Revolution - Independence and revolution abroad

In the months following the first clashes between American and British forces at Lexington and Concord, the nascent United States made two surprising efforts to convert its struggle into a broader international movement. On 28 July 1775 the Continental Congress, representing the colonies in rebellion, addressed "the people of Ireland," similarly subjects of British imperial rule. According to the Americans, King George III's ministers had converted the citizens of colonial lands "from freemen into slaves, from subjects into vassals, and from friends into enemies." Members of the Continental Congress asserted that they shared a "common enemy" with the Irish population. They expected a "friendly disposition" between the two peoples, and a similar struggle for freedom: "God grant that the iniquitous schemes of extirpating liberty from the British Empire may soon be defeated."

This call for international revolution was much more than idle rhetoric. As they struggled to raise the forces necessary to challenge the British military on the eastern seaboard, American soldiers attempted to carry their revolution beyond their borders. On 4 September 1775 an army of two thousand men invaded British-controlled Canada. In the middle of November, they occupied Montreal. The Americans did not rape and pillage the Canadian population but instead created a "virtuous" government that would allow the people to elect their leaders ("liberty") and protect their commerce ("enterprise"). Many residents of Montreal and other surrounding areas welcomed this imposed revolution.

American expansionism in 1775 reflected naive but serious enthusiasm for radical international change. Despite their relative weakness in relation to the British Empire, the former colonists felt that their revolution marked a turning point in world history. They believed that their cause would inspire men and women in Canada, Ireland, and other areas. Encouraging radical change abroad was not altruistic, but necessary for what the Continental Congress called the "golden period, when liberty, with all the gentle arts of peace and humanity, shall establish her mild dominion in this western world." The historian Joyce Appleby has demonstrated that even skeptics of political idealism like John Adams were "profoundly influenced by their belief in the unity of human experience and the general application of universal truths."

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