Three Reasons the American Revolution Was Unique
The American Revolution was not like most of the revolutions in history.
The American Revolution was not like any other. As the July 4th celebrations come to a close, it is sometimes easy to forget just how unique it was in so many ways. In fact, the American Revolution was not like any other in history for three main reasons.
Firstly, the revolutionaries were outcasts and social misfits at their edges of their societies and the victorious revolutionaries gave themselves unlimited powers and used them to crush any opponents real or perceived. In the American Revolution, possibly uniquely in history, this was not the case. The American revolutionaries were not the social losers or misfits that other revolutions in history produced. They were the cream of their social elite, moved in very exclusive circles and were fabulously wealthy and comfortable. George Washington had a personal wealth of nearly $700 million in today’s money. They could have kept this life of comfort, status and luxury. But they did not. Instead, they abandoned all of that for a cause they believed in and in doing so, exposed themselves, their assets and their very lives to destruction. It would be the equivalent of billionaires like Jeff Bezos suddenly abandoning it all and living as a guerrilla on the run for years at a time.
Secondly is the aftermath of the American Revolution. In history, victorious revolutionaries typically pitilessly settled scores with opponents real and imagined. In the aftermath of the French Revolution, which took place in a similar time window to the American Revolution, 300,000 people were rounded up in paranoid crack downs on real or perceived dissent. At least 17,000 were guillotined and over 10,000 died in prison without trial. But in the American Revolution, the victors graciously invited those who had backed the British to return to their normal lives. Merchants who had considered fleeing to the UK were persuaded to stay and became the nucleus of the American economy.
Finally victorious revolutionaries in history amassed and built total power around themselves. The revolutionaries of the past often created totalitarian states with absolute unlimited power which they used to enrich themselves and enforce their will. By startling contrast, America’s revolutionary victors did the opposite. They constructed a constitutional system deliberately designed to restrain themselves and limit their power. By doing so, they prevented many of the atrocities that typically followed revolutions in other parts of the world.
As the last of the fireworks are used up, and cookout leftovers are eaten over the next few days, be sure to think about how different the American Revolution was.