Ideological, economic and historical factors that led a revolutionary vanguard to declare independence from England in 1776

The American declaration of independence from an unfair British rule was a major event in modern world history.  The implications of the revolution go beyond America, for modern electoral democracy is largely a consequence of it. The revolution in America effectively began in 1763 when people of the American colonies revolted against the principle of taxation without representation.  Although the colonies were self-governed from thirty years earlier, the straining relationship with the British crown became more acute with the passage of each new tax law.  The series of tax laws, including the Sugar Act, the Stamp Act and the Currency Act aggravated the grievances of an already over-taxed colonial population.  Almost all trade-related shipments to and from the Eastern American coast was deemed taxable.  While some of the taxes were reasonable, others were plainly unjust, given that the colonists were not granted representation in the affairs of the Crown.  The British Crown reasoned that such taxations were necessary to keep up its expansive and expensive naval operations.  But its use of authoritarian methods in enforcing tax laws proved to be the decisive spur for American Revolution.  For example, when some of the governing officers in the colonies expressed their solidarity with fellow colonists, the British Crown took a hasty decision to dismiss and replace all disloyal officers and took more stringent measures to enforce taxation laws.   This move further alienated the colonists and primed their thoughts for independence.

Studying the American declaration of independence in retrospect, we see that the British rule, by its obstinate, inconsiderate and high-handed approach to dealing with colonial affairs, had triggered the revolt.  By 1770 the movement for independence had gathered substantial following, making it a full blown war against Britain.  Colonists gathered in huge numbers and participated in protestations.  They applied paints on their faces, wore Mohawks as a mark of identifying with America, while simultaneously distinguishing themselves from British troops.  It was at this juncture that the famous Boston Tea Party happened.  Acting in disobedience to the orders given from England, the colonists marched down onto the ships that sat in the bay that contained crates of tea.  After boarding the ships they requested the keys to unlock the containers which contained the crates of tea and started tearing open and tossing every last crate of tea into the water. Their fury was such that they made sure that the last floating crate of tea was duly sunk into the saline ocean waters.  The Boston Tea Party sent a strong message to the British Crown that the colonies wanted complete independence and separation from the rule of England.

The American Declaration of Independence was in no small measure inspired by the intellectual awakenings of that time. During this time, intellectuals such as Thomas Paine, Rousseau and Voltaire published influential pamphlets, articles and books which caught the imagination of the general public.  This period saw the flourishing of philosophical and political thought and brought reason to the centre stage of these fields of enquiry.  Hence, this period in Western history, came to be termed the Age of Enlightenment.  As people got educated about the enlightenment ideals and principles, they started to question the authority of the monarchy and the excesses of the aristocracy.  They no longer believed in the divine rights of Kings and Queens and started believing in the trinity of equality, liberty and fraternity.  The result is the radical change in public consciousness that expressed itself in the form of revolution.

As a result of the revolution, a strong foundation for fostering of democracy was established in the United States, although some states continued to follow the system of slavery and only white men were entitlement to land ownership.  Even before the American push for independence started, many colonies had already enjoyed years of successful self-governance, and weren’t about to allow the king of England to strangle their success. Furthermore, the colonists were actually allowed to vote for or against the revolution.

And finally, in retrospect, subsequent generations of citizens in the United States have to thank their brave forbears for carrying out the American Revolution and securing for them their rights and freedoms, which are institutionally guaranteed and protected by the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. This has allowed the United States to become the most powerful industrialized nation in the world and the envy of all other nations.


John M. Murrin, Paul E. Johnson, James M. McPherson, Gary Gerstle, Emily S. Rosenberg, Liberty, Equality, Power, A History of the American People: To 1877, retrieved from <> on 6th June, 2010.