December 6

Blog #106 – How Revolutionary was the Revolution?

One of the primary themes that I’ve wanted you to consider over this unit on the American Revolution was the concept of whether or not it was a conservative revolution (people trying to keep powers/rights that they already have been exercising for years) or whether it was truly a radical revolution (people striking out on their own by overthrowing an existing political or social order and creating a new one).   American historians have been debating the very nature of the American Revolution soon after it ended.

My attitudes about the Revolution have changed over the past seven years since I’ve started teaching APUSH and have become more nuanced.  What I mean by that is that I used to believe what most of you have probably been taught – we were right and the British were tyrants, and it was just a matter of time that we asserted our unalienable rights by breaking away from the British empire to become the greatest nation in the history of the world.

The more I study the Revolution, the more I see numbers like the taxation issue (Brits were taxed 26 shillings to the colonists’ 1 shilling), and I wonder what the big deal was.  Parliament wasn’t asking the colonies to pay the debt of 140 million pounds sterling that the empire had accrued during the French and Indian War – just 1/3 of the 100,000 pounds that it cost for the soldiers to be there to protect the Indians on the other side of the Proclamation Line of 1763.  Part of me sees the Stamp Act riots as an overreaction, the Boston Tea Party as vandalism not patriotism, and that the Revolution was about how indebted the wealthy were to the British.


The pre-Civil War era (1840-1870) was filled with historians who saw the Revolution as a quest for liberty, and the most important scholar was George Bancroft who wrote a ten-volume History of the United States.  Bancroft felt that the Revolution was a “struggle between liberty and tyranny… represent[ing] one phase of a master plan by God for the march of all mankind toward a golden age of greater human freedom” (Bancroft 13).   Bancroft represented a national historian who told America’s epic story in an ultra-patriotic way.  After the Civil War, however, historians wanted to reassess the Revolution in light of the country’s amazing industrial growth.

Imperial and Progressive Schools 

The Imperial School believed that political and constitutional issues brought on the Revolution.  Britain’s colonial policies were not as unjust as Bancroft had said.  There were benefits and burdens with the Navigation Acts, and the colonists benefited under Salutary Neglect too.  Also, Imperial School historians felt that the British were justified in taxing the Americans b/c it was British blood and treasure spent during the Great War for Empire 1754-63.  American colonies were moving in the direction of more home rule which, in essence, was revolutionary, by nature.

The Progressive School emphasized that it was the economic split caused by the competition between the colonies and the mother country.  Not only that, but the Progressives placed a great emphasis on class conflict, so this Revolution was actually two revolutions – external against Britain and internal between social classes (which social class would rule America after the British left?).  Historian Arthur Schlesinger noted that usually conservative merchants played a key role in kick-starting the Revolution b/c they feared what would happen to their positions if the lower classes won the internal Revolution.

Consensus Movement

Historians in the 1950s, the consensus school of history, feel that there wasn’t class conflict during this time period, but that a “shared commitment to certain fundamental political principles of self-government” was what bound the colonists together (Bailey 140).  It was these ideas – liberty, voting, representative government, trial by jury, habeas corpus – that bound Americans together.  The leading historian of this movement was one of my favorites, Daniel Boorstin.  It was these grand, shared ideas that bound the varied colonial interests together and minimized the social and economic

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conflicts that could have torn the colonies apart.

After the 1950s, historian Bernard Bailyn focused on ideological and psychological factors that drove the Revolution.  He had read hundreds and hundreds of pamphlets from the Revolutionary era and discovered that not only were the colonists extremely literate, they were very knowledgeable in political theory.  These American writers also grew suspicious (some say too sensitive) of conspiracies, and this hypersensitivity led the colonists to begin armed revolt in 1775 at Lexington and Concord.

New Left (1960s, 70s)

Another one of my favorite historians, Gary Nash, has examined the social and economic forces that moved the Revolution along.  He pointed out the increasing gap between the social classes and lack of social mobility before the Revolution, especially among the people who lived in the countryside.  Attacks by the poor (the Paxton Boys in PA and the Regulators in N.C.) on the wealthy before the Revolution are prime examples of the frustration and resentment that laborers felt at being left out of the rapid economic change.  Unlike the Progressive historians, the New Left historians like Nash don’t pin all of the conflict upon economic conflict but include social changes as well.

Not only have you gotten a lesson in historiography (the history of the history – of the Revolution in this case), you can see that history is not a static thing and changes over time.  The history usually reflects the political and social conditions of the writers / historians living at that time.

Using what you’ve read here and in chapters 4 and 5 (“The American Revolution”, pgs. 132-33), provide with me some insight into what you think our American Revolution was – a conservative revolution or truly radical one in nature.  Don’t forget the handout, “Conflicting Views” too.  Also, please provide some rationale for your answer from the ideas above and the Gary Nash article, “The Radical Revolution from the ‘Bottom Up'”. 

Due Monday, Dec. 11 by class time.  Minimum of 350 words.  


Bailey, Thomas Andrew, David M. Kennedy, and Lizabeth Cohen. The American Pageant. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1998. Print.

Wood, Gordon S. “Rhetoric and Reality in the American Revolution.” The Idea of America: Reflections on the Birth of the United States. London: Penguin, 2011. 25-55. Print

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Posted December 6, 2017 by geoffwickersham in category Blogs

65 thoughts on “Blog #106 – How Revolutionary was the Revolution?

  1. Jonathan Giha

    Jon G. Blog
    I think that the American Revolution was a conservative action achieved through radical means. What I mean by this is that while the colonists, especially the did make a large change in uniting, they were only doing it to achieve the end of getting things ‘back to normal,’ in this case normal being Salutary Neglect. When the British came back to take control over their colonies after the French and Indian/Seven Years War, there was a lot of backlash from the colonists – they didn’t want things to change after one hundred and fifty years of self governance. What they hated the most were the taxes – they felt that if they didn’t have actual representation in Parliament, then Parliament couldn’t levy taxes on them. Especially after the Stamp Act was passed, colonists were in an outrage. In fact, some colonists were so angry that they decided to dump over three hundred crates of british tea into the Boston Harbor. While this was a radical action, it was done in response to and to avoid change, which is very conservative. After that clear act of rebellion, Parliament cracked down on Boston. They closed the port with the Boston Port Act, shut down the colonial legislature/government with the Massachusetts Government Act, sent loads of soldiers and forced the colonists to provide for them with the (new) Quartering Act, and made it so that British officials accused of crimes would be tried in England rather than the colonies with the Administration of Justice Act. These Intolerable Acts as they came to be called caused even more unrest in the colonies. They violated many of the Americans’ core values, such as “liberty, voting, representative government, trial by jury, [and] habeas corpus” according to the blog. Also, many Americans believed that if the British could take away their representation or local governments, then they could also take whatever they wanted – a fear which nagged at the mind of many a colonist, and may have ultimately led to the revolution. Clearly, the colonists were willing to use any means necessary, including radical action, to achieve their conservative aim of avoiding change in the form of return to British rule.

  2. Maya Wolock

    The American Revolution was complex. On the surface, it was conservative, but most of the underlying causes were radical. During the period of time where the colonies were living under statutory neglect, the colonists flourished. Yes, there were hardships, but they were given a life where they never had to worry about the government interfering. This changed very abruptly, upsetting many. They were frustrated. It is a similar feeling to having been given a beautiful gift, only to have your mother say “Oh wow, I think I need this way more than you, I’m just gonna take this away. Now do your chores” (the chores are a metaphor for taxes). In this sense, the colonists just wanted to live the way they were living before. This is what the revolution was about on the surface, giving it the appearance of a conservative revolution. However, in the time leading up to the revolution, people began questioning other things. They questioned the entire idea of a monarchy, eventually growing to hate it with extreme vigor. Even today, many Americans are still appalled by the idea of a king. The revolution also made people question their social order. The social classes were very rigid within the colonies. It was mostly visible between the backcountry farmers and the wealthy. Social classes are common everywhere, but when people are put in dangerous or new situations (A.K.A. the frontier), it can lead to disaster. In England, if you were in a lower social class, you still would not be in imminent danger. In the colonies, the lower class you were in, the more likely you were to be in a dangerous situation. Another example of a large change in social order is about women. In the article, “The Radical Revolution From the ‘Bottom Up’”, Gary Nash discusses how Abigail Adams viewed the revolution as not only an opportunity for independence, but also for women’s rights. She argued for women’s rights to be involved in the founding of America. Adams, among other women’s rights activists, believe that the gaining of rights should apply to women and men. Hence, the American Revolution appeared conservative but in reality, it was radical.

  3. Abby Nelson

    Although you could generally make a strong case that the American Revolution was a conservative one or a radical one, I believe it was mostly radical, with some elements of conservative embedded in it. These things tend to always be hot topics on whether or not injustices in the name of revolution are being committed. On the one hand you have the British, a monarchy ruled by King George with imperial supporters in the colonies. For the most part before 1763, the crown tended to leave the colonists alone and rarely enforced any of the previous laws on them and giving them space and resources to create a sufficient government that provided for its people. On the other hand you have the colonists, patriotic radicals whose main focus point is independence. They had been self sufficient since for most of the colonies life, so why the sudden change? Why did the British just now come back? After the French and Indian war, the mother country was in severe debt, owing around 100,000. Parliament decided that it should make the colonies pay at least partially for these debts, as the war was fought inside the colonies, for the colonies. Britain came out of salutary neglect in 1763, which angered the colonists in a number of ways. After the tax was placed on the colonies, and many taxes after, the colonists started claiming that Britain couldn’t tax them unless the colonies had a place in parliament. Although this statement is true, the taxes placed on the colonies were never that high to begin with. People in Britain were paying 26 shillings as compared to the 1 shilling colonists paid. The British government didn’t even ask the colonists to pay for all of the damage done in the French and Indian war, just ⅓ of the debts. In the British mind, they were doing what had to be done in order to pay their debts. They were calculated and smart by not blaming the British people for a war they didn’t even participate in.

  4. Adrienne

    Our revolution was both a radical and conservative revolutionary event in our nation’s history,however I believe that the revolution was more radical than conservative. A conservative revolution is a revolution where the people are trying to keep powers and/or rights that they already have been exercising for years. The colonists were submitted to salutary neglect by the English so they developed their own form of government and their own sense of what they thought they should and shouldn’t be allowed. When the british reintroduced themselves to the colonies and tried to have a closer rule, the colonists rebelled. They wanted to keep the rights that they had been giving themselves for years. I think for at least some of the time the colonists were overreacting. The british wanted the colonists to pay 1 shilling to the british citizen’s 26, and it was to help pay back funds that were used to help the colonists. A lot of the things the british asked of the colonists were reasonable. They wanted the colonists to listen to their government and realize that they’re british subjects and have to help out. The colonists were just used to having more control and power when the british were dealing with their own issues in the mainland.. Some radical events were the boston massacre and the boston tea party. Colonists goaded the british troops to shoot on the crowd and mocked and threw things at the troops. The colonists have a history of antagonizing the troops and constantly bothered them, sometimes even injuring them. For the boston tea party they tarred and feathered the tax collector and threw millions of dollars worth of tea into the harbor. This was a huge statement and, in my opinion, a huge overreaction. This event solidified the colonists against the english. A radical revolution is when people are striking out on their own by overthrowing an existing political or social order and creating a new one. The colonists decided they were done with england and wanted to form their own government and break free from any ties with them.

  5. Sam Grasl

    Sam Grasl
    Mr. Wickersham, B16
    APUSH B, 2nd

    BLOG #106 – How Revolutionary was the Revolution?

    Based on my new based knowledge on the American Revolution, I believe that the American Revolution was a both radical and conservative revolution, i say this because it all depended on the class of colonists you are referring to; for an example if it was a rich high class colonist, it would have been a conservative revolution. But for the middle and poor classes, it was a radical revolution. It was a conservative revolution for ever since the British Salutary Neglect, the high class colonists for the elites of the colony, were basically the representatives and leaders of the colonials at the time. The Colonies pushed to keep their power in their own governments and to run them democratically, because of the British threats to retake control of the Colonial government. Now the middle and poor classes have a different story. For them it was a radical rebellion, mainly because they were not the hugest fans of the taxation without representation. They had no say whether or not they would be taxed due to the Seven Years War, although they should have been taxed, it was the fact that they were taxed without knowing about it, that is until the bills came. In addition to this, we see many of the people that organized the Revolution, created several important documents, such as Common Sense written by Thomas Paine a.k.a The Original T-Paine. In the document that is Common Sense, we see the reasons for which T. Paine wanted independence from Great Britain. In the highly important and valuable document that is the Declaration of Independence, we see all the grievances the Colonists held against the king; an example of one of these is how the King George the third continuously vetoed laws the Colonist attempted to put in place. With this list of grievances, we see that the colonists had many different reasons why they wanted their independence. In conclusion, the American Revolution showed both new and old ideas, from keeping a thriving solo government, to a the new ideas a representation. The great Revolutionary war was both a radical and conservative, for our founding fathers, and the amazingly brave men and women that made us who we are today.

  6. Dylan Cohen

    For me, the revolution was, for Americans, a conservative one, but also succeeded in being a radical one as well, which is how most Americans see it today. The revolution was for pushing out the tyrannical British and keeping the conditions that American society had thrived on for years. These, conditions were born out of being neglected by the British and being left alone. During this period of salutary neglect, the colonies created their own state legislatures, had relative economic freedom, and didn’t feel a lot of pressure from the British. But, after the Seven Years War, when Britain began instituting more taxes on the Americans and putting their foot down, Americans started to get upset. They started to lose the freedoms that they had become accustomed to for years and as you said in the Conflicting Views handout, felt like they were being milked like a cow. So, as taxes and restrictive laws became more numerous, Americans began to rebel against the British to maintain American status quo, they also rebelled against the British political and social order and ended up establishing A society entirely different from the European standard. In some ways, the revolution occured years before the Revolutionary War even happened and the war was just the last nail in the coffin. The revolution was different things for different people, usually depending on class. For the wealthy, the revolution was mostly for economic reasons. They wanted the British to quit sticking their noses into colonial business. It wasn’t just for economic reasons though, representative governments would have benefited the rich just as much as the poor and would have let them run their country the way they wanted it to be ran. On the contrary, for the laborer class, the revolution was a more radical than it was for the wealthy and it was more of a moral issue than for economic purposes. The lower class, who despite being a majority, had very little control of their society. They revolted against the British because they’d been taxed without having a say, didn’t see the fruits of their labor during the seven years war, saw their tax dollars go to things they didn’t ask for, and many other reasons. In short, they were tired of being controlled. They opted to ditch the monarchy, which they viewed was tyrannical, and instead establish a republic where they could actually have a say in things. They didn’t just rebel against their European rulers but also the aristocrats in the colonies. Taking from Gary Nash, you said that he pointed out the social gap and lack of social movement before the revolution, this is exemplified by The Paxton Boys, The Regulators, and even as far back as Bacon’s rebellion.

  7. Emily Parker

    I think that the American Revolution was both conservative and radical, but mostly radical.

    If you look at the Elite Whites, they were more conservative. They were trying to keep the same rights and powers that they had been using for years. The elites were fighting for their right to run themselves democratically. But they were also fighting a somewhat radical fight as well because they wanted to let go of Britain completely and become independent, but even then, those radical ideas were not accepted by most colonists until near the end of the war. The common people were fighting a more Radical fight too but in a different way. (The common people were people like Women, people of color and poor people.) They were fighting for a completely new social order to control and make their own.
    One way that the Revolution was radical was that the colonists were fighting against some issues that were not even a big deal. Like how colonists had to pay 1 shilling of taxes and the British had to pay 26 shillings of taxes. That’s not a huge deal and the colonists really overreacted by revolting against that. They also felt that it was unfair, against them that they even had to pay one.
    One huge problem during that time, in their eyes, was the Stamp act. The Stamp act is an example of taxation without representation. It was created to help the British through a time of salutary neglect. The stamp act was repealed in March 1766, but, in the same day British Parliament passed the Declaratory act. The Declaratory Act stated that British Parliament’s taxing authority was the same for America as is was in Great Britain. I personally think that the colonists were overreacting slightly because the British had helped the colonists in the French and Indian war. The British needed money because they had lost a lot of it, helping the colonists. I don’t think that it was a huge deal that they needed to be taxed to help pay the British back. That is why I believe the revolution was radical.

  8. James Laport

    Based on my knowledge of the American Revolution, it contained both radicalism and conservatism. Although, I believe that the movement leaned more to the radical side. The British Parliament constantly neglected and exploited the colonists to get what they wanted, barely even paying attention to them until after the French-Indian War, in which the colonists played a huge role in the British victory. The motive for the colonists to fight the war was to further expand into western territories, but the British denied them their reward with the Proclamation of 1763. After this, to pay off the debt from the war, the colonists were subject to heavy taxes, causing an outrage. The colonists responded to this with chaos, throwing tea into Boston Harbor and protesting in cities. The British met the Boston Tea Party with the Coercive Acts, or the “Intolerable Acts” as referenced by patriots. These consisted of the Port Bill, closing off Boston harbor until the colonists paid for they tea they destroyed, the Government Act, shutting down the Massachusetts state legislature, the New Quartering Act, positioning more British soldiers in Boston that required housing from residents, and the Administration of Justice Act, which let British soldiers get their trial in Great Britain, where it is easier to get a non-guilty verdict. This is what was considered as the “last straw” to the colonists, resulting in the Suffolk Resolves which basically said that they weren’t going to obey the Coercive Acts. So far, the revolution had been relatively conservative, but the battle of Lexington and Concord changed that, being one of the first major acts of violence between the British and the Americans. This battle is what sparked the Revolutionary war. A conservative revolution has a general goal of keeping the order with the same power, (i.g., Britain would retain control over the colonies) but there would be changes to overall benefit the people. A radical revolution is regarded as denoting political principles and instead altering political structures by radical means. The American revolution can not necessarily fall into either of these definitions. Instead, it falls between them as a moderate revolution.

  9. charlie hardy

    Using my personal knowledge of the American Revolution and what I’ve read in the blog and in the book, I am led to believe that the American Revolution was both a conservative revolution and a radical revolution. I agree with Gary Nash in his ideas that the Revolution didn’t just depend on economic issues and status, but social issue and statuses as well, and that poorer people and laborers felt as if they were being left out of a rapid economic change.
    I think the Revolution was a conservative revolution mostly for the wealthy Americans because at first the wealthy were the ones who were most loyal to Britain because Britain favored the wealthy in America and they had more liberties than the poor. Another reason why the Revolution was conservative was because Americans were fighting for their freedom from the British rule because they much preferred their own rule prior to the 7 Years War or during Salutary Neglect. They started to get used to this. When the British came in the rule over them, they introduced policies that the Americans were not used to. Americans disliked the British’s policies and even went so far as to call them the Intolerable Acts instead of the Coercive Acts. According to this rationale, I think the Revolution was a conservative revolution because it can easily be made clear that the Americans were fighting and rebelling to return to the original and self-established rights that they had been exercising for years.
    I am also led to believe that the American Revolution was a radical revolution because I agree with the statement that Americans might have been overreacting in response to taxation, such as the 26:1 schillings tax. As stated in the blog post, the British were not trying to make the Americans pay off every ounce of their war debt, but only roughly one third of 100,000 thousand dollars. Though I agree that the response to this was overreacting, I can see why the Americans would be outraged as this taxation almost came out of nowhere and the Americans weren’t used to this type of taxation/rule, which supports my “conservative revolution” argument. Also, I think the Revolution was a radical revolution for poorer people in the colonies because they were looking to drastically change the state of the colonies and the unjust and unfair rulings by the British; the definition of a radical revolution is people striking out on their own by overthrowing an existing political or social order and creating a new one. This supports the statement that the American Revolution was a radical revolution because the poorer colonists were trying to change social order by use of the revolution. In all regards mentioned in my response, the American Revolution can be viewed as both radical and conservative, but more radical for poorer colonists and more conservative for wealthier colonists.

  10. Ella Landers

    I believe that although there is some conservative values in the american revolution, it is mostly a radical one. A conservative revolution is known as one where the people are trying to keep powers that they already have been exercising for years, which somewhat but does not completely reflect what the american revolution was. I also believe it was a radical revolution because of many reasons. One of them is the dramatic negative change that the colonists went through when the British decide to tax them, ie. Taxation without Representation. Their lives before this were thriving before this before they were forced to pay for the Seven Years War without consenting to it. The colonists were obviously forced to face many other grievances, listed throughout different texts (Common Sense, Declaration of Independence.) Some examples of these unfortunate acts and rules that greatly affected the colonists decision to declare their independence from Great Britain are the stamp act, the tea act, intolerable acts, proclamation of 1763. They were very unhappy with how Britain was ruling them, and they genuinely knew that they would be better off on their own. Overall, they were determined to break free from the mother country, Great Britain,who they viewed as malicious tyrants, which really shows the radical sense of the revolution. I also believe it was somewhat conservative, as they were also determined to keep many of the rights and powers they had attained and had exercised throughout the years. As defined above, this is what a conservative revolution was. However, I believe that a radical revolution better defines this revolution. For the revolution to be considered conservative, the revolt against some of these issues would have been significantly less violent and filled with determination, because after all, it was one shilling for the colonists against 26 shillings for the british. That was not the problem, it was that they wanted to be on their own, and govern themselves officially as the United States of America. They wanted to create a new government, and be able to finally separate from Britain. For all these reasons above that is why I believe that the American Revolution was mostly radical with some conservative values.

  11. Jacob Ellenbogen

    I think that the revolution was never purely conservative or purely radical, but was rather a mix that evolved and changed over time. This fluidity can be shown in the colonists reactions to the various taxes and acts that the british passed during the revolutionary era. One of the first conflicts of the era, the one many say was the beginning of the revolution, was the proclamation of 1763. After the French and Indian war and Pontiac’s rebellion, the British wanted to preserve trade with the indians, while also being able to keep their eyes on the colonists. From the British perspective, this treaty made sense. By keeping the colonists and the indians separate, no conflict that could draw the British in could occur. Economically, this divide also gave the british another trading partner and potential ally if they were to ever go to war in America, and considering the American taxes were so low, it shouldn’t be a big deal to tax a little more so conflict can be avoided. From the colonists perspective, they were understandably upset. After fighting a war for the Ohio River valley, the British were taking it away, and by doing so they were suppressing economic growth for the colonies. That being said, no one at the time was saying a revolution was in order. At that time, the revolution was at a conservative stage, but as I said before it was always developing. As time went on, this conservative revolution went on, and each side had its own underlying theme. The colonists were always against these new laws and taxes that they didn’t have a say in creating but they had to pay for. They figured, rightfully so, that they should at least get a say in what they pay for, but they still weren’t planning open rebellion. The British felt that as time progressed, the colonies were becoming more and more independent, and due to the profitability the colonies generated for the empire it was crucial to keep them dependant on the mother country. Ultimately, many of the British taxes were not cruel, and many of their acts made economic and political sense for their needs. Regarding representation in parliament, the British didn’t want to set a precedent and lose some of their own power. After the French and Indian war, the British gained mass amounts of territories around the world. If they gave representation to some of their colonies, other colonies would see no reason that they shouldn’t be represented as well. By losing control of the mainland’s interests in parliament, Britain would become less powerful and more economically unstable. So even not giving the colonies representation in parliament made some political sense, but the mistake the British made, and in my opinion the turning point of the revolution from a conservative movement that was trying to protect existing rights to a radical movement that was fighting for new ideas and trying to expel the old ways, was the Intolerable acts, specifically the Government act and the Administration of Justice act. When these acts were enacted in 1774, Government had at least a similar structure to the modern structure with two different branches for legislation and judicial matters. The Government act took away any say that the people in Massachusetts had in Government and gave it to the king. The Administration of Justice act essentially gave British officers free reign to do as they pleased, with very little chance of consequential punishment for any actions they took. By turning Massachusetts from a democratic society to an autocratic one, the British attacked the values that the colonists treasured most and would not see fall without a fight, turning the revolution from conservative to radical. Radical in the sense that the American colonists were doing something unprecedented, not unjust. The Americans no longer had a historical blueprint to follow, they had to figure out a trail for themselves. After the intolerable acts, books like Thomas Paine’s Common Sense spread the radicalization of the revolution across the colonies, and it was at that point that the goals of the colonists changed from representation to indepence.

  12. Cole Sutton

    I believe that the American Revolution was a radical political movement as it was a decision to leave behind an established government for a new regime. What would this new government stand for? How would these people with no experience in governing know how to set up a system that would work for all? One example of an outcome of this radical movement is the Declaration of Independence. This was a new set of rules that the people would be governed under. If freedom was not won through the war, the consequences would have been further taxation and a greater loss of personal freedom. The government was gaining more and more power over the people. The Revolution was a series of these radical movements, one after the other. Refusal to pay taxes and declaring their separation from the king were other such movements. There would be no more taxation without representation. The people were no longer going to pay for things that they did not have a say about. The people could see the rich getting richer, and the poor getting poorer. This led to the radical idea of replacing the king as the head of a government with a group of people ruling on behalf of the people. They wanted a democracy, which was another radical idea. The patriots were fighting for a government that was working for the people and made up of these same people. Democracy would involve power to all the people, instead of power to the few elite. As Gary Nash wrote, there was an increasing gap between the social classes. When the poorest of people were attacking the wealthy before the revolution, it was a sign of how social injustice was evolving into a movement against the elite. How could a king know the needs of the peasants? It was these peasants who wanted to be patriots and form a new government that they could control instead of being ruled by one. The American Revolution was truly a radical movement. It was not just one movement but a series of movements made up of protests and new ideas that would replace a long established government. Each decision to go against Britain was a decision to move towards America. The series of radical movements made up the revolution and evolved into a new form of government.

  13. geoffwickersham (Post author)

    I believe that the American Revolution has both moderate and radical aspects to it. It is necessary that you look at the different class groups to determine which aspects were radical and which aspects were conservative. Looking at the poor classes in America, it could be argued that the American Revolution was a radical one. The poor people in America fought in the revolution to escape what they believed to be the terrible rulings of the British Government. Many of the lower-class citizens were upset with the taxes that the British were imposing on them and were also angered because they had no say in being taxed (taxation without representation). The colonists who rebelled due to unfair taxes and rule by the British were the main driving force of the Revolution and were the ones who truly wanted a change in government. Also, slaves were among those who wanted change in the government as well. It was believed that if the revolution was successful in freeing the white colonists from Britain, it would probably free them from the slave owners. All of those included in the radical side of the revolution, lower-class citizens and slaves both wanted freedom from the (as they believed) tyrannical British rule.
    But looking at both sides, it is easy to see how the revolution had its conservative parts as well. Many wealthy, aristocratic white people living in the colonies had their own reasons for fighting for freedom from British rule. They had less goals in the revolution than the radical side did because of their wealth and where they stood in the social class which meant that they already had a lot of liberties. On the other side of the Token were the mainly Anglican Loyalists to the British. Two of the main reasons for leaving British rule was to centralize the government and maintaining the liberties that they already had. In centralizing the government in America, it would be much easier for the wealthy people to have more power and get what they wanted easier than if they had to answer to the British government who was across an ocean. In conclusion, someone could argue that the American Revolution was neither fully radical or conservative, yet it had elements of both.

    Devin R.

  14. Sathvik

    I believe that the American Revolution was mostly radical, but had one part that showed conservatism. The revolution can be classified as radical because the colonists were advocating for some political reform and or social reform. The colonists were rejecting the British Monarchy and it was also an attempt by the colonists trying to create democracies/self-government on a much larger scale, which had never been done by any European Nation. Another reason for why the Revolution is radical is because the colonists are promoting change. There are two documents that prove this of this. The first document is the Declaration of Independence, The Declaration of Independence can be viewed as the colonists need for a change in leadership which falls under the definition of radicalism. Also, in the Declaration of Independence, our founding fathers expressed their grievances about the king and about the status quo in general. The second document that proves that the American Revolution was radical, is Thomas Paine’s Common Sense. In common sense, Paine explains why we need to gain Independence from Great Britain. The final reason for why the American Revolution is radical is that our founding fathers and or the leaders of the Revolution were desiring radical change by wanting to remove anything reminding them of British rule and British tradition in America.

    Gary Nash examined the economic and social part of the American Revolution. In the article “The Radical Revolution From the Bottom Up”, he talks about Abigail Adams and how she was using the Revolution to promote women’s rights. Nash also talked about how there was a social gap and a lack of social movement before the Revolution. This is shown by The Regulators, The Paxton Boys, and Bacons Rebellion. After the Revolution, we see a lot more social movements, and the social gap decreasing. Gary Nash’s’ points add on to why the American Revolution was Radical because it shows that the Revolution sparked change.

    The American Revolution can be viewed as conservative for mainly one reason. The reason is, they were trying to conserve the rights they previously had as colonials. The British had been indulgent to the American colonies until after the French and Indian War, when they tried to regain their expenses by implementing excessive taxes on the colonists, then punishing them when they resisted. So because of that, the American revolution is classified as conservative. This also meets the definition of conservatism because they were holding on to traditional values.

    In conclusion, the American Revolution was mostly radical but had one conservative part. The reasons on why it was radical are, the rejection British authority/monarchy, the documents Common Sense and the Declaration of Independence, and the founding fathers and or leaders of the revolution wanting to remove anything reminding them of English rule and English tradition in America. The conservative part is the colonists trying to preserve the rights they previously had as colonials before the French and Indian War. Overall, it depends on your point of view, whether or not the revolution was radical or conservative.

  15. Joey Llope

    I think the American revolution was a little conservative but it had more radical elements than conservative elements. I say it was a little conservative because the revolution was provoked by new taxes and restrictions the British put on the Americans like the proclamation of 1763, the Townsend acts, the intolerable acts, the embargo, and lot of other stuff. The colonists might have overreacted a little considering the British were paying 26 times more taxes than the Americans were and they were only paying for 1/3 of the total war debt for a war that they actually participated in. The first reason this was a radical revolution, besides the fact the Americans were the first to ever beat Britain because we are awesome, is we were rejecting the system that is monarchy and we were establishing a democratic government of our own. Our new government would have three branches with checks and balances to make each branch equally as powerful as the other. This is very different from Britain’s monarchy where only the king is in charge and there are no checks and balances to restrict the kings power, resulting in a much more authoritarian government.The second reason is the Americans were fighting to make a new social order in which the common people have a say in how the government works and what laws they make and who gets elected, ect. By common people, I mean white landowning men, but we eventually grant other people the right to vote. The third reason is when we get independence, we grant our citizens rights they would never have under British rule like freedom of speech and expression or the right to bear arms.

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