The American Revolution affected American society in many ways economically, socially and politically. Economically, the war brought many the colonists many monetary hardships, having lost the British as a trading partner. Socially, the movements for equality brought up questions about slavery and women and whether they deserved the same.. Political questions Economically, the colonies, though ready to fight, found themselves short on money to finance the war. In 1764, the Currency act had forced all colonies to trade in gold and silver, and eventually caused a shortage of hard money.
When it came time for the war, the government had no choice but start making paper money. The paper money only caused inflation as a result the American government had no choice but to borrow from other countries. This led to a substantial debt abroad and at home. The states paid off their debts by increasing taxes, but many people such as poor farmers couldn’t afford to pay. As Abigail Adams said in a letter to Thomas Jefferson “they cried out for paper money”, many of them wanted more money issued to help them meet their requirements. Doc G). This led to many riots including Shay’s rebellion. Daniel Shay was veteran and he demanded paper money, tax relief, relocation of the state capital and abolition of imprisonment for debt. This led to Massachusetts offering some tax relief and postponement of payments. The new states of America needed money. Trading became a new issue once the revolution started. Before the war, because of things like the Navigations acts, the colonies were dependent for most of their trading on Britain.
The first navigation act closed off all colonial trade except through English ships, the second made all goods from Europe to the colonies had to pass through England to be taxed before being shipped off. Once the war started they no longer had access to the markets of the empire. Even though this halted production for a period of time, in the long run it benefited the economy. America could now trade with other countries in the Caribbean, South Africa, and China. Americans also became aware that they should never need to be dependent on any other nation for manufactured goods.
They started making their own clothes, creating a huge textile industry, and manufacturing their guns and weapons. This all encouraged growth and prosperity in the American states. During this time period, slavery was very prominent, and women had no rights. A slave had nothing, and women were only seen a step up from slaves. They couldn’t own anything once they had been married. Women didn’t have any property rights and therefore couldn’t vote. Once the war started though, things began changed. Once the men went off to war, women were left to take care of all matters at home, on the farm, and the business.
Some women even went with their male relatives into war. They were first seen by men as distracting and disruptive, and incapable of being in war. Women were very benefiting to the war cause. They did the necessary tasks, like cooking, laundry, nursing and raised moral. But they didn’t just limit themselves to womanly tasks. As seen in the Woodcut of patriot women, women frequently picked up arms and went in to combat. (Doc A) once the war was fought and men and women alike went home, not much had changed for the status of women. But there was a new question in the air concerning women’s rights.
The talk of “rights as men” and liberty, brought many women to question their position and if they possibly deserved more than what was being given. Some women weren’t afraid to speak their voice. Molly Wallace wrote, “Many sarcastical observations have been handed out against female oratory; but what do them amount… No one will pretend to deny, that we should be taught to read. And if to read, why not speak? ” she shared thoughts with many women including Abigail Adams, and Judith Sargent Murray. (Doc J) Slavery was also scrutinized.
Many African Americans saw the revolution as exposure to the thoughtthe “all men are created equally”, including themselves. To white slave owners this was preposterous, that by keeping the slaves they were insuring liberty and safety for other people. Still the thought existed that, how could there be liberty for man, if slavery is still existent and predominant. Politically, many changes were created and put in place. Once the battle was won and the United States of America was created as an independent nation, a new government system was needed to be put in place.
James Madison wrote in the federalist, “But what is government itself, but the greatest reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary…” pointing out that a government was needed for stability. (Doc I) A unanimous decision was that all the governments would be republican. All the power would come from the people, instead of one person like a king. Another thing forbidden in every state was the possibility of a governor holding a seat in legislature. This was both legislative and executive branches of government were separate.
Many changes and revisions were made while people figured out what was needed, what worked, and what didn’t. One of the main issues was the western territory, and how to split it up. First, the land turned into ten self-governing district through the ordinance of 1784. Soon the Northwest Ordinance came along and this abandoned the 10 districts created earlier and turned them into a single northwest territory, that could be divided into three to five territories. Order in those areas wasn’t as predominant and the government had a hard time controlling those areas.
The government had to deal with keeping relations with the Indians while still expanding. From the beginning of the revolution, many Indians were apprehensive. Some, though very few, took this as a good thing that could lead to a good relationship with the Americans and this attitude changed over time. In 1783 we see in a message from the Chickasaw chiefs the hope of a better future, “It makes our hearts rejoice to find that our great father, and his children the Americans have at lengths made peace…and to find that our brothers the Americans are inclined to take us by the hand…”. Doc C)
Three years later in 1786 at the confederate council, the united Indians nations spoke a new mentality, “It is now more than three years since peace was made between the King of Great Britain and you, but we, the Indians, were disappointed, finding ourselves not included in the peace…for we thought that its conclusion would have prompted a friendship”, the Indians had realized what was happening but it was a bit too late. Doc E) Many whites resented Indians for joining the British in the revolution, and believed that the western lands were now theirs to do with that they wish. Once the natives realized this, they started attacking settlers. White Militia used this as an excuse to attack tribes that got in the way of expansion. The government had many things to deal with including, the Native Americans frustration towards expansion, the unstable government and people.
The American Revolution, was a well won victory that gave independence and liberty to the American colonies. But with that new found freedom many question came up that needed to be resolved. They had to learn to stand on their own, and start from nothing but an idea. All the aspects of American society was affected, socially with questioning rights for everyone not just white men, politically with trying to manage a new government, and economically with having to deal with a substantial war debt.