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Equality is something Americans strive to provide and maintain… we
always have. It has become a necessary part of our culture… even now to the
point that when people think of America, they naturally think of freedom and
equality. The foundations of this country have relied upon it, just as it was
the created by the events in the laying of those foundations. J.R. Pole states
in his book, The Pursuit of Equality in American History, that the American
Revolution plays an extremely significant role in the history of equality in
American society. "The American Revolution in all its aspects constituted
an upheaval which was also a point of departure and reference for all subsequent
definitions of equality; it was a major event in the ideology and rhetoric of
world history." (Pole, 3) Pole suggests that the reason for the start of
the American Revolution was an "outraged sense of equality." America
was so offended by its mother country, England, that they put an unbelievable
amount of emphasis on the very idea of equality; making it the "center of
the nation?s public morality." (Pole, 38) When the revolution was over,
the Bill of Rights and the Constitution — the framework of this nation –
emphasized equality so greatly that it has now persuaded the rest of the world
that America is, indeed, the so called, promised land; the land of freedom.
"The men who led the colonial protest… had little idea that they were
inaugurating an intellectual upheaval." (Pole, 132) Yet, by the time the
Revolutionary War was done, America had a new identity and new egalitarian
values. And this new equality "retained a remarkably central place as the
moral imperative around which American thinking turned…" (Pole, 132)
Equality had begun, however inadvertently, in the aftermath of the Revolutionary
War. Pole states that during the time of the Revolutionary War, it would have
been foolish to believe that any event, no matter how significant or momentous,
would have foreseen "the proclamation of the ideal of natural rights
equality as the general principle of the American people. Yet that is what
happened in the American Revolution." (Pole, 23) According to Pole, the
Revolution caused what he calls the "Interchangeability Principle:"
the idea that Americans are exchangeable with one another. This theory suggests
that all Americans are equal in regards to their natural abilities. However, the
differences appear in the area of circumstance: "…vast differences made
by education, habits of life, leisure…" and so forth. (Pole, 142) Yet
there is still the belief that America is devoid of any class structure. This
was brought about by such historical events as the Revolutionary War; just as
this idea is constantly being steeped in the minds of American society by any
circumstance that promotes egalitarian beliefs. Any such fight for freedom or
equality simply emphasizes the idea that America is a free nation, therefore,
supposedly, free of social classes. "But," as Pole states, "if we
were to try to give the idea some formal definition it would be enough to
describe it as a widespread, and often rather optimistic conviction that the
social, racial, educational and economic differences that divide people… are
not the most significant indicators of their true qualities or abilities."
(Pole, 142) In other words, regardless of circumstantial differences, there
exists an innate belief in American society that those differences do not make
them any more or less valuable than anyone else. Certainly, the Revolutionary
War had a significant effect on the rise of egalitarianism in American society.
Even though this effect was somewhat unintentional, it has created a nation with
a strong sense of values and determination. The American Revolution produced the
equality-driven nation that is known to Americans as well as other societies
around the world.
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