September 26

Blog #40 – Was the American Revolution conservative or radical by its nature?

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 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 historical scholars have been debating its very nature of the American Revolution soon after it ended.

As we read over and study chapter 7 in our textbook, many of you are asking questions about the use of my analogy of the American colonies as the spoiled child / teen overeeacting to limits being placed on the adolescent by previously indulgent parent (Britain / Parliament) who now realizes that their child has grown up and needs to take some responsibility.  My attitudes about the Revolution have changed over the past three 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.


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 – external against Britain and internal between social classes (which 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 conflicts that could have torn the colonies apart.

After the 1950s, historian Bernard Bailyn focused on ideological and psychological factors that drove the RevolutioFront Covern.  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 7 and 8, provide with me some insight into what you think our American Revolution was – a conservative revolution or truly radical one in nature.  Also, please provide some rationale for your answer. 

Due Monday, October 1 by class time.  Minimum of 250 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

March 11

Blog #14 – Kids Taking Over – Part 3

Pick one question from the following choices below and submit your answer by class on Monday, March 14.   Let’s shoot for 300 words minimum.  Dig deep! 

1. We watched the School House Rock Video in class for Women’s Suffrage.  How accurately do you think it portrays the events and people of the Women’s Suffrage Movement? Give examples.  Do you think School House Rock videos should be included in school curriculum? Why or why not?  – Autumn

2.  The Egyptian people recently overthrew their leader, Hosni Mubarek, after 30 years of oppression. Political experts believe social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter provided a means for the people to organize an overthrow of an oppressive government.  Do you think these social networking websites will change the way civil wars will be fought in the future? Will oppressive leaders become more concerned about the way they treat their own people? Why or why not? Explain.  – Mallory

Time Magazine’s latest, “Learn to Love the Revolution.”

Newsweek’s “Feminists in the Middle of Tahrir Square.

3.   If America had stayed neutral even after Germany’s resumption of submarine warfare and the Zimmerman note, what do you think the outcome of the Great War would have been?  – Hannah


4.   If you had to work in an unsanitary, old meat factory like the characters in The Jungle, what job would you choose?  Please explain why.  What job would you not do under any circumstances?  Please explain your reasoning.  – Allison


5.  If you were a woman living during World War I,  would you be for or against the war? Why or why not? Also, would you be willing to work in the war as a nurse? Or would stay at home and work in the factories or a similar job?  Explain your reasons.  – Courtney


6.   The Spanish-American War lasted less than 3 months and had fewer than 600 American soldiers were killed during the war.  In the end of the war, America ended up gaining only two territories that it still holds on to (Guam and Puerto Rico), we went to war with another (Philippines), and one of the territories that we had for a while actually turned against us and now hates us (Cuba). Knowing all of this, do you think the Spanish-American War was really worth it?  Why or why not? – Rob


7.  Gas prices over the last month have raised a crazy amount. People aren’t able to drive quite as far or have even resorted to riding bikes in this cold Michigan weather!  What do you think should be done to lower the gas prices back down again?  Is simply not driving your car the answer or should we find some way to make driving affordable once again?  Is there another option?  – Nathan

Top 10 Reasons to ride your bike instead of driving.  #10 is funny. 

8.  In our readings, there have been many instances where propaganda has determined the result of what is chosen or what the general opinion is of many Americans. From Wilson being almost worshipped to the glorifying of the Spanish American War, propaganda has played a major part on how we percieve events.  Do you think it is wrong to have these messages flooding the airwaves during war time and “brainwashing” America especially if these messages are false (Saddam Hussein planned the 9/11/01 attacks, for example)?  Or is it ethical in the fact that our government can put whatever posters they want? Explain.  – Emily


9. Woodrow Wilson didn’t seem to want to go to war but he ended up bringing us into World War 1 shortly after his election. Do you think that there was any way in which Wilson could have avoided entering the war and do you think that not entering would have been a better decision?  – Dennis


10.  In class, we discussed how our conflict in Mexico before WW1 (the pursuit of Pancho Villa) was very similar to our conflict with Afghanistan and, later, Al Qaeda and our search for Osama Bin Ladin. What other events are there our history that share have echoes but don’t necessarily repeat themselves exactly?  – Ryan



11.  It is the opinion of many scholars that the Treaty of Versailles was the main cause of WWII as well as everything that has happened since.  They feel that the treaty was more full of vengeance (especially in favor of France) rather than reconciliation for the terrible acts perpetrated against them by Germany during the war.  On the other hand, it is possible that the treaty did not really have any significant effect on what was to come afterwards and that considering Hitler’s extremism, it was highly likely that WWII and the Holocaust as well as the Korean and Vietnam wars and all that we have had to deal with in the past 2 and a half decades such as terrorism and economic turmoil.

Which side do you think is correct?  Why?  Do you think anything could have been done differently regarding the treaty and Hitler’s rise to power etc. that would have prevented our world from such terrible events?  – Eli

“Nothing is inevitable until it happens” – A.J.P. Taylor, British historian.

12. During the 1800s, many Germans left their homeland for a better life in the promised land of America.  Now imagine you are a first or second generation German immigrant in the U.S in the time of World War I, what would you think of the image of Germany that was being portrayed in the American media at that time?  Would you feel more loyalty to Germany or would you sympathize with Americans? Why?  – Jake Rzzzzz


13. Do you think that the Treaty of Versailles was fair to Germany?  Why or why not?  What do you think is wrong with it and how would you improve it?  Explain  – Chuck Z.


14. Muammar el-Quaddafi has demonstrated his determination to rule Libya in the past few years. From bombing civilians to attacking U.S. planes, he plans to keep anyone from interfering. He has taken such drastic measures that the military is starting to feel unrest. News radios all across Libya chant for freedom and the overthrow of Quaddafi.

 – In response, Obama has been contemplating whether or not to intervene in Libya.  He wanted to call for a no-flight zone, but it would too expensive and risky to try and destroy the anti-aircraft weaponry. Also, the U.S. is already dealing with wars in two other countries. On the other hand, Quaddafi has sponsored terrorism against the U.S. before and presents a threat to U.S. safety. After all, the Libyans are doing fine on their own, right? Read this news article and make your choice. If you were Obama, what would you do? – Alex R.


15. What do you think could have happened next if Cuba decided to start their own government without the approval of the U.S. after we took it from Spanish-American War in 1898?  Would we have gone to war with them too?  Could we have owned all of Cuba today?  Would we have Guantanamo Bay?  – Molly


16. Theodore Roosevelt was a “different” kind of President. He was more rugged, athletic, and wanted to fight in war.  He also had a different voice and was viewed in a unique way compared to most politicians.  However, he really wasn’t completely different than most politicians.   He made “closed-door” deals, lied, and made promises knowing that he would not be able to fulfill.  Would you like a president in the future to be upfront, honest, a true people’s president, and not a politician?  Why or why not?  – Brad M.

If I cannot find Republicans, I am going to appoint Democrats” – TR in Sean Dennis Cashman’s America in the Age of Titans (59).  


17.  If Teddy Roosevelt or Taft had been president when the Great War was declared in 1914, how might things have gone differently?  Would the U.S. have gone in right away, waited, or entered after the Lusitania?  Also, do you think that it would it have lasted longer or shorter?  How would the peace negotiations be different?  – Jenny, Jenny


18. Many people have come up with clever ways to explain or help people understand the complexity of both World Wars. Mr. Wickersham used the snowball fight to help explain the countries’ roles in WWI and anime developers in Japan made the anime Axis Powers Hetalia to teach children (at first) about WWII through personifying the countries using stereotypical characteristics. If you could design your own metaphor to help people understand WWI, what would you do? Anime, Cartoon, Book, Movie, Diagram (etc..) ? Why? – Sarah 

*** There’s pop-ups with the Hetalia link. 


19. With all of the protests occurring in the world – Middle East, especially – right now, many of the protestors have little or no chance of overthrowing their corrupt leaders on their own. Libya, for example, is being run by a madman who has made it clear he will open fire on his people if he sees fit. The American government has a chance to assist the protestors around the world and help establish democracy based governments when the leaders are overthrown. Do you think that America should assist in the protests, and if so, do you think our government (America) should be the ones to elect a new leader when the time comes? Do you think this would make America look like an empire?  What if we just appoint a transition leader, and then the people elect their own, like in Iraq?  Explan. – Willy

Here’s an interview about U.S. and/or U.N. intervention in Libya, dated March 8.