December 1

Blog #80 – How revolutionary was the American 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.

As we read over and study chapter 7-8 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 five 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 conflicts that could have torn the colonies apart.

After the 1950s, historian Bernard Bailyn focused on ideological and psychological factors that drove the RevolutionFront Cover.  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 (“Whose Revolution?”), 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 from the ideas above and the Gary Nash article, “The Radical Revolution from the ‘Bottom Up'”. 

Due Friday, Dec. 4 by class time.  Minimum of 300 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 1, 2015 by geoffwickersham in category Blogs

78 thoughts on “Blog #80 – How revolutionary was the American Revolution?

  1. Jackie Sullivan

    Our revolution was both a radical and conservative one in nature. But I believe that the revolution was more radical then conservative. I came to this conclusion when I truly understood the Boston Massacre. I remember in 8th grade when my teacher showed our class a painting of the British soldiers shooting at the American colonists who are portrayed as innocent. Until APUSH my history teachers glossed over the American Revolutionary War. Two years later talking about the same topic I now see in a different perspective. I now see the colonists aggressively fighting for their rights by protests like the Boston Tea Party and forming groups like the Continental Congress to stand up for themselves. I also saw that America for once wasn’t the victim. The Boston Massacre and the Boston Tea Party were more radical then conservative because it was people striking out in a group trying overthrow the British governments control over them. In the Boston Massacre they were attacking the British soldiers and in the Boston Tea Party they dumped massive amounts of tea into the harbor to piss off the government. Also the colonist’s reactions to some of the taxes that were imposed upon them like the Stamp Act, which was never put into force, were radical. The colonists went crazy over the thought of this law being enforced, which made them want to overthrow the British government. The Continental Congress is another example of how the Revolutionary War was radical because it was people trying to overthrow the British government and then creating a new one. But the Revolutionary War was obviously conservative because it was people trying to keep their powers and rights that they already have been exercising for years. I believe that the American Revolutionary War was radical because it was the colonists striking out together by overthrowing the British government and creating a new one.

  2. Callie B

    I believe the American Revolution was a radical act of the colonies overthrowing Britain’s monarchy for their new independent government. This is backed by events such as the Boston Tea Party and the Stamp Act riots which were all instances in which a group of people acted out against the government they were currently under in previously unheard of situation. They were, by definition of the word radial, striking out on their own. We see the American people do this time and time again throughout the course of the events leading up to and during the Revolution. The Declaration of Independence was a radical idea at the time as it claimed that all men had the pursuit of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness and the colonists felt that Britain had denied them their born rights. The Proclamation of 1763 line angered colonists as they saw this division of land as a violation of their pursuit of happiness as they could no longer expand and grow as colonies. Americans craved liberty and their own independent government. These weren’t the only radical ideas going on around the time of the Revolution, however we see through Gary Nash’s The Radical Revolution from ‘The Bottom Up” that there were other groups of people standing up for themselves. Abigail Adams realized the real importance women had and strongly believed they had a right to better education. When she voiced such opinions on women’s rights to John Adams in her letter, asking for them to “not put such unlimited power in the hands of the husbands”, these ideas were dismissed as inferior just as Britain had thought it ridiculous for the colonies to attempt negotiations for independence. Then there were the slaves who had it the worst. Slaves attempts at freedom included petitions and approaching court which hardly ever worked as we see through how many had to flee and/or join the British army for freedom. I think all of these new ideas causing so much turmoil all at once during the Revolution is what makes it radical.

  3. Lindsay H

    As we have read and studied the Revolution, I have come to the conclusion that it was a radical revolution as opposed to a conservative revolution. I believe that the Progressive School was more accurate in their research of how part the Revolution was increasing social and economic divisions in Americans in both rural and urban areas. The passage “Whose Revolution?” gave a clearer understanding of this concept and stated how attack by laborers and lower classes on the elite upper classes and resentment towards the wealthy was evidence of these divisions and was the “breeding” of Revolutionary change within America, and was internal rather than external. The passage also describes how varying material circumstances lead to different interpretations of republicanism, which meant that the Revolution had a more complex meaning. In class and documents that we discussed, we discovered that The Seven Years’ War lead to a more unified and independent American identity; but also lead to the feeling of freedom and liberty, and not just from the British. Slaves and women were two groups infected with this desire. Slaves noticed the hypocrisy of the Americans who accused Britain of enslaving them, while in American there were actual slaves who so strongly desired their own freedom. In the Southern colonies, as well as some other northern ones, became fearful and suspicious of the slaves uprising against them. They did have a reason, because the number of uprisings and rebellions did increase, and some had huge impacts on southern society. In Charleston, 60% of the population was African American and that was a major concern for some. Women were another group that felt to be liberated, but from men. Abigail Adams was one woman who greatly exemplified this need. Her husband, John Adams was a powerful man and helped write the new “code of laws.” She requested to him that women be given more rights, such as property, divorce from abusive husbands, and votes. Women were looked down upon and seen as an inferior sex, subject to the wishes of men, and she as well as many others saw that this needed to change. White, land-owning, elite males were the only ones who I think would have seen the Revolution as more conservative, as well as the British, because I believe they were not as affected by the poor or seen as an affected minority group. Since these men were not the largest population of the states, women, slaves and African Americans, and the lower class people would have seen the Revolution as radical instead of a conservative revolution.

  4. Ian Herdegen

    Radical, by definition, means extensive changing. The very fact that colonists were uniting to become an independent country instead of a group of colonies headed by the King is radical.

    I believe (based off of class readings and this information) that our American Revolution was a radical one in nature. Originally, the British had essentially “ignored” America for about 150 years. Navigation Acts were not strictly enforced and the colonists were not taxed. The colonists got wealthy and lived their own way of life. The Revolution might’ve been considered conservative because the colonists were trying to keep that way of life they had developed over the period of salutary neglect from the British. However, since the revolution was a transition from a monarchy to a republic and many rich loyalists left the country after the war, I would consider the revolution radical. As many people may say, the colonists wanted to keep some things the same as before and change other stuff, I would argue that It doesn’t matter if the colonists wanted to keep some things the same as before. The fact that they wanted any change period meant that the revolution was radical.

    An example of the revolution being radical is when colonists rebelled against the stamp act, intolerable acts, and the proclamation of 1763. They desired change, and wanted to be left by themselves with a new form of government.

    Because the “all men” in “all men are created equal” was limited to white male landowners, the American society faced the radical change of a trickle-down affect that led to women striving for more rights (Abigail Adams) and slaves wanting freedom. In some areas (namely the Northern states like Pennsylvania), slaves were slowly made free men and women. Gary Nash believes in this “trickle-down’ effect as well. He believes the revolution will spring America into a better society than it was before the war where all people will have liberty. In fact, the revolution was so radical that word actually got around that slaves would start acting this way as well, and civilians feared slave rebellions.

  5. Stephanie Green

    The writings of Gary Nash in “The Radical Revolution from the ‘Bottom Up” and “Whose Revolution” that the revolution was clearly radical. We see throughout chapters 7 and 8 the colonists going against laws and actions of the British. Bacroft writes how they believed the revolution was a march towards greater human freedom, which goes hand-and-hand with the general thesis and examples Nash wrote in his article. Nash first makes it clear that the revolution was to combat the hierarchies of British monarchy and had a goal to diminish classism, sexism, religious intolerance, oppression of slaves and Native Americans, etc. and that the first step to accomplish these things the colonists would be required to break away from the systems in place and create a new one. One of these being how the revolution had leaders like African Slave Thomas Peters working for the freedom of African Americans and Indian warrior Dragging Canoe who fought for the fight of his people. We also see Abbigail Adams, directly questioning the systems in place when she sees that new laws are not going to help give women a voice. We also see a radical movement through multiple slave rebellions. Nash does not outline all of the radicalism in the revolution, and actually forgets to mention may historic events that happened before. The reactions colonist had after all of the taxes imposed on them after salutary neglect (The Boston Tea Party, for example) and raged and rebelled using tactics like simply not paying the taxes. All of the actions during the revolution led up to the creation of the Articles of Confederation. The colonists wanted a republican government with an executive and judiciary limited. Even though this had a lot of weaknesses, it was the colonists first time achieving the goal of breaking away from the system and creating a new government. The fight for freedom is still something that the minority still struggles with today, but it could be argued that that march as Bancroft writes stemmed from the revolution.

  6. Harvey R.

    My choice to approach the American Revolution as a radical or conservative one was quite difficult, as there was an abundance of evidence that we discussed in class to back up either claim. Through careful consideration, I believe that the American Revolution was truly a radical one due to the colonists overthrowing the monarchal political system that the British enforced on them and replaced it with a democracy. There are traits that could make it a conservative revolution, but there was more evidence to back up a radical revolution and there were some traits and policies that the people weren’t trying to keep. One of the major problems that was growing in colonial America, according to Gary Nash’s article “The Radical Revolution from the ‘Bottom Up’”, was the separating economic classes between the rich and the poor. The rich were receiving benefits and better opportunities, such as education, that favored them over the poor. There were attacks on the wealthy by the poor before the Revolution such as the Paxton Boys that truly showed the tensions and anger from the poor at this time, showing how they had a large desire for an overthrow of the social system to replace it with one that is equal for everyone. Also, Bancroft believed 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). The colonists’ government of themselves was a spot of difference in the world filled with monarchs. They wanted to govern themselves instead of having the parliament enforce unfair laws and acts upon them. It opened a new era of governments throughout many countries in Europe and through the world. Through the large contributions from the desire for social and political transformation throughout the colonies, completely changing what was previously intact by the British government, the American Revolution proved to be radical, completely changing the order of society.

  7. Elizabeth

    By going off the definition of radical revolution, people striking out on their own by overthrowing an existing political or social order and creating a new one, the American Revolution was radical. The British have always ruled the colonies up to the Revolutionary War, even though they would release control for long periods of time. During these long periods of time the colonies would rule themselves and conduct themselves in any way they wished. While it may have seemed like the colonies were in control themselves, and created their own government, the British still ruled over the colonies.
    And during the time , called solitary neglect, the colonies grew to govern themselves. This led to the sensation of being free from under the rule of the British. One of the key factors into identifying a radical revolution is creating a new social order in gaining freedom from higher authority. This can be seen in many ways. For example, the Imperial school , a group of historians, believe that a radical revolution consisted of political and constitutional issues. You can see the political issues is there money of the British taxes on the colonists, and you can see the constitutional issues through historical events and acts pushed on the colonies by the Parliament.
    You can see the colonist constitutional rights being violated through the quartering act. The first quartering act allowed British army to stay in colonists houses. The Parliament also passed another quartering act which would allow British army men to kick colonist families out of their own houses. This is unconstitutional, because you should not be able to kick someone out of their own house for weeks at a time. Another way you can see the colonists political rights being violated is through many of the parliament’s taxation acts. The stamp act, the Tea Act and the molasses act are all examples appalling the British were treating the colonist poorly. All of these acts put under taxes on the colonists goods that are needed for everyday life. For example, the Stamp Act put A $0.06 tax on every sheet of paper. Paper is used in everyday life to write letters , list and calendars. All of these items were taxed heavily and colonist would not be able to pay for both the tax and the good. At home, the British we’re trying to ease up taxes on their own people. This resulted in have your taxes on the colonists. This was unconstitutional of the British and to put such a heavy tax on people who earned less money than those in England.
    While some could argue that The American Revolution was a conservative revolution, a conservative revolution states that a previous union of people had helped rule the land, like a previous government. America was never released from the control of the British Empire. This makes it a radical revolution.

  8. Ashley S.

    Ever since elementary school we were taught that the great American Revolution was won by the brave colonists who won their independence from the villainous British. History books even said that the war was won in an appropriate and conservative way. Now we know that depending on the historian, information can be biased and that historians tend to romanticize history (keep out the “nitty gritty” facts). Our young minds could not think that the history books could be wrong or hold back the truth. As we moved to middle school, we were exposed to more views of the American Revolution. Again, the British brutes were defeated by the valiant Americans constantly flashed across our minds. However, a few unrecognized historians voiced opposing views, saying that the Americans got their independence by confiding in radicalism or in ways contradicting to the past books. This began to spark the question: Who was right? Was the American Revolution won with conservative ways or radical? Either answer could be right; it just depends on what information is used to back up the claim. In my opinion, the American Revolution was accomplished radically.
    When the King’s salutary neglect ended for the colonists after many years, they began taxing British goods and enforcing various acts/duties/regulations on the colonists. These consisted of the Sugar Act, the Currency Act, Quartering Act, Stamp Act, Townshend Duties, Tea Act, and the Intolerable Acts. From the sudden spring up of these acts, I can understand why the colonists did not take well to these new rules. However, the way the colonists reacted showed their radical side. For instance the Stamp Act, which was enforced by British Parliament March 22, 1765. Under this act, legal papers, licenses, newspapers, ship papers, and even playing cards were taxed (required a stamp on it). On March 18, 1766 the act was repealed due to radical acts from the colonies. Officials were tarred and feathered, a custom known by the Sons of Liberty, effigies of officials were made, and their homes were ransacked. Even in response to the Townshend Duties, which taxed glass, lead, paints, paper, and tea imported from the colonies, the colonists tarred and feathered (as seen from the John Adams video) and rioted when the Liberty was seized. In a cause and effect like way, the British troops were then sent to Boston. Here, the Boston Massacre occurred when the colonists provoked the British soldiers. The Imperial School felt that the British weren’t wrong for taxing the colonies, because it had been British blood and money that was greatly used during the Great War for Empire or the French and Indian War. In the sense of taxing, I agree with the Imperial Schools reason for defending the British, because England was in debt of $150 million British pounds. Also, initially when the war was declared in 1756, the colonials were ready to fight, but refused to pay for their own defense, which didn’t make sense. According to Bernard Bailyn, a historian of the 50s, the colonies were literate and well educated in political literature. From reading all of these 17th century and early 18th century political theories, the colonies became oversensitive of the British authority. When the bunches of acts and rules from Britain were placed, the colonies were overwhelmed and ready to say that the British were in fact corrupt and abusing their authority over the colonies. The colonies began to see the struggle between political and economic power and were determined to fight for their rights, it seemed not in a conservative manner. Garry Nash of the New Left historians, another historian I agree with, elaborated more on hat caused this radical behavior in the colonials. He basically said that the colonies social and economic tension caused the lower classed colonists’ envy of the higher class to bubble. This led to attacks by the Paxton Boys and the Regulators.
    Nash’s article, “The Radical Revolution from the Bottom Up”, showed that the colonists’ radicalism redefined the entire social structure. While the colonials fought for their independence from the British, slaves began to see the boiling tensions between the two. Soon this sparked a thought among the slaves. They began thinking of their own independence and liberty. For instance, in late March 1775, they petitioned for their freedom and Thomas Peters was a significant black Loyalist. When the British saw the slaves emerging into the scene, they made a deal to free them if they joined the British. This way, the British could undermine the colonies from within. George Mason had in someway called this plan, when he said that bringing in more slaves probably caused the destruction of their government. People of Virginia, where many slaves were located, claimed this to be the most diabolical scheme of the British (offering slaves freedom and turning them against their masters). Not only had slaves begun to take action, but so did women of this patriarchal time. One prominent woman was Abigail Adams, the wife of John Adams. March 31, 1776, Abigail wrote a letter about the concern of the representation of women. John merely dismissed the secret plea and called her “saucy”. Eventually, her and other women would sign a petition to congress. As you said before in class, the American Revolution had happened in a trickle affect way. It seemed that from the start of the white male’s tension between the lower and upper class initiated the trickle. Slaves and women became participants in the revolution from seeing the fight for change around them. The American Revolution, with the support of this evidence, truly was a radical one more so, than conservative.

  9. Harry Carr

    Going by the textbook and notes from class, I believe that there is sufficient evidence for either a radical or conservative revolution taking place, but I personally believe the American revolution was radical in the end. The potential support for a conservative revolution comes chiefly from Britain’s salutary neglect toward the colonies, during which, for the most part, they were left to govern themselves as the British government dealt with more domestic issues. However, once Britain began to draw their attention toward the colonies after the Seven Years’ war, colonists found much of their way of life interrupted by such things as the Proclamation of 1763 and Intolerable Acts. Yes, colonists did wish to regain the lives and law they lived under during that 150 or so years, but even then the knowledge of British control still loomed, and the revolution was primarily intended to cast out their oppressive rule for good. In addition, a primary candidate for change that Nash notes was the growing gap between social classes, with the wealthy being much more so in comparison to the middle and lower classes. The revolution was fueled by the desire to return to American self-government, somewhat like the period of salutary neglect, however for multiple social groups, clear changes were in order that made it radical. The lower class became a major part of the changes that took place, notably the Paxton Boys and others who attacked the wealthy. Women, too, became a focus here, as their rights were shunned by not only the British government, but their own husbands, demonstrated by Abigail Adams’ letter to her husband John, who merely laughs off the concept of women’s rights. Had the revolution been solely about the American colonies escaping British control, I would be able to see much more easily the conservative side of the colonists’ motives, however there were so many more varying perspectives and desires that factored into it and its overall impact.

  10. Tassia Zaryckyj

    The American Revolution can be seen from many different viewpoints. There are opinions on whose revolution it was, who truly triggered it, and if it was a radical or conservative revolution. Based on my knowledge in this topic so far, it is very difficult for me to pick between radical and conservative. The revolution can be considered conservative in that it sought to secure the liberties and representative government that Americans believed they were already guaranteed, that they had a God-given right. It was radical in that it broadened the support of those who could enjoy civil liberties, and ultimately led to the development of a free and open society where everyone regardless of race or gender may enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Historian Gary Nash has identifies an instance that provoked the Revolution; people were not receiving their natural rights as American citizens. Nash 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. Thus triggering attacks by the poor (the Paxton Boys in PA and the Regulators in N.C.) on the wealthy before the Revolution. According to the article also written by Gary Nash, “Radical Revolution from the Bottom Up,” English restrictions on the locals were beginning to be felt heavily and more policies were being added such as the currency act. The Credit Crisis of 1772 took place as a result of English demanding payment that the Americans just did not have; planters were forced to give up their land and animals. That is an example of the frustration and resentment that laborers felt at being left out of the rapid economic change. Furthermore, white men were not the only group of people that felt they deserved liberty. African Americans and women began petitioning for their equal rights that they hear should be received by everybody. In contrast the American Revolution could be considered conservative in that the Americans were simply asserting their rights that had been guaranteed to them under the English constitution, which had developed over the course of centuries. These and most Americans thought it was the King who sought radical change by imposing his will, and by suppressing the rights and liberty of his subjects contrary to law and tradition. Most Americans did not want to change their government but only to prevent the King from encroaching on their traditions, their principles, and their rights which had developed during the 150 year period of Salutary Neglect.

  11. Kristen Harvey

    The American Revolution was radical, not conservative. By the very definition a revolution is “an overthrow or repudiation and the thorough replacement of an established government or political system by the people governed”( If there were not radical changes to the government system, the American Revolution would have been a coup, much like the French Revolution in which the people overthrew the king and the rich people just to have them replaced with a new tyrannical leader and new rich people still suppressing the people who wanted change. Some groups of people who did not see a radical change in their treatment, like women. Abigail Adams asked her husband if women’s rights could be added in the new government. This idea was even too modern for the founding fathers and was not included. Some Colonists also owed money to the British government, which increased the gap between the rich and the poor. Even after the war there was still a gap, but there is not the defined social classes in American to the extent that they have in Britain. Today a person can be born poor in America and can become a billionaire. Even though people like the Native Americans, slaves, and women were still not seen as first class citizens, the dramatic change from the previous form of government makes this revolution radical.
    The American people did not like the control the British Government had over them. They were also outraged that they were not seen as equal to people living in England. During Solitary Neglect the American people enjoyed running things without the mother country telling them what to do. After the French and Indian War the British government tried to take back control of the colonies. Parliament placed taxes on the people without any representation from the colonies, which made the colonists furious. The colonists refused to give up control to England who had not been present for a long time. The American people were not silently complaining to themselves about the British government, they made sure that they were heard. Some of the most well know cases were the Boston Tea Party, and the reaction to the Stamp Act from the colonists, where the angry colonists fought taxes and restrictions they found unfair.
    A lot of the success of this Revolution began with the middle class and the poor, because articles like Common Sense written by Thomas Paine were made for the common man. This article was not geared towards the rich, which is the reason why its message spread so far. This helped the average person realize what was wrong with the current government allowing all colonist to be a united front against the British.
    The Americans want for a change from the current system of government was seen in the Articles of Confederation. In this they clearly addressed the problems with the current system of government, not only the power that Britain had, but also the government in the states. They gave all states equal rights and votes, so that the old states near the coast did not have seniority over the new states that were being formed in the West. This is a reaction to incidents like the Paxton Boys Rebellion were the poor former indentured servants were furious that they were being attacked by Native Americans and nothing was being done for their safety. So in retaliation they killed many people (Native Americans?) and burned James Town. This shows how the leaders were trying to learn from previous mistakes to prevent a possible future rebellion from newly forming states. They made a lot of other changes to the new government like a small federal government and larger state governments.
    In the Declaration of Independence the leaders of the revolution wrote down all of the reasons they wanted to break away from the current government. These grievances were rectified in the new American government and show that they changed what the leaders felt was wrong with the nation.

  12. Francesca B.

    I think that the American Revolution was radical. The definitions of a radical revolution and a conservative revolution both apply to the American Revolution but when it comes down to picking a side, the definition better applies to the American Revolution. A radical revolution is when people strike out on their own by overthrowing an existing political or social order and creating a new one. This basically sums up the revolution in one sentence. Yes there was a conservative side to the revolution, the British wanting to keep order of their people, but at the same time the English weren’t their people anymore. At some point the British had to realize that these people were on their own and doing fine, if the British had had some sense I believe all the fighting could have ceased in order to come up with a comprise. But because both sides were so stubborn and could only see from their point of view, that they should either be English or British, they restored to war. That is the main reason I believe the American Revolution was radical. What rebels would go up against their former ruler in war. The colonist didn’t care at what price their freedom came and were willing to fight the “same side”(the British). With help from the French navy, they were able to trap Brt. General Cornwall on a peninsula and Washington and Marquis blocked the British escape by land resulting in surrender. For the reason that a group of underdogs defeated the min power, Brittan, I think the American Revolution is radical. It was unheard of to rebel against your ruler and result in the recognition of your own country. Although I acknowledge tat the British were conservative in the sense that all they wanted to do was tax there people, they failed to realize their salutatory neglect, and what the English had to do to make the British realize this was radical.

  13. Dan Llope

    I’m not totally sure on what to say about the revolution- I can see ways it can be viewed as both a conservative revolution AND a radical revolution. The colonists rose against one of the most powerful empires of its time, England. The way colonists rose against the British to declare against taxation without representation, coercive acts, and unnecessary quartering was seen as a radical act- in the past, revolts took place, but the higher powers of empires quelled the rebellions effortlessly- the american revolution makes it different because the rebels banded together as a premature nation, and were able to ask for aid from another empire, France. It can also be seen as a conservative revolution in some ways. Like the articles in which we read in class, the colonists cried out for liberty, but these colonists were white males, for the most part. These colonists wanted to be freed from the “chains” of Britain’s rule but yet they still had slaves in chains of their own. In other words, the colonists wanted to change Britain’s ways for them, but were not willing to change their own ways, not willing to free people in their own borders. It can be seen as conservative because the way things were continued on that way.

  14. Scotti P.

    The American Revolution was far more radical than it was conservative. If a person was to look at the Revolution from the perspective of a white, male land-owner, then it may seem more conservative. But if every person who played a part is considered, then it is evident that it was a radical movement. In the article “The Radical Revolution from the ‘Bottom Up’”, Gary Nash discusses all of the different people who played a major role in the war such as women, Native Americans, the French, and the slaves. Women were one of the more rebellious groups during this time period, especially Abigail Adams. After seeing protests against the British for their poor treatment, she realized that women were also being mistreated. Women started to want more rights and Abigail even asked for representation in the Code of Laws written by her husband, John Adams. Although no drastic changes were made, a new way of thinking came about. Another group that became extremely rebellious during the Revolution were the slaves. They saw white, free men demanding freedom from a power the was suppressing them. This made the slaves realize that if they could gain enough power towards their own movement for freedom, they could achieve the same goal. Some slaves joined the British in hopes of gaining freedom which was very radical. I do see how some people could see this as a conservative movement. The men who history write about are seen as radical but in fact it was quite the opposite. They wanted to break free from British rule and form a republican government in which all states would have their own government and the federal government wouldn’t be as strong. The male colonists also did not want to have property-less men or women vote. They also kept slaves which was hypocritical and makes the movement look more conservative. Although they were radical in the sense that they refused to pay British taxes and follow other rules that were formed by the British. In the end, the colonists ended up overthrowing a powerful government and created an entirely new one, which makes me believe that it was in fact a radical revolution.

  15. Emma Lucken

    I believe that the American Revolution was a radical revolution. American colonists overthrew a monarchy and established a form of democracy that was never seen before. This alone would show how radical the change was but further evidence from Bancroft also proves my claim. Bancroft was an ultra-patriotic historian and he felt that the “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) He portrays the Revolution as a struggle between right and wrong, a legendary war that was destined by God. The colonists had been left in salutary neglect for 150 years but their ideas were still very radical for the time. Also, while the colonists were in salutary neglect they still viewed themselves as British citizens and they were still somewhat under British rule but they were still given liberties that those living in Great Britain enjoyed as well. When the king started paying attention to the colonists and realized how much money he could make off of the colonies, that’s when the injustice started. Additionally, the colonies started the revolution without fully knowing where it was going to end. During the American Revolution, once the British starting killing many colonists and refused the Olive Branch Petition it was clear that the colonists had to make a radical change. The Progressive School of thought was that the economic shift was the biggest role that the American Revolution played. Without the revolution, who knows how the colonists would have been successful. The British were practicing mercantilism, or were not allowing the colonists to trade with other countries, and because of this, many merchants were quickly going bankrupt. The consensus school of history puts an emphasis on the “shared commitment to certain fundamental political principles of self-government” (Bailey 140). This was radical because it brought together many different kinds of people in a common goal. The ideas and movements that came out of the Revolutionary War can only be described as radical as they were never seen before, they united a lot of people, and they had a big affect on the colonies and Britain.

  16. Chance

    I truly believe that the American Revolution was powered not only by economic motives but also social ideas. I agree with Gary Nash and the new left, because that is what America was founded on. America has been a land a freedom, to get rich or express your religion. Regardless of what the founding fathers wanted, America has become a symbol for freedom. Considering the contagious idea of freedom, the revolution was very radical because it led to more ideas of freedom, the only things that were in place previously were economic systems, and because social changes helped lead to the revolution. Firstly, the revolution led to more ideas of freedom. The article, “The Radical Revolution From The Bottom Up” showed how revolutionary ideas spread quickly. When the white males were so hellbent on their liberties, the idea spread to their wives and slaves. Groups of slaves would band together and chant “Liberty” over and over again, hoping for their own freedom. Another group that wanted their freedom as a result of the revolution were women, wives led by Abigal Adams. Abigal tried to reason with her husband to grant herself more liberties because she saw that work for the white men protesting the British. These spreading ideas of freedom show that this revolution was indeed radical, as none of these hopes for freedom could be possible without the revolution. Secondly, the revolution was not solely economic motives. While wealth, or lack of it, was a key contributor to the revolution, ideas and principles played as large a role, if not greater in the revolution. The American colonists were irritated by the navigation acts, and while the acts did constrict the colonies’ economy, the colonists got angry on principle. Thomas Pane solidified this idea in Common Sense, saying that an island should not be able to govern a larger body. The events that offended the colonists most, namely the quartering acts, Quebec act, and the Boston Massacre, had very little to no economic impact upon the colonies. This shows that the revolution was not only about money, but rather it was about ideas, liberties, and principles. Finally, social changes led to the revolution. Salutary neglect led to the colonies having a higher sense of independence, as well as the social differences which affected the colonists. One of the ideas that rubbed the colonists the wrong way were class distinctions. In America tobacco was the “poor man’s crop”, meaning that anyone, no matter how poor, could plant tobacco and make a fortune. The growing sense of equality (at least among property-owning white men) was a result of the revolution. Another key aspect were systems of governments in the colonies. Whether the governments were oligarchic, like with the First Families of Virginia, or (slightly) more direct in Massachusetts, the citizens still had more political freedom than the King would want them to have. We can see the desire for government before the revolution, as personified by the Paxton boys, yet the revolution is still radical as they overthrow one government and replace it with a more perfect one. The revolution led to the creation of the Articles of Confederation and then later, the Constitution. In conclusion, the revolution was radical because it created something new. It created new ideas of freedom
    among the people who did not have freedom, it created new ideas about how the colonies should run, and while it was already operating, it still wasn’t a conservative revolution because the people were fighting for the new idea of independence, and finally the revolution created new social orders and new government.

  17. Skye Taylor

    Over this week we have discussed the revolution to try and determine whether or not it was radical or conservative. Certain people see it as radical other so not. To be honest I really didn’t know how to answer this question because depending on how you look at it, the revolution could be seen as either conservative or radical because of the readings and class discussions we have had over this period of time. Overall I think the revolution was most likely radical and here are some reasons why. First of all, I believe that it was radical because of the people rebelled against the taxes that were placed on them by the British. These uprising could have possibly been seen as a spark for the revolution because hey we’re revolting against rules that had been place on them by their government. Secondly, I believe that it was not conservative because people didn’t like the rights that they already had so they were trying to break free from the government that they had so they could start their own with better rights. Basically stating that since people didn’t like these rules they wanted something different which led to the revolution. Also, Gary Nash stated that the radicals wanted a future with better conditions than the ones they experienced when the fighting with Britain started. With this being said he clearly calls the revolutionaries radicals which puts emphasis on why this was a radical revolution. Another thing that I see was a big one that sets the revolution as being radical is that it included a woman, Abigail Adams, wanted to get away from the way Britain treated women to give them better rights. Which was another way of not being conservative because she wasn’t trying to fight to keep the rights that women already had. Barely anyone wanted to keep the original way of life so that is why the revolution happened and why it is radical instead of conservative.

  18. David Barton

    The American Revolution was a political revolution that separated England’s North American colonies from Great Britain and led to the formation of the United States of America. The Revolution was achieved in large part by the American Revolutionary War (1775-1783), which was fought between England against America and its allies (France, Spain, and the Dutch Republic). The American Revolution embodied and reflected the principles of the Enlightenment, which emphasized personal liberty and freedom from tyranny among other ideals.
    The American revolutionaries and the Founding Fathers of the United States sought to create a nation without the shackles of the rigid social hierarchy that existed in Europe. Although the American Revolution succeeded in establishing a new nation that was built on the principles of personal freedom and democracy, scholars today continue to debate whether or not the American Revolution was truly all that revolutio

  19. Nathan C

    I believe that the American Revolution was more of a conservative revolution than a radical one. There are many ways someone could argue that is was radical, some examples are that they were rebelling against unfair representation and tax imposed on them by the English parliament and king. But I don’t see these as much of an argument when we look at the results of the Revolution after the fighting ended. Women still had little to none rights, slavery still wasn’t abolished and under the Articles of Confederation only property owning white males could vote. This shows that although the preached freedom all through the set up to the Revolution and even in our arguably most important document in American history the Declaration of Independence, they said that all men were created equal. As I look back it seems to me that when they said this in the Declaration they meant at the time that all white property owning men were created equal or so it is shown by the way things went for everyone else after. If this was truly a radical revolution and everyone believed that everyone was created equal African slave and woman’s right should have come easy right. This to me seems like a huge contradiction by the part of the Revolutionary’s. These conservative ideas for the time where women were just there for having and raising the children and slaves were property weren’t changed until the American Civil War where slavery was finally abolished almost 90 years later and the Women’s rights movement in the 20th century for women’s right to vote almost 200 years later. The fact that it took this long for everyone in America to truly be free is an extremely strong argument that instead of a radical revolution the American Revolution was a conservative one.

  20. Michael Homer

    I thought that the American Revolution was a radical revolution as opposed to a conservative revolution. While we took notes I realized that some people can see the American Revolution as a conservative revolution. The lower class was going through the system of credit which lead them to debt. The American Revolution had a great sense of hope for the American colonists that they could one day start their own country and be able to start a democracy with their own rules and laws. During this time the British were ruling over the colonists and trying to stay in power. There is proof that all of the three social classes (lower, middle, and upper), were fighting to gain more freedom and distance from Britain, including the African American slaves. The lower classes wanted to beat their economic problems such as like being in debt. Also the Middle class had been fighting against the taxes that were newly put on their everyday goods and services. Because of these taxes the middle class stared tons of revolts, eventually leading to the start of the revolution. Finally the upper classes was also hit by the revolution economically. The revolution began the fall of the class system, which of course made the higher upper class very furious. Because of the class system falling the upper class males started to contribute to the revolt against Britain. The Slaves were fighting for their freedom during this time. Even though I believe that the revolutionary war was radical there are some good points defending that it was conservative revolution. One points is that the colonist’s claimed that all men were created equal but this excluded slaves and property less men and not to forget women who had little to no rights. Therefore I believe that the American Revolution was a Radical Revolution.

  21. Erinn Costello

    During the salutary neglect era of 150 years the colonists survived and thrived without help of the British the only large problem they seemed to encounter was the French and Indian war. This issue aroused the British to swoop in and save their little colonies from total destruction. From that point on colonial life was different in a terrible way. I think that the American Revolution was a conservative revolution. Along the lines that the colonists wanted to go back to the days of salutary neglect, although they did end up with total freedom that could have been the next best thing.
    The revolution really united the colonies because they were all working to similar causes. I say similar because some colonies wanted total freedom while others wanted more power but still to be under rule. The colonists that wanted complete freedom felt attacked by the ways Britain tried to keep them in line. The taxes and the new soldiers intimidated them. Knowing that Britain could do this from all the way across the ocean enraged them. The other views from colonist were weaker but still along the same lines. The Whig view of the revolution saw the revolution as a bump in the road and it was meant to happen. Others who saw the imperial view thought of the revolution as a legit constitutional conflict with America and Britain. Even others see the revolution as a battle of interior class. Really, the main source of this sour tension was the decision being made for America to be self governed or continue to add to the British Empire. This is where interior class issues popped up because if American was to be self governed who would lead it.
    Looking back we see that American did get full freedom and you can see the ideas change over time as the will for liberty grew stronger with each terrible action of the British.

  22. Frances V.W.

    The American Revolution was a huge part of American history, without it there would be no America! However historians still argue if it was a Conservative Revolution, or a Radical Revolution.

    Towards the beginning of the revolution the Americans motives were much more conservative, but as the revolution began to progress the motives, and direction the Revolution was taking became more Radical. This is because when the revolution started it consisted of fairly educated white men, and the large majority of Americans affected by taxes, who were tired of being taxed without representation, as the Revolution grew, slaves, women and men without property began to believe that the revolution would offer them freedoms they had never experienced before, for example, the freedom to vote.
    The Boston Massacre, Tea Party, Articles of Confederation and Constitution are all examples of the Revolutions more Radical change. The Boston Massacre, and Tea Party are both violent, destructive acts that show citizens rebelling against the current government and protesting of change. The Articles of Confederation and Constitution are both documents that put in place a new government or change the current system of government, good examples of Radical change.
    Examples of the more conservative side of the Revolution are the letters between John Adams and his wife Abigail. Abigail wrote to John requesting that he consider women’s efforts in the Revolution and provide them with more rights, possibly even the right to vote. John Adams is shocked by this, he complains that if women are given the right to vote, then slaves and property-less young men might request to right to vote, which John Adams believed would lead to a disaster. This is an example of a conservative revolution because John Adams doesn’t want to change much in the government.

    As the Revolution grew and evolved so did the American people, what once was just a group of citizens tired of unfair taxes grew into a country built on freedom and democracy. (Even though we still seem to struggle with equality)

  23. Nathan B.

    I think that the American Revolution was radical. The definitions of a radical revolution and a conservative revolution both apply to the American Revolution. The definition of radical better applies to the American Revolution. A radical revolution is when people strike out on their own by overthrowing an existing political or social order and creating a new one. It broadened the support of those who enjoyed civil liberties, and led to the development of a free society where everyone regardless of race or gender has freedom, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Both sides were so stubborn and could only see from their point, that they should either be English or British and not both, they turned to war to solve that everlasting issue. A major problem that grew in colonial America, according to the article: “The Radical Revolution from the ‘Bottom Up’”, this was the separating class between the rich and the poor. The rich were receiving benefits and better opportunities, which obviously favored them over the poor. The Americans want for a change from the system of government, which was seen in the Articles of Confederation. In this they addressed the problems, not only the power that Britain had, but also the government in the separate states. They gave all states equal rights and votes. People of Virginia, where many slaves were located, claimed this to be the biggest scheme of the British. They offered slaves freedom to turn against their masters. THe women and the slaves started doing this.. One important woman in all of this was Abigail Adams. Her husband was gone for long periods of time and her mother had just passed away. She felt she needed to step up and say something about keeping her land and not having to give it away to a man, she also did not like the idea of women being able to be beaten.

  24. Natalia M

    I think the American Revolution was a radical revolution. The causes of the revolution, the people involved, and the impact it had on the people in the United States all reflect on its radical nature. The most important, and radical, part of the revolution was how it inspired every single person in the colonies. According to “The Radical Revolution from the ‘Bottom Up’”, John Adams believed that people would become more disobedient as the gap widened and with the economy going sideways. People also refused to be taxed “without representation” they were furious that they weren’t represented in parliament and yet still had to pay the taxes made there. This especially angered the upper class political men who were not used to Britain actually enforcing its rules. Whoever, not only the rich were affected. Farmers and small business men were inspired by the radicalism displayed by the defiant leaders of the revolution and they too decided to stand up for the things they believed in (from religious rights to distribution of political power) which lead to an increase in the number of volunteers for the American Army. The white men fighting for their own rights inspired the most radical effect by getting women, slaves, and Native Americans to stand up and fight too. Slave began revolting and running away to freedom or joining the British go gain it. Women fought for the right to vote, including Abigail Adams, and Native Americans, led by Joseph Brant created the Pan Indian Alliance and went on to fight for their lands back in the Ohio valley. In conclusion, the American Revolution was a radical revolution because it inspired the entire nation for fight for new rights that had never been part of people’s natural rights including pursuit of happiness, freedom, and liberty.

  25. Marcus Powell

    I have read over the information that was presented to me and the results are in: America has a borderline revolution. I personally think that it is a radical revolution but in the sense that what past americans did was just simply rebellious like a teenager would do to a smothering parent. In a sense I can see if you have any other view but overall, this situation caused multiple problems on both fronts even before the revolution. For instance: Britain taxed America and America flipped out over multiple things. Some are reasonable to flip out on such as the stamp act, navigation act, quartering acts (I’m talking about both), and let’s not forget about the declaratory act that made the colonists to go nuts. Those acts were very reasonable to flip out on but the ratio between Britain citizen taxation to the colonists taxation was 26 to 1. Now how this ratio was looking, it doesn’t seem that bad but how they tried to tax the colonists did. After the Seven Years War, Britain thought it was ok to create the Proclamation of 1763 and think that was going to be ok when Britain knew the colonists wanted that land that we won in that war. Not to mention the Quebec act just made it seem even more unfair to the seemingly innocent colonists. Now on the internal side to this argument, America took some very good quality traits from Britain on social classes. The gap between both were far too wide and mostly the upper class made most of the decisions when they should’ve looked out for more than that one class. Now from reading the article “Bottom Up”, we as Americans should have considered all classes when it came to starting this revolution because it did trickle down to people that you should’ve considered while making this new country because other classes had a contribution too and they want to get a reasonable cut from the payout of being an American. In the Internal affairs, we just went back to being conservative.

  26. Derrick Lockhart

    America continues to disappoint me. The dirty secrets that lie within this country will all be revealed one day, it is inventible. From the Gulf of Tonkin resolution to the Watergate scandal, it is a well known fact that the head of our government are not always angels. That being said, I believe that there was really no ” radical revolution”. It was all conservative but easily put off as radical.

    Lets us start with the fact that the colonist were not being suppressed. Following the French and Indian war, the colonist obtained all of French land. Despite the Proclamation, this new land helped in way in such that fur trade could have been boosted. To sum up, pre-America had money at this time. It would have been even more radical for the actual people of Britain to start a revolution… with the 26-1 shillings taxing rate. Compared to how much Britain was asking for and how much the colonist had, the outrages and protest of the stamp acts, monopoly on tea, and navigational acts was an overreaction even though the acts were justified.
    Gary Nash’s evidence can be used to make a claim. In his article “The Unruly Revolution” he identified social gaps and “small revolution” between the social classes. The fact was the poor was getting the small end of the stick. And there wasn’t social injustice just before the Revolution. Bacons rebellion is an example and that happened way before the Revolution. Only when the wealthy were given a taste of there own medicine did they blame all social injustice on the British, turning the poor’s pitchforks towards them. The revolution was a scam the rich used to get out of paying there dues and stopping social violence. Think about it, the poor were still poor so what did they have to lose? Luckily the wealthy were able to pull it off. The poor were still poor after the revolution but hey, at least they were free…..

  27. jacob smith

    I believe that the revolution was more radical than conservative because the rights of many groups changed after the revolution. Furthermore the revolution caused a paradigm shift in the ways in which women, African Americans and the lower class viewed their treatment. Looking at this it may not be as radical in a governmental shift but as a post revolutionary shift in the social order caused from the lower classes looking at how the richer upper class were able to make the changes that they wanted. Samuel Adams feared this as his wife began asking him to begin considering women’s rights in the articles of confederation. While no enormous changes occurred directly after the revolution it did begin the quest of the “lower” classes to better treatment and rights. The revolution was he obvious cause of the articles of confederation without which there would have been no constitution. The documents written after the revolution were the first instances of the government or America for that matter, acknowledging salves as even partially human.
    The change in government also showed that the revolution was indeed radical. By definition a radical revolution replaces a political order with a different and more satisfactory one. This shows that the revolution was clearly radical due to the fact that they completely changed the government. If the revolution were completely conservative they would have replaced a monarch with another in something resembling a coup.
    However it was conservative in the sense that the colonists would have been okay with regaining the early way of life in which the British paid almost no attention to how the colonies were governed. The olive branch petition showed this where the colonies would settle for salutary neglect instead of true freedom.
    From this I believe that it mattered greatly who you were for whether the revolution was conservative or radical.

  28. Vincent Jackson

    As far as choosing whether to approach the American Revolution as a radical or conservative one was difficult, as there was an a significant amount of evidence that was discussed that easily could be used to defend and support 1 of the 2 claims. After carefully examining both sides of the arguments, I deducted that the American Revolution was truly a radical one because of the colonists overthrowing the monarchal political system that was enforced by the British, along with the establishment of a newfound democracy. There are various traits of the American revolution in which could easily make an argument for a conservative revolution, however I find it easier to find evidence to support to radical revolution, given the fact that America was born, and pretty much completely started over. One of the major problems that was stated to be growing in colonial America was the separating between social classes between the rich and the poor. The rich received more benefits and significant opportunities, such as education. Opportunities such as education were not opened to the poor, which automatically set them back, and caused for a social backlash which separated the country into the “have’s” and the “have-not’s“. There were attacks on the wealthy by the poor before the Revolution. A perfect example of the social backlash would be the Paxton Boys, which clearly display the tensions and anger from the poor at this time, showing how strong their desire for overthrowing America’s already in place social system was, and to replace it with one that further promotes justice and equality. The colonists’ government of themselves was noticeably different from the rest of the world such as Europe in which almost every country was both filled and run by monarchs. Thee American colonist wanted to self-govern America instead of having an over looming British parliament, one which had neglected them for 150 years in order to attend to European affairs, enforce unfair laws and acts upon them. The revolution served as inspiration for many other movements, as well as called for new era of governments throughout many countries in Europe and the world. The revolution completely changed what was previously enforced by the British parliament, as well as the American Revolution proved to be more radical than conservative, due to the complete change in the order of colonial American society.

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