Autonomy, Responsibility and the American Revolution

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Can certain people assume absolute rights over others? Do people deserve a voice in determining what goes on with their lives as well as their country? Are people liable for their own actions? The questions asked above all fall under one theme that will be discussed - autonomy and responsibility. The American Heritage Dictionary defines the word ‘autonomy’ as self-government or the right of self-government; self-determination; independence. In addition to that, The American Heritage Dictionary defines the term ‘responsibility’ as a duty, obligation, or burden. Using these two definitions, the American Revolution undoubtedly falls under the discussion of autonomy and responsibility. The American Revolution came about as a result of the colonists’ thinking that it was their responsibility both to strive for and to attain full autonomy (absolute independence) from Great Britain.

The American Revolution was a war in which the colonists achieved political independence from their former rulers Great Britain. It was "the formulation of new principles of the relation of men to government, and of the relation of colonies to mother country. It was the inauguration of effective self-government and of social and economic equality."1 The colonists, in effect, achieved full autonomy from Great Britain through the American Revolution. The colonists felt (for the betterment of all Americans) that it was their duty and responsibility to rise up against their oppressors to form their own government. John Adams even states, "[that] the real American Revolution was a radical change in the principles, opinions, sentiments, and affections of the people. Above all, [the Revolution] was in the minds and hearts of the peopl...

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30. William P. Cumming and Hugh Rankin, The Fate of a Nation: The American

Revolution Through Contemporary Eyes (London: Phaidon Press Limited,

1975), 35.

31. Cook, 219, 249.


Commager, Henry Steele, and Richard B. Morris. The Spirit of ‘Seventy-Six. Indianapolis: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1998.

Cook, Don. The Long Fuse: How England Lost the American Colonies, 1760-1785. New York: The Atlantic Monthly Press, 1995.

Cumming, William P., and Hugh Rankin. The Fate of a Nation: The American Revolution Through Contemporary Eyes. London: Phaidon Press Limited, 1995.

Fleming,Thomas. Liberty!: The American Revolution. New York: Penguin Putnam, 2005

Stokesbury, James L. A Short History of the American Revolution. New York: William Morrow and Company, 2001.
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