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Essay/Term paper: Republican ideology and the american

Essay, term paper, research paper:  History

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The republican ideology is a facet of the social

fabric of the colonial citizens of America that may, arguably,

have had the greatest affect on the struggle for independence

and the formation of a constitutional form of government in

the United States. The birth of the republican ideology, while

impossible to place an exact date on, or even month, can be

traced back more than a decade before the Revolutionary

War. It can also be argued that this social machine began to

function as a result of circumstances which led many colonist

to choose to come to America. The uniformity of this

ideology, however, would change and modify itself as

circumstances warranted in the period between 1760 and

1800. It is first necessary to understand the exact reasons

why the ancestors of the American revolutionaries chose to

live in America, as opposed to staying in England, where a

healthy and prosperous life was a much greater possibility.

America was, in the eyes of its first English settlers, an open

book with no writing on the pages. It was the foundation of a

building that had not yet been built. Many felt that it was up

to them to shape the way this new land would function, as

opposed to the way Parliament or the King felt it should.

The memories of these early pioneering settlers were a

common theme for American revolutionaries before the

Revolutionary War. These early settlers were the creators of

the foundation to the building the revolutionaries would finish.

Another common theme which drove the revolutionary

ideology was the knowledge not only of the monumental

significance of the job to be undertaken, but also the impact

a free democracy on a scale as large as America would have

on future generations of Americans who, certainly, would not

take their freedom for granted. The ideology held by most

American revolutionaries was one in which they knew their

sacrifices would be acknowledged and appreciated by future

generations of Americans. There was also the knowledge

that America would serve as an example to God and the rest

of the world of what the advantages of a free society could

be. Religion also played an important role in the

establishment of this ideology. God, in the eyes of the earliest

revolutionaries, was on the side of liberty. There was

religious justification for actions undertaken by both England

and America. The English stated that rebellion was a sin,

while the Americans stated that the corruption of England, as

well as its intolerance of liberty to the point of warfare, was

also a sin. War, from the religious perspective of the

revolutionary in America before the outbreak of war with

England, was seen as a necessary evil. God could permit

war as a means of escaping tyranny, such as that which

England was symbolic of. God was, in the eyes of the pre

Revolutionary War revolutionaries, without question on the

side of liberty and personal freedom. The suffering of

Americans under the tyrannical hand of English government

was much the same as the suffering undertaken by Jesus at

the cross. He suffered for all the sinful people of the world.

He died for our sins. The revolutionaries felt much the same

way about any suffering that may be incurred throughout the

war. They felt that it would be looked back upon as a

sacrifice that they made for the success of future generations

of Americans. On an even larger scale, it would also be

looked upon as a sacrifice for liberty and freedom in all

countries around the world who suffered under the sinful

hand of oppression. The revolutionaries also had their own

ideas about independence as well. To them independence

was a necessity. It was absolutely key to any further

advancement towards their ultimate goal of freedom to enjoy

personal liberties. How exactly independence was physically

achieved was not as important as the fact that it had already,

and would always be, achieved in the minds of Americans.

Their thoughts and actions were already that of an

independent people regardless of whether or not England

still had legal domain over them. Independence was a

essential aspect of self-preservation which, according to the

revolutionaries, was their objective. Their motive was not an

act of active rebellion against authority as much as it was one

of self-preservation. As the Revolutionary War continued to

wage on longer than had been expected by many

revolutionaries, it became clear that some sacrifices, or

modifications of this ideology would have to be made. One

of the first clear examples of this can be seen with the

formation of the Continental Army. An army went directly

against the revolutionary ideology in that it necessitated a

sacrifice of personal freedom and liberty. While the decision

of one to join this army was well within the boundaries that

were deemed acceptable by revolutionaries of the time, the

rules and sacrifices one would have to make to serve in this

institution would go against the ideals set by revolutionaries.

An army was seen by the revolutionaries as a machine of

possible corruption, in that it held power significant enough

to wield itself against the principles of liberty and democracy.

As the war raged on, however, it became clear that some

type of army would be necessary. It was an evil necessary to

achieve the ends envisioned by the revolutionaries. What

resulted was an army that, in many respects, was different

from any other army of the time. The Continental Army

became a mixture of traditional military discipline and

republican ideology. The call to fight using an army existed,

but at the same time the suspicions of an army lingered. The

Continental Army would need a special form of discipline, as

well as a unique individual to lead it. George Washington

became the man for this job. Having past military experience

in the French and Indian War, as well as political experience

in the Virginia House of Burgesses, he was to make an ideal

general for the task at hand. Throughout his military duties in

the Revolutionary War, he was always under the command

of Congress. This insured that there would be no way for

him or his army to grow beyond the smallest size necessary.

Washington was faced with many difficulties, however, in his

term of military service during the Revolution. He had to

respect the personal liberties his soldiers possessed as

Americans, as well as keep some form of effective discipline,

and constantly plead with Congress for essential equipment

for his army. His handling of all of these problems is what

kept the Continental Army cohesive and effective throughout

the war. Another military figure in the Revolutionary War

who serves to show the unique nature of the Continental

Army was the Prussian general Baron von Steuben. It is he

who formed a uniform system of discipline that catered to

the soldiers revolutionary beliefs, while at the same time

making an effectively disciplined military machine. The

separation of the officers from the common soldiers, which in

traditional military discipline was deemed absolutely

necessary, was discarded in the Continental Army. Officers

were to eat, train, and drill their soldiers personally. Von

Steuben knew that this would be a more effective means to

discipline an army whose members fought not for an officer,

or for fear of an officer, but for a much larger cause which

did not even necessitate their participation in an army

anyway. The result of Von SteubenÕs methods was the

development of a sense of professionalism in the Continental

Army which, coupled with the ideologies of the men, was

sufficient motivation to fight until the end. One of the most

significant challenges to the original republican ideology

didnÕt come from the formation of an army, but came after

the war in the political arena which was, at the time, under

construction. Faction in the system of government, which can

be seen as an enemy of liberty and personal freedom and as

potentially destructive to the original republican ideology,

developed in the newly formed government after the war.

The faction developed, in some respects, along social lines.

Many merchants and businessmen had different ideas about

how the government should be run, than did rural agrarian

farmers which made up a large percentage of the voting

population. It is these rural farmers and small scale

merchants who tended to cling to the original republican

ideology more than urban merchants and businessmen. What

was developing was a party system consisting of two parties

that had much the same objectives, but differed greatly on

the means necessary to reach these objectives. What made

this situation so volatile, was the fact that a party system,

according to the original interpretation of republican

ideology, was a breeding ground for corruption. The reasons

for this assumption can be clearly seen in the English

Parliament, which consisted of three parties. The way in

which the American people responded to this can be seen in

several different ways. Although parties were looked upon

as a bad thing according to the original version of the

republic ideology, as it became clear that they were here to

stay, many Americans were forced to modify their opinions.

One man whose personal struggle with this issue is well

documented is James Madison. Madison, at first, supported

a multiplicity of parties over a system of only two parties.

The reasons for this clearly coincide with the ideals of the

Americans at the time. There should be many parties for

Americans to choose from because each person has the right

to believe whomever he or she wants. For this reason, there

should be many parties in which people could freely choose

to follow. As time and circumstances progressed however,

Madison opinion on the subject changed drastically.

Madison came to believe that parties, while a possible

enemy of a free government, are inevitable and unavoidable.

He then realized that the best response to the problem would

be to control the affects. He also realized that a multiplicity

of parties would not be conducive to stability in a

government which, in the case of the United States at the

time, was a necessity. The specific advantage to having only

two parties, as seen by Madison, was that given equal

power and representation, they could keep each other in

check. This would make it nearly impossible for any one

party to take too much control of the government. It can

clearly be seen that the ideology in which the American

people subscribed to prior to the Revolutionary War did go

through several challenges and modifications by 1800.

Although parties did not arise until after the Revolutionary

War, there were still modifications and challenges much

earlier, as can be seen in the Continental Army. What is also

unique is, despite the numerous challenges and slight

modifications, the ideology was able to persist through these

traumatic years and shape a nation and a government in

ways that history had not before seen done with such ease.

This is a true testament to the fortitude and durability of the

republican ideology and America as a whole. 

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