Q5. Discuss the major philosophers during the American war of independence. How did their influence coupled with economic factors alter the course of this war?
The Revolution generated radical changes in the principles, opinions, and sentiments of the American people. New ideas and issues affected social customs, political ideals, and gender and racial roles as the thirteen colonies evolved into the United States. Debate and conflict over government authority, diverse state economies, federal control of western territories, and the new republic’s relationship with other nations transformed America’s political culture.
The American revolutionaries were inspired by the ideas of the English philosophers of the 17th century. These philosophers— Locke, Harrington, Milton—believed that men had certain fundamental rights which no government had the right to infringe.
Many leading colonists, most notably Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, followed the doctrines of deism, a religious outgrowth of the Enlightenment. Deists relied on the reasoning power of science rather than on faith
American thinkers, especially Thomas Jefferson, were also inspired by what French philosophers were saying and writing at that time. Jefferson asserted the colonists’ right to rebellion, and encouraged their increasing desire for independence.
Thomas Jefferson also led the fight to expand the separation of church and state. His Statute of Religious Liberty, enacted by the legislature in 1786, delineated the boundary between religious belief and the right to participate in government:
“Our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, any more than our opinions in physics or geometry…; All men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.” — Thomas Jefferson, Statute of Religious Freedom
Support for independence was forcefully expressed by Thomas Paine, who detested the inequalities of English society, and had come to America. In a pamphlet entitled ‘Common Sense’, he wrote, ‘It was repugnant to reason to suppose that this continent can long remain subject to any external power…there is something absurd in supposing a Continent to be perpetually governed by an island’.
He argued that the cause of American hostility toward the British government was not Parliament, but rather the monarchy, which he claimed was the true source of malice toward the colonists.
Common Sense called for an end to the colonists’ political wavering over British rule and promoted the concept of an American republic where free citizens, not a monarch, were in control. America, Paine concluded, had an obligation to the world to become an independent and democratic society.
The important “republican motherhood” responsibility created more educational opportunities for women and undercut the male-dominated perception that women did not deserve higher profiles in society. Abigail Adams set the foundation for future generations of feminists willing to fight for equal rights.