Was the American Revolution a revolution?

Randy writes:

One apparent contradiction that has occurred to me, but that I have never seen discussed, is how the War of Independence is always referred to as the Revolutionary War. However, the document that initiated that war is called the Declaration of Independence. So how can it be called the Revolutionary War, or as the American Revolution, in the same manner as the French Revolution where the overthrow of the existing government was the goal. The colonies were simply declaring independence from Britain, not the overthrow of the British government.

Speaking of the French Revolution and all the led up to it, we are seeing the repeat of history. The philosophy of Rousseau that introduced the Noble Savage as being superior to the evil, western Christian white male is repeating itself two centuries later. We are soon to be ruled by our more recent “noble savages”.

LA replies:

Prior to the French Revolution, “revolution” had a different meaning. It meant revolution in the sense of the revolution of the earth around the sun in which the earth returns to its starting place. That was the meaning given to the English Revolution of 1688-89. The English felt that by toppling James II they were returning to the true order from which James had departed. The American revolutionists saw themselves in the same light. George III had departed from the true order by claiming a power over the colonies that had never been claimed before, and they were returning to the true order in which the colonies governed themselves. There was a certain amount of mythmaking in the way the Americans saw their revolution, but it was essentially true.

The French Revolution—starting in June-July 1789 three months after George Washington was inaugurated as President of the United States in April 1789 and the American Revolution was in a sense completed—gave the word revolution a whole new meaning, as the total overturning of the order of a society. So, when we speak of the American “revolution” and the French “revolution,” we are speaking of two different categories of things. Thus there is no contradiction.

Karl D. writes:

I had no idea about the earlier usage of the word “revolution. ” Very interesting. Thanks.

Randy writes:

Thank you for the knowledge and insightful comments. I studied history in college but my real education didn’t start until I became a member of the Conservative Book Club. I have read Paul Johnson’s history of the United States and others but do not recall the explanation you provide. It takes more than a cursory interest to understand history.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at January 30, 2013 09:41 AM | Send

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