The core values and beliefs that led to the American Revolution and the writing of the Articles of Confederation are the quest for independence, freedom/liberty and respect for the fundamental human rights and freedom of the citizens. In the view of colonists, the rule by the British Kingdom suppressed their economic, political and religious freedom and rights as evident by phrases such as “Give me liberty or give me death!” “No taxation without representation!” that were chanted during the period leading Revolution (Aron, 2009. The colonists, therefore, advocated for a nation that would not undermine the freedom and rights of the citizens like the British did, a free nation.
The British government had ruled the American colonies for almost a century, and during that time, the colonies, thirteen of them felt that the British rule ignored their rights. The group of colonies were persuaded that the British government was depriving them of their freedom and fundamental human rights (Middlekauff, 2007). As such, the colonies wanted independence from the British government so that they can rule themselves. The quest for independence, freedom and the fundamental human rights, therefore became the core values and beliefs of the American colonies. The values impacted the spread of the idea that a revolution was necessary, and subsequently the writing of “Articles of Confederation”, the foundation for the country’s new administration.
A sequence of consultations, including the “Second Continental Congress, May 10th 1775-March 1st 1981),” followed as the tensions between the American colonies and the British government heightened. On July 4th, 1776, the representatives approved the “Declaration of Independence” marking the birth of the United States. Thomas Jefferson drafted the document, listing the complaints against the British government (Viegas, 2003). His key words in the Declaration of Independence document, clearly defined the core values driving the Revolution, and significantly shaped the philosophical foundation of the new government (Middlekauff, 2007). Thomas Jefferson’s introductory paragraph reflected the Social Contract Theory by famous English philosopher, John Lock. It read in part, “…to secure these rights [Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness], Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” Jefferson went ahead to argue that because the British had neglected these fundamental human rights, the American colonies had the absolute dictate to “to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government” (Aron, 2009). The British, however, did not approve of the Declaration of Independence and continued to release soldiers to contain the insurgences. The war continued up to 1783, and the new government had to be created in a period of war.
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The “Articles of Confederation” was created in 1776 but approved later in 1981 during the war. As the first formal document defining the United States government post-independence, the “Articles of Confederation” replicated the philosophies and ideals of the American Revolution, including, equal human rights. It also underscored the practical complications of democratic government. The principle of “unions for mutual defense” formed the governing principle for the creation of the “Articles of Confederation”. The idea of unions for joint defensive originated in 1643 with the formation of the first colonial union, New England Confederation. The idea was that a union was essential in defending against the potential invasion by the French and the attack by Indians (Perdue, 2004). The same principle applied during the fight for independence, freedom and respect for human rights—the values for the Revolution.
Nonetheless, the “Second Continental Congress” came in place purposefully for the conjoint defense of the thirteen North American colonies. It swiftly found itself in 1776, fighting a full-scale war and leading America to the achievement of its first core value—independence. Congress successfully succeeded in directing the Revolution effort—preventing national anarchy through improvisation and consensus as there was no organized system of laws at that time. (Rakove, (2003). However, numerous controversies arose when Congress approached the subject of creating a constitution that would control the state affairs, significantly how to balance power between the states and the federal government. The representatives had no reliable point from which they could borrow the idea of how to run the new democratic form of government (Viegas, 2003). Both the radicals and the conservatives had conflicting interpretations of the effects of the American Revolution.
The radicals believed that Revolution was purposefully meant to form a government, and power solidly was to be in the hands of the people, unlike in the previous structures that existed before. As such, the confederation was interpreted to reflect the past unions, trusted with the power to provide mutual defence exclusively. Sovereignty, according to the radicals, belonged to the people under the control of state governments, not a powerful federal government. On the contrary, the conservative perceived American Revolution as an opportunity to take away power from the British elites and place it exclusively in the control of an American federal government (Israel, 2019).
The radical’s viewpoint largely influenced the shape of the newly formed American government as established by “Articles of Confederation” (Israel, 2019). The Articles were submitted for ratification by the states in the middle of the war with Britain government. However, most people feared that the new post-Revolution American government might be damaging to the rights and freedom of the citizens as the British one—rendering the Revolution struggles futile (Rakove, (2003). The government established and approved following the approval of the “Articles of Confederation” in 1781, thus comprised of a national congress with exceedingly limited controls thirteen self-governing state-governments that held the equilibrium of power. However, the “Articles of Confederation” was thrown outin 1787, and a constitution drafted to move the nation forward. This followed the Shays’ Rebellion geared by frustrations imposed by the economic crisis and political confusions of the 1786 (Priest, 1999), which saw people beginning to assert their powers against the ineffectual government created by the “Articles of Confederation”.
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As such, it can be concluded that the freedom and fundamental human rights that the American Revolution wanted to preserve eventually led to the creation of a new government under the “Articles of Confederation”. Nevertheless, the new government faced challenges, economic chaos and inability to maintain law and order. However, the failures witnessed in the initial experiment provided a foundation for a perfect balance between liberty and order through the American Constitution drafted in 1787. “Articles of Confederation” provided a structure for the new government to survive while learning how to run an effective government.
Aron, P. (2009). We Hold These Truths…: And Other Words that Made America. Rowman & Littlefield.
Israel, J. (2019). The expanding blaze: How the American Revolution ignited the world, 1775-1848. Princeton University Press.
Middlekauff, R. (2007). The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution, 1763-1789. Oxford University Press.
Perdue, O. (2004). The New England Confederation: Its Origins in Puritan Covenant Theology (Doctoral dissertation, Union Institute and University).
Priest, C. (1999). Colonial Courts and Secured Credit: Early American Commercial Litigation and Shays’ Rebellion. The Yale Law Journal, 108(8), 2413-2450.
Rakove, J. N. (2003). The “Articles of Confederation”. A Companion to the American Revolution, 281.
Viegas, J. (2003). The Declaration of Independence: A Primary Source Investigation Into the Action of the Second Continental Congress. The Rosen Publishing Group.