britain on September 3, 1783. The treaty terms provided a ground for independence in the United States. The last British forces left New York and the nation was recognized as independent. Conclusion The conflict commonly known as the American Revolution can be classified as a revolution and not a civil war. The foundation of this classification includes various factors such as the aims of the conflict, the American Declaration of Independence and the progress of the conflict.