Republican Ideology and the American

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 SteubenOs 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
didnOt 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.


Category: History