A Journey to Liberty
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute a new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
The Declaration of Independence
It is human nature to pursue liberty. Throughout the history of human being, there was no nation that could bear invasion or suppression. One nation may gain more power than others (it happened so in history and it is happening so at present as well) and then the liberty of the powerless would be deprived. The suppressed nation may comply with the power for a period of time ranges from decades to centuries. Although the final juncture of resistance doesn’t come at the same time, the suppressed nation
is bound to resist and fight for independence and liberty at any cost in the end. The American War of Independence was exact one such example. The American colonists first obeyed, then tried to change, till eventually resolved to resist and break up with Grate Britain. The war demonstrated Americans’ determination to pursue
independence and liberty. It was a journey to liberty.
The Colonization of the America
In the early 17th century, the British king began granting charters to companies and individuals for them to establish colonies in America. By the middle of the century, most of the settlements had developed into 13 British colonies. Each colony had a governor and its own lawmaking body, but the governor was appointed by the king or the British government and so had greater power. The 13 colonies stretched from what is now Maine in the north to Georgia in the south.
I think the colony of America was greatly different from others, because the colonists were allowed to have almost complete control of their own affairs. They became used to governing themselves according to their own beliefs and ideals, and developed a sense of unity and independence. In a word, America enjoyed more liberties compared to other colonies. So, when the British government began to place firmer control over the British colonies during the middle 18th century, it was not surprising that the colonies were determined to protect the liberties they had enjoyed against any attempt to take them away.
The Causes of the War
The Stamp Act
In 1764, the British Parliament passed the Stamp Act. According to the act, stamps of different values must be bought and put on newspapers, legal documents, and other printed matter. The colonists strongly opposed the Stamp Act. They said that the tax not only took money from the pockets, but also threatened to take away their freedom. They wanted to keep their tight to tax themselves through their elected representatives. But there were no representatives in British Parliament. Therefore, they argued that Britain had no right to tax them. That was their principle of “no
taxation without representation”.
The Townshend Acts
The Stamp Act was boycotted and resisted by America. Thus, British Parliament abolished it in 1766. However, Parliament still believed it had the right to tax and control the colonies. So in 1767, the government passed a new set of tax laws known as the Townshend Acts. They put taxes on tea, glass, lead, pain and paper that colonies could receive only from Britain. Like the Stamp Act, the Townshend Acts was also met with strong protest in America. Merchants agreed not to buy British goods, and the colonists began trying to do without British products. The boycott was so effective that the British merchants suffered more from the tax laws than the colonists. So, in 1770, Parliament had to abolish all the Townshend taxes except the one on tea.
Of course there were many other causes of the War. But it’s impossible and unnecessary for me to list all of them in this paper. We can draw a general picture of what was happening just from the two events.
The British government desired to raise more money and gain as much profit as possible from the American Colonies. The achievement of this goal required far firmer control over every aspect of the American Colonies, which would definitely confine the colonists. As I mentioned above, the British previous relatively loose control over America had helped the colonists developed a sense of independence. But now the new tough taxes put on the American Colonies deprived a lot liberty from them. It was natural that the colonists began to resist suppression and pursue more freedom. Therefore, the journey to liberty of the American people began.
The Independence War (The Revolutionary War)
Though the American Colonies worshipped liberty, most of them did not want to be independent from Great Britain at the beginning. In the First Continental Congress in 1774, the delegates from all the colonies except Georgia agreed that what they wanted was only fair treatment from Great Britain, rather than independence. However, the British government didn’t compromise. George ? even declared,”The
die is now cast, the colonies must either submit or triumph.”
Instead of giving in to the home country, the Second Continental Congress, in 1775, decided to resist, by force if necessary. So, the Congress organized an army to defend the colonies. Then a war lasted eight years from 1775 to 1783 began.
The Revolutionary War injured and killed more than 25 thousand Americans. Compared with our casualty in the Anti-Japanese War and China’s War of Liberation,
it was nothing big deal. However, the number was almost one percent of the total population of the colonies. And the Congress borrowed a large amount of money from Americans and foreign countries as well. People of the colonies suffered a lot. But
compared with the achievements, the loss was worthy.
The Pursuit of Liberty
The Revolutionary War ended up with the independence of the colony and the establishment of a new government of the United States of America. This may be the greatest achievement of the War. Being independent and united, the Americans gained a firmer sense of belonging. The new federal government provided far better conditions for construction. In spite of a series of post-war problems and national issues, America prospered after its independence, even gradually surpassed its former ruler, the Great Britain, and finally became the world’s most powerful till now.
However, in my point of view, the deeply rooted belief of liberty is more impressive and meaningful. Actually, we can easily notice the change of the attitude toward independence.
The implement of the Stamp Act and the Townshend Acts greatly infringed on of the colonists’ rights and interests. Yet, the colonists only protested and required the
abolishment of the laws. Independence was a thing far beyond their imagination.
In 1774, the First Continental Congress was to protest the Intolerable Acts and decide how to protect their rights in united actions. The delegates just demanded that the colonists be given all the rights of Englishmen. No independence at all.
In 1775, the Second Continental Congress decided to resist by force. However, at the same time, the delegates declared again that they were loyal to the crown. In July, John Dickinson had drafted a resolution, known as the Olive Branch Petition, begging the king to prevent further hostile actions until some sort of agreement could be worked out. There was even a feeling that the quarrel was within the family.
The illusion of a peaceful settlement was smashed by King George ?. He
declared all the colonies to be in rebellion in 1775 and approved an act of Parliament closing all American ports to overseas trade. Then more and more Americans began to feel that the colonies had to break away from England. A pamphlet called Common Sense published by Thomas Paine inspired the colonists’ desire of independence in 1776. I think it was the actual beginning of the pursuit of liberty.
In June of 1776, a resolution in the Continental Congress declared that “these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States”. And then,
in July 4, the Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence. Thus all ties with
Great Britain were now cut, and a new nation, the United States of America was born. Most scholars agreed that the Declaration of Independence, not only
announced the birth of a new nation, but also set forth a philosophy of human freedom that would become a dynamic force throughout the entire world. Without any doubt, the Declaration of Independence was the highlight of the
Americans’ pursuit of liberty.
The notion of independence, freedom and liberty in the Declaration of Independence inspired all colonists not only during the war, but also in later time. In the War, Patrick Henry uttered the stirring words” I know not what course
others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death.” After the
foundation of USA, with the belief “all men are created equal”, even more and
more people began to fight for their own liberty.
Workers fought for their liberty. The great labor movements’ leader Eugene
Victor Debs declared that “while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free”.
Though now workers have far better working environment and higher social position, the great struggle between the powers of greed and exploitation on the one hand and upon the other the rising hosts of industrial freedom and social justice continues in modern society.
Women fought for their liberty. Susan B Anthony, one of the leader of women’s rights movements, asserted that “we formed it (the Union), not to give the blessings of liberty, but to secure them; not to the half of ourselves and the half of our posterity, but to the whole people—women as well as men”. Women
now have the right of vote; women have the right of public speaking; women have the right of working together with men. But the movements for women liberty will never end until women enjoy the same liberty as men.
Blacks fought for their liberty. Martin Luther King, who led the unprecedented non-violence movements for black liberty, announced that “This sweltering summer of the history of America, discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality.” After 45 years of the heartening
speech I Have A Dream, Barack Hussein Obama became the first black president
of America. Without any doubt, this is an epochal event in the process of achieving equality. One day in the future, King’s dream of black liberty and
equality will eventually be realized.
We’ve already in the 21st century, yet we haven’t reached the tantalizing destination of fully liberty. The Declaration of Independence complies not only to
the past, but also to the present; not only to people in the United States, but also to people in the whole world. We pursue liberty—freedom from oppression,
freedom from want, freedom to be ourselves. We are still on the way. We hold the faith that we will get there some day.
1. An Outline of American History(美国历史概况). 辽宁教育出版社
2. Major Events and Famous People in the History of the United States(美国历
3. Thomas Jefferson. The Declaration of Independence
4. Susan B Anthony. Women’s Right to Vote
5. Eugene Victor Debs. Statement to the Court
6. Martin Luther King. I Have A Dream
7. Learned Hand. Spirit of Liberty