American Revolution and New Identity

Flag of the Thirteen Colonies during the American Revolution Image from: http://www.history.com/photos/american-revolution-flags-and-fliers#american-revolution-flags-and-fliers

Flag of the Thirteen Colonies during the American Revolution
Image from: http://www.history.com/photos/american-revolution-flags-and-fliers#american-revolution-flags-and-fliers

The American Revolution was the single greatest event in the history of the United States. The thirteen colonies were able to unite under one cause and defeat the British for their independence. The British had become oppressive because of the many different acts they passed trying to collect taxes. The colonists were fed up and wanted to fight back. To do this, they came up with a way to establish their own identity separate from the British. The establishment of their own identity was done through different methods like dressing up like Indians and creating their own clothing. This gave the colonists a uniting factor to fight for their independence. It allowed for the thirteen colonies, who were very different from each other, to join together by using a similar clothing to become one group. Without the Revolutionary War, America arguably would not be what it is today.

The colonists in America had become fed up with the British. The British had begun to tax the colonists unfairly. Thus, originated the saying, “Taxation without representation.” They had to do something about it. One of the main events that occurred to oppose the British and their actions was the Boston Tea Party. In 1773, The British passed the Tea Act, which called for a tax on tea imported into America. Up until this moment, tea had been basically tax free for the colonists. In response, on December 17, 1773, the Sons of Liberty held the Boston Tea Party.

Painting depicting the Boston Tea Party in 1773 Image from: http://www.earlyamerica.com/review/2005_winter_spring/boston_tea_party.htm

Painting depicting the Boston Tea Party in 1773
Image from: http://www.earlyamerica.com/review/2005_winter_spring/boston_tea_party.htm

The men dressed up like the Mohawk Indians and boarded the British ships in the Boston Harbor and dumped all the crates of tea aboard the ships into the harbor. This act of rebellion outraged the British. If you take look at the reasoning behind the colonists dressing as Indians on a surface level, it looks as if the Americans were trying to disguise themselves and also shift the blame to the Indians. To find the real reason, you have to take a deeper look. The Boston Tea Party was not the first time that colonists dressed up as Indians for a demonstration. Years before, many colonists used the Indian disguises to act out their political protests. There was a fascination for dressing up like Indians. The colonists were trying to develop an identity that was not that of their British counterparts. The idea of using Indian dress as a way to establish this identity comes from tying into a longer American history. The Indians were the inhabitants of the land before the Europeans showed up. America was theirs. This idea helps shine light on why the colonists decided to dress like the Indians. There was a since of them versus the British as it had been when the Europeans had first moved into the Americas. They were “becoming ‘natives’ of a land they were differently asserting to be their own” [1]. By dressing like Indians, the colonists were tying themselves to land just as the Indians were when the Europeans had first arrived. The Boston Tea Party was an excellent example of the colonists siding with the natives against the now, them, the British.

Not only did the colonists dress like Indians to help establish their own identity, they created their own homespun clothing. Homespun was a response to being “made to bear what the colonists understood to be extra burdens” [2], or so elegantly phrased “taxation without representation.” Therefore the colonists decided to boycott imported British goods. The colonists decided to wear these lower quality articles of clothing instead of the English luxury. Instead of wearing the English luxury the colonists developed their own version of luxury through homespun. Homespun grew to become a major movement. All classes within society became involved in the movement. It was a huge statement of the people’s patriotism. It showed that they were Americans and supported the cause of revolution. It helped unite the people together against a common cause. Homespun was an immense political symbol of the colonists’ separation from that of the British and their way of life. The American Revolution was much more than a war between two entities. It was the establishment of a new country. Through that a new identity of people emerged. Through the acts such as dressing as Indians and the use of homespun clothing, the once former English citizens created a new identity for themselves. They were now considered Americans. What would the world be like today if the colonists weren’t able to establish their own identity and gain their independence?

Footnotes

[1] Auslander, Leora. Cultural Revolutions: Everyday Life and Politics in Britain, North America, and France. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009. pp. 92 [2] Auslander, 85

Bibliography Auslander, Leora. Cultural Revolutions: Everyday Life and Politics in Britain, North America, and France. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009. pp. 81-111. Deloria, Philip Joseph. Playing Indian. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998. pp. 11-37.