The Effects of the Revolutionary War
There were many changes in America after the conclusion of the Revolutionary War. Neither the Proclamation of 1763 nor the Quebec Act applied anymore.
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So, colonists could move west across the Appalachians. So, there were a lot of changes in America after the end of the Revolutionary War.
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The transcript if for your convenience
One of those changes was that the Proclamation of 1763 and the Quebec Act were no longer valid. Those laws had both said that American colonists could not travel west of the Appalachian Mountains. Now, the British said this was to protect them from raiding groups of Indians, but the Americans had felt like it was to keep them closer under British control. It was easier to control them if they were all closer to the coast, and they didn’t have to go further and further inland to keep track of the colonists. But, in any case, neither of these were valid anymore, so Americans could start traveling further west across the Appalachians and build their homes there if they chose to.
A few British loyalists lost their land. So, there were some people who were loyal to Britain and hadn’t joined in with the American cause. Now, if they had done this publicly enough, or were well-known enough that everyone knew they were British loyalists, then they may have lost their land. So, some people that were very, very loyal to the British but still ended up wanting to stay in America, they lost their land. So, they were going to have to start from scratch and move back to England.
After the war, many states moved to separate the church and state. This was a big problem in England. A lot of the people that traveled to America in the first place were traveling there to make a new life where they could practice their own religion freely. They didn’t like that in England, they could be punished by the government for practicing a religion other than the official religion of Britain.
For instance, in Virginia, Thomas Jefferson wrote the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom, creating total separation in that state. And you see this is a statute of religious freedom. It’s basically giving all members of that state freedom of religion. They can practice whatever religion they want. And the people in America believed, well, a lot of them believed and started moving to separate church and state, they believed that the government shouldn’t be in charge of what your religion is. That is something that was more of a personal choice.
So, the government was going to be in charge of a lot of things, but they weren’t going to be able to control what religion you practice, or punish you based on which religion you practiced. And so, Thomas Jefferson wrote the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom, making Virginia the first state to officially have total separation of church and state. And this was going to follow in the other states.
States also revised the Criminal Codes in an effort to make the punishment more closely fit the crime. So, this was another complaint they have had about Britain, that some of the punishments were too harsh, that they weren’t being tried by a jury of their peers, if they were being judged by people far away who hadn’t actually been close to witnessed or know about conditions in America. So, they decided to take a look at the Criminal Code, since criminal punishment was one of the big issues they’d had with England.
And they revised the Criminal Codes to try to make punishments for crimes more closely fit the crime. They didn’t want you being killed for stealing a loaf of bread. They were going to make a punishment that was going to be a little less for a crime that wasn’t actually hurting anyone in that instance. So, any punishments that they felt were too harsh, they were going to try to revise to make it more closely fit the crime. And again, they were trying to improve after they didn’t like how Britain had been handling the same criminal situation.
Finally, whereas in 1750, most citizens did not question the institution of slavery. By 1780, many states began to examine this policy. So, in 1750, slavery wasn’t a big issue that people debated on. You had slavery, and that was what there was. But around 1780, many states began to examine this policy and think, “Oh, well, maybe we shouldn’t have slavery.”
Vermont was the first state to abolish slavery in 1777. Now, they actually did this by denouncing slavery in their constitution. But the Constitution they wrote was whenever they were still an individual kind of republic, they hadn’t become a state yet, they were just one group of people, not a colony but like more of a republic. They were only ruled as a state. They hadn’t become one of the United States yet. They hadn’t ratified a constitution uniting them with the rest of the states. But their own constitution that they wrote for Vermont said that slavery wasn’t allowed in that state. So, they were the first state to officially abolish it, which means to get rid of it.
Meanwhile, southern states argued that the war would not have been won without slave labor. Now, there may be some truth in that, but most of the other states started to agree with Vermont, and said, “You know, slavery isn’t right. All humans are created equal. They should have the same rights as white people. They’re not less human than white people.” And so, a lot of people and a lot of the other states began to try to change their laws to even if they didn’t abolish slavery right away to start to gradually faded out, so that they maybe said, “Okay, anyone who’s born from hereon is going to be free, but any slaves that are already in existence will remain slaves.”
So, a lot of states did it like that and slowly phased out slavery. But, in any case, after the Revolutionary War, slavery started to become a more important issue. Before the Revolutionary War, they were still dealing with all those problems with Britain. So, it wasn’t at the forefront of what they were going to be concerned with. But now that they were becoming their own country, they were really shaping what the country was going to be like, Americans started to think, “Okay, well, we really don’t think slavery is that great of an idea after all.”
So, there were a lot of changes in America after the Revolutionary War. Some of the main ones were Americans started moving west across the Appalachians; a few loyalists lost their land, but that wasn’t something that was super common because most people had joined with the American effort or had already left America. Many states started to move towards separating church and state, they wanted the people to have religious freedom, and the government of each state and of the country not to interfere with what people’s religious preferences were. States revised the Criminal Codes to make punishments more fairly fit the crime, and slavery became a bigger issue and people started pushing toward the abolishment of slavery.
Next Lesson: The Declaration of Independence