The Effect of the Glorious Revolution and Bill of Rights on American History

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One spark can set a forest ablaze. One knocked-over domino piece can cause the rest in the row to fall. In 1688, one royal couple’s ascension to the of the throne of England and the events that followed helped to inspire the American desire for rights, liberty, and self-governance. The ideas and principles that arose from the Glorious Revolution had a big influence on the cause of the Revolutionary War, which freed America from England’s tyranny and control and enabled the new nation to expand and develop its own economy, politics, and culture between the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. I believe that The Glorious Revolution had a big impact on the development of the early United States’ continental and colonial development.

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During Queen Elizabeth the I’s reign, the English navy defeated the Spanish Armada in 1588. This won it the reputation for having the world’s strongest navy. Spain’s consequent loss of dominance over the seas paved the way for English colonization in the New World. During the reign of King James I, England founded its first successful colony in North America in 1607 and added twelve more colonies along its Atlantic Coast between 1620 and 1732. Two were charter colonies, three were proprietary colonies, and seven were royal colonies.

During Catholic King James II’s reign in 1686, he merged New England’s colonies and two of the middle colonies, naming it “The Dominion New of England.” He made Sir Edmund Andros its royal governor. Governor Andros trod on the colonists’ rights and livelihoods, especially by enforcing the Navigation Acts on the colonies which taxed them, required that goods be carried only on British vessels, and banned international trade with countries other than England. This infuriated the colonists, especially New Englanders who relied heavily on shipbuilding and maritime trade for profit.

In 1688, King James II abandoned the throne and escaped England to France upon the arrival of William III of Orange and his armies. Protestant William and his wife, Mary II, ascended the throne in 1689 upon Parliament’s invitation to do so. When word of the Glorious Revolution reached the colonies, rebellions were formed to remove King James’s appointed government officials. The colonies’ original forms of government were restored, except in Massachusetts Bay and Plymouth. Signed by Queen Mary II and King William III in 1689, the English Bill of Rights established a constitutional monarchy, which gave Parliament more power and protected the rights of the people of England.

English philosopher John Locke wrote The Two Treatises on Government, which he published in 1690 in admiration of the Glorious Revolution. He argued against absolute monarchism and endorsed the notion that it was the duty of the government to protect people’s rights, lives, and property, and that if it did not, it could be legally overthrown. These principles, and those found in the English Bill of Rights, fashioned American thought and attitudes in the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Many of America’s Founding Fathers were influenced by Locke’s concepts of government, including Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison.

I think the Revolutionary War, fought between American Patriots and the British in the late eighteenth century over England’s tyrannical control over the colonies, was fought on the principles found in John Locke’s, and others’, writings. The colonists who supported the cause for revolution embraced their new identities as Americans after the Patriots’ victory at the Battle of York in 1781 and the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1783. England conceded that America was its own independent nation and acknowledged the Mississippi River as its western boundary, which greatly increased the size of the nation.

America developed its own politics. During the Critical Period between 1783 and 1787, the absence of a strong national and federal government was a prominent issue in America. The Articles of Confederation, ratified in 1781, weakened America, by giving Congress little authority over the new nation. States acted as separate countries and imposed their own tariffs, created their own laws, gave little to no money towards the debts America had accumulated during the War for Independence, created their own trade relations, and more. The ratification of the Constitution between 1787 and 1790 gave the federal government more power to manage and strengthen the nation. The addition of the Bill of Rights in 1791 protected American individuals’ rights and liberties, should the government abuse its power.

America developed its own economy. During James Madison’s presidency, the War of 1812 halted the United States’ trade with England. This forced Americans to manufacture their own goods, drastically decreasing their dependency on European trade. After the War of 1812, Henry Clay’s American System plan was introduced to the House in support of strengthening America’s economy and connecting the regions together. One element of the American System highlighted the importance of federally financed infrastructure for the ease and speed of national trade. The construction of roads, such as the 600-mile long National Road constructed between 1811 and 1838, bridges, canals, steamboats, and more occurred throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

During the Industrial Revolution between the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the United States experienced the emergence of a commercial economy due to the rise of entrepreneurship, especially in the South, and a desire for profits. Advancements in technology and invention spurred America’s agricultural and industrial economic growth. For example, Eli Whitney’s invention of the cotton gin in 1792 made it faster and easier for people to gin cotton, causing cotton to become one of the south’s major and most profitable exports. In 1789, Samuel Slater, with his knowledge of England’s textile technologies, built water-wheeled machinery that powered his textile mills. The expansion of textile mills and factories in the United States grew rapidly between the early and mid-nineteenth century.

America developed a unique urban culture. After Napoleon Bonaparte’s defeat in the Napoleonic Wars in 1815, America encouraged European immigration to the United States’ western states and territories. Immigrants flooded into the country, especially from Ireland and Germany, for a variety of reasons. Some wanted to escape troubling situations in their own countries, such as the Irish Potato Famine in 1845 and the failed German revolutions between 1848 and 1849, and some were in search for a better life and prosperity, such as the Chinese who were intrigued by Gold Rush in California. The influx of immigrants brought diversity to the United States; however, many people shared common interests, including the theater, minstrelsy, and the British sport of boxing.

I believe the Glorious Revolution in England helped pave the way for American democracy, political thought, territorial expansion, economic advancement and prosperity, and cultural distinctiveness. Its results, including the signing of the English Bill of Rights in 1689 and the writings of John Locke, showed Americans that corrupt monarchy could be removed and that governments are founded to protect the rights, life and liberty of the people. This had an impact on the events that spurred America’s independence and growth in the years that followed.   

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