The American Revolution is a cornerstone geo-political event not just for the New World but for the entire globe. In retrospect, it is obvious that this mutiny against trans-Atlantic British dictates of the late eighteenth century is pivotal in shaping and altering power equations in coming decades and centuries. Although I started the course with a basic understanding of the significance and reach of this event, towards the end of the course my understanding is more complete and nuanced. Beyond nascent and immediate feelings of patriotism I am now able to see the revolution objectively and impartially. Going further back in history, I am now able to view the European colonization of the Western Hemisphere as inclusive of invasion, conquest, and genocide. I now look back with embarrassment about constitutional settlements that protected trade in slaves, committed government to helping slave catchers, and gave extra votes in Congress to slave owners. The moral perceptions that underpin those reappraisals oblige us to go further. In other words, it made me realize that there is good reason to question whether the American Revolution –the British colonies’ fight for freedom from the Crown–was morally justifiable.
At the beginning of the course I thought of the revolution in transatlantic terms, springing forth as a result of colonial domination. The initial perception was that the colonists were taxed without due representation in Parliament, their endeavor to gain autonomy promptly suppressed by the Crown, their reluctance to act subservient to unresponsive masters leading, justifiably, to the sweeping revolution. It is not that these initial conceptions were disproved during the course, but some of them were rectified. There is some veracity to the standard version of the War of Independence, for the colonists had genuine grievances against the British Monarchy. But, as I learned during the course, this version either colors or ignores certain obvious facts. Take say the plight of oppressed groups long inhabiting the vast North American landscape. Their voice was totally unrepresented in the discourse related to the revolution.
According to the doctrinaire version of the revolution, the colonists were regarded as the primary victims of injustice. This is blatantly false, because the principal victims were the colored people, including Native Americans, whose generosity and hospitality were grossly abused by the European settlers. Contrary to the belief that European Americans have been all too willing to accept, European émigrés came to inhabited territory in North America. Native Americans were populous and many dwelt in stable and structured communities. They had cleared land on the eastern seaboard and cultivated vast terrains. Their nations had established territories which were vital to the hunting component of their economies. These facts were evident to European settlers—especially to those who escaped starvation by accepting as gifts the fruits of Native American agriculture. Yet, distilled history of colonization largely neglects this aspect of early settlements.