Call Us: US - +1 845 478 5244 | UK - +44 20 7193 7850 | AUS - +61 2 8005 4826

Republican as champions of environmental protection.

In the context of a revolution, a “conservative” revolution would be contrasted against a “radical” revolution. A radical revolution is one which, as the name suggests, seeks to fundamentally uproot the old society and institute a new one in its place. This would be a revolution like the French or Russian Revolutions, which eradicated the monarchy in each respective nation and established a liberal democratic republic in the former and a soviet socialist republic in the latter. The French Revolution led to a complete alteration of the nature of the French state, a destruction of many social institutions, a complete change in the laws and of the government, and even a new calendar (it didn’t catch on for a couple of reasons.) Similar with the Russian Revolution. This is what’s most people think of when they hear the word “revolution.”

On the other hand is a “conservative” revolution: there is a great social upheaval, often accompanied by armed conflict, but the resulting society is not very different from the old society. The American Revolution is called a “conservative” revolution because, unlike most revolutions of its kind, it wasn’t an attempt to make fundamental changes to the society it occurred in. Most of the laws and social institutions remained virtually unchanged. The only major change was the sovereignty of the British Crown, but it wasn’t considered abolished so much as it was considered to be transfered to the United States Government, and modified according to the terms of the Constitution (which itself was strongly influenced by English legal theory). The Common Law (that is to say, the law made by judges) was inherited wholecloth by the American judiciary, though it did eventually evolve as American judges modified it over the next few decades. All-in-all the transfer of power from the British Crown to the American public was designed (with admittedly debatable success) to disturb law and institutional order as little as possible. A comparable revolution to this one would be the Glorious Revolution in the mid-1600s in Great Britain; the English Monarchy remained in tact, but the man on the throne was replaced (and a new Bill of Rights was drafted).

Additionally, the nature of the Revolution made it more “conservative.” It was not a mass movement, but fomented by elites: property owners, lawyers, bankers, etc., who sought to establish a state designed to protect property ownership and prevent drastic, unpredictable changes in the law. It was also a minority movement: only about a third of colonial citizens actually supported the Revolution, the other 2/3 were either indifferent or outright supported British sovereignty.